On Being a Lefty

As a young child, I was the only left-handed person in my immediate family. (As it turns out, my youngest brother is also a lefty, but because he’s ambidextrous in many areas, I like to think I’m the only true lefty. We can ignore the fact that I swing a baseball and a golf club right-handed.)

My grandmother, my Mom’s mom, was left-handed too, and she grew up in the thirties and forties, when society was not so kindly to left-handed people as it is now. Schools forced children to use their right hand in writing classes, even punishing kids for daring to prefer another perfectly good hand. My grandma, however, was lucky to have parents who didn’t force the issue, and she grew up a proud and unabashed lefty. When she had two sons who were left-handed (my uncles), and several left-handed grandchildren (one currently present), she encouraged it as a badge of honor.

“Lefties are the only people in their right minds,” she would joke. (Because the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body, and the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. Get it? Har har.)

As a kid, I felt especially honored to be the only one in my household with such a skill. I didn’t realize, and perhaps you haven’t either, that society is in fact biased toward right-handed people. I used can openers with mild discomfort, not realizing they were made to go the other way around. I used scissors with intense discomfort, because my left-hand fingers didn’t conform to the intended right-hand finger angles. When I was at summer camp and we were practicing archery and they gave me a left-handed bow, I was upset because the tension was all off, and I was used to practicing on my brother’s right-handed bow.

“Can I try a right-handed bow?” I asked.

“Aw, honey, you don’t want that. You’re a lefty.”

“Dammit Carl, give me the right-handed bow,” I would have said, if I were me now.

Carl (or Bill or whoever) did, and I massacred a foam deer with one well-shot arrow.

Take that, Carl. Or Bill.

When I go shopping and sign credit card receipts, the cashier either says, “Whoa, you’re a lefty!” or “Whoa, I’m also a lefty!” As someone who doesn’t like attention being drawn to herself during what ought to be a normal business transaction, I learned to cover up my embarrassment with snark.

“What’s it like being a lefty?” asked one cashier at a jewelry store.

“You get used to it,” I said, and did a pen drop and walked away with my earrings.

Perhaps the most perplexing instance of this came recently, when I was working at a bank. If you’re a lefty who works at a bank, watch out. Every time you fill out someone’s deposit slip, they go nuts that you dare to write out their account number with your left hand. It’s practically un-American. I’ve never been made so aware of my hand dominance in my life.

One day this ragged-looking fellow, about thirty years old and wearing a beard like a brown brillo pad, came up to my window and wanted to take out some money. Whatever his particular transaction required, I had to ask my coworker for help, and she stood next to me while I filled out the man’s withdrawal ticket.

“She’s a lefty,” he said, not to me, but to my coworker.

I continued writing out the withdrawal ticket. Account number. Date. Name.

“Lefties are as mean as cat shit,” he said, to my coworker.

I’m sorry if this language offends you. If it helps, it offended me. We finished the transaction and then I went to the bathroom and stared at my face in the mirror.

Lefties are as mean as cat shit. As mean. As cat shit. The words rang in my head. I felt stunned and vaguely harassed. Vaguely insulted. Vaguely mocked.

But most of all, I felt just… What the hell does that even mean? Is cat shit inherently malicious? Are lefties somehow biologically related to cat shit in a way that righties aren’t? Is this a scientific fact I missed? Have there been studies done on this? The guy didn’t even cite his sources. A philosopher of his caliber should know better.

(I still want to know what this means. If someone can enlighten me, please do.)

I’m still proud to be a lefty, and I still cannot, for the life of me, understand why people act so weird about it. It’s not like I chose left-handedness. It’s not like I chose to live in a world that favors righties by the very makeup of its appliances and school desks, by the fact that most languages are written left to right, or that smug guys named Carl or Bill think they can decide what bows people will use. And don’t even get me started on musical instruments.

But in a way, being left-handed has offered me perspective. How often do I make assumptions about people based on biological facts they can’t control, like Brillo-Beard did to me? How often do I make unconscious comments that bewilder and offend others? (I still really want to know what “mean as cat shit” means.) How often do I assume life is the same for everyone, not seeing the little adjustments and painful adaptations people make to fit in, like I have to make with can openers and scissors? How often do I simply not see that society is better designed to help out some people and not others, because the design happens to favor me?

This realization is the key, I think, to fixing those seemingly insurmountable issues we come across in society. Our biggest problem is usually not that we disagree, but that we misunderstand each other. That when someone asks, “What’s it like being a lefty?” we offer the snarky answer instead of the honest one. It’s only when we’re honest that we can start coming up with solutions.

So see guys? I’m not mean as cat shit.

That Time I Went to Yoga With Sweaty Hands

Hello, my name is Hannah, and I have sweaty palms.

Not perpetually or anything; at least I hope not. But at certain times, when it’s very warm or I’m very nervous, I get sweaty palms.

Take on of my first dates with Alex, six years ago. We went to the movie theater to see the first Hunger Games, and in a confused flurry of emotion—hey man, that movie is traumatic—we wound up holding hands. And then a few minutes later my hands started getting warm and damp, and Alex very nonchalantly stopped holding my hand by pretending to check the time or something. Because we’d only been dating a few weeks, I assumed he was trying to maintain healthy physical boundaries.

But deep down we all knew it was because of my sweaty palms.

Of course, now that we’re married, I can insist he get over it and hold my hand anyway. It’s not like I’m unclean or anything. And he can refuse anyway, or make a joke of it, and the issue isn’t in danger of ruining a burgeoning romance. The sweaty hands are more of an annoyance.

Until the other day, when they became nigh unto life-threatening.

We moved this past month, and one thing I lost by leaving our former community was my favorite yoga studio. It made me very sad, because a good public yoga class is akin to a good cup of coffee. You don’t really need it, but you also do. It makes you a better, more peaceful person. And you miss it terribly when you don’t have it. I was in desperate need of some guided zen.

So I did some research and found a new yoga studio. It was thirty-five minutes away, because our little area in the Pennsylvania mountains is still catching up on the hipster trends, but it looked perfect. So I hauled myself through the woods and past cow pastures to make it to class at 4:30 in the afternoon.

I arrived at the yoga studio three minutes late. I was anxious about this, but told myself that I was overthinking it and that no one else got as persnickety about time management as me, and that I’d be just in time to sign in and find a spot before class began, and that there was no way the yoga teacher would begin right at 4:30.

Except my fears were all true; the door to the studio was locked, and a little chalkboard sign hung on it, which cheerily informed me that class was in session and I could come back later.

Cue sweaty palms. I stood on the sidewalk in a kind of yoga-deprived daze.

“Wait! I got you!” came a voice. A woman walked up and drew out a ring of keys. “I own the place,” she said. “Go in and enjoy your class.”

Maybe I was assisting in a break-in, but I didn’t care. I thanked her profusely and ducked inside, slipped off my shoes, and sheepishly walked into the big room where a middle-aged yoga trainer was leading a group of six other women in some shoulder rolls. I put down my mat right on a squeaky floorboard, and the sounds it made while I stretched were akin to that of a hundred-year-old barn in a windstorm.

But the yoga class went on pleasantly, and I soon calmed down a bit. The air smelled like essential oils, and mellow music wafted up to the white painted ceiling, settling into the red bricks of the walls.

And then we started Downward Dog, and that’s when I realized that my sweaty palms were still sweaty. It was warm, we were working out, and I had just come off the stressful situation of breaking into a yoga studio. Every time I tried to plant my hands into my mat, they slipped just enough to ruin any stability. Soon it wasn’t just my hands, but my feet too. And this wasn’t even hot yoga.

Ten times we went through the poses of a vinyasa. Ten times we came to Downward Dog, and ten times I clenched my finger tips into my mat and rued my recently-clipped nails. Ten times I feared I would slip out and topple over. Eventually I gave up on Down Dog and just folded into the little face-down ball that is Child’s Pose, feeling like a child myself.

I was so frustrated with myself. I remembered this same thing happening last summer, and I should’ve learned from that. I should’ve brought that yoga towel I bought at Marshall’s, the one that you lay over a yoga mat for such a time as this. It’s meant for hot yoga and any-yoga-with-Hannah-With-the-Sweaty-Palms. This whole episode was so not the way this yoga endeavor was supposed to be. I wasn’t supposed to be three minutes late. I wasn’t supposed to be locked out. I wasn’t supposed to be so rushed and stressed only to have it culminate in help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! and muscles sore from trying to hold up my body in a levitating inverted V. This was supposed to be a fun, relaxing time. It was supposed to make me feel happy and rested, like my old yoga class.

Eventually, mercifully, we stopped vinyasa-ing and stretched on the floor, cooling down the little by little. There’s this wonderful part of every yoga class: the very end. You lay down in Savasana, which means Corpse Pose, which aside from its morbid name is truly lovely. You just lie there, all stretched out, and you let your body sink into the earth while you close your eyes. Some people fall asleep; I’ve been in classes where people snore. Thank God that’s never been me. I’ll take sweaty palms, thank you very much.

And as we all lay there, our teacher talked in soothing tones about peace or acceptance or love or something, and I realized that this was a lovely class. It wasn’t as familiar or comfortable as the studio I had left, but it had all that I had come there for. It had taken me to the end of myself, to the end of all feeling of control, of anything but frustration. But I think we forget that the end of ourselves isn’t the end. There’s something beyond pain, and it’s strength. It’s peace.

There are many events in my life that have done on a large scale what that yoga class did to me in an hour. There have been so many times life takes me over the edge of my own control and comfort, and I expect to fall into some kind of endless abyss.

But I never really end up falling, because pain is not an abyss. It’s just an edge. And when I get past that edge, I do not fall, but I am suspended. I am held. And I learn that everything does not have to be perfect in order to find enjoyment and peace from a situation. I can have sweaty hands on my first date and still get married; I can have sweaty hands in a yoga class and still have a lovely time.

This week I’m doing some traveling for school, and although I’m super excited in many ways, I can’t ever seem to feel excitement without a corresponding amount of dread. It’s all part of this wonderful world called anxiety. My way to combat it is to always be prepared, to always have things planned out, to always think ahead. This is all well and good, but when life inevitably happens and things don’t go according to plan, I tend to sometimes freak out. The one thing I thought would keep me safe—a well-hatched plan—fails, and I don’t feel safe anymore.

But thinking about the sweaty palms helps. Discomfort and frustration are a part of getting stronger, and everything doesn’t have to be perfect for everything to be wonderful.

Which anyone who’s taken a yoga class knows.

 

Happy Birthday

Tomorrow is Alex’s birthday. He’s not a huge fan of celebrations, but I’m hoping that this year is an improvement. Last year at this time we were on our honeymoon, and I had grand aspirations of being the best new wife.

We were all alone in a condo on the beach, I had the cleverest present already wrapped, and a delicious homemade cake was planned. It was going to be so awesome that he’d finally realize how fun birthdays can be and start to treat his own like a national holiday (like I do).

Unfortunately, this all came to naught when I got violently ill on his birthday. He spent the day mostly by himself while I stretched out semi-conscious on the couch. So much for being the best new wife.

It all works out, though, because this year we’re in the beautiful Arizona desert, I have another clever present, and I think  cake is also on the horizon (sh, don’t tell). And last year’s wonderful festivities ended up being excellent material for a short story.

So happy birthday, luv.

silly

Work Zone

Alex’s driver’s license expired during our honeymoon. We left our rented condo on the Outer Banks at five in the morning. He wore a black Nike shirt with the words drive fast emblazoned across it in neon yellow, and I was sick in the passenger seat. We were driving a borrowed car.

“Lord, I better not get pulled over with this shirt,” he said.

The last few days of the honeymoon had passed in general misery. Three days earlier, on my new husband’s birthday, I had started feeling ill. At first it was dizziness and chills, but soon it progressed to vomiting and a high fever, creating a state of complete uselessness. Alex got to experience the full meaning of his “in sickness and health” vows less than two weeks into the agreement by cleaning me up, gathering our luggage, locking up the condo, and packing everything into the car. It was ten hours home.

All was going well until Richmond, Virginia. Traffic was thick – five lanes wide in each direction. He wove in and out of the mass of cars, leaving the slow movers behind and being urged on by the faster ones.

The car in front of us changed lanes and Alex sped up to replace him. “Oh crap,” he said, touching the brakes. Red and blue lights flashed behind us from a previously unassuming white car. We pulled over.

He pulled out his wallet. We looked ruefully at the expired date on his license, but said nothing. Soon the officer, a Virginia State trooper with a light khaki uniform and a hat atop his shaven head tapped on the window. Alex rolled it down.

“Are you aware of how fast you were driving?” the officer asked in a solid Virginia drawl, every r dutifully pronounced.

“I’m sorry; I don’t know sir,” Alex said.

“You were going eighty-seven miles per hour in a fifty-five mile an hour work zone,” the officer replied.

“I apologize, sir. I was just trying to go with the flow of traffic.”

“In the state of Virginia, anything over eighty miles an hour is considered reckless driving. I’m gonna have to write you a ticket.”

Bullcrap, thought Alex. He had seen no indication that it was a work zone, people were flying past him, and he wasn’t driving recklessly by any stretch of the imagination. He silently cursed our out-of-state license plates.

“Can I please see your license and registration?”

I’d been rooting through the glove compartment this whole time, a job made much harder by the fact I couldn’t even sit upright without my eyes crossing. When our neighbor had leant us the car, he hadn’t told us where he kept the registration. All we found were coupons, endless coupons.

“I can’t find it,” I whispered to Alex. My head was spinning and my stomach twisted. I had started crying. Part of me hoped the officer would see how upset and sickly I was and let us go. This would be a really great time for my stomach to make good on its promise to reject everything I’d put into it in the past twenty-four hours. I was prepared to throw up now, over all these coupons, if it meant taking one for the team.

Alex finally found the pale blue registration card and handed it to the officer, who went back to his unmarked car and ran everything through. I envisioned the discovery of Alex’s expired license, accusations of a stolen car, detainment in a Virginia police station, and a huge fine. And I was so sick.

The officer soon returned with some papers. We held our breath.

“If you could sign here,” he said, “and take this, you can be on your way.” He handed Alex the license and the registration card along with a piece of yellow paper. After a final warning and a polite goodbye, he drove off to entrap some other unsuspecting honeymooners.

We carefully got back onto the highway. I laid my head back onto my soft leather seat and focused on the ceiling.

“Well, crap,” said Alex.

“How much is the ticket?” I asked.

“Four hundred and fifty. How did he not notice my expired license?”

“It’s good he didn’t.”

“Of course I’m wearing this stupid shirt! That was a funny one, Lord.” He laughed in spite of himself.

Five hours later we finally made it to our home exit off I-80. Just a half hour to our new apartment. Just thirty more minutes until a soft bed and fresh water and ibuprofen.

It was then my stomach decided to make good on its promise.

 

Before I Say Goodnight

Hey! Guess what? It’s officially Wednesday morning, and I haven’t given you dear folks a post. Sorry about that! Today was our first day back to class after spring break, and well, I was a bit busy. I just wanted to share a few thoughts with you before I say goodnight.

Today I was stressed. I’m getting married. I can’t flunk school. I need money. I need time. I need chocolate. I also need to eat better. And work out more.

All these stresses combined to form one heavy, globular mass. I get stressed easily. This is one of my biggest faults.

I also hadn’t read my Bible in over a week. I do that; I slack off in what matters most. I coddle my body while I starve my soul. This is my biggest fault.

That didn’t help my stress at all. “God, I’m so busy!” I complained. “I need a job! I’m not fit and healthy! I’m always running out of time! Help me! Where are You? Show me that You love me!”

(Now that I see that all written out, I feel like a snotty three year old. Oops.)

And then God lovingly, laughingly reminded me of how stupid I am. A scenario came to mind.

What if Alex were on a trip far away (as he has been before), and so he, being the wonderful guy that he is, sent me some texts to let me know he loves me and misses me (as he has done before)? That would be swell.

But what if I never opened the texts and instead sat around crying because I missed him and wanted to hear from him, to know he was there, missing and loving me? That would be really stupid. There I am crying because I want to hear from Alex when he has already sent me several texts that are probably full of declarations of love, mushy emoticons, and stuff like that. There I am whining for some communication when it has already been made.

All I need to do is read it.

(For the record, this scenario has never happened. I am not that stupid.)

…except when it comes to reading the Bible. Then I am indeed very stupid.

When that scenario came to mind I had to laugh, and I sensed that God was probably laughing too, with me. (And also probably at me, which is okay, ’cause so was I). How eye-opening spiritual situations become when they are put in practical settings! Makes you realize why Jesus used so many parables.

So I hope this encourages you to “open those texts” from God (eek. I never thought I’d say something like that. Cheesy.) Please excuse me as I say goodnight and do just that.