What is a hug?

There is a scene from Dreamworks’ The Croods, where Nicolas Cage’s character, Grug, and Emma Stone’s character, Eep, a dysfunctional father-daughter duo, tearfully clasp one another to themselves as the movie’s climax unfolds. They’re not holding each other like an adult would a baby. They’re not carrying the other as one would a tool or vessel. What purpose could gripping another body in such an obviously upset manner serve?

Eep and Grug stand there in that moment, the movie’s music score swelling, on a cliff that’s crumbling around them as the world they know falls to bits. Earth’s crust is cracking, breaking. They’ve got to move! Already, their family is on the other side of the ravine, eagerly awaiting them with worry and terror plainly etched on their faces. It’s a real nail biter!

Secured in her pa’s arms, Eep cuddles up close. “This works good,” she says through her sniffles. “What do you call it?”

In famous dadderly fashion, Grug confesses, “I was thinking about calling it a hug” before throwing in a Dad JokeTM. “Because it rhymes with Grug,” he says as he shrugs sheepishly. “But you can change it if you want.” Eep manages a chuckle and throws her arms around her big, strong Daddo, telling him she loves the idea.

The Croods, a heartwarming film about family and preservation. I recommend it for anyone who’s into a slice of life, family road trip kind of movie.

Man, someone get me some tissues because that scene gets me in the emotions EVERY. TIME! There is a handful of reasons I could think of as to why something that particular wrenches, from the depths of my tender soul, such a deluge of tears and snot.

The Definition of a Hug

Can you imagine a time when hugging, a gesture we are so accustomed to, didn’t have a name… or even happen outside of coupling? A hug in itself, as defined by Dictionary.com, is “a tight clasp with the arms; embrace.” How very straightforward and succinct. They suspect its first appearance in the English language was around the 1560s from the Old Norse word hugga, meaning to soothe, console.

Mmkay, so that’s starting to match what we know a hug to be. That’s certainly a lot more informative in regards to the movie I mentioned just a moment ago.

But what is a Hug?

We are beings with a consciousness. We are a veritable mass of muscles mooshed around a boney frame with this knobby, wrinkly blob encased within our skulls. It contains these vague, misty images we know to be memories. It releases hormones that allow us to move, breathe, digest, and rid ourselves of waste. It collects information from our five senses and somehow molds it all into reactions and moods.

These bits and pieces are what gives us an image… an interpretation of what a hug is. Crazy!

I set out and asked my friends and family via Facebook what they thought a hug is. Only a few responded, but I was intrigued anyway.

A Hug Is

Reassurance, comfort, love.

C. D., a friend, 30s

It’s anything and everything you need right now. It’s warm. It’s peaceful. It’s home.

K.M., a friend and coworker, 30s

A hug is the love inside you coming out through your arms to the one you’re hugging. It’s the friendliest way to say you care without being sexist, racist, religiously critical or too overwhelming. It gives back to you a feeling of well-being.

P.B., a family member, 80s

Closeness among friends.

G. T., a friend, 60s

…like a tip: it’s a sign of gratitude in a (usually) platonic way in the form of something vague and useful.

C. G., a friend and waiter, 20s

Holding someone you care for close to you with the purpose of feeling better or making them feel better.

S. C., a family member, 60s

A sign of affection. Happiness. Sadness.

M.C., a family member, 60s

[…is place where] there are no secrets.

D.C., a friend, 30s
From Google’s Reuse section

In amazing human fashion, there are as many different takes on what a hug is as there are people on this planet. If one were to take the time to make a word cloud of all the keywords from a free response survey, I’m sure real qualitative data could be gathered! Perhaps some of the top docs in the field have already done so.

Throughout the day, as comments continued to trickle in, one friend showed me an interesting perspective. She said something akin to “You must relax and remember to breathe in a hug. They’re not to be taken advantage of.” While I know her to have experienced many unfortunate and inconvenient upheavals in her life, I suspect this view was coming from experience.

What a Hug is Not

Other definitions of a hug are to cling together and to keep close to. Analyzed with a jaundiced and bitter eye, a hug can bring forth ugliness. It can make us remember times where we were oh-so vulnerable and an individual we thought we trusted took that openness in hand with a mean intent.

Touching a touchy subject, pedophilia and pedophiles have been in the news recently thanks to Jeff Epstein (seriously, what was up with that guy?) and the huge push for pedophilia to be recognized as a sexual orientation. Even now, in France, there is a public outcry to revolutionize old and out-dated views on what the best age for consent is because one victim decided to write a book about her encounter with a celebrated pedophile.

Not only that, but both men and women with a record of manipulation, aggression, and emotional abuse of their peers (among other things) use hugs to gain our trust and rip our finances, family, and peace of mind from right under our noses. What is their end game? Is it an internal drive they can’t rid themselves of? Perhaps they’re receiving some kind of divine vision from Up High. Do they feel this urge sometimes or has it been there since birth? I can continue to wonder in suppositions.

However, I’m certain we can agree on what a hug is not. It is not permission to do as we please with another human, their surroundings, or loved ones. It is not a green light to strip someone of their self-worth; for who are we to play an Ultimate Being?

A True Gesture

In my humble opinion, a hug is a place in which all is communicated and all is felt on the deepest of levels. It is a delicate dance that brings balance to us — a weakened state garnering strength from a sturdy source, a wail in the dark being soothed back to sleep, a celebration after much toil.

A hug is the hallmark of a strong community, a gesture shared among strangers and loved ones alike. It’s used to bring others into the fold, warm and secure.

Simply put, a hug is an aspect of true human experience.

***

For my next post, I’d like to discuss “silence.” But first, a poll!

What do you mean ‘I’ll get lonely?!’

Disclaimer: Any advice given or situations are from my own experiences. Please take what I say with a grain of salt when comparing it to your own situation.

typingWhen you type into Google “teaching in Japan” or “ALT jobs in Japan,” it may not cross your mind that you’ll be lonely. You can only think of all that fresh, juicy anime you’ll be able to get your hands on, or the delicious foods you can finally try that’ll knock the socks off an instant noodle cup. Japan! Temples, beaches, cute boys, adorable women, fashion, music! YEAH! You find a company you like and click that “Apply” button.

Now it’s time to buckle up and brace yourself for the ride.

im ready

Fast-forward to a month in. Everything is uncertain. You’re uncertain of your choice, you’re uncertain of yourself; so, you call your family and cry. You complain of the prejudice. You complain of the lack of friends. You complain about how the food isn’t what you thought it was. The strings of malicious words are non-exhaustible. Most of all, you’re lonely. Oh-so oppressively lonely.

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Wait… what? “But Ashley, loneliness wasn’t on the agenda.” It never is. “How do I deal with it?” I’m still learning and searching for that answer myself. Ultimately, you have two choices: healthily or unhealthily. Do you want to save yourself from the agony your emotions will cause or tackle it head-on? As for myself, I feel it’s like walking a tightrope. Some days, I’m above my pettiness and others… well, I drown in it.

For the first 7 months of ALT-ing, I felt I was doing fairly well if I took out all the weekends I called back home sobbing. I was connecting with my school and connecting with my students. I was becoming a regular at many of the shops and even made a friend here and there. I certainly won’t knock my time in my original placement. However… but… a part of me kept listening to the niggly peanut gallery. The devil on my shoulder was getting louder. “You could have more friends. You could have more relationships. You could have more sex. All it takes is for you to log on. You’re a pretty girl. Think of all the attention you’ll be getting!” it would whisper.

kronk

Call it confidence or call it stupidity, but I listened to that voice and stepped into the world of online dating in Japan. Yeah, I know. I can already hear your scoffing and see your eye-rolling. Why couldn’t I have been stronger and found other things to put my energy towards? Well… the answer is “Loneliness will do that to you.”

Being in another country with this newfound independence creates a drug-like effect in your brain. You’re free. You’re away from the judgment of your friends and family. I mean, what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? I can guarantee that there’s so much going on in my daily life that doesn’t end up on my social media.

Without going into detail about that messy thing, I will tell you that life alone in another country is hard. Battling internally with myself has led me to question, has led me to doubt, has led me to self-hate, lowered self-esteem, a bad body image, and has led me to this ugly, clouded room of choices that look lifesaving but are actually there to hurt me. I am literally stuck within my own mind most of the time. “Ashley, you think too much,” you say. Yup, and I’m not ashamed of my problem.

Self-hate

I have discussed my issues with my friends and family attempting to find some kind of answer as to why. Why do I subject myself to this nonsense? This the advice I’ve received (as best as I can remember it):

  1. You need a pet or someone to take care of
  2. You need to ignore what everyone else is doing
  3. It’s normal. Don’t worry about it
  4. You should date more
  5. Concentrate on your hobbies
  6. Stop being so concerned about everyone else

Let’s address each of the points mentioned, shall we?

  1. In regards to pets, I live in a LeoPalace whom of which doesn’t allow animals in their buildings. Whether it’s because of noise or because of filth, I cannot have one on the premises. I did sneak fish into my place though but they don’t have the cuddle component one would look for in a dog, cat, or bird. As for having someone to take care of, that has backfired miserably and I want no part in it.
  2. Ignoring people is successful to an extent but keeping that up 24/7 is exhausting and once that barrier comes down, the world barges in. When I do this, I usually end up having an emotional breakdown. I’m surprised that there are less holes in my walls.
  3. Loneliness is normal, yes, but bone-crushing, fatigue-inducing loneliness with a side of depression is not. It is especially not normal when you’re thinking of ending it all during one of these episodes. (If you know someone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts or are suffering yourself, please do not hesitate to call a friend, a family member, your next-door neighbor, some randomly dialed number, 911 [110 for Japan], or the Suicide Hotline @ 1-800-273-8255 [or for Japan, +81-035-774-0992])
  4. Just… no.
  5. I have way too many hobbies but this has worked a bit. Lately, I’ve been trying to develop a caricature art style and it’s been fun. I’ve also invested money in coasters with the intent to design embroidered Sailor Moon themed sets to sell to the hardcore anime fan. Unfortunately, remaining interested is a struggle.
  6. Being concerned about everyone is in my DNA. For some reason, I’m always extending help to someone in some way. My heart is too big to not to. The downside to this is that I end up not taking care of myself. When I become worried over what everyone else is doing and thinking, it sends me into a funk that takes days to shake out of. I plummet right back into the Negativity Room. When I’m there, I don’t believe anything anyone says. I hear them but I don’t listen

I truly believe that rooms absorb our feelings. Being trapped in my apartment during the day or in times of rest when I’m not sleeping leads to ugly thoughts. I turn into this… awful, disgusting, vicious, spiteful, bitter woman. It becomes hard for me to relate to anyone or anything. I shut off. So, what do I do? I get out. I ride my bike to nowhere in particular. I take pictures of things I find interesting and share them on Instagram. I give my surroundings stories and characters. I let these small moments fuel my artsy-fartsy side and before I know it, I’ve emerged from the gloom renewed.

orig

Loneliness is tough and it should be taken seriously. Most of all, my advice to you is to analyze why you feel lonely. Finding the reasons while help you in punching the emotion in the face. You and I are smart. We are valuable to someone even if that someone is ourselves. We can overcome this.

Jumping Jellyfish and Bouncin’ Bars


I’ve got chills and they’re multiplyin’! And I’m losin’ control for the power you’re supplyin’ is electrifyin’! I’ve certainly got chills, all right. Autumn has swept through the mountains of Gotemba with a vengeance not in the form of hail and catastrophe but with a slanting mist. If it were any colder, it would have been snowing. My hair and clothes become flat in no time. Unfortunately, there has been no changing of the leaves to mark the coming of the season. They’ve just been dropping dead on the ground like flies, riddled with black spots of rot. The spiders have yet to leave. In the meantime, today bodes rainless.

On Saturday, I took my friend Toby up on his offer of joining him in Numazu for a get-together. He was pleasant enough to introduce me to his companions (Yoko-san, Aiko-san, and Kaoru-san) and we had a grand ol’ time. The girls were eager to introduce me to various aspects of Japanese cuisine at this little ramen-yakitori shop next to the train station. As a side note, yakitori shops are amazing. Oriented around appetizer-sized meals, you can share and eat and not get overwhelmed by portion sizes. It was definitely a night of firsts.

To begin, up was a glass of Coca-cola. Harmless, right? I had to explain to Aiko-san what would happen if she told the wait staff she wanted to drink a “cola.” Next came the edamame and pot stickers (餃子, gyouza). Those were things I was familiar with and chowed down on with no problem. The following addition was intestine (もつ, motsu) soup. In my head, when I hear “intestines” or “tripe,” I see this gelatinous pile of white goop all shiny and translucent. Never having had it before, there was no basis on which to compare this tantalizing tongue experience. Simmered in a broth with burdock root and green onion, it looked like any other kind of soup with chicken or beef in it. I will never forget how everyone leaned forward in anticipation of my reaction. Boy howdy, it was delicious! I worked on two bowls of the stuff.

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After some conversation with my dinner mates, a plate was brought out to us that appeared to have sashimi on it. Laid out a bed of onions with garlic and ginger on the side, I was prompted to request identification on its origins. They replied, 「馬です。」(“Uma desu.” It’s horse.) At first, my American sensibilities were in conflict. There was a brief tug of war on whether or not I would be betraying anybody by eating an animal my country deems as special. My adventurous side and hungry stomach won. Placing a bit of this and a bit of that on a slice of meat, I liberally lathered it with soy sauce and wolfed it down. Chewing ponderously, again, as everyone was transfixed on the O Unaccustomed Opinion of the American I thought it was quite tasty but nothing I would prepare for myself.

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There was some debate that followed about Japanese and Chinese stereotypes on who ate what animal.

I won’t go into too much detail about the kim-chee, Korean pickled cabbage. I like pickled vegetables, but not kim-chee. Sorry, Korea. I don’t appreciate spicy things.

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We thoroughly stuffed our faces and enjoyed each other’s antics. I even fought over some octopus with Toby. All too soon, it was time to be scooting along to the bar: Merry Go-Round.

This was SPEC-TAC-U-LAR! Walking in, you wouldn’t even think it was a bar. Decorated in everything old school, I was transported to something akin to a cool uncle’s garage. There were signs, gas tanks, an old slot machine, mannequins, kewpie dolls, neon lighting, lava lamps, and Spiderman toilet paper. Our bartender, Wataru, was even dressed up in a black bowling shirt and pompadour. If you’re looking for a joint to bring a few friends without the publicity, I recommend this place. I also suggest you play the small drum set that’s next to the door. To complete the picture, disco ball-type lighting was flashing and tambourines were provided.

 

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A panorama of the bar.

 
I’ve only sung karaoke once in my life and that was when I was attending high school and it was required. It’s funny how being alone and having friends makes a difference. Not a drinker, I still managed to get drunk off the happy vibes my newfound friends were throwing helter-skelter. All too soon, I found myself singing off tune to Blondie’s Call Me with Toby backing me up. Some ballads and a few Disney songs (I managed to find) were belted out before we moved onto Japanese numbers. I was able to find the only Japanese song I know relatively well: Kyu Sakamoto’s Sukiyaki (the original title is this:上の向いて歩こう, Ue no Muite Arukou; I Look Up as I Walk Along). It’s a 1960s love song. Throughout, I was served Coca-cola with a twist of lemon, cooked chestnuts and popcorn.

This was a night of firsts and it was all great fun. See you next time!

 

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さようなら!