Creative Giants: Ryan Haack is Living One Handed

February 4, 2013

Today, we’re continuing our new Creative Giants blog series in anticipation of Life After Art.  You know how I said that creativity comes inliving one handed lots of forms?  Well today’s guest is an excellent example.  Ryan Haack’s blog, Living One-Handed is an amazing primer on the creativity it takes to live, you guessed it, with just one hand.  (His blog is entirely typed with one hand too.) Ryan’s got a great story for us today.

McDonald’s was the scene of the crime.

My cousin and I were sitting in that merry-go-round thing.  Joining us in the saucer were three very small boys.  They were staring, but saying nothing.  I could tell by the looks on their faces that they were wondering what happened to my left arm, when one of them finally squeaked out, “Um…what happened to your arm?” I looked at my cousin and we both smiled knowingly.  “I’m sorry, what?” I asked the boy.  He looked at his friends and mumbled again, “Your…arm…what happened to your arm?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking.  What happened to my…” I said as I looked at my left arm and then…  “MY ARM!  WHERE’S MY ARM?! NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” I screamed!  We both jumped out and started running around, yelling, throwing woodchips.  We climbed to the top of Officer Big Mac and banged on the bars, laughing like crazy.

Come on, a kid can only say, “I was just born that way” so many times before he snaps.

Limited Edition184663877_640

The truth is, I was born that way in 1977, missing my left arm below the elbow.  You would think that’d bring a slew of limitations, but it didn’t…in my mind, at least.  There was nothing I couldn’t do.  Climb the rope in gym class?  Sure.  Participate in Jump Rope for Heart?  Of course.  Fly my Huffy off jumps?  Done.  Play piano?  Gimme a break.  The fact that I had one less hand than everyone else I knew never made a difference to me.

Now that I’m an adult, though, I can look back and appreciate the reality of the situation.  The reality is that I had many limitations.  I didn’t recognize them at the time, but they were there.  I mean, seriously, how did I jump rope for hours on end?  It was kind of like this, only I wasn’t at risk of actually having a heart-attack at the time.

None of us like to talk about limitations.  They’re such a downer.  We’d rather talk about reaching for the stars!  And never giving up!  And those things are good, but, limitations are real, too.  We all have them.  But, guess what?  The fact is, sometimes our limitations actually afford us opportunities we’d never experience otherwise.

Different Like Me

Two years ago I was eating dinner at a restaurant when I saw a young boy with an arm just like mine.  I smiled and nodded at him and continued eating.  As I stood to leave, I saw someone running at me out of the corner of my eye.  It was the boy’s mom.  She just stood there, looking at me, then looking at him, then at me, then at him…  He was wearing a Tigers cap, so I asked if he played baseball and then we talked about his favorite position and I told him I was a pitcher when I played.  They both smiled.

We said our goodbyes and as I walked to my car, I thought to myself, “I just want to scoop them up in a big bear-hug and tell them everything is going to be fine!  That mom has no idea how awesome her son is going to be!”  That experience spawned a community that has changed my life, quite literally.

Different Is Awesome

Nearly a year later I launched Living One Handed, a place where I share my experiences and perspectives on living with one hand.  I also figured I’d make some videos showing how I do certain things one-handed.  I mean, I’ve probably been asked how I tie my shoes ten thousand times, so why not just throw it up on the YouTubes?

My goal is to get people to laugh and think and connect with others.  I want people to know that being different is awesome.  I want them to believe that they are wonderfully made.  I want them to be inspired.  I want moms and dads and grandparents to know that their limb-different kids can lead completely normal, yet amazing lives.  And I think it’s working.

So, yeah, I have limitations.  We all do.  But sometimes, when we recognize those limitations, a whole new world of opportunity opens itself to us, too.

Your turn to talk.  Tell us about any limitations that play a role in your life, and how you deal with them.  Oh, and as a bonus for our Creative Giants series, my friend Ed Cyzewski is offering one lucky commenter a free download of his ebook, Creating Space.  Yay!

7 responses to Creative Giants: Ryan Haack is Living One Handed

  1. My biggest (no pun intended) limitation is my weight, but that is pretty much self-inflicted and not what drove me to comment.

    Your story about the little boy like you and his mom is similar to a situation I often find myself in. My Uncle Bob had Down Syndrome. He was not able to live on his own so he spent his life living with my grandparents and, after their deaths, my aunt. He could be temperamental but my memory of Uncle Bob is one of light and love and joy. He had a profound impact on my view of others, especially those with mental, physical, or developmental handicaps – when I encounter someone with a limitation, I see Uncle Bob in them and I automatically love them a little bit.

    Whenever I see a family with a young child with Down Syndrome, I want to share with them how Uncle Bob shaped my life and assure them that their child is and will continue to be a huge, unexpected blessing to them and to so many people. Like you, I want to hug them and tell them everything is going to be fine!

  2. Incidentally, Matt, the cartoon of Ryan looks like the one of yourself that you used to have–same artist?

    I had a chance to peek at Ryan’s blog–very funny stuff. My sister was born with a brachial plexus injury and had little to no use of her left hand, so I remember her talking about some of the same stuff Ryan mentions (she wore a brace a lot of the time, so she got a lot of “How’d you break your arm?”). Trying to get the cap off her lip gloss was a big challenge.

    As for myself, I’ve never had any physical limitations to deal with, other than clumsiness. My biggest limitations have been more internal–being introverted with a big dose of social anxiety thrown in. It took a long time for me to accept the fact that no matter what I do, I’ll never be the essential guest at any party, nor will I ever know 20 women well enough to ask them to be bridesmaids. I’ll never be able to “fake” being charming or charismatic, and I’m totally okay with that–in fact it’s so much less stressful now that I’ve quit trying. :)

  3. Abby – You’re exactly right! I saw that caricature of Matt last year sometime and contacted the artist, Wes Molebash, to do my logo. He’s awesome!

    Thanks for your kind words about my blog! And I, too, am an introvert. I know exactly what you’re talking about. hehe

  4. WOW I can ID with that mickey d interaction but where is the rest of it? Oh my Uncles brother has the same arm he got it stuck in a corn shucker blah blah blah