Brave New World

What’s the opposite of ambidexterity? Whatever it is, it’s got my name written all over it.  I’m the most single-mindedly right handed person I know, using my left hand only for things that take two hands, or to balance things I’m doing with my right hand. Oh, and I mouse left-handed, a habit I picked up when my right shoulder started to hurt.

And so, thanks to a tear in the rotator cuff of that shoulder, today will be the last day I’m allowed to use my right hand for the foreseeable future. Tomorrow I’m having rotator cuff surgery, after which, my whole world will change for quite some time.  With a surgery like this one, it’s good to take the long view.  Very long.  It apparently takes a year to get fully back to normal after this operation.  For me, that’s way too long a view, I can’t really fathom it.  I’ve heard that it will take six months before I can put my right hand on top of my head.  It’s a good thing my hair parts naturally, but that’s still a hard chunk of time to swallow.

It will be three months before I’m allowed to drive.  Now we’re talking  a timespan I can really imagine, and what I imagine is that I’m going to hate having to be driven everywhere like a little kid, even by a willing chauffeur like Shel. Worse, oh much worse, it will be three months before I can use my right hand to cook.  I won’t be able to hold a knife, since if I tried to do that with my left hand mayhem and bloodshed would surely ensue. No stirring the pot with one hand while sprinkling in salt with the other.  No whipping cream with a whisk and bowl. No cracking walnuts and picking out the meat.  No peeling garlic. No lifting heavy clay pots into and out of the oven, one of life’s most satisfying kitchen moments.

Not to mention sundry other indignities.  No pulling on a pullover sweater. No picking up cats as they stroll by the right hand side of my chair. No fastening my bra. No trailing my hand along the banister as I walk down the stairs.

And then there’s the six week time frame.  Right arm in a sling day and night, no using it, NO exceptions. Which means no typing with it.  Although a quick Google search reveals at least a page of instructional videos and tips for one-handed typing, so maybe I’ll acquire a new skill. No getting myself dressed, which means that even though I’ve invested in a mini-wardrobe of clothes that button and zip up the front, I’ll have to stand like a doll while Shel puts them on me.  That might sound romantic for about 30 seconds, but I imagine the thrill will wear off rather quickly. No cutting up my own food. No sleeping in our bed with Beppo curled up next to my pillow, I’ll be bedding down in a recliner only.  Stuff like that. Virtually no normal life.

Like any sensible person, I’ve been practicing doing things left handed. Want to play along? Just go into the bathroom tomorrow morning and do every single thing with only your non-dominant hand.  Some of the simplest-seeming things turn out to be extremely difficult. I won’t mention what they are, I’ll let you be surprised.

So today’s the last day for me to put up some holiday decorations, even though it’s so early.  The last day to cook up a huge pot of soup because I think that for the next week it’s going to be all pain and narcotics, and soup might be all I can manage.  The last day to go secret Christmas shopping, sew the button on my favorite green sweater, cook up some pork cheeks and lamb shanks to add to the collection of dinners banked in my freezer.  The last day to take pictures with the Nikon for I don’t know how long, although I think I might be able to manage the little Canon with just one hand. The last day to cut my toenails.  Jeepers.

And then, inevitably, tomorrow will be the first day of my new left-handed life. Possibly I’ll become a whole new person, as I use different parts of my brain for virtually every task.  Except mousing. At least that one thing will be comfortingly familiar. And I’ll be talking to you again soon. I just hope I won’t be talking out of the other side of my mouth.

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18 Comments on “Brave New World”

  1. Sharon Worster Says:

    Good luck Abra!! I have a frozen right shoulder so I feel your pain but fortunately I don’t have to have surgery. Now I’m off to watch videos on how to mouse w/ my left hand.

  2. Janet Says:

    Wish you a speedy recovery.
    I cannot imagine not be able to use my dominant arm/hand (I’m left handed).
    Take care.

  3. heidih Says:

    I feel your pain having lost the nerves controlling my dominant right hand for almost a year a while back. The brain is amazing and I trust that you will find yourself performing tasks as a lefty without having to think it through. Your lovely photos will be missed, but your evocative words will be welcomed -and you get a free pass on typos 😉 Good thoughts going out to you both.

  4. Kathi Says:

    Will be sending you strength and peace for a speedy recovery and for finding more of the strength that you already possess.

  5. Debra Lane Says:

    Bummer! So sorry to hear this. I am also extremely, extremely right handed, so much so that my left hand only can type and help to tie my shoes and thats about it. If I try to write, its worse than a 4 year old. Sending you healing energy for a speedy recovery! Hugs to you.

  6. Rona Y Says:

    Crossing my fingers that you’ll be an outlier, and heal far more quickly than average! Maybe Beppo will find a nice cushion in your lap when you sleep on the recliner. It might not be so comfortable for you, but it will help stop you from trying to turn on your side!


  7. Dear Abra, my best to you. Take it day by day, and the next one is always going to be better.


  8. Oh, Abra — how challenging! You seem indomitable and I am sure you will rise to this difficulty. But it doesn’t sound like much fun.

    Watch out for the recliner. I’ve been sleeping in one for more than 5 years (back problems), and it is a slippery slope. Do give it up as soon as allowed. I am trying to re-train myself to a bed, another one of those mysteriously (and unreasonably) difficult tasks, but I think it would be easier after a shorter time.

    Have you considered speech-to-text software? Might be fun. I see that Dragon is having a sale (nuance.com). Too bad it doesn’t work for chopping onions or fastening bras.

    Kathleen

  9. Wolfgang Says:

    All the best wishes for a succesful surgery and a quick and painless recovery!

  10. Heinz Says:

    We are so sorry to hear about your surgery. Good luck and our best wishes for a speedy and successful recovery. Hugs to you and Shel.

    Christine & Heinz


  11. Deep breath. Think of it as … a game. I just did about 3 months with no right hand. It sucked. It put me in a foul mood. You missed the part about not being able to zip up a pair of jeans. But somehow, you adapt. Do you have a choice??
    The worst part for me was getting my food cut up.
    There are some good voice dictation apps for the computer. Ask Rachel Laudan how she is coping and what she uses.
    Best of luck and may you have a spectacularly speedy recovery!!!

  12. Lori Says:

    Wishing you good luck with your surgery. As someone above already said, you seem indomitable – if anyone can manage to find the positive and poetic – you will. My husband had this surgery in the spring along with a few other tweaks from a previous surgery. We didn’t use a recliner and it was most difficult getting him in and out of bed.
    Biggest thing to watch out for in first few daya is you fingers swelling up – my husband was on so many pain meds, he couldn’t tell when his sling was too tight and it would cut off his circulation without him knowing until it got really bad. We would loosen the sling whenever he laid down.
    Truly hope that all of the love you’ve spread comes back to you 10x – in the form of home cooked meals from all of the people you’ve treated over the years.

  13. jessica Says:

    Here’s to a quick and painless recovery! It will be a challenge, but I know that you will figure out a way to type and shoot pictures with that one arm! Good luck to Shel too!

  14. elaine Says:

    We wish you a speedy and complete recovery. The good news may be (but not good enough to endure what you must) is that they say it’s good for your brain to do things with your nondominate hand!

  15. Dorothy Says:

    Abra, Hoping your recovery time is not too long. Wishing that Shel would be a guest blogger and let us know how you are doing.

  16. Sue Says:

    What a bummer! I know that with Shel’s help, you will do fine, but it’s not fun to contemplate, is it?
    You are such a strong person that I have every confidence in your ability to “manage”. Since Shel is your right-hand man, you have the best help possible. I don’t drive anymore and being ferried is not all bad.

    All best wishes and prayers and Shel can write us so we hear of your progress to a full and almost speedy recovery. This is not fine, but I feel sure you will cope better than most. love and prayers coming your way!


  17. […] This is a blog post I did on the night before my surgery, enumerating all the things I would have to do differently in order to adapt. I think it'll give you lots of additional ideas about what to expect. Brave New World | FRENCH LETTERS […]


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