What if I don’t want to write a cookbook or build a six figure business or speak before thousands? What if I just offer the small gifts I have to the world and let that be enough? But there’s a deeper reason, I’ve come to think, that so many people don’t have hobbies: We’re afraid of being bad at them.
Because bigger isn’t always better and the individual matters. What if I just accept this mediocre body of mine that is neither big nor small? And I embrace that I have no desire to work for rock hard abs or 18% body fat. A mediocre mom who can never live up to her own expectations of good enough, let alone yours.
But I write because I have something to say and I invest in a small community of women I care about and encourage them to love and care for themselves well. What if I am a mom who delights in her kids but needs time for herself and sometimes just wants to be first and doesn’t like to play but who hugs and affirms and supports her kids in their passions?
The idea of leisure, after all, is a hard-won achievement; it presupposes that we have overcome the exigencies of brute survival.
Yet here in the United States, the wealthiest country in history, we seem to have forgotten the importance of doing things solely because we enjoy them. Between work and family and social obligations, where are we supposed to find the time?
But alien values like “the pursuit of excellence” have crept into and corrupted what was once the realm of leisure, leaving little room for the true amateur.
The population of our country now seems divided between the semipro hobbyists (some as devoted as Olympic athletes) and those who retreat into the passive, screeny leisure that is the signature of our technological moment.Looking back, you will find that the best years of, say, scuba-diving or doing carpentry were those you spent on the learning curve, when there was exaltation in the mere act of doing.In a way that we rarely appreciate, the demands of excellence are at war with what we call freedom. Loud, haranguing voices lecturing me to hustle, to improve, build, strive, yearn, acquire, compete, and grasp for more. Who loves to menu plan and budget but then breaks her own rules and pushes back against rigidity. Yet willing to share in quiet ways, in genuine relationship, my deeply rooted faith. Make peace with who I am and what I need and honor your right to do the same. And I make peace with it and decide that when I lie on my deathbed I will never regret having just been me. What if I am a mediocre home manager who rarely dusts and mostly maintains order and makes real food but sometimes buys pizza and who is horrified at moments by the utter mess in some areas of her home? And if I have been married 21 years and love my husband more today than yesterday but have never had a fairy tale romance and break the “experts” marriage rules about doing a ton of activities together and having a bunch in common. What if I embrace my limitations and stop railing against them? *Note — This article was originally published at A Life in Progress. This is an insidious impulse, innocent-seeming in its warm vagueness, but all the more sinister for that.The playwright Eugene Ionesco saw it well: "The supreme trick of mass insanity is that it persuades you that the only abnormal person is the one who refuses to join in the madness of others, the one who tries to resist.Who doesn’t care about decorating and fancy things. What if I am not cut out for the frantic pace of this society and cannot even begin to keep up? What if I am too religious for some and not spiritual enough for others? Accept that all I want is a small, slow, simple life. And see so many others with what appears to be boundless energy and stamina but know that I need tons of solitude and calm, an abundance of rest, and swaths of unscheduled time in order to be healthy. A man who places himself on a flat plain, and keeps his eyes level with his surroundings his whole life, will have no sight of the eminences, except at a distance and without clarity, and the profundities and depths will be not only beyond his sight, but beyond his understanding as well.Should anyone of wider vision speak to him with all due excitement of golden inspirations or black dejections, the man who has lived in a mist of gray all his life will generally nod congeniallyand change the subject.