Sinister Stirrings

MorningPages March 23, 2010 – Sinister Stirrings

Imagine being a ‘piano prodigy’. Now, imagine what would happen to your life if your right hand suddenly seized up and you could no longer play.

What then?

Yet, that is what happened to Leon Fleisher in 1964. This story in the Calgary Herald, March 18, 2010 recounts how the course of his live was inexorably changed by, what was years later, diagnosed as a ‘focal dystonia’.

After 2 years of a “deep funk”, Fleisher one day woke to the realization that he was “more than a 2 handed pianist”.

With that realization, his whole creative approach changed, Fleisher says,

“I threw myself into teaching, I began to investigate the left hand (piano) literature, and I started conducting.”

And, last week, at the age of 82, he appeared in Calgary where he performsed Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos in F Major (K. 242) and also conducted the Calgary Philharmonic.

What most intrigued me about this story is that a very, very similar thing happened to me.

Over the course of several years, from 1976 to 1978, my right hand began to seize up. Eventually it became so claw-like that I could no longer write. One day, in utter frustration, I picked up a pen and began to write … with my left hand.

I was happily surprised that not only could I write but the writing flowed easily, freely, and best of all was readable! I was delighted to be able to be able to resume writing reports and hand printing Fortran programs onto coding sheets which were passed on to key punch operators.

I had little inkling then that shift of handedness would we lead to such a Sinister outcome.

Why Sinister? Well, sinister is simply the Latin word for Left. While Dexter, my favorite serial killer, is Latin for Right. So, you ask, what was the Sinister outcome for me.

What I didn’t realize in 1978 was that the switch to using my left hand would lead to entire shift in the course and direction of my career. Up until then I had always envisioned climbing the rungs of the professional IT ladder until I reached the pinnacle: Systems Advisor.

Yet, 1 morning in 1980 I quite literally woke with this thought in my head, “I don’t want to be a systems professional any more!”

In fact, over the preceding 2 years I had already begun moving toward my eventual, largely unconscious, goal – “Teacher”. In Summer 1978, I happily assumed the mantle of lead instructor/facilitator of the department’s newest program, “Structured Systems Analysis”.

But, that fateful day in 1980 my shift in career focus suddenly became conscious: I wanted to shift from the so-called Hard Sciences to the so-called Soft Sciences. A shift from dealing with technology, data, and systems to people, information, and systems.

What intrigues me about Fleisher’s story is that shifted from the role of ‘technician’ to the role of teacher and conductor. My parallel shift was also to that of teacher and facilitator.

I became intrigued by a ‘people systems’ project being carried out in our department with the goal of fostering employment equity for the large numbers of women entering our department. So, I asked the woman leading the OD intervention how I might “get your job?”

I am ever grateful that Tamara Weir-Bryan was kind enough to explain how I might go about steering my career in a bold new direction.

However, little did Tammy and I realize that doing so would lead me to a life crisis of epic proportions and a brutal departure from the womb of the corporation.

To be confinued…

Copyright 2010 Lyle T. Lachmuth, All Rights Reserved