In early February, I fell and fractured my right collarbone. I’d been working in my studio hanging small drawings and watercolors to the wall with push pins. Descending from a small 2 stepladder, I misjudged the bottom step and extended my right leg too far. With my left foot still up on the top step of the ladder, my right foot was unable to land steadily on the floor. Next thing I knew, I was on the floor on my right side, still holding onto the ladder, which came down with me.
Long story short, the result was a fractured right collage bone (clavicle) and badly bruised right should, arm and elbow. The irony of all this was not lost on me, my friends, students and the physician in ER when I told him I’d written a book called, The Power of Your Other Hand. Upon showing me the X-ray results, he informed me that I’d have to keep my right arm in a sling for a while and limit use of my right arm and hand while my collar bone magically knitted itself back together over the next 4 – 6 weeks. No surgery required, just self-care, rest, and patience while Mother Nature glued the bone back together.
I am naturally right handed, so guess what? For a month I had to practice what I preach and teach and use my non-dominant (left) hand for almost everything: including writing, drawing, painting, typing, using a mouse, brushing my hair, shaking hands, etc. The corona virus was just hitting California, so “social distancing” was IN and shaking hands with people was OUT for health reasons. No driving, of course, and none of my regular leg and upper body exercising for strength at the gym. I’d get physical therapy later.
It could have been worse, I observed. If I hadn’t already had hip replacements on both sides, I might have broken a hip. No chance. These hips are made of unbreakable ceramic and titanium. So, grateful to be walking, I launched into my own healing program. My physician was out of town, so I made an appointment to see him upon his return. We had a phone conversation. An expert in vitamins with his own line of supplements, I got some supplements designed to help with bone growth and mending. And then I started Creative Journaling.
I drew the outline of my body (front and back) and let each body part tell me how it felt in a word or two or three. There were lots of places that were hurting and they had plenty to say.
What I learned after in depth dialogues (using my non-dominant hand to speak for the body parts) was that I needed to “rest, be quiet, not work, slow down…let the parts (of my personality) that go out in the world and are always in charge have a rest. Last year was all about that. This year is about being at home, care-giving us & out home….” We’d just renovated the kitchen. The emphasis was on “a place to nurture self and be nurtured.”
My fractured shoulder told me, “Your business right now is to take care of me.”
About 3 weeks after the injury, my arm still in a sling, I was able to do some bilateral (2-handed drawing) to music in my journal. I call this “Dancing on Paper” and always find it very relaxing in the face of daily news about COVID-19 and how rapidly the virus was spreading. Anxiety was in the air, as the corona virus became a worldwide pandemic, with entire cities and countries in lock down in an effort to contain it. I hadn’t realized how much tension was stored in my body from the injury and from the news until I left it on the page through scribbling and then writing to the rhythms of Keith Jarrett jazz piano solos.
The message, again, was that I needed to “baby myself like an infant” in order to heal my collarbone. It was written with my non-dominant hand using two pens of different colors.
As the words formed with my left hand, I thought, “Yes, it always comes back to inner child healing.” I realized that my right hand, which is the side of the body that does so much giving and reaching out and being in charge in the world, was forced to rest on my own stomach, due to being in a sling. The energy that I'd been putting out for many months, leading workshops, doing book signings, etc., was now being turned inward for my own healing. I continued scribbling my pain and stress out, this time with both hands.
Weaving insights from my Creative Journaling and the emotional release they provided into my daily program of rest and self-care has moved my recovery along quite beautifully. As of this writing, I have an appointment to start physical therapy, and will continue with the journaling and more artwork as my arm permits.
One important observation that I want to share is this: My experience over the years is that each and every body part or physical symptom has its own unique, situational and time-bound message. That is why I do not have much confidence in books that claim to tell you what your symptom, disease, body parts or pains “mean.” My clients, my students and my professional associates have all had the same experiences I have had. Each time we converse with our bodies we get different answers. The words from the body differ dramatically depending on the circumstances of our lives, the nature of the particular pain, the specific location, and the guidance the body gives on how to heal it. There is no easy formula for this. No quick answer from outside, from an “expert” or author who claims to know what’s going on in YOUR body and in YOUR life on this particular day.
The lessons the body has to teach us are individual, very particular and personal to us at any given time. Drawing and writing with the non-dominant hand can unlock the gifts that illness, injury or pain have to give us.
Note: Journal prompts for bilateral drawing and body parts dialogues are in Chapters 3 and 6 of The Power of Your Other Hand (Conari, 2019). There are also many journal prompts for self-healing in Drawing Your Stress Away and Hello, This is Your Body Talking (Ohio U/Swallow Press, 2017).
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Thank you for visiting. Here you will find posts based on my book The Power of Your Other Hand: Unlocking creativity and inner wisdom through the right side of your brain (new edition, 2019 Conari Press), featuring excerpts from the book, success stories from readers and students, my own experiences, and drawing and writing prompts using this technique. Enjoy!
~Lucia Capacchione, Phd, ATR
~Lucia Capacchione, Phd, ATR