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Something wonderful happened, and I can’t believe I’m using that descriptor. As I type these words, I’m overcome by shock, and I chuckle out loud. It’s one of those laughs that sounds a bit maniacal. It’s like I’m a villain in an old-timey cartoon, and I just confessed my sinister plan to a captured undercover chihuahua named Detective Bób.

Nothing can stop me. First, I conquer the earth and then— pause for dramatic effect— the galaxy. Bwahaha, not even you, you meddlesome canine cop, can stop me now.

You should know that we’re coming off a historic heatwave here on the west coast of Canada. It’s been hotter than the devil’s rectum (50 Celsius/122 Fahrenheit), and I haven’t gotten much sleep. Can you tell? Am I rowing upstream in my cuckoo canoe? Can the human brain melt in extreme heat? Should I Google that, or will it freak me out?

Hmm, you’re right. Let’s leave it alone. I’m not in the mood for pictures that’ll turn my tummy. Nope, I’m in a half-decent mood so, why ruin it?

Again, something good happened to me. Damn it, I laughed again. It’s not funny, and I’m not planning on taking over the world using a rocket, gold fingers, and moose antlers. Yet? No, not at all. That would take too much effort, and it’s too hot to make a sandwich, let alone plot a diabolical global takeover.

I never imagined I’d use superlatives to describe what happened. For as long as I can remember, this one thing has made my skin crawl. More than that, it usually makes me feel physically ill. If there was a way to avoid it, I’d employ every trick in the book. A wave, handshake, double gun salute, or the classic duck and swerve. 

Sometimes my moves aren’t good or fast enough, and I’m forced to endure the horror. Listen, I’m an awkward person at the best of times, but if you come in for a hug? It’s on display for everyone to see. My freeze, fight, and flight response is highly developed. I won’t hit you or push you away. Nah, that’s not my style. I’m not saying I don’t have the urge, but I resist

Instead, I flinch, go stiff as an iceberg, and float along with the tide until I melt away. Seriously, sweat pools in weird places, and I didn’t know we had pores there. Who designed it like that? It’s a massive flaw that needs to be resolved.

Or, I could avoid hugs all together. It’s probably better for everyone if I did. It’s kinda like hugging a lubed-up jellyfish. My arms do this weird fish on the dry land thing. They flop around in a spastic motion until, by sheer force of will, they do what they’re told.

Just wrap around, give a squeeze, tap three times and pull away. It’s not that difficult, sweety. You’re not trying to assemble the Mars rover with an IKEA screwdriver. It’s just a hug. 

I sigh and shake my head at myself way too often.

The phrase, “Oh, no, I’m a hugger,” has always been a big red flag and a hard pass. That’s cool. You like to push your body onto other people and strangle the life out of them. That’s your thing, I get it. (Actually, I don’t, but let’s play pretend). You do you, but please don’t mistake my weary sigh as judgement. I’m not judging you. I’m just trying to avoid you.

Rude? Hmm.

I know that you do it with affection, and it’s an “act of love.” It’s not meant as an assault on human decency, personal space, and/or boundaries. You’re simply being friendly. I get it but for me? Let’s bring back an outdated phrase, gag me with a spoon.

Yeah, people used to say that. It was a thing. I don’t really know why they said it, but people are weird.

When it comes to hugging, I fully accept that this is a me problem. It’s absolutely, without a doubt, has nothing to do with the huggers of the world. You’re a precious species, and I’m in the minority. I definitely shouldn’t put my trauma-based response to physical touch onto others. That’s not fair, and I think we could all do with a little more fairness in our lives.

Now that I’ve said all of that, you might be able to understand my bizarre giggle and heat-induced hysteria. You see, I got to hug someone for the first time since this pan-doodle started. And yes, I know that’s not what it’s called. I don’t want to harsh the happy by using the actual word. It might not be a four-letter word, but it’s still a naughty no-no one for the time being.

But I got a hug, and for the first time in my life, it wasn’t vomitus. It was a little awkward because I was involved. I make everything uncomfortable for some reason. Also, I think we’re all a little out of practice. It’s been a long run of isolation and physical distancing. I think it’s perfectly reasonable that we’re all going to be a little clumsy at first.

Or, if you’re hugging me, then you can expect that every single time.

But wait we’re still in a pan-doodle. How did your immunocompromised personage hug someone? Thanks for the concern, but we took the necessary precautions. And now I’m going to have to whack a nest of angry wasps for a few minutes. Damn it, I was hoping to avoid that. I’m terribly sorry, but I’m going to talk about vaccines. It’ll be a few sentences, and I won’t harp on it. 

By now, we’ve all heard the opinions, science, and we’ve probably come to a decision. One that’s very personal, and I assume you’re doing the best you can under challenging circumstances. There’s no need to berate or scold anyone. 

Has that ever worked? Are you going to change your mind because some random weirdo on the internet forgot to turn off their caps lock? It’s never worked on me. In fact, I’ve become good friends with the mute button. I very rarely block people. I prefer to imagine them screaming, ranting, raving with spittle flying out of their mouth. They work up a sweat and think they’ve accomplished something.

Good for them, I suppose. Everyone needs a hobby. I don’t have to listen to it or participate. Not when I have more pressing matters to focus my attention on. Things like, let’s see, when did I become someone who likes and needs hugs? Me! Of all people to turn away from the dark side and see my shadow in spring.

I am flummoxed.

Oh, take a deep breath because here it comes. The dreaded and controversial V-word. Are you ready? Can I say this without being yelled at? Can we agree that I made the best choice for me, my body, and my life? I’ll respect your choice so, please respect mine. Okay? We’re cool? Brilliant, now let’s get on with it.

I’m officially and gratefully fully vaccinated. I have my little card in my wallet with two doses stamped onto it. I waited two weeks for my body to do what it needs to do, and I think it did it. Based purely on the side effects, I had a “robust response” to the two shots. Yay me!

Oo, I just wanna run up and down the streets screaming, I’m free. Maybe, if I’m feeling risqué, I could squeal or do something equally lively. Or is that too provocative? It feels a little flashy, but that’s just because I’m not a perky person who frolics, teehee’s, or anything so scandalous.

But I am happy, relieved, and so incredibly grateful to be in this position. Also, I’m thankful that some of the people I love most in this world are also vaccinated. It means, for the first time in fifteen-plus months, I got to give at least one of them a hug.

It came after a few weeks of stress, fear, and a lot of tears. For a while there, I thought I’d have to say goodbye to some I love. It’s been too close for comfort, and we’re still not out of the woods. They’re on a long journey, and we’re still praying that their destination is home with us.

At the peak, I felt like I was breaking. My heart was shattering. I couldn’t breathe, think or function. I went into automaton mode because being a person was just too damn hard. I’m usually not a crier, but I’ve shed a lot of tears over the last few weeks. Tears of fear, grief, relief, hope, and gratitude. But at the worst of it, as those tears fell, I need someone to hold me.

A friend came over and did just that. They hugged me and held on tight. They gave me a safe space to be afraid, and they were there for me when the relief washed over. It was just a hug, but at that moment, it meant so much more. It was a solid place to stand when my world felt like it was crumbling down around me.

We spent a few days watching movies and eating pizza. We made plans to travel and do some shooting. We’re both into photography, and now that we’ve got our shots? Our corner of the world can open up a bit wider. We can go out there and see the beauty that’s been kept at arm’s length.

It’s incredible how a hug, at the right moment, even for someone like me, can be so grounding. It can do what words can’t. Words are cheap, hollow, and easily drowned out. Actions are harder to ignore because they take thought, intent, and desire. We want to offer comfort, support, and hold each other up so, we reach out. We draw each other close. We hold on to one another as if our lives depend on it.

At that moment, after spending the last year and a half technological connected, when we shared the same space? When we held each other? It was just a hug between two friends, but it was a lost connection that had finally been found. They were there for me, not just in thought or spirit, and that’s just… There’s nothing else like it, is there.

Oh, this doesn’t mean I’m a hugger now. It’s not a free-for-all. I’m still an awkward iceberg with floppy fish arms. However, in times of need, with people I know and love, I’ll give them a hug whenever they need one. Maybe with some time and practise I’ll be more open to a group hug.

Look at me, extolling the virtues of hugging. Me? Of all the people in all the lands, who would’ve seen that coming. Shocking, I know. 

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