“What I love about margin is that when you claim that space, it’s a big middle finger to what’s expected of us. (And I love rebellion.)”
When we create more margin in our lives, we treat ourselves with more respect and gentleness. Because we are worthy of it. Do you believe that? Your life is meant to be slowly savored and experienced to the fullest of your ability, and that’s life’s beautiful gift to you. You deserve margin. It’s your life.
I remember the day well.
I sat alone in a conference room at my full-time job, staring at a blank legal pad waiting for a conference call to begin. My short-staffed department had been spread thin for quite some time. We were on the brink of our busiest season of the year and my non-profit salary wasn’t quite stretching as far as I needed it to.
Truth be told, I’d been struggling financially for a couple of years. But I loved my coworkers and the work I got to do so much, I just tried to ignore the pocketbook strain and make the make the best of it.
A few months prior, I launched a freelance graphic design, copywriting and marketing strategy business to help make ends meet. I’d been burning the candle at both ends, working on freelance projects every single evening and weekend for months.
As I dazed out into the whiteness of the paper in front of me, I realized that I was done. My heart wasn’t present in any of the work I was doing, anymore.
I was about 10% invested in my full-time job, and the rest of me was grasping for some passion to apply to my freelance work to help me remember why it was something I loved rather than something I needed to pay my bills.
I hadn’t cooked a nutritious meal for myself in weeks. Every minute of my time belonged to someone else. I was exhausted. Running well below empty. Completely finished. Tears welled up in my eyes and that too-familiar cry ball rose up in my throat when I realized what I needed to do.
But the next morning, I walked into my boss’ office and said, “I feel like I’m on the brink of some kind of breakdown. I feel crazy. I think I’m at my limit. Something’s telling me to stop.” This wasn’t the first time that I’d felt that overwhelming sense of desperation; a guttural cry for everything to just stop.
But it was the first time in my nine-year career that I actually stood up and did something about it. So I quit my full-time job and lept into the financially risky but personally rewarding world of self-employment.
My employer was genuinely sad to see me go, but understood and graciously agreed to seek a replacement for my position while allowing me to reduce to part-time hours for a few months so that I could have more margin in my life.
That beautiful word has become sacred to me. I’ve learned that margin isn’t built into our lives. We have to fight for it. Every. Single. Day. Your boss won’t fight for it. Your kids won’t fight for it. You have to put your arms out and place those boundaries by yourself. It’s a practice in peace, in slowness, in fully living each hour we’re given and being kind to ourselves in it.
Here are three things I learned while reclaiming the margin in my life.
1. Margin is rebellion.
What I love about margin is that when you claim that space, it’s a big middle finger to what’s expected of us. (And I love rebellion.) In America, success looks like busyness and it gets rewarded. If we don’t accomplish something every day, we label ourselves lazy failures.
We’re expected to say, “YES!” to every opportunity. But do you know what it feels like to say, “NO!” a little more often? Rebellion. Empowerment. It feels like life.
2. Margin is freedom.
For me, margin is found in a gut-level attitude of, “I’m going to do what I want with this moment.” I don’t reject responsibility or freelance project deadlines, but I do intentionally carve out space to interact freely with my day.
When I allow myself to call the shots, most often I end up automatically filling that space with things that bring my heart and soul to life. Writing. Reading. Praying or meditating. Listening to music and really experiencing it.
Making myself an actual breakfast. Attending a yoga class. Going for a run to a playlist of my favorite songs. Taking two extra minutes in the shower just to find comfort and peace in it.
And yeah — I won’t pretend that it doesn’t sometimes look like three (or five) episodes of Friends with a glass (or two) of wine.
As creating margin is becoming more like second-nature to me, I’ve noticed that I am more able to recognize little things throughout my day that I would have missed before.
Sometimes it’s noticing something beautiful in nature. Sometimes it’s being present enough to smile at a person passing me on the sidewalk on my way to the coffee shop. Sometimes it’s taking action on a spontaneous idea to buy a treat for a friend and deliver it to them.
Sometimes it’s realizing I have free time and I could get a lot of laundry done, and sometimes doing laundry looks like self-care when it means you’ll have your favorite clothes available to wear and one less thing on your to-do list.
When I had no time to spare, I lived in that place and never questioned it. I accepted busyness as my reality and passively laid down and made my home in it. Living in this new philosophy, I’ve opened up a world of freedom, choice, and an opportunity to be surprised and delighted by tiny moments in each day.
3. Margin is self-respect.
When we start to create more margin in our lives, we treat ourselves with more respect and gentleness. Because we are worthy of it. Do you believe that? Your life is meant to be slowly savored and experienced to the fullest of your ability, and that’s life’s beautiful gift to you. You deserve margin. It’s your life.
So find your margin. Whatever that looks like for you. Fight for it. Protect it. Maintain it. Savor your precious life. Slow down. Your life depends on it.
For more, visit my blog A Study in Slow or you can follow me on Facebook.
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