by Diane Davies
Touch as a verb means to come so close as to be in contact, meet, join, connect. As a noun it is the act of touching someone or something, press, pat, tap, nudge, push, stroke, pressure. So what is the big deal about touch? Why are you writing this Diane? – you ask.
I’m currently reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor is an intelligent thirty-one year old woman who was deeply traumatized by her “Mummy” as a child. She was wounded physically, mentally and emotionally – by the age of ten she was passed from one welfare placement to another. When she reached eighteen, she was set up with her own apartment full of hand-me-downs by yet another agency and started university. She created her own world of alone for basic survival in which she managed to graduate college, get a job, and take care of herself by herself. Keeping the world out helped keep out the pain.
Eleanor fell into deep depression after coming to the realization that her love affair with a musician was totally in her imagination. The vodka bottle became her idea of a “fix”.
“I woke again. I had not closed the curtains and light was coming in, moonlight. The word connotes romance. I took one of my hand in the other, tried to imagine what it would feel like if it was another person’s hand holding mine. There have been times when I felt that I might die of loneliness. When I feel like that, my head drops and my shoulders slump and I ache, I physically ache, for human contact – I truly feel that I might tumble to the ground and pass away if someone doesn’t hold me, touch me. I don’t mean a lover – this recent madness aside, I had long since given up on any notion that another person might love me that way – but simply a human being. The scalp massage at the hairdressers, the flu jab I had last winter – the only time I experience touch is from people who I am paying, and they almost always are wearing disposable gloves at the time. I’m merely stating the facts.”
“These days loneliness is the new cancer – shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way.”
In the last ten years or so of my teaching career, we were warned not to touch our students in any way for fear of a lawsuit. A pat on the back, a quick little arm around the shoulder hug, tap on the head, letting them dry their tears on my shoulder. How could I teach children in first grade without touching them? At the end of the day as my students left for the evening, I gave them a choice; a handshake or a hug as you leave the door. 9 out 10 took the hug – even the boys. I decided I would touch and hug until an actual lawsuit stopped me. It never happened. Some days for some students, my hug may have been the only one they received.
With our ever increasing life style of technology, smart phones, Ipads, what have you – loneliness is the new cancer as Eleanor tells us. That’s why I’m talking about touch. As a human in the human world, we all need to be touched by others. It is as important as food, shelter, and clothing. I recently saw a t-shirt that read; “With all of the choices available, be kind!” We have no idea what the other person is dealing with in their lives so choose kindness and don’t be afraid to TOUCH others – whether literally or metaphorically.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine does have a fine message to share with all of us.