My unborn child has most certainly “popped.” There is no hiding this belly any longer and it won’t be going away anytime soon.
Looking back, I am tempted to wonder when it happened. When did I become noticeably pregnant? For weeks, I waited to “show,” wanting my external body to model my internal reality. As my husband took weekly photos of my “bump,” I grew increasingly convinced that my pregnancy was obvious to the random onlooker. Now, however, when I look back on those early photos, I hardly see a bump—it’s nothing compared to what I’ve got going on these days!
Growth like this doesn’t happen overnight. Any sort of forward progress—growth, healing, learning—takes time.
A few weeks ago, I was reunited with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. She has undergone more than one back surgery in the past several months, the last of which is now behind her (we hope!). When I asked how long her recovery was expected to take, she responded without hesitation: “Two years.”
The doctors said she can expect to see a 1% improvement every week, bringing her total recovery time to about two years.
Let me repeat that for those of you in the back: A ONE PERCENT IMPROVEMENT EVERY SEVEN DAYS.
I received this news with great discouragement. One tiny percent every week? A two-year recovery? It’s all too slow! My friend, however, was greatly encouraged at the thought of experiencing a full recovery in just two years. Our perspective can make all the difference.
Since our conversation, I can’t stop thinking about this weekly one percent. Sometimes that’s what progress looks like. In fact, in some scenarios, our progress equals far less than one percent every week—and that can be a tough pill to swallow.
The truth is, even a fraction of 1% improvement every week is still an improvement. Growing a quarter of an inch every week is growth. Or, losing a quarter of an inch every week is forward progress, depending on our circumstance. How will you choose to track your progress, even if the movement seems tiny? And, just as importantly, how will you celebrate it?
I can still remember the first time I ever stepped on a workout machine that counted the number of calories burned. I was young—7, maybe—and walking around a hotel I was staying in with a group from my church. I stepped onto the machine, as many 7-year-olds would, playing around while probably breaking a rule or two in the hotel’s workout room. I wasn’t on the machine very long, but when I hopped off I was delighted to see I had burned about 35 calories!
Being 7 years old, I had no concept of what 35 calories meant. Had I just shaved off a number of pounds? I had no idea but I was excited, nonetheless. I ran up to one of the adults staying with us and enthusiastically proclaimed, “I just burned 35 calories!”
She laughed. “What’s that,” she asked, “like, one Starburst?”
I then proceeded to lose all of my calories because I was deflated down to nothing.
I didn’t care about burning calories! I didn’t even have context for what 35 calories meant. However, I still haven’t forgotten that brief exchange with the woman from my church. I had been so excited to share something I accomplished and it wasn’t deemed “enough” to warrant a positive response, let alone celebration.
One percent of improvement a week could lead to 100% improvement in two years. The little movements matter! The baby bump that could also pass as too many tacos or the inch more of mobility gained over a period of time all contribute to a bigger picture.
What’s the picture of?
Whatever you want it to be! You get to create it: It could be growing a baby or recovering from a massive back surgery. Maybe you want to write a book, pursue a career change, or lose weight. Whatever the completed image is that you’re working towards, every centimeter of movement, every calorie burned, every word written is a brush stroke creating that bigger, grander picture. Maybe the picture will be complete in two years, maybe it will be fifty-two years, but every contribution matters!
I’m so grateful for my friend’s optimistic perspective about her recovery. Today I celebrate her and the 3% she has improved since I’ve seen her!
Oh, and by the way, each Starburst is about 20 calories, so I burned almost two pieces of Starbursts that day in the hotel workout room, thank you very much.