Window CrankIt took giving up biting my nails for me to realize just how fast they grow. After drawing blood when I scratched a mosquito bite and getting them caught between the keys of my mac, I had to admit that a maintenance program was calling my name. I went to K-mart and replaced the emery boards, that pit bull Shelby had shredded, with a couple of the larger more professional boards and made a note to self to call my hairdresser.  Like my nails, my hair keeps growing so to keep up my new shorter do. periodic trims are joining my maintenance program in the interests of the long haul.

Maintenance is defined as:  The work of keeping something in proper working condition.  It comes from the latin, Manu Tenere which means to hold in the hand.

I smiled when I took a break from writing to go to the store for dog food and the maintenance light flashed on my dashboard and then when I went to the post office and picked up my dentist’s reminder that it’s time to have my teeth cleaned. It got me thinking about what it means to maintain and sustain (they are cousins) and about the line that stuck in my mind: there is no conclusion because sustainability is not about concluding but about continuing.

Manicures, hair cuts, oil changes, medical check ups, teeth cleaning, spring cleaning, keeping the Sabbath, sweeping the floor, watering the plants and even the monthly automatic withdrawal from my Paypal account to keep my digital New York Times coming – maintenance is everywhere.

Studies have also shown that goals are easier to reach if they’re specific (“I’ll walk 20 minutes a day,” rather than “I’ll get more exercise”) and not too numerous because having too many goals limits the amount of attention and willpower you can devote to reaching any single one. The same applies to maintenance because it’s so easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that require our attention to continue working.

I just had the cranks replaced on my louvered windows and I know that they will last longer and work better if I spray them regularly with WD 40 like I didn’t last time. I am ashamed to admit that I once blew the engine on my beloved former jeep because my sporadic maintenance program didn’t include checking the oil in time. Preventative maintenance advises colonoscopies, mammograms and pap smears and we are sold service agreements for our appliances and taught protocols for our computers like back ups and scanning for viruses.

There is scheduled maintenance, preventative maintenance, predictive maintenance and don’t forget high maintenance as in demanding like some women (and men), hardwood floors, 100% silk and linen outfits a thick head of hair – things that require more attention than their alternatives.

We go on maintenance programs after dieting, are prescribed medications to keep us in balance after a state of disease and after rehabilitation programs to maintain a drug free life.  We not only want to get healthy and happy but we want to stay that way.

In the last session of my God’s love is for everyone program we focused on how to maintain our connection with ourselves and with source and were advised to commit to a morning program of meditation, exercise and listening to talks or reading words of truth. I know folks who read the daily word, go to morning mass and the early morning regulars at Magen’s Bay are testimony to the benefits of maintenance.

When I fall off the wagon and stop doing any of the things that keep me working the way I want I feel less energetic, more depressed and am more vulnerable to judgment, discouragement and negative thinking – just like my window cranks are more vulnerable to rust, my dogs are more vulnerable to heart worm when I don’t give them their monthly pills and my dryer doesn’t dry (and might even catch fire) if I don’t clean out the lint tray.

Friendships suffer when we don’t keep in touch, our minds lose their alacrity and acuity if we don’t use them and when I don’t play the piano (or the violin) on a regular basis my fingers don’t work as well and the music doesn’t sound as good. Even life on Facebook suffers when I don’t post on a regular basis.

We are born with an exquisite built-in maintenance system – too hot, we sweat, too full of waste, we pee or poop, satisfied and connected and loved we smile and relax. Like the plant stickers poking out of the pots in garden stores we too have people stickers indicating the conditions under which we thrive – some are universal, some more specific to hot-house varieties, hybrids, nerds, social butterflies, intellectuals, jocks and all the things that we are.

Here’s to maintaining – to holding what matters most in our hands which means to keep it close to our hearts, to pay attention, to love and nourish and like the meaning of French word ‘maintenant’  to do it NOW.

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