Teaching the child about margins. circa 2013.
Once upon a time, I was offered an amazing opportunity.
I couldn’t believe it.
I was excited.
I looked at my
stacks of notes scrawled on scraps of paper hi-level, organized schedule and concluded I couldn’t say yes.
I was committed (child stuff).
I was busy (work stuff).
I simply could not fit in another thing.
I clearly recall how sad and overwhelmed I felt in that moment and how I called a friend and shared my situation with her.
Without hesitation she responded:
Your schedule should never be so jampacked you’re incapable of adding another thing. You need to build in space so if an opportunity arises you can say yes.
I immediately knew she was right.
I chose to make the opportunity work—but not without stress and significant juggling.
And yet the thing was, being who I am, I knew my friend was right yet the points of her message neither sunk in nor sparked an AH HA! moment.
Flash forward a few years & I found myself in the same position:
- Impending move
- Stressed-out-by-move child who required focused time with a mama who wasn’t distracted.
- Even more work deadlines.
screwed backed into a corner as the phrase goes and this corner had become a familiar place.
I’d begun to assume this pattern was how life was was meant to be.
Medium stress. Medium stress. HIGH STRESS. Medium stress. Repeat.
My life had entirely returned to where I was prior to my friend’s words of wisdom:
I was capable of lolloping along in a semi-stressed state right up to the point life threw*any* extra stuffs my way.
These stuffs, whether good or bad, immediately overwhelmed me.
I was in this frazzled, frustrated place when a different yet equally wise friend casually remarked:
You need to learn to leave margins.
I needed margins.
At long last, I had my ah ha! moment.
The visual power of those words resonated with me as I’d already known of my tendency to fill spaces (and loathe intermissions).
Literal spaces (clutter clutter) and metaphorical ones (it took years of a counseling masters program for me to learn to ‘sit in the silence’).
In addition, as a writer the use of the word margins was something I understood.
It conjured images of how, as a child, Id write story after story on white, unlined paper.
I’d scrawl and create and fill all the spaces so when I finished not a speck of white (AKA margin) remained.
My friend was right.
- I needed to leave virtual margins in my life.
- I needed a spacious gap between the have-to’s and the limits in my world.
- I needed a cushion between my load (work, life, family, everything) and my breaking point.
My first friend had said essentially the same thing years prior, yet as with so much in life, my brain required wording which resonated with it to process the message.
And process I did.
- I’ve committed to living life at 80%. I choose to leave room for the unexpected. Through living this way I ensure, if/when it happens, I’m not already maxed out, depleted.
- I’ve committed to living life inside the lines (admittedly a bizarre notion for me). I’ve chosen to reside in the space where I can b-r-e-a-t-h-e as opposed to maintaining a panicked existence in life’s over-zealous edges.
- I’ve committed to drawing margins in Sharpie. I actively and consciously create a cushion between living & overload. I choose daily to fight to maintain/prioritize this space.
In essence, I’ve begun treating the entirety of my life the same way I’d already approached fitness:
I do less than I am capable of each day so I can greet the next 24 hours with excitement and SPACE to do it all again.
- Am I the last to grasp the notion of life needing margins?
- How do you maintain space or margins in your life?
Angela @ happy fit mama saysApril 10, 2017 at 4:43 am
It seems as the years go by, the need for margins is even greater. I’m following your lead!
Susie @ Suzlyfe saysApril 10, 2017 at 5:19 am
I feel like this world has gotten to the point that even if you do leave margins, those margins have to be taken advantage of to the 100000%. We have to be balls to the walls at all times. It’s sad, really.
Lindsay Cotter saysApril 10, 2017 at 7:45 am
AMEN! I have to keep reminding myself not to keep up with the world. It’s CRAZY off margin. Thank you CARLA for this “space.”
Allie saysApril 10, 2017 at 5:37 am
I just recently started doing this as, after we got the puppy, my life spiraled into complete and total STRESS since I had zero margins. No more!! It’s a work in progress but I am definitely progressing toward LESS and leaving room for what I really want (and need) to do. After all, this is also my year to live like I was dying ? in the best possible way!
Coco saysApril 10, 2017 at 6:08 am
Luckily my weekends have been solid margins recently. I need to work on daily ones next.
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home saysApril 10, 2017 at 7:04 am
It’s why I have a cleaning lady. Who has time for that?
But there is the prep work I have to do before she comes…
messymimi saysApril 10, 2017 at 7:40 am
Very few margins here. When i try to defend a few, they get whacked aside by a new crisis or three.
Lois Hoffman saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:04 am
Great post, Carla. My body tells me if I’m not living within the margins. I get sick and I can’t do ANYTHING. I’ve hit that space so many times in the past that I respect it now. I have too much to do to get sick. There is an electric fence around my safe limits. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there. I still get zapped now and then. 😉
Haralee saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:11 am
So wise Carla, keeping life at 80% just in case. If the just in case does not arrive you can have spontaneous time! I have had aha moments when I realize I can’t wait for a commitment to be over instead of enjoying it. What that means to me is not to do this commitment again.
Karen Austin saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:16 am
Amen! I’m about 10% overcommitted right now. (I took an extra class at the uni when someone quit right before the semester started.) Next time I will say, “No.” Thanks for sharing your wisdom on margins.
Renee saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:37 am
One thing that has helped give me “margins” is being retired…I have more time to do the things I want and spend time with those I love….sadly I just don’t have the money to do most of the things I want to do. There is always a trade off.
Nancy Fox saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:38 am
I love this line, “I needed to leave virtual margins in my life.”
The older I get, the better I get at this. It’s freeing and so much less stressful!
Life is not a sprint. You don’s need to do everything all the time. It’s rather a marathon with time to pace yourself!
Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:57 am
I think having some buffer room in your life is vital or you start to feel so overwhelmed and stressed that you can’t enjoy anything. I’m not sure about the idea of it meaning you have room to fit in a few extra things here and there – I like the idea of just having some down time and headspace (but that’s just me!)
Mary Jane Bruce saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:57 am
My husband once told me, “You create your own stress.” I was FURIOUS at him. And later admitted he was right. Your margins metaphor is a much kinder, less judgemental way to put it. Yes, I absolutely need margins and it took years to figure that out.
Diane saysApril 10, 2017 at 9:00 am
My mom called it ‘buffer’ time. (And she had none.)
It’s my ME time. When I regroup and take a breath.
It isn’t always there. But most days . . .
Kim saysApril 10, 2017 at 2:08 pm
THIS. IS. FABULOUS! Thank you Carla for the reminder. Thank you for putting what we all feel each day into words and giving us a way to stop it as well.
Beth Havey saysApril 10, 2017 at 5:21 pm
It’s a great concept. I say I will write all afternoon and LOOK, it’s 3:20 here and I have not started. Demands are made, stuff happens. I NEED TO DRAW THE LINE, Beth
Deborah saysApril 10, 2017 at 8:16 pm
Oh I can very much relate. My overwhelm always relates less to time pressures than ones of ‘headspace’.
This reminded me of this post by an Aussie blogger I re=read recently – about whitespace.
Lois Alter Mark saysApril 11, 2017 at 12:52 am
I think I needed to read this right now, and I’m actually having kind of an “aha” moment. I’m going to sit quietly and think about this for a little while – after I finish all the things that have pushed me to the edge of every day, leaving no margins. Thank you for this.
AmyC saysApril 11, 2017 at 5:09 am
I used to be that stressed-out-maxed-out wife (of a pilot gone half the time), step parent, pet owner, teacher, advisor, coach, daughter, friend, runner…who fell apart way too easily because I could not. handle. one. more. thing.
Very large margins now living over here in Hong Kong. 😉
Shari Eberts saysApril 11, 2017 at 8:08 am
What an interesting concept. I am always one to try to fill every space, as you did. You have given me something to ponder. Thank you.
Jen Monks saysApril 11, 2017 at 8:23 am
It is a constant struggle for me to maintain margins. I tend to overload myself if I’m not mindful of my workaholic tendencies. Thanks for the reminder.
Jennifer Dunham saysApril 11, 2017 at 12:59 pm
This is such a great philosophy to live by! I too found that I was being overloaded with work and stress and needed to leave some space left for just me.
Ashley @ A Lady Goes West saysApril 16, 2017 at 11:55 am
Very interesting, Carla! I like this idea! 🙂 Without a little space in our lives it’s hard to create NEW things, that’s for sure!
Amy saysApril 21, 2017 at 11:30 am
This is so much me. I function well at “super hyper busy,” but if there are unexpected plot twists, I get overwhelmed and cannot function at all. Leaving margins is such a good visual.
Michelle saysApril 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm
Listen to the song Peace of Mind by Boston. Always a great reminder for me.