A couple weeks ago I had a brief conversation with the executive director of the hospice I’m interning at. This is rare so I was very attentive to what he had to say. (Talk about top and bottom of the totem pole.) He was telling me how it’s hard to run a hospice with a business mindset because of the nature of the work, but yet, it is a business. The conversation started with me telling him I had one month left in my internship and him apologizing that they didn’t have a position for me. Money is tight and the bureaucracy of hospice care has gotten more strict. Everything has to be run efficiently and effectively.
He then went on a spiel about margin. “Mission equals margin,” he said. If you don’t have margin, you can’t move forward.
I had been thinking and reading about “margin” a lot lately [read this blog post], so that remark seemed very timely. What is margin? In my mind, margin is space, allowance. Margin is breathing room. Margin also reminds me of that moment when you’re writing a paper and think you’re done, and then you remember you never set the margins at 1″ all around, and when you do, now your paper isn’t long enough.
Margin is something I rarely have in my life. Margin is something I want to strive for. I’m about to step into a new chapter (more details later) and I see it as a perfect opportunity to set margins. And live in them, for real, not in theory.
Financial margin. This is the one most people think of with margin. Or more realistically, how most of us cosmically FAIL at financial margin. You know what the facts say – we spend more than we make, we have tons of debt, we can’t keep a handle on our finances. I don’t know about you, but nothing gives me more anxiety than when I’m stressing out about money. NOTHING. It’s sad. I’m not going to tell you how to have financial margin in your life because 1) you’ve already been told 38 different ways and 2) I have no merit with this, I’m learning myself. But I will sum it up with this: Financial margin gives you peace of mind.
And you know, tithing is good. That’s all I will say on it. Give something to God.
Time margin. This relates to the blog post I linked up there. It’s amazing what we’ve all packed into a 24 hour day. Or how much we commit. I think we’re afraid of being left behind, so we are in “community” all the time. Which is okay. If you have margin. But aside from commitments, what about other places where time is crunched? Like getting ready in the morning, or getting ready for bed? Meals? What if you allowed yourself extra time for….nothing? For just in case? For breathing? Or prayer? Or just sitting there spaced out? It’s good for you. And it may also provide opportunities you didn’t see before because you were too busy being busy.
For the record, the Hootie and the Blowfish song successfully invaded my brain during this paragraph.
Emotional margin. Sometimes our emotionality is simply invaded by outside forces, I get that. My last three weeks have been unbelievably emotional and all over the spectrum. Luckily, I feel that I was able to cope (kinda) well because the two months prior were emotionally boring. Not much happened. Life was clockwork. I unknowingly created emotional margin. And I think there are practical (not easy, practical) ways you can give yourself emotional margin. Don’t start something new that you know will take a large amount of emotional energy if you’re already at capacity or if you’re getting away from something that also required emotional stamina. READ: Relationships. Again, a lot of this stuff is out of our control. –> All the more reason to give yourself emotional margin, so you have the capacity to take the hits when they come. And I’m not just talking about the bad/sad/mad stuff. This is true for the good parts too. Emotions happen when there is a change. And whether the change is good or bad, you will go through an emotional process that will most likely have some scary parts in it. If you don’t have margin, it could put you over the edge, whatever that may mean to you.
However, the most significant and crucial reason to have emotional margin is so you can be there when your loved ones need you. Which brings me to…
Relational margin. Simply, leave room in your life for new people. And don’t push out the “old” people. Be aware and be sensitive. Like Maya Angelou said all over Pinterest – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Don’t overload yourself with relationships. Leave room for margin. Sit at home on Saturday night sometime, it’s really not that scary. Also, the grocery store is really empty then too.
Okay, I’ve written margin so many times now it looks weird, and it’s starting to make me think of margarine. Margin people! Margin your life 🙂 It’s good for you.