I have always used physical reminders of places or people that I love to ground me emotionally.
This began subconsciously. When facing school examinations, 15-year-old Kathryn reached not into her own wardrobe but into her Father’s — surreptitiously stealing oversized jumpers, t-shirts, tracksuit bottoms — borrowed armour to shield her against little mathematics dragons.
As I grew older these traits became more apparent…
When a boy with green eyes broke my 21-year-old heart, my sister travelled for eight hours to hold me, make me dinner, and restore my perspective. As she left, I gave her one of two identical necklaces. The other necklace was my secret — I wore it religiously; drawing strength from this small link to her during those first few months, when leaving the house felt just as impossible as staying in did.
As a young adult, I developed a habit of carrying a shell with me on difficult days. The shell had been collected by my boyfriend and myself in our earliest days together. When my workday was becoming stressful I simply slipped a hand into my pocket and held it — tracing its outline and breathing in imaginary salt air.
A few months ago (whilst on holiday in the Isle of Wight), I absent-mindedly mentioned this habit to my boyfriend. In response he brought me a pebble, decorated with a leaf painting by a local artist — something new for my collection of things to hold.
The two of us passed this pebble back and forth. We tucked it into pockets and rested it in the center of our palms as we walked hand-in-hand. It became a little symbol of restful times together. It also (accidentally) became a powerful reminder of the best, most nourishing aspects of our relationship. The next time we lost patience with one another I automatically brought it out of my pocket and held it out to him. It instantly calmed us.
I am now much more deliberate with our little stone. I involve it in the happiest and most peaceful moments of our life together, allowing it to act as a kind of “positivity repository.” A place we can go to borrow strength when we need it.