Recent headlines: Hugs Are Forbidden! Just Say No to Hugs! Will Hugs survive Covid-19?
The loss of hugs is hurtful. Yet for a long time, I’ve engaged in hugging without hugging, a practice I call Thunder-shirting.
A Thunder-shirt is a garment for dogs who fear loud noises like thunder and firecrackers. The shirt applies firm pressure to the dog’s nerve endings and soothes them. It’s like swaddling an infant.
When I interact with people in distress, whether they’re sad, angry, or other, I can’t wrap them up in a burrito-like swaddle. Now I can’t even hug them. So I Thunder-shirt. This means I assertively hold their well-being in heart and mind. I press on frazzled nerves with socially distanced yet in-your-face compassion. Sometimes I Thunder-shirt silently, through intention. Sometimes I Thunder-shirt verbally, with statements like “I am convinced there is a wonderful solution for you!” Opportunities to Thunder-shirt are endless.
There have been many troubling things about this pandemic. The saddest to me, is when quarantine rules prevent families from supporting loved ones in the hospital. This was Linda’s situation.
Her husband, Ted, had been struggling with his health. He was going into the hospital for a procedure. Linda couldn’t be with him to provide love and comfort. So she emailed me to say, “I Thunder-shirted him.”
She Thunder-shirted by sending a picture to Ted’s phone, a picture to have and to hold; a picture that would enfold both of them. It was Linda and Ted on their 25th wedding anniversary.
In the picture, I see two souls tenderly holding the mystery of being like a tiny bird. They know that love is both real and a risk; that happily-ever-after is riddled with impermanence; and that impermanence is a powerful teacher.
I have seen Ted and Linda use impermanence for good. During the beginnings of Ted’s health challenge, Linda emailed, “Ted and I wake up grateful every morning, for one more day together.” That’s a sermon in a sentence, the meaning of life. Love is more precious because of impermanence. “Without a hurt, the heart is hollow….”
Ted’s procedure was a success and he is recovering well at home. I’m sure the Thunder-shirting-at-a-distance helped. The power of firmly applied love transcends all earthly conditions.
Linda and Ted made me wonder… Maybe as we Thunder-shirt one another, we become aware that we too are Thunder-shirted. Holiness wraps us in a seamless garment where love and loss become One. Holiness presses on our endings and our beginnings. Then rather than lulling us to sleep, Holiness awakens us. We open our eyes to a Truth beyond facts; to the Grace beyond Grace that holds us always.