Monday, November 16, 2009

Let Me Give You a Hand

This is my hand.  It is my worst feature.  Says who?  Says me.  When I look at it, I see a map of past injuries - broken fingers, gashes, a recent scratch.  I see the host for my greatest vice: fingernails bitten down to the nub; cuticles frayed and torn; nail polish chipped and picked over.  I see a reminder of my pale skin that has always refused to tan.  I see big, crooked bones betraying my attempts to feel feminine.  I see dry, cracking skin, already parched by the suggestion of winter.  I see my anxieties, my insecurities, my klutziness, my compulsions.

Why am I showing you?  Making you look at a part of me that I would rather you not notice?

Starting today, I want to start seeing beauty in that hand - prettiness where I now see ugliness. I want to look at that hand and see commitment - the ring that Husband gave me as a symbol of our promise to cleave to each other.  I want to see strength in those fingers - the power to soothe a fussy baby, open any jar, palm a basketball.  I want to see experience in those war wounds - years of turning pages, writing essays, grading papers, changing diapers, typing e-mails.

I want to show you so that I can take a good look myself.

What brings me here to this virtual world of words is the chance to start conversations about the things I don't talk enough about, sometimes things I don't really want to talk about - showing you who I am, unsightly cuticles, tortured metaphors, and all.  After all, what else are we doing when we write for an audience but taking the lid off of ourselves, letting outsiders in to have a look around, to criticize maybe, or perhaps to give us back an insight that will help build strength in our weakness?

So today I show you a part of myself.  Show you to tell you.  Show you to show me.

And now I'm off to give myself a manicure.

Which of your physical features tells the most about you?  (Any tips on how I can stop biting my nails would also be most welcome.)


  1. Kristen,
    This is so lovely. I am so intimately familiar with the emotions you describe and think that your opening up here is a very brave and wonderful thing. And the capabilities and strengths you describe are far more important than how anything looks (and it's a lovely hand anyway). I suspect you know this but probably can't always feel it. At least that is the case with me!
    and I am a terrible nail biter myself.

  2. This is a wonderful post. I think hands say a lot - but they are also aspects of the physical self that we cannot "diet to make thinner" or "work out to make beefier" - basically - what you get is what you get.

    At the same time, the condition of those hands is something else again. They show who washes their own dishes (and without gloves), clothes, floors... who repairs and digs and types... Working hands versus pampered hands.

    I wrote a few weeks back about my left eye and right eye, how for years I disliked one, and always considered myself lopsided, and thus was blindsided - by myself.

    Our own perceptions are rarely accurate. They are just one version of the truth of who we are.

    My musing (such a good topic!) -

  3. Kristen,
    So I have already told you - via comments on Momalom - how very much I love this post.

    "So today I show you a part of myself. Show you to tell you. Show you to show me."

    Yes. To place the words together and surprise ourselves with what we expose - both big and small - dull and eclectic. We have so very many strengths and weaknesses. Parts of ourselves we have always loathed (for no good reason?) and parts of ourselves we are drawn to over and over again, even when we know they could be better in some way.

    I'd send you a picture of my hands but I'm typing with them right now. They are okay. So-so, I suppose. But I will say this: I have not been able to wear my wedding ring since my last pregnancy (boy number three) and it is even though I have gotten used to my bare hands, it is sad and I am once again reminded to go get that darn thing stretched out!

  4. I love this post as well. I have always felt that hands say so much about a person. The way they look (calloused, scarred, manicured, dirty), how they sit beside someone when they are "at ease" (tense, relaxed, in fists, stroking something, etc.), how they are used (gently, stiffly, compassionately). And truly, no matter what they "look" like, hands are (for the most part) beautiful. Because they encompass so much about the person. You can learn so much about someone just by watching and looking at their hands. Your hands ARE "pretty" for the reasons you listed as well as so many others. They hold your children, they comfort your loved ones, they wipe away tears, they help cross the street.
    I have awful eczema on my right hand. So bad that I often keep my hand curled in a ball so no one can see. My daughter pries my hand open so she can hold it and doesn't notice at all that the hand is dry and scaly. It's beautiful to her.

    As yours should be to you.

  5. I love this. Absolutely love it. In this single post, I think you have captured why I - and so many of us perhaps - blog. It is not just about writing. No. If it were just about writing, we could scribble away in notebooks, or spill onto pages of a Word document. Blogging is about exposing bits and pieces of ourselves - for others, but also, and more importantly perhaps, for ourselves. There is something powerful, intensely powerful, about casting a nuanced light on our flaws, our insecurities, on who we are. There is something equally powerful about learning that we are not alone, that so many of us think and doubt and question.

    Your hand, like life, like all of us, is imperfectly perfect. And tortured metaphors? I love them. I treasure them.

  6. [thanks for coming by and posting re: sarcasm :)]

    You know who loves your hands?

    Your babies. Your babies love your hands. Mother's hands were the first touch they knew, the first soothe of the first hurt. There is nothing that cannot be made better by mother's hands. Mother's hands that teach, shape, open, pet, fix, pinch, caress.

    To this day, no matter how angry she makes me or how disappointing as a daughter I feel, my mother can push my hair behind one ear and make me feel like a wonderful little girl again with all the promise of the world before her.

    Love your hands.

    Stop biting them: every night, apply bag balm and put cotton socks over your hands. They will be so soft and supple, and taste so bad.

    What part of me tells the most about me? My most famous part would be my hair. Ask anyone - who is Natalie? Ohh right, the girl with the hair! Yet I think the part that tells the most about me would be my stomach, my stretchy, soft, white-lined stomach with the hooded belly button that tells my story of motherhood, womanliness, and a lifelong battle with self-image and weight.

  7. I'm here! I'm so honored that you visited my blog, not because it makes me feel good (though it is appreciated) but moreso because I'm glad I found your writing! I love your intro description of the blog and your life (can sooooo relate). And this post is really moving for both it's intimacy and it's sense of wonder. Beautiful really! I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with my nose. Don't know if I would be as brave & confrontational as you have been here. Good stuff!

  8. Thank you, ladies, for giving me - in your comments here - such a powerful sense of being heard and being understood.

  9. Our bodies tell the story of our existence, hands and faces more than most parts. And you have a fine hand, one which tells your story well.


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