hug etiquette

Hugs come in all shapes and sizes. I suppose a handshake is a very formal, limited contact form of hug and they move through to an arm around the shoulder, on to a full embrace, ultimately to a full-on bear hug. There seems to be an etiquette about hugs that you don’t exceed the hug that is offered. So a handshake is not reciprocated with a bear hug. A hand around the shoulder is not confused with a chest bump.

bear hugs come in different shapes and sizes
bear hugs come in different shapes and sizes

But then there are the moments when the huggee feels that the hug should be more or less than is offered. More is easier, they simply escalate the hug to the level at which they feel comfortable. Less is awkward as it involves potential embarrassment and a reduction in the level of hug.

I find it confusing perhaps because I am not a natural hugger. I happily hug my family, I will hug close friends, but I don’t find it easy to hug people outside of my inner circle. I suppose I am wary of the unwanted hug causing someone else to feel uncomfortable, and I am cautious about sending the wrong message.

But I have a sense that God wants me to step out of my comfort zone and into what is uncomfortable territory for me. I think he wants me to be more huggy. That’s because the unintentional message of someone who does not hug can be seen as disinterest, coldness, or even disdain by those who are natural huggers. I don’t want people to think that of me or experience that message (which is not true) from my lack of hugs. I also want to be able to affirm people in all possible ways and sometimes a hug is better than a thousand words.

So this is a public declaration from me. I am going to try to be more huggy. And I need your help. I want to give you permission either to initiate a hug with me if you would find that a blessing, or to say that it would not bless you (that’s fine if you are not a hugger). It is not something that should cause embarrassment or difficulty, but I recognise my own social awkwardness and feel that by ‘coming out’ about this it may make it easier for you and for me. And hopefully as others see me hug those who want a hug will also feel freer to do so too.

if the wind changes your face will stay like that

:-PWhat is the origin of that old wives’ tale? Presumably an old wife told the story of how someone pulled a silly face and the wind changed just at the moment that person suffered a facial muscle spasm and couldn’t change their face. I did some online research and have not found a conclusive answer, although one person suggested that we all pull silly faces when wind changes from internal to external (ahem).

Tomorrow morning I am heading into London early to have some injections that may give me some relief from the constant migraine that I experience. They are Botox injections.

[pause while you laugh and make derogatory comments about me needing to lose all the wrinkles on my face].

It seems that Botox injected into the correct areas of the scalp can provide some relief for people with chronic migraines. It’s not permanent but it’s worth trying in my opinion, having exhausted all of the current drug treatments and tried some others that also failed. I have been waiting for a new battery for an occipital nerve stimulator since February and have had the chronic migraine since then. (You can read about ONS here). The wonderful news is that the ONS worked brilliantly and I was headache-free while the battery lasted, and I will be getting a replacement in November. But until then… aaaaargh!

When we experience chronic pain we tend to get a bit desperate when normal pain relief does not work. I guess that’s why people in the past came up with all sorts of bizarre remedies for different ailments and why the victims were willing to subject themselves to indignities and invasive procedures in the (often vain) hope that they would be cured. Leeches anyone?

In circumstances like this evangelical Christians can struggle. When we are busy singing about Jesus having the victory and I have a screaming pain in my head I can feel less than victorious. When I hear people saying that all we need to do is trust Jesus and he will sort out our problems and I have had this headache since February I want to stand up and raise an objection. When I read of preachers who say that if we only believe then we will receive all that we want from God I find myself ranting at the article about how that is not my experience.

Does this invalidate my faith?

Does this mean I don’t have enough faith?

Does this mean God is punishing me?

No. No. No.

I find solace in the honesty of the psalms, where the writers can express joy in God (and I can too) and at the same time express their pain, frustration and sorrow and ask God to sort it. They often find some sense of peace in knowing that God is with them, even if they are frustrated that they can’t see any evidence of him in action.

God is bigger than my headache.

God’s love will not be erased by my pain.

God gives grace beyond the frustration.

An image that I find helpful is that of a hug. There are times when words are not enough, or when they are inappropriate. The only thing that communicates deeply and effectively is the embrace of a hug. It speaks volumes.

I am not a naturally huggy person but I do have a sense that God hugs us when life is at its worst: reassuring us that he is there, that we are held, that we are not alone, that we are loved, that we can hold onto him.

And God may choose to deliver a hug through you: perhaps not in the physical sense, but maybe through a phone call, a text message, an email, a visit, a cupcake, a prayer…

Be blessed, be a blessing.

And if you see me in the next couple of weeks and I don’t smile it will be because the Botox has made my face stay like this, or the wind changed!