Yesterday I moved some things around on the top shelf of my very tall kitchen cabinets. Later in the day, when I opened the cupboard, a round box of cocktail plates rolled out and fell onto the floor, hitting my wrist on the way down. I was ridiculously busy yesterday, and I didn’t think about it too much, beyond being happy that they didn’t break or hit me in the head.
This morning I woke up with an ache in my left elbow and a very ugly bruise on my wrist, and I lay in bed in a cold panic for a few moments, looking at it. If I’d been holding my arm slightly differently, that box of plates would have shattered my wrist. I flexed my hand, and thought about how different my life would have been this morning.
My hands are everything to me. Apart from everything I do with them to get through a day, they are how I express myself, how I earn my living, how I do a very high percentage of my talking. Who am I if I can’t hold a pair of pliers or handle a needle and thread? Who am I if I can’t type? I experienced a taste of this question when I had surgery a year and a half ago. While I was recovering, I wasn’t supposed to work; even very ordinary tasks were uncomfortable for several weeks. I could still type, but without my work I got bored, and then irritable, and finally depressed. It was an enormous relief when I could go back to work and the gym.
I know that if I lost the use of my hands, I would still have valuable things to say. I’m sure I would find a way to make something, to bring something to life. But the question persisted all day, throughout everything I did: who would I be? I look at the bruise on my wrist, and flex my fingers, and I’m deeply grateful that I don’t have to start finding out today.