Yesterday was leap day. Not spring forward – which is just around the corner when we change our clocks – but the one extra day we have on the calendar every four years. Since it won’t come around again until 2020, I want to back up to yesterday just for a minute.
For all practical purposes, having one extra day on the calendar every four years matters relative to the earth’s rotation around the sun and the exact amount of time that actually takes. Leap day buys time for the seasonal calendar to stay steady over the course of a century.
I enjoy leap day for its metaphorical etymology. Leaping. As in, look before you leap. These words have a lot of meaning after I spent leap day feeling disappointed in some of my own leaps.
We can go to the store, buy a top, change our mind, and return it. We can return unopened food to the grocery or meals we don’t like in a restaurant. The return-policy scale edges up, electronics – sometimes. A car – maybe. But how about a decision? We can’t return a decision.
Do we make the best decisions we can at the time of making them? Sometimes, but not always. It’s those times when we may not look before we leap that hurt us. Whether we don’t think things through, or feel pressure, or just want be done with something, that leap can have consequences.
I have made a lot of decisions in my life with the intention to find relief. Relief is a big deal when life is difficult, complicated, when circumstances are unbearable, we are at our wits end, or when we just don’t know what to do. So we react. If our decision then feels regrettable, it’s easy to beat ourselves up.
Why did we do-think-say-decide that…I should have known better…now I’ve got to figure out what to do all over again…re-think my direction…adjust my periscope.
Sure, this is just part of life’s journey. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy or feels good even though feeling good was the original goal when leaping.
I recently drove by my former forever house that is a couple of hours away in the neighboring state. I loved that house. Deciding to buy it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I was proud of it, and knew that no matter what, I had something that mattered for my children, and for me.
But I didn’t live there forever, just three years. Three glorious, wonderful years that were snatched away by my husband-at-the time’s circumstances. We sold the house and moved for his job, now one of biggest mistakes I have ever made.
Yes, it was just a house. But it wasn’t just a house, it was part of me. We can tell ourselves all kinds of things to make our decisions more palatable, soften regrets, fuzz the perspective, dilute the reality, or try to push the feelings aside. But when a decision comes back to haunt us, “I made the best decision at the time” is not always a soothing elixir.
We can’t truly jump back to yesterday. I always wonder what my life would look like today if I had not sold my house – leapt – in that moment out of haste, fear, and trying to meet someone else’s needs, which then changed my life, and my children’s, forever.
There’s no class that teaches us how to look before we leap. But there’s a day that can remind us to slow down. The earth will still be spinning tomorrow, why not take some time on the edge.