Friends and Hobbies

By Alison September 25, 2013 15 Comments 3 Min Read

I have a friend who is the epitome of peace. Though she is probably eccentric by anyone’s definition of the word, she stands among the children that always seem to surround her, as a beacon of calm and compassion. I have truly never met anyone like her.

The other day I arrived at school and she was sitting in her car at the gates. I plunged towards her and started waffling on, as I am so very prone to do, and she nodded and smiled and answered me when I asked her questions, but all the time her eyes stayed firmly on something on her lap. When I asked her if she would be joining me on the playground, she said she would be with me in a while and lifted up a well-loved sketchbook on which she had created a swirling, complex pattern of paisley, flowers and lines.
I was astonished. Here was a woman with a quiet, lovely vice. Something that absorbed her, engrossed her and no doubt contributed to the air of meditative calm that pervades her. I was astonished because there she was doing something so outside of my expectations of her. Something that she did for no other reason than that she enjoyed it. I was astonished because there isn’t anything, not a single thing in this world that engrosses me to the same degree. Nothing I do that doesn’t have something to do with life at home or here at Brocante. Nothing I do just for me. Just for the pure pleasure of it.

Mine is a feathery, rigid mind. A steel cabinet of fuzzy edges: all tasks and all pleasure blended and designed to move my life forward, nothing existing (beyond my daily mediation practice), that brings me sheer peace. Or joy.

It got me thinking. I started asking my lovely friends whether they too had hobbies. Noticing their references to past-times and hobbies. Lisa tap-dances! She takes part in shows and repartee’s and I didn’t know! Kath plays iPad games every evening. My other Lisa knits. My neighbor knits too! My other neighbour helps the homeless in the darkest hours of the night. Clare climbs walls. Lyn does cross-stitch. My Mum does crosswords. Jane draws… they are all at it! Living lives of authenticity and not worrying about failing. Or looking silly. Or not being good enough. Quietly dedicating themselves to their tasks and not feeling the urge to tell the world and his Mother that they are trying this or learning to do that…
This then is the third dimension after work and home isn’t it? And darn it nobody told me it was necessary! It doesn’t exist because it helps our relationships thrive or our mind expand, the third dimension exists because it takes us outside of ourselves, and moves our soul beyond all those tasks that are all too often thinly disguised obligation.

I didn’t know. I don’t know how I didn’t know, but I didn’t. Though I have long indulged my love of reading I do it not for the love of it alone, but for what it can teach me about life and a beautiful turn of phrase. I do it not to switch off  but to switch my mind on. There is no downtime in this life of mine. No step-heel, shuffle reminding me that I have legs that want to dance or fine-liner scrawling something beautiful for beauty’s sake alone. No truly authentic dedication to anything beyond that which will put food on the table.
Sometimes I think that the whole world went to a finishing school that I lost my invitation to. That other women know secrets that have completely evaded me, or that despite my relentless pursuit of authenticity, at the grand old age of forty-one, I still don’t know who I am.
Oh gosh: perhaps I never will?


  1. You might not know who you are, but I think you’re fab. And so do lots of other people. xxx
    (This is a multi-tasking ‘let’s discuss this over coffee’ comment, instead of a text.)

  2. Gena King says:

    Didnt you take up crochet Ali?

  3. brocantehome says:

    Oh Gena, I tried! But here’s the thing: as soon as I face even the smallest of struggles on the learning curve, I throw in the towel! I am petrified of failure in all things…

  4. Tiffani says:

    I so understand. I’m like that too. I did stick with knitting even though my first few scarves were embarrassing. They ended up in the trash. Now that I’ve been knitting for a few years I’m good at it, not great like The Yarn Harlot, but good enough to give knitted gifts to people. I found that it is my zen. If I’m too busy with other things to knit I get cranky. The good thing about knitting is that if you make a mistake you can rip it back and start over OR call it a design feature and go on. 😉

  5. Gill says:

    This is a significant year for me, so I decided to take up Quilting (note that Capital Q…serious stuff!) and make a scrap quilt with each block to represent different people and places through my life so far. Well, I have a large basket of fabric -scraps and purchases- and a rough kind of plan in my journal. 9 months of this year is gone with only 3 months left to make the first snip into the fabric, let alone sew up even one block. So much for one block a month, easy to acheive targets!!!
    Has anyone knitted up that darling Bobtail Rabbit pattern you blogged about?

  6. We all think you’re awesome.

  7. Jane Grayson says:

    When I became ill with depression/anxiety my friend asked me if I had any hobbies. Was there anything I did just for me, that didn’t benefit anyone else? The answer was no – apart from reading, but even then I read for work sometimes. It’s really important that we all do things – everyday if possible- just for us. For someone as giving as you are Alison, especially giving to people you don’t even know – it is really important for long term well being. I haven’t quite got there yet, but drinking wine and eating chocolate is a start – isn’t it??

  8. chrissie says:

    What a relief this is ! Thought I was alone with not knowing who I am ! Still waiting for inspiration at 60 !

  9. Honey, you do have a talent and gift… For blogging, fixing up a beautiful page, adjusting, tweaking, playing with technical art, font, graphics…. It’s your thing…. Minus the knitting needles! Hugs.

  10. I meant to add…. Doesn’t time evaporate when you are creating such magic for us?

  11. Sometime being in total charge and responsible for a little one can make the time fly by. Your eyes open and in no time your head is hitting the pillow. I had 5 kiddos in that many years and it took me awhile to find my thing. And it is by no means spectacular except to me. You will be fine.

  12. Brunette says:

    And here I was pluming myself on having 5 in 7 years! Hubby is almost a decade older than I , so I was trying to have our whole family before he turned forty.
    I consider my reading as something that’s just for me, with the bonus that reading lots of really good books keeps Mommy’s brain sharp.

  13. marilyn joy says:

    Love the responses and love this blog. From a Canadian Fan.

  14. Ann Gorman says:

    Oh bless you, but I am glad I’m not the only one that flounders a little, after having four daughters and wearing multiple hats for many years including, teacher, nurse, taxi driver amongst many others and working full time then finally my youngest daughter left home and I found myself a stay at home housewife (not by personal choice) with an empty nest. First of all I felt empty myself and I had been so busy all those years being all things to all manner of people that depended on me and then nothing…… after a bout of feeling sorry for myself and I admit a little, well a lot! depressed. I muddled through with routine and then suddenly realised I had my own life back but how to live it? who was I now my multiple hats had been taken away? Mostly what do I want to do now with the rest of my life? Questions questions all rumbling around in my head, but I will tell you dear ladies I am slowly unravelling the muddle in my head and Alison you and your wonderful literature have helped me A LOT 🙂
    Well I have carried on muddling through and made decisions just small ones to start with but my biggest being to expand my little crafting business and join this wonderful site the rest is still a muddle my lovelies but as I unravel it and who I am now, I’m sure I will share my thoughts and decisions with all you lovely people.
    Kindest regards to all, Ann

  15. Taina says: Check this, you are definetly not the only one 😀

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