In my work career I was a recreation professional. Wait, is that a thing? It has to be, because I was one. Yes, I was a recreation professional – I organized and coordinated other people’s recreational pursuits. I used to always joke that I worked tirelessly to be sure everyone but me was having a fun and balanced life. And now that I look back on it, it really wasn’t a joke at all, it was the brutal and honest truth. I started off as a fitness instructor in the early 80’s then I became an afterschool care and summer program coordinator at a recreation center. It was at that time, after we had 2 children, that I decided to go to college if I wanted to have an actual “career” in Recreation. It was what I knew, it was what I was good at and it was something that made me feel like I belonged to a community and was helping make it a better, healthier place for its citizens plus I loved the vibe in the Recreation field. So, back to school I went! I feel like I was one of the lucky ones – I was fortunate enough to make a living doing what I loved. That was one reason why it was so hard when it was finally time to stop working, or as my Neurologist put it, when I had “succumbed” to my disease. At first, that term pissed me off, but as time went on, I accepted it for what it was. I just had to reframe it – it didn’t mean that MS had won, it meant that it was time for me to win and to take back my power! As I am entering my 4th year of being on long term disability, I finally feel like I am winning! I’m healthier than I have been in a very long time. I’m eating healthy, I keep myself busy and moving when I can and I am usually in a good head space. I have some energy at last and feel like I am taking back my life from what MS had taken from me.
As a person who, when working had been too busy to take a lunch break, I found myself looking for things to now keep myself “busy” in a totally different way. I no longer needed to miss coffee and lunch breaks, I didn’t need to run from one meeting to the next, supervise staff, book rooms, order supplies, do payroll, open a pool, be sure things were organized for the fundraisers or special event booked in our facility day in and day out. What I needed was a totally different kind of busy. Every day, I get myself “busy” trying to recharge my batteries. I focus on changing my mindset, changing my eating habits, changing my activity levels and more. I make time for my family and soak in all the love they give me every day. I rest when my body tells me to, and I do what I can each day based on my energy level and how my body is handling what MS throws at me. With a chronic illness such as Multiple Sclerosis, each day is different, and I try to not take the days when I can do something extra for granted. I started with picking up blogging, golf and cooking but in my heart, I always knew there was something that I was still missing. Long ago, I had given up doing something for lots of reasons, and I always talked about doing it again, yet I have been afraid. I never told anyone except my family that I was ready to give this activity a go. But, I finally put fear on the back burner and started!
I was talking to one of my friends the other day when I told her what I had started when she said that she had never had a hobby that she was passionate about and it got me thinking about why we (especially women) don’t have hobbies that we are passionate about? Why do we do that to ourselves? Is it because we take too much ownership over the cooking or paying the bills? Is it because we impose deadlines or tasks on ourselves like cleaning, laundry, shopping or carpool driving? For whatever reason, I know she isn’t the only friend of mine who doesn’t pursue their own hobbies. I’ve wrestled with feeling bad about doing it. I’ve wrestled with feeling guilty, selfish or stupid for taking the time out to do it. Even though, that is strictly me making myself feel that way – my family is super supportive as usual. So, I am happy to say that I got over those feelings and made the decision to give it a go. I threw caution to the wind and decided to bite the bullet for a few reasons: 1) to see if I could still do it and 2), to see if it still brought me joy. Yes and Yes! My heart is extremely happy about it. If you are wondering what “it” is, I have taken up (in very small doses) riding horses again. I’m starting slow and with help because I have been out of the game for a very long time and since my riding days, I have gained this incurable chronic illness that messes with not only my body but my self confidence as well. I’m only riding for a short time once a week for now until I see how my body responds to it but so far, I seem to be able to manage. And I absolutely love being around horses again, I love the smell of the barn, I love grooming and just hanging around a ranch again. I think I would have been devastated if I found that it didn’t bring me joy anymore but happily that’s not the case! The ability to have the time and energy to do something again that brings me so much joy is yet another silver lining to my MS diagnosis. If I was still working, I would have just let this dream go because I didn’t have the time or the energy to follow this passion. So, take it from me, I don’t think we should ever axe our hobbies or our passions, and here’s why:
You learn the value of patience – The world could use a little more patience don’t you think? If you sew, knit or crochet, you know how long a big project takes. You don’t bust out a whole afghan or a wedding dress in one night. Say nothing of the pain you feel when you have to take out twenty rows of the sweater you are making or have to redo the “ruching” on a formal dress because of one small mistake that makes a big difference. Before you get impressed with my use of ruching in this explanation, I know the word ruching because I have a friend that’s the most amazing seamstress, not because I know how to do it or even care to know how to do it! But my point is that when it brings you joy; no Debbie Downers or setback is enough to make you quit. Eventually, that patience will spread throughout your life (I’m still working on patience, but I am being patient with myself lol). So, take a chance and pick up that afghan you started 15 years ago and see if crocheting still brings you joy and if it does, don’t stop until you have finished that damn blanket!
Everyone deserves to be fulfilled – I know that family commitments and trying to keep your head above water with the bills eating up all your paychecks, can leave you feeling less than fulfilled. But who says it has to? When you take on something new or something you are passionate about, you fill up your tank. And, doesn’t it feel great when you complete a project, no matter the size, from the beginning to the end? A sense of pride in completing a task can make all the difference in your mental wellbeing.
You deserve to do things for yourself – Did you know that you don’t need permission to live your life? If you want to read that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for the last 3 years in one afternoon, do it! If you want to grow your own herbs and vegetables, get to it! You will never again wonder where your next salad is coming from and there is something to be said about getting up in the morning and playing seek and eat with a hundred zucchini! You don’t need anyone’s approval to knit sweaters for the grandkids pet rocks, if it feels good, do it!
So there you have it, don’t feel bad about the time you spend on your hobbies. No matter what your hobby is, if it makes you happy, it is important. No excuses or apologies. Your interests matter! If you don’t know where to start, why not start where I did and just remember what you loved doing when you were a child and see where it takes you! Because after all…This is your life to live the way you choose. YOU are in the driver’s seat!
“You don’t have to be great at something to be passionate about it.”
Now, it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t leave you with another yummy zucchini recipe, after all, I have a ton of it…….still! I hope you enjoy this savory bread as much as we did!
Green Onion and Cheddar Zucchini Bread
This savory bread is perfect alongside your favorite cup of soup on a chilly fall day
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup shredded zucchini, with the skins
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
DirectionsPreheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, baking soda and baking powder.
In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs and oil together. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir together. Fold in the zucchini, green onions & cheddar cheese being careful not to overmix.
The batter will be thick, so scrape the batter into the loaf pan and spread out as evenly as possible. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan then remove to wire rack and cool completely.