margins

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I had set each obligation up like a domino, tucked in side by side, nearly touching. I had put together the puzzle perfectly, each item snugly placed next to another.

The problem with that is when one domino falls, so do the others. The problem is, when you move one puzzle piece, the others move too.

It’s 5 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, just before I leave work for the day. I look down at my lap top bag. It looks heavy. And cumbersome. All day I’ve held the heavy weight of 1,000 details. I’m too exhausted to pick it up. I could just leave it for tonight, I think. I won’t need it. It seems like a great idea at the time.

Later at home, my coworker texts me, asking for information tucked away within the files of that computer. One simple little number that any other night would be at my fingertips. But instead, it’s across town, leaning on my file cabinet at work.

I sigh and work up a plan, setting up the first of a string of dominoes. I tell her I’ll come in early the next morning and text her the information she needs. Problem solved.

I’ve got this, I think.

That night I lay away late, blazing through the chapters of a book we are supposed to discuss early the next morning. It’s 11:30 p.m. by the time I turn off my light. It’s not an ideal bedtime, but oh well.

It’s OK. I’ve got this.

I run through the plan once before I doze off. Step one: Duck into my office and dig up that number my co-worker needs. Step two: Grab a chair with the rest of the staff, participating fully in the discussion, because, of course, I have read the chapters. Step three: Scramble to send emails and answer calls and finalize details on my five trips headed out in the next month. Step four: Conduct an interview during my lunch for a freelance newspaper assignment. Step five: More scrambling. Step six: Band practice after work. Step seven: Run home to write the freelance story.

I’ve got this.

The next morning, I am ready early. I’ve got my coffee. I’ve got my phone. I’ve got my book. I’ve got it together. I get in my car and turn the key.

Silence.

Well, this is inconvenient, I think.

I sigh and send out a batch of mini SOS’s. I text my coworker the news. My car is dead. I can’t come in early. I call and walk her through the process to extract the information she needs herself, while stopping mid-directions to field replies and text my boss that I’m stranded. “You need help?” he asks. “Yes please!” I respond.

The minutes tick by with no confirmation. He’s probably driving, I think. He’s probably on the way. I look at my phone. “TEXT NOT SENT” my phone reads in red. I sigh.

A half hour later, I’m on my way. My car jumped, humming contently. I’ve got my coffee. I’ve got my book. I’m over a half hour late, but it’s OK. The plan is still salvageable.

I’ve got this, I think.

I walk in the door, breathless, only to hear music, not banter and laughter and the sound of discussion. We didn’t need to read the chapters, it dawns on me. I never looked at the schedule. We’re having a prayer and worship morning instead. I look at my calendar and notice another meeting I had failed to account for. And I remember that I haven’t even listened to the songs I need to play at band practice, much less practiced on my own. I haven’t practiced for a set I’m playing tomorrow night either. I haven’t cleaned for my mom’s visit this weekend. I haven’t told my roommate my mom is coming. I never wrote a friend that card for his birthday. Wait, isn’t it Father’s Day on Sunday?… The list of “I haven’ts” spills out in a rush of broken and failed intentions. The dominoes buzz by as they fall.

It’s then I realize: I don’t have this. A plan in shambles is what I have.

It turns out a little time with God in prayer is exactly what I need.

This is what happens when you tuck in those dominoes too close together. This is what happens when you piece together a puzzle on a card table with broken legs. This is a taste of a life with no space allowed for the unexpected. No back up plans. No buffers.

This is a life without margins.

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