5.19.2007

Toward Balance

A little while back, my back started hurting. Bad. I was having a grand old time playing my flute, while Nathan banged away at the piano.... and then, suddenly, I heard a little click in my shoulder, and it hurt even to breathe.

So I went to a chiropractor, who scanned my back with all sorts of fancy sensors, and announced that the whole problem is that I'm right-handed. Really, really right-handed. And right-footed, and right-armed, and right-everything-ed.

Which is kinda funny, because I've always thought of myself as the sort of person you'd expect to be a lefty. You know, artsy and intuitive and creative and musical. A big thing for me lately has been learning to trust the more logical, practical side of myself. I feel a bit like some of Andy's students who are quite convinced that they can't possibly do math, since they're "literature people," not "math people," and who, when informed that the number 1 indicator of mathematical success is reading ability, instantly rise to the top of the class. We all build our identities around a certain set of skills and interests, and it can be strangely intimidating to move beyond them. If I have other strengths, too... well then, who am I, anyway? So it was a bit surreal to discover just how (absurdly, painfully) right-side-dominant I am.

But back to my back. The right side of my body is much stronger than the left, and so I use it more. Thus the right side gets stronger and stronger, while the left side atrophies, and so on and so forth, until finally my back was so lopsided and out of whack that I couldn't even breathe.

Anyway, I'm supposed to try to do everything with my left hand. Which is easier said than done. Most of my daily tasks are actually two-handed, and the way I coordinate my hands is completely subconscious. It sounds silly, but it's taken me more than a month just to figure out how to go about trying to do things left-handedly.

Every time I get an adjustment, I come away feeling lopsided. My spine feels relaxed and flexible and wonderfully painless... and in a decidedly odd location. This last time, though, I experienced my muscles as lopsided. After she straightened me out, I could feel that my spine was straight and symmetrical, but that I had moderately competent muscles on the right side of my body, and nothing on the left. It's very strange. I'd never noticed it before, but for the past week I've been constantly aware of the lopsidedness of my body. Everything I do, I'm aware of the need to strengthen my left side. And oh my, now that I'm using my left hand, life is one great big workout. Stirring a pot of soup, I feel the burn... and not because I splashed, either. Just opening a door is quite a feat. Add in a childproof knob, and I'm about ready to collapse. But oh, it feels good. Because I'm finally beginning to experience just how much better it is to be balanced and strong, than to be able to easily understand and pigeonhole myself.

1 comment:

slowlane said...

Last week I switched my mouse from the right side to the left side to give my right hand a break, and it is amazing how much more concentration it takes to navigate with my left hand.

Also, if I understand correctly, it is actually the left side of the brain that is used to use the right side of your body. So stroke victims who have a stroke in the left lobe have trouble with the right side of their body.