Monkey Hug

© Victoria Evangelina Belyavskaya

“From Ukraine we brought salo, but we are already finishing it off,” announced Olexander, a typical big, smiling, positive-hero looking Ukrainian man on the first day of our Feng Shui training with the world famous expert Ms. Lillian Too in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. We started laughing. “You see, my wife wanted to attend the training,” went on Olexander, protectively putting his big arm around the shoulders of his beautiful, seemingly 18-year old wife Anna, “but how could I let her go alone that far? So it is good, I will sit at the training, think my thoughts… may be I will also find something useful, you know.” At the first tea break Anna slowly rushed – it is a skill only gorgeous Ukrainian girls possess, I have been watching my graceful Mom rushing slowly all the time! – to the tables stuffed with yummy specimens of Malaysian cuisine and piled up a plate. Olexander was standing away from the food queue, his smiling eyes on Anna. When several newly acquired girlfriends and I saw her feeding her husband pieces of coconut pancakes, our main dish that early morning, we exchanged looks: “newly weds. How sweet!” A week later we were astounded to discover that Anna and Olexander have been happily married for ten years and have two adorable boys, waiting for their return back in Ukraine. The science of Feng Shui applied by Anna in every day life of her family plays an enormously important role in the relations of the couple. The tender old-fashions of spouses’ interaction provide the sturdy ground on which love and respect flourish. And this is the very question of what comes first: chicken or an egg. Is it Feng Shui that brings these two to their ideal harmony (even in class they would hold their hands!) or is it something else that is responsible for their happiness? Diets and love relations. These two self-help categories of books take up to 40% of every bookstore. Indeed if you think that most people diet not for health but for looks, add the topic to the relations branch. Some authors believe that once the two have a lot in common, the happy unit is quite secure. Their opponents argue that opposites attract. Over the years, I have learned that for me the crucial point is the love background of a person’s childhood or his ability and willingness to learn to create it in his life today, to learn to receive the love given and to learn to be adult enough to show the depth of love and care. Perhaps I do not spend enough time with people from the former Soviet Union, but I see a – shall I call it “feelings handicap?” – in my foreign friends, especially those from America. Interestingly, the most feeling- and spiritually advanced people I know have also come from the US. The turnaround difference among the two is what I called “love background” of the families they came from: how much love they have received, observed and practiced in communications with their parents and siblings.

Now, everyone has their big or small “issues”. As one of my girlfriends says, we all come from dysfunctional families. And when one’s family was more dysfunctional than the other’s one, it is in the power of an individual to outgrow the experience and to find the bravery to connect, find the confidence to show emotions, and become a grown up in sharing feelings without looking over the shoulder in fear of being the first to open up. The handicapped pattern goes down in families. One of my girlfriends is in her forties. She has not received much fuzzy love from her mom, who in turn, being one of the eight children growing up in the times of the World War II did not receive much of comforting either. Maria is a terrific mom in taking care of her two children, talking to them to boost their confidence and even leadership skills, though the kids are too small, and most of what they want all the time is being held. I can feel how uncomfortable she is when they run to her and start climbing, hugging her, hanging on her. “Enough,” she would say, “enough, please, stop, you are grown up people, not monkeys!” And in these moments I want to hug her and pass her my inner knowledge that all of us are monkeys, and we all need monkey hugs. Did you know that when a monkey is put in a cage alone it gets sick, and eventually dies with no touch? A couple of weeks ago I was walking past the Parliament building in Tbilisi. The shelters with hunger strikers were still covering the stairs and ground below. Many of the stern looking seed seller ladies were on the pavements, enjoying good sells. A group of young girls with flowers and “Free Hugs Day” posters on their black raincoats was strolling down Chavchavadze Avenue. One of them stopped in front of the oldest seed seller, and pointed at her poster. The woman looked up, her eyebrows in a tight knot of concern and mistrust towards life. She lowered her head, wrapped in a grey scarf. The girl bent, hugged the old lady, and stuck a bunch of spring flowers into the seed bag. The youth rushed away, but I saw the lady brush off a tear from her cheek before pouring a glass of sunflower treat for an impatient customer. Though in our culture physical contact is not something given and received on free basics, a hug is a non-sexual statement. Jack Canfield, the creator of the “Chicken Soup” series, says that a self-esteem institute in Cincinnati, Ohio found “that people need several hugs a day just to be psychologically “balanced.” A minimum of four hugs and up to twelve a day – you need them. Someone would argue that old fashioned families are reserved and have less physical contact. But just watching Olexander and Anna I have recognized so many social situations, where, according the “old fashioned” rules of politeness, physical contact is a must: to hold a lady’s hand when helping her off/on a bus or taxi, putting a scarf around her when she is cold, clearing a husband’s cheek after the glue used for gold leafing splashed up. The union of the “head” of a leader husband who is the hunter, the supporter, and the loving, caring, adoring and adorable “neck” of a wife is a family pattern that has been practiced in most of the world for ages. Today though, women are called, required, made to believe they want to be different than how they are created by nature. Still, many follow the inner voice and are free and grown up to care, love and nurture only like a real woman can. If you look around, you will see that they are blessed with husbands, who, just like Olexander, even after ten years of being together behave as newlyweds. Modern self help literature wisely recommends not waiting for the other to handle your life and to be responsible for your relations and feelings: once you are in charge of your life most marriages become ideal for there are no expectations. I smile in anticipation of placing an expectation of the minimum of fifteen monkey hugs a day on my family. I know it is difficult for me to survive on a strict diet of any less than that!