Hug Blog Day #14, #15, #16: Systems Falling Apart

I don’t quite know how this entry is going to end up. I’ve been falling behind on updating this blog. Day #14 was this past Sunday… it’s currently Thursday night. This experiment is falling apart quickly.

Sunday, went pumpkin patchin’ with the Kid. Got some Halloween decor, we’ll be carving them next week. Got my dose of Kid hugs. She’s been great about this. We haven’t talked as much about it since the first week. But, she’s pretty insistent on giving me some big quality hugs. She also gives hugs to the cat, who hates it, but she insists. It’s pretty funny actually.

Taught a small workshop for new performers, didn’t get hugs, but did get a group circle, arms around each other kinda thing. So, some human contact.

Then, I had a meeting with my Editor (I’ve been finishing up the final draft of a novel for months now.) We got in an argument, that quickly spiraled into me getting angry and firing him. Those of you who know me, know that I rarely get angry, but when I do… watch out! So, he got himself fired. And I got myself a night with a bottle of wine, and some grammar editing alone.

So. Hug Project is now in a downward spiral. As stated before, Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays I interact with very few people. Monday, and Tuesday didn’t get any except the Kid hugs (don’t get me wrong, those are great and do sustain me, but they’re not enough for the Project.)

Here’s the thing… or a thing, I’ve noticed about myself in the past couple years. I am a very collaborative person. In the creative realm, but also in the interpersonal realm. I’m stating this poorly… Let me put it in the example of dating the ladies. In the past couple years I’ve had a bunch of dates with a bunch of different women. (not bragging… which will become painfully clear in a moment.) Usually, 2 – 3 dates. But, I hit a wall where I need to collaborate. That is to say, I need the other person to be as interested or enthusiastic about the project as I am. (In this current example the “project” is future dating.) I can’t know their perspective, because… well, because that’s how humans work. I only know from my perspective that it seems I am doing all the initiating. ….


At the start of this post I said I didn’t know how this entry was going to end up. Looks like it’s ended up with me rambling about my lack of ability to date women… and wallowing in self-pity. Which is a weird place for a Hug Blog to end up. The self-pity thing is really annoying to me, and I’m the one writing it. I can’t imagine how dull and annoying it is to a reader.

So, let’s just stop for a bit. …

Summary for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Hugs from Kid, and even then not the minimum of 5 a day. Fired my Editor. Can’t find a lady. Prone to self-pity spiraling.

Oh, I remember where I was going with the collaboration thing. I want to not always be pursuing Hugs for the project. I want more people pursing hugs from me. As Cheap Trick once said, “I want you to want me.” or something like that….

Weekend is coming up, let’s see if we can turn this around.



Hug Blog Day #13: New Friends

Saturday continued our Improv Festival with a visiting team from Purdue University, the Crazy Monkeys. This is not the first time that I’ve performed with people who are younger than me… Young enough that I’ve been performing improv professionally longer than they’ve been alive…. yeah.. let that sink in.

But, it is the first time that I’ve had a chance to perform with a group of people that age. It went great. One of best things about improvisation is that it’s like learning a second language. (A second secret language.) And so, we’re instantly able to work with people we’ve never met. Different ages, different upbringing, different accents… whatever. I haven’t yet had a chance to perform with someone who doesn’t speak English, but I bet we could do it. It’s all about looking at your fellow performer and reacting to how they’re feeling. It’s really less about words and more about how we show ourselves.

In Saturday’s show, I had the unique experience of starting a scene with Christina Buckley (one of the Crazy Monkeys). Without saying a word, we were on exactly the same page about who our characters were and the dynamic between us (suggestion was: Dining Room) We were a wealthy disconnected older married couple having an icy conversation over dinner. We even had the space visualized the same way (with a gigantic dining room table separating us.)  It’s a neat feeling to connect with someone you’ve just met in that way.

But, I digress from the Hug Blog…

After shows, the Crazy Monkeys had to get going pretty quickly. I got hugs from all of them. They don’t yet know about the Hug Blog or my daily quota needs. We were just new friends with a bonus connection that new friends don’t often get. I’m extremely happy to have met them.


Get a customized Lunch Note here.


Hug Blog Day #12: Old Friends and New

This Friday we had a visiting improv team from Madison (Monkey Business Institute) come visit us. Brad Knight, Dylan Brogan, Casem Abulughod, John Steeno, and Brandon Jensen. I’ve known these performers for years now. I’ve known Brad for half my life. We’ve been living parallel lives in many respects, and have mutual talent in improv and trust and love in each other.

The hugs I got from these people carry some extra weight in that I don’t see them as often, so it’s old friends meeting again which is always emotionally charged. Hugs were plenty. And after the shows we hung out together and talked and joked into the early morning hours. It was truly a night where I didn’t have the feeling of “I’ve been doing this so long, I’m burnt out and exhausted from performing.” I had the feeling of “I’ve been doing this so long and I feel a deeper bond with these people than with my actual family. They’ve become family.” And, it’s great fun to have “family” who are also the funniest people you know.

During the show, Ken Goltz as host that night, announced to the audience that I had this hug project going and everyone should hug me afterwards. We made a bit joke about it during the show. It was funny. After the show, I got maybe 4 – 8 hugs. Which is only about 10% of the audience, but compared to every other normal night of performing with ZERO hugs, it was quite a step up. Hugs from strangers/people I’ve just met, are not as effective as hugs from friends I’ve known for years. Is that just a feeling I impose on the hug? Or is it because both parties are more invested when you know each other?  Discuss>



Hug Blog Day #11: Becoming the Hug-Hub

Got more than the quota of hugs for the day. Recorded a podcast (in front of a live studio audience) and discussed this Hug Blog. On the topic of depression, I’ve found that I’m much less depressed than I am on average. I’ve also discovered that I have more *time*! I realized that I’ve previously wasted time being depressed. Time I would was staring at the computer screen doing something to waste my time or distract me from depression. These moments, at their worst, would involve me distracting myself, but also just delving deeper and deeper into depression. Getting teary eyed. Self-judgmental, etc. etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I still get depressed, or down or the blues or whatever you want to call it. But, it’s power over me is noticeably weaker.

I brought this up to the guy whose podcast I was on (Scott Roemaat… “Scott Ruins Your Podcast”) because I know Scott continues to struggle with depression. I told the audience to hug him after the show. Scott got 4 or 5 hugs. I hope it had a similar effect on him as it has on me. If you see or know Scott give him a hug.

He’s said, previously, that he DOES NOT like hugs. However, he took them all. I’m going to go with the idea that he doesn’t like them because he’s not used to them. There’s also the thing about hugs not actually solving depression, but they don’t make it worse, so I don’t see how they can harm.

After the show, a could of young ladies that I know swung by the bar. They were at an exciting lecture about race relations in the area and took the moment to come by the bar to get a hug from me. I absolutely LOVE that people would seek me out for a hug. I can’t go looking for all of them. C’mon people!

Anyway, it was Rachel Cohen and Jen Schanen. Rachel confessed to me that she’s a “superfan” of this blog. Which is …. it’s really cool.

Give hugs to Scott. Seek me out and give me a hug. Hug other people you know.



Hug Blog Day #10: Hug Styles

As the word has spread about this Hug Project, people have been approaching me more and more and initiating hugs. That’s been nice, but I hope it’s not just a passing fad.

Wednesdays – Saturdays I’ve been hitting way over the 5 hugs a day mark, so even with the lower counts on previous days, I think I’m averaging out to 5.

Had a discussion with Nik Corsten Wednesday night on Hug Method. I usually go with the angled hug. Right arm over the person’s shoulder, left arm around their side. If the person hugs back in a similar way we match up. Sometimes, if it’s a shorter person they’ll go with both arms under which changes up the dynamic, and then I end up with both arms over. However, I’ll still come in at an angle and adjust.

I’m tall, so rarely do I get the other person hugging over me. Or maybe it does happen often… I don’t know I hadn’t thought about it much before.

What does your Hug Style say about you? Perhaps it says something about the dynamic between the two people. What style hug do you do? Does it change from person to person? If you do the “Angled Hug” (one arm over shoulder other arm around side) do you lead with your left arm or right arm? Is that determined by which hand is dominate?

So many questions.


Hug Blog Day #8 and #9: Down with a sickness

I’ve had a cold the last couple days. No big deal, but I haven’t wanted to get “hug close” to people as much, so there’s less to report.

It’s been a Monday and Tuesday anyway, which are difficult days to get hugs. Did get the daughter hugs in there though. I don’t worry about her getting sick. My house is so small that it’s unavoidable that we’ll each get each other’s cold. Plus, it probably came from her any way… schools being petri dishes of cold and flu.

Unless it’s been from all the hugging I’ve been doing…. I hope not. That would put a serious dent in my experiment.

Got a “side hug” from my friend Chad. His daughter and mine are on the Middle School Volleyball team together. Side hugs are not as good as full hugs, but will do in a pinch.

I also learned a valuable lesson. Strangely, I became my own bad example in an improv workshop I was teaching. I was teaching a group of college kids (Theatre Appreciation class at St. Norbert College) some basic improv games. One of the big things I talk about is making connections with your fellow performers. Which includes, most importantly, eye contact.

We were standing in a circle and I was telling them about this blog and “Hug Therapy”  And, as I do when I start talking about it, I felt the need to demonstrate that it’s not a big deal to hug someone. I side hugged the girl standing next to me. Forgetting the other major lesson I had just been teaching for the past 3 hours! Eye contact! She was standing next to me, not looking and I just grabbed her.


She gave the immediate body language of “What the hell? Get off me! Stranger danger!”… etc. etc.

I apologized and told everyone to be sure you have permission before you hug. I could’ve saved it with more grace, but I think I saved it “okay”… well, anyway, no paperwork is being filed, so I must’ve saved it enough.

But, lesson learned. Eye contact is important.


Hug Blog Day #7 : I’m a bad scientist

Spent the day with my kid, so got in those bonus family hugs. Got one of her friends in on the project too. Kid hugs are good. Side note: don’t hug a kid if you don’t know them. I haven’t done this, but I feel it’s something that should be said. That’s why “high-fives” were invented.

Swung by the club to check in on things there. Got hugs from Allyson, CJ and Jacob.

Just one blog post back I had noted that I found it odd that other people weren’t hugging each other any more than they normally would. I kinda thought the idea would spread. Then I decided that I wasn’t going to bring it up and just keep observing. Well, it turns out I’m not the best of scientists when it comes to not interfering with the test results. I told them all it was odd they weren’t hugging too. Hugs all around. Everyone seemed happy with it.

Lesson (besides that I’m not a great scientist.) If happiness isn’t spreading by itself, sometimes it needs a shove.

Hug someone today.



Hug Blog Day #6: Now with Pictures!

Had a performance in Algoma, Wisc today. Their elementary school’s theatre is being rebranded as the Algoma Performing Arts Center. It’s more than just a cute idea. They’re bringing in music acts , comedy, other performance. Open to the public. Any profit they make after paying the performers goes to local charity groups. It’s a neat idea. Really cool theatre and excellently nice people.


On the way got my first hug (since the start of this project) from Jessica Blavat. One of my long-time, loyal and funny friends and performers. She’s also my neighbor. Good hug. I’ve noticed that people now are hugging me longer. I think it’s from knowing about this… or maybe I’m giving out the signal that it’s okay to hug me longer.

Show went very well. After the show we were saying “good-bye” to the crowd. A young lady who had… I don’t know what you call it. I’ve been told that “mental retardation” is the wrong term now, but I don’t know the equivalent term. Large glasses, distorted facial features, stunted posture. Her language skills were minimal. Another young lady was escorting her around.

“She says you’re ‘crazy’… she means it in a good way.” she said. The the girl with the glasses tucked her head down and moved her arms out a little bit. Mike from a week ago *might* have read the cue, and *might* have hugged without feeling self-conscious. Probably not. Mike one week into this project though went in and had a great hug for both of us.

Returned to the club (Oh, for those who don’t know me and are reading this blog… first off, “HI!” Secondly, I own an improvisational comedy troupe called ComedyCity and we perform at an art bar I own called The Green Room. I refer to both as “the club”) I got a number of hugs from various troupe members. Got a first hug from Nick Wallander. This hug was delivered with the instructions that it was coming from Nick’s ladyfriend Amy Jo Vigue. She couldn’t make it there. She follows my blog. She told Nick to give me a hug… oh, and this pumpkin.


Nick gave a twice as long hug. Second half was from Nick.

Thanks everyone! And thanks for the pumpkin, Amy Jo.



Hug Blog Day #5

I need to figure out a way to spread the hugs throughout the day. Yesterday I collected all 5 (and more) between 7 – 8 p.m.  People are on board with the idea. Some approach me, mostly I still do the approaching. I go and seek the hugs.  I did, however, get called out for giving a “one-arm man-hug” that’s where you go in half-way and are non-committal about … some how that makes it “not count” as man-on-man action…right? I had a legitimate excuse (drink in hand) but being called on it was good, and I went in for the full hug. Thank you Jacob.

Let’s talk a bit about the effects of this test so far. Actually, let’s talk about suicide and depression for a bit. No, this isn’t a call for help or a weirdly veiled suicide warning. We’re just talking here.

I’ve heard that sometimes when people take medication for depression it increases their risk of suicide. Which, at first glance, seems counterintuitive. But the theory is the depression was keeping the person so low that any sort of action was an effort and/or too much work. When the medication kicks in, it motivates you to do something and sometimes that “something” is suicide. I don’t know how medically accurate this is, or if it’s even true at all. But, it does sound reasonable.

Now, to what I’ve noticed. The hugging has bettered my mood. In general, I’m feeling pretty happy. But, one of the ongoing problems in my life currently, is an acute loneliness. I spend a lot of my time alone. Generally, I like it. I write, draw, play piano, watch movies… all things that I can certainly do alone, in fact some of the things are better done alone. However, when being alone isn’t a choice… that’s when it can get to me.

There’ve been times in the past couple years when I’ve been alone with no one that I feel comfortable talking to (in person or online) and certainly no one I feel comfortable asking to be with in person. And I’ll sink into a depression. Where it’s just dark desperate thoughts. And I get literally sad and teary eyed. It’s weird. It’s often borne out of nothing. It sucks.

So, in this last week, the thing I’ve noticed is that sensation;That feeling of loneliness, and wanting someone to be with me, rears it’s ugly head, however the sadness isn’t there. I mean, it’s still sad, and I still want the situation not to be happening, but the “unreasonable” sadness feels like it’s under control.

Don’t know yet. Will have to keep track of that.

The other thing I’ve noticed is that other people aren’t hugging each other after hugging me. I kinda thought this sort of thing would spread. The sensation is that I’m the hug center and people are benefiting a little from me, but I’m benefiting a bunch from them because I’m getting hugs from everyone. Not sure why it’s not spreading. I’m not going to force the issue, just keep observing.



Hug Blog Day #4

Got my hugs in later in the day and all within an hour. I wonder how I can spread these out through the day. Got a bonus hug from the kid today, normally I don’t see her on Thursdays… hooray for volleyball games!

The other hugs. I went in to work (ComedyCity. Last night was Stand-up comedy night.) Got a hug from Owen Boardman, stand-up comedian, improvisor, writer and friend. He actually approached me and asked if I had met my hug quota for the day. The initiation on his part was nice.

Third hug Rochelle Allen. She was just coming to see the show. She came in with friends, saw me and said “Oh, I’ve got to hug this guy.” while in the hug she said, “Oh, that’s right, you’re doing that hug project thing.” Which made me thing what she said earlier was either a sincere need to hug me, or she was subliminally tricked by knowing about this project. Either way, good hug.

Then I just went forward with her group. Hugged her roommate, who I had by chance met the other day at the dentist office, so we weren’t total strangers. Then I hugged her roommate’s boyfriend who was there too. He have me a one-arm “man hug” but I went all in. Not sure how he ultimately felt about it.

We had a brief talk about how women are better than men at hugging. Rochelle believes it’s because boys are taught not to touch people. I said I think it’s because women are squishier in general. We’re probably both right.

I was at my quota, and leaving for the night, but saw Aaron Kornowski (friend and musician) coming in to perform the post-show. I just went in for the hug as a way of saying “Hi.” Don’t know if he knows about the project or not. I just took the hug. Took it! He didn’t seem to mind, he laughed about it, actually.

So, really I ended up with 3 hugs that I initiated without really asking for consent. But, they were all received well enough. And, really, is a free hug that bad of a thing?

Went home and later felt lonely… well, I live alone, so not surprising. What was interesting was that I felt lonely, but not the sad desperate lonely I’ve felt before. Difficult to explain. I’ll talk about this more in upcoming blogs. Loneliness and being alone is an ongoing theme with this project.