Time to Take a Flying Leap?

Marla Rose
7 min readFeb 28, 2024
Credit: John Beske

If you had an extra day, what would you do with it? This year, we get one because 2024 is a leap year, which happens every four years, giving us an extra day in February. (Why not a June 31 instead???)

Our imminent February 29 led me to reflect on the idea of an extra free day. If given your choice of a free extra day in the calendar year, whether it’s a leap year or not, one where you’re accountable to no one, what would you do with it? If it’s on a Friday or Monday, would you turn it into a long weekend? Would you relax? Would you putter around and straighten up? Would you build a bed fort, snuggle inside with your animals and watch movies or read books? Would you tackle that linen closet that needs reorganizing?

Would you go off on a 24-hour adventure? Would you stay at a chic hotel? Would you do nothing for a day? Would you go to a spa? Would you explore a town not too far from you that you’d never had a chance to visit? Would you go thrifting? Would you go to a museum? Would you go on a used bookstore expedition? Would you go on a ghost tour? Would you go to the beach and enjoy the water? Would you go on a beautiful bike ride? Would you visit loved ones at a cemetery?

Would you plan a special day with your family and/or friends, all coordinated in advance so you can celebrate the same extra day together? Would you save it all for yourself? Would you split it between the two?

There are no wrong answers, unless it’s like, “I would spend the day making someone’s life miserable,” “I would spend my day putting up my Trump 2024 signs,” “I would pee on every public bathroom toilet seat I could find” or along those lines. Those are wrong answers.

What would you do with that extra free day, though? What would you not do? How would you design your day? Or would you be spontaneous and just let your day unfold?

I am thinking of these things not just because it’s a leap year, truth be told. I also have four friends — two I am close with, two whom I treasure but just know online — who have inoperable, stage four cancer. All are very good people who have dedicated much of their lives to making our planet a kinder, better place. Indeed, the earth has benefitted because they’ve been on it.

All of these friends have a strong will to live but realistically, three do not have a lot of time as the cancer has spread so aggressively. The fourth is in a holding pattern with her cancer; the protocols she’s been following has kept the cancer from advancing for the time being. It could change at any time. This friend is taking life one day at a time as she is still feeling good, better than ever, actually, and wants to take advantage of this for as long as possible. The cancer could be held back for years and years; it could also advance at any time. My other three friends are in painful but active intervention mode just to get a little extra time as cancer continues its spread to other parts of their bodies, tragically.

As some people know, my husband and I had our own experience with cancer when he was diagnosed with a very aggressive, sudden form of leukemia in 2019. Thankfully, knock on wood, the cancer is gone, we’re on the other side of it after a harrowing year-and-a-half, a little (heh) battlescarred and bruised — physically, emotionally, all the ways — but still here. We got lucky and we know how much a matter of luck it was.

Time is something I’ve been thinking about a lot. It seems fitting that this week of our official extra leap year day, this article in The Guardian would have crossed my online path. It’s a collection of thoughts from 30 people around the world who have a short life-expectancy due to a terminal illness. Some people are young (one is just 23, two years older than my son), some are parents to children who are still growing up, most are in their forties through sixties. All want to live. Some died in the time it took to bring the piece to publication.

While there are different points-of-view, there are also unmistakable recurring themes in their words: “I don’t let silly things bother me anymore.” “Money is fine but I wish I hadn’t spent so much time working.” “I prioritize the things now that bring me joy, big and small.” “I wish I hadn’t worried so much about being liked.”

Is a cliché a cliché if it’s also true? There’s a reason for that commonality. When we understand that our time is precious and finite in a personal, visceral way, we become very clear about what matters and what doesn’t, what is of benefit and what is an albatross needlessly weighing us down. All of us are mortal, of course, but a true gift of knowing that our time and attention is a luxury is that the petty things shrink and the life-affirming things grow bigger. For example, the annoyance you might feel when your neighbor practices the didgeridoo fades away and the little delight you deride from making the cashier ringing you up laugh becomes much bigger. My gratitude that John survived his cancer experience is encased like amber in this knowing that our time is so precious.

My son has been going through an especially difficult time processing this often mean world. He is 21, sensitive, smart, creative and compassionate; he is also completely overwhelmed by the needless brutalities in the world. He feels guilty when his attention shifts, when he forgets about the most recent atrocities because it’s been eclipsed by some fresh horror; he feels guilty to just live his life despite knowing how unjust the world is, because of the luck of the draw. We talk about this almost every day. He’s not active on social media. He’s turned off notifications. The pain and the weight of the world can feel so heavy, though.

When my son can catch a breath and step back a little, this is what we talk about: That little things are big. We can feel crushed by the enormity of what is happening in the world — and, believe me, I often do — or we can do the little and not-so-little things we have control over to make the world a better place. It could be signing or sharing a petition, as futile as that might feel. It could be showing up at a rally and lending your voice for peace. It could be donating, even a small amount, to an organization that does good in the world. It could be creating art to express something important and personal and beautiful. It could be showing up for a friend. It could be speaking up against injustice. It could be volunteering for a cause close to your heart. It could be reminding your neighbor to move their car to the other side of the block when it’s street cleaning day. At the risk of sounding pithy, it all matters.

Ultimately, though, a better world starts with us deciding that our happiness matters despite the ugliness of the world. Giving in to the cruelty and distrust means that they win. It is also true that suppressing our joy because others are in pain does not lessen their load one iota but prioritizing feeling our best so we can be engaged in the world with more resilience, more health and more vitality means we are using our time wisely and resourcefully.

My friend whose cancer is in a holding pattern is choosing to live her best life, not with indifference about those who aren’t as lucky but because she knows how everything can turn on a dime and, as a wise person told me once, there is no suffering you can absorb that would alleviate someone else’s suffering. It just doesn’t work like that. So while she is in the world, my friend is living her best life, a life that is considerate, kind and compassionate and, yes, more tuned into her desires than she allowed before her diagnosis, because when she’s happy, she makes the world a better place.

Our time matters, how we spend it, how we live it, whether it’s a special extra day, a weekend, a regular day, with a ticking clock breathing down our necks or if we think we are invincible. Our happiness also matters. If we cannot find a way to feel and cultivate small and big joys, we are doing no good for anyone.

How would you spend one extra day if you had no responsibilities? How will you spend your days, knowing we are responsible for one another and this doesn’t erase the fact that our joy matters? Even stars eventually run out of fuel and explode into supernovas or fade into dwarf stars. You’re a star. Keep feeding yourself what you need for as long as you are shining.

Marla Rose is cofounder of VeganStreet.com.