This month’s blog post is the fifth in a series of twelve resolutions I’ve made with myself concerning creating a better, more whole me. This month is about using my hands.
Now is the time to make all the “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” jokes you’re currently thinking about…
Go on…get it out of your system. I’ll wait.
Good? All the giggles and eyebrow raises done? Great. Here we go.
When was the last time you consciously thought about what our hands do?
We use them every day, for nearly every physical act. From carrying to cutting, typing to tapping, plucking to pummeling, they are at once hammer-like and dexterous.
We use them to test the bath water and sneak cookies from our cubicle neighbor’s desk. We use them to touch each other (hey now, you already got to giggle, try to stay focused). We use them to hurt each other (my daughters are especially good at the well-placed hair tug or tender-skin pinch).
We sink our fingers into warm, bubbly dishwater, and the thick, soft fur of our sunshine-sleepy basset hounds.
We clutch the steering wheel, and slam the door. We shake our fists and fly the bird. Make pinky promises and challenge thumb wars.
We wave. We clap. We hold on and let go. We muffle our laughs and stifle our yawns. They tell us if it’s rough. They tell us if it’s cold. They can discern a fever or the ripeness of a tomato.
Just take a minute and think about it;
All of the magnificent things your hands do.
How could I possibly use them more? Well, it isn’t that I want to use them more often, but to use them in more beneficial and positive ways, and to be mindful while doing so.
For most of my life, my hands have been instrumental in following my passions. In college I dug ditches, planted trees, and served drinks with them. In my Osteology classes I learned how to read the intricacies of human bone by touch alone. In Massage Therapy I learned and practiced the art of reading the body, its muscles and connective tissues, its hitches and hurts. I refined the process of healing and realigning the subtle intricacies of the body with the delicate neurons housed in my hands.
As a practicing Kenpo-ist, and amateur Jujitsu practitioner (International Black Belt Academy), I learn to use my hands in more defensive and protective ways. I practice how to stop, control, and diffuse situations that are potentially harmful, sometimes with my hands alone.
As a mom, I’ve discovered they are even more important to compassionate purposes. To touch your child’s sun-warmed hair, to know the gentle pressure of putting on a band-aid just so, or to employ the firm grip of removing a screaming toddler from the toy aisle, all become instinctual.
As a writer my hands are a conduit from my brain to the thoughts on the page and whether by pen or keyboard they are the tools I need most to express my myself
But when I look back on all of the roles my hands have played, the best, by far, are the jobs that have served to help and heal others. So, to use my hands in more beneficial ways means to bring awareness to the things I do. With my hands but also with my life.
Give another human the gift of touch.
In terms of our hands, touch is instrumental. Should you read this and go out and start touching people? Um, please don’t. I don’t want to get any phone calls.
I’m saying that when your friend is down, and she or he is not someone averted by touch, pull them in for a hug, or a gentle hand squeeze. We aren’t always comfortable with this, our society has long instilled ideals of independence and separation from one another. Also, in our technologically saturated world we are more disconnected, physically, from one another than ever before in human history. So much so, that it’s almost shocking when someone touches us.
It feels uncomfortable sometimes because we’ve put such a bubble of distrust and judgment around ourselves. (Judgment of others, but also harsh self-judgment that has a shoulder-shrinking affect, which pulls us further into ourselves)
When someone breaches that bubble, it’s as though we’ve forgotten what the warmth and pressure of another human being’s touch feels like, and it shocks us. It confuses our over-stimulated brains. This is reality of touch; the lack of which impacts us as a species who spent ages in close quarters with one another. We suffer; we hurt from this lack of touch.
Handshakes should be firm. Hugs should be sincere and held long enough for the other person to understand what you are telling them when you pull them through that bubble of distrust and into your tender and exposed human self.
You’re saying you are human too. You are saying that the need still exists in our basic DNA to connect with one another. You are saying,
“Here is my heart beat. Here is my skin. My breath, my smell, my funny human warmth; it is yours too. We are kindred in touch.”
There’s a reason hugs and human touch increase serotonin levels. Because we were not evolved to be alone in this world. Use your hands for this kind of good. Give a hug. Be willing to receive one. Gentle touches on the shoulders, firm “squeezes on the kneezes”. High fives and even fist bumps.
Give another human your touch. Give them warmth in a dark world. Let other’s know you’re here. That they aren’t alone.
Get your hands dirty.
Plant things, dig in the dirt, and find worms. Pick up roly-polys and ladybugs (gently!) Reach out your delicate finger tips and graze rose petals and lilac blooms; observe how their scent filters up from your touch. Press against thorns, feel where the barrier of skin sinks against the sharpness. Isn’t it fascinating how strong and still how fragile that layer is?
Notice the scars, and veins, and bones in your hands. Remember how you got them, think about the sensory cells and blood inside of them. Feel the way wood smooths beneath sanding; the way oil paint squishes between the pads of your fingers or brushes against a canvas. Feel the fabric of clothes as you pass by them on store racks. Feel the sharp smattering of sidewalk concrete, or the drying smoothness of chalk as you draw on it.
Pick up shovels and paintbrushes, hammers and pens, and make things. For God’s sake, make things. You don’t understand the joy and mental health acquired just by creating things with your hands. Bread, shelves, paintings, gardens, music. Build houses for the less fortunate, mow your neighbor’s lawn, shovel their walk without asking. Open doors, pull out chairs, pick up dropped wallets and pacifiers. Wave. Unclench that fist and watch that finger.
The truth is, using your hands is something you have to do anyway, so start doing it with more awareness. Start doing it with more thought of the benefit you can be to others and with more purpose for the good your hands are capable of.
Go out and do something with your hands today. Something positive and uplifting. Be useful. Let your hands be a blessing to the world.
But, please, before you hug that random stranger on the street…ask first.