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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Power of Touch

I read somewhere that babies can fail to thrive through lack of being touched.

I grew up not being touched. I was a child of the 50's (late 50's!!) and in a documentary the other day, I heard that during that decade parents were being taught not to coddle their children, to let them cry instead of picking them up, to withhold touching them. I honestly have no early memories of being touched, of being embraced, of being cuddled on a lap. I remember my hand being held as I crossed roads, or to keep me close in crowds, but I don't have memories of cuddles, hugs, supporting arms. Then I have slightly later memories of being touched in the wrong way, in a way I didn't understand but yet I knew wasn't right. Which drove into me, so deep into me, feelings I tried, and failed, to express. And being unable to express them, I turned them against myself.

When that time was over, I wasn't touched for the longest time. And when I finally let myself be touched, I freaked out from the ugly, dirty memories it awoke in me. It was a long time before I let anyone touch me again. It took a lot of courage to let anyone touch me again. And when I did, I'd zone out of the moment. It was the strangest feeling, like being in an emotional fog, numbed by discomfort and never allowing the sensation to go deeper than the surface of my skin. I literally would transport myself mentally, from my environment.

For a long time I fought against those sensations, desperately wanting to feel something good from them. Wanting them to be something I looked forward to, not feared. When I did allow myself to be touched, that's exactly what it was, as though someone was doing something to me with my reluctant agreement. As though I was forcing something upon myself. My eyes were always closed, I didn't want to see or touch anything below his waist, or mine. I couldn't even bring myself to touch my own skin in any way beyond maintaining personal hygiene.

Eventually, after a very long time, I forced myself to lift that barricade to my ability to be intimate and to let my skin feel that of another. But truth is, there was always something, some nagging discomfort as though my skin alternated from being numb to being ultra-sensitive. It just wasn't used to the sensation, I didn't seem to know how to process it. The touch of another continued to haunt me, continued to make me pull away even if it was only mentally. My body might have been touched, but my mind wouldn't allow the message to be received in the right place. The only comfort I found for the longest time, was in food and the feeling of being caressed by it inside me. I wanted to feel something and that something became a full stomach.

For so long, I didn't know how to love. I didn't know how to be properly intimate. I wanted the act of intimacy but I didn't know how to fulfil it, how to make it meaningful. I struggled with being the partner of a man who didn't want me, who turned off the lights and closed his eyes in order to make love to me. The words "I love you" came out flat, without any kind of emotion. Just words that didn't mean anything. Words I thought I should say.

I think I've always wanted to operate from a place of touch but it was taken away from me when I was young. I look back sometimes and think to myself that I have so many wasted years, so many years that most people spend being touched and loved and appreciated. My journey to me took me to dark places, to feelings of loss and damage. I promised myself a few years ago that no one would do that to me again. That I wouldn't do that to myself again. That no one would take me back to the dark. And my trust in my future has been so richly rewarded by the man who came to me. The man who found me. The man who walked into my life and turned it upside down in the very best of ways.

Now, I say I.LOVE.YOU. And I mean every letter of those three little words. I is emphasised as coming from me, with all the feeling I can evoke. LOVE is a simple and sometimes too small word to convey what my heart is feeling. YOU is the subject of my love, the one and only person I've felt this way about. I love you is no more. I LOVE YOU is where I'm at today. Thank goodness. Finally I can really feel this. Finally I can be touched, and touch, with all the intimacy it should involve. With a need for him, a desire for him, that only touch will quench. I now understand and honour the place of touch in my life. The necessity of it.

We touch each other with complete love and adoration. We cherish each other's body. It's impossible for us to be close and not to touch. And if we're not close enough to touch, we move towards each other without even thinking. We touch as friends, we touch as lovers, we touch as life mates. Our language is that of touch. We fold into each other's body when we begrudgingly give ourselves up to sleep. I have discovered the power of touch, the incredible feelings of intimacy just a brush of fingers across the back of a hand can bring. He loves every inch of me, as I love every inch of him. From the intimacy of our touch, we are thriving.

And in just two days we will touch and be touched, to our heart's content. Neither of us has been touched (or kissed) enough in our lives. It's time to make up for that.


George said...

I grew up a couple of years before you and I was the same way ... don't touch ... and it affects me to this day. I have a beautiful friend (not an intimate one) who I want to reach out and touch her shoulder, an arm or a hand when we talk. I am always held back by my upbringing ... and it pisses me off

After 2 comes 1 my friend and then 0 ... I can imagine your heart beating faster every minute that passes

anna said...

I can't imagine feeling that way. I am so touchy-feely and affectionate - I couldn't imagine being any other way. Yet, my parents never showed affection in front of their kids, nor did they give their children much affection past the age of 12. Perhaps it was that lack of affection that turned me into the ultra affectionate being I am today.

Congratulations on making it to this wonderful place where you welcome and even crave the touch of your loved one... and, even more importantly, want to touch him.

Matt K. said...

It's hard to grow up in that kind of environment and not have it affect you. My wife and I, under different circumstances, experiences some small fraction of what you went through, and it still affects both our lives dramatically. The fact that you have been able to overcome it, to find love and be willing to receive it and not simply "endure" it, is a fantastic thing. I'm very pleased for you.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're seeing each other soon and glad you found each other. We do need to be touched, need that human, skin to skin contact or we shrivel and die inside. Take care sweetie.

~Tim said...

I know exactly what you mean. Glad you've found the ability to touch and someone to share it with.

Anonymous said...

Parts of this could be my life in a nutshell.

It's so wonderful when you find someone who literally loves every inch of you.

Enjoy your time together :)

Fiona said...

George - don't hold back. Don't waste the power of touch. Push past your discomfort and go for it :)

Anna - I think parents today have so much more insight into rearing children and giving them an environment to be affectionate. Expressing love in any form should never be subdued :)

Matt - I believe in pushing past boundaries, no matter how hard it is. Especially those ones that bring so much pleasure on the other side :)

Deb - I'm blossoming with him and he's blossoming with me. We just needed to find each other :)

Tim - we are blessed to have each other, and to appreciate each other the way we do. It's very special :)

Oblivion - He's teaching me to love myself, by loving me. And I'm doing the same for him. It's a remarkable relationship :)

Sunny Delight said...

The strength of your inner will is amazing...there are so many who would have never gotten to the point you have in your life...the ability to find healing...be proud, so very proud of that.

I, unlike george, probably reach out and touch people too much,if I am close enough, I almost always reach out with a hand to a shoulder, or arm when speaking with someone, touch does have such an important place in our lives. I miss loving touches...revel my friend...revel in your need to be touched, and to touch...you have place the past exactly where it needs to be...in the past.

Laurie Anne said...

Fiona, I am so so so so glad this worked out for you on all these levels.

Charmed said...

I was in a marriage of 14 years where there was hardly any affection. I am recently divorced and am in a relationship with a man I love dearly. I was starving for touch and didn't realize it. After I began my new relationship and realized how wonderful it is to be stimulated by someones touch, I am not sure how I lived so long without it. Thanks for the post.


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