The Incredible Hug

Me Being Really Good at Hugging

When I was about 12, I made this very fervent and slightly pathetic little prayer:

“Please please please Allah, make me really good at EVERYTHING.”

I was in the PE changing rooms at school, after a particularly useless attempt at playing hockey, waiting for a shower under the eerie eye of the lesbian PE teacher who everyone said would whisk the shower curtain away while you stood there, trembling and naked. This was back in the day where lesbians were considered, to small children, more terrifying than vampire banshee ghostbats.

There I was, shivering in my horrible red and thoroughly un-Islamic gym knickers with scrunched up eyes, praying to the Doer of All Things Good Such As Reminding You To Bring Your Gym Kit So You Don’t Have To Wear Something Skanky Out Of The Lost Property Bins. (That’s beside the point. Stick to the point, Medina.)

So I have been pondering this one recently, the frustrated ambition (not the lesbian ghostbats), being as I currently am about as capable of launching a successful creative career as a piece of old chewing gum squashed into some tarmac. To give you a bit of context, my main classification of success these days is not walking out of the door with baby poo on my trousers, or cooking food that tastes like something scraped out of an archaeological dig.

Not long ago, while mindlessly surfing the net with a sleeping baby attached to my boob on afternoon (as one does), I stumbled across Hyperbole And A Half, a blog of such staggering hilarity that I spent my entire glorious hour of peace while the whole rest of the house was asleep poring through the blogger’s archives, by turns breathless with laughter and despondent at my own comparative lack of creative direction.

OK, so it wasn’t just envy at her marvellously witty illustrated posts, but also at her 3600 something followers. Yowzers. How does one get so well read? Is it really just a case of being great?

I tried to put the baby down so I could go back and read; she grabbed on tightly in her amazing sleep reflexes (don’t drop me out of the tree, mother squirrel). I tried to sleep, having gone to bed at 1am and getting up with two somersaulting kids at 6am after very broken sleep, and by this time was a gabbling lunatic, but I couldn’t. Tried to get up, but every movement out of our hug made Cavebabe flinch in her sleep and threaten to wake up with a caterwaul.

So I lay there, feeling about the emotional equivalent of an over-microwaved MSG chicken flavoured Pot Noodle, as creatively inspired as a blob of factory-made cheese (not even the interesting stinky stuff) that had been squashed into the underside of someone’s sock, depressed at not being amazing enough.

Then it struck me: why did I need thousands of blog followers to be classified as amazing? Why couldn’t I just be amazing at something basic and human – like hugging? Cavebabe didn’t need a super-fantastic famous blogger mother. She needed a really amazing hug. Surely that was far more useful, in that exact moment, than having a vast glittering presence in the murky depths of the blogosphere.

Where did this insane need for mass approval come from? At school, I did amateur dramatics, I sang, I played guitar, performed my songs, danced, took part in gym displays. I was an all-singing, all-dancing, straight A success machine. Apart from being crap at outdoor sports, that is.

But I no longer have the shadow of exam grades, University requirements or competitive friends to keep this creeping phantasm alive, the will-o-the-wisp of worldly success, the eyes boring into my back declaring whether or not I am SOMEBODY based on what I have achieved. I would like to start dedicating some serious time, instead, to something far more important: the art of hugging. A real hug is, after all, what would pretty much solve all of the world’s manifold ills.

Imagine, for a moment, the warmth of arms encircling you, transmitting their owner’s tenderness and care in a sort of infrared love-wave, water in their cells dancing with desire for your wellbeing, their dance inviting the water in your own cells to join in, passing on their infectious ease, correcting the kilter of your subtlest movements, healing every invisible wound.

The impulse to kiss bare skin must also come from this same primordial touch-balm; your lips are where your skin is thinnest, where the tingle of love crosses the barrier between people most easily, benevolence crossing the semi-permeable membrane of your talking apparatus and silencing it.

This is where I really should be striving for excellence, in making my arms available for limitless loving, in offering all hurt beings a truly incredible hug.

7 thoughts on “The Incredible Hug

  1. I totally hear you. But we all want our shot at glory, for whatever ill-founded reasons (the ole’ nafs comes to mind). A bit of affirmation from the outside world does assuage the self-doubt, for a while anyway.
    So here’s my affirmation of you: you are an artist with words. Reading your writing gives me the shivers, the good kind, same as when I read some of my favorite authors. Your mastery of the English language is awesome and humbling to me.
    Is it because motherhood is so unquantifiable that we seek to express ourselves in other ways as well? We don’t have anything to gauge our efforts with; it will take years to see if our children turned out right, and how much of that success can we claim as our own? A thankless job if there ever was one. However, when my babies are in my arms, all of life’s questions seem to dissolve. It’s so right. I am completed in every way. I don’t want to miss a precious moment, since I’m told the time-travel machine will not be invented in my lifetime.

  2. Salaams!
    I love the hugging part, and I’m not much of a hugger! Lesley mentioned you and your comment on her Hell Fire was good – I agree! Lets hear it for Rabia of Basra! Yes! Islam and PEACE share much more than the same number of letters. Daniel Abdul-Hayy is an old friend. Are you part of the Philly family?

    My name is Tamam and I invite you, dear sister, to visit my blog!

  3. Aww, Medina you don’t know how much I identify with what you’re saying…I was reading about the Director of the ‘Movement for Happiness’ who talks about Western Countries using their GDP as a measure of success…rather than factoring in mental health, family and community spirit besides wealth and accolades. You always have me as a faithful reader, even if I don’t always comment, and trust me, you are a fabulouse writer, so many people fail at blogging, or use it as ego-massage, and I love how yours is practical and useful…keep it up! Just for the sake of us writers staring at a blank wall who need some empathy!

  4. I love, love, love this entry about hugging.

    Did you know it was National Hug Day yesterday??

    I agree that hugging is very important. It is also one of my favourite things to do. And I also am on a constant journey of discovering what it means (to me and to others) to be worth something, to have achieved something, to have lived a Good and Worthwhile life…

    …that is a continuous personal journey, but in the meantime… BIG HUGS ALL ROUND!!

    Hurrah :-)xxxx

  5. I can’t tell you how great it is to hear this message has touched people, if only verbally…Having just put my kids to bed with some good ole cuddles, I am reminded over and over again how medicinal that loving physical contact is. I feel sometimes that most of us are warm souls surrounded by barbed wire. Would someone invent a subtle wire-cutter so we can snip through the barriers and get together, eh? Thanks for reading me hearties! xxx

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