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Maintenance or Fixing

Should we reevaluate our philosophy from “fixing” to “maintaining?”

A few days ago I was at a dinner where I was seated between two clusters of people. Each group knew one another, and immediately got into intense conversations.

I was trying to steer between the conversations, first paying attention on my left, and then on my right.

While concentrating on the man on my left, a phrase from the person on my right caught my attention.

Maintenance habits are ordinary choices that we repeat over and over until they become our routine. They are never very compelling – there is no urgency, or quick payoff. They aren’t sexy or fun.

“We have to focus more on maintaining, not on fixing,” she said. It could have been a slogan from an appliance company, or a software vendor, but this sentiment came from a physician.

A physician!

I thought about how that could play out. I know most of you spend a great deal of time on “fixing” – working with pain or flares or medication. You hope that by tending to all the “to do’s” of your regimen you will move the needle towards maintenance. 

But I suspect that doctor was talking about some habits that are even more fundamental.

Maintenance habits are ordinary choices that we repeat over and over until they become our routine. They are never very compelling – there is no urgency, or quick payoff. They aren’t sexy or fun.

I think about what it might mean to work on “maintaining health.’ Choosing the fruit plate instead of the cheese (I love good cheese); getting up to walk around during that phone conversation instead of staying on my backside all day. Walking even 300 more steps a day would be useful.

Turning off my computer at 8 (!) instead of trying to get five more things done and working into the evening until I feel like an hour of trash TV at 11 is a good idea to “reward” myself. Hmmm. What about shutting it all down earlier to get a little more restful and rejuvenating sleep?

Then there’s my mental diet. What I watch, read, who I listen to – it all fills my mental space. The “nutrition may have an energy that leads me to hope, curiosity, compassion, joy – or , like junk food, the diet of tragedy, pessimism, violence, cynicism, and rage may tilt me on a downward jag. The good news is: I get to choose.

As do you.

It’s pretty daily stuff.

When you’re living with a chronic illness that takes so much effort, it can seem overwhelming to take on one more habit (read: chore). Especially if it feels like it takes things away instead of adding to and expanding your life.

And you tend to already spend so much time with appointments, medications, and getting through the day that when you don’t have to think about taking care of yourself, it can seem easier to coast. Act like everyone else.

But that’s the funny thing about maintenance. In the long run, those little choices about what we eat, and whether we move around, and when we get to bed (or take a nap) add up to more energy, more space, and more enjoyment.

What do you think?

Are you putting most of your energy towards fixing? Do you have time left for maintaining –continuing to strengthen your body, mind and spirit?

Let me know what works for you.

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