New Hobbies That Test My Hand Dexterity? Sure!

Jennifer van Amerom avatar

by Jennifer van Amerom |

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Trying something new will always intimidate me. While my head might feel prepared, my body doesn’t always cooperate.

This year my husband and I agreed to take in a homestay teenager who is studying dance at the same studio as our young daughter, Sophie. Sydney, our 15-year-old homestay daughter, is a talented dancer and also the fastest knitter I know. When she moved in for the year, she brought with her two giant Tupperware containers filled with yarn. At first, I thought this was her supply for the year, but I quickly realized she could go through a lot of wool and yarn in just over a month.

Sydney encouraged me to try knitting, so on a cold Sunday afternoon, she handed me a purple ball of yarn and taught me a basic stitch. That’s all it took for me to be hooked on a new hobby. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the activity’s repetitive nature. Before I knew it, we were making regular visits to our local craft store to purchase yarn, and I invested in my own knitting needles.

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One of the challenges of a rare autoimmune disease like neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is letting go of our own self-perception. This is important if we’re going to let new interests into our lives that might be fulfilling. I must admit that I perceived knitting as something only grandmothers did to pass time, but I’m obviously wrong. My homestay daughter makes the most stunning baby blankets that she donates to her local hospital. She creates thoughtful gifts that take hours of her free time.

Knitting has awakened a new challenge in me. Something I haven’t wanted to admit for the longest time is how NMO has robbed me of complex hand dexterity. Up until my new hobby, I could ignore this symptom, but now I’m facing it with all my might. My hands start to cramp within the first five minutes, but I’m determined to keep going because there’s a blanket and then a sweater I want to finish before the end of the year.

Trying a new activity is scary because if I can’t do it, that’ll be one more thing NMO has stolen from me. Now I realize how backward that thinking is. Sitting on the sidelines with the excuse that I’m disabled is a waste of a good life. This is my life I get to create and re-create with as many hobbies as I want. I just need the courage, and sometimes encouragement, to try something new.

When Dad passed away, I inherited one of his Fender Stratocaster guitars. It’s been decades since I tried to play a couple of chords, but playing his guitar helps me feel a little closer to him, especially on days when I miss him.

Again, there was some hesitation before I picked up his beloved keepsake because I was worried my hands wouldn’t cooperate. I’m still nervous that I’ll drop his guitar, so I only play sitting down. Some days are easier than others because guitar strumming requires hand strength and dexterity. I’ll admit that I get frustrated when my body isn’t cooperating.

There are a lot of excuses for why we don’t live life to the fullest. We all get old, our joints hurt, we don’t have time, and we’re too tired. I’ve discovered that we make time for the things that interest us, even if it’s a few minutes every day.


Note: Neuromyelitis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Neuromyelitis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD).