Why I like a good hobby

My face looks very weird in this photo. Never mind.

This time last year I wrote a blog for the Huffington Post about January being thumpingly shit. Not just because it’s cold and everyone’s fat but because more relationships end at this time of the year than any other. That’s like a proper statistical FACT.

Thus January is a time of monumental pain for a lot of people. And worse still, the dumped and the dumping have to sit out their misery amid the excitable screams of those who’ve got engaged over Christmas. Ideal!

So, as I said, thumpingly shit for some, great for others.

But anyway, I was just thinking about that blog and it took me back to  my own heartbreak many moons ago. (NB It may now sound like I sit around all day reminiscing over my blogs with a cup of tea and digestive biscuit.  ‘Oooh yes, remember the one where I wrote about the armadillo in Argentina? Or the one where I flashed my muff by mistake at loads of teenage boys…? Maybe at lunchtime I’ll re-read the one where I met The Man… That’d be lovely! I don’t do that. Honestly. Well a little bit. NO I DON’T.)

I digress. Thinking about my own time of broken-heartedness (and the attendant chocolate bingeing, self-enforced isolation and endless crying) I felt – for the millionth time – HOW BLOODY GLAD I AM TO HAVE GONE THROUGH IT. Cos it completely changed my life. I won’t go into all of the changes, because they are extensive and nothing on earth is as boring as the tale of someone else’s personal development. But I will tell you that one of the best changes was picking up hobbies again.

I spent my twenties being VERY BUSY and always late for everything because I HAD SO MUCH TO DO. I longed to read more, to play my violin again, play the piano again, somehow get a horse again (that one remains challenging from the second-floor flat I live in in Inner London.) I longed to take dance lessons again and learn French properly and try to teach myself to cook. Oh and I really wanted to get a swimming teacher and learn to swim properly because I still swim like a labrador with my head sticking up out of the water and when I try to do breaststroke my left leg won’t kick out but instead flails on the spot like a redundant tail or willy.

But I was just too busy. Too important. Too many things to do. What? What was I doing that was so important I wasn’t allowed to do anything fun? Yes, I worked long hours in TV but it wasn’t like I was saving loads of money. I was not. I was pissing it up the wall like everyone else I knew and now I will probably never own a house and will have to pay rent to The Man forever which means that I am basically just a lodger-with-benefits.

Then the breakup happened some time in 2008 and I was catatonic. I sort of worked but not really. I sort of did a few other things but not really. I was basically just a rotten big bag of pain and trapped wind from all the bad food I was eating. I slept a lot, complained a lot, contemplated death-by-broken heart a lot.

Then a friend told me that when she’d had her monumental break up, she’d bought a car. Not because she particularly needed one but because someone had said to her, ‘what used to make you feel happy?’ and she instinctively replied ‘singing to Wham in my car.’

So she bought a car and sang Wham in it and became a lot happier. (I think there were other factors too but you never know.)

She suggested I did the same. ‘What makes you happy?’ she asked.

I wailed. ‘NOTHIIIIING…. I CAN NEVER BE HAPPY AGAINNNNNNN…. MY LIFE IS OVERRRRRRRR DO YOU HEAR ME MY LIFE IS OVERRRRRRR.’

Patiently, she waited, until I stopped crying and said that actually I did love playing in an orchestra back in the day.

‘Do it,’ she instructed.

I did it. And it was fab. My first night at orchestra, probably about three years ago, was one of the best nights of my life. That’s no exaggeration either. I barely talked to anyone, so intensely was I concentrating on all of the squiggles on the page (which to my amazement, after a thirteen year break, I still understood) but it left me on an incredible high. In fact I went too high; I barely slept that night. I was pumping with excitement and freedom and general RAHHHH! feelings.

I played with them for a term and then went off to live in South America for a year and a half, as you do. Then I came back and re-joined.

But last term, I didn’t go to orchestra. I was ‘too busy’ again. I couldn’t cope. It was too tiring.

This is a load of total wank. How did I not spot that I was up to the same old tricks again? I went to watch my lovely orchestra’s Christmas concert and it was so fab I cried a little bit. At the end they did a few carols for the sake of the sentimental fools in the audience (such as me) and lots of them were even singing along while playing.

I realised that – well, as I said – the ‘too busy’ thing was a load of total wank. I’m only too busy if I let myself be too busy.

When the grim reaper comes for me, I am not going to say, ‘Oooooh I wish I’d spent more time writing my books or maintaining my website or doing the washing or sorting out my tax or cleaning the house or tweeting or blogging.’ I am far more likely to say ‘Grim Reaper, you can fuck right off. I ain’t going anywhere til I’ve played The Four Seasons in concert and you know what, I’m good enough to play it now cos I MADE TIME FOR HOBBIES.’ I’ll dance the tango for him, because I’ve made time to learn it. I’ll play a ‘fuck you, Grimmy’ tune of my devising on the piano and then repeat it in French. I will jump in the bath and swim breaststroke. And then I’ll go, knowing that as well as loving those around me, I loved myself. I made time for FUN STUFF. Cos fun stuff rules! I wasn’t put here to write books. I was put here to have a nice time. I firmly believe that.

So I went back to orchestra last night. Everyone was lovely and a really nice old man told me he was reading my book, which made me feel a bit sick because it’s full of swearing and there’s some rude bits. But never mind. Someone bought me a jammy dodger, just like the first time I went there, and my friend told me about finding bits of Woolly Mammoth underneath London. I played appallingly, as ever (although alarmingly I now find myself near the front of the second violins, where I really do not belong) and when I left I discovered that half of my dinner was stuck not only to my teeth but also – amazingly – to my nose.

It was still perfect in spite of all of that. I went home and buzzed. I didn’t sleep that much again. But it was a high. A real, proper high. Not a frazzled-nerve jangly head oh shit I was still on my computer at 11pm sleeplessnes; it was a pure WHIZZBANG YEAHHHH! of a night.

As I said, I like a good hobby. What’s yours?

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2 Responses to Why I like a good hobby

  1. ana says:

    this is spot on. i did the exact same thing after my MAMMOTH break up. i did every hobby i could think of, just to keep occupied and find myself in the process. at one point o even tried therapeutic singing lessons (actually, it was fun, even though it sounds super naff).
    nowadays i wouldn’t let no man or work separate me from my hobbies as they mean the world to me. dancing and baking cakes. id like to get back to singing (had a little choir for a while…;)..and i want to learn swedish! so much more to do!

    good inspiration thingy: http://mightygirl.com/mighty-life-list/

  2. You are amazing, my darling Lu-see.
    I love your blog – I just do. It’s so funny, I cackled and got stared at by my brother who was sitting behind me. Absolute hilarity.
    I would LOVE to learn French to and speak it with the snobbish French too. Instead of saying “bonjour” politely, I’d bombard them with French politics and make their mouth hang open and I’ll say, “that’s not a very good looking, Frenchies. Shut your jaws.” in French of course.

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