“I Will Not Pretend That My Hands Don’t Work”


When Scott and I were first married, and setting up our home together, I was unpacking boxes of files to put into the office, and came across an envelope full of sentences he’d had his boys write as a consequence for behavior that got them into trouble. I sat on the floor flipping through these pages, laughing until I cried. Scott didn’t ever just have them write, “I will not hit my brother.” He always made the sentences loop around to make a second line, so that it was impossible to go down line by line saying, “I, I, I, I, – will, will, will, will,” etc.

I found, “I will not get mad at my clothes,” and could imagine a meltdown of dramatic proportions that came before the sentence writing.

My favorite was always, “I will not pretend that my hands don’t work.” Scott came home and found me looking through the pages, and started telling me stories of Joey, standing at the kitchen sink, literally trying to get out of doing the dishes by flopping his hands around and saying they didn’t work.

A couple of weeks ago, Scott got really ill, and I took on the daily milking of the goats for him so he could rest. By about day four, after milking two goats morning and night, my left hand was so non-cooperative, that I could go through all the proper motions to milk, and nothing was happening. My hand was weak from not doing this on a consistent basis, and it was all I could do that night to finish the job. I came in and told Scott about it, and he just smiled at me and said, “I will not pretend that my hands don’t work.”

So, after a week of handling the job, my hands have gained the strength to keep going, and I offered to do the milking in the morning as we are getting closer to colder weather, and it’s dark in the morning. It makes no sense for Scott to go out there in the dark to do all the animal chores, and then go work all day in the cold, when I could let him sit in the house for a few more minutes in the morning, and handle all the animals after I’ve gotten everyone off to work and school.

Somehow, every morning when I’m milking the goats, this has become a mantra running over and over again in my mind, “I will not pretend that my hands don’t work.”

And I started thinking of the other things I put off because I’m just being lazy or I don’t want to manage being disciplined enough to do them. Like writing every day, because, as I’ve said over and over again throughout my life, writing is soul work for me. It keeps me grounded and it is my spiritual practice. It is the thing that helps me wrap words around thoughts floating in and out of reach, and pull them close to gaze upon them and make sense of them.

Writing helps me view the world more poetically, more beautifully, more attentively. Writing as a daily exercise keeps my mind strong, and my heart in balance; it keeps dark thoughts from building up and becoming monsters. My children find me a better mom when I’m taking the time to do this for myself, and I can see them as the poems I am writing every day.

This blog has been barely used for most of this year, because I got busy, and then I didn’t know how to catch up, and I’m not going to bother with catching up. Life has been busy. The boys are bigger and louder and much more active, more inquisitive, and their play is rougher and crazier. It’s a bit of a three-ring circus sometimes, which is all the more reason for me to sit down and find a center every day, and lose myself in the page for a moment.

“I will not pretend that my hands don’t work.”

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