Maintenance is not a fancy word. It doesn't evoke fuzzy feelings of happiness and joy. But I believe it's the key to a healthy and balanced life.
I first came to that conclusion when I returned to work after staying home with my children for several years. I had difficulty handling the demands of career and family.
It seemed when I excelled in one area, the other suffered. And I just couldn't strike the right balance. I doubt I'm the only woman who has had that experience.
One day, after a long day at work, I came home very tired. I went to relax on the back patio, one of my favorite spots in the house.
But I found that it needed a good power washing, and the plants were beginning to wilt. The beautiful stone tile floors were covered with silt from a heavy rain.
We had been so busy running to and from work, and kids' activities, that we had hardly noticed that the patio needed attention. That's when it dawned on me that "Everything Needs Maintenance." It became my mantra, and I drove my husband and children crazy every time I reminded them of that fact.
It came up whenever something was not put back in place or when the house needed to be swept or the dishes washed. (I have to admit, I sounded like a broken record after a while.)
I even envisioned writing a book to teach the principles of maintenance. It's still on the list with 100 other books I'm supposed to write one day.
Soon, everyone in the house was saying, "Everything needs maintenance. Everything needs maintenance." But it was usually just to tease me. (Good thing I have the ability to tune out background noise.)
When I say "Everything needs maintenance," I mean everything -- from furniture to friendships, nuptials to neighborhoods, patios to peace of mind. Anything worth having must be maintained. Neglect one area, and you could be doomed.
It starts from the moment we're born.
Our bodies have to be maintained in order to grow and develop, and no body part can be ignored. We have to learn to take care of our skin, our hair, our teeth, our eyes, our feet, our fingers, as well as the big organs like our heart and lungs. We have to exercise, and watch what we eat, and the younger we start the better.
As we get older, maintaining our health becomes even more important, and we have to schedule annual checkups to monitor every cancer-prone area of our bodies.
And it only continues from there. Everything we acquire -- our homes, our children, our cars, our finances -- have to be maintained, or they will deteriorate. We have to be intentional about each aspect of our lives, and it's not easy doing it all at once.
But I'm working on it, and seem to be making progress. I recently started exercising again, and I'm making a greater effort to balance the demands of career and family. These days I also get a lot of help from my mother-in-law, who's a real stickler for order and keeps us all in check. My children are helping a little more around the house, too.
But there's always room for improvement, and I don't always have my act together. Sometimes when I slip up, my family reminds me: "EVERYTHING NEEDS MAINTENANCE!"
Music to my ears.
Contact reporter Alva James-Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org