Touching Stories

Touching Stories

Read. Think. Walk. Write. – Touch.

So I’m back to one syllable. And today’s word relates to, dare I say, ‘touches on’ the primary four.

This isn’t surprising, since the word “touch” has so many definitions, and most of them involve some kind of connection – physical, emotional, or metaphorical.

In my old Webster’s dictionary, the entry for “touch,” including related forms and phrases, takes up more than a full column. The online dictionary site, listed over 40 items from Collins English Dictionary under the word.

A few of these are:

  • the act or an instance of something coming into contact with the body

  • a gentle push, tap, or caress

  • a noticeable effect, influence

  • to have an affect on

  • to be in contact

  • to produce an emotional response in

  • to affect, concern

I started out with one of the most basic uses of this word while doing my part-time job as a massage therapist.

While giving a massage to a particularly appreciative client, I thought about the nurturing power of touch, and the many meanings of touch. When done right, as with massage, both the one touched and the one touching benefit. There is an exchange, a connection implied in the word.

I wrote last time about food as a way of nurturing others. The right kind of touch can also be substantially nurturing, and massage is my way of expressing this quality.

It involves, not just physical touch, but connecting with the other person; sensing their needs; and intuitively providing what is needed – find and then work a knot out here; go more gently there; begin and end gradually so as not to startle; be silent; or listen a lot and talk a little if needed; use a thumb or knuckle here for precision, followed by a flat hand for smoothing out; and so on.

Massage, like so many kinds of therapeutic and professional relationships, is a kind of temporary intimacy.

It’s strange, getting so close so quickly – physically, mentally, or emotionally, often all of them, and then maybe never seeing the person again. But sometimes we have touched their lives in some lasting way, and they with us as well.

Many of my clients have touched – moved, affected, had an effect on, me. Oh, yes, which leads me to say a word about my headline. I have a journal by the same title, “touching stories,” about some of my memorable experiences giving massage to clients who stood out to me in some way.

And this quality of affecting, moving, interconnecting, and exchange, takes us to this blog’s four defining words. Read. Think. Walk. Write.

Read/Write. – When we write, we hope to touch someone, to reach them, to move them, to make a meaningful connection with them. It is similar when we read. We want to be touched and to feel connected to the author, the story, the characters – real or fictional. Then we may want to reach back, to let the author know what their words meant to us, or to share the meaning we derived from those words with others.

Think – And all of this – reading, writing, connecting, feeling an effect, is either preceded or followed by thinking. I often think about my clients long after they’re gone, just like I think about a book I’ve finished reading. And, I hope, I do plenty of thinking before I write. Often much of the creation goes on before I get to the computer, though sometimes writing also facilitates thinking as I figure it out as I go along.

And finally, walk — On my walk I am often ‘touched’ by ideas, feelings, thoughts, things I see or encounter, which I think about and often turn into writing.

The other day on my walk, I faced a frequent dilemma, which made a more literal application of the word “touch.”

Right next to the trash can on my walking trail was a pizza box on the ground. So close, but still not where it belonged. I hate litter, especially at the beach, or in other natural, otherwise beautiful spaces.

My dilemma was, I had to make the difficult choice between picking it up, doing my part to make my own little environment more beautiful and less touched by something out of place and not beautiful, or avoiding touching the unknown and perhaps unclean. A stranger’s trash.

In this case there was another dilemma. Since the dog poop bags, (sorry, but I don’t know how else do say it) were right there, I chose to take one, cover my hand with it, then use that hand and my foot to fold the box until it fit into the garbage. But did unnecessarily using a plastic bag add to the problem more than solve it? Was I really making the ecological situation worse? …

So this situation really did ‘touch’ on a lot of issues — personal, universal, and ecological.

And talk about thinking outside the box, as an aside — why did the person not take the extra step to fit the box into the opening of the trash receptacle? They at least set it right beside the trash can, which is a lot better than many people do. But were they really so lazy, or so unwilling or unable to problem-solve that they couldn’t or wouldn’t just fold the box to fit, like I did? I guess that’s a whole other story though.

Touch. I hadn’t necessarily meant this little episode to be part of the “touch” post, but it fits, especially since it happened on a walk. I didn’t want to touch someone’s trash, but I didn’t want to leave it there, negatively touching the beauty and purity of the nature trail.

And all of this thinking about all the kinds of touch during my work and my walk led me to write all these words, which I hope you will read, and think about. These things are interconnected, they touch each other, and each of us.

This is part of the creative life. Whether you are a writer, artist, designer, marketer, or entrepreneur, everything you see and live and think or read about can lead to a new idea, a new ‘product’ whatever that means for you, a new approach to life and work.

So please touch in, keep in touch, and comment on how this topic touched you.