This post is probably going to take twice as long as it normally would for me to write. Why? Because I am consciously using the space bar with my left thumb. You would be surprised at how much using the space bar hour after hour aggravates my shoulder. Of course, now I’m sitting in a kind of awkward position, holding my hands differently because I’m using my non-dominant hand to do a dominant-hand action, but the more I practice, the better I’ll get. I know this because years ago, I switched to using the mouse with my left hand and now I am equally comfortable on either hand with mousing. Even after typing just this paragraph, my speed has increased. Not as fast as space-barring with my right hand, but definitely faster.
Earlier today, I made a big pot of mashed potatoes. About halfway through peeling them, I realized that I should probably switch hands and use the peeler with my left hand and hold the potato with my right. So I did. Wow, that was awkward! But I kept at it and the potatoes were peeled. Then I took a big step and cut the potatoes with my left hand. Guess what? I still have all my fingers. Then, I used the potato masher with my left hand. It’s been an interesting day, to say the least.
I first got interested in using my non-dominant hand for more things a few years ago after I read an article about how doing that engages new synapses in your brain. The more synapses you engage, the more flexible your brain, and the more flexible your brain, the less likely you have of developing some kinds of dementia. I’m all for that. I also have really good body memory. Once I have a set of movements programmed into my body, they’re pretty much there forever. When I was taking private t’ai chi lessons, I made my teacher go over certain motions, like transitions from one pose to another, again and again in a row so that they became automatic very quickly. Even though I haven’t been to t’ai chi class in a couple of years, I can still do that part of the routine quite easily. The same body memory is part of the reason I never really learned how to read music–my body learned which piano keys to play before my brain could memorize the notes.
One of the best books about this kind of thing I’ve ever read was “I Will Fear No Evil” by the great Robert A. Heinlein. It’s the story of a fabulously wealthy man who has everything but health. His body is betraying him and he’s dying. He sets up a trust for reasearch, etc. so that when he dies, his brain will be transplanted into a donor body. I’m simplifying this, of course. So, the inevitable happens, his body gives out, and then he wakes up again, reborn into a new body–which just happens to be that of his young, very fit and very female, secretary, who was killed in a mugging at the same time. Of course, at first he isn’t told he’s in a woman’s body, but he comes to realize it anyway. Then after rehab, he/she goes out into the world. When he goes back to his house, he sees his piano, and sits down to play. He can hear the music in his head and knows WHAT to do, but the body he’s occupying never learned how to play the piano, so “his” fingers have no idea how to execute the commands his brain is giving them. Conversely, he goes to the secretary’s desk and is clueless about how to operate the equpiment, etc., the body sits down and manages to run everything on autopilot. And, apparently, his secretary was quite the yoga student, so the new occupant is completely startled at his new level of physical fitness. Although it’s quite dated (written in 1970, set in 2015), it’s a fascinating read. In fact, most of the dystopian future predictions he talks about in that book are now routine daily events.
All this from a sore shoulder. So, tonight, when you get ready for bed, do something simple. Brush your teeth with your non-dominant hand. I dare you. You never know where it could lead.