Easy to Get, Hard to Keep

A woman I worked with years ago, a lovely bastion of traditionally built good hard common sense with an Israeli accent, used to say “It is easy to get a thing. The test is in keeping it.”

too hard to keepMiriam had permutations of this saying. “Easy to get, hard to keep” referred to high maintenance people in relationships. “You can get it, but can you keep it?” referenced programs we wanted to write grants for in the organization (the American Red Cross, back when they were kinda still respected). It was her way of asking “Are we chasing the dollar at the risk of mission drift?”

Sometimes she’d just rotate her hand up and down at the wrist and say, with that eyebrow-tilting smirking sparkle in her eye, “Easy, hard.” In other words, happened next was so up in the air it could flip six times before coming down. How it would land was anyone’s guess.

But my favorite was when she waited until pompous people had left our offices, having single-handedly mansplained to us how to save the universe, end poverty, bring justice to America. She’d wait until the door closed, lean in, and say “He can get things, but he can’t keep them.” Meaning there was no sustainability to the empire-building this person was doing, and it would all fall down if it ever even got to the heavy lifting they’d need atop their smoke-mirrors-and-faulty-paperwork foundation.

I think of Miriam, who has probably left this Earth by now, often these days. The divisions in our country, the tight election result last night, the strange rule-lifting and civility-ending moments when anything goes in our effort to keep (or acquire) that which is best for us at the expense of everyone else. (Republicans, Democrats, Christians, pagans – at this point it feels like a free-for-all for all; good behavior knows neither creed nor party.)

It is easy to get something, hard to keep it. Maybe that’s good advice for us to remember as we go into this season of acquisition. In the abstract world as well as the concrete one, some things aren’t worth holding on to, while others aren’t worth trying to get in the first place.

Heh. Does this make arguing politics on Facebook the equivalent of parents on Black Friday duking it out in the mall over a hatch-a-mole?

Anyway, Miriam’s advice is something I’m keeping in mind these days, not unsolicited advice for the universe – or the dozen people who read my blog. :] It can be easy to get a thing but hard to keep it. Have a sustainability plan. And a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanza, and/or Cheerful Solstice.