My Nail Challenge Healed with A Ball and A Jump Rope

Clipping the nails on our hands probably sounds pretty simple. They make tools to help us achieve that goal. Log onto Amazon and give nail clippers a quick search. The variety of tools out there to maintain one’s nails strikes me as astonishing. For me, there has been a problem with the prospect of using those tools. Cerebral palsy has deemed them partially inoperable for much of my life. Even looking for a pair that might fit the bill for me, felt like a fool’s errand. The challenge didn’t have much to do with clipping the nails of my left hand. My right hand, being the dominate hand, could operate the nail clippers efficiently. Though, even then, they had to be the larger style of clippers. I couldn’t operate the ones specifically used for finger nails. The bummer of this tale has been, I have found no way to clip the nails on my right hand. It has been impossible for much of my life. My left hand, impacted among the most by cerebral palsy on my body, couldn’t operate the clippers. So, I was stuck needing the help of another person to clean up the left side. The embarrassment was real and I often let my finger nail get far too long. There had been a toss-up as to whether asking for help or dealing with the weird looks from others was worse. 

I saw a couple videos that made my nail dilemma feel even worse. Have you ever watched those YouTube videos about the things the opposite sex notices? The lists go on and on about the items a woman first notices about a guy. Yes, curiosity has led me to watching those videos. As a perpetually single male, I look for advice now and then. Maybe this admission should leave me feeling embarrassed, but I digress. One of the things women notice first about the men they meet is their fingernails. I remember watching this for the first time and naturally I looked at other videos. The same information popped up again and again as a sign of good hygiene. The thought entering my head was how screwed I was. There goes my dating life, entered my head space. The interesting part of those thought patterns were the one that followed. The emotions of frustration I have often felt toward the aspects of dating. Items like clipping my fingernails, which I didn’t see as anything I could control, is just one example. I suppose help was available in my family members. Who have been more than willing to provide assistants with the things cerebral palsy limits. But, I also have the desire to be as independent as possible. The fact sometimes creating a catch-22. And what if, at the time help is needed with my nails, there isn’t someone available to help. Does it mean the female simply turns away? I realize this is probably a simplistic way of looking at a topic with multiple dimensions. But, the tale gets better. 

There were options to handle the challenges with my fingernails. Through the years I did attempt the biting route. Though it never seemed to work, because I didn’t like the process. Some people seem to bite their nails when they become anxious. The habit would have been nice for me to develop, given my nail situation. On the other hand, it could have left me without any nails. I get anxious a lot. There was also the suggestion of an electric nail file. Used to grind the nail down rather than clip the nails. I listened respectfully to the suggestion, thinking about the cost of being unable to hold a tool like that steady. It might lead me to losing the entire tip of each finger. These options felt like good thoughts and caring suggestion. But, neither of them felt like the answer I was seeking. They left me on the continued search for something that might work. There had been times in my past when the left hand was able to operate nail clippers. I couldn’t tell you exactly when the ability was there. Or, the action causing my ability to disappear. Although, I think the skill was with me sometime during my college years. When my left hand was being called upon frequently to use the computer. So, maybe it was the constant calling on my left-handed fingers to type, leading me to having the ability. After my college years had passed and the constant writing of papers stopped. The elevated skill found in my left hand probably dissipated with it. Leaving me back at square one. Embarrassed about my nails and the prospect of my dateless future.  

The thoughts filling up the last paragraph didn’t occur to me until writing this post. Putting together the possible connection between writing papers in college and the skill of using my left hand for nail clipping. It had been the only time in memory, I had the nail clipping ability in that left hand, before today. Years went by with this silent struggle. The embarrassment of my fingernails being too long. People would notice them, as I tried to curl up my hands. Attempting to hide my nails from view. For some time now, maybe a little more than a year. There has been a distinct difference in my training sessions. Bernard has me working with my hand movements to begin each session. We work with the jump rope. First it was the standard jump rope, which has moved on to a speed rope. The speed rope being more complicated to operate, both with my hands and body. We have also spent time, working with different types of athletic balls. From the lacrosse ball, to the tennis ball, to the small squishy we have landed on using. Working with these exercises to begin each session has transformed the ability in my hands. Leading to the skill of using the nail clippers in my left hand to cut the nails on my right. A skill I had only had momentarily years ago. Now, has been happening consistently for the last few months. 

With neither of us being doctors. Bernard has some knowledge of the operations of the body through his study to become a trainer. Paired with my stories of improvements occurring beyond the gym walls. We spend time discussing what might be happening to explain the improvements. Working with the speed rope and tossing the small ball back and forth appear to be the ingredients. Exercising my wrists and fingers in different ways to improve their functionality. The spinning of the speed rope, which requires more wrist action than a standard jump rope. Seems to be helping the strength, stability, and coordination in my wrists. We talked about the muscles that extend from the wrist back into the forearm. All of which take part in turning the speed rope as I jump. The muscles would also seem to play a part in the use of my left hand to stabilize the nail clippers. Another key aspect of being able to clip my right-hand nails would be my fingers. Tossing the small ball back and forth each session works on them. The ability to securely catch the small squishy ball relies heavily on my finger functionality. The fine motor skills required to close my fingers around the ball when it arrives. As the ball arrives in different locations, within my reach, the fingers are required to move differently. The hands are placed in different angles to secure catches. Leaving the fingers experiencing the same variety of angles. Helping them gain the skill of holding and operating the fingernail clippers. 

There really wasn’t any way to understand the impact of throwing the small ball and jumping rope. Without Bernard as the trainer, the exercises may have never happened. The ideas required thinking outside the box. Using activities, we might not associate with a work out session. It speaks to the talent of Bernard, working with other clients who are disabled, and having a son impacted by the same disability. Impacted by cerebral palsy to a very similar degree as me, though his son is much younger. Working with the ball and jump rope didn’t give me the ability to clip my nails overnight. There were many progressions to work through with each task. Jumping rope began by working on jumping over a line on the floor. Working with the athletic balls began with tossing a medium sized yoga ball into a basket, set on the ground. The small physical accomplishments outside the gym take working diligently in our session. It takes finding the right person to patiently guide me on each task. With the knowledge to understand our next steps. The work pays off to the reward of clipping my own fingernails. Relieving the embarrassment over a challenge in my life. While, just maybe, leading to some dates in my future. Not every challenge of cerebral palsy can be taken away by workout sessions. But, if we continue to nibble at the edges of cerebral palsy challenges, we are making a positive impact.   

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