Friday, October 3, 2014

Reach Out And Touch Someone

      Do you remember the phone slogan years ago that encouraged us to “reach out and touch someone?”  It was originally a phrase used by the Bell Systems and then of course by AT&T.   I think it has become an international “way of life” in the way that it was presented.  Social medial allows us to instantly “reach out” to millions of our closest “friends.”  The truth is we are reaching out, but far from “touching.”  This is not a debate as to the value or even the pitfalls of social media, as social media has become my grandest platform to share words of encouragement with others.  My post today is however, about something much more important – at least in my life.  It is about “touching.”  You see, touching is our first and most basic way of communication from the time we are born.  It calms emotional distress and anxiety; it brings comfort and serenity – relaxes us and protects us and even can heal us!  Here are a few scenarios… 

          You're in a crowded subway car on a Tuesday morning, or perhaps on a city bus.  Still-sleepy commuters, lulled by vibrations, remain hushed, yet silently broadcast their thoughts.
  • A toddler in his stroller looks warily at his fellow passengers, brows stitched with concern.  He turns to Mom for reassurance, reaching out a small hand.  She quietly takes it, squeezes, and releases.  He relaxes, smiles, turns away—then back to Mom.  She takes his hand again: squeeze and release.
  • A twenty-something in a skirt and blazer sits stiffly, a leather-bound portfolio on her lap.  She repeatedly pushes a few blonde wisps off her face, then touches her neck, her subconscious movements both revealing and relieving her anxiety about her 9 a.m. interview.
  • A couple propped against a pole shares messages of affection; she rubs his arms with her hands, he nuzzles his face in her hair. 
  • A middle-aged woman, squished into a corner, assuredly bumps the young man beside her with some elbow and hip.  The message is clear; he instantly adjusts to make room.

I’ve been a part of a 14 year experiment on the power of touch.  Well not formally – you see in the year 2000 I began to experience some health issues – mysterious and unknown issues that took doctors several years to diagnose.  The results of the trauma in my body left me with both neuropathy and a condition we know as Fibromyalgia.  For the naysayers who don’t believe it is real – walk a day in my shoes… literally; a day when it hurts to even put your feet on the floor, a night when you have to put pillows between your ankles, knees and under your arms and hands just so you can try to find a few minutes sleep.  Wade through the hours of your daily routine, with little to no sleep due to the pain and chronic fatigue that is like the “flu from hell” that never goes away.  Well you get the idea, so I’ll save the lecture on Fibromyalgia for another day.  Today is about TOUCH….  I can honestly say that if I were to have been isolated after experiencing this debilitating condition, I don’t think I would’ve survived.  Although touching things is extremely painful, being touched is like medicine.  Something as simple as a hug from my son, a stroke of my hair and head by my sweetheart, or being held by a loved one can wash away the pain like nothing else.  Other things like deep massage, a warm bath, physical therapy, taking a walk with someone hand in hand etc. rejuvenate my tired aching muscles, alleviate my chronic fatigue and refresh my weary emotions. 

I am not a physician, nor a therapist; I am not an expert of any kind – just a woman who has known a bit of suffering both physically and emotionally, and who has discovered the simple things of life that bring healing and joy, peace and comfort.  Touch is powerful!  Remember ET?  ET and Elliott are hiding in the closet while his mother is reading a bedtime story to his little sister.  Elliott brings in a box of items he wants to use to make a device to help ET “phone home.”  As he reaches in the box, he cuts his finger on a saw blade and whispers “ouch.”  ET’s healing finger, lights up, reaches back and touches Elliott’s bleeding finger and the cut disappears and ET mimics Elliott’s painful expression… “O – u – c – h…”  He doesn’t just sympathize with his pain; he empathizes with it, and does something to alleviate it.  Never underestimate touch or devalue it.  The next time you are across the dinner table from someone, think about what you are missing every time you pick up your phone to check a message.  Reach out and brush the hand of the person across from you.  The thing you will realize that you have missed most is not those messages on your phone, but that encounter with your loved one, your friend, your co-worker… that very moment – that powerful feeling ignited not by words, but by a language much easier to understand… touch.