Practice, practice, practice … and what do I get?

It was early evening, and our youngest daughter was busy practicing the piano, when my husband and I set out to visit an elderly gentleman.

It was early evening, and our youngest daughter was busy practicing the piano, when my husband and I set out to visit an elderly gentleman.

He was an old codger, but a sweet one, at least. At worst, Herb was harmless, but for some reason he didn’t receive a lot of visitors. Perhaps it had something to do with his philosophy.

Herb had an interesting way of cleaning up dishes.  Dishes? Why wash them to use them again in a few hours! And pots? Oatmeal, potatoes then soup — why clean the pot! Potato masher? Hang it on the wall — primed for its next use.

But what really puzzled me about Herb’s cabin was the number of dishes on the floor.

There were tiny tin lids and plastic carton tops everywhere! And they were filled with seeds, oats, and nibbly bits of cheese.

I didn’t want to be rude, and there were enough puzzling things about Herb that one more didn’t matter. But he caught me looking at the containers.

“I suppose you want to know what those are for,” he smiled.

I smiled back and waited.

“Those are for the mice,” he said. “I figure if I feed them well, they will leave the rest of my food alone!” So Herb fed them, and the mice moved in as if they were carpet.

On another occasion, a struggling couple showed up on my doorstep. Among other things, they were arguing about whether it was ‘OK’ to vent their anger by hitting each other with foam ‘bats.’

Usually we practice things we want to excel at!  Feed the mice? I don’t think so — not unless I want more. Hit my spouse? Not even with a sponge. That would be practicing, not venting!

There are lots of things I need to live out — patience, frugality, kindness, courtesy, forgiveness, and generosity. I’d love to be a model of virtue. But what am I practicing?

A middle-aged man once commented to a psychologist, “It would take me five years to learn to play the trombone — and then I’d be 55!”  Jim Fay, noted psychologist, replied, “How old would you be in five years if you didn’t learn to play the trombone?”

The future is coming. My future is determined by what I rehearse; it is invented in simple moments and created out of daily drudgeries. Every day I am summoning something good, or bad, or a whole lot of nothing.

What I practice is what will increase. What I invite develops.  What is fed grows. Practice, practice, practice — every day is a practice for a future something!

When we returned from Herb’s place — our daughter was no longer seated at the piano. That was 24 years ago, and she still plays. Tom Lehrer quipped, “Life is like a piano.” What we get out of it depends on what we practice. The piano bench is empty now — I guess I’ll go practice.  LOL@wltribune.com..

He was an old codger, but a sweet one, at least. At worst, Herb was harmless, but for some reason he didn’t receive a lot of visitors. Perhaps it had something to do with his philosophy.

Herb had an interesting way of cleaning up dishes.  Dishes? Why wash them to use them again in a few hours! And pots? Oatmeal, potatoes then soup — why clean the pot! Potato masher? Hang it on the wall — primed for its next use.

But what really puzzled me about Herb’s cabin was the number of dishes on the floor.

There were tiny tin lids and plastic carton tops everywhere! And they were filled with seeds, oats, and nibbly bits of cheese.

I didn’t want to be rude, and there were enough puzzling things about Herb that one more didn’t matter. But he caught me looking at the containers.

“I suppose you want to know what those are for,” he smiled.

I smiled back and waited.

“Those are for the mice,” he said. “I figure if I feed them well, they will leave the rest of my food alone!” So Herb fed them, and the mice moved in as if they were carpet.

On another occasion, a struggling couple showed up on my doorstep. Among other things, they were arguing about whether it was ‘OK’ to vent their anger by hitting each other with foam ‘bats.’

Usually we practice things we want to excel at!  Feed the mice? I don’t think so — not unless I want more. Hit my spouse? Not even with a sponge. That would be practicing, not venting!

There are lots of things I need to live out — patience, frugality, kindness, courtesy, forgiveness, and generosity. I’d love to be a model of virtue. But what am I practicing?

A middle-aged man once commented to a psychologist, “It would take me five years to learn to play the trombone — and then I’d be 55!”  Jim Fay, noted psychologist, replied, “How old would you be in five years if you didn’t learn to play the trombone?”

The future is coming. My future is determined by what I rehearse; it is invented in simple moments and created out of daily drudgeries. Every day I am summoning something good, or bad, or a whole lot of nothing.

What I practice is what will increase. What I invite develops.  What is fed grows. Practice, practice, practice — every day is a practice for a future something!

When we returned from Herb’s place — our daughter was no longer seated at the piano. That was 24 years ago, and she still plays. Tom Lehrer quipped, “Life is like a piano.” What we get out of it depends on what we practice. The piano bench is empty now — I guess I’ll go practice.  LOL@wltribune.com.

 

Rita Corbett is a freelance columnist with the Tribune/Weekend Advisor.

 

 

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