My son’s pickup truck is filthy. Someone at the high school parking lot has taken their finger and written “WASH ME” in the dusty back window. Another student adviser has answered this suggestion by scribbling an altogether different four-letter suggestion in the back window. My son resides with me but lives in the province of procrastination.
I have recently moved. To write I have to get to my computer. To get to my computer I have to scale a Mount Kilimanjaro of corrugated boxes. Each day I make the promise that this day I will make a move on the boxes. The view in front of me is the Pacific ocean. The mountain range behind me remains a landscape of my own intention unattended.
I’m getting my hair cut. The older gentleman next to me has apparently just retired. The barber asks him if he’s getting much fishing or golfing in these days. “Nah,” answers the recent retiree, “I’m still dealing with deferred maintenance.”
Whether we’re young, or old, or getting older, we’ve all got to deal with deferred maintenance. We’ve all got stuff we need to do and haven’t done. We’ve all got stuff we said we would do, crossed our hearts, promised under a summer moon, and still have not done, and summer turns to fall. Promises deferred promise to haunt us in any season of our lives.
Deferred maintenance for some of us is the promise to cut the lawn, and for some of us it is the promise to cut out cigarettes. For some it is washing the car, and for some it is scrubbing away an old attitude. For some it is finding something that has been lost, and for some it is losing an old grudge. For some it is dealing with a stack of bills, and for all of us it’s about time we dealt with ourselves. We can blame circumstances and others for what we haven’t done, but most of us eventually have to look at why we’ve deferred taking a hard look at ourselves.
When you buy a new car, or a new used car, in the glove compartment there is usually a book with the maintenance instructions. We may look at it now and then over the first six months or a year, but then it just becomes part of the car, not as relevant as the cup holder and used less often than the windshield wipers. It usually isn’t until there’s a bad storm in our lives that we think about the rain gutters we should have put up or the windshield wipers we should have replaced. Almost all of us, at one point or another, wonder how we’re going to “maintain.” To maintain takes day-to-day maintenance. Day in and day out. We may have the best of intentions about deferred maintenance, but events, ranging from the best to the worst in life, are seldom deferred by our intentions. What we put off doing is sometimes put right on top of us. What we ignore doesn’t necessarily ignore us. “A problem avoided,” said Henry Kissinger, “is a crisis invented.”
Crisis crosses all of our paths. Sometimes we get no warning. Sometimes we ignore all the warnings. A man wakes up for years with hair on his pillow and then one morning is surprised to wake up bald. A great deal that surprises us is no surprise. Defer what you need to deal with emotionally, intellectually, physically, financially, or spiritually and eventually you don’t have an issue with maintenance, you have a mess. There are some things in life that finally getting around to on a Sunday afternoon can’t fix. Some stuff broken for too long is going to stay broke.
In all of our lives there are things that we promise we will deal with sooner or later, but sometimes later is too late. Sometimes we make a promise about dealing with something while we’re on a trip or taking a walk and then come home, put our foot in the river of the day’s events, and get washed five years downstream from our intentions.
Life is less about saving face than facing it and maintenance is just that. Maintenance is different from a makeover. Maintenance is not about transforming ourselves but dealing with the day-to-day, which is already transforming. Because we decide to defer dealing with things doesn’t mean things are going to be patient with us.
Defer paying attention to your fears, your plans, your heart, or your hopes for too long and it’s too bad, too late.
Smart people can do dumb things. Smart people can outsmart themselves. Maintenance isn’t an issue of intelligence but character, and character doesn’t give one iota about our I.Q. Smart people get caught in life just like dumb people. More than a few of us lay the traps that trap us.
Defer dealing with love, lovers, and how you love, and the question isn’t what you will learn but how much it will hurt when you do. If we defer maintenance in our relationships, whether it’s parenting or passion, what we don’t do has already done something. People fall in love every day and fall out of love day after day. We’re all ready to buy into love but less of us are ready to give it the day-to-day maintenance love requires. To fuel passion you have to chop wood. If we’re lucky, we love our work. If we’re smart, we’ll work at love. Love isn’t only about intentions but attention. All of us know that we need attention or we get tense, present tense, and future tense. Others do too. Acceptance can sometimes be the nicest way of giving others attention. Don’t defer being accepting.
Take a moment to watch the shades of sky. Take a moment to enjoy a stranger’s passing smile. Take a moment to cool down when things heat up. Take a moment to hold on and take a moment to let go. Take a moment to make something that doesn’t matter, matter more. Take a moment to listen when someone tells you that you matter.
Don’t defer living and loving. Life is over in a moment and every moment needs maintenance.
“One of these days is none of these days.”
– English Proverb
© 2009 Noah benShea, All Rights Reserved