Leading With the Left Hand

A comment on the last blog reminded me of something and that led to another jump and. . .a blog post.

I’m left-handed. Born that way. In a time when being left-handed was not acceptable. As was quite common in the years when I was growing up, my mother took the pen from my left hand and put it in my right hand. There were some shaming words that accompanied it. In seventh grade, it became Sister Michael Augustine’s goal to turn me into a right-hander. Skip forward several decades.

left_handedI’m still left-handed. But I write right-handed. Except when I write on a flip chart of white board–a task I took up as an adult. And I write on flip charts and white boards left-handed. Unapologetically.

Part of what I learned as a left-handed person is that I was not good enough, and that I was flawed. To prove to others (and, of course, myself) that I was good enough, I fell into the habit of overwork. Now that I own my own business, it looks great to work hard. A 70-hour week is one in which I’m coasting.

Today, when I came home from teaching a fun class, I was exhausted. It was warm out, and instead of sitting down for a few minutes, I assessed the yard work that had to be done and began to fret about the DVD project which has to be planned. Samples made. Projects half-made to save time on the set.

The only one who can slow me down is . . . me. Taking a break feels exactly like being lazy. So I sat down with my Inner Hero called “Left-Hand” (I’m not one for fancy names) and did some artwork. Listened to what she had to say. Did not talk back. Here’s what she said:

“There will never be less work. When there is too much work, you worry. When there is not enough work, you make more work and worry more. So just for tonight, close the computer, grab those art books you want to read, and put your feet up. No one will do the work for you. It will still be there tomorrow. But you will be rested. And bolder. And begin to think with your left-hand first. Because that is the sign of bravery for you.”

Good idea. How will you free yourself from destructive noodling and step into a healthier mindset today?

Quinn McDonald has nut bread in the oven and a DVD ready to run.


18 thoughts on “Leading With the Left Hand

  1. I’m left-handed too, although I can do a lot with my right hand, including write, if I absolutely have to. I think it is pretty clear that left-handed people tend to be more on the tortured, creative side. It makes a lot of sense when you think about what we know about brain dominance, and those of us who are confused by which hand to use in many situations so lean towards ambidextrousness (is that a word?) are even more tortured, LOL. Did you know that the latin word for “left” is “sinister?” Hmmmm. Anyway, I’m reminded by an interesting occurrence some years back when I was working at a national nonprofit organization attending an internal meeting of the minds-type conference with people from around the country. I was at a round-table discussion regarding PR/communications/branding, etc., and suddenly noticed that out of the two dozen people seated around the table, roughly 2/3 were left-handed. I was so startled I interrupted the speaker and pointed it out. All the note-taking stopped as everyone looked around the room, pens frozen in hand. It was a moment that bonded us as we knew we were the right people for the job at hand (pun intended)!

    • There are a lot of left/right words. Latin for “left” is sinister, just as you said, and Latin for “right” is dexter, from which we get dextrous, which means adept, not just right-handed. French for “left” is gauche, which means “inappropriate” or “awkward,” and French for right is droit, and French for “properly”is “a droit” which we use as one word, adroit, in English, meaning “skillful.”

  2. When my first teacher realised I was left-handed she tied my left arm to the back of my chair & did so every day for a few weeks until I mentioned to my parents. Who went ballistic (my mother had been forced to use her right hand). To this day I am completely left-handed, I am also in a daily struggle with feelings of not being good enough, not being perfect, not being talented, etc., etc. And so it goes.

  3. Dear Quinn, I´m left-handed trained to write with the right hand and it wasn´t until I was trained back to the left hand (at age 44 or 45)
    that I felt right in the here and now. This process never ends. Not good enough goes far deeper than this(for me) and I continuously discover more traps to prevent me from self-love. These days I take myself by the hand and go step by step and follow my heart.
    Cheers to you !

    • That must have been incredibly difficult–the second shift. And you are so right, the process never ends. But then again, what else do you have to do with your life except explore it to enjoy it?

  4. My first grade teacher asked my mother’s permission to change me from left-handed to right-handed. Fortunately my mother said, “No.” I am so grateful. However, since so many things did not even allow us the choice, I am also able to do many things right-handed. Of course, I always forget if I swing a golf club or a baseball bat or throw a bowling ball with my right or left hand. I do them all equally poorly with either hand, so I guess it doesn’t matter!
    Regarding trying to do it all, I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer. I start chemo treatments this week. Since Christmas, I have given myself the gift of coming home from work and relaxing. I spend time looking at a magazine, reading a book, working on my art journal, just sitting in my rocking chair snuggled in a blanket. it feels really good. Be good to yourself and try it.

    • Being good to yourself is never a treat. It is a restorative process necessary for creative, physical, psychological and mental work. I need to do more of it. Meanwhile, much strength in your chemo treatments. I’m putting you in the group of friends who have gone through chemo many years ago and are living full and happy lives.

  5. Our days have only 24 hours and we retrained left -handers need even more time than “normal” people to recover. I could say much more about it, but translating it is too complicated for me now that I am tired; or is due to the knot in my head of retrained left-hander?

    “Faults are often the best of you, turned up so loud they hurt others”: Interesting statement, I must think about it!

    Curious and looking forward to your DVD!

    • The DVD will be fun–as soon as I get over the creative uncertainty–Projects from the book with more detail and more variations. I read a statistic that left-handed people die younger than right-handed people, generally from some perception mistake.

  6. I can’t wrap my head around the idea that people tried to change other people from being left-handed but I know it happened. My husband is left-handed and never had any issues but they made his mother switch to her right hand when she was young. I just can’t fathom. It’s interesting when you write, “Part of what I learned as a left-handed person is that I was not good enough…..I fell into the habit of overwork. Now that I own my own business, it looks great to work hard.” I did the overwork thing when I was in my career, thinking it made me look good or that I was really accomplishing something. Sure, I was great at my job but it didn’t really change anything other than take a huge toll on my health from all the stress. When I have my “hit the wall days or weeks”, I stop and realize that I need to take time for me because I didn’t do it in the past and I paid the price for it.

    Quinn, you certainly deserve to take some down time or say no to different projects/requests. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone because you are perfect just as you are!

  7. I’ve retired and struggle with guilt feelings if I’m just “playing around with art”. The recent 3-day snow event here in the south where everything shut down allowed me two guilt-free days in my hobby room and I was so happy! Worked on a watercolor page for journal, a fabric collage project, and organized a lot of my supplies and stashes. Lesson learned….Snow Days has taken on new meaning and I’ll schedule them all year round!
    PS – I too was forced to write with my right hand and at 67 am discovering it is really interesting to do things with my left…

  8. I like the way you honored, and worked with, Left Hand. We all carry our Left Hands, our Achilles Heels, from the past. Now I see a card in my future working with Cold Heart – my inner way of dealing with feeling unlovable.

      • I have a hard time understanding how a fault (like Cold Heart) can be a best part, dialed too high. But my writing explored being in the desert to warm a cold heart and letting a thaw take place…

  9. It seems strange nowadays that simply being left-handed could have been regarded as, if not bad, at least “undesirable”. There are plenty of other things like that; characteristics that could simply be observed, but instead a complex structure of evaluation is put together. Then made more complex by justifications. Having a specifically-shaped head, for example (and not all that long ago). Having particular ranges of skintones (in various places right now). Gender identification. Being physically or cognitively outside the normal range.

    If you think about it, it takes a great deal more mental work to put together elaborate structures of judgement. It’s much easier, one would think, to simply observe and get on with it, reserving your mental resources for something useful. Something productive.

    How do you know when something is useful or productive? How do you learn that such a thing is good and valuable? Human history and behavior seem to show pretty clearly that there’s pleasure to be gained from judging. That’s learned, too. It’s what children are taught right from the beginning, often explicitly.

    It’s not easy to observe, to reason directly from data, and to refrain from judgement. Paradoxically, the most common way to put it is “simply observe.”

    “Simple.” “Complex.” I do not think those words mean what you think they mean.

    • Simple is generally pretty complex. At least in my experience. And judgement lives on the right side of the brain, along with emotions. There is a big difference between understanding the logic of something and doing something about it. I’ve read about a 100 diet books and understood the idea of “eat less than you burn” but until I had a strong emotional reason to act, I didn’t.

  10. A left handed hero? Yes, I think all of our heroes are aspects of our original or innocent child selves.

    I have two grandhearts aged 5 and 9. Gorgeous, inside and out, little girls who hold more innocent wisdom than I can, perhaps, ever claw back from the recesses of my head and heart . . . if I’m lucky they’ll be there waiting in my soul.

    I learn so much by being with them (says she who wielded a cricket bat and a foil left handed).

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