Testimony Trials

Bathtub Wisdom: Doing What Is Required

Written by Nicole Dowdle

I remember the day that Gmail’s inbox layout changed requiring two mouse clicks instead of one to select or delete unread messages. I chuckled sarcastically to myself and wondered if anyone else even noticed the change. It frustrated me that one of the few things I could still do on the computer would cause me more pain.

One click seems insignificant to someone with normal, functioning hands and wrists, but for me every click hurt. After working only a few months at my first “grown up” job–which was primarily data entry–I had been diagnosed with wrist tendinitis. Naturally I didn’t want to concede that my job was causing me pain. I wanted to work quickly and well. So I pushed too hard for too long until here I sat at my computer, agonizing over an additional click.

My wrist pain started during the time I got engaged and married. Computer work was something my husband and I termed “hand intensive,” i.e. it made my hands hurt. Non-computer-related “hand intensive” things included playing the piano, writing, holding books open to read (including the hymn book at church), doing dishes, changing bed sheets, straightening my hair, and even holding hands with my husband (which of all these things was worth the pain.)

I tried rest, traditional physical therapy, acupuncture, deep tissue massage, and essential oils. After some time without formal employment, things got a little better. For basic computer use I got voice-to-text software, a pen and tablet to replace my mouse, and a special keyboard for when I really needed it. My smart phone became a huge blessing and help.

Chronic pain humbled me. I love to make lists and be productive, but soon my lists simply consisted of: Exercise, ice arms, read (with clothespins to hold the book open.) Sitting in our fixer-upper house, with no outside employment, I thought of the many projects I could do if I didn’t feel pain. I was thankful that my husband was able and willing to provide for us.

Right after we married, my husband and I were invited to attend a struggling Spanish-speaking branch in our Stake. We both knew some Spanish and were excited for the opportunity to help. I held various callings and tried to work around my wrist pain. It bothered me that we had nobody to play the piano in the branch. Generous people from the Stake would come play for Sacrament Meeting, and we used the hymn CD’s in classes. I knew how to play the piano and could have played the hymns if my hands did not hurt so much. For the branch’s sake and mine, I wished I could play.

One night, wrists throbbing and emotions low, I climbed into the bath (my favorite place to go to have a good cry.) It’s also one of those places I get my best ideas and promptings. I cried and prayed about my hands. It had been three years and my arms and wrists were not healing. I asked Heavenly Father to help me know what else I could do to get better. I told Him how I wished to get well, not for selfish reasons. I could serve better if I could just get better. I could play the piano in Relief Society so the sisters wouldn’t have to pull out the CD player every week.

As I prayed, words came into my mind. You will be able to do what is required of you.  I felt peace wash over me and acceptance came into my mind. I knew He was reminding me that playing the piano wasn’t required for my exaltation, and whatever was required I would be able to do. He didn’t put me here to fail, and although my life’s journey might be different, with some limitations that slow me down a little, it would all be okay. Most shocking to me—I wasn’t sure I would ever play the piano comfortably again, but I felt totally fine about it either way. That’s the amazing thing about the Spirit. He can change our feelings and priorities.

Now, eight years and three children later, I am not completely healed. But I can usually do my household tasks without pain. I see how having tendinitis has taught me lessons that helped prepare me to be a mother—to keep things simple and have more patience. I know how to do part of a task and then come back to it later—which used to help me avoid pain, and now helps me keep children alive and well. Last week I was asked to play the piano for our Relief Society opening hymn. For the first time in eight years I could say, “Yes.” Whether or not that lasts, I know I can do what is required of me. I am thankful for that reminder in the bathtub years ago.

About the author

Nicole Dowdle

Nicole Dowdle loves being outdoors, exploring new places, and dancing in the living room with her three children.

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