A dying branch threatens our neighbor’s power line. Tree roots compete with the grass for nutrients; the grass is losing the battle. Bushes stretch beyond intended borders, refusing to be contained in beds of mulch no matter how much they’re trimmed. A cherry blossom tree sprouts gorgeous blooms … for two weeks of the year then dumps its petals on the struggling grass. Branches reach for the sunlight which just happens to be in the direction of our house, creating a multitude of problems when those branches make contact with the roof.
We met with a landscaper the other day. Not knowing much about landscaping, this was all I knew to say, “It all needs to go. We want to be intentional about designing our yard around a theme: low-maintenance.” I choose to spend my time doing other activities than trimming bushes and replacing mulch in beds I don’t even like.
Low-maintenance is not just the theme of our landscaping project, it’s the theme of my life.
I like everything to be organized, not to be particular, but because it generates less work in the end. If I put something down in its designated spot, I don’t have to clean it up later.
We don’t wear shoes in the house. Yes, this started when I had babies crawling around the living room floor. The thought of tracking in germs from the public restroom I used earlier in the day so my baby could then put those germs in his mouth grossed me out. However, I discovered that 90% of the dirt in our homes comes from shoes. That means, if we don’t wear shoes in the house, I don’t have to clean as often. Yes, please.
We also wash our hands and clean our phones when we come in the house. The extra 30 seconds keeps us from getting sick along with the rest of the city. Caring for sick children (or sick husbands, for that matter) is a lot of work — often disgusting work. Washing hands seems like a better option, plus it’s pretty difficult to take care of normal responsibilities when you can’t even leave the bathroom.
The low-maintenance theme of my life primarily applies to relationships. While I can appreciate meeting a new friend, my radar is finely tuned to recognize the danger signs and avoid close friendships with high-maintenance people. “Proceed with caution. This one may be wired to explode,” blares in my head when these qualities are detected.
What does it mean to be a low-maintenance friend?
- No is not a bad word. If you cannot come to my party/baby shower/jewelry show, I won’t assume you hate me. A rejection of an invitation does not equal a rejection of the person. We all have unique likes and dislikes. If you’re busy … or you’re just not crazy about my party/baby shower/jewelry show, you are welcome to decline my invitation. I will not hold it against you.
- Drama belongs on screens and stages only. If you don’t say hello as I pass you in church, I doubt it’s intentional. You are probably lost in thought and unaware of your surroundings (or am I the only one who does that?). If you post a picture of a friend or two at lunch/dinner/coffee, I am happy for you. I won’t wallow in self-pity, imagining that you left me out on purpose. (I don’t have enough energy for that.) If you don’t text me back right away, it doesn’t mean we’re no longer friends. It means you got busy or you mentally texted me back but just forgot to physically type and send it (again, or is that only me?). I don’t hate you. I’m not mad. We’re still friends. The general rule to curb drama: assume the best about others.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Ain’t nobody got time for passive-aggressive hints or snide remarks. If I want to ask you a favor, I’ll just ask. Attempting to manipulate you into doing what I want you to do is not cool. I’ll give you time to think about whether you are able and willing to do the favor and respect your answer even if it’s no. (See #1)
- Put on your big girl … umm … bloomers. If something is bothering me, I will tell you. I bet you can guess what that means. If something is bothering you, I give you my blessing to tell me. I’ve got my big girl bloomers on; I can handle it. Unfortunately, I do not possess the spiritual gift of mind-reading. Be honest with me. I’ll be happy to apologize and make it right … if you tell me how I’ve offended you.
- Conversations are two-sided. Ask questions then listen to the response. I’ve been married for 20 years and I’m still learning new things about my husband. Relationships remain surface-level until someone decides to dig a little deeper. If I take an interest in you and make the effort to dig a little deeper, but it’s only one-sided, our relationship is doomed.
- Don’t take yourself too seriously. Our lives are full of disappointments, tragedies, and grief. While we desperately need others to support us with their presence and through prayer, laughing is underrated. If all we do is complain to our friends about our lot in life, we will all be walking around in doom and gloom in no time. “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 28:7 NLT) No matter our situation, we have reason to be joyful. Laughter lifts our hearts. Spread the joy.
You are welcome to join me in my low-maintenance themed life. There’s room for everyone in this land of low blood pressure.