My husband is an avid fisherman. Freshwater fly fishing, saltwater fly fishing, spinning, tuna trolling, you name it and he does it. He ties his own flies and strings his own rods. He spends hours scrubbing barnacles off the bottom of the boat and coiling lines. As soon as he hits the water, he zens out. Fishing, it turns out, is his meditation.
It took me decades to understand why fishing brought him such joy. When he left at the crack of dawn, just as our newborn baby and two toddlers were rubbing their eyes and stretching their chubby arms to start the day, I resented that he had a hobby. I didn’t have trouble understanding that he loved fishing, I had trouble understanding how it fit into our busy lives. If I didn’t have time for a hobby, why did he?
Now I need to pause to recognize that I married the best guy. He is a kind, supportive partner and never complains. He pitches in all of the time, and I never feel alone in any aspect of my life. He is always by my side (except when he is miles offshore). So I knew my problem wasn’t with him.
The most obvious reason I resented his hobby is the parenting role discrimination it assumes. In our family, it looked like this: Dad works hard and needs time to decompress (i.e. doing something that he loves with his friends). Mom works (or doesn’t work), and is responsible for managing the household and raising the children. Let’s be honest. That just doesn’t make sense anymore.
But here is what also nagged at me: I wasn’t sure I actually had a hobby. There was no fishing equivalent for me. Working out, while enjoyable, was just another item on my to-do list. Reading was a necessity to calm my mind at the end of the day. Ultimately, I filed away my concerns because I didn’t have time or capacity for them.
Fast forward to 2022 and we are now empty nesters. Our three children have grown and flown. My husband’s passion for fishing has grown too. I don’t resent it anymore. When he leaves in the morning, I wave and smile. I relish the quiet to explore what I love to do–walking my dog (who has replaced my children threefold in terms of daily care), practicing yoga and pilates, and exploring storytelling in all its forms (podcasts, memoirs, the theater). Did I mention that I’m a master organizer? AND it brings me joy? OK, so my hobbies may be slightly less defined and require a lot less gear but they are equally rewarding.
I’ve recently learned that having a hobby is about so much more than doing something you love. It’s about where you do it and who you do it with. It’s a reset button for our busy lives. It’s an escape from the noise in our heads. I think the pandemic has taught us all that finding space and time to reflect and disengage is no longer just a luxury, it is a necessity.
Happy fishing, honey. I hope you finally land the big one. I’ll meet you at home. The furniture will likely be rearranged, with the dog sound asleep on the cool floor and Phantom of the Opera blaring. And I’ll be working on perfecting my yoga handstand.