Last September, my husband and I took a much needed vacation at the Oregon Coast. Four whole days in a sweet little vacation rental only three blocks off the beach. No work, no obligations, no phones. Just glorious rest and relaxation, plus a little hobby time for my husband, who had recently taken up several new hobbies and was excited to get away from work and try them out.
I had packed a cooler with delicious ingredients to make all our favorite meals (and save money!) Upon arrival, I immediately got to work in the kitchen. My husband helped unpack the cooler… then proceeded to go into the living room, lay down on a couch, and READ A BOOK. Ugh! The nerve! Did he not see me slaving away in the kitchen to make our vacation perfect??? Unfortunately, I’m not always the best at healthy communication, so I resorted to some good old passive aggression.
“Can I get you something to drink, honey?” I asked him, seething inside.
“Oh, no thanks, I’m good right now,” He replied, refusing to take the bait.
“Okay, well… Dinner’s going to be a little late. Because it’s just me… In the kitchen… By myself.”
My husband then had the audacity to tackle my passive aggressive comments head on. “Honey,” He began, patiently, “We had a long drive to get here. You’ve been working hard all summer. I’ve been working hard all summer. We’ve got a lot to do when we get back home. But right now? It’s time to relax, that’s why we’re here. If cooking is restful and enjoyable for you, then by all means, do so. But if it’s just repeating a chore that you feel you have to do, please just join me in the living room and relax. We can go out for dinner if you don’t feel like cooking.”
Boring Rest = Restlessness
After sulking a bit, I realized I was being ridiculous and sat down on a sofa chair in the living room. I thumbed through the stack of old magazines on the coffee table. I browsed the epic collection of VHS tapes from the 80s. Then I grabbed a deck of cards and played a game of Solitaire. I pulled out the book I had packed and read a few pages. I played my ukulele. What was my problem? I was antsy. Uncomfortable. Bored, even. Anything but restful.
I sighed dramatically.
“Do you want to walk over to the beach?” I asked my husband, who seemed perfectly content to stay right where he was.
But, instead of being annoyed with my restlessness, he marked his place in the book he was reading and set it down. “Sure. Let’s do that.” We put our shoes and coats on and found our way to the closest beach access. Besides an elderly couple walking their dog further down the beach, we had miles of coastline to ourselves. It was beautiful. We walked silently, hand in hand, for what seemed like hours. We found some sand dollars, my husband skipped a few rocks, and we watched the September sun slowly sink towards the horizon.
Identifying the Problem
It seemed like the sun was just as restless as I was. We had been walking on the beach for hours and the sun was no closer to it’s resting place. “Well, should we head back?” I asked my husband.
“Jill, we’ve only been on the beach for ten minutes. Look at my watch. Look at the sun. We just got here.”
I looked at him sheepishly. Shouldn’t the hours seem like minutes? Not the other way around? Why was I so awful at resting and just enjoying the moment? A lump began to form in my throat, a sign that I was about to get emotional. “I feel like I should be doing something, that something is getting neglected because I’m not doing it. Like I have to work or else everything will fall apart. I don’t know how to rest.”
“We need to find you a hobby, honey. Something you do, not because you have to, but because it’s fun and restful for you. If you can’t figure out how to rest, you’re going to burn out.”
I thought to myself, “I have a hobby. I mean, I am a Tie Dyer! Of course I have hobbies.” But, as if reading my thoughts, my husband interjected, “Tie Dye is not a hobby for you, it’s an income stream.” I smiled at him, dejected. He was right. As much as I love tie dye, it is my work. I needed to find something else. A hobby active enough to keep my hands busy but easy enough to keep my mind at rest. A hobby I could do anywhere and at any time of the year in the Pacific Northwest (i.e. something that can be done while camping in the summer and while indoors for the other ten months.) But most importantly for me, I needed to find a hobby that was enjoyable regardless of whether or not I could turn a profit.
Finding Rest by Finding a Hobby
That long weekend at the coast was a turning point for me. Instead of getting irritable with my husband for resting and relaxing on our vacation, I began to let myself take a break from work too. I took a nap one afternoon when it was too rainy to go outside. I took my time making Ratatouille one evening, enjoying the process rather than checking off a list of tasks. When my husband started washing the dishes after dinner without being nagged or prompted, I joined him by drying and put the dishes away. Not because I felt obligated, but because I was simply enjoying our conversation, enjoying the moment. The chore I most despised was enjoyable that evening. Restful.
I brought stress and anxiety with me to the coast. But somewhere during those four days, the faithful tide came in and washed that stress out to sea. We returned home rested and ready to return to work and tackle whatever challenges we might face.
And yes, I did decide on a hobby. I scoured Google and Pinterest for ideas and settled on giving crochet a try. My husband bought me a set of crochet hooks and a bunch of yarn for Christmas and I was hooked. (Oh gosh, I didn’t even think of that pun until I typed it. CLASSIC!) At first, I got flustered and frustrated watching some bad Youtube tutorials. Counting stitches in the round and trying to do math were not exactly what came to mind when I thought of restful. And I had my share of do overs and scrapped projects I just undid entirely. But soon enough my muscle memory kicked in and I was making all sorts of crochet items and feeling totally rested in the process.
I even started going off script and trying my own crochet designs because following patterns is boring. I never was one to color inside the lines. Or follow a recipe. So, I suppose it makes sense that I don’t follow patterns well.
Protecting the Hobby!
Most recently, I started using cotton yarn to make beanies and cozies that could be dyed. Looking online, I found that this was something unique. The entrepreneur in me said, “You could sell these!” But another voice warned me to not let work takeover this new hobby. How could I keep crochet as an enjoyable, restful hobby and not another task to check off a list? I decided I would only crochet in my down time, and that I would not allow sales to dictate what I create.
I’m still in the early days of learning to maintain hobby status for crochet even though folks are showing increased interest in these hand crocheted and dyed creations. I probably could make custom orders and produce a lot more inventory… but I’m going to make what I enjoy making, whether or not these creations sell. Because profit is not the end game for my hobby. Rest is.
A Bridge between Work and Rest
For those of us who are artists and for those of us who have a strong work ethic instilled in us, it can be hard to learn how to rest in down time. Those who work from home can find it especially hard to clock out. I wrote about work ethic and self care less than a year ago, but it is still something I struggle to learn daily.
I believe finding crochet has been so helpful in my learning to rest because this hobby is the bridge between work and rest. At the end of the work day, my husband and I eat dinner together and then we decompress. Meaning? He reads the news and I crochet. Sometimes we talk about the news or about our work day, and sometimes we just sit in silence. Our phones go on “Do Not Disturb” mode, and I usually leave the dishes from our dinner in the sink until morning.
These evenings of doing “nothing” have become sacred to me. I am more focused, productive, creative, and healthy because of the down time my husband and I share. And my passive aggressive tendencies seem to be waning as I have become a better communicator. We may not always find time to go away for vacation, but we will always find time to rest right where we are. And we are better humans because of it.
And that, my friends, is why I needed a hobby, and why you probably do, too.