During the time I lived in San Francisco, my good friend Marc and I would rate girlfriends, or female companions, on the the degree of maintenance they required. A special quality was low maintenance. It took special virtues to stay with anyone too long if they were high-maintenance. Marc dated one strikingly seductive girl who may have made a good mate save for her high maintenance. He hung on for a few months until he could handle it no longer. She was needy, and full of drama.
I was reminded of this last Saturday while I was roaming around the Union Square Green Market and stopped by a home-made cheese stand. I don’t normally eat cheese but the cheeses this stand displayed begged admiration. I overheard one of the guys tending the stand talk about a particular stinky cheese. I was immediately drawn in. My dad liked stinky cheese when I was young, maybe that’s the reason. There was no doubt it was pungent from a distance. While I was buying a portion, the guy selling me the cheese told me that it was his favorite, but that he was not allowed to bring it home or have it in his refrigerator because his girlfriend would squawk and “put up a fuss.” Immediately I thought high maintenance. What girlfriend, or mate, would not permit the other to keep a stinky cheese in the refrigerator? There was a no-brain solution that I can attest to, a ziplock bag.
Everyone needs maintenance; physical, emotional, intellectual, maybe even spiritual. Whether it’s proper flossing, reading self-help books, or taking a retreat, the need for maintenance is good. Because we are humans and live together, we lean on each other for maintenance. The energy involved can help and inspire both the person needing maintenance and the maintain-or. Good energy can spread. That’s how we grow. It’s when we resist the need for maintenance, ignore it, or go it alone that we run into problems. But even when we seek it out, maintenance doesn’t always work, unless it’s done right.
I had my road bicycle overhauled two months ago for a full tune-up. Shortly afterwards, during a long ride, a loud squeak developed. It bothered me and I couldn’t quite detect where it was coming from. It sounded like the read hub, but I wasn’t quite sure. The hub was suppose to have been overhauled during the tuneup. When I got home, I gave some of the gearing and chain a little lubrication, spun the wheels and the crank, and couldn’t detect the noise. But sure enough, when I got back out on a quiet stretch the next ride, the squeak was louder than ever. I stopped at a bike shop during the ride and had the mechanic check it out. He couldn’t find the source so he took it for a ride. “It’s a creak, not a squeak, big difference,” he told me, “must be in your hub.” There was nothing I could do at the moment as it was not a job that could be done just then. There was no great harm, it was just annoying. The bike shop that originally did the tuneup took it back and fixed the problem. Improper maintenance was the culprit. I normally ask for José to work on my bike but it was done by someone less proficient.
Maintenance has many veins but we tend to concentrate on the main arteries. We think we are in control, then we fly off the handle, cry for attention, and sometimes harm others, and chalk it up to “being human.” But they are all symptoms of improper or lack of maintenance.
It got me thinking that I’ve been complaining a little too often about the banjo strings on the left side of my neck. They are with me every second and hard to ignore. Still, why would I want to turn that into high maintenance at home like I quite possibly was doing?
We all have needs. Stuff happens. The question becomes how well we recognize the neediness before we become high maintenance. Sometimes it’s not until things squeak or creak. Hopefully, it’s before there is a breakdown.
As in many things, a healthy dose of perspective keeps the maintenance balance beam exciting. We fall off once in a while, and that’s ok. A good fall is an opportunity to sharpen our balance awareness. The key is getting back on the beam knowing that it’s better not ignoring the need for maintenance nor overindulging in it. Maintenance is simply an integral fact of life, so embracing its needs keeps us vital.
Oh no,…I just realized how much maintenance homework I’ve been stockpiling.