Stepping off the hamster wheel

      This morning as I was laying in bed  sipping on my coffee, feeling the spring breeze blow through the window, listening to a morning dove,  I found myself again savoring what I call the “margin” in my life. 

Margin:    To live in a rhythm that includes periods of productivity and periods of restoration and refreshment.  Not to live with margin means you’re denying your God-given design to get regular rest.”

Discipleship Journal May/June 2009

It has not always been that way…

I (DM)  grew up on  120  acre dairy farm, milked 18 Holstein dairy cows, twice a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.   I am also a  first-born.     I got married when I was 21. Three years later we had two daughters. When I was 29,  I decided to go back to school to pursue some classes in marriage and family  counseling.  Along came another daughter…and then a son. (In case you were not counting that made 4.)  Working full time, going to school part-time, life was a blur.   One day  the high school youth group leader  approached me with an offer….

Doug, I think you would make a great  high school leader.“   It was a 2 evening a week commitment minimum. I joined.

In addition, the church we were then attending had weekly  Saturday work day construction projects.  I went to every one.

     Did I mention, I was also a hard-core people pleas-er?    There was  such a strong craving for people’s approval, I rarely said “NO” except  to my wife.  

        Three years later (I was 31)  things started to unravel….

Here’s the  picture  I posted in front of my desk :

 You can be busy going nowhere….fast


My wife said to me something had to change.  Through tears she told me she could no longer keep up the harried pace of our lives.





For a people pleaser like me, I did the hardest thing I could ever remember doing. I had to look several people in the eye and tell them I could no longer participate in those “good activities”

I stepped out of every commitment, everything!!!!!!!!!!

It was the best decision of my life.

A water shed moment, even though I didn’t realize it at the time.

As I attempted  to point my life in a new and different direction, I felt like the captain of a large oil tanker, trying to make a  u turn.

God used two books @ the time to help me get my bearings…

When I relax I Feel Guilty by Tim Hansel

and Ordering Your private World by  Gordon McDonald.

Would highly recommend both.

Flash forward 25 years…

I’m still busy…  there is still a “people pleasing bent in my life, but it does  not  control me. There is one person in particular in  my  life who don’t like me too much because I don’t cave in to his  manipulative ways.

Oh well.

My life has margin.

I have to think long and hard before I  add another “good thing”  to  my life.

So to my fellow, driven, tired, frustrated, and harried  travelers on this journey called life here are some  words, I regularly ponder.

They were  written over 3000 years ago by a farmer/poet named David:

It is vain that you rise up early, going late to bed, eating the bread of anxious toil…for the Lord gives to his beloved sleep (can also be translated, gives to his beloved even in his sleep”)



Update 3-8-2015  I  wrote this last year  for my farm blog. Long time reader/friends may remember it there. I’ve decided to move my more introspective stuff to this site. 😉 DM


3 thoughts on “Stepping off the hamster wheel

  1. I read this last time you wrote it and am reading it again now! Both times, you say so clearly what I feel SOOoo many people I know seem to have lost (includig me, at times)…that a little extra space in one’s life is not just a bonus, but a NECESSITY in a well-lived life. For ourselves and for others…Thanks for the reminder!
    You are velcome! 😉 DM

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very relevant post. This is something I tend to struggle with as well and work on constantly. I also would describe myself as a people-pleaser and have had to come to terms with that and accept that I can say no and I to stop putting so much weight into worrying about what other people think of me. A tall order for us people-pleasers! A couple books that helped me deal with this issue were Sabbath by Wayne Muller and Amish Peace by Suzanne Fisher. I’m not Amish but found great wisdom in the book!
    Thank you for the book suggestions..they sound interesting! DM

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Words to live by…thanks so much for this. Will check out those books you suggested. It definitely makes me feel better about my decision and I appreciate your wisdom on this subject of selfcare, knowing one’s limits, and living a more fulfilled life with margin 🙂
    You are definitely on the right track. DM

    Liked by 1 person

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