At the convent where I work, there’s a gift shop in the front entrance.
I pass by it every morning on my way up to my office. Usually they have one of the Sister’s watercolors on display in the entry.
One day it was this one…
I rather liked it, so now it’s on my living room wall.
We don’t use our living room much. Outside of some plants and extra dining room chairs, it’s fairly empty.
Not liking to walk into a bare room – and not wanting to spend money on needless furniture – I decided to fill the walls with art. Whenever I see something I like, it’s added to the wall.
Last week I bought yet another watercolor from the gift shop…
Both of these paintings were created by Sister Lillian Kroll.
She uses a walker and her vision isn’t that good anymore, but with a large magnifier and extra bright light, she still does her watercolor. The above “Dance of Joy” was her most recent.
Sister Lillian has a simple goal for her life: Every five years, she learns something new.
For instance, she was 80 when she learned how to watercolor. At 75 she took flute lessons, at 85 she learned German. I can’t remember what her other 5-year plans were. I know at some point she picked up the saxophone, another time she learned Physics.
Trust me, if you want to have an interesting conversation during lunch, sit next to Sister Lillian.
The more I considered this plan of hers, the more I liked it. Not merely for its health benefits — we’ve all seen articles on the need to keep our brain active — or even for the more practical reason of acquiring new skills.
The fact is, whenever I start learning something and I hit that frustrating point when it gets hard, I’m way too tempted to give up. A little voice inside me starts saying, “Why are you even doing this? You’ll never get it!”
But if I start out knowing it’s for five years, maybe I’ll be a little easier on myself. Maybe I’ll actually stick with it and see it through.
Worth a shot, don’t you think?
It just so happens that my last birthday quite conveniently ended on a ‘5.’ It also just so happens that right around the time of my last birthday, I started taking clarinet lessons.
It’s a long story.
In a nutshell: Sometime in my early 40s I had a chance to take music lessons for free. The man I met with felt I was well suited for a clarinet and so for about four or five months, he gave me lessons.
It was fun and I enjoyed it, though at times it could be terribly frustrating (and squeaky). Then the lessons ended and I started working full-time and… well… life got busy.
Only I didn’t return the clarinet. We kept making the rental payments until at last I owned it. And there it sat on a closet shelf collecting dust.
I came *thisclose* to getting rid of it when we moved here because it seemed so silly to keep it. And yet…
Fast forward to now.
The convent has a music school. They offer lessons on strings and all band instruments, and now after work every Monday, I meet with Kevin. My clarinet teacher.
Will I keep it up for five years?
I can’t say for sure. What I will say is that by just allowing myself five years, the pressure is off. I can enjoy the process and cut myself some slack when I hit those frustrating times. I can just have fun with it.
So thank you for the motivation, Sister Lillian. I hope you have many five-year plans ahead of you.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to practice…