The very first day of 7th grade volleyball, I broke the ring finger on my left hand. It was weeks before I realized it was actually broken instead of jammed – thanks to some serious bruising and my exceptionally high tolerance for pain. The top knuckle now only bends about 65 rather than 90 degrees. My mom was initially upset because it’s my “wedding ring” finger, but no one’s put a ring on it and I’m fairly certain that has nothing to do with my finger being slightly misshapen on close examination. It can’t be even be blamed for ending my volleyball career (though looking back, I probably should have taken it as an omen and walked away).
The fact of the matter is that I seldom notice it. It’s not like now, 17 years later, the finger still hurts. On the very rare occasion that I use the ring finger on my left hand, I’ve learned to compensate. I can still (almost) set a volleyball (let’s face it, I was never stellar or I wouldn’t have broken the finger to begin with). I can still type about 100 words a minute – more if I’m writing in stream of consciousness and don’t have to worry about pesky things like spelling and punctuation.
The only time my pesky finger bothers me is when I pick up a guitar after stepping away from it for a while. I need to learn just NOT to fall out of practice because every time I do, I have to retrain that stupid finger to stay on the correct string. It’s not a huge deal playing the majority of chords. With G, C, & D chords (aka – everything you ever needed to know to play a praise song), I can rest gracefully on the E, A, & B strings with nary an issue.
It’s the blasted F chords that are so darn difficult. I know, I know, barre chords (chords where 1 finger covers more than 1 string) are difficult for everyone. It’s just that when my index finger is in barre position (even if it’s two measly strings), my stupid, janky ring finger won’t bend like it’s supposed to bend in order to stay where it’s supposed to stay. My fingernail (which is trimmed short) grabs the sting above or my finger grazes the string below. The whole experience means that I not only have to eat my Wheaties to strenghten the muscles in my hand (which is a seriously underrated and little known element of guitar playing), but also practice some sort of crazy finger yoga to work on my flexibility.
I’ll eventually adjust. I always do. I’ll remember how to roll my finger and wrist just so to compensate. After a few days of practicing the calluses will be in the right place and my hand muscles will remember how to behave. Until then, though, I’ll rue the day I tried out for 7th grade volleyball, and contemplate (what would at this point be elective) orthopedic surgery to correct something I hardly ever notice.