Hugging in the Time of COVID-19

As shelter in place began, the solitude felt like the relief that comes when the sound of an air conditioner or gardener's mower stops and you realize you'd been holding your breath a little. When asked how I was doing, I felt embarrassed to admit I was relieved, living more slowly and quietly, knowing how many people were suffering.

Now, I'm embarrassed to admit how smug I was, judging people who exposed others to the virus. After visiting my beloved sister, I understand how hard it is to stay away from people you love.

We were determined to be careful. We self-quarantined for two weeks before, to keep each other safe. When I arrived, we all masked up. My sister put sanitizer in every room. I had one of her two bathrooms to myself, while her family shared the other.

Each passing day, we felt more relaxed in each others' company. Six feet became four and then three. By the third day, we only masked when we were within a foot or two of each other. By day five, not hugging my sister - my most favorite person in the world - felt like torture. When I shared this with her, we flung ourselves, simultaneously, into each others' arms, heads aimed away from each other.

If I got her sick, I would be devastated. And yet, that hug felt like oxygen - that same sensation of realizing how much I needed it, only when I finally had it.


— Julie Levin, MA

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