One thing that I starting doing soon after my marriage crumbled was to frequent the massage store front at my local mall. I must admit I went more often than need be. At first, I felt a little sheepish about it, but over time I got to know that people there (as well as you can with a language barrier) and it was just nice.
I have forever been a proponent of human touch. I made sure that my children were embraced and caressed regularly. I hug, easily and heartily, people that I have even a brief encounter with. When encountering the elderly, especially in assisted living, if they seemed amenable, holding their hands or gently rubbing their arms seemed important.
There is science to back up what I sensed intuitively. Some research found that touch with moderate pressure stimulates a cranial nerve that slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. It also reduces stress hormones and may enhance immune function. In a Touch Research Institute study, medical staff and students that received massages for 15 minutes a day over the course of a month were more accurate and took less time on math performance tests than their counterparts who did not receive massages. Very cool! Human touch can make us feel more connected to others, reduce anxiety, aid in bonding, help in lowering blood pressure and improve outlook. I call that win/win.
Looking back, I realize that my foot rubs were a form of self care. Without knowing it, in my despair and loneliness, just by getting a foot massage, I made sure that I had some connection. An added benefit was a unique friendship with a little gal whose English was limited to 4 or 5 sentences. She smiled warmly every time I showed up and she introduced me to her husband, showed me pictures of her son and, without knowing it, connected me to the human race in a calming, healing manner that was invaluable. She also sweetly retrieved tissue when, once in a while, the tears would flow…I wasn’t crying but, for some reason, I could not stop the tears.
That store front closed up and my people are gone. I could not figure out why I felt so sad about it until I ran into my friend “Apit” (as close as I can get). We saw each other and we hurried over to greet. I gave her a great big hug while hoping that it was culturally comfortable for her. I had made a friend that I will miss.