See this latte? If you’re a coffee drinker, it looks awesome, right? Very inviting. Foamy. Caramel drizzle. Love in a cup, no?
See the mess behind it?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I left it in the picture on purpose. Because lately, that’s just how I roll.
This little story is about more than a steaming vanilla latte on my counter waiting for me.
It’s about mess.
It’s about rest.
It’s about life with no margins versus life with margins.
As a book author, just days away from Not Just on Sundays hitting the public, I am learning a lot about margins. For formatting reasons, I have to have inside and outside margins, so that there is room for the paper to be cut as needed to make a neat, perfect 6 x 9 book. I also need a gutter margin so that there is space in the binding; when someone opens the book, he/she doesn’t want to try to read my words sinking deep into the middle. Needless to say, without margins, books are an epic fail, a mess. They need clear boundaries: distinct “start” and “stop” places for the words. Even the headers and footers need space in-between themselves and the main text. Otherwise, everything lacks clarity.
It turns out life is that way as well. It needs margins. If I plan back-to-back events with my kids, there is no driving time, no accounting for traffic delays, no time set aside to eat. If I overplan our schedules, I can’t pick three kids up from different locations at the same time. Likewise, if they don’t have any time outside of school, cross country, dance, marching band, and karate, they will not be able to do homework, to get rest, to unwind, to restore themselves.
As it turns out, I can’t publish a book and keep my house clean and meet every need in the kids and finish important conversations and remember people’s birthdays and return phone calls within respectful amounts of time and grocery shop. Nope.
For a while, I was putting pressure on myself that I could do all of those things well. Not long after, I quickly swirled into a tunnel of not only can I not do them, but I suddenly couldn’t remember to stop to take my vitamins, shower, read, eat regular meals, etc.
I started living life without margins.
And, like the text of a poorly formatted book, I bled into the margins.
Publishing term for you. Bleed (blēd) (n.) Text or graphics that extends all the way to the edge of the paper it is printed on. Bleeds are used in publishing for graphical effect and for printed tabs. Most printers cannot print all the way to the edge of the paper, so the only way to produce a bleed is to print on paper larger than the final page size and then trim the paper. (v.) To run to the edge of the paper, thereby producing a bleed.
What did living without margins do?
It bled into my relationships (no time to meet).
It bled into parenting and marriage (a lack of patience).
It bled into my sleep patterns (a screen right before bed and a 1:30 AM bedtime).
It bled into my health (one should get regular rest, meals, exercise).
It bled into my prayer life (quickly zapped-off prayers instead of more time listening to Him and dialoging as if we were at coffee together).
But unlike the cover art of a book that is supposed to bleed over the edges for printing purposes, the text of my life was spilling out of the margins. Text needs con-text. And the con-text of my life was living, breathing, eating time up in blog-writing, book pre-launch and launch, and publishing. There was no margin in my context.
So, the latte on my counter? The one with the trash behind it? Today that is my built-in margin. I’m trying to get them back, one edge at a time. The countertop can remain messy for a few days. I’m not superwoman, after all. The laundry is probably not going to make it upstairs, but it’s folded to be pulled out of the basket. The book will be published. It’s just a matter of days now, hopefully.
But I need to get my edges with a little wiggle room again. Otherwise, I’m, well—edgy. And that’s not only not fun to be with, but it’s a hectic way to live…on the edge.
Margins in books are boundaries for the eye to know where to read without too much busy. They are how the mind sorts out headers and footers, but the printer needs the area also to keep the edges clear for paper being cut without taking text with it. I don’t want to have my text removed—either in my book or my life. Without margins, something gets cut out. It has to. We can only do so much.
Margins in life are boundaries too. They are healthy spaces where we are just still. Where we don’t have something scheduled. Where we have down time. Where we say “no” so we don’t lose our context—or the “text” of who we are.
Today the latte mug sits on the counter, happy to be accompanied by trash that will eventually be thrown out. It represents a choice to respect myself and others around me enough to insert margins again.
Is anyone else also needing some?
I want a “rebuke the wind and waves” of life kind of moment. I want to find “completely calm” again in-between the frenzy. Who’s with me?
Mark 4:39, Apostle John-Mark narrating
He [Jesus] got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
Psalm 131:1-2, David speaking
My heart is not proud, O LORD, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
*Update since this post was written: Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day published October 1, 2014. It is available in paperback and as an ebook.