When You Need to Prove Something to Yourself

Once upon a time, I played the piano.

I also taught a whole bunch of students, and was only two months away from my final piano teaching exam and a diploma on my wall, when things went crazy, and I got tendinitis so bad, I haven’t played piano again in six years.

For awhile, the pain in my arms was intense enough to keep me up at night.

There were so many things I couldn’t do anymore. I couldn’t open jars, carry heavy boxes, or do any housework. (Shoot, hey?! The only problem was that I like a really clean house, and I couldn’t do a thing about it.)

Ben had to be careful not to turn the taps too tight, or else I couldn’t wash my hands or shower, without him coming to turn the water on for me.

Life is not like that for me anymore, thank goodness. I’ve recovered to the point where I can live a fairly normal life, if I pace myself and don’t try to do too much in a day, like wash every window in our house or stuff like that.

But here’s the thing: I had no strength to do things for so long, I started to think of myself as weak and incapable.

I saw my scrawny arms in the mirror, and wanted to hide them. (I’m always very happy to put on long sleeves in fall! My arms don’t look quite so skinny when they’re covered in sleeves.)

I read DIY blog posts about women building things and handling power tools while their husbands were away at work, and I would think, “I could never do that!”

But deep down, I desperately wanted to.

I wanted to be a strong, gutsy girl who builds things.

And then I saw this tutorial for a DIY board and batten wall treatment:


I wanted it. Quite badly.

But when I asked Ben, he said he couldn’t start any project like that until he was finished with his Masters.

So I resigned myself to wait for a few months. But I kept looking at that picture, and thinking about it.

And then Ben’s grandma passed away this summer. At the funeral, one of her daughters talked about how her mom was never the type to sit around waiting for someone else to fix things for her. If there was a minor repair that needed doing, she just went and did it herself.

I thought to myself, “I want to be like Grandma.”

When I said to Ben, “I wish I could do it myself”, he said, “You can.”

He always says, “You can.”

He always believes in me, always encourages me to try. In the twelve years we’ve been married, he has never said, “You can’t do that.”

He encourages me to ask for help, or to do more research first, but he always believes I can do what I dream of doing, when the time is right.

And now, the time is right. I decided to build something. For me, and for Grandma. For our girls, too. So they can see that anything is possible. None of this sitting around, waiting for someone to come do it for them.

Since we moved into our new house, our entrance has felt very bare and unwelcoming.

I decided it was time to do something about it, and I would do it by myself.

Ben was great about everything. He was totally willing to help, but he knew how much I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, so he gave me detailed instructions, and I set off by myself to buy wood, paint, nails, and everything else I might need.

Well. Turns out that at Home Depot, if you want a certain length of wood, you cut it yourself. With a hand saw.

I built a birdhouse once with my dad when I was a little kid. And I’ve played around a bit with hammer and nails. I know how to use a saw. But I did feel a little weird to be sawing away at some wood at Home Depot. My skirt swished along with the back and forth motion, and my scrawny arms got pretty tired, but I did it by myself.

And I transformed that entrance from this:

To this:

(With a tiny little bit of help from Ben with holding a board or two, and hammering a few nails. Otherwise, all me.)

It still needs some finishing touches, like some pictures on the wall, and some pillows on the bench, but we are definitely getting there.

And I feel proud.

I needed to do it so I would stop having that weak, helpless image of myself in my head.

Do you ever feel that way? Is there anything you need to tackle, just so you know you can? To prove something to yourself?

Giving Your Dreams the Freedom to Change

I used to be a pianist. I used to know the feeling of those keys better than almost anything else my hands touched.

Music was my life, for a while. I taught it, played it, loved it, and tried to get it into my brain and my heart in every way that I could.

My dream was to have a framed diploma hanging over my piano, announcing to the world (or at least anyone who came into my house) that I had achieved my goal – that I had accomplished my dream.

But two months before the hopeful fulfillment of that dream, everything fell apart. The muscles in my arms could take the constant tension and pressure no more, and in the span of two weeks, I lost it all.

I haven’t played since. Five years of learning to live without music.

I tried everything I could to recover. Physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, relaxation clinics…Any suggestions anyone had, I tried it.

Finally, I flew to Toronto to visit the Musicians Clinic. And there I was told, “You’re pushing too hard. You need to let go.”

And I said, “I can’t.”

The doctor said, “What would be so bad about allowing your dream to change?”

And I said, “I can’t.”

I went home, and with nothing else I could do, I tried to ignore it. A gaping hole in my life, and I pretended it wasn’t there.

But at random moments, it would make it’s presence known. Piano music would bring sudden, unexpected tears. My fingers would still move along to a tune, playing imaginary keys.

Music will always be a part of me. I still dream of being able to play again. But I also dream of new things now – things that fill my heart and ignite my soul even more than teaching piano ever did.

I don’t believe that God gave me tendinitis, but I do believe that He redeemed the situation. He made room for something new, when I didn’t have the courage to do that myself.

I will keep on dreaming, but I hope to always leave room for a change in plans – because God’s dreams for me are always a lot better than my own!