Lenten reset: the unavoidable fuzziness

I now have enough hair on my head to be all bent out of shape after sleeping (and yes, I'm sitting, in bed, not quite awake: it takes me a while to wake up).

It is short enough that you can still see the shape, the skin, of my head.

And short enough to be irresistible to hands wanting to feel its apparently eminently strokeable texture. So that an unexpected empathy with my sister's cats has emerged through this experience: I feel their pain at our insistence on picking them up, chasing them around the house for a pat.

It's not, actually, that I mind (though three at once just after a funeral may not have been my preference). I'm a tactile person myself, and love stroking cats, twirling my hair when it's long enough, touching other people's interestingly textured coats. Touch, too, between humans is something I welcome - it affirms our connectedness, communicates love. And I understand the desire to reach out and touch a head of newly growing hair - I did it myself not so long ago to someone actually regrowing hair after cancer treatment (regretting it instantly).

Reflecting on this reaching out to stroke my head reveals a fuzzy, blurry line in human relationships. Some will stroke my head, then pull back and apologise, 'is that ok? sorry, I should have asked first.' Some will ask first. Some even ask how it feels but decline my invitation to feel it for themselves. And others just go right ahead and stroke it, no questions, no apologies.

For those who are close friends, with whom physicality is part of the relationship (arms round shoulders, kissed cheeks, hugs), this feels like no crossing of the line - even well within the line. For those with whom I do not have a close friendship, it actually sometimes does feel like a line has been crossed. I will usually extend an invitation even to strangers to stroke it, once the story has been told, interest expressed - but for the act to take place without request or invitation is, in some instances, a crossing of a line, a little disrespectful.

And thus, I understand why it is so important to get down closer to the cats, wait for Dax or Cisco to reach their head to meet my hand as an acceptance of my request. I understand the need to resist temptation to stroke the very inviting soft regrowth on the head of one recovering from chemotherapy (I think, now, I would not even ask to do so). I have an inkling, even, of what pregnant women must feel when folk touch their belly, as if a pregnant belly is somehow public property.

The lines between us humans are fuzzy, blurry. Our desire to reach out and connect is real, valid, necessary even. But we must remember that touch is not always appropriate - not in every relationship, not every kind of touch, not for every person, not in every moment. You don't know what kind of day, what kind of story, any other person (or cat) is living, or how your innocent stroking of their head (or belly) might be just what is called for, or exactly what is not.

May we reach out our hands to each other, and wait for a head, a hand, to meet ours in love and healing connection.


pamfaro said…
Very interesting reflections! What we hold in common, what connects us, how we're different... Thanks, Sarah.

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