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Issue 17 - ©2002 by Kari West - Garden
our connection with the rest of humanity. It is the first
sense infants develop and the last sense to fade as we age.
However, many of us do not realize how much we miss being
touched until there is no arm around our shoulder and no hand
entwined in ours. Our longing for touch is especially acute
after a divorce when we feel unwanted and alone. In this newsletter,
we'll meet Lynn in Florida who wrestles with this longing
and shares tips for handling it. Whatever you wrestle with,
may you find belonging and acceptance in the sisterhood of
survivors, who dare to be transparent and, in so doing, encourage
all of us in the everyday struggles of our lives.
Reflection by Lynn in Florida
When Kari first
asked me to write an article about the need for physical touch
and the longings it creates, I shuddered. I know a lot about
this particular desire, but I have few answers on how to avoid
the pitfalls it creates. The things I do know, I know well--because
I have learned them the hard way. Is there any other way,
During 15 years
of marriage, touching and being touched were a normal part
of everyday life/ It was something I enjoyed immensely and
probably took for granted in equal measure. After four and
a half years of being divorced, I realize physical touch is
as important as the air we breathe and way more fun! In fact,
at the last singles' Bible study I attended, I noticed an
interesting dynamic. Upon entering and leaving the group,
I saw much more hugging take place--more than I ever remember
in a similar setting involving married couples. The touching
that took place wasn't sexual in nature, but it certainly
cries out to that aspect of our being.
As humans, we crave
close encounters of the physical kind. As a single woman,
I can go long periods of time without being held, kissed,
or caressed. Do I miss it? You bet. Yet it's a topic we don't
readily share because to say, "I want to be held" or "I need
to be touched" or even "Somebody please hold my hand" might
make us feel vulnerable, needy, or less independent than we
want to be. We are also fearful of appearing carnal and worldly.
are valid concerns. How easy it is to turn to the wrong sources
to have these very real needs met in a way that satisfies
momentarily but afterward provides guilt and shame. Likewise,
it's common to deny that we have unfulfilled longings. So
we just put on our "game face" and we pretend that we haven't
a care in the world. Ultimately, neither extreme is beneficial.
The biblical principle
of truth setting us free most certainly applies to this situation.
First, I feel we must acknowledge what is real: we are creatures
meant for companionship; human warmth makes us feel good;
and as single women, we miss the expression of both nonsexual
and sexual touch. Secondly, it's helpful to find different
ways to feel connected physically to others. In my life that
translates into more hugs and kisses with my eight-year-old
daughter, occasional splurges on a manicure or pedicure just
because it feels wonderful to be physically pampered. Ditto
for haircuts and massages, too, along with regular exercise
to take the edge off some of those unexpressed physical longings;
and most importantly, a big dose of God-inspired self control.
Just like we have
to say NO to inappropriate hunger pains, as in "Do I really
need 10 cookies followed by a bowl of ice cream," likewise
we need to say NO when we are stirred to respond to another's
touch in an inappropriate physical way. I would love to report
that this is easily achieved; however, I find it an uphill
battle. I do know God's grace is sufficient, even for this,
and the more I rely on Him to meet my deepest, innermost desires,
the more strength I have in this area.
In his book "Shattered
Dreams," author Larry Crabb writes: "We were created for happiness.
Our souls therefore long for whatever we think will provide
the greatest possible pleasure. We just aren't yet aware that
an intimate relationship with God is the greatest pleasure.
Without knowing it, we yearn for an encounter with God that
creates an experience far more intimate than any bride and
groom have ever enjoyed on their wedding night...but in our
foolishness we look for that experience in all the wrong places.
To use biblical language, we dig broken cisterns to satisfy
our thirst and walk right by the fresh spring of water that
It is my goal to
remember these words and daily apply them. I want to be a
woman whose most intimate needs are met by God. A woman who
can say NO to the immediate in order to follow God in obedience.
A woman who knows real intimacy from the mere illusion of
it. A woman whose physical longings are voluntarily given
to God for safekeeping until He provides the right mate with
whom those feelings can be expressed and enjoyed. This is
for today by Kari
Touch is necessary
for our survival. Research demonstrates that without it a
baby's growth is stunted, animals become aggressive and violent,
and humans experience more anxiety. Touch tells us that we
are not alone in the world and that someone out there cares.
University of Miami's
Touch Research Institutes found that touch facilitates weight
gain in pre-term infants, reduces stress hormones in adults,
alleviates depressive symptoms, reduces pain, improves immune
function, and alters EEGs from a state of mental lethargy
to heightened awareness. Their studies also reveal that with
touch adolescents with ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity
Disorder) fidget less, that autistic children listen better,
bulimics experience a better body image, burn victims report
less pain and anger, migraine sufferers sleep better and have
fewer headaches. Multiple sclerosis patients report improved
self-esteem and social functioning. Those with post traumatic
stress disorder notice greater calm. Asthma sufferers demonstrate
increased pulmonary function, and diabetics show improved
I can't help but
wonder what researchers would discover if they studied the
effect of touch on divorced women, who miss not only the physical
soothing that touch brings but the human connection that conveys
we are worthy of someone's time, attention, and embrace. In
fact, I vividly recall the exact moment after my divorce when
I realized how much I missed being touched. I was getting
a hair cut. Somebody was actually touching my scalp! From
then on, I knew I had to learn to make touch happen. I started
by treating myself to a manicure; then a pedicure. When I
could afford it, I indulged in a facial. Eventually, when
life stresses got the best of me, I discovered that a neck
and shoulder massage eased the tension. Ouch! But,
oh, yes, the pain was worth it. Muscles relaxed. I began to
unfurl my brow, unclamp my jaw, and unclench my fist.
Divorce has a way
of forcing us into these unfamiliar almost self-indulgent
places. After a lifetime of catering to another's needs, we
begin to recognize our own needs that we've put on hold or
didn't see. Years later, while revisiting the photo albums
of my first marriage, I was startled that there are no snapshots
with my exhusband's hand in mine nor his arm draped over my
shoulder or around my waist!. Why I had I never noticed
this before? I wondered. I'd lived with this man
for 22 years, but had I truly known him? More importantly,
had he ever truly known me? Sure, there was sex in the
bedroom, but little, if any, supportive touch or sympathetic
At the time, I
couldn't "put my finger on" the sense of estrangement I had
often felt during those years whenever I reached for a hand
that always seemed allergic to mine. But I have a good grip
on this topic now. Touch is vital; it's our handle on the
world. Life is too short to live without it. A pat on the
back says, "I think you're great" or "You did a good job."
A hug conveys sympathy or support, comfort and closeness.
A handshake means contact and connection.
Wherever you are,
you, too, can make touch happen. Give, and ask for, hugs.
Snuggle with your children. Pet your dog. Link arms with the
elderly and help them across the street. You see, touch acknowledges
both a shared humanness and our individual worth. It amplifies
our sense of safety and security. Touch heals not just physically
but psychologically by affirming our need for belonging and
acceptance. With 19 square feet of skin on your body, don't
be embarrassed about seeking appropriate life-giving touch.
Your immune system and emotional health depend upon it. You
are worth taking care of YOU!
"I Wish For You" - Source: The
Internet; Author unknown
I wish for you:
Comfort on difficult days
Smiles when sadness intrudes,
Rainbows to follow the clouds,
Laughter to kiss your lips,
Sunsets to warm your heart,
Gentle hugs when spirits sag,
Friendships to brighten your being,
Beauty for your eyes to see
Confidence for when you doubt,
Faith so that you can believe,
Courage to know yourself,
Patience to accept the truth,
And God's love to complete your life.
A promise you can trust
But let all who take refuge in you be
glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection
over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in
you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround
them with favor as with a shield. ---Psalm
5:11, 12 NIV
Don't hesitate to write. I am here for you, however I can
encourage or help. Please feel free to share what helped you
through your divorce so others know they are not alone and
that they too can and will survive. E-mail by Clicking Here or write Kari West, Garden Glories Publications, P.
O. Box 11692, Pleasanton, CA 94588.