Becoming Right-Handed: A Parable

I’m glad to be part of the majority, one of the normal people.
Sadly, I wasn’t born a member of this accepted group, and it’s been a long, demanding process to get to the place when I can claim that moniker with some level of confidence. But I now proudly proclaim the truth of my newly acquired identity.

It’s not usually something I talk about, for fear that others will judge me for my abnormality. Or perhaps for the shame that my ongoing weakness might be exposed.

I was young when my parents first noticed my…tendencies. I would pick up objects, throw and catch…using my left hand. Same when I ate, gestured or reached for a doorknob. It was fairly obvious: I was becoming a lefty.

Since both of my parent are right-handed, they were clearly distressed at my dissimilarity. After voicing their concern to one another, a decision was made. To insure my acceptance in the general population, they determined my imperfection should be…must be…fixed.

At a specially called family meeting, they informed me of the plan. They were straightforward, telling me it might not be easy, but pledging to be there for me. The promise came with a subtle, unspoken stipulation, barely more than a hint. But I got the message: I would have their support...as long as I was working to change!

“It’s for your own good,” they assured. “You don’t want to be seen…that way.”

I loved my parents and wanted to please them. I could never intentionally do anything to disappoint them, and certainly wouldn’t choose to go through life as an embarrassment to them. And if I’m completely truthful, in the back of my mind, there was the anxiety that if I didn’t comply, they might not love me anymore. They knew what was best for me, right?

So I mocked up the required, visible enthusiasm and agreed, committing myself to this regimen in order to triumph over my handicap (pun intended) and bring about the needed adjustments in my behavior.

I mean, what kid doesn’t want to fit in?
Besides, I knew if I didn't make this happen, I'd be judged by those who lived by that old axiom: love the hand, hate the handling!

To the casual observer—one who’s normally right-handed—this might seem like a relatively easy course of action. After all, being right-handed is so obviously natural.

The advice was always simplistic: stop using the left hand and start using the other hand.
No big deal.
It's just a hand.
Case closed. Problem solved.

But it has not been easy.
Or simple.
Or painless.

In the beginning, when my parents noticed me favoring that hand, they would offer gentle reminders. They tried to be encouraging, but after a while, their patience reached a limit. A casual gesture with my left hand annoyed them. They chided me for my lack of discipline; for my lackadaisical attitude about being “normal.” The reminders degenerated into nagging and even yelling. My commitment to the goal was called into question.

I’ve always been active in sports—Dad insisted. Baseball was something I enjoyed, but as with other activities, it was now a chore to use my right hand; throwing and catching required focus and effort which rendered speed and accuracy secondary. No matter how much I practiced, no matter how often I disappointed the team, no matter how many times the coach yelled at me, I was klutzy and sluggish in making the plays. It probably goes without saying that I was never voted MVP! (I eventually quit, which only added to the litany of displeasure from my parents.)

When it became clear to them this change was not happening at a fast-enough pace, they determined a more drastic, long-term technique.

“For my own good,” they assured. (Again.)  
“To make them proud,” they reminded.

They strapped my left arm tightly to my body, immobilizing the limb and forcing me to defer actions to my right hand. The correct hand. My body would be trained—with discipline and vigilance—to instinctively use the acceptable hand. I was instructed to “visualize” myself…to always refer to myself…as a right-handed person.

It’s been a long journey.
Today, from all outward appearances, I'm right-handed. I’m able to sign my name, and write using my right hand. It requires determination; it’s not fast and I would never qualify for a penmanship commendation. In school, my teachers noticed that it took me longer to complete my work, and even commented to my parents about the amount of frustration I experienced with written assignments. Embarrassed by my deficiency, they added “academic accomplishment” to what I now called “The Badger List”—areas where I disappointed. Yes, there are lingering temptations. Moments of weakness. And failures. To be honest, when I’m tired, or in a hurry…or had a little too much to drink, it’s easier and quicker to reach with my left hand. Those lapses bring intense guilt and shame.

I’m embarrassed to also admit periods of actual rebellion. When I’m alone in my room, I sometimes intentionally write poems…using my left hand. It amazes me that after all this time and after all the work I’ve put into changing my wrong-handedness, I can effortless slip back into that old pattern. And I’m ashamed to confess that it still feels so...satisfying.

I’ve thought about just giving up and going back to my southpaw lifestyle…or at least claim that I’m ambidextrous. But I know that using my left hand is a choice, and those feelings—that strong desire to grab the remote with my left hand—can (must) be resisted. You know, like an alcoholic who must refuse that one drink. Being right-handed is a lifelong process of making right choices, and performing the right behaviors.

Perhaps someday it will feel as instinctive as right-handers promise.
Until then, I listen to stories of those whose outward success and verbal testimonies prove to me that it can be done. I don’t tell them about the difficulties I’ve encountered. I don’t disclose my doubts; certainly not my failures. I stay the course. I speak of my success, not my struggle. I proclaim my outcome, not my obstacles.

I am overcoming, persevering and transforming into a right-handed person.

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