Forced Rest

Forced Rest 150 150 Nathaniel Lee Hansen

Writing this out is difficult, the pain sharp in your right forearm and near your elbow. You are wearing a black brace. Your arms are extended to lessen the pain, and even in the top of your hand there is a pinch as you type.

You remember when this ordeal began: your Spring Break activities of ripping up warped wooden flooring and grading (by hand) two sets of Rhetoric & Composition II essays. The pain and soreness worsened when, as editor, you brought your journal to two large academic conferences, and you hauled that suitcase packed with issues.

Then there were more stacks of papers after that, much work on the computer, and almost every Sunday playing piano for several hours. You foolishly used the elliptical at the gym for thirty minutes one morning. You lifted weights another morning, not wanting to lose the progress you’d made via weight training.

What finally prompted you to reach out for help was the pain in the last week, and then the pain you felt Sunday night as you tried to sleep. You asked a close friend—a medical guy—what he thought the problem might be. He dropped by your house later that evening and felt your arm, asked you to attempt different movements. Each one hurt. He told you a Latinate term.

(Writing this hurts, but the pain is not merely physical.)

He told you that you needed to rest it as much as possible. He told you needed to take a break from playing piano. For a couple weeks. You said, “Well, we’ll see.” He repeated, “If you want it to heal, you need to take a break for a couple weeks.” You appreciate him for his bluntness, but you also can’t imagine not playing piano on Sunday mornings. It is one of your favorite times of the week, perhaps the favorite. Now you can’t do it for a while.

You realize that this pain is miniscule compared with the hurts (both physical and emotional) of so many people, including people you know and care for. There’s still much that you can do, and you know you need to focus on those things.

This week has been in the 70s and 80s, sunny, and you have more free time, so you would normally be playing disc golf. Nope. Even holding a book hurts, so you’ve modified something so basic to your life. It will be difficult in church on Sunday, not playing. You want to be with your fellow musicians, your friends, but as your wife (wise as always) said, “you’ll have more time on Sundays.”

There it is: you are still learning how to rest, especially when it hurts.

Nathaniel Lee Hansen

I’m a poet, fiction writer, and essayist. My chapbook, Four Seasons West of the 95th Meridian, was published by Spoon River Poetry Press (2014). My work has appeared in Christianity and Literature, Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland, Blast Furnace, Driftwood Press, Whitefish Review, The Cresset, Midwestern Gothic, and South Dakota Review, among others. I currently serve as an assistant professor of English & Creative Writing at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. I also edit Windhover: A Journal of Christian Literature and direct the annual Windhover Writers’ Festival. When not writing or teaching, I run, read, play piano, listen to music, and play disc golf. My greatest joys are my wife, my son, and my daughter. I was born in southern Minnesota, but while growing up, I had little interest in the Plains and opens spaces. A stint at a rural state liberal arts college in southwestern Minnesota, as well as grad-school stints in northwestern Minnesota and southeastern South Dakota, altered my interests. @plainswriter,, &

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  • Devon Miller-Duggan May 7, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Oh, this resonated, says the woman with a shoulder injury that has never really healed because she insists on picking up her grandchildren. And gardening. And spending too much time at the computer…

    One of my therapists once looked at me in utter disgust and said “You are such a Puritan. You think you have to keep going all the time and EARN every good thing. STOP IT!” Which is what you get when you see a super-smart Jewish lady who has been gorgeously untouched by Pauline notions. She was the same one who pointed out to me that, were I a diabetic, I wouldn’t argue with her about taking insulin, so maybe I should quit trying to explain to her why I should be able to manage without SSRIs. Good woman. Good to remember that rest, too, is of God.