Tina took a deep breath, and leaned back from the table.
She smiled. Smiling felt very good. She felt good, too. Realizing that made her smile even more. It felt nice to not have to force it, and it felt nice to have had someone like Iz listen to her story of what she had been going through, too.
Iz laughed, and said, “It looks like you found some of what you were looking for a little while ago when you were standing in line at the counter!”
“What?” Tina asked, laughing a little as she thought about it. “My mind? I can’t believe I did that! Saying it out loud – so out loud! “Where did I lose it?” Then all of those people starting looking around for it, trying not to step on it? Whatever it is.”
“Margin,” Iz said. “It’s called margin. And you just found some, right here.”
Tina looked a little puzzled. “What? Margin? Where?” They both laughed as she looked all around and under the table in a pretty good imitation of the puzzled people who were in line with her.
Iz extended her hand toward Tina, and held her thumb and index finger about an inch apart. “Space,” she said. “Margin is just a little space. Like when you took that deep breath a few moments ago.”
Tina nodded for her to go on.
“When your breathing is rushed,” Iz continued, “its almost like not breathing at all. With no rest between breaths, no margin, just breathing in and out as fast as you can, you feel like you can’t catch your breath, like you’re going to pass out. And sometimes people do.”
“We need margin in between the things in our lives. Sometimes even a small amount is enough, just like the small amount of margin that we have when we’re breathing easily and peacefully.”
“When we are breathing without margin between breaths, we are hyperventilating. That can get very uncomfortable, very fast.”
“If you realized you were hyperventilating what would you do, Tina?”
Tina answered quickly and instinctively. “I would tell myself to slow down, and breathe a little more deeply and slowly. I would do that until I started to feel OK again.”
“Perfect!” Iz responded. “And I’m guessing that as soon as you started to breathe with a natural, relaxed rhythm again, you would keep doing it.”
“So you’re telling me that you wouldn’t use hyperventilating as a technique to squeeze in absolutely as much breathing as you possibly could cram into a day?” Iz asked, with a slight tilt of her head, smiling.
“No!” Tina replied. She had a pretty good idea that this breathing thing was going somewhere. She just wasn’t sure where yet.
“Good,” said Iz, leaning in. “Because that’s the same reason that cramming as much stuff as we can into a day – overfilling it with as many appointments, phone calls, emails, meetings, going to the gym, driving between all of it, and a whole lot of other important things – without any margin in between isn’t a good plan, either.”
“Hyperventilating our breathing, and hyperfilling our days: both have the same effect. They keep us exhausted.”
“I’m definitely getting what Iz is saying,” Tina thought as she nodded her head affirmatively. “Now, can I really do it?”
Iz stretched her arms over her head, brought them back down to the table, and smiled at Tina.
“I have to get back to work now,” she said. “Thanks for trusting me and telling me about what’s been going on inside. It has been an honor for me, and I believe that you’re at the beginning of creating some real margin in your life, too. Try it out, just a little, and then let’s get back together again next week. I want to hear how things went for you!”
“Wait,” Tina said, tapping her watch. “You still have five minutes left on your 30 minute break! Why are you going back now?”
Iz just tilted her head and looked back at Tina.
“Wha . . . ?” Tina started to say, then went on: “OK. I got it. At least I think I’ve got it. Margin, right? But you’re only 15 feet away! Why five minutes? I know you’re not that slow!”
Smiling as she gathered up their coffee mugs and stood up from the table, Iz responded, “Sure, its only 15 feet. That five minutes gives me a little space and time to transition back to work without rushing back. Part of the fun for me working here is when we get a rush of people, even an extended rush, and all of us respond together and serve everyone in a way that still amazes me. That’s also why its important to have this margin in between. Its kind of like stretching a little before its time to run again.”
“You’d be surprised what a little lift it gives the next person who’s waiting to go on their 30 minute break, too, when they see the person that’s relieving them coming back even a little bit early. That’s one of the great things about margin. When you have enough, it turns out that you have enough to give some away, and that always feels good. My shift leaders and managers don’t seem to mind that I do that, either!”
Tina sat at their table and watched as Iz walked across the floor, around the counter and put her apron back on, tying it unhurriedly as she stepped behind the register. Tina also smiled a little as she spotted one of Iz’s coworkers taking a quick look at his watch, then saying thank you to Iz as he walked past her on his way to his 30 minute break.
“Such a small thing,” Tina thought, “and so easy to miss.”
So easy to spot, too, when you know how to recognize it. And Tina was beginning to.
Tina gathered up her things and was ready to head home. She looked up at Iz, and saw that Iz was already looking at her, and smiling.
Iz lifted up her hand and held her thumb and index finger an inch apart. Tina nodded, held up her hand with her thumb and index finger an inch apart too, then turned and walked with her usual very brisk pace to the door.
She open the door and was about to step outside when she saw someone walking across the parking lot like he had all the time in the world to do it. Surprising herself, Tina stopped and held the door open for him, even though he was still several steps away.
The man looked up and noticed her standing there, holding the door and waiting for him. He gave her a big smile as he picked up his pace a little and said, “Thank you so much! Have a wonderful night!” as he walked though the door and into the coffee shop.
“Less than 30 seconds,” she thought.
Tina realized again that she was still smiling and breathing easily, like she had since she began talking to Iz.
She let the door go, and it closed quietly behind her.
Next: Tina and her appointment calendar spend some quality time.