Sunday, July 15, 2012

My Hands: From a Prompt Writing Workshop

I attended a prompt-writing class on Saturday morning. I have mixed feelings about the process, but I did get a couple of scraps of writing that interested me, so it can't be all bad. Here's one of them. The prompt was to start with "My hands are . . ."

            My hands are sore this morning. It pisses me off. I’m too young for this crap.  My mother didn’t have to deal with the sore swollen joints until she was in her fifties, and here I am at barely forty and find myself saying things like, “it’s worse when it rains” like I’m some kind of arthritic old lady.

            I’m not diagnosed with arthritis so far. It seems to be a more generally inflammation problem, maybe tied to the pain in the lower back and hips and maybe to the TMJ. Maybe it’s a women thing. Since I have an IUD now it’s hard to know where I am cyclically, to see if there’s a correlation.  There are days when it doesn’t hurt at all, and it’s definitely been much better since I went off the statins. I try not to worry about it too much, but just live with it, like so many other small complaints. If it doesn't kill me . . .

            So my hands and I try our best to get along. I’m not sure how I feel about them. I find them too small for many tasks, clumsy, prone to dropping, and not strong enough to get a good hold on things.  I’m not sure how they feel about me either. They complain a lot. Maybe they feel underappreciated or put upon. Maybe they think I ask too much and should consider sharing the wealth with other body parts from time to time. Maybe they are lazy, or just, like the rest of me, slow to wake.

            I’ve always thought my hands were kind of ugly. Maybe they know that and resent me for it. They are small and stubby, freckled and often appear older than seems appropriate—dried and bumpy in the way that my Great Grandmother’s were. But I’m still just a Mom, haven’t earned those other honorifics yet. 

            I’m sure I don’t help. My beauty routine is to nibble down the nails when they get in my way or when edges snag on things and to apply band-aids when I nibble too far.  Hardly a posh salon visit with a wax bath and lotions and paint. They’d probably rather be someone else’s hands.

            But you’ve got to have hands, one more than the other. I remember when I hurt my right arm roller-skating at my daughter’s birthday party and had to rely so heavily on the left. Trying to write on the board for my students or cut a tomato to go with dinner, cleaning up after going to the bathroom. The most mundane tasks became challenging. Luckily that was only for a few weeks.  When I got my right hand back, I was ridiculously happy and grateful. 

            I should remember that and not resent it if my hands complain a little here and there. I do ask them to do so much. And so much of it has been unpleasant. If there’s a disgusting mess to be handled, they are the first in line. And often without the protection of rubber gloves and with the scouring punishment of harsh soaps afterwards. They pick up the dog poop, wipe the soiled behinds of children, pull that disgusting thing out of the drain, handle the caustic chemicals that go with a contemporary sense of “clean house.”

            What would they do, if I let them choose? Would they learn sign language? Would they sit neatly folded on a silken pillow? Would they stretch out, reaching for things that only they want? Would they dance? Would they curl into fists and beat out aggressions against the walls? Would they grab and hold fiercely the things they love most, or pat then gently, rubbing love into the surfaces? Would they make things? Would they lie passive and take on pampering like lotions and massage?

            It may seem silly, talking of hands as separate entities, but the body is a mysterious thing. The ways it communicates and acts are difficult to analyze. When we are lucky, so much happens without conscious decision or thought. We take in air and let it out, all without even a glimmer of awareness.  Something starts to fall over and my hand darts out to catch it, almost before my eyes have seen it. 

            Arguably my hands work for me, but I don’t feel as if I make the decisions all the time. Even now, typing here at my computer, the fingers find the right keys pretty consistently. I think the words, some part of me breaks those down into letters and sends signals to the right fingers, who have learned through training and practice which motion to make, to press the right key to bring those words to the screen where I can read them and make use of them. 

So, that's it. Interesting where the brain wanders when given permission to do so.  I wonder if some of it might work into my new project: a superhero novel about menopausal women called (in Scrivener anyway), "The Change." I bet one of the characters has sore hands in the morning, too. 

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