Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm a Lefty - Sometimes

When I was 18 or so I decided to use my left hand when eating cereal.  For no other reason than to try something different I suppose ... I didn't injure my right hand or anything.  It was quite challenging, especially since I ate so much cereal back then!  I'm naturally right handed and I couldn't believe how weird it felt to be doing something so simple with my non-dominant hand.  Also around this time I intentionally changed the way I held a pen/pencil in my right hand.  For some reason I had chosen an odd grip as a youngster and as a result my handwriting was atrocious.  So to improve it, I went with a more conventional grip and practiced by writing a little bit everyday.  I struggled with it until eventually it became my new normal, but as with eating the cereal lefty, it felt very awkward.

Which way do I turn?
These two episodes led me on a quest to become ambidextrous.  Or at least somewhat ambidextrous.  Since then, I've made a very conscious effort to use my left hand in everyday living situations.  I eat with my left hand.  I comb my hair with my left hand.  I shave with my left hand.  I brush the right side of my teeth with my right hand and my left side with my left hand.  Anything new that I try at this point in my life, I like to split time between my right and left sides.  Now mind you, I'm still right handed.  With few exceptions, using my left hand side is not as effective, or how shall I say, feels weaker than when using my right hand side.  Also, because my coordination on this side isn't quite the same, almost everything I do ends up taking longer to accomplish.

Aside from the simple everyday tasks I mentioned above, I've spent the most time learning how to throw a ball and swing a club (and bat) lefty.  I'm pretty athletic and can do these things efficiently with my right hand side.  However, when I initially tried these things with my opposite hand I ended up throwing like a girl.  It was downright frustrating at first.  Frustrating really does describe that internal feeling when you're doing something you already know how to do well, yet, when you simply switch sides, you can barely do at all.  It actually takes a fair bit of persistence and patience to keep playing this little 'game' as it's very tempting to just go back to your dominant side.

At this point I can throw and swing lefty pretty darn good.  I can't really, really wind up and launch one, but I certainly don't look like a rookie either.  When my brother and I have a catch (throw a ball to each other over conversation) we do so ambidextrously, and an untrained eye probably couldn't pick out our dominant hand.  My brother happens to be a natural lefty.  I have a theory that it's much easier for lefty's to do things right handed since they are forced to live in a right handed world (I believe we outnumber them something like 9 to 1).  Why is that by the way?  You would think that either everybody would use the same side or we would pretty much be split down the middle.  Just thinking out loud here.

The hardest thing I've tried to do with my opposite hand has to be writing.  I can do it ... but only if I go really slowly.  And even then, it just doesn't look very neat.  In today's world with computers and smartphones and texting, people just don't use handwriting that much.  In order to even give it a try, you might have to be doing it just for the sake of practice.  I tried writing some orders at work with my left hand, but it just ended up taking too long.  I still think it's a fine goal to learn to write with your opposite hand, it's very challenging to say the least, but I would first recommend trying simple everyday tasks.

Here is a small sampling of things to try with your opposite hand/side:
  • Insert keys/Open doors 
  • Use computer touchpad/mouse
  • Turn faucet/shower knobs
  • Use television remote control
  • Comb hair, Brush teeth
  • Eat/Drink
  • Put on/take off sunglasses (for those of us not in the Pacific NW)
  • Shovel snow
  • Dial cell phone (do people still do this?)

As I said earlier, this little project of mine is something I work on here and there to challenge myself, but not a full tilt mission to become ambidextrous.  Actually, I rather look at this as neurological exercise.  It's different from both book learning and full on physical exercise.  There's probably a term for what kind of 'inroading' this type of activity delivers, but I'm not familiar with it.  I just know that trying things with my non-dominant side is challenging and a unique way to keep things fresh.

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