# of pages revised: 7
# of days left to complete 2nd draft: 73
Yesterday I went to the gym at five-thirty and did my usual routine. While on the elliptical, I noted a man standing by the chest press machine who was the hairiest man I’d ever seen in my life. He was wearing a tank top and short-shorts, all the better to display the thick coating of fur on his shoulders, back and thighs.
He stood with his arms crossed, talking to a guy who was trying to use the chest press machine. Later, I noticed the hairy man standing next to the barbells, talking to an older man in saggy sweatpants. And then, when I was laying on a mat doing my ab crunches, he strutted over and started talking to the man doing sit-ups next to me. “Hey, Hal!” Hairy Man said. “How’re your kids? You know I saw your wife at Stop n Shop yesterday…” They chatted away, and I noted how truly hairy he was. Like a bear, almost. Or a baby Bigfoot.
Apparently, he had not come to the gym to exercise. He had come to socialize and, perhaps, to show off just how warm he was going to be compared to the rest of us, come winter. I was certainly jealous.
When I left the gym an hour later, it was dark. Not dusk. Not sunset. It was full-on nighttime. I was alarmed. When had this happened?
A lady walking outside at the same time as me was surprised, too.
“It’s getting dark at six-thirty now?” she said.
“I know,” I told her. “Good thing I didn’t ride my bike here.”
I got in my car and tried not to be upset.
When I was younger, I liked the autumn descent into darkness. Shorter days meant we were getting closer to Halloween, and then Christmas, and then the possibility of snow days off from school. Now, when the night comes so quickly, it makes me a little anxious and a little sad. I joke about having S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but the truth is that I think it’s natural to feel a little glum when the days are short and nights are long and you don’t get your daily dose of sunshine. At least, it’s natural if you’re an adult. It doesn’t seem to bother kids.
Maybe it’s because kids know they have plenty of time. It doesn’t matter to them if their days are short – they think they have a never-ending supply.
But for me, when the days start getting shorter, I start worrying that time is going by too quickly. The night comes sooner, and I get tired earlier. All my body wants to do is sleep, and I worry that life is slipping by while I’m stuck in a dream.
* * *
The other day Sergey, my dear Ukrainian tutee, recommended that I read the book Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer Johnson. I started it last night, and it’s a quick read with lots of full-page pictures, so I’m nearly done. It’s a story about some mice in a maze looking for cheese, but the overall message is that change happens. It’s inevitable, and you shouldn’t be surprised. You should notice small changes every day in order to anticipate big changes in the future. When the big change happens, you’ll be ready to move on and adapt and “find new cheese” instead of sitting around scratching your head with confusion and complaining that someone moved your cheese.
I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to the small changes. This past month the sun has been setting earlier and earlier, but I didn’t really notice, and now, all of a sudden, it’s dark before dinner time, and it’s taken me by surprise.
* * *
I keep thinking that I should wake up earlier. The days are short, and I have so much to do. How will I ever accomplish my goals and make a “big change” in my life? And yet I keep sleeping until seven am, while Nikki wakes up at 5:30 and does a million things before breakfast.
Yesterday, Nikki and I were walking with Zeus in the woods behind our neighborhood, and I told her that I was going to start setting my alarm so I’d wake up earlier.
She told me that she’d recently read a book about excellence. Some researchers did a study of violinists. The truly, truly excellent violinists (the concern soloists, for example) got the most sleep out of all of the other violinists. They also practiced the most, but they practiced in shorter intervals.
“So I guess I shouldn’t worry about sleeping too much,” I said.
* * *
Big changes rarely happen all of a sudden, although they may seem like they do. You don’t one day wake up and find all your hair turned white in the night. (Although that would be kind of awesome, and I might write a macabre story about that.) You don’t come home from the gym one day and find that dang, all of a sudden you’re super ripped. You don’t go from being young to old with the snap of your fingers. Change is gradual, and it only startles us when we don’t pay attention.
I’ve been working on writing a little bit each day. I have not been sitting down for marathon stretches and churning out never-ending parchments of prose ala Jack Kerouac. I’ve been more of a tortoise, slow and steady. But I guess that’s all it takes. I can get my full eight hours of sleep and practice my writing in small intervals, just like those excellent violinist, and gradually, gradually, the big change will happen. Maybe this blog is my way of paying attention to the little changes along the way.
I went to the gym again today for yoga, and I kept my eye out for hairy man, but I didn’t see him. I think he may be getting ready to go into hibernation for the winter.