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Life's Puzzles

In my 56 years, I have been "on the fence" about puzzles. The picture on the box never seemed to match the outcome. Really how could it? All those little pieces put together, even with the most adept hands, still show weaves and lines throughout the tapestry.

a silhouette of hands holding puzzle pieces against a sunny blue sky

Plenty of folks love puzzles, and recently I have had the opportunity to enjoy a different type of puzzle, one that life’s circumstances gave to me. I sustained an accident last fall that left me without the use of my dominant hand for 3 months.

So, in an attempt to lift my own spirits and have a personal challenge, I decided to teach my left hand to do what my right hand knew so well. I started with simple hand motions, moving quickly to practice writing. I know what my right-hand handwriting looks like. I like my writing. And just like the picture on a puzzle box, it gave me a goal. My practice began to feel like a game. A puzzle. A brain puzzle. I practiced on the barn’s dry-erase board daily. Each morning I, or one of the staff, write the lesson and training schedule for the day. Dusty Dog Farm is a busy farm and it takes a moment to write it all out. Generally, I can whip through the task while thinking of my students, two- and four-legged.

a dry-erase board with handwriting in blue and orange lists the daily barn schedule
The daily schedule is written on a dry-erase board.

But not with my left hand.

It took everything in me to focus on the task. As my brain began to grasp the change, the hand shook with such nerve that my writing looked like a ghostly version of the schedule. The staff looked in horror the first few days, even to the point when one of the staff felt she had to redo it.

But slowly the writing improved. A casual observer might have even thought the writing looked good. I got excited about the improvement and often dragged my barn family over to the dry-erase board to show off. My left hand became confident and I caught myself doing more and more with the left hand "unnoticed."

My brain pathways were changing.

a depiction of a neuron on a black background
A neuron. Image by Colin Behrens (Pixabay).

Our brains have plasticity, which is a fancy way of saying they're capable of change. By repeating actions or thoughts, we can change the ways our brains operate. Healing came to my right arm. Use of my dominant hand returned, thanks to good surgeons. Now I carry a pen in each hand when I write. I want to keep my newly formed neural pathways open.

But each time I write "side by side," I cannot help but think of a puzzle. Life's puzzles.

Even with the most adept focus, my left handwriting shows weaves and lines where none were in the original. But then no puzzle comes with a perfection guarantee. Same is true with life's puzzles. I am now a fan of my left-hand skills. My view on puzzles has changed completely. Although I may not find myself doing them in my spare time, I will look differently at them now. Must be the new neural pathways :) Here is an invitation to find your own life puzzle. It can change how we experience a "moment in time." All the best,

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