18 November 2007

Silly Margins

Today's entry was from a this radio program, A Slice of Life, sent to me by a colleague. It has many interesting stories, for those of us who loved and are touched by stories. The link is at
http://www.938LIVE.sg/asol/Newsletter/3October2007.htm

"My primary four English teacher Mrs Yeo taught me this golden rule of always drawing a one-centimetre margin on the left-hand side of my exercise book. For the longest time, I wondered about this need to waste space, as I could have written more words, saved more paper and made my exercise book last longer if not for those margins. I really believed it was a silly rule but I reluctantly drew them anyway.

Fast forward 30 years. One day as I was tidying up my house, I found my primary school exercise book. As I flipped those pages of yore, I could not help but smile. There was something special about this book that made me treasure it. It was the margins. At every margin, Mrs Yeo would pen some encouraging words like, "I am happy that your ambition is to become a teacher", "Interesting narration of a pencil-box life? love your ideas of giving birth to little baby pencils", "You are the only boy whose best friend is a girl - keep it up". Sometimes she would draw a star, a sad face, a smiley or just a simple tick to show her reaction to my statement. I noticed a few pages on which I did not draw margins; there were no remarks. How I wish I had drawn them.

I finally understood Mrs Yeo's golden rule of drawing margins. Just as I had drawn margins for her to pen remarks that I so fondly cherish, I should also draw margins in life's hectic schedule so that I can savour the process of my work. I have learned a few tricks about drawing margins in life:

Give allowance of time. Avoid tight schedules and aim to arrive early by 15 minutes or more for all activities. Too often, stress is created by my ambition to squeeze too much activity into a limited time.

Plan time for things that matter. Plan time to enjoy my hobbies, time to spend with my loved ones, time to go on a vacation and time to play my favourite sports.

Spare time for little things. Spare some time talking to a child, pouring myself a good cup of coffee, comforting someone, cleaning the toilet, learning to cook Mee Siam from Mommy, helping the old lady to cross the road, marvelling at the sunset, or just watching the street busker performing.

I thought drawing those silly margins was a waste of space and was worried that my exercise book would not last the whole year. The fact was, the margins turned out to be the highlight of my book and by the end of the year the book was only three-quarters filled. Yes, I had worried for nothing. The worth of the exercise book is not measured by its length; it is measured by its content. Likewise, time is not measured by seconds; it is measured by the moments. I shall continue to create such moments by drawing those silly margins in my life! "

What are some margin activities in my life? Have I created some, or am I still living an unexamined-follow the crowd type of life? One good thing to create is to have times for reflections, like doing blog writing. This blog, at the end of the day, is therapeutic for me and also for re-alignment to what the important things in life are.

Block out a few times in a year to go down to my favourite coffee club joint, for me its at Funan Centre inside Times Bookshop, and seat by the window and write. Do it again..

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