These Hands

“Mama, you have a young face but your hands are old,” piped my observant four-circle_of_hands_by_circleoffriendsyear-old. I glanced at my bony  hands guiding the steering wheel as I drove home, knowing what I’d see: Bulging veins and knobby knuckles. She’s right, I thought, as I sat on one and dangled the other over the top of the wheel to remove it from view.

I’ve spent a fair amount of my life hating these hands, but seldom give them a second thought these days. I’ve long come to terms with these appendages and quite appreciate their usefulness. Sometimes I actually love them, especially when they fly across the keyboard as they are now.  But when I heard a speaker claim recently that our identity is found in our hands because they represent who we are, I had to wonder what my hate/love relationship with mine said about me.

I didn’t find research supporting the speaker but found something much more useful instead. Seems when we create things by hand, our mood is enhanced and we feel happy. We have a primal need to make things, according to Dr. Kelly Lambert, chair of psychology at Randolph-Macon College. What’s more, the obscene amount of time we spend with technology,  plus the act of buying the stuff we need rather than make any of it leaves us in a state of disconnect. In the name of progress, we deprive ourselves of an essential creative process that offers pleasure, meaning, and pride.

People who can’t use their hands to create because of crippling arthritis or other debilitating handicaps, often become depressed. Research shows that hand activity — from knitting to growing flowers to grating cheese — can beat stress, relieve anxiety,  and lower depression. Creativity, after all, is a powerful tool for altering our inner life because it soothes and satisfies us.

It’s interesting that my favorite memories about two family members from the past are related to their hands. What I remember most about my grandmother is the way her hands guided the spring green fabric under the jutting needle of her sewing machine as she showed me how to make a simple shift dress for Home Ec class. Her hands snipped and threaded and cut all day. And I remember my mother-in-law’s patient hands when she taught me how to crochet. Maybe there is something to the speaker’s hand identity claim after all.

I never sewed another garment I’d wear in public, but I did crochet handbags and house slippers. I later took up macramé, bread making, sponge painting, and a host of other crafts. But now, I engage in little that’s crafty or creative other than writing. It’s not that I can’t use my hands, but simply that I don’t. I decided to do something about that.

TodayIMG_1828 I made this deco mirror with these hands and some old beads and ceramic tiles I’d stashed in the attic. It was so much fun!  It brought a spontaneous joy that opened creative pathways so strong that I had to stay up late to get this blog post down. And I found these hands just beautiful.

How does using your hands to create affect you?

15 thoughts on “These Hands

  1. candidness Post author

    Debra Reble
    October 22, 2014 at 11:42 am
    Wow Candi you really got me to appreciate my hands in a whole new light…so important to me for touching the faces of my loved ones, creating delicious food, playing the piano and so much more…thank you for your heartfelt post

  2. candidness Post author

    October 22, 2014 at 12:18 pm
    Interesting… makes me want to think more about “holding on” and “letting go.” Thanks.

    1. candidness Post author

      candideal Post author
      October 22, 2014 at 11:51 pm
      I think about keeping mine open in the pose of acceptance of whatever comes my way.

  3. candidness Post author

    October 22, 2014 at 12:40 pm
    What an interesting topic to write about! I have old hands too but I appreciate them more now that my mother has passed because I have hands like hers. Your post reminds me of a time when my late paternal grandmother was in the hospital. She had come very close to death and wasn’t totally conscious. Her hands, however, worked the bed sheet as the folded over the edge of the fabric and ran it through her sewing machine. Amazing, no?

    1. candidness Post author

      candideal Post author
      October 22, 2014 at 11:49 pm
      Yes, amazing. I appreciate my hands much more than I used to!

  4. candidness Post author

    terri Dean
    October 22, 2014 at 12:49 pm
    I loved this. I hadn’t really thought about hands in this way before, but it makes so much sense. I, too, have a grandmother whose hands I remember. She was sick for most of my life, but every Friday she got a manicure and her hands were so beautiful. Every now and again I see her in my own hands and she reminds me to give a little care to myself.

    1. candidness Post author

      candideal Post author
      October 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm
      What a great lesson for your grandmother to teach you. There’s a new hand reflexology massage place in town I want to try.

  5. candidness Post author

    Peggy Nolan
    October 22, 2014 at 1:19 pm
    Candi – I love the wisdom in what you write. My husband creates with his hand through cooking. I create by crocheting and gardening (mostly crocheting now since winter’s coming)

  6. candidness Post author

    candideal Post author
    October 22, 2014 at 11:57 pm
    We use our hands to create goodwill and love for the earth, ourselves, and others. I used to have my students trace their hand and then write verbs inside them describing the many ways they use their hands in a given day. They could list forever.

  7. candidness Post author

    October 22, 2014 at 1:23 pm
    We need to share this message with children. The other day a boy visiting my house was invited by my son to carve a piece of wood with a pocket knife. The visiting boy repeatedly said he wasn’t familiar with doing anything with his hands because he plays video games all the time and is accustomed to making things appear with the push of a button. Ouch! Let’s keep talking about the value of creating with our hands.

  8. candidness Post author

    candideal Post author
    October 22, 2014 at 11:59 pm
    Now this is something I haven’t thought about, but you’re so right.Think about how tactile preschoolers are in learning about their world. Maybe that’s one reason for the need for hand activity – to get in touch with our inner child. I hope the younger generation doesn’t lose this as they grow up with buttons and gadgets.

  9. candidness Post author

    October 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm
    I loved this post, Candi and I love your beautiful mirror. I still have paint on my hands from my weekend of creative play. Making things with my hands, in the craft room or the kitchen keep me centered, grounded and happy. Coloring books for adults are a great way to tap into your creativity. Amazon has bunches 🙂

  10. candidness Post author

    October 22, 2014 at 8:25 pm
    Wonderful post! I creatively use my hands to paint, cook and leave a mark on my heavy bag!


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