the hug

I’m checking the News too often and spending too much time on Facebook.  I keep on clicking ‘like’ and ‘love’, trying to keep the good things circulating, trying to keep the panic at bay.  But it’s not really working.  The truth is, I’m all over the place.  Something gets me every day; a new development, another story.  Today, it’s the intensive care nurse who gets home from work, gets cleaned up, sees her young children at a distance of six feet, and sleeps apart from her husband.  She says she’s not a hugger, but that she imagines there’ll be times ahead when she could really use one.

And all the time I’m reading I’m picking and tearing the skin at the side of my nail, and then I’ve torn it too far and it’s bleeding.  I suck at my finger.  The screen dies.  I can’t read any more.  I’ve read too much already.

I pick up my shawl, folded beside me, and place it in my lap.  It’s soft and warm and heavy.  I smooth it and pleat it.  I examine its intricate patterns.  I try to match up the edges, giving this task my full attention, as if it’s something that actually matters.  But then I gather it in soft fistfuls, and press it to my chest as if packing a wound, emergency first aid for my anguished heart.  I’m like the child with her comfort blanket, or the man I used to see standing in traffic, hugging his teddy bear.

I place the shawl back in my lap.  I cross my arms in a hug.  I experiment to see what feels best.  A hand lightly placed, a gentle squeeze, and there’s a sense of care, of knowing I am loved, and can love.

When I bring each hand up to grip the opposite shoulder, it’s as if there’s someone strong here.  And this is the hug I stay with, the one that helps me now.  And after a while I can lift my head and look out, maybe not to the far horizon, but at least beyond the computer screen.  This love tells me how it is, that I can’t know what’s to come.  It tells me it will be okay, but that I can’t know how that will look.

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

‘Late Fragment’ by Raymond Carver


  1. Interesting timing… I have been putting my hand on my heart and breathing deeply over the last few days. Just beautiful writing Margot.. so full of soul. I am walking up onto the hill above the village early in the morning about 6.00. I puff and pant up the hill and even that is getting a little easier. Just before the common there is a small gathering of 10-15 trees ~ I must count them ~ but they keep moving! I say “good morning” to them and my back against one of them that has two trunks ~ twins ? I breathe and hear the blood rushing in my veins. Then I turn and press my face through the gap in between them and have a small window through to the gorse and the view beyond. So : Do I get what I want from this life? .. Yes… daily.

    1. Lol, love this, Christa. You’ll have to start your own blog. And you’re going to be so fit by the time this is over. So much joy and gratitude in what you write here. Thank you!

  2. Goodness, I do envy you. I’m at peak worry over medic sons and frozen into it – don’t feel there should be any comfort for me when so many are suffering…

  3. Yes, I get what I need and probably enough of what I want. Maybe too many of my ‘wants’, random and dependant on my mood at the time as they are, would not be for my true good.
    Gratitude and noticing, remarking the usually unremarkable, is my holy or whole way. So much gift, so generous. A lesson I hoped I’d learned in Africa but I so need reminding. And there is the joy, at first a small and significant spark but it runs through the dullness and I hold my breath at the tenderness.

    1. Thank you for these words, Sue. Yes, paying attention to the beauty that’s always here, in everyday things. It really helps 🙂 And I’ve often felt frustrated that I never seem to learn a lesson once and for all (e.g. that I feel better after exercise). Such a balancing act at the moment.

  4. Great post, thank you Margot, and I love the poem. Made me wonder again if we’ll have different priorities when this is all over. We’ll be changed, but will it be for the better? It’s obvious, in the middle of this, that community, kindness, compassion and connection are what matter when the chips are down.

  5. Hi Kath, thank you for reading. Goodness knows! But I’m going to say yes, for the better, until proven otherwise.

  6. Dear Margot I felt it in my chest. Thank you. I too find my hand coming to my heart and tears pricking my eyes. The rising up, at first unnoticed, of old unhelpful thinking patterns. To help me stay balanced I am noticing all there is to be grateful for and especially on embeding the love and gratitude I am receiving. May you find peace

  7. Dear Barbara, thank you for sharing how similar your experience is, and how helpful you’re finding it to consciously practise gratitude. I’m doing this too and finding that peace, enjoyment, appreciation can exist alongside the worry.

  8. I would like to warmly thank you, Margot. When I read about the hug, it felt very comforting and I sensed coming back to the present moment. Things that I and so many others need at the moment. Thank you.

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