Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 10/29/2009 [Archive]

Martha's Big Adventure - Get a Hobby

Martha's Big Adventure -- Get a Hobby

By Martha Randolph Carr

It's so easy to look up in middle age and realize there are chores, there are obligations, there's a job but there's no hobby anywhere in sight.

It's kind of ironic that we load our kids up with extracurricular activities so that they'll have a more well-rounded life but then we drop every one of them as marriage, kids and career eat away at all of our time.

The balance of a well-managed life is not the only thing lost. So is a bit of the fun and the chance to take on a new challenge without so many consequences. That's the point of a hobby.

When we grow up we still need to get out there and glue things or run after a ball while hanging out with people our own age. That doesn't change over time. But we often tell ourselves that fulfilling our own needs without any kind of monetary benefit or service to others is no longer practical.

During a deep recession pursuing a hobby can seem downright frivolous. However, stretching the mind and the muscles while we make a few new friends can actually result in the rest of the day being more productive. Think of a new hobby as a sure-fire way to thrive a little more during the Great Recession.

I have recently taken up the guitar in a group class at Chicago's Old Town School of Music and can now play with some aplomb any song that requires the three basic chords of D, A7 or G. A lot of Bob Dylan songs fall into that category.

I signed up on the day I was diagnosed with cancer as a strange response to the idea of possibly dying. A hobby was my way of saying I'm going to live each day that's left to the fullest.

I'm enjoying it far more than I expected and have even caught myself using the time-tested method of letting your tongue hang out just a bit in order to play just a little better.

When I asked our instructor, Mark Dvorak who's been playing for over 30 years if I had my fingers on the right strings he replied, 'That's right, and now let's try another right,' as he smiled and moved them around just a bit. That didn't dampen my enthusiasm a bit nor did the fact that my strumming was a little flat. It'll get better.

Even better than the class is the jam session afterwards with all of the classes and teachers singing a few songs as lustily as possible. Later, I felt my cool meter go up as I walked home carrying my guitar.

Chances are I'm not going to get really good at playing the guitar but it's not the point. Turning our children into the best at everything they attempted was hopefully not our intention either. This goes back to that idea of general productivity leading to a life well-lived.

Sometimes, in order to be able to get along better with our family or our coworkers we need a little time to goof around in a structured environment where we may be learning something but it's not going to matter. Then we learn all over again how to laugh at our foibles, be surprised when we get something easily and share our songbook with someone who forgot to bring it that night.

Sure, we do some version of that already at work but our office mindset always has in the background the idea of performance reviews and paychecks. It's harder to relax, take a risk or be ourselves.

A hobby like lacrosse or sailing or learning how to draw cartoons carries none of the pressure but plenty of benefits. Take some time this week to see if giving up a little worrying over the future might create just enough space to add in a new hobby you can enjoy today. More adventures to follow.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home, a memoir about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. Email Martha at: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

© 2009 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

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