I feel like I’ve become a first-time klutz at my 37 years. In October I cut my knee while I was cleaning a cabinet in my classroom. I had a student teacher executing her first lesson when I decided to take advantage of my free time to clean years’ worth of clutter. My ambition was cut short (no pun intended) when I toppled over a studded treasure box. My knee slid off the sharp corner thus slicing my skin open. The doctor at urgent care glued it back together and I walked like I had a peg leg for a couple of weeks afraid it would open again.
In December I literally stapled my thumb when I was hanging student work on the wall. Distracted by a conversation I was having, I slammed the stapler on my thumb and got a staple jammed in my nail. I yanked it off and the tiniest bead of blood rose from the minute puncture. The throbbing lasted about an hour.
And now, I fractured the ring finger on my left hand during my first hike of the year with friends.
“How do you injure a finger while hiking with your feet?” an obnoxious coworker asked me when she saw the wrap around my hand holding the splint in place.
“Let me show you how I injured my finger hiking with my feet (bitch),” I said, pulling out my phone and showing her the video my friend took of me. I was descending a rope that led into a canyon when I slipped and went sliding down the rock wall. It’s the most action-packed hike I’ve ever been on and despite the difficulties I’m having completing everyday tasks, I’m proud of myself for going through an intimidating challenge that I failed but attempted, nonetheless. #noregrets #yolo.
The difficulties I’m facing day-to-day don’t compare to the ones my friends fighting cancer and heart failure, going through radiation, or pets with tumors are sadly living through. I even got lucky by wounding my left hand while being a righty or else this listing would consist solely of expletives. However, my splintered finger is a nuisance and here is my list of the daily chores most of us never think twice about completing because we take our two hands and ten fingers for granted.
- Typing. I feel like a damn chicken pecking at keys. The orthopedic instructed the technician to bind my pinky to my ring finger which left me with only two competent appendages and a spacer. My left hand has to travel all over the keyboard just to keep up with my right. Thus typos.
- Washing and styling my hair. I can’t take the makeshift splint off for two weeks. I can’t get it wet. The technician gave me a handful of examination gloves that are too small to fit with the strap so I have to cover my hand with the plastic bag I bagged my tomatoes in and seal it with a red hair tie. I lather, rinse, and repeat with one hand, turning my head upside down to scrub the long moussed waves. I also can’t wring the water out; I have to let nature do its thang. And due to my lack of hand mobility, I only have three styling options: up with a hair clip which I can do single-handedly, down like a witch, or ponytail although the way my hand contorts while twisting the tie hurts my finger; they do say beauty is pain. I contemplated chopping my mane off to ease my life but it’s cold and the locks serve as a scarf or turtleneck.
- Washing dishes. I’ve had a dishwasher for two years and have used it maybe a total of five times. I cannot become accustomed to owning such a chore-reducing life hack. But that has changed. I’ve been using it for a week now but still place a small Macy’s bag over my hand and hold it in place with a rubber band to prep food and wash those un-dishwasher safe dishes.
- Showering and shaving. Neither a washcloth nor a sponge is a winner when it comes to cleansing my body. Since I cannot hold anything with my left hand, my right arm has been neglected of a good scrub. I can reach every other part of my body with my good hand although shaving my right armpit is nearly impossible. The only way I tackle that spot is by using a downward stroke with my right hand but it only seems to take care of half of the problem.
- Tying my shoelaces. I have laced booties and tennis shoes. One does not realize how much we rely on movements from other fingers we’re not technically using when completing the smallest tasks. That’s what happened when I first double-knotted my laces. I had to loop extra slowly to not provoke pain. I felt like Michelle Tanner reciting that story about rabbit ears.
- Putting on tops, sweaters, or jackets. The splint doubles the circumference of my fingers. The wraps cause friction against the fabric when passing through arm holes. These two scenarios make putting on clothes last an eternity. I have to pull the material this way and that to allow my bulgy hand to slither through. Despite the cold SoCal winter mornings, I leave my house without a jacket because I don’t have time to waste. My days, unfortunately, are chillier than they have to be.
- Wearing a watch. A different coworker once said to me, “How cute! You still wear a watch.” I didn’t know they were no longer a thing. I need to tell time every minute of the day; I’m a teacher, every single one of them is accounted for, especially recess a.k.a. bathroom breaks. Alas, my watch won’t go over my log-finger. I considered not wearing it for five more weeks — the amount of time it will take the bone to heal — but how would I know the time when I’m outside the classroom? I need to know how much longer I must stand on the playground fulfilling my supervision duty screaming at the kids not to run on and around the jungle gym. I tested it on my right wrist thinking it would be a nuisance but it only bothered me when I typed my chicken scratch. Score!
- Exercise. When I cut my knee in October, I couldn’t work out my lower body. Now that my finger is fractured, I can’t work out my upper body. I can’t hold weights or grab the bars on the machines. So it’s me against the Stairmaster. I focused on legs and butt on my first day back but will also work on abs until I get back to my regularly-scheduled programming. Throwing on the sports bra was a whole other obstacle I hadn’t foreseen until I changed into my gym clothes; those things fit like a second skin. I remembered I owned light-support training bra-looking sports bras that I usually wear to work under low-cut blouses or dresses. They’re stretchier than my medium and high support ones and held the girls properly in place over my regular bra.
- Flossing. I was able to floss three-fourths of my mouth with the help of my injured hand. The bottom right quadrant was the only one deprived of the extra care. I bought a pack of DenTek picks to reach the unreachable and voilà, problem solved.
- Tying bags. Rachel Ray has trash-bowls. I have trash-bags. I recycle all shopping bags to use for waste while I cook. When I tried closing the bag before tossing it into the trashcan, my finger ached as much as it did when I tied my laces. Now I do it all with my right hand. I place one bunny ear under the other and pull one end tight with my teeth while I pull the other end in the opposite direction with my hand. Gotta get it done.
- Cutting chicken breasts into pieces. New year, new resolution. Except it’s the same resolution every year: get fit. I know achieving this goal starts at home in the kitchen. And since recent studies found that the Mediterranean Diet is the best overall, it works for me because I actually like chicken, tomatoes, and feta. And hummus and falafel. And cucumbers. But I digress. I meal-prepped a super simple Mediterranean salad last week that consisted of baby greens with feta and garbanzo beans paired with a lemon/EVOO/honey dressing, a side of tomatoes, and grilled chicken. I cooked the salt-and-peppered chicken in my George Foreman grill for ten minutes before cutting up the two breasts into strips to divide into my wanna-be bento boxes. Except I was physically unable to slice the meat with one hand. I thought I could hold the chicken in place with a fork in my maimed hand while I cut it with my right. But my functioning three fingers could not grip. So I dug into the meat with the thick butter knife like I do to cut actual butter and it worked at first when the chicken was still tender. The job got significantly harder as the chicken cooled. I was so frustrated I wanted to throw it all away. But I fought back tears until I stuffed the little compartments in my meal-prep containers with protein. Six pack, here I come. For real this time.
- Eating a sandwich. I stole a sandwich recipe from my local burger joint. It’s called TAB — turkey, apple, and I’m not sure what the B stands for, probaby bread. It comes with walnuts, provolone, and mayo. It’s super easy to assemble during the weeknight when I have nothing to eat. Which was the case last Wednesday. I placed it in the George Foreman Grill for a few minutes so the bread could toast and as soon as I put the sandwich on the plate I realized it was going to take some effort holding the damn thing in my crippled hands. I sat staring at my lazy dinner trying to remember why I hold a hoagie with two hands anyway. I guessed the purpose was to hold the contents together. Mine had been condensed panini-style so I grabbed it easily with one hand, releasing just a few walnut pieces. But I noted: No regular sandwiches until finger is fixed.
- Putting deodorant on. I held my Secret container in my right hand, lifted the left side of my shirt with my left hand to expose the same armpit, glide-glide-glide, and then I switched. Except I couldn’t hold my Secret with my left hand. I had to apply the Active Fresh Invisible Solid and stretch my top all with my right hand without leaving white smudges on my clothes. I look like a monkey with a rounded arm and hand tucked under my pit every morning.
- Closing my car door. One closes a car door with the arm closest to it. Not me, at least not currently. The splint doesn’t fit in the crevice where the fingers curl to pull the door shut. Instead, I have to twist my torso to the left and reach my right arm outside the body of my car to pull it closed. I also can’t open or shut the windows without executing the same maneuver because the buttons are on the door panel. Why can’t the controls be on the console below the stereo just like in my Jeep? I am now an advocate for Accessible Windows for All.
There’s a staff member at my school who also broke her finger — her index finger — on her right hand, and she’s right-handed. She is wearing a cast. She will need surgery. I try to think about how much easier than her I have it every time I’m confronted with a stress-invoking task. If you would like to join us in our non-life-threatening misery, I dare you to wrap your pinky and ring finger on any hand onto a popsicle stick for at least an hour and see how much harder chores can be. If you really want to challenge yourself, cover it with a plastic bag before hopping in the shower.