On my run the other day, I figured out why I am the way I am.
I’ve been aware of a few distinctive things about myself for a long time, but I never put them together, which is odd because I think about myself a lot (like you don’t). Today I was thinking about the fact that I am right-handed but left-legged. This has been on my mind because I succumbed to Facebook peer pressure and wrote my list of 25 random things, and this tidbit made the list, right after “Beautiful furniture will give me heart palpitations.”
The fact that I’m left-legged is one of those things I seem to relearn about myself every time it comes up. Leg dominance has little to do with your everyday life, so it’s an easy thing to forget.
The first time I noticed this oddity was at camp when we were doing the high jump. I lined up on the side with the other righties, and the two lefties waited on the opposite side. When it was my turn, I ran up to the bar and froze; my body refused to cooperate. I’m not known as an athlete (see Why I Love Running, Part I), but this was beyond my usual incompetence. I told the counselor I wanted try it from the lefty side. Sure enough, that worked.
This came up again later when I was learning to lift and drop a water ski. (Yes, this exceptionally uncoordinated person can water ski slalom.) I wasn’t a great skier (surprise!) but I had enough leg strength and experience that I should have been able to do it. Because I’m a righty, I was instructed to drop my right ski, which puts the dominant leg in the back for steering and control.
But as soon as I tried to pick my ski up off the water, it was clear it was not going to work. I tipped over whenever I tried. Then genius struck; I tried to lift my left ski and then had no difficulty riding around the lake with the ski raised. I guess it occurred to me that I was a bit different when I had to carry a reminder note in my wallet that said, “Drop left ski.”
My left-leggedness came to the fore again recently, when I went ten-pin bowling. I am bad at both candlepin and ten-pin (surprise again). I hadn’t done ten-pin in many years and couldn’t seem to hit anything, so I started to watch the other bowlers for hints. I noticed that when the ball left their hand, their right leg went behind them; they were lunging left leg forward. When I concentrated on what I was doing, I realized that my lunge was right leg forward, my lower body at war with my top. It was easy enough to force myself to lunge with the proper leg; my game improved from terribly awful to merely awful almost immediately.
Lastly, it dawned on me the other day—35 years after the fact—that there was a reason I had such difficulty doing a ballet split with my right leg forward like a normal (need I say horrific?) ballerina, but could drop my crotch flat to the floor with my left leg in front with ease.
I was pondering this assemblage of data when it hit me: I have long benefited from and struggled with the fact that I am left-brain/right-brain balanced. I do equally as well in math as in English, and I derive as much pleasure from using logic as I do from being creative.
This has been a boon because, among other things, it makes me a strong technical writer. I’ve met many a bad technical writer—English majors who hoped to write the great American novel but had no technical aptitude—and that’s because most people only excel at one thing or the other.
This balance also has its drawbacks, in that I feel torn by the conflicting attractions. It seems to affect my personality, too. I am known for seeing all sides and am a good negotiator between people. Personality tests are impossible for me because all the answers apply equally. Who am I? What am I? Everything. Nothing. A living, breathing Zelig.
I am right-handed and left-legged. This is not a usual combination. And the notion that got jogged during my run is that my whole person is wired this way, the mystery of my existence solved in a single “duh” moment.