There are certain songs, sounds, words, scents, and photographs that locate me in moments past. Some are wonderful. Some not so much.
Touchstone: At my mom’s funeral, my sisters adorned a table with photographs of Eunice Essen Brennan Kauffman’s life. There was one in particular, taken when my mom was in her mid-twenties. She is smiling like she knows all the secrets of the world and has decided to spend her life sharing them. That day of her funeral and resurrection Mass, that memory of Mom, and her and Dad’s legacy…the 7 of us kids… strike me wonderfully each time I see the picture. That photo is a touchstone for me. When I pick up the photo or even just think of it, it lowers my blood pressure. It calms my soul. It turns the outer edges of my lips upward and relaxes my face.
Trigger: The opening lyrics of Dan Fogelberg’s “Next Time” that read “One too many days I felt forgotten” was a trigger for a very long time. It’s a lament about being alone, lonely, and wondering if there is love in the world for me. These are feelings not lost on most teenagers. And if we’re honest, many adults. My friend Tim and I sang this song at high school party after high school party back in the 70’s.
Years and years of time, and miles and miles of walking through time have turned this trigger into a touchstone; the transformation from the painful memory of loneliness to the glorious knowledge that I am blessed with belonging, a family that really knows me and loves all of me, and some close friends.
Journaling bears results, both intended and unintended. As I write, I take delight in the simple joys of remembering good times, and discovering my better self. And as I write, I remember unfinished business, pains from the past, and layers of my lesser self that I’ve always hoped to shed, remove, strip away, uncover.
And even though these unintended results cause the most friction, they remind me that I can’t cook without heat. Nor can a seed grow without breaking it’s own hull open. Nor can I walk from here to there without expending energy. It’s trigger moments that offer an opportunity to remain stuck in my dying self, or to rise into something new and wonderful, something better, albeit unknown. Triggers turned Touchstones, thankfully, remind me that an acorn likely does not know it’s an Oak Tree waiting to happen.
I encourage you to walk, to write, to be present to your memories, whatever they bring. Take refuge in the good ones, the life-giving ones. And take heart in the painful ones, the friction-ful ones. Triggers can transform into touchstones. And they can cause the outer edges of you lips to turn upward and relax your face.
If you’ve had an experience of transforming a trigger into a touchstone, share it with us here. We look forward to learning from you.