A time to develop new brain cells

Research has shown that using the non-dominant hand will grow brain cells and also enhance creativity. I’m glad to know this, because I’m going to be testing this very soon.

I need surgery on my right shoulder, and my right hand is my dominant hand. I have been warned that I will not be able to use my right hand at all for two weeks and that my right arm will be in a sling for several weeks.

Ever since I got hurt over six months ago, I’ve been using my left arm as much as possible, simply because my right arm hurts a lot. However, in recent months I have begun to practice using my left hand more intentionally to perform daily tasks that I have always taken for granted until now: getting dressed, brushing my teeth, making food, pouring liquids, giving my cat medicine, picking up my vitamins, picking up the kitty litter, bathing, carrying things, etc.

I still have to practice writing and eating with my left hand, but since my surgery is less than a week away, I’d better do it.

Research on the web and wise friends and family have given me excellent suggestions to help me get through this unfortunate but necessary right-hand-right-arm hiatus. For example, a water pick and an electric toothbrush make cleaning your teeth much easier.

I know slip-ons and button-down shirts are a must, as is a recliner, since I won’t be able to sleep in a bed (or get in and out of a bed) for a month or two.

I love doing Sudoku and I just found out that I can do it left handed on an iPad since I can input the numbers with one of my fingers. Sudoku is one of the ways I relax and I’m so glad I don’t have to give it up.

Over the past six months, I have learned to make accommodations. I have mostly used my left arm for heavy lifting, although my adult children and friends have taken care of most of my heavy necessities.

My son empties my car and brings groceries and three 40-pound bags of kitty litter home at a time. He has taken over filling the six bird feeders, taking out the trash, and mowing the lawn.

My daughter pushes and fills the shopping cart and cuts me whole watermelons. I am very lucky that they both live relatively close to me.

Kind friends and colleagues have brought me my training materials and helped me set up the training rooms: moving tables and chairs, putting the kites on the walls, filling the candy bowls and placing them on the tables, distributing the materials for the tables and participants, etc. I could never have managed to continue running training programs for the past half year without your wonderful support.

How did I hurt my shoulder? I pulled four very heavy pieces of luggage through an airport on my way to Jordan and Dubai and apparently ruptured a tendon. I also have a torn rotator cuff and an impingement (essentially bone-on-bone scraping).

During the course of traveling on different planes and having to climb steep stairs to board them, I became even more aggravated and inflamed in my arm and shoulder. I quickly learned to ask the people around me to help me up the stairs or to store my luggage on top of my seat. I literally had no choice.

My surgeon wanted to schedule my surgery much sooner, but had training commitments that needed to be met. Even now, I’m very (!) tempted to put off surgery even longer because I’m worried I won’t be able to do my job. There will never be a perfect time though, so I’ll have to handle it now.

When I ask myself what I am supposed to learn from this situation, there are a number of answers that come to mind. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. It is often okay and sometimes it is mandatory to ask others for help. I am very lucky to have friends and family to help me get through this.

2. It will be a nice neuroplasticity experiment to see if using my non-dominant hand will make me smarter and increase my creativity. Those would be wonderful and welcome side effects!

3. Acting like I’m strong as a bull has gotten me into this situation. When I travel for work in the future, I will pack and mail materials ahead of time and make sure to use a porter for all luggage.

4. As much as I hate to admit this fact of life, I am older and need to be more realistic about my physical abilities and more diligent in adapting adequately to my physical limitations.

5. It will be a test of my self-discipline to resist the gravitational pull of my desk for two full weeks. Creating materials and articles has been a daily habit for decades.

6. When I don’t listen to my body, it eventually does something so dramatic that I have to pay attention. I need to finally learn and remember this lesson.

7. I have always prided myself on my independence. Now I need to recognize and accept that there is no shame in having to depend on others.

8. Knowing that I’m going to put myself aside for a while has propelled me to be better at setting limits and managing expectations, for myself and my clients.

9. If medical professionals don’t take my pain seriously in the future, I won’t hesitate to request an MRI! An early diagnosis would have saved me six months of agony.

10. To everything there is a season, and this is my time to rest and heal. I plan to come back smarter and stronger!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *