My sister-in-law has a very gentle quality about her and a very sweet demeanor. She's also very physically affectionate, at least with her family. Whenever she's around my stepdaughter (and even when she's around my two nieces), it's like no one else exists. When my sister-in-law enters the room, the kids fight over who gets to sit next to her. I watch them together - especially her and my stepdaughter - and I can't help but feel a little envious. My sister-in-law heaps on hugs, kisses, and tickles and the kids eat it up. "Why can't I be more like her?" I often wonder.
During a family vacation this summer, I noticed that my sister and her husband are always holding hands, putting their arms around one another, or sharing a quick kiss. More often than not, the two of them occupied only one chair, even if that meant one of them sitting on the other's lap. I mentioned to my husband that I was a bit jealous of how affectionate the they are with each other. "Why aren't we more like that?" I asked him.
I knew what he was going to say before he said it. It's me. I know it's me. I don't have a problem with nor am I averse to physical affection - or even public displays of affection - it's just that it doesn't come "natural" to me. In fact, it's not even physical affection per se that doesn't come naturally. Almost without fail I give hugs and kisses to family and friends at every hello, goodbye, and goodnight. And any kid that hops in my lap is always perfectly welcome there. I'm just not the type of person who instinctively reaches for an embrace or a hand to hold whenever I find myself in the presence of others. That kind of affection is something that requires a conscious effort on my part. It's something I have to actually think about and remind myself to do.
I don't know why I'm not naturally drawn towards physical contact. I certainly wish I were different in this regard. I suspect that we all have our strengths and weaknesses. Some things come naturally to certain people and some things don't. I've never met a person to whom everything comes naturally. We all struggle with something.
What I do know is that just becomes something is difficult doesn't mean I can't learn to do it. I have some experience with this. I do really well with verbal and written academic work; I have always struggled with math. I have vivid memories of sobbing over Algebra homework in the eighth grade. As an adult, I needed to complete two math classes for my college degree. I took the first class one summer and the second one the next. This allowed me to focus exclusively on math without worrying about other subjects. After each class, I went to the math lab, did my homework, and had the tutor check my answers. He then went over the problems I got wrong. I sometimes spent hours on homework before I fully understood it. Whenever we had a test, I was always the last person finished; I also earned the highest final grade in both classes. I still struggle with math, but now I know I can do it; I just have to put more effort into it than other people.
I've had similar experiences with art -- I have absolutely NO natural depth perception nor any sense of proportions or spatial positioning. Yet I have, on occasion, come out with a decent drawing or painting (always after a few false starts, of course).
The point is, this whole physical affection thing is something I can learn, even if it doesn't come naturally. What I need more than anything is patience - both from myself and from others.
Is there anything you've learned to do that didn't come naturally? Was it frustrating? Do you still struggle with it? I'd love to hear your story!