My daughter found out I’d taught myself to juggle 20 years back and now wants me to teach her. I’m having to re-learn myself. I wasn’t a master at it, but I could do a few tosses before I lost the groove. Then things happened – you know, college, work, being dumb with your friends at a greasy-spoon at 2am because that’s all your brain can handle.
She gets bored after about 5 minutes or so. I don’t think she’s quite ready to commit to the constant and boring repetitions of tossing a single ball in the air and catching it with the same hand a million times to train your reflexes before you’re ready to move on to the next step: tossing a single ball with one hand and catching it with the other.
As I continue to relearn this somewhat useless but entertaining skill, I realize something:
Somewhere along the way, juggling became one more damn thing to do that didn’t have to be done that I could drop from the to-do list, even though all I had to do to stay in practice and improve was to try juggling for about 30 tosses a day. Which is less than 5 minutes.
It’s happened to a lot of things I like to do and a lot of other things I’d like to learn. Work, school, marriage, massage therapy school, work, layoffs, work, debt, work, kids, house, husband, blahblahblah got ahead of everything else. To be fair, the bank doesn’t give a damn about how well you juggle, paint, sew, climb, sculpt, whatever unless those hobbies are good enough to pay the bills, so prioritizing and stress does tend to put “fun” things on the backburner, then in the back of the fridge behind that pickle jar dated “Best by July 2002.”
It’s interesting how “there’s not enough time” builds up and up and up and you keep giving up more and more and more until one day you look around and say “damn, I hate what I do on a daily basis. I used to do fun stuff. I used to have hobbies and other things. What happened?”
Perhaps it’s the 40 thing making me look at my life this way. There are so many things I want to do, and so little time to do any of them. So many delightful projects (not just the writing ones)…
Of course, one can do only some things. Of those some things, one can usually only do a few well and one (maybe two) excellently well. *
Oh, the agony of choice.
There are those who say one must abandon all other hobbies and interests to cultivate a laser-like focus on writing if one wants to be a published author with successful titles under one’s belt. There is some truth to that statement (see the * above), but anytime I’ve read/heard that (especially in the last 2 years from certain quarters) I’ve always felt-
Ashamed. Because I apparently lack focus, commitment, discipline and whatever else.
Angry. Because the individual spouting off at the mouth has no idea who I am, what my life is like or even how futzing around with non-writing projects helps me and my writing in various and sundry ways.
I’m not going to become a professional archaeologist or a recognized historian anytime soon, if ever. I doubt any of my artsy creations will go on past my death (well, they might end up in a thrift store, somewhere). I’d like to one day open up my floor loom again and weave, but that day isn’t going to be tomorrow or next year due to physical space. I know the costumes I sew will only just squeak by as acceptable in a great many venues and that I’ll never be an international name in “primitive” target archery.
But I also know that I learn a lot every time I pick up one of my side hobbies. I figure out how a dress would really look that I wrote about, or perhaps “yeah, arrow quivers should have a cap on them in that scene.” I know how bad natural dyeing smells, how much work is involved in felting, How a simple mask can turn into a complex monstrosity, or how a complete accident can make everything turn out better in the long run.
Sometimes I can even blow off a little steam.
For now, though, I’ve got the reading list by the bed, a knitting project in one bathroom, a sewing machine in the utility room, a medieval styled hairnet on a frame to finish knotting, boots to hike in, seed packets with confusing results, an inkle loom that can be taken down anytime and used to weave ribbon or invent new combinations of foul language when things don’t go exactly the way they should, and eight million other tools for projects I’m certain I’ll only remember after I post this.
And I can always practice juggling for 30 tosses after the kids go to bed.