Choosing Joy
To pass the time

To pass the time

Humans are gregarious creatures. We need contact with other humans. Even if only in small doses. This last year has had a profound impact on our ability to follow through on that instinct, and it’s causing a whole host of mental health struggles for people from every walk of life. We need to address that. Everyone keeps talking about how bad 2020 and 2021 are, and the lack of social contact is a big part of that feeling. It doesn’t have to be labeled as “bad”. Certainly, we can make the most of what we have. I have seen many good things come from this last year. In the spirit of helping others see that this whole mess can become something good if you let it, I want to talk about alternative ways to fill the time, that not so long ago would have been filled with concerts, gatherings and social time. I want to talk about the good that can come from this.

You remember back in March of 2020 when everyone was being sent home from work? Well, unfortunately my mama was one of those people. It was devastating, to say the very least. It probably started with boredom, and maybe needing to talk to someone, because being a grown adult with no current idea about when you might return to work, is terrifying. But what it turned into was such a beautiful thing. It slowly became a routine. We started video chatting. Daily. My mother and I have never spent so much quality time with each other as we have in the last year. The miracle of technology. We can see each others faces every day. She has met my goats and watched me fix fence. I have kept her company while she painted statues and planted flowers. Even as she has returned to the workforce, we find time. Not every day, no, but every other day. Maybe three days will go by. It isn’t long. We often video chat while we make dinner together now. It is a precious gift, and I have only the current events to thank for it.

One thing I consistently notice, is that people lack hobbies. I find this odd, honestly. I personally feel like there are more things to learn and try than a lifetime will allow me to experience, so I try all the things. I am a woman of a thousand passions, and I have so many hobbies that I have literally have to keep a list of the things that I want to do and try, because I can’t do them all at once, obviously. I have so many hobbies, that I cannot justify adding another. So, of course it is strange to me when people have none. And that is fine when there are other outlets for us. When there are big concerts for us to go and dance to, when there are art shows, festivals, markets, and entertainment en masse, we don’t so much notice the lack of personal fulfillment in other ways. We are busy, we have outlets for our feelings. We don’t have time for new hobbies and passions.

And then tragedy strikes, the whole world is tipped upside down, and suddenly, there are no mass gatherings. There are no outlets, there are no hugs or human contact. There is no dancing. We barely have jobs to go to, and we feel stuck. Trapped. There is no outlet. No more extra curriculars. We are stuck at home, with the same few family members, every hour of every day. There is no break for oneself. There is nowhere to go, and nothing to fill all those busy hours that we previously knew, and people are lost. They are sitting at home, staring at the news, feeling frustrated and depressed. Something needs to be done to address this, and so today, I propose that we take a deep look at ourselves. What stirs us? What makes us passionate? What have we always wanted to try but never had the time for before? Right now is a time of opportunity. It is a time to grow ourselves as individuals, without all the distractions of the fast paced, ever stimulating world of entertainment and busyness. Its a time to look inward. Its a time to become more fulfilled with ourselves, rather than looking to society for that stimulation. Its an opportunity, folks, If we accept it.

It is amazing how a hobby can give us purpose. How it can give us something to be excited to get up for in the morning. A hobby can give us reasons to feel accomplished, and it can even sometimes lead down unexpected paths to wonderful places you never imagined yourself before. I have so many hobbies, that I don’t even know where to begin. Hobbies come in all price ranges, from free, to costs that would make most of us cringe. Hobbies open our eyes to the simple pleasures in life. The little things that bring us hope and joy when it feels like there is no more hope and joy left, and more importantly, they distract us from the flashy, depressing headlines that were meant to draw us in and get us emotional to keep us engaged. Instead of focusing on all that is wrong with the world, we can tune it out, and focus on what is right with the world. And if you simply can’t tune it out, then you can explore hobbies that make a difference in the world. One example I can think of is sewing. I absolutely get so much joy from sewing, baby clothes especially. The hum of the machine soothes away all the stress and worry, and I can take great satisfaction in the end product. A perk benefit is that it can also lead to a small income, which certainly helps with stress as well. But, if you just can’t get those thoughts about the state of our world out of your mind to the hum of the machine, then you could use that time to do something productive. Sewing examples are abundant. There are programs like Dress a Girl Around the World, that would love simple, handmade dresses. There are hospitals everywhere that accept handmade donations for babies in hard circumstances. There are battered women’s shelters that need baby clothes, blankets, and even adult clothes, as many of these women leave their home with only the clothes on their backs. And these options are not limited to sewing. Do you knit or crochet? Or want to learn even? Homeless shelters and warming centers need winter warmth accessories like gloves and warm hats. The options to make a difference are as endless as the hobbies out there are.

But not everyone has a heart to be a seamstress. I certainly don’t want to limit you to thinking that sewing is the only kind of option out there. Some of my hobbies include rock hounding, raptor watching, gardening, food preservation in several various forms, reading, photography, hiking, beadwork, embroidery, writing…. I mean, my list is endless. I can barely keep up with all my passions. Who am I kidding? I can’t. Its why I have a back up list. So much to do, so little time, and I don’t support a rushed lifestyle. I want to put my all into each and every one of my hobbies. I want to enjoy them, not feel pressured to the point of resenting them. So I take my time. Give them their due credit. Slow down and savor the little things. Sometimes the budget is tight, and the best thing I can do is walk down to the river (remembering the whole way, how blessed I am to live where I do). I sometimes take my camera. I am lucky to have nesting Bald Eagles just out my front door, and just a short drive takes me to the Golden Eagle nest that I so treasure. Other times I take a backpack, and a snack or two, and spend the day looking for the treasures that the Earth would offer me that day. Every Agate, every piece of petrified wood, every beautiful stone that finds its way into my backpack, feels like treasure. And while I may be aware of the weight of that backpack on my shoulders for the walk home, I always go home feeling blessed, relaxed, nurtured and exercised. Oftentimes giddy to dump out my bag of treasures and admire todays gifts. Add to this the joy of watching my dogs play in the river, and it really is an afternoon that can’t be beat. I got out of my house. I got my fresh air and escape from my surroundings. I enjoyed every minute of it. I can fall into bed satisfied with my day.

Or gardening. Talk about a win/win hobby. Healthy, fresh food, that you grew yourself from one tiny seed, or even seedling, if you choose to plant babies rather than seeds. There is so much satisfaction to be had from harvesting your own food. Not only do you know exactly what went into growing it, but frankly, it simply tastes better when it comes from garden to table. The difference can’t be explained. You have to experience it yourself to understand, but I can give an example. I LOVE beets, for as long as I can remember I have loved beets. I grow beets. Every year. We harvest them all summer long, and I never have enough to put up, even though I vow every year that I will grow more. Well, I ran out of beets. The in-laws were coming for dinner, and we all agreed that roasted beets sounded delicious. Clearly, I was on board. One bite must have said it all, because everyone looked at me. My husband asked what was wrong and I, in plain disgust, said “something is wrong with the beets”. I watched him think about how to answer me. I could see the wheels turning as he paused to think through his response, and finally, in the most gentle fashion, as if he was afraid to hurt me, this dear man says “Honey, they didn’t come from your garden”. That’s it. Self explanatory. These were simply not the fresh beets I had become accustomed to. Gardening is an art. It is a degree, always presenting something new to learn. There are multiple types of gardens. Maybe you aren’t into vegetable gardening. Maybe you want to grow bright, beautiful flowers, or an herbal apothecary. There is always something new to experience, always something new to try. It gets you out in the fresh air, it gets your hands in the soil, and oh the delight of the harvest. What is stopping you? Space? Look up container gardening or small space gardening. There are always outside the box solutions available if you problem solve.

Maybe you have no interest in getting your hands in the dirt, growing your own food, tromping along the river banks searching for treasure. Maybe you prefer to spend more time indoors. There are so many things to choose from. Pottery? Painting? Woodworking? The list of things to try is literally as long as your mind can brainstorm. You are only as limited as your thoughts. Feel like you can’t make it happen? Have some hobby or passion to pursue that there are just too many obstacles for? Write them down. All of them, and then brainstorm the solutions. Figure out where you can start knocking things off that list until the obstacles are not holding you back any more.

2020 didn’t have to suck, and neither does 2021. It really is your choice. If you are unhappy with your current reality, you have the choice to enhance it. To change it. Any given day, you have the choice to wake up and declare today a better day. It is up to you, and you alone, whether this hard time destroys you, or grows you into someone more abundant and blessed. It is your responsibility to build yourself a beautiful life. What can you add, omit, or replace in your life, to make room for a hobby or passion that will make this a blessed time, rather than a cursed one?