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Hobby as play therapy

By BARBARA GONZALEZ- VENTURA, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 23, 2022 5:00 am

What is a hobby? According to Wikipedia (which, it seems, has replaced Merriam-Webster as the dictionary of our times): “A hobby is considered to be a regular activity that is done for enjoyment, typically during one’s leisure time. Hobbies include collecting themed items and objects, engaging in creative and artistic pursuits, playing sports, or pursuing other amusements. Participation in hobbies encourages acquiring substantial skills and knowledge in that area.”

What is a hobbyist? One who likes to immerse him—or herself—in hobbies. I grew up in a family of hobbyists. My grandmother could not be parted from her sewing machine. Her sister, my grandaunt, cross-stitched roses on all her dresses. My aunt was constantly knitting sweaters. She even taught her drivers to knit to give them something to do while waiting in the car. 

How do you become a hobbyist? You must be born liking to do something creative. I remember being around four years old and learning how to cast stitches on a knitting needle. My grandmother taught me. She was so proud that, instead of playing the piano or reciting a poem to guests, she would make me demonstrate putting thread on knitting needles. Lola also taught me to make fringed napkins. By this time I was around 10 or 11. She wouldn’t let me play with my cousins until I had done one napkin.

I was raised doing hobbies. But never did I dedicate myself to them as I have since I retired, because before then I never had the time. And never was I so faithful to my present hobby—making rosaries—as I am now, since my godmother, a cloistered Carmelite nun whose heart I must have broken a million times, went to heaven a few years ago. I promised her I would pray the rosary every day. But I also used to make jewelry and had many beads. That led me to create new rosaries. 

At first I was just teaching myself. My beads were too big. The rosaries too heavy. They were good for altars. Now, I think I have found the right balance. My rosaries are lighter even if I have added new beads—one for Our Father, Glory Be, then the Fatima prayer. Also I like long rosaries that you can wear proudly as a necklace because it’s pretty. Over time I added hearts and, most recently, I’ve added roses for the Fatima prayer. Roses are Mama Mary’s favorite flowers.

So you see, some sort of magic happens when you have a hobby. I am profoundly grateful for the magic mine weaves.

Every morning I sit at my worktable not knowing what to make. I look around the bottles of beads and finally settle—let’s say—on clear crystals. Okay, I’ll use those, I think. Then I choose the roses to go with these beads, the tiny crystals to add sparkle, the cross, the center medal. I start to work. In the end I love every rosary I make.

Sometimes I try chocolate-colored roses with light beige beads. It looks so delicious you can almost eat it.

Out of thin air, play mixes kindness, joy, creativity, imagination, invention, insight—all of which make life lighter and so much easier to bear.

People who order my rosaries don’t quite understand that I am a hobbyist. Creating the rosary is what makes it fun for me. They just ask to see pictures and choose the one they like and expect me to copy it. I really don’t enjoy doing that, but what can I do? No matter how I try to make them understand that I am a hobbyist and not a manufacturer, they don’t get it. And—the customer is always right. Right?

But there are also those who order 10 to 30 rosaries and leave it all up to me. Those are the orders I relish. Those are the ones that make me play and sometimes pray. Once I decided to use emerald green hearts for the Fatima prayer. As I worked these words came to me: No matter how old I am, my heart remains fresh and green with love for you. It was a wonderful prayer to Mama Mary for whom all rosaries are made. I sent the prayer to the lady who ordered. She decided to keep the rosary for herself.

So you see, some sort of magic happens when you have a hobby. I am profoundly grateful for the magic mine weaves. I make rosaries every morning while my husband sleeps. He is not well. I know working with my hands helps me handle our problems. I think it works like play therapy. According to Wikipedia (again): “Play continues throughout life for many adults in the form of games, hobbies, and sport... Studies of aging and society support the value of hobbies in healthy aging.

Out of thin air, play mixes kindness, joy, creativity, imagination, invention, insight—all of which make life lighter and so much easier to bear.