Why did I decide to use hugs as my theme for connecting with people? Why, because they are a universal language of course! It makes no difference if you speak English, Spanish, Swahili, Italian, or even sign language. A hug is an understood gesture. Even in countries where hugging is not accepted or acceptable.
Yet, just because they are a universal language doesn't mean that everyone loves them. I discovered this a few times during My Year of Hugs, but didn't expect to encounter it quite so soon on my Building Global Community cross-country trek.
At my first stop, there was a latecomer to the group. I was asked over and over again, "Can you please make sure you hug her as soon as she gets here?" I had a feeling I was about to make someone uncomfortable, but everyone else was quite giddy about this request. It felt very playful, so I agreed. When she arrived, I made sure to ask first, "Can I give you a hug?" She kind of looked around at everyone's goofy grins and gave me the side eye. "Sure" she said, although it was that drawn out suuuuurrrrrre, you know the kind where the person clearly doesn't understand the request and is afraid they are falling for some joke or something.
Apparently she didn't know about my journey. She thought we were all just gathering together on a Friday night and I just happened to be in the neighborhood. So, after the hug was over we just went about our night with no further communication between the two of us at that moment.
It wasn't until much later in the evening that she approached me again and said, "So, I just have to ask. What's with the hug?" I laughed and explained my journey to her. I let her know about the Year of Hugs I completed in 2011 and how writing my memoir sparked the desire to go bigger with the connections I made that year. I explained how in 2011, I was sharing love through my hugs but wasn't truly connecting with any new people. This time, I wanted to deepen my relationships using the hugs as a catalyst. I wanted to show the world that as humans we are all the same no matter where we live, what our religious/political affiliations are, or who we build intimate relationships with. We are all just looking to love and be loved. And, of course, there was the added bonus of travel for me!
After sharing all of this with her, she sat back and said, "Ah, I see. I am totally still not a hugger, but I have to say I admire what you are doing. I think the sentiment behind it is amazing." She had an agreeable look on her face that seemed to say, "I am behind you 100%. I want you to achieve what you are setting out to do. You give me hope."
And, I went to bed that night thinking, "This is exactly why I am out here doing what I am doing."
Yay! I am so excited to share some crazy, fun stats with you all about the trip.
# Countries visited - 2 (including Canada via auto ferry)
# States visited - 25 +1 Canadian province
# Cities visited - 31
# Hosts - 29
# Hosts I didn't know before being hosted by them - 16
# Times on cruise control - 0
# Times pulled over by a cop - 0
# Accidents - 1 (no worries, it was a minor fender bender)
# Hikes/Walks - 6 (plus one dance class)
# Car shops visited - 4 (plus oil change drive through)
# Days spent without power steering - 3 (including one in San Francisco!)
# Books listened to - 2 (most drive time was spent in silence)
# Hug memes sent by Dad - 24
# Times I used the Atlas rather than GPS - 1
# Weather detours - 1
# Hotels stayed in - 3
# Hours spent driving - over 145
# Miles drove - over 8700
Phew, that was quite a lot for Sally and me. Would I do it again? The sooner the better. Would I change anything about this trip? Not one thing.
What am I missing? Are there any stats you are curious about that didn't make the list?
For the past three months I have been sitting on so many stories. Stories that probably want to be told, but that I wasn't ready to tell. Why? Great question.
See, this thing happens when I reach for the stars; once I reach them, I crash land into the familiar landscape of doubt, fear, and second-guessing. The crazy thing is that this doesn't just show up mentally for me, it shows up physically as well. I got sick. Like crazy, mad sick over Thanksgiving. Like, I am still recovering sick.
I am the master at reaching the stars, just not so great at navigating the landing. Up until this point in my life. It's time to break the cycle.
So begins my first story.
I love doing what others tell me I can't. The things that others won't. The improbable and even impossible dreams. I have been doing them my whole life as is evidenced by the three words my Dad used to describe me, "Think. Plan. Execute." I am a master manifestor.
I had this vision to go on a cross country quest connecting with others through hugs at the end of August 2019. By late September, I was on the road. One month. That's all it took to think, plan, execute. Why? Because I was so sure of what I was doing and why. Because I was excited to realize my dream of a cross country excursion. Because I couldn't wait to realize my dream of going to the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta.
I couldn't wait to share my love with others and offer up my unconditional presence to everyone I encountered because I believe in humanity. I believe in the goodness of all. I wanted to show them how important they are just by being alive.
What I didn't expect was that they would do the same for me. (I know, I know, how naive!)
Not only did they gift me their presence, they also made it very clear how worthy I was. They went above and beyond to make me feel comfortable and welcomed into their homes, their families, and their towns. They showed me that I am worthy.
Now, you would think this would be a good thing, but this very gift was what led to my crash landing. When I got home, I knew people would want to hear my stories. (what if they aren't good enough?) They would want me to write the book. (what if it's a complete disaster?) They would want me to continue to showing up in the world. They would want to continue seeing me. YOU would want to continue seeing me.
What if I don't have the energy for this? What if everyone hates my stories? What if my writing is no good? What if they were just pretending and no one really cared what I was doing? What if no one shows up to hear what I have to say? What if I'm not good enough? What if showing up proves that I truly am not worthy?
These were the thoughts I had as my body began to wear down. There is absolutely no coincidence there.
Releasing the belief of unworthiness that has caused these crash landings requires immense courage, stamina, and resilience. Fortunately I have those in spades. It's the starting that always eludes me... until now.
I will take baby steps if I must, but there are infinite stars in the sky and I want to reach as many of them as I can before my time runs out. Write a book, take another cross country hug tour, create more human connections, heck, hug across the globe. These crash landings just slow me down. Time to learn how to cushion the landing, remember my worth, and keep showing up in ways that leaves no time for the stardust to shake off before I am back among the stars again.