Maintenance as Love (Part 2)

Maintenance is the work of keeping something in proper condition.

There is a difference between attaining a condition and maintaining that condition.

Goals involving attainment are usually accompanied by a sense of urgency, enthusiasm, and the promise of a relatively quick payoff. Maybe the goal is to create a fancy garden in an abandoned courtyard, enter a romantic partnership, or experience pure compassion for a difficult colleague. By comparing our beginning state to the desired end state we feel compelled, even magnetized, to do the work that will get us there. Goals involving maintenance, however, are rarely so compelling. There isn’t necessarily a difference between the beginning and end that we can salivate over; there is only a wise choice, or constellation of wise choices, that must be repeated over and over again.

The word maintenance comes from the thirteenth century Anglo-French term, meintenir, which means “to practice habitually.” The idea is that attainment is not the end of our work but, rather, the humble beginning of it. We’re never permanently locked into a compassionate disposition, fully secure in our loving relationships, or guaranteed a thriving garden. We don’t wake up finally cured of our addictions or fully liberated from our cravings one day. The gift of experiencing such things is entirely contingent on our maintenance, moment-by-moment, of the conditions that allow them.

“If you’re speaking of love, you really must include the element of uncertainty – and perhaps it’s best approached as the art of constant maintenance.” ~ Twyla Tharp

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