My Word for the Year 2022
Margin. It’s a word made popular back in the day by *Richard Swenson’s book, and a word that I’m slightly embarrassed to claim as my “Word-for-the-Year 2022,” yet it’s the one on the list of several that’s felt the most alluring! (Evidently for David, as well. Unbeknownst to me, he chose the same word—a little creepy-cool!)
Margin’s synonyms include “a boundary, border, or cushion.” I like that last one! So today I’m thinking about my word as an invitation to create space or a “cushion” between things. For me to steward my life well (and not burn-out from our life and work, which could happen), I need to create open space, down time between things.
Too often I pivot quickly from one activity to the next. For instance, I will sit for an hour offering spiritual direction to someone and then pivot quickly to the kitchen and begin to prepare lunch for retreatants. After engaging with our guests around the table at the Abbey, I will pivot quickly to clean up; and then pivot quickly again and respond to emails before I pivot quickly to meet with my next directee. You get the picture.
All this quick pivoting is what is making me tired. Crispy around the edges. Struggling to live in the present. To pivot quickly requires a focus on “what’s next?” And when I focus on “what’s next,” I’m not all that present to “what is,” which is exhausting and diminishes the quality of my life and work!
I do this quick pivot because I perceive the sum of all that needs to be done greater than the sum of time I have to do it. So I manage my responsibilities through being efficient, expedient in my movements. This economy of action is so preoccupying that it detaches me from being present to myself and whatever is happening now. And this is SO opposite of how I want to live, especially as one who claims to be a contemplative. (I am and forever will be always-on-the-way.)
I notice that I feel alive when there’s space to transition from one thing to the next thing. Like yesterday when I took my time to cook, preparing a feast of Coq a Vin for some dear, dear friends we hosted for dinner. When I create adequate cushion between, which is within my capacity to do, I’m able to stay with what I’m doing or who I’m with until that task or conversation is complete.
Margin, the intentional decision to take time between things, is what enables my heart and body to catch up with my attention and actions. It helps me slow down, invites me to take deep breaths, and to live within the cadence of real time where there is always enough time to be and do what truly needs done.
M A R G I N
Just notice how spacious this word looks to the eye, simply by creating space between letters. I believe that God desires for me to live a spacious life. “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place” (Psalm 118:5). To do so, I must create space between the letters. So, now I begin by being mindful of transitions between things, by creating breathing room to pivot slowly, thoughtfully, with presence. Selah!