I was walking with my riding instructor telling her about my left arm’s wayward ways when I said “I’m just glad I have that arm because I think of those who don’t have both arms”. She said, “I love that you just said that.” I find that keeping the focus on being grateful minimizes my discontent over my losses.
My left arm was totally paralyzed along with the entire side of my body following a severe stroke in 1999. Over time, some movement returned, but it has never returned to normal. The arm is spastic and painful. I have practically no fine motor skills in my hand. I have developed a pattern of what is known as “learned non-use”, a result of ignoring my arm and hand because it is expedient to do so as I struggle to get through life with only one cooperative hand. Fortunately, I am right handed which made adapting to things like writing very simple.
By necessity, I have figured out how to do just about everything with one hand. Peeling a potato, putting on pillowcases and using produce bags at the supermarket remain some of the biggest challenges.
When others watch me struggle to not use both hands to do things like open packages or tie shoes, they fight the urge to jump in and do it for me, not knowing how much help I am comfortable accepting. It has become glaringly apparent that others perceive I can’t use mt left hand. At the drive through at the bank, as I was reaching across my body with my right hand, the teller asked what happened to my hand. I said I had a stroke. He was shocked and a little embarrassed. I look too young to have had a stroke. It happened when I was 35. Store clerks often want to help me with the money in my wallet as I work to complete transactions with one hand with customers in line behind me. Seat mates on airplanes offer to open my silverware and packaged food rather than watch me do battle with them.
Obviously, I have become extremely adept at moving through the world without using my left hand for much. I once had a lover praise my dick handling skills saying it was as if I had had one. I replied that I sort of did have one having been in a lifetime relationship with one man before I met him. I am typing this with one hand. Practice makes perfect.
My left hand can offer minimal help to my right. We can adapt to nearly anything in life. I remain grateful to have both arms, even if one is literally a pain.