MY LEFT HAND

TRUE TO FORM, WHEN I EXPERIENCED MY SHOULDER INJURY A FEW WEEKS AGO, I TRIED TO THINK OF WHAT I HAD TO GAIN FROM THE EXPERIENCE.

NOT THAT I’M A POLLYANNA, BUT I THINK, GENERALLY, THERE ARE POSITIVE LESSONS TO BE EXTRACTED FROM ALL RANGE OF EXPERIENCES – EVEN DIFFICULT ONES.

ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS I BECAME AWARE OF WAS THAT I HAD TO ASK FOR HELP.

THIS IS NOT EASY FOR MOST PEOPLE. IT CERTAINLY HASN’T BEEN FOR ME. IT SEEMS NATURAL FOR ME TO TAKE PRIDE IN MY INDEPENDENCE. AS MANY PEOPLE DO, I’VE OFTEN EQUATED ASKING FOR HELP AS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS OR CAUSE FOR SHAME.

DESPITE ENDORSING THE IDEA THAT ACCEPTING HELP FROM OTHERS ACTUALLY SERVES THEM, I’VE HAD PROBLEMS WITH THE REALITY OF BEING IN THIS POSITION. THE IDEA OF ACCEPTING HELP IS FINE — BUT NOT SO FINE FOR ME. ESPECIALLY WHEN I’M UNCERTAIN HOW LONG I WILL BE IN NEED.

THE RANGE OF THINGS I FOUND MYSELF NEEDING HELP FOR SURPRISED ME. IT WAS NOT LIKE GETTING YEARLY TAX ADVICE OR NEEDING A SINGLE RIDE TO A DESTINATION. WITHOUT THE USE OF MY RIGHT ARM AND HAND, I SEEMED TO NEED HELP FOR EVERYTHING.

THIS LED ME TO MY NEXT LESSON.

I TRIED TO PLAN THE SIMPLE TASKS OF MY LIFE. I DID NOT JUST WANT TO AVOID WASTING TIME, I WANTED TO AVOID WASTING OTHER PEOPLE’S TIME,

WHEN I HAD SOMEONE COME OVER TO WALK MY DOG, I USUALLY ASKED THEM TO HELP ME WITH SOME ARM EXERCISES OR TO OPEN A CAN, OR CHANGE A LIGHT BULB.  ACCOMPLISH TWO GOALS WITH ONE VISIT, RIGHT?

I ALSO FELT REMINDED TO CONTEMPLATE THE PHRASE DESCRIBING PEOPLE AS HUMAN BEINGS, NOT HUMAN DOINGS. WHEN I COULDN’T PERFORM MY JOB [OR, I COULD ONLY DO MY JOB IN A VERY LIMITED CAPACITY], I NEEDED TO REMEMBER NOT TO JUDGE MY WORTH BY MY PRODUCTIVITY.

I STARTED TO ACCEPT HOW CONTINUED WORK IS NEEDED IN THE AREA OF PATIENCE. AS I LOOKED AT PROSPECTS FOR REHAB, I REALIZED THAT HAVING GREATER PATIENCE IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT. BRINGING MY ARM BACK TO FULL FUNCTIONALITY WILL NOT BE A SHORT-LIVED VENTURE.

OPPORTUNITIES TO EXAMINE MY GROWTH HAVE BEEN IN MY FACE. MOST HAVE NOT BEEN TOTALLY UNEXPECTED, BUT I WAS SURPRISED BY A MOMENT I HAD WHEN I TRIED TO MAKE OUT THE ITEMS ON A SHOPPING LIST THE OTHER DAY.

I’M VERY RIGHT HAND DOMINANT. FORGET ABOUT SIGNING A CHECK OR CREDIT CARD SLIP WITH MY LEFT HAND.

SINCE MY INJURY, I’VE HAD TO TURN ON LIGHTS, TYPE EMAILS, BRUSH MY TEETH, AND CLEAN MYSELF AFTER GOING TO THE TOILET USING MY LEFT HAND. EVERYDAY TASKS HAVE TAKEN MUCH MORE TIME WITH THIS FORGOTTEN SIDE.

BUT NOT UNTIL I SAW MY ATTEMPTS TO WRITE A GROCERY LIST WITH MY LEFT HAND THAT I REALIZED HOW MUCH JUDGMENT I HOLD AGAINST PARTS OF ME.

I PRONOUNCED THE SCRAWLED OUT LETTERS AS INEPT, JUVENILE, USELESS — UGLY. EVEN AFTER ATTRIBUTING THE UNEVEN SCRIPT TO LACK OF EXPERIENCE WITH MY NON-DOMINANT HAND, I DIDN’T WANT TO THINK THE WORDS WRITTEN WITH BLACK INK ON THE BACK OF AN 8 ½” X 11” SHEET OF PRINTER PAPER CAME FROM ME.

I GUESS I WANT TO THINK OF MYSELF IN TERMS OF MY BEST FEATURES. I AM A GOOD WRITER AND QUICK WITH A JOKE OR OBSERVATION. I HAVE NICE LEGS….

I DON’T USUALLY WANT TO ASSOCIATE MYSELF WITH WHAT’S NOT CLEVER OR ATTRACTIVE, WITH WORDS PENNED WITH MY LEFT HAND.

BUT THESE THINGS ARE PARTS OF ME, TOO. MY LEFT HAND HAS SERVED ME, THOUGH PERHAPS NOT AS EFFICIENTLY OR AS ELEGANTLY AS MY RIGHT. THESE PAST THREE WEEKS, MY LEFT HAND HAS WASHED MY DISHES, RETRIEVED COLD-PACS FROM THE FREEZER AND TEXTED MESSAGES ON MY SMART PHONE.

MAYBE MY HANDWRITING WITH MY LEFT HAND WILL IMPROVE SOMEWHAT AS I AM FORCED TO USE IT MORE OFTEN, BUT THAT’S NOT THE MAIN TAKEAWAY. [I DON’T EXPECT CHRISTY BROWN-LIKE ACHIEVEMENTS, THE IRISH ARTIST WITH CEREBRAL PALSY WHO DEVELOPED THE ABILITY TO TYPE AND PAINT WITH HIS LEFT FOOT.]

BUT I CAN RECOGNIZE SOME OF MY DIS-OWNED PARTS AS BEING IN SERVICE OF THE WHOLE ME.

KNOWING YOURSELF TO BE WHOLE, EVEN IF A LITTLE BROKEN, AND RECOGNIZING THAT YOUR WHOLE SELF INCLUDES ASPECTS OF YOU THAT ARE NOT PREFERRED OR NORMALLY ON DISPLAY, IS NO SMALL THING.

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