Posted in minimal moments

Say Yes to Margin (note to dyslexics: this is not an anti-butter rant)

How are you doing? Is every day so full that you often don’t get through the To Do List? Are you, like me, just a teensy bit proud of having a long To Do list each day? Does it make you feel important to be busy all the time? To tell people who ask how you are,”Good! But really busy”? How’s that busyness working for you? Are you enjoying your life?

Do you feel guilty when you find time — or take time — for a leisurely walk that doesn’t involve an errand or aerobic exercise? Does your conscience wag its finger at you when you wander out to your yard or garden or a nearby green space and just enjoy the aroma of growing things?

Well smarten up! I include myself in that reprimand. Remember Richard Swenson, MD, who wrote that fabulous book a few decades ago called Margin? That book was born out of his own experience. Apparently he was treating patients whose health was adversely affected by stress caused by overloading their lives  — leaving no margin. He described margin as the white space around the edges of a page in a book. They were writing their life all the way to the edges of the page, filling their every waking minute with too much and their bodies simply rebelled and made them sick. His “prescription” to many people was not pharmaceutical, but logical: cut back on your commitments and create some margin.

Then Swenson did something radical — he took a shot of his own medicine! He looked at his 80-hour work week and the problems that created for his family, his body, and his emotions and decided to cut his work hours in half — and his pay checque! It wasn’t easy, he confessed, but it paid off.

When the organizer of my town’s Diabetes Fund Drive called me this week to ask if I could go door to door in my neighborhood this fall — I have done it in the past — I looked at my schedule to see if it would work. The dates for the campaign were October 18 to November 18. I am scheuled to be in the USA speaking with Girls Night Out for all of those dates except one week around Halloween but during my week at home I have a speaking event in Edmonton. With the phone in one hand and my calendar in the other, I tried to figure out a way I could fit in the canvassing on the few days I am home with my husband, kids, grandkids and friends that I will have been away from for weeks. Seriously! 

Then I came to my senses, remembered Dr. Swenson’s advice and did what he recommended — say no, not to bad stuff, but to good stuff that is just too much. I politely and graciously said, “I am very sorry but I can’t help you this year,” and I explained why. The woman was even more gracious in her response, completely absolving me of any guilt for saying no. Nonetheless, I still felt guilty for several hours even though I knew I had made the right decision.It was hard to say no. But I eventually got over it when I thought about when that week in November rolls around and I am back home for a few fleeting days of rest, recovery and reconnection with my loved ones. Not only I will be glad I said no, but my family will be glad too.

What’s your life like? Is every page full right to the edges? Does that feeling of importance at being busy compensate for the lack of enjoyment you could have if you had some margin in your life? Is there some good stuff you need to cut out, or cut back on, that will give  you the margin you need for wellness?

I wrote this post in September but never posted it. Why not? I was probably too busy! However, Here I am “living” the very week I was writing about two months ago and I am so thankful I said no to a good thing because it has allowed me the time to reconnect with my nearest and dearest. Tomorrow, when I leave town for another 10 day speaking tour, I go refreshed emotionally and physically because I said yes to margin.


Christian writer and speaker trying to follow God one yes at a time.

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