Rediscovering the Margins in Life

By Karen Hendricks

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This week marks a milestone of sorts… it’s been exactly a year since I left a (more than) full-time, wonderful but crazy position in public relations. And during the past 365 days, my life has gotten back on track. My health is healthier, my family feels closer, my friendships are deeper, and my home-based business and  freelance work is extremely fulfilling. What an amazing turnaround. And it all revolves around TIME.

How often do you think about TIME during one day? It’s not on our side! Is there ever such as thing as having “extra time” in today’s fast-paced life? (Rhetorical question!) Time goes by too quickly, and those of us with children growing right before our eyes can attest to this fact on a daily basis. (Thank goodness the weather is getting warmer and I don’t have to see the bottom of my son’s jeans creeping ever higher into ankle territory. Shorts are becoming  a part of the daily wardrobe, yahoo!)

My children are growing up, like yours, in a fast-paced, digital world. There isn’t a need for good old-fashioned notebook paper that often, although we do keep a stock in our house for homework. I remember going through reams of notebook paper during my school years! So the word “margin” will forever be tied to an image of notebook paper for me.

One of the wonderful additions to my life, during the past year, now that I have a more flexible schedule and a few pockets of TIME for myself… an amazing women’s group that meets weekly at my church. What an inspiration this group is! Right now we are reading the book Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. The subtitle is Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Wow, who couldn’t use some of that advice?! No wonder it is a best seller… given our hectic lives and crazy calendars.

Swenson calls “margin” that “space that once existed between ourselves and our limits…. When you reach the limits of your resources or abilities, you have no margin left.” Some of the best stuff in life happens in the margins, in our unstructured time. This is the time where families enjoy time together or friends pick up the phone or stop by. Basically, relationships grow, within the margins of our lives, according to Swenson.

Think about the margin you enjoy… or are lacking… in your daily life. Do you recognize or ignore your limits? Do you schedule your entire day from start to finish? Or do you have some wiggle room, down time, time to just BE?  My margin is probably not as wide as it should be, but I do have a sliver. And I’m holding onto it!

notebook paper

How wide are the margins in your life?


10 thoughts on “Rediscovering the Margins in Life

  1. First of all, congratulations on your first year off the merry-go-round! That’s certainly worth celebrating! Also I love this idea of paying attention to the margins of our lives — and trying to broaden them when we can. It’s a way of acknowledging the value of unstructured time. So much of what I do is oriented toward collecting checkmarks on my to-do list — thanks for the reminder that the really good stuff in life doesn’t happen in my daily planner!

    • Exactly! It sure feels good to cross things off our lists–you are right about that. I think awareness of those margins is the first step towards a healthier balance of responsibilities vs. unstructured time. Then the broadening can begin! Many thanks for the “congrats.” 🙂

  2. Explained in a wunderful format Karen – I believe it’s one of the major keys in life and so over looked by individuals & the workforce. I know I had a limited margin for many years and missed out on a lot, just now trying to get familiar defining the little margin I currently view….and I still use notebooks/paper and keep those checklists!!!

  3. I am wondering if, like me, our readers might want to read a few tips for widening those margins in our lives? Or, if anyone in our community has found a way to create those coveted spaces – thoughts?

    • Very good point and question, Jennifer. As I get deeper into the book I just might follow-up with another blog on the subject with tips on how to expand and widen those priceless margins!

      I know for me personally, one of the keys to creating margin is saying “yes” only to those projects I know I can truly take on and fit into my schedule. It is not a crime to say “no.”

  4. Something I strive for and am more aware of as I get older, and more cognizant of the value and power of that little word “no” (as you note in the preceding comment) — even as I continue “on” the merry-go-round, but gratefully with a job that has significant flexibility (a curse at times, I suppose, too as it lends itself to more regular burning of the candle at both ends!) — me time is important, though, and I will be shifting to the work computer shortly for an hour or two before getting to sleep, but enjoyed a walk with the dogs tonight, some unwind time reading blogs I enjoy (and discovering new ones 🙂 ), and spending time with my family just talking about upcoming activities, school, etc. I am at a stage in life where margins are going to be thinner, as we juggle college search, high school activities, job demands, etc. Perspective and balance are critical.

  5. You are right on target, Kat. Sounds like you are on your way to recognizing and savoring the margin in your life–even if it IS slim at this point! The fact that you have dogs helps so much… they have to be walked, and that time spent with them is so beneficial for both your four-legged friends and yourself! You have to find margin where you can… 🙂

  6. Pingback: Being Content: In the Midst of Typhoons, Tornadoes, Thanksgiving and Black Friday Sales | Off the Merry-Go-Round

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