That fragment of a song by The Beatles is taken slightly out of context, but only because it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately – and for the past few days I’ve thought about it a lot. I used to be very affectionate, but unlike the song says – I’ve lost it.
Ask any of my friends now how much I’ve hugged them, how much physical contact we’ve had in all of the years I’ve known them, and it won’t be much. In fact, it’ll be nothing if at all. There is one exception to this, and that was a girl I dated a few years ago. Even then, however, it was very hard for me to show genuine physical affection. I never even kissed her. Obviously, there is a youthful hesitation when one is new to dating (and yes.. she was my first girlfriend), but I’m talking about more than that.
When we put my dog to sleep, it was very, very hard on me. She was the one I would hug every day, the only one I was able to show my affection to – and she was gone. The night she died, the house was very shaken, and as I talked about in my eulogy for that little dog, I took a shower and fell to my knees bawling. My whole family was in pain, but I couldn’t share that with them, and I don’t know why exactly I’ve become this way. This might become very long, so you can duck out now if you want, but I’m trying to get to something here. I can’t tell you why I hold myself back, but I do want to look back at where it started.
The first time I remember crying was after I first watched The Land Before Time. I was about 7 or 8, and by the time it ended, the sun had gone down and I was alone in the dark living room on a winter evening while my parents fixed dinner in the kitchen. I sat there crying, and I suppose my parents heard that the movie was over because they came in to get me. I ended up burying my face in a blanket – not wanting to let them see me cry. I’ll never forget my mom’s voice as she grabbed me and held me and told me it was ok to cry. That’s a normal thing, I understand, to want to hide one’s tears (especially a little kid), but as I see how I am now – maybe there was more to it.
Years later, as I entered those adorable teenage years, I began to pull away from my family. That’s how it is for most people, though for some of us we may tend to distance ourselves more than normal. I eventually got to a point where I was cutting them out of my life completely. I was still able to be affectionate with my friends though – that part of me was still intact. With my family, however, that part was gone. I no longer hugged my mom, and definitely not my dad. When I was young I’d jump onto everyone in a huge embrace… I may have hidden my tears as a child, but I definitely didn’t hide my joy. Really, I didn’t think anything of my pulling away as a teenager until one day when I realized that I wasn’t just “too cool” for my parents – but that I was no longer able to show them any feelings at all.
Until I heard my dog whimpering in her final hours, the worst sound I’d heard in my life was my mom crying out the word “No” when she heard that HER mom had died. My grandma had been in the hospital, and we knew her end was near, but hearing my mom after she listened to that message on the answering machine, I had a chill go down me. After a few moments my mom walked to my bedroom door and told me. All I could do was look at her, though. There were no tears in my eyes, no hugs, no sign of anything – I just looked at her. Then my mom said something that’s stuck with me ever since, “Oh, like you really care,” and then she walked off to call my dad. I did care – but I couldn’t show it. I had reached a point where I wasn’t just hiding my emotion from my mom, as I had when I cried over the movie, but I was no longer capable of showing her what I was really feeling inside. What I wonder now, is which caused which – did I lose this ability because I held it back for so long, or was I just losing this ability all-together.
Regardless of the cause, it eventually seeped into everything – even my friendships. I haven’t become a robot who is incapable of feeling, but I’m not longer nearly as emotionally expressive as I truly am. I never initiate physical contact with anyone I know – even just a pat on the shoulder. I used to work with a gal who I became rather close with. We were a good friend for the other, always able to tell each other about our problems. On more than one occasion, I was with her when she cried – but all I could muster was a timid tap on her shoulder, like a distant uncle might with a little kid. Today, I still have the same problem. I am very open as far as what I talk about, but I hold back so much physically. This is one of my last big issues to pass through, but it’s become very important to me lately.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve become a man. Yes, thank you thank you. But, seriously, I’m not a kid anymore. I’m not dealing with these over-dramatic emotions and ideas… I’ve grown up. Likewise, I’ve been learning to express myself better – to show my passion, my beliefs, my joyful heart, but there is something that I still lack – and that is my affection. Both in times of happiness and sadness, I still do not outwardly express everything that I am feeling inside. Some people look at these traits and say it’s common of someone who was abused, and who knows – anything is possible. That’s not the point, though. I’m interested in moving beyond it. I’d like to say it’s just a remnant of the turbulent teenage years, but the more I think about it, it’s something that’s always been present in me… it’s just gotten worse as I get older. Some of it has good reason. When I first started working with little kids at 24 Hour Fitness, I hugged them and played with them and let them jump on me. After the false allegations I had to go through, by the time I stopped working with kids at YMCA, I was so much more timid. I take this into account as an example, but I can’t find the same kind of reason for why I no longer hug my friends or why I still can’t tell my parents what’s going on in my personal life.
It’s all on me, of course, these are decisions I make daily, but I just don’t know why they are the natural response. The day I find out that my friend and his wife are having a baby, I’m going to be absolutely thrilled – giddy as a school boy! My instinctual reaction would be hugs for everybody – heck, I’d want to pick her up in the air and twirl her around. I’m just that way. In situations like this, though, I’ve become so muted that I fear all I’d be able to muster was a hearty congratulations and a glowing smile, but nothing more. Am I afraid of something? I’m not sure. I don’t know what turned me in on myself, but I really hope I can stop it. Not to sound too dramatic, of course. This entry was just as much for me as it was for public consumption. I’ve really, really been trying to be more open with my parents, and I’d really love for this to include being able to share my affection with people. If you have any thoughts on the matter, the comments are always welcomed.. but this was just something I needed to write out so I put it here.
So, if you’re a friend of mine, and the next time I see you I give you a hug, try not to think too much of it – I’m just finally being myself 😉