Essay: On Gradual Changes

Around this time of year, I begin to catalog the many tiny
changes that mean we are finally on the road to my favorite time of year:
summer.  Just recently I noticed that
rather than putting on my warm wool socks immediately upon crawling into bed, I
had been going to sleep with my feet bare. 
Instead of wearing both my warm flannel top and bottom pajamas I have
switched out the flannel top for a long-sleeved cotton shirt.  Not only do I not immediately grope for my
robe upon waking, I haven’t worn it in weeks. 
And most importantly, I’ve stopped constantly checking the thermometer
next to the thermostat to see just how cold it is in the house.  I haven’t turned on the heat for weeks.
So we’re on the upswing to warm weather, hallelujah!  And I’ve been thinking about how trying to
make big changes in my habits and patterns follows a similar process. Just as
the weather can’t change immediately from lows of 20 degrees to lows of 70
degrees, but instead must move slowly from one day to the next, so do my attempts
at change make a transition at a pace that seems almost glacial.
Recently, I’ve been trying to get back into the habit of an
early morning walk.  For most of last
year I successfully rose early enough to wander around my neighborhood for a
half hour.  I liked my walks because they
ensured I had a minimum amount of fitness every day, I got to see the small
changes in the neighborhood and they were good for my mental state.  The exercise was not difficult, and though it
was hard to get out the door on those freezing cold days that just kept on
coming last spring, I persevered and was rewarded on many levels.
At some point, I fell off the horse.  For some reason, remounting proved to be
incredibly difficult.  For months I tried
various strategies to wake myself, get up and out of bed and out the door.  I tried gradually moving back my waking
time.  I tried going out for only fifteen
minutes.  I tried plunging in and setting
my alarm earlier.  I bought a dawn
simulator. I made deals with myself that were continually broken.  It seemed I would never rise at 5:00am ever
Many years during Lent I assign myself a Lint Project.*  They generally have to do with
self-improvement and some years are more successful than others.  This year part of my Lint Project was a 30-minute walk every day.  At first nothing
changed.  I set the alarm, the alarm went
off, I reset the alarm and no walk occurred. 
Even three weeks into the project I wasn’t having very much
success.  But something clicked near the
end of the project and I’m headed back on track.  I haven’t made it out for a walk every
morning, but there are more mornings that find me wandering than find me in
bed.  It might have a lot to do with the
return of the light.  Though sunrise
still happens after I have returned home from my walk, there is at least the
beginning of light when the alarm goes off. 
But I also think it had a lot to do with my perseverance.  I wanted to get back outside and so I kept at
A few days ago I came across this quote by Marian Wright
Edelman in my quote pile:
We must not, in trying
to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily
differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we
often cannot foresee.
I was reminded of the many daily differences that deliver
summer to me each year and the many daily differences that resulted in my
change in early morning walk habits.
*So named because one of my first official Lint Projects was
revitalizing my wardrobe during the season of Lent.  Because I don’t think improving the clothing
in my closet is what the Christian season of Lent is all about, I renamed it
the Lint Project.

One thought on “Essay: On Gradual Changes”

  1. This is a really good essay. I need to get some activity into my life (many of my clothes do not quite fit as they used to) and I always tend to go full bore and then lose my stamina. Progressive change is a mart way to go. Thanks for the reminder.

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