At the left edge of every sheet of loose leaf notebook paper is a red line. It’s called a margin. It gives the writer a boundary that should not be crossed.

The margin says, “Yes, you’re cooking along, keep going, that’s right, that’s how you do it, oh, wait! Stop. Don’t go past this line; you don’t want to go too far. Going past this line will mess you up.”  

​The margin tells the writer when to stop.

It takes care of the writer.

If we want to take care of ourselves in life, we need margins. Boundaries. We need to find those places at the beginning and the end of the work we’re doing where we stop.

Where we find our moments of rest.

We are looking, for the more spiritually-inclined, for some kind of sabbath.

The key to finding the margins, however, is to reflect on your day (or your week or even just your weekend) and figure out where there might be some moments when you can stop and just be, some time when life is telling you that you have a boundary and can set up a window of respite and breathe, take care of yourself, and rest.

Some of your margins may look like this:
–A bike ride after school on Thursday afternoon when you have fewer obligations
–Reading for pleasure on a Friday night
–Taking a hike on a beautiful Sunday afternoon
–Sitting for awhile in your easy chair in the family room after a day of teaching
–Going to the bagel place for a nosh and a cup of java in the morning on the day your school has a late start day because of staff professional development meetings
If we look closely, our margins are all around us.

​Yesterday, for example, I had a private tutoring session scheduled at 10:30 a.m. at a local Starbucks with a college student who needed some help with his English class. Knowing the session was scheduled for 10:30, I arrived about 9:15 to create a margin for myself that would include some slow, deep breathing, reading for pleasure, hot decaf coffee, and a hot buttered croissant.

Sure, the sacrifice was that I had to wake up just a wee bit earlier than I absolutely had to, but the psychological benefits of creating that margin far outweighed the the sacrifice (at least on that day; other days I may have chosen to snore it up for even just a few more minutes because–guess what?–that’s a kind of margin of its own). But yesterday, I knew I wanted, needed, some time just for me to decompress and indulge in a few moments of intentional and radical self-care.

Finding that red line at the edge of the paper—in other words, your own personal margins in your life–can sometimes mean the difference between continuing on a never-ending Merry-Go-Round of stress and obligation or regrouping and renewing your spirit and rediscovering your sense of purpose.  

And if the red line takes care of the writer on the page, you certainly deserve for your own margins to take care of you in your life.

I challenge you to find your margins.

And use them. TZT