Whenever people discover that I’m an author in addition to my day job and family life, the usual reaction–other than a mental picture of me eating chips out of a bag while hunkering over my laptop and wearing the same clothes I had on yesterday–is a sense of marvel at how I find the time to write.
With a wife, two kids, and a full-time job that often requires travel, I’ll be the first to admit that time spent writing is a precious commodity. When I first embarked on this adventure, I often felt guilty when I couldn’t find time to open up my laptop and refine a few pages of my current manuscript or continue an exciting scene or exchange of dialogue. One piece of advice that is often beat into the heads of aspiring writers is to write daily, and I took that advice to heart. So when I failed to follow through, the guilt would often consume me.
And then the stress would take over.
If I couldn’t find time each day to write, how would I ever finish this story? How would I improve my writing skills? And if I couldn’t improve my writing skills, how would a publisher ever deem me worthy of publication? Would all of my literary dreams and aspirations go unfulfilled?
Panic and desperation soon followed.
And yet I finally found peace with all of this pressure through two simple words: Breathing room.
Simply put, the term “breathing room” means the space between our current pace and our limits. It’s the space between how fast we’re filling our schedules, how much we’re spending, how we’re relating to the people who matter most to us, and our personal limits. Every person has a certain capacity for how much they can handle, be it their schedule, finances, or relationships. And when we start living our lives in the red and leave no margin for error, when we try to cram as much into our life as humanly possible, we begin to not only lose control, but to lose the joy of living as well.
We know all too well the stress and anxiety that comes from living life in the red and having no breathing room. If one more bill comes in… I have to finish this project… All Mom and Dad do is talk about money… You’re always on the phone… I never see or hear from you any more…
The greatest danger of living with no breathing room is that when we have no margin for error, our focus narrows to the point at which we exclude everything but the one thing in which we’ve reached our limit. As a result, our relationships suffer. We no longer take pleasure in the company of those who matter most because our minds are elsewhere, fixated and worried about trying to regain a sense of control in an area that is quickly careening off the rails.
So why do we do this? Why do we live in the red with no breathing room? It all comes down to fear. We fear missing out or falling behind.
I feared that if I didn’t carve out time each day to write, I would never improve my writing skills, finish my manuscript, and enjoy the same literary success others seemed to have on Facebook. I feared that if we didn’t buy a house in a certain neighborhood, drive a nice enough car, or take an impressive enough vacation I wouldn’t measure up to my peers. I feared that if I pulled my kids from dance lessons, swim lessons, private tutorials, cheerleading, band, and other activities that they may miss out on opportunities to forge strong friendships or academic achievement. And if I did that, would I be limiting their potential and undermining their future?
Because of fear, we have the tendency to max everything out, run full throttle in the red, and leave no room to breathe. And because we fear not mattering enough, our fear has the tendency of driving us from what–and who–matters most.
But what breathing room comes down to is simply a matter of faith.
When God first helped the Israelites establish their nation, he gave them ten commandments. One of them was to keep the Sabbath holy. In other words, He instructed His people to take a day off because He knew how we were wired. Don’t worry about not harvesting all of the crops today. Don’t worry about not sewing clothes or putting a roof over your head. Don’t worry about your child’s education. Don’t worry about the demands at work. Our Heavenly Father says, “Trust me. Just take some time. And breathe.”
Jesus reminded us of God’s intention for us to create breathing room when he said, “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans pursue all these things, and your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you…”
Our Heavenly Father knows our concerns. Always. What we need to do is trust Him with that knowledge, take a moment, and… breathe.
Scott works in state government as a leadership development specialist. He speaks frequently to State agencies, organizations, and non-profits on leadership, teamwork, and generational differences in the workplace. Scott has a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from Texas Wesleyan University, but is a rabid, life-long fan of the TCU Horned Frogs. He is the author of the supernatural suspense novel Sunrise and lives in the suburbs of Austin with his wife and two precocious daughters - who enthusiastically assist him in his search for the perfect combination of chocolate and peanut butter.
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