The holidays seem to be a time when everyone pipes up with what they’re grateful for, which is fantastic! Go gratitude! But at the same time one of the best things I’ve learned is to cultivate gratitude in every situation throughout the entire year. I could easily give you a list of a hundred things I’m grateful for from the seat heaters in my car to the instant access I have to soothing music on Pandora. Perhaps I’ll still write out a big gratitude list just because it’s fun to make big lists on occasion, but for right now I must talk about hands.
Last month I was in a writing workshop when one of the leaders of the class asked a super deep and profound question, which are really my favorite kind of questions.
“What do your hands remember?”
Did you just stop to think about that question like I do every time I hear it? Think of every experience you’ve ever had, then strip away your other four senses and just leave touch. How much do those experiences change when you only think about what your hands remember? Ever since the workshop I have paid more attention to my hands than ever, they are spectacular. Just today they wrestled a tantrum throwing toddler off the floor, delicately removed a splinter from Addie’s hand, and made a delicious roast. Currently they are alternating between typing and scratching the very soft fur of a very fantastic cat who is curled up and purring right next to me.
I can still remember what the handful of pills felt like in my hand the morning I overdosed. They filled my entire palm, and to this day I can’t take a pill without thinking back to that terrible moment in my life. I’m convinced that if you blindfolded me and had me hold the hands of a hundred strangers I could pick Cody’s hand out easily.
I love the way my hands smell after I chop potatoes, a sort of earthy smell that sticks to them until well after dinner. When they smell like potatoes it means I am making food for other people, people rarely ever chop potatoes for just themselves. When my hands smell like potatoes it means I will be feeding people, and feeding people is one of the best ways I know how to love people. I also love the way they smell after giving Vivi a bath. I gave her a bath right before bed tonight and just caught myself smelling the lingering baby soap scent on my hands for the fifth or sixth time. My mom’s hands have always been soft and cold with long oval nails, she’s never been one for polish or flashy nails. When I’m stressed or overwhelmed I take to painting my own nails. Something about having complete control over one part of my body, to have the ability to make them look clean and polished when it feels as though the rest of me is falling apart has always brought me comfort.
My most treasured aunt lived almost her entire life as a quadriplegic and her hands were frozen into a sort of a half clenched fist. I can vividly remember trying to stretch each one of her fingers out straight, if it hurt her she never said anything. She had custom made braces that allowed her to open and close her thumb and forefinger by moving her wrist, she had long slanted handwriting and she could always draw better than anyone else in my entire family. When she passed her artwork became one of the most prized possessions among the friends and relatives she left behind.
I know my hands won’t last forever, my grandma is 90 and her hands are knotted and curled with arthritis. While she loathes the fact that she can no longer knit and crochet the way they used to, her hands have lived a spectacular life and I only wish I could know the stories they remember. Knowing the possible painful fate of my hands makes me appreciate them even more. The way my camera fits in them and the way the feel on Cody’s scruffy cheeks when I kiss him. There are still some things I can’t bring myself to touch, the goopy crap in the garbage disposal, big slimy hairballs in the drain or potatoes with long stringy eyes but where I fall short, Cody picks up. He handles the garbage disposal and nasty potatoes while I have no problem taking care of bugs and bodily fluids.
If you’re one of those that becomes a little cynical at the seemingly forced gratitude that comes during the holidays, begin to record the stories that your hands remember. You’ll find yourself grateful for much more than you expected.
Find more of Casey’s writing on her blog moosh in indy. She’s also available on twitter, facebook, flickr and Instagram. If you can’t find her any of those places? Check the couch, she’s probably taking a nap.