We all want to feel alive and feel the vitality of life coursing through us but lately my hands have made me aware of the very opposite, aware of vitality slipping away. Lately, these hands have become a big problem in my life. I’ve got premature arthritis in them, which is distressing on multiple levels, not the least of which is the way it turns my hands into dumb clumsy mitts, more paws than hands. I don’t have the dexterity to separate pieces of paper. I fumble my way through loading the silverware into the dishwasher. I can’t pick up little, tiny things. Who knew there was such intricate finger ballet involved with spreading jam on toast?
This is all to say I have visions of having to ask people in the near future to do my buttons and tie my shoes. But this morning, instead of rehearsing that dread vision, I decided to begin my own mindful hand therapy, going as slowly as necessary. I paid acute attention to exactly the right amount of pressure required to lift a spoon effectively, put it into the mayo jar, scoop up some mayo and dollop the glop into the bowl of tuna. I paid scrupulous attention to the minute movements necessary to make the fork break up the tuna and evenly incorporate the mayo.
With this attention my fingers became acutely sensitive and wise. With this attention they became delicate and graceful, my little pinkie finger lifting with a flourish like a princess taking tea.
I did this mindful hand therapy all through my morning kitchen work. At one point as I was at the sink rinsing the mayo spoon, I became aware of how happy I was. In the savoring of each micro flexion of movement, my hands, fluttery and flirtatious with all the focused attention, came back to life. A new kind of life. In that moment these hands of mine brought to mind a line from Galway Kinnell’s poem, “Saint Francis and the Sow” –
“Sometimes it is necessary to re-teach a thing its loveliness.”
That is so true. We don’t always recognize what lovely looks like.