Being alone and « locked down » I have had an incredible amount of time on my hands, time that I am not used to having… time to think. Curiously enough, I have never had so much trouble putting my ideas together and forming them into an actual thought (or the thoughts into ideas, whichever works best). Mostly, I am severely judging my thoughts for being too « basic » and not worthy of being spoken… yes, I have gotten into my own head. One of these « basic » thoughts was about hands.
I have always been fascinated by hands. What they tell about us as a species, but also the stories they tell about each and every one of us. I am fascinated by their shape, may they be big or small, bony, wrinkled or have numerous veins showing. Fascinated by the ways we use them to enhance our speech. Fascinated by the ways in which we choose to decorate them. But what fascinates me the most is their power, the fact that they can be at the same time the source of deadly pain or infinite pleasure… oh the things we can do with the single touch of a hand!
The other day, as I came back from grocery shopping and after going through a very meticulous disinfecting, organizing and hand-washing routine, I sat down to read. As I held open my book I looked down at my hands, I felt them and I thought: even though this period has felt like time has been put on stand by (I have literally lost all notion of time, but haven’t we all!), my hands have never aged so much. I have always thought that if there is one part of our bodies that doesn’t lie about our age, it’s our hands. No matter how much effort you put into it… hands never lie.
This got me thinking. This pandemic has made me extremely aware of people’s hands. Aware of the fact that they can potentially become the carriers of a deadly disease that we don’t know how to cure. Every time I touch something I wonder: how many hands have been there before mine? where have those hands been? were they also carrying the disease? I had never been so aware of how far one single touch could go, and this has made me very anxious. But the truth is that as I sit here and obsess over the potential death threat, for me and for others, that my hands have become… I am extremely aware of those other hands, the « essential » ones. The ones that make it possible for the world to keep turning as some of us just get to sit and watch. The hands that are healing, feeding, transporting, cleaning… the hands that keep life going. But then again, as we have had to settle into more simple lifestyles… aren’t all of our hands having to perform these basic life functions? Isn’t the fact that now I am doing all my healing, feeding, transporting and cleaning by myself that has made my hands age so much?
As our lifestyles radically changed from one day to the other, we literally had to take control of ourselves in ways we weren’t used to doing. I have probably been doing some of my best and most elaborate cooking, and my place has never ever looked as picture perfect as it has these past days. The funny thing is that doing so has given me a certain sense of control even if I am clearly aware that right now I am not controlling anything at all. Despite this sort of domestic satisfaction that my hands have been giving me, it’s not enough. Unfortunately, taking back control of my time hasn’t helped me fulfil my eternal quest for purpose. That eternal search for feeling useful. So as I am torn between the fear of carrying an incurable disease in my hands, and a profound and almost deranging need to put my hands to « better » use, I can only hope that at the end of this conundrum I will finally see clearly and know what role my hands are supposed to play.
Even if I know that I will be scared, because, once again, I have gotten into my own head, I am ready to leave this virtual world where time has been put on stand by and I can’t wait to be able to hold in my hands the hands of those that need me, of those that I care for the most, of those that I want to share my life with and watch as their hands grow old.