Adapts to fit…

                                 Image source: giphy

The laboriously written sentence looked as if it had been scrawled by a five year old making their first attempt at joined up writing… or a centenarian making their last. The lines of the script were uncertain and badly formed, the flow stuttered and trembled across the page. Visions of drunken spiders crawling through spilled ink on the page…and my first teacher shaking her head and sighing. Writing left-handed really isn’t easy when your right hand is dominant.

It had been an experiment. I, who write longhand every day, who wield both pen and brush with confidence and for whom the written word is a delight… had felt completely at a loss the moment the pen was in the ‘wrong’ hand. It did not feel right… I didn’t even know how to hold the thing to make a mark on the paper. The spatial orientation felt all wrong. The visibility of the forming words was different. I was convinced that I wouldn’t be able to write anything with my left hand. There was no pressure… nothing was hanging on my ability to do so. Even so, the physical ‘wrongness’ of the attempt induced a feeling of panic. The unfamiliarity of the action of hand and pen demanded all my concentration and the single phrase, that had taken seconds with my right hand, took over a minute to write.

I was, therefore, surprised by the result….it was at least legible. All the letters were there, if a bit on the wonky side. It wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I had expected, drunken spiders aside, though it had none of the confidence of my usual script. Even so, it just proved that the panic had been unfounded and that you can learn new skills at any age if you have to or choose to. From left handed writing, I went on to carpentry, via cookery, plumbing and sewing that day… and then got the paint out for some cosmetic decorating. I’m far from being a handywoman, but you do what needs to be done and if you don’t know the right way, you find a way.

Human beings are incredibly adaptable. Which is probably just as well.

Flexibility and adaptability rank high on the preferred list of attributes sought by employers. When you consider the breadth of skills required these days in any form of employment, you can understand why. The incredible array of tasks and technologies we handle every day is simply mid-boggling when you look a little more closely than usual. The complex sequences of actions we have learned in order to do what seem to be the simplest tasks run into thousands. We accept new technologies, adopting them and bringing them into our lives almost without thought. Within half a lifetime, even our household appliances have gone from being powered by flame and elbow grease to the automation of electricity and electronic circuitry. People who remember the first televisions now communicate via a global network of computers, enjoying video calls across the world while our voices are bounced around space as radio waves almost instantaneously as we talk on our mobile phones. And we don’t bat the proverbial eyelid.

Right from the start we are teaching our children to use the vast potential at their disposal. Through play, with bricks and shapes, songs and silly games, babies are learning to problem-solve, observe, think and create. We teach our children to read and write, perform complex mathematical operations and speak foreign languages… as well as to engage their creative imagination, opening the world for them to explore.

Our capacity to create and embrace change is truly amazing.We seem to take little note of it, simply accepting each forward step as another part of the way we work. Maybe we should pause to take stock every so often and realise what an unbelievably brilliant vehicle we have been given in our body, brain and mind.

Instead, as soon as we are faced with a new challenge like picking up a pen in the other hand, or facing a change in direction, there is that frisson of fear, wondering if we can do it.

Maybe we need that fear… maybe the adrenaline fuels our attempts at that ‘something new’. Does it aid our concentration or does it serve to pull our attention right into the moment so that we can achieve what is needed, by bringing the body, mind and emotions into a sharp and collaborative focus?

Like the points of a triangle, each equidistant from the centre and of equal importance, these three facets of ourselves must be brought to bear on anything we do, with each taking precedence as required. There is a fourth point though, removed from these three, yet intimately linked… and that is the hub that retains its stillness at the centre; a point of balance at the heart of being.

That kernel of stillness is always there, the source and centre of all we do and all we are, whether we are aware of it or not. If we could learn to consciously act from that point of inner balance, what could we achieve, both as individuals and as a species?

34 thoughts on “Adapts to fit…

  1. To me, swapping hands isn’t something everybody can just learn to do. A huge effort was made to force me to swap from left to right hand when I was a kid, on the basis that I should be ‘flexible’ and just ‘able to flip over’. It was pushed by means of an ongoing physical and psychological smashing that went on without relent until I either ‘chose’ to succeed with the ‘good hand’, or was broken. I certainly tried, but it turned out I had no facility at all with my right hand, nothing I did made any difference, and the more I tried, the more I began losing even basic co-ordination skills and the use of my left hand. A kind of ‘lag’ effect emerged that I couldn’t stop or control.

    I discover since that handedness is not something of conscious choice – it’s a matter of hard-wiring, which is a spectrum. Some people are ambidextrous or can learn to use the other hand fairly readily. But it also turns out that people who are massively dominant with one hand physically can’t swap – they are not wired that way, and forcing the issue merely does cognitive and other damage. Two other kids I was at school with, both left handers, ended up stuttering as a result of the school’s efforts. I don’t stutter, but my hand-writing – even with my left hand – never recovered.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. It always gets to me when I hear of children having been forced to go against their natural ability! I can’t begin to imagine how damaging that must be… ‘not good enough’ being implied by default.

      My own experiment was because my right-dominant son, left half paralysed after being stabbed through the brain, had to re-wire his natural bias to use his left hand. The result is still laborious, even ten years on…and I wondered how I would cope.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I seem to remember being told that I was discouraged from being left-handed as a kid. Now I can do all kinds of things with either hand, except writing and other fine tasks. I tried left-handed writing after reading this, and suspect that with patience and effort I would improve. The question is whether I’d find it worth that effort.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. My family think I have a cupboard where I keep all my heads. All I have to do is change heads and I can do anything. Although this is very flattering, it does raise the stakes, forcing me to have a go with my fingers crossed…

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  4. I have a book in mind, begun, but laid aside for the moment while I finish another couple of projects. In it, at the beginning, the protagonist loses his right hand and is thus forced to use his left. In order to get an idea of what problems he would face, I tried doing some of my more simple tasks with my left hand. I found it extremely difficult, even just wiping down the shower!

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    1. My son lost most of the use of his right side and much of the left. I also managed to cut a tendon in my hand a while back and had it strapped around my neck for weeks. That was the left hand… and even right-handed, that made life incredibly difficult.

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  5. A writer leading a workshop I attended encouraged us to use our non-dominant had whenever we felt stuck with whatever writing we were working on. I believe it works. I’m not sure if it is because the intense amount of focus required to write with the non-dominant hand stops you worrying about anything else and things begin to flow.

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  6. If the heart and soul is determined it should be done, it will get done – better than expected – signed right hand dominate, who wrote legible ?s/answers during stroke affecting speech and handwriting – and then, over years, got back to my writing/chatty cathy ways – LOL – perhaps not all to the good, but just one more example, in my life, reminding me “when I struggle, fume, get bad at all that is required to ‘just do such and such and embrace technology change’ – I am reminded – always, “If i determine I should, in the end, learn, because the desire to ‘do to greater good’ is higher than my frustration/fear of messing it up while learning? well, it always gets done – and I’m always happier when I just wait/walk away sometimes, with the caveat – “I just don’t see how this is really important/priority, just now – but maybe someday – – meanwhile – THIS! THIS right here has high ROI to make up for the pain of ‘learning/adpating” – – LOL.

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  7. I had to use two different computer programs at places I worked and my son and daughter showed me additional uses. I have a friend who doesn’t use a computer and I can’t understand why. I can’t understand the reluctance to learn new things. 🙂 — Suzanne

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