What do I do with my arms?

My friends doth dubbed me thy problem solver. An epitome of sophistication; a repository of information. On the human condition. My friends say I could run my palm across the bark of life, tracing through its cracks and draw the history of the human heart. That there is no mystery, none with complication Rubik’s-like, that I cannot solve. That I, yours truly, am awesome like that. My friends are my friends and they say a lot of things. And sometimes, I come really close to believing them. There however is a puzzle that humbles me. Not a puzzle to say, because it comes to most, naturally. But it’s a puzzle nonetheless that I puzzle every day, and that is; what do I do with my arms?

For real though, what do I do with my arms? That’s like my million-dollar question. Well, not a million dollars per se because… you know… net worth.

Just when I think I’ve figured out what there is to figure out, again and again, my arms humble me. I see them there, pegged to my shoulders, hanging, awkwardly, if not flailing like a thing does in the wind, waiting, for any opportunity to get in my way. It’s actually humerus. Haha. From conversation to presentation to whatever.

Now, let it go on record that I actually do love arms. Lest I come off as some armophobe or something. I’m really respectful of all body parts. But… you know, like every other part is pretty straight-forward. The legs you stand on them, cross them when you sit or lift one across the other as you spread yourself out to take-up space. A total power move. The chest you puff it, creating a void big enough for all the confidence you are lacking, the head twists and turns on the neck, however the situation calls for. That’s all pretty much pre-installed. But the arms yo! They’re all over the place. How do you even posture with grace?

If you let them hang down, you’re odd and rather bored. If you fold them, you’re hostile and distant. Pocket? Well, not confident and so unsure. A chin stroke or anything in your face, that’s creepy. And against my better judgment it turns out, you don’t even look as wise as I thought I do walking with them clipped on your lower back. You actually come off as someone overburdened by the weight of life.

Does anybody have a guide to this? That’s the most part of my day.

When you’re listening, do you scissor sandwich your fingers making Xs, or cup your palms for protection, or do you just hit them with the slow pedo-beard-stroke. What says fully present? When you’re talking, how do you make your gestures dramatic and fully ecstatic without seeming crazy? When you’re walking, what’s the right amount of arm swing that doesn’t attract attention. Or do you just raise your hands in the air like you don’t care? Okay, well probably not the last one. It has the wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man written all over it. But… at least that guy knows what he’s doing.

A huge portion of conversation is conveyed through the gestures from our hands. Stepping into the professional world and suddenly it hits you how just this one thing can ultimately cost you everything throughout your entire career. Maybe I’d even have more subscribers to this blog if I knew what to do with my arms. Hint* hint* The button’s down below.

My friends say I talk with my hands. A lot. Which perhaps is weird for someone who wonders what to do with them most of the time. But I’m also learning about coping mechanisms. The shells we carry with us, perturbed, and choose not to live without. I’m learning the all in your face hands just might be mine.

And for as long as my puzzle remains a puzzle, I think I’ll just cope the way I can. With a pen in my hand, my palms wrapped around my phone or transfer the energy to my fingers, angrily, punching my keyboard. Till I know what to with my arms.

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Anxiety, Creative writing, Introspection, mental health


Hassan Kassim

Hassan Kassim is a Mombasa-based Creative non-fiction writer, recently longlisted for the Toyin Falola prize, blogger and translator of Kiswahili work. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa and the European Union(E.U), and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management. Hassan writes about the ill-documented Communities of Coastal Kenya. His work has appeared in Writers Space Africa; his 2 non-fiction stories published in the anthology 'Twaweza,' a collaborative effort of 12 African writers on the African identity and set to appear in the forthcoming anthology for the Toyin Falola prize.

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