Margins

Empty space, right?  A strict utilitarian might look at empty space like a margin in a book, newspaper, or a website as wasted opportunity.

Fill it with more color, more ads, more text, more-more-more.

Once it’s full though, the margin has lost its original intended use: a passive method of delineation.

A book’s margins don’t necessarily represent a failure to utilize one-hundred percent of a piece of paper or a screen.  Sometimes, when it’s done with intention, it can be used to create the space necessary to help draw the eyes to the what matters: the content or the message.  It delineates the content from the medium.

An investor or CEO might see the margins on a balance sheet or financial report and think that they’re not big enough.  A better question might be “what does the lack of margins represent?”  Does it represent consistent, sustained investment in growth?  Or does it mean there’s some mis-alignment of priorities?  Margins in this case might delineate a successful strategy from one that isn’t.

Margins are everwhere.  Margins for error, margins for budgets, even the proverbial “margins” of our lives and the events that fill them.

In the micro-view, in purely focusing on our personal or professional lives specifically, what do the margins represent?  Do they represent intentional separation of concerns and delineation?  Or does it represent space?  An opportunity for something?

What we decide to do with those margins is part of the work.  And it’s an opportunity many of us get but few of us utilize to its fullest potential.  Choose wisely.

Separation

Sometimes a little separation is necessary.

Consider a welding machine like a MIG or TIG welder. Too much separation and there isn’t enough electrical arc and heat generated on the metal to bond it.  Too little and you end-up fusing the welding gun or your bonding material to the metal directly.  Not ideal in either case.

A little proverbial distance can give you a lot more than just perspective, it can sometimes be the key to unlocking new insights or seeing something much more clearly.  Taking the necessary time away from work, family, friends, obligations, and commitments might be the best way to gain a better understanding of your efforts and priorities.

But the inevitable return is what separates a beneficial (albeit temporary) separation from a detrimental one.  Eventually you have to go back and take the insights and wisdom gained back to the effort.

Letting “eventually” be the interval is just stalling.  Don’t wait, because the world won’t.

Monologues

If our inner monologues are saying things that we wouldn’t say to anyone else out loud, what purpose does that serve?

If our inner monologues are reinforcing values and beliefs that aren’t true anymore, why do we still believe them?

If our inner monologues are telling us things that are distorting our view of the world, why do we continue to let them speak?

If circumstances and experiences have changed, then it’s time to change our inner narrative.

Doing what’s good for us…

Sometimes means leaving behind something that we love or care about too much.

Leaving Facebook because it’s too toxic and doesn’t add value to our lives.

Declining additional commitments or dropping them because we’re over-subscribed.

Avoiding taking on additional work when we’re already working at our limit.

And sometimes it means simply saying “no thank you”.

Communicating

It’s easy to fall into the fallacy that effective communication is more about being clear than it is about honesty.

Presenting information in a clear and engaging way is certainly helpful.

Presenting your information with honesty and humility does more to engage your audience than anything else.

The hallmark of a great communicator is someone who can balance both, and it’s a great feeling to know that you’re trying.

Emotional thievery

Depression and trauma commit the most heinous of crimes.

They steal our ability to be happy, to love unconditionally, and to be fully present.

They make it hard to comprehend that our suffering isn’t grounded in a complete and holistic view of reality.

They prevent us from being able to understand that all of us are struggling in our own ways.

They keep us from knowing intrinsically that our experiences and feelings are valid.

We shouldn’t have to be reminded that our lives and our experiences are valid and valuable, but trauma and depression make it necessary.

What’s worse is that being subject to these conditions wasn’t up to us.  We didn’t ask to be afflicted with a crippling series of disorders where each decision is questioned, where every effort feels useless, and where all hope randomly fades from view.

But what was always has to be separated from what is for people suffering from depression and trauma.  Because without constantly having a different view proffered and reinforced from others, we become stuck.  We are only able to see what we can see, and that often means being stuck in a loop not of our making.

Depression and trauma have no known cure.  They’re conditions that have to be actively managed and the people suffering from them need support.

It’s a tough road survivors have to tread.  No one should have to walk it alone.

Fractures

Muscle fibers and tendons can tear during training.

Bones can fracture and break during the execution.

Brain cells can fire white-hot through the effort.

The thing about things that break, is the fact that if the organism survives, the organism has the opportunity to strengthen and improve.

Muscle fibers and tendons strengthen after periods of rest and careful maintenance.

Bones repair and harden where they were broken if they’re looked after.

Brain cells and neural pathways re-wire and strengthen bonds during periods of rest and rejuvenation.

But it’s not just our biology that can fracture.  Social, political, and economic bonds and structures can fracture.  The bonds that rend themselves under the weight of our egos, our inability to empathize or see each other from a position of vulnerability and openness.

Our inability to empathize in some way with the lives of rural communities when we live in relative comfort and privilege of urban life.  Conversely, the inability of rural communities to empathize with the continuing plight of urban lives who labor under pressures they can neither control nor comprehend.

Without doing the emotional and spiritual labor of trying to lift the proverbial weight of empathy, without causing some rifts and fractures of our own, this kind of strength will elude us indefinitely.

As political, social, and economic forces endeavor to stratify and drive us further apart from one another.  As our bonds continue to strain well beyond their breaking points.  Our ability to understand that without stress or repairable fractures, without friction or frisson, we do not strengthen, change, or evolve depends upon us engaging in the everyday labor.

A life without labors, tears, friction, fractures, or exertion is a life that cannot and will not ever become something more.