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New ways of performing existing skills

I thought I would see how I go with making a wallet tonight (let’s not start with the easy stuff…). I only got the interfacing and outer cut, and that took longer than it would normally take me to totally finish one. *sigh* This is going to be slow.  No pics tonight because I haven’t done enough to be interesting yet, and it’s also not really that easy to take photos at the moment.

On the upside, I get my follow-up x-ray tomorrow. I’m being treated for a suspected scaphoid fracture, which is a common injury if you’re silly enough to stick your hand out to break your fall.  The scaphoid is a very small bone, apparently so fine that fractures don’t necessarily show up on x-ray straight away, but can be seen after 10-14 days once it starts to heal. Tomorrow is almost 3 weeks, but it was the first free appointment with the wrist specialist at the fracture clinic. So there is a chance that it’s not actually broken (and I’m praying that is the case).  At the very least I’m hoping I will get this cast off and a new, lighter one instead, and that will allow me to manoeuvre my right arm more freely.

X-ray Image from Wikipedia
Image from Wikipedia, not my wrist

To start with, doing anything required a huge mental effort.  I found that working out how to do everything left-handed was about on par with going and living in France. For the first couple of weeks it was a case of knowing what was going on, knowing what I wanted to do, but having to go through a mental process of how to achieve that which would normally come easily – whether that be ensuring I spoke in French that was correct enough to be understood, or making myself a snack with one hand.  I needed so many naps in the last few weeks!

If you’ve ever studied education, you may have come across the process of learning new skills framed as the four stages of competence (I should give a better reference than Wikipedia, but this will at least give you a starting point if you want to learn more. I seem to remember that when I learnt about it at university that it was attributed to Maslow). Basically, it is the stages you pass through from not even realising you don’t have a skill, to being able to perform that skill without thinking.

Up until I was 8, I doubt it ever occurred to me that I couldn’t write with my left hand, or that I would ever need to. Then I cracked my left arm, and being in a cast for 6 weeks left enough of an impression on me that I realised that maybe it would be a good idea to be able to write with my left hand too (one of my best friends broke her right arm a week after me, so that might have had something to do with it). So every few years I’ve pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and practised writing the alphabet (and the quick brown fox etc) with my left hand. I doubt I’ll ever reach the level of unconscious competency, but if I take it slowly and stick my tongue out (have you ever caught yourself doing this when you’re really concentrating?), I can make it legible. I’m bordering on conscious competence.

I’m actually pretty amazed at all the things I can now do with my left hand. To start with I was pretty limited, but now I can manage:

  • getting dressed
  • getting water from the water cooler at work
  • keeping up my daily sudoku habit
  • writing a birthday card to my mum (“It looks like you tried to write it with your left hand”. “I didn’t really have an option”. “OH! Well you’ve done a pretty impressive job then!”)
  • writing on the whiteboard (big letters are easier than little ones)
  • opening a jar (this requires non-slip mats and thighs… and twitter wisdom, because I wouldn’t have worked it out on my own)
  • threading my overlocker and sewing with it
  • using my sewing machine for simple stuff
  • making toasty pies (although this one is MUCH easier if someone cuts the cheese for me)
  • doing my makeup
  • putting my hair up – this was a huge one for me, today was the first time I managed to make it happen. I have long hair, and wearing it down for 18 days straight was too much!

Other stuff I just can’t do. My husband has been amazingly patient and helpful, cooking me meals, making me sandwiches, washing my hair, fetching me painkillers, and giving me plenty of cuddles. And driving me places (not being able to drive myself OR ride my bike is a drag) and lending me his snapper whenever I misplace mine (which I’ve done twice now, not great when I’m so reliant on the bus).

I have a friend coming to help me with some cutting soon, because it really is just about impossible. My right-handed shears just will not cut fabric when I try to use my left hand. I can’t get enough pressure with either hand to use the cutting wheel, and I’m not quite as accurate as I need to be with the battery-powered scissors wrangled with my left hand. I’m sure that will improve over time, but I have so much cutting to do right now.

ACC have been good. They called a few days in to see how I was coping, whether I needed any home care, personal care or transport support. I’ve been determined to keep working (it helps that I don’t work a regular fulltime job so there has also been plenty of resting), so the one day I couldn’t easily use public transport to get to a worksite they organised Driving Miss Daisy for me!

Wearing pretty slings has helped keep me chipper too. So many people have commented on them – even random strangers in the street!  I’m tossing up whether I should make some for sale and/or write up a tutorial on how to make them. What do you think? Is it something you would give as a thoughtful “heal up quick” gift? Would you use one yourself if you suffered the misfortune of a broken arm?

Illustration of a tauhou or waxeye perched on a twig of kōwhai.

Tēnā koe,
it’s nice to meet you.

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