Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Belated leap day contemplations

I had no ideas for tonight's post.  I thought about it while I cooked dinner, but I came up blank.  I thought about it while we walked the dog, but that didn't yield any great ideas, or even good ideas, either.  So, I opened a file in my "writings" folder called "essay_ideas.docx." which, as the name suggests, is where I store vague ideas, loose thoughts,  rough drafts, opening paragraphs, and so on that might be useful for future essays or blog posts.  I came across this, which was obviously first written on March 1, 2012, the day after Leap Day

Statistically speaking, there was only a 25% chance of yesterday.   75% of the time, we would have gone directly from February 28 (this past Tuesday) to March 1 (today, Thursday).  In most years, we would have been able to skip right over yesterday.  For me anyway, yesterday was a fine day, and certainly not one I would have chosen to skip even if I'd had a chance. 

That got me thinking, which as many of you know, is a dangerous thing.  And fortunately, fairly rare!  But anyway, I asked myself what days I would skip if I could.

My first response was that I'd skip those awful days when really sad things happened.  Here are a few:  January 16, 1983, January 13, 1998, October 27, 2008, and February 23, 2009.  Those were the days that Al and I lost, first, our fathers, then, our mothers.  I could have done without May 6, 2010.  That was the day of my major car accident.  Those are the sorts of days that immediately spring to mind when I think about skipping a day, here or there.

But on further reflection, I don't think those are the days I'd skip.  Losses are an inevitable part of life.  Sad, yes, but in the end unavoidable. 

I think the days that I would choose to jump over are those that I squandered.

That is where it stopped.  I don't know what I was thinking about last spring, but this is how I finished the thought tonight.

A bit of advice from Ben Franklin, who had lots of it 
There have been plenty of days that I'd like to skip, or better yet, re-live because I just wasted the time, neither working nor relaxing.   I consider myself a pretty hard worker, but I don't consider relaxing a waste of time.  I consider it essential to keeping the ideas flowing and the brain balanced.  So, having fun and relaxing isn't a problem.  What wastes time is letting it slip by, neither using  it nor enjoying it.  This is a common Saturday phenomenon for me and it drives me crazy.  There are a million things I could do, and I do none of them.  I am not exactly sure where the day goes, but zap!  it's gone.

Then there are days I'd like to skip because I let squandered a lot of energy being "busy" without really getting anything done.  This one is insidious and it is often difficult to tell when it is happening, because I feel like I am working and accomplishing things. I even feel important. In reality though, I am running in circles, much like my puppy in the backyard.  Chasing my tail.  Running after random squirrels.  Trying to catch a butterfly.  Wearing myself out and getting nowhere.  There are times when this sort of random motion is necessary to identify a direction,  but sometimes I let myself believe it is the direction itself.  I suspect I am not alone.

There are days that I'd like to skip because I squandered good will or friendship.  Those are the days when a simple act of kindness or a gentle word could have made all the difference, but apathy, indolence, or even worse, self-centered pride, got in the way and I squandered an opportunity to build a relationship or maintain a friendship.  These are the days I most wish I could skip or re-live.  The days where a little more effort from me might have significantly helped someone else. 

The days that I wish I could skip are not the days where the inevitable disappointments of life arrived on my door.  Those things are out of my control.  The days that I would skip are the ones that could have been different if only I were paying attention and making the effort, the days when I could have made a difference, and simply failed.

I am grateful for today's rich experience of teaching at a middle school math camp in an inner city school.  There were challenges, but there were joys.  And most of all, there is enormous potential that should not be squandered!

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