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Brain Exercise

I am right handed. I do everything with my right hand.  Hold a fork to eat and a pencil to write. Brush my teeth. Zip my jacket. Get credit cards out of my wallet. I press the space bar on a keyboard with my right thumb.

Most of us humans, 85-90%, are right handed and researchers 

believe whether we are a right or left handed is determined in the womb. Young children begin to show a tendency to use one hand more than the other as soon as they pick up food with their fingers and put it in their mouths.  

I’m not like my dad who was mixed handedness, using different hands for different tasks. He wrote and ate with his right hand and played golf left handed. I’m not like my friend Brenda who is ambidextrous and can perform tasks equally well with either hand. Both mixed handedness and ambidextrousness are uncommon, but how I wish I were either.

I’m one of those people who has said, “I can’t do anything with my left hand.” Can’t never tried. Can’t never could. You can’t until you try.  Those sayings from my grandparents and parents hit me full force during the past weeks since I’ve had surgery on my right thumb to repair arthritis damage. I’ve learned to eat with my left hand and sign my name on a credit card charge, but some things are still hard.

The cast I wear holds my right thumb immobile and separate from my fingers. I can use my fingers, but they are practically useless on my laptop keyboard. Only my middle finger strikes keys easily. I stop and concentrate to make my left thumb hit the space bar. I had to adapt.

So I’ve learned to write more than a grocery list and a text message on my iPhone and iPad.  I hold a rubber tipped stylus in my left hand and swipe it across the keyboard screen. Using the SWYPE app I don’t have to strike individual letters to write a word and auto-fill gives me word choices. In fact, auto fill sometimes predicts the exact word I want. And I don’t have to touch the space bar between words. 

I knew using my left hand wouldn’t be easy.  A friend reminded me that switching from a ‘righty’ to a ‘lefty’ would be good brain exercise. The right side of the body is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain which is responsible for speech and writing. The brain’s right hemisphere controls the movement of the left side of my body  and is associated with creativity and imagination.  So as I string letters together to make words and words to make sentences, I struggle to use the part of my brain that doesn’t control writing and with a hand I’ve sworn I can’t use.

Only three more weeks and I hope to have my fingers and thumb, without a cast, on my laptop keyboard and holding my toothbrush and a spoon. But maybe I’ll sometimes exercise my brain and use my left hand. Just because I can.