First published on MS & ME Thursday October 15 2015 11:00 AM
Hobbies, or pastimes, are an important part of life and they take on an even greater significance when living with a debilitating long term illness like Multiple Sclerosis. It is also important to recognise your limitations and to know when a particular hobby is no longer suitable to a particular point in your life cycle.
When I was a young fella I loved sea-fishing. I loved getting into a small row boat and putting to sea or climbing down the rocks near the Old Head of Kinsale armed with my rod and a bag to bring the expected bounty home. I chose my times wisely, and really only fished when mackerel were in season and thus reduced the chances of catching nothing. I was diagnosed with RRMS in 1988 and a lot has changed for me since then. I’m not saying for better or for worse just changed. I can’t remember the date of my last fishing expedition but suffice it to say that the climb down to the rocks at the base of the Old Head, with the necessary rods etc, frightened me a bit and the climb back up with a bag of fish in hand exhausted me and I knew then that my fishing days were over.
I came to love DIY after Jean and I bought our first home together. The house was an old 3 bedroom mid-terrace house that needed a lot of work and I was glad to take up the challenge and make my mark. We moved house a number of times in the intervening years and each time we moved I was glad to leave my stamp behind. Unfortunately MS interfered again and my ability to DIM (Do It Myself) diminished and ultimately vanished but my DIY days lasted long after my fishing days ended. I have now assumed a pseudo-supervisory role in relation to DIY with Jean a willing and able apprentice.
My dad had green fingers and it was no surprise to anyone that I loved the garden. I wasn’t a particularly good gardener but I loved trying. After my diagnosis we bought a 1/3 acre site and built a bungalow in 1989/1990. The site wasn’t large but there was a lot of grass to cut and lot of work in keeping it neat and tidy. We bought a ride-on mower and I used it as a small tractor for moving tools etc around the garden. I loved the solitude of the garden even when the mower was thundering, it was my ‘me’ time and I loved it. My gardening days are not yet over but they are restricted. We moved house last January and the garden is now beginning to take shape. Jean has taken on the responsibility for cutting the grass but she allows my input into planting and other non-grass-cutting duties.
Some people detest change, some people accept change grudgingly and others embrace it. I embrace it with open arms. With what do I fill my spare time now? Well I have always loved reading and MS has not changed that and hopefully never will. I am a member of the local library and that keeps my appetite for reading satisfied. I don’t consider myself a writer but I do a bit of blogging on my own blog site, for MS & Me and also for Living Like You. It is interesting and varied and helps keep my brain active.
I love going to my local gym and try to go 3 times a week when energy levels allow. It is more than a gym and a pool. It gets me out of the house and when I am there and concentrating on my ‘workout’ it is totally ‘me-time’ and as much as I believe we need hobbies I also believe we need ‘me-time’. Insisting on ‘me-time’ may sound selfish but I believe those periods are good for me.
I love my computer and can spend hours at a time on the net. I use Facebook and Twitter regularly and stay in touch with people across the world, some of whom I have never met. I play word games like Ruzzle, Text Twist and Words with Friends, all in an attempt to keep my brain somewhat active. Mental activity is of equal importance to physical activity. If you are computer literate and spend hours in front of the screen please remember to get up and move around or just change position every hour. Sit up straight and don’t slouch. Remember that there many ways to stay mentally active without embracing technology e.g. scrabble, chess, bridge and crosswords to mention but a few. Dependant on your mobility and accessibility issues it is good to get out and about and to that end you may find that bridge clubs and reading clubs are a good outlet.
Don’t be afraid to change a hobby when necessity dictates. Be realistic in your choice of hobby but believe me when I say that hobbies are an important part of life.