Right Hand Trembling

It’s been about 4-5 weeks since my right hand has been trembling uncontrollably. Yes, it’s just my right hand. It has nothing to do with coffee or sleep. Regardless of how much coffee I drink (or don’t drink), and regardless of the amount of sleep I get, my right hand – and only my right hand – will tremble.

A once stable hand, now trembles. Doing calligraphy has become a greater challenge.
A once stable hand, now trembles. Doing calligraphy has become a greater challenge.

It gets worse the moment I pick up a pen to write. It’s very bothersome especially when I’ve taken up calligraphy as a hobby. It really is difficult trying to write. It takes about an hour of warm-up before my hand starts to stabilise. In so many ways, I’m glad I met someone recently with shaky hands who took up calligraphy as a way to stabilise his hands. He’s still my source of inspiration, it’s because of him that I’ve not given up calligraphy. Just to be safe, I’m now training my left hand to write in the event that I one day cannot use my right hand anymore. I’ve never done this before. So it’s an epic uphill challenge.

I guess this makes life a little more interesting. Some annoyance every now and then gives you something to do to kill the boredom.

And then there are days where the trembling gets really bad, at which point, I’ll usually use my left hand to grab hold of my right hand, just to stop it from shaking.


Yes, I’ll definitely see a doctor. I’m out of the country at the moment. I’ll do so once I get back to Singapore.

Interestingly, I noticed that drinking alcohol helps to keep the hand stable. I discovered this by accident while I’m out of the country for a conference. Almost every evening, there will be wine served at dinner. I’ve noticed that my hand becomes stable after a glass of wine or whiskey. Of course, the observation sample size thus far is too low to concretely conclude, but so far it seems to be working.

In so many ways, just seeing my hand not tremble brings me so much relief. To be able to write smoothly without my hand shaking is a joy and pleasure I’ve not enjoyed in a while.

I shared this problem with a Japanese neuroscientist who was with us at the first conference. He asked me to do some finger pointing exercises. As I was able to do them without a problem, his conclusion is that the problem isn’t a neural one. That’s good to know. It’s probably a localise muscle/tendon problem I guess.

I will now ramble a little, so please bear with me.

Having gone through 4-5 weeks of uncontrollable hand trembling, my mind has been filled endlessly with worry. To see a perfectly healthy and normal hand degenerate into something that I have no control over is scary. It is in many ways, a grim reminder of my frailty as a human being, and a reminder of my mortality, that I will not remain healthy or alive forever.

It’s a morbid thought, and perhaps a good one. Life is short, life is precious. Make the best out of it while you still can.

I guess this is why the question, “what makes your life good?”, is a great question to ask myself and other people around me, so that I may learn from them the different ways in which they enrich their lives, making it so worth living. It’s a constant reminder to pursue the things that make life good, that make life worthwhile.

I particularly like the words of Chris Mintz, a US army veteran who recently became a famous hero on the news. What did he do? In the recent college shootings at Oregon, California, Chris attempted to save the lives of the people around him by courageously charging at the gunman. He probably bought people time to escape. In the process, he got shot at least 5 times, but he managed to live to tell the tale.

When reporters interviewed him, he said:

‘It’s amazing to sit back and reflect on life, decisions made or avoided, places I’ve been and the people I’ve met on my journey.

‘Why waste time wondering when I can enjoy my time experiencing life. Memories are what makes life worth living, even the bad ones bring you the ability to love the good ones.

‘So if you’re lucky, you’ll find the stars in your life and make a lifetime of one of a kind memories.’

I love the way he said that! I’ve always viewed memories as an essential component to a good life. I have a good memory, so I prefer to remember events and experiences more than the accumulation of stuff. I’ve got too many physical things, too much junk lying around. I don’t really want any more, although it’s always hard to resist the urge to accumulate more junk.

But of course, there’s no telling when my brain will suddenly degenerate like my hand. There’s no telling when I’ll lose my ability to remember, just as how I have lost the ability to be in full control of my right hand. I guess it’s worthwhile keeping a few physical items to symbolise a few significant events in life.

I drank a glass of whiskey before writing this. Now that I’m almost done with this post, my hand has stopped trembling. For the rest of today, I shall continue with my life without that grim reminder of my fragility and mortality. I shall write and do calligraphy with ease, enjoying life’s simple pleasures of being able to glide one’s hand across the page.

And then, I shall sleep tonight, and wake up tomorrow to be confronted once again with this trembling right hand, and be reminded in a most uncomfortable way of my frailty and mortality. The cycle repeats.

Life is short.