Life Without Margins

The pandemic has left us with blurred roles. Our roles as parents bled into roles as workers, spouses, and sometimes teachers too. Now that the pandemic has cooled, some are struggling to reestablish their footing in their home, work, and social lives. In some ways, the pandemic left us without margins.

Imagine, if you will, an office memo that was filled with words from edge to edge and top to bottom. What if it lacked punctuation too? How hard would it be to read or enjoy?

In the same way, our lives need margins too. This is why we have weekends and snow days, and vacations! We take the time to mark beginnings and endings like weddings and funerals, and birthdays. Without margins and “punctuation,” there is no time to step back and think higher thoughts about who we are and what we do. We lose the “why.” It is the savoring and reflecting we do in those “off” times that give us life’s flavor.

Here are some fresh ideas to help you find or create some wild unfilled places in your life that will set you free.

Fire yourself and make yourself CEO. That’s right, have an out-of-body experience. Freeze yourself and gently float out of your body and bob up to the ceiling.

Now look down at that person below you. How are they doing? Are they happy? Are they tired? Are they buried under a never-ending to-do list? As an employee, what do they need to do their job better? What resources would benefit their work? To increase their joy in productivity? Be the best boss ever and decide if they need a vacation, more time alone, or maybe more schooling. Think about how you can gently encourage and enable them to thrive. What difficulties can you take off their plate?

Goodness of Fit. The right outfit can make you look and feel great. If your life was an outfit, what would it look like? Does it look good on you? Is it comfortable to wear? Where is it tight? Where is it too sloppy? Perhaps there are pieces of the outfit that just aren’t “you” anymore. Like, “Why am I still wearing these leopard print pants?” “Or why am I still wearing worn and torn jeans that look like they were pulled out of a dumpster?” Here is a challenge; ask three close friends how your life is fitting on you. If you find an ill-fitting spot, try changing something. Anything. Nothing changes until something changes.

Running on Empty. Every person needs power, love, belonging, freedom, and fun. Take a moment and draw five gas gauges and put an E for empty and F for full in each gauge. Label the gauges with power, love, belonging, freedom, and fun. Now mark with a line how full each tank is. Where are you running low? Which answers surprised you? What can you do today to fill the tanks that are running low?

Running on empty never feels good. Life is a balance. We are always in flux. Filling our tanks and the tanks of people we love every morning is the key to happiness. Take a moment to cuddle your loved one before you get up. Be silly and playful with your kids. Give yourself permission to get the double mocha latte today! Phone a friend and be there for each other. Arrange time apart from everyone to be free and “off the leash” for a while.

Quit one good thing a month. Bob Goff, an author who describes himself as a recovering lawyer, has an inspirational bucket list of amazing things he has done. One of his many secrets is to quit one good thing a month. Every month he looks at all the good things he is doing. Then he finds the one that is no longer a good fit, and he bumps it from his life. Doing “good things” can take over. After a while, we are doing so many “good things” that our sense of freedom and our sense of being who we need to be can get lost in the process.

No matter which of the previous metaphors worked for you, begin today with the intention of creating open spaces in your life. Make room for possibilities, inspiration, and fun. This is never a finished work. It is THE work