Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Because I'm old and falling apart!"

That’s what Justice Thurgood Marshall barked at a reporter who asked him why he was retiring from the Supreme Court. These days, I understand what he meant. Various parts and portions of the corporation I inhabit get ever more creaky, achy and recalcitrant. The worst is my right hand; arthritis has set up shop there and the damn thing hurts. The middle finger, especially after a stretch of immobility, or in cold and damp, would really rather not bend, thankyouverymuch. Oh, you insist? “Clonk”. The joints themselves don’t have that knobbly look; the fingers aren’t warped into twisted caricatures; but the hand ain’t what it used to be, and as a proofreader making hundreds if not thousands of pen strokes daily, I need it to work well and (mostly at least) painfree.

Yesterday I saw a therapist (acupuncture/massage), and he nailed why that hand, the middle finger especially, is so messed up – it’s the way I hold a pen, which is not the normal way you all do, but rather a weird grip which puts excessive strain on the middle finger through the hand and wrist right up into the forearm. By the time he was done massaging and pressing and realigning and freeing up this and that, well, it was NO FUN to go through but that entire appendage felt a lot better. I departed with a topical treatment, exercise instructions, recommendations for gloves to keep the hand warm, and orders to change the way I hold a pen.

Change the way I hold a pen and have done since I first learned to write, back when we used Archaeopteryx feathers for quills.

In essence, relearn how to handwrite.

Yeh, right.

Starting with yesterday afternoon and evening’s proofreading jobs, I did so. Awkwardly. Clumsily. Slowly. Even using the fattest pens I could find, it was hard. But the writing got done – shaky at times, lopsided, with a lurch here and a tremor there – and it was readable.

Even if I had to scratch it out and rewrite it. And rewrite it again.

The fingers did stray back to their old familiar form now and then. But that hurt, which helped to snap me out of error. Then it was back to merely slow and ungainly.

Sigh. For a while, anyway, my handwriting is probably going to look like a third-grader’s attempts at learning cursive.* Still, it should be worth it (and far more legible) in the long run; and I’m already feeling the benefits.

Sucks to get old, doesn’t it?

* Which reminds me – did you know they make grips to help teach kids how to hold a pencil correctly? Like this:


Since my weird pen grip involves wrapping the index finger over top of the implement and curling back around it, with the middle finger jamming the pen onto my thumb, this thing might actually help me retrain.

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