Thursday, December 22, 2011

To Touch You More

My good friend Peter and I

My New Year's resolution made over a decade ago was to touch people more. To break that social wall that keeps our hands and bodies a safe distance from one other. To connect more physically.

I'm speaking of the non-sexual variety of contact. We all know when someone is touching us with sexual undertones. That may or may not be welcome. I wanted to offer the kind of touch that wouldn't be misconstrued.

This was not easy at first. Not because people weren't receptive; they were. People generally love touch. They bask in it. They appreciate it on a cellular level.

It was a challenge because I wasn't sure how to do it. My German family is not the touchy-feely sort. Stiff, awkward hugs. Overly firm pats on the back. Touching others freely hadn't been habituated into me, so it took some training.

But soon, my hands and body reached out to anyone in my world, whether it was via handholding or a quick massage or a touch on the cheek or a full-body hug or a head on a shoulder. Or I'd simply stand closer to people, trying not to invade, but simply enter, their space. I even began kissing some of my closest friends on the lips, which is incredibly sweet and rewarding.

How did people react? Shoulders would drop, breathing would deepen, gentle smiles would appear - people relaxed almost instantly. We so desperately crave human contact, but often aren't even aware how hungry we are for it. And giving touch is akin to receiving it. I feel touched as well. Cosmic win/win.

Last month, while taking a bus from the Jersey shore to New York City, an older, fragile Indian man sitting across the aisle from me suddenly handed me his cellphone. I accepted it, confused and slightly nervous.


"Hello, my uncle may be having a heart attack. He needs help. He doesn't speak any English."

I looked over at the older gentleman and he was grasping his chest and moaning. I went to the bus driver and explained what was happening. As I returned to my seat, the man had fallen to the floor, in the aisle.

The bus pulled over. Emergency help was contacted. Several passengers made suggestions but few had any medical training, myself included. So I resorted to my New Year's resolution. I placed both of my hands gently on his face and began whispering in his ear, "Calm down. Calm down. Calm down."

I then unbuttoned his shirt and placed my hands on his chest. He was very agitated and his heartbeat was frighteningly rapid, so it took some time, but finally his breathing resumed to somewhat normal. At one point, he opened his eyes to look at me and they were filled with gratitude. No clumsy words needed.

When the police finally arrived, they instructed everyone off of the bus. (Another was waiting to take us to our destination.) I was afraid if my hands left his body, he would become unwell again. The cop didn't really want to hear my spiritual take on the situation, so I got up to leave.

Almost immediately, the man's breathing became erratic and his eyes glazed over and looked filmy. I left the bus feeling a sense of peace regardless. Strangely, I could feel his essence on me for quite some time, like an energetic imprint of some sort.

Fortunately, the man was fine. (His relatives left me a lovely message the next day.) But it was then I realized that touching was something beyond "feel good." We live for it. I live for it.

So that is my first (and only) working New Year's resolution - one that would change my life on a level beyond words.

"I Have The Touch" - Peter Gabriel

The time I like is the rush hour, cos I like the rush
The pushing of the people - I like it all so much
Such a mass of motion - do not know where it goes
I move with the movement and ... I have the touch

I'm waiting for ignition, I'm looking for a spark
Any chance collision and I light up in the dark
There you stand before me, all that fur and all that hair
Oh, do I dare ... I have the touch

Wanting contact
I'm wanting contact
I'm wanting contact with you
Shake those hands, shake those hands
Give me the thing I understand
Shake those hands, shake those hands
Shake those hands, shake those hands

Any social occasion, it's hello, how do you do
All those introductions, I never miss my cue
So before a question, so before a doubt
My hand moves out and ... I have the touch

Wanting contact
I'm wanting contact
I'm wanting contact with you
Shake those hands, shake those hands
Give me the thing I understand
Shake those hands, shake those hands

Pull my chin, stroke my hair, scratch my nose, hug my knees
Try drink, food, cigarette, tension will not ease
I tap my fingers, fold my arms, breathe in deep, cross my legs
Shrug my shoulders, stretch my back - but nothing seems
to please

I need contact
I need contact
Nothing seems to please
I need contact