I grew up in a traditional Indian household where respect, duty, integrity and strong values were paramount. Although we were raised with high expectations for ourselves and others, we were surrounded with immense love, profound love. Even when our parents disagreed, the children were never caught in the middle and were unconditionally loved and protected. But, we did not grow up with demonstrative affection. We knew we had our parents’ support, encouragement and adoration, but hugs and kisses were not part of how we were shown love, and yet we never felt void of it.
Growing up in America, we learned to assimilate in many ways, adapting some of our traditions and letting others fall away. That is the natural course of being born in one culture and being raised in another. Our parents were more progressive and flexible than we could have ever appreciated in our youth. They allowed us to be and grow into our own without any biases or expectations. For that, I am forever grateful because it helped become the person I am today.
As they adjusted in various ways, they also developed a way to show their affection, which we have coined “the side hug.” It is still how we greet and say goodbye to one another to this day. There is no right or wrong way to demonstrate love—it’s just what you feel. Don’t force it, but do embrace it. As we get older, love will be what we value the most—how much we loved and how much we felt love.
I write this not to go down memory lane about my upbringing, but to serve as a reminder to seek love. Seek love even when life is hectic, when fatigue overcomes, when kids don’t listen and you run out of hours in the day, or when your culture may not naturally outwardly demonstrate it. In the end, not much else matters—not work, not a messy house, not gossip, not bad behavior, not material possessions, and not even whether you are following the way in which you were raised.
Love is powerful. If you feel it, your potential is limitless. If you show it, you end up happier and perhaps even healthier. So instead of choosing to see the negative, see love, seek love. Be love. Be more loving. Be more understanding. Be more forgiving. When we see love above all else, our lives will change for the positive. You will slip, but you can try again. You don’t have to wait until the next day. You can change in the next moment.
I can certainly say, that even though I did not grow up showing it with hugs or kisses, I do now (largely in part because of the warmth of my husband and his family). So instead of being tough or stubborn or hurt, see love and seek love, even if you have to start slow with a side hug.