I set off for this summer to be my “summer of hobbies.” My summer even has its own Instagram hashtag, #AshSummerOfHobbies2016!
But, I didn’t anticipate RA to get in the way. (This is something I discussed in a recent Arthritis Ashley Facebook Live Chat.)
I’m very proud of myself for pushing through, though. RA and my other conditions have threatened to sabotage my #AshSummerOfHobbies2016, but I won’t let that happen.
My primary goals were to teach myself to play ukulele, and to get a telescope mostly for stargazing/skywatching, but also for bird watching. (I love both animals and astronomy!)
So I got myself a beginner’s uke and a beginner’s newtonian reflector telescope.
I didn’t know that using my new telescope would be made more difficult because of blind spots in my peripheral vision (irreversible Bull’s Eye Maculopathy) caused by years of using the RA drug, Plaquenil, in my youth.
I didn’t know that the telescope would be so heavy and awkward that it’d be hard for me to lift up and down the few steps on my back deck, because of my wrist and shoulder issues.
And I didn’t have the foresight to consider that my left hand (the one that needs to be more dexterous when playing an instrument like guitar or ukulele,) would make things a little more difficult for me.
I’m musically-inclined, so picking it up as far as “how to” play it and being musically-adept enough to play it, comes quickly and fairly naturally to me. However, I have decreased range-of-motion in several joints, including my left wrist and fingers. There is some irreversible joint damage, destruction, and deformity there. The agility, mobility, and dexterity isn’t nearly where it should be for someone my age.
But I’m proud of myself nonetheless.
On Saturday, my husband planned a surprise double-date with friends to take a nighttime picnic (complete with ‘adult beverages’ of course,) and our telescopes to a “star party” at a local state park’s observatory. I felt like crap that day, and honestly wanted to stay home. But I was so touched that he planned such a special evening and I was also excited to hang with our friends, so I “forced” myself to go, powered through, and had a lovely time. I’ve used my telescope at home almost every evening since, too. My husband may have to help me lift it and carry it at times, and it will probably have to stay in our living room (which I didn’t want, but I can’t carry it up and down steps, and if it is in our living room, it is much easier for me to try to take outside by myself) but that’s okay. It doesn’t look cute in there LOL … but, sometimes, we have to make adaptations.
And while my fingers aren’t as dexterous as I’d like, I’m slowly-but-surely learning the uke. I’ve only spent a total of probably 2 hours max (like…ever…in my entire lifetime) practicing, and am self-taught. I also don’t know how to read music properly, but I’m doing it. I’m trying.
I’ve taught myself 6 chords or so, and 2 (very basic) songs. (The first one being “Happy Birthday,” for my mom, whose birthday was yesterday.)
So although I am an amateur at both astronomy and playing ukulele, I’m not going to let my RA or other conditions stop me from trying to learn, grow, and improve!
RA can hold me back at times, but it will never hold me down!
Here’s the video I made for my mom: