I dreamt about basements twice last night, back to back. They were positive, protective spaces. My dreams are directly affected by whatever I’m ingesting intellectually, and I happen to be right smack in the middle of a book all about archetypes, the symbolism that constitutes our subconscious and souls’ language. So what were these basements trying to tell me?
Growing up, it seemed we were often headed downstairs, to the basement, to avoid the terrors of a storm. “Could turn into a tornado!” was always the worry. My brother, older by several years, always got to go upstairs with the adults to check on the storm. I, too, wanted to stand at the front screen door and watch those dark, ominous clouds roll by. I thought it was beautiful. But when he saw my head peek around the basement door, he’d shout, I think jokingly now, “Stay downstairs or you’ll get your head blown off to Kansas!!” Those words have always stuck with me, always made me smile. He made his point, but I don’t think it ever would have been that dramatic an outcome- we lived on the eastern side of Missouri, afterall.
Here in the midwest, we are definitely in tornado alley. I’ve heard many a people, new to this area, express their torment over the mere idea. But, if their house has a basement, then they feel secure. If their house doesn’t have one, as mine doesn’t, then it’s probably on the good ole, never-ending to-do list, or at least a storm shelter. And it’s a smart idea, because, as I said before, a lower level equals security.
But that’s just one extreme. An upper level would offer protection from another type of natural danger, say flooding. And, an inner safe room would provide safety from intruders of the people type. Also, a room used as a cellar or food storage can help us feel protected against a famine, or food shortage at the grocery store.
What do all these things have in common? They all give us margin. Margin is that lovely extra white area all around, that doesn’t leave us banging our heads against tight spaces. It doesn’t have to be seen only in houses. A financial landscape that includes margin allows us to breathe a sigh of relief. “Whew!” I could afford to add cheese to my burger, or put gas in my tank, or pay for a hotel room- whatever the situation and extreme may be. A schedule that includes margin, or down time, gives us time to relax, instead of rushing around like maniacs.
The funny thing is that you have to go through a period of time without margin to enjoy margin. If you’ve always had a basement, living in a tornado prone area, you will never know the stress of worrying about your life every time the National Weather Service airs that distinct “EEEEEEEEEEE” sound on the radio, phone, or tv. If you’ve never experienced a super tight budget or been in the red, you’ll not know the anxiety of not having enough money to cover the bills. Hence, in each situation, you will also likely not enjoy the margin to the fullest extent possible, because you will have never known anything different.
It’s like you have to go through a dark night of the soul, as some call it, to be able to fully embrace the happiness that could be yours. It’s tempting to stay in a bubble ourselves, or to overprotect our kids, whirring over them like super helpful helicopters, but in the end, it’s not always to our or their benefit. Just as we have to be exposed to a multitude of germs to establish a thriving immune system, we are able to emotionally handle a plethora of life experiences only after we have had practice dealing with them. Enjoying margin is applicable in all of life’s many facets, and fully appreciated only after we’ve felt being nudged up against its edges, so cheers to living a life carefully, intentionally balanced, tottering between both margin and meaningful activity!
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