I was standing on one foot at the kitchen sink when it came to me. I had just opened the oven door to put in the bacon for the breakfast burritos I was making and smoke came billowing out. I was observing the cumulative effect of months of cleaning neglecting. It’s not a self-cleaning oven; a tiny detail I overlooked when we bought this place. I was too dazzled by the smooth-top. As I stood there coughing as I tried to balance, I made a mental note to check for the self-cleaning component in all my future ovens. It’s hard to stay centered when you’re having trouble breathing.
But wait. Why exactly was I trying to balance on one foot, you ask?
The cumulative effect.
I was contemplating this in part because of yesterday’s innocent observation: “It can suck small withdrawals from your bank account that seem innocuous at the moment but can add up to the cost of tuition at an Ivy League school.” It got me thinking. How many areas of my life are the effects the result of small cumulative action?
I was standing on my foot because my friend, Anne, told me yesterday that standing with your weight on foot for a full minute and then switching to the other has magically effects. “If you do both legs three times a day, it is the equivalent of walking one mile,” she told me.
Hmmm. My exercise routine had fallen by the wayside with the busyness of summer and I needed to do something. Maybe I couldn’t carve out a half hour at the gym each day (which truthfully is a time investment of at least an hour with the travel time included), but maybe I could practice standing on one leg several times a day. I’d only been up for a few hours and already I’d managed it while brushing my teeth and cooking breakfast. Maybe I was on to something.
Following breakfast, I thought more about the cumulative thing and cleaned the countertops pronto. Now, anyone who knows me well knows that picking up after myself immediately in far from my first impulse. I’m notorious for doing a half-assed job of these things. But lately, since returning from NJ, I’ve been putting in the energy to be more diligent. It was watching my sister flit from task to task to return order to her world that inspired me. I’ve been making the bed every morning. Keeping the living room picked up instead of having books and papers everywhere. The dirty dishes are tucked into the dishwasher. The spent water bottles are in the recycle. I’m thinking about the cumulative effect of keeping on top of these things.
For one thing, it’s easier. Why didn’t I know that it’s easier that way?
Truthfully, most of my disorder is sheer laziness. Sometimes I just don’t put forth the energy because it seems like too much effort. I’m tired. No one nags me about it (thank you, Jay) so I don’t HAVE to.
But what if I decided to redefine myself? What if I decided I wanted to be a woman whose house is always clean? What if I decided to be a woman who is in shape? What if the road to getting there is the tortoise path? No need to be a quick hare; I can outrun the bunny by baby steps, by small cumulative effects.
It’s been working against me all this time, maybe it was time to start making it work for me.
My weight is the result of years of laziness around my dietary habits. I like potato chips better than Brussel sprouts and computer solitaire better than tennis. I’m so much better than I used to be –I can only eat a fraction of my younger days’ portions – but I still notice on a daily basis that my brain doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. It is not unusual for me to eat a few bites too many because I don’t seem to realize I am full.
My bank account is a reflection of the habit of being poor for too many years. The state of my closets the result of procrastinating about dealing with shit.
I need better habits.
I have given up on the dream of huge changes that are going to turn my life around overnight. The lazy girl within has too strong of a toehold for me to delude myself into thinking I will be a completely new person in record time, but I am confident that practicing small changes can shift everything. Baby steps can get me there. I already see it in some small ways.
For years I had a flat ass. We are talking my butt could grip a pencil in the flap that touched my thigh kind of flat. So several years back, I decided something needed to change that flatness and I began to clench my butt cheeks and tilt my pelvis forward (another tooth brushing activity. Moral of the story – brushing your teeth regularly is the key to getting in shape). Now, I may not have the most gorgeous butt in the world, but it’s respectable, especially considering how little time I invest in it. It’s been high and firm for years now.
I think I may be on to something.
I know from my infrequent yoga classes that practicing “tree” strengthens your core. I have a feeling this one legged stance is going to become a regular practice, just like clenching my butt checks. The key to any and all shifts is baby steps and practice.
Turns out it’s the stuff success is built on.
Namaste, my friends, Namaste.