3 Reasons We Neglect Personal Maintenance

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Without maintenance a home, bike, or car can be damaged, slowed down, or completely disabled.

While we can see the ways that objects need maintenance, it’s easy to forget that we need “maintenance” for ourselves, our relationships, and our work. It’s tempting to rush from one thing to another without reflecting on how we’re doing, where we’re going, and if we even want to go to there. A little bit of maintenance time helps us take stock of these things so that we can live a bit more intentionally and healthily.

Maintenance could be reading a book, having a conversation, relaxing on the porch with a drink, taking a quiet walk, praying, or journaling. Different practices will come in handy for various seasons of our lives, but we never lose the constant need for reflection and adjustments.

There are three main big reasons why we neglect maintenance time and risk breaking down personally/spiritually, relationally, and professionally:

 

The Pride of Being Busy

Stopping feels wrong, especially when we see ourselves as critical to our own success. In addition, we’re surrounded by people who are busy as well. Rest isn’t exactly a cultural priority, and we can easily turn that into our baseline expectation for life—assuming that not being busy is a problem.

We tell ourselves that we’ll run out of money, the household will fall apart, or we’ll fall too far behind if we stop to take stock of ourselves and make some adjustments. It’s all up to us, and that breeds a frantic lifestyle that fails to live by faith, fails to value Sabbath, and feeds anxiety.

Take a social media break. Take some time off from work or household chores—even 30 straight minutes will help. Just stop long enough to see that the world won’t fall apart if you stop.

 

We Forget What Stillness Feels Like

I used to listen to the news in the car, play podcasts while walking and doing the dishes, and browse the Internet while sitting in the living room. I didn’t have much time left to pray, talk to others, think, or read books.

The constant consumption of information and need for stimulation becomes an addiction. It used to be really, really hard for me to take a walk without a podcast or music on. I used to crave the news while taking even the shortest car trip.

Thankfully, we can train ourselves to value stillness and quiet. When I take a quiet walk these days, my worries have time to bubble to the surface so that I can think them over and pray about them. Some of my best writing ideas have surfaced during quiet walks—even when I’m interrupted by a toddler begging to stop and look at the waterfall.

 

We Fail to Understand Diminishing Returns

Four years ago I read a book by an entrepreneur who said that we should work 12 hours or more each day to make a big project happen. There are tons of hours in a day, right? You can sacrifice sleep, food, relationships, and exercise for the sake of sake of a big project, right?

Well, I tried it. Perhaps some people can do that to launch a business, but creative people can’t. We only have so many words, so much energy, and so many hours in a day. That season of pushing harder and harder brought few serious returns for my effort because I was exhausted, stressed, and had neglected personal and professional development.

I had tried to work 10-12 hour days and completely wore myself out. I’m better at recognizing this exhaustion now. I rarely try to work on anything in the evening because I’m too tired and tapped out to be effective.

If there’s a pressing deadline, I’m always better off going to bed on the earlier end and trying to wake up earlier. Or, more realistically, I just call it a day and begin my next work day as usual, recognizing that I can’t push forever.

We have limits. Pushing for a short time may help launch a project or wrap up something with a tight deadline, but our work, personal lives, and spiritual lives will suffer if we keep pushing.

 * * *

We’ve been in a season of maintenance after a busy series of months with travel, childbirth, and book projects. I feel like we’re still recovering and trying to carve out more space for family and for ourselves.

I’m trying to faithfully read some books and blogs that will help me take my next steps in my writing career. I’m trying to savor my walks with the kids and any moments we can quietly play in the living room or we can all sit on the porch as a family and hang out. That’s maintenance for me right now.

 

Where are you at with the idea of maintenance?

Do you feel like you need a bit of maintenance time in a particular area of your life?

What would a bit of maintenance look like for you right now?

 

Need a bit of inspiration for your next creative project?

Check out my eBook Creating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity.

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The Inconvenient Interruptions of Toddler Spirituality

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Ethan and I had just barely made the double decker London bus. Standing in a crowd of commuters, I wasn’t able to climb to the second level where Ethan loved to watch passing buses. I balanced myself with him and his folded up stroller, biding my time until we reached the Underground stop where seats would open up.

We had big plans to visit St. James Park with its fearless ducks, delightful sand area, and sprawling lawns. I had a ball, snacks, and several diapers in my backpack. Out of all our days in London, I had prepared the best for this one.

While waiting through the first few stops, I started to smell something that was a little bit… off. In a crowded bus with all sorts of people, you expect to smell all kinds of things. Besides, Ethan’s “epic” diapers had been primarily confined to the evening. I just needed to get to the second floor so he could have a better view of the passing buses and trucks.

A few stops later we ventured upstairs and a kind man moved so we could sit together by a window. The smell got stronger. I feared the worst.

A quick peak confirmed it, and I needed to take immediate action with a diaper wipe. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack the diaper wipes. I didn’t even have any napkins or tissues on hand.

I needed to get off this bus immediately.

But if I got off in the wrong neighborhood, I wouldn’t be able to find a store to buy wipes. I couldn’t put him in his stroller because that would be an even bigger mess. I couldn’t hold him the usual way because that would just make the leak worse. I couldn’t count on Ethan walking for more than a block. I had to play this just right to avoid an even more epic disaster.

Using Google Maps on my phone, I found a store near a stop that was five minutes away. We made it off the bus at that stop while I held Ethan up by the legs—a bit like a toddler torch. It looked ridiculous. The folded up stroller didn’t help.

However, when I consulted my map, I realized that I’d gotten off one stop too late. I ran four blocks instead of one with my toddler torch. Ethan can hardly walk a block in a straight line. He has to stop and point at water and gas caps in the sidewalk. He has to point at buses, trees, and traffic lights. He may sit down and resist walking. He may wander toward the road and cry if I try to stop him.

I had to keep moving. I had a diaper to change.

Sweating and dreading the state of Ethan’s diaper and clothing, I bought wipes and slipped into a nearby Pret a Manger to make the diaper change. Thankfully his outfit was untouched.

My sudden influx of urgency paid off.

 

Later that day Ethan and I took a walk around a park. There weren’t many people around. He pushed his stroller by my side, often turning around, going in circles, or venturing onto the grass.

I kept prodding him to walk forward, to keep moving, to “come on.”

As I entered my tenth minute of prodding, I finally asked myself, “Why am I doing this?”

It made sense earlier in the day that I needed to rush with a messy diaper on the line. A ruined outfit meant we would have to go home and lose our day at the park.

Without a diaper to worry about, I was simply coaxing Ethan along for the sake of efficiency. We had to get somewhere, I wasn’t sure where, but we had to do it fast.  We were in a rush to walk from one end of the park to the other I suppose. I was rushing just for the sake of rushing.

Rushing is a lifestyle.

I had turned an occasional fast pace into a way of living where I frantically run from one thing to another.

 

On the following day we visited another park. Ethan wanted to walk across the grass with the stroller. It’s the most excruciatingly slow way to travel anywhere. I walked ahead and settled on a bench.

He eventually made it across the grass and started to cross a courtyard. However, something about the straps on his stroller caught his attention. He had to stop and snap them together.

It took a long time to get them snapped just right.

By the time he finished snapping them together, he wanted them unsnapped and began calling out to me for help. I told him to bring the stroller to me. Rather than pushing the stroller by its handles, he pushed it from the seat straps. It took an eternity to cross the courtyard, but Ethan wasn’t in a hurry.

Wandering London with a toddler was inconvenient and exhausting at times. I’d never sweated so much in all my life as I did during our three weeks in London. Every single thing required so much energy.

However, there were moments when Ethan forced me to slow, to adapt my pace to his own. He have been pointing at the 115th bus or the 32nd duck of the day, but that was fine. I didn’t need to rush him along while walking through the park.

The interruptions of a toddler can create their own sacred space. They put the brakes on our constant rushing from one thing to another.

They say that you can make God laugh if you tell him your plans.

God may laugh at our plans, but I say that God laughs even harder when we tell our toddlers our plans.