I touch myself.
During the pandemic, I went almost a year and a half with no physical contact.
Well, not no physical contact...once a taxi driver and I accidentally brushed hands as he was helping me haul my groceries out of his trunk. And when my landlady was fixing my oven, we accidentally brushed hands, too. But other than that, not a touch from March 2020 (when I started working from home) to August 2021, when I finally got a hug again.
I'm an affectionate person. Going that long without a hug was brutal.
Part of the way I filled that hug-less time was to read. Actual books. It had been a while.
One book I read inspired and comforted me deeply. It's called Self-Healing with Reiki by the fabulously named Penelope Quest. Looking back, I can see why the book made such an impact on me: a guide to healing body and mind through touching yourself.
It's hard to explain Reiki to someone who isn't a little woo-woo. I'm not sure it actually can be explained, at least not in any linear, logical way. Some things you just know by feeling and doing. (Being a little woo-woo helps.)
The book is a guide to using Reiki hand positions on your own body. Before reading it, I hadn't thought too much about using my body to comfort my mind. Blame it on my Gemini nature or the trauma I've experienced or simply the consequences of a culture that conditions women to hate their own bodies, but I live disconnected from my body most of the time. Like a true Gemini, I spend most of my time in my head.
What I learned from this book is I can skip wrestling with my mind and go straight to eliciting my body's help as an ally to calm myself, quickly and dramatically.
It's as simple as lying down (or sitting, for a quick tune-up) and going through a series of hand placements on your own body, pausing at each one for a few minutes. There are variations on the exact positions and the order in which to do them, but Penelope Quest recommends the following basic sequence:
Over the eyes
Over the ears
The back of the head
The solar plexus (That's a couple of inches above the belly button for Muggles.)
The pelvic area
The mid back
The back of the waist
I won't get into detailed instructions - I highly recommend reading the book, if you're so inclined - but the point is that placing my hands on my body in this sequence is far more calming than it should be for someone as stuck in her head as I am.
For the more woo-woo, it could be explained using terms like "aura" and "chakras" and "energy," but whatever works - if taking a break to lie down and feel the warmth of your hands on your body does it for you with no explanation needed, that's all that matters.
It isn't the same as having a hug. It certainly isn't the same as having a naked hug either, otherwise known as sex. But spending months and months in isolation, when I wasn't anticipating having either anytime soon, I'm grateful I found this book and learned the healing power of touching myself.
Even when I am having hugs on a regular basis again (naked or otherwise), it's a technique I'll continue to use for the rest of my life. I wouldn't have learned it had it not been for the pandemic.
Now if I can just find a book on dating after quarantine, I'll be able to take "healing through touch" to the next level. Stay tuned.