The Margins

August 5, 2017

I was asked to arrange a meeting with a few consultant services who regularly participate in the care of our patients. I glanced through my calendar…between my call schedule, some upcoming travel and some events with the family, I found just three possible dates in August. It came as no surprise that the invited attendees weren’t available those dates, so back to the calendar…very few dates in September, even fewer in October. It could be Thanksgiving before we get together. This is ridiculous.

There’s the training course I need to take that I squeezed in by flying out on my post-call day, with a quick turn around, flying home in less than 24 hours. The lunch with the girl friends, also on a post-call day…two hours away…but it was then or never. The dentist appointment had to get cancelled. The hair cut rescheduled. I left one meeting early yesterday to get to another on time. I ate my lunch in the car on the way to pick up Allie. I turned down invitations to two other events, including the panel discussion by the Women in Surgery Group on “How to Successfully Balance Work and Family Life as a Woman in Surgery”…the irony is not lost on me. There are unopened packages of curtains that need to be hung in the boys’ rooms; Allie’s beautiful art pieces remain in the bag…waiting for me to paint her room before we hang them…but I just haven’t had time to tackle these projects. Our life is covered in Legos and dog hair, and most nights, it’s just easier to step over the piles of laundry and toys and brush off the couch, to push the mail aside, and just fall into bed.

The alarm starts squawking at 4:45am. I slide out of bed and stumble to the kitchen in the dark. I press the “go” button on the coffee maker and try to take in the silence for just a few minutes while I eat my breakfast and cradle my coffee. These are the moments I read, study, journal, and pray. My heart has been heavy for social justice issues recently…sex trafficking, slave trade that supplies our inexpensive goods, refugees from war-torn nations, immigrants denied safe passage by intolerant governments, innocent children ill from unsanitary drinking water; the poor, the imprisoned, the rejected and the broken-hearted. I have done two studies on the topic. I have been trying to buy goods marked as Fair Trade; I try to recycle and reduce our footprint. We give money to worthy endeavors and our Life Group supports a shelter once a month that serves meals to the needy…except, I have never been there. I have always been on call, or driving kids around, or in a meeting. Suddenly, I am pierced by the reality that the said ache in my heart has no actual space in my life. I have no margin to participate in the things I have said are so important to me.

Why are we so proud of all of the things we can get done in a day; all of the meetings we can attend, how we strategically fill every minute and at the end of the day say, “Wow, I was so busy, and I got so much done!” Why does this culture of busyness consume us? Why, instead, are we not proud of the hour of downtime we created for ourselves for spontaneous conversations? Why are we not proud of the time we schedule for ourselves to take care of our home and our family? Why do we feel guilty for the empty time on the calendar not filled with meetings and dinner dates and kids’ sports events? Why are we not proud of creating margins in our life? Why don’t we sit at work and say, “You should turn down a few more evening events, conferences, and “opportunities”, so that you have space for giving and living without being so rushed?” We book ourselves so tight, we are in a constant stare with our calendars on our phones so we don’t miss anything…and all the while, we are missing life in the margins. The life that comes from slowing down and indulging in a creative project; from caring for ourselves, our families, and our homes; from the life that is richer when we create enough margin to serve our neighbors instead of ourselves. I hope that I can release the guilt I feel from having unaccounted for time, margins, so that I have the space to restore myself, my family, and my world.


Disclaimer: My viewpoints are not necessarily reflective of my employer, or any local, regional or national organization that I belong to. As a matter of fact, I pretty much just speak for myself. Please keep that in mind.

1 Comment

  1. Reply

    John Jung

    So true. Even in “retirement” I feel guilty if I am not busy, producing, “getting things done”. It is hard to re-learn to take the spaces where we find them and enjoy that moment. Ah, the joy of the spontaneous 3 year old!

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