Coming out of lockdown felt a little like the last day of school and the beginning of the summer holidays - without the freedom to go to the beach. We are still land-locked in the Southern Highlands but to quote a dear friend, I’m not going to complain about the bells in heaven.
At the risk of jinxing, our newsletter will arrive in your inbox on the very day that I’ll finally be able to see my beloved Sydney-siders. On Monday you will find me hugging my son, who I haven't seen since April, high-tailing it to the beach with Shannon to visit new babies, and doing as many coastal walks with friends as possible.
Appreciating things we once took for granted is a bounty of joy as we bumble back into ‘freedom’. Hugs, for example - real ones, not emojis. Slow touch, like sinking into the warm body of someone we care for, feels divine and this is in no small part due to our ‘cuddle nerves’, or more precisely our c-tactile afferents. These skin receptors respond to the stimulation of a hug or caress by signalling our brain to release a cascade of endorphins, including the love hormone, oxytocin.
Those among us who prefer to love via physical touch - their love language - will soon be flushed with oxy in the arms of those they’ve been separated from for way too long.
Although Gary Chapman’s book about our five love languages was first published almost twenty years ago, I was late to the party and the term didn’t register in my orbit until last year. Shannon, my daughter, was the first to share this wisdom with me. Just in case there are any other stragglers reading - the five languages are acts of service, gift-giving, physical touch, quality time, and words of affirmation.
In celebration of my new-found freedom I have a plan to seize opportunities to shower friends, family, guests and community with all five love languages.
So, if you run into me out and about, or come to visit Springfield don’t be surprised if I throw myself in there for a hug. (A simple step back, or arm-cross will be respectfully read as a signal to back-off). If you tend to err on the side of caution, you’ll be pleased to know that there are official ways to make hugs safer - all common sense. You can turn your faces away from each other, make it short, if one of you is vulnerable, wear a mask, don't hug too many people and hug outside. And, in case you still need some encouragement to venture back into the world of touch, research assures us that hugging lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and reduces stress too.
If touch isn't your thing, love-language theory offers many more options to show our love. As well as hugging, I’ll be taking gifts to reunions and speaking aloud my thoughts of love and appreciation too. So, prepare yourself for some gushing. This may make me an overly-enthusiastic player, but to heck with it, how often are we liberated from Covid-lockdowns?
Thursdays will be reinstated as my voluntary community service days, retreats permitting. If acts of service is your love language you’ll be well aware that this doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, and sometimes it’s the smallest things that matter most - like giving people your undivided time. Simply doing the unexpected, something you know they will like, can brighten your beloved’s day - such as making them a cup of tea, or a cooked meal, walking their dog, helping them in the garden, or offering your unique talent or skills.
If planning special occasions for sharing quality time is more your thing, you can have fun surprising your loved ones, as I plan to. (They’ll never guess the great family xmas gift I have in mind!)
Perhaps that's why we’re so happy to be flinging Springfield’s door open again. We absolutely love the process of designing retreats that will delight our guests and make them feel loved too. Maybe covering all five love languages should be added to our checklist - offering massages for touch and scheduling plenty of quality time for our guests to share for starters. Growing our own delicious organic food for guests is Farmer Pete’s act of service. Shannon and I often take time to consider all the details that go into giving a deeply nourishing and restorative experience, and now we’ll see what we can conjure up to add more treats and words of affirmation too. Sharing our little slice of heaven with our wonderful friends and guests is indeed our pleasure.