Shriveling Up?

Flexibility is important.

Ever since I turned 50, my hands have been giving me problems. First it was de Quervain’s Tendonitis, which got so bad that I was in a brace for 9 months and then had to resort to surgery. Most recently, it was trigger finger, in which my finger seemed to have a painful mind of its own, and would vibrate and snap against my will. Surgery was suggested for that, too, but how many tendons can one cut before losing functionality?

As a last resort, I went to an acupuncturist, and now my finger is fine. But during one visit I lamented that this kind of thing would keep happening to me, and I need my hands to type this blog. She told me something very interesting.

She said as we get older, we tend to curl our hands more and more, and that plays hell with one’s tendons. It made me think of a desiccated leaf in the Autumn of its life. Curling. Shriveling up.

Now, I’m no doctor, so I can’t tell you how accurate this is, but after she told me that, I began looking at people’s hands. And I did notice, in a purely unscientific way, that young people seem to hold their hands flatter than old people do.

After that, I started doing hand stretches. Bending my fingers back as much as I could. And while driving, I’d place my hands flat on the steering wheel instead of curving my fingers around it. (Of course, I only did that when it felt safe to do so. I’m not encouraging you to be reckless.)

And I’ll be darned if I’m not feeling an improvement in my hands. I mean, a serious improvement. I’m going to keep this up.

Since then, I’ve noticed I also tend to curl up in my shoulders and feet, too. I hunch over the keyboard. I curl my feet in bed. So I’m stretching those areas as well. If my work schedule weren’t so weird, I’d get back into yoga. When I did yoga, I felt great.

Still, I’m opening myself up. Flattening myself out. Flexibility is important. I wouldn’t want to shrivel up before my time.

Close-up of autumn leaves fallen to the ground

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Tactile

I’m an extremely tactile person.

The sense I use the most to explore the world is touch. I’m an extremely tactile person. Getting the feel of things is how I comprehend them.

I suspect that most people think that I fidget too much. While I’m listening to others, my hands are often in motion. If there’s anything slippery or soft or oddly shaped in my presence, I’m petting it like a pedigree cat. If I’m wearing clothing with complex stitching, I’m tracing its contours, over and over and over again.

I pet my dog so much that I’m amazed he has any fur left on his body. He seems to like it, though. At least, he keeps coming back for more. (I can’t imagine owning a Mexican Hairless, but I’m dying to know what one feels like.)

I don’t mind navigating dark spaces if I’m familiar with them, because my hands and feet tell me where I am. If I were to go blind, I might be upset, but I’d quickly adapt. (I would like to know how touching someone’s face helps a blind person visualize it, but it’s not like I can walk up to people and ask to touch their faces.)

If I’m told not to touch something, it drives me absolutely nuts. I become obsessed. What does that thing feel like? I have to know! Fortunately, my desire to follow the rules is stronger than my desire to inspect. Usually. So the Mona Lisa would be safe with me. Probably.

I absolutely love holding my husband’s hand. I adore sincere hugs. I love baths because they feel like full body hugs. Walking barefoot seems like the ultimate luxury to me.

Am I weird, or is this normal? Does this resonate with you, dear reader? If it does, I’d like to shake your hand.

Touch

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Boundary Disputes Made Easy

If Jerusalem has taught us nothing else, it’s that people take their boundaries very seriously. We like there to be a clear-cut distinction between what’s ours and what’s yours. Make no mistake: We don’t really forgive you your trespasses. History bears this out.

Because of this, it should come as no shock that we also have boundary issues on a personal level. Actually, no, man, I do NOT want you touching me without permission. Don’t act so surprised.

In fact, I don’t want to be “accidentally” elbowed in the elevator. I don’t want to be patted on the shoulder. I don’t want any unsolicited hugs. I don’t want to be forced into inappropriate conversations any more than I want to be forced into inappropriate corners. I don’t want to be followed or harassed or intimidated or taken advantage of or hooted at or tooted at. I don’t want to see your private bits, either digitally or in person. I don’t want to be called honey or sweetie or darling or dear. And my eyes? They’re up here.

Here’s an idea: if you want to do something with me, just ask. I’ll let you know. Is that so hard? And in the meantime, keep your freakin’ hands to yourself. It’s just that simple.

So, pay attention. There will be a test later. And I don’t grade on a curve. This is a Pass/Fail proposition.

Proxemics

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Touch

One of the many ways we explore the world is with our hands. Before buying an item of clothing, it’s not unusual to touch it first to see how it will feel against one’s skin. On the darkest of nights we extend our hands in front of us in order to avoid bumping into things. We probably run our hands though our hair a hundred times a day. (Go ahead. You know you want to.)

But touch can also be reciprocal. There’s nothing quite as disconcerting as discovering that the touch you are giving is not the touch the other person is receiving. That’s happened to me several times in life. I once reached out to pat a friend’s shoulder in an attempt to comfort her, and she recoiled and said, “Don’t touch me!” Another time I went to hold someone’s hand, a thing I’d done with this person dozens of times before, but on this day he was just not in the headspace to do so. Another friend enjoyed being touched, but had been beaten so often as a child that you had to make sure he saw it coming or he’d flinch.

And then there are those times when you touch something expecting a certain sensation and you get another one entirely, as when you think something will be cool and it burns you. Electric shocks are like the anti-touch, as is being stung. Injuries to the hand can feel like a reproof.

Is there a word for that instant of giving a touch and then receiving something back? That moment of exchange, when you are either accepted or rejected, hurt or comforted? If there isn’t, there ought to be. That thing, that transition, that interchange is what allows us to thrive as living creatures. Without it we wither and die.

Touch
[Image credit: freegreatpicture.net]

Thank Your Hands

Last November I fell down a flight of stairs, dislocated my thumb, stupidly popped it back into place on my own with a resounding crunch (I sometimes have a freakishly high threshold of pain), and the result was a nasty case of De Quervain’s Tendonitis in my dominant hand. I was in agony and a wrist brace for a long, long time. I could barely write. I couldn’t lift things. I couldn’t shake hands. Even wiping my own behind became a challenge. I only slept sporadically due to the pain. I shed more than a few tears of frustration.

Recently, though, after several unsuccessful non-invasive attempts to resolve the problem, I finally resorted to surgery. That was a little scary because they had to cut the sheath tendon, which is a bracelet type tendon that keeps all the tendons that radiate down from your hand to your forearm in place. And to cut it, they had to move a nerve bundle, which meant if things went wrong I wouldn’t have feeling in my hand anymore. That’s a rather daunting proposition.

After the surgery I had a hard cast on my wrist and hand for a week. Cooking was difficult. Showering one-handed was not fun. And if I thought I had trouble wiping my butt before…

The good news is that the surgery was a success, and while I’m still healing, most of the time I feel pretty much back to normal. It only took nine months. I will never take my hands for granted again.

You shouldn’t, either. You have no idea how much you use your hands in the course of a day until you can’t anymore. Your hands are the most unsung heroes in your life. They really deserve some appreciation. Maybe some nice lotion or a hand massage. Trust me, it’s the very least you can do.

[Image credit: magichandsbysimon.com]
[Image credit: magichandsbysimon.com]