Today is a fact, is happening as we move and speak and act, is created as we live and collide like atoms in aether with others living their lives in their own ways. Today is the play we're writing as we live it, passing moment by moment into yesterday and past history.
But tomorrow is a chimera.
Much of our tomorrows is entrained by our todays. But there's always an uncertainty, a randomness that makes tomorrow nothing but a vague sort of promise half-muttered, half-heard until the remorseless wheel of Time brings it to us as the next today.
Being human we love - have always loved, probably always will love - the idea of messing about with yesterdays and tomorrows. I think it has something to do with our contrasting the mutability of tomorrow with the intransigence of yesterday, and the contrast between hope and regret.
"If we fall in the race though we winIf we could only go back and change this or that yesterday; say the "right" thing instead of the wrong one, do this instead of that, love more wisely, act more quickly, fight harder, think faster...if we could just do all of that we would have saved that beloved, not lost that marriage, gotten that job, become wealthy, happier, greater than we are today, and present ourselves with an even greater tomorrow.
The hoof-slide is scarred on the course.
Though Allah and Earth pardon Sin
Remaineth forever Remorse."
~ R. Kipling
I got to thinking of all of this while writing the two preceding posts.
Because there was a time when if I could have I would have stopped time, reversed the spinning Earth, undone the hidden tragedy that took my elder daughter's life, diverted my world into another tomorrow where little Bryn lived and grew into that young woman who burned the offering at my grave.
If Bryn had lived...
The world that cascades from that chance spins off into an infinity of mirrors.
With a living older sister my son, even if he arrives as such, becomes a different kid. And there's no guarantee that Mojo and I even have a son; perhaps our second child is another daughter. Perhaps we never have another child.
And with a living daughter, we certainly don't go through the insanely difficult and painful adoption process that finally, through some bizarre miracle comprehensible only to Loki, the God of Mischief and several junior functionaries working for the China Center for Adoption Affairs, provides us with the little girl who we know as Missy Shaomei. That little girl becomes someone else, in some other lifetime. We never know her.
And having sat up with her just last night (she was feeling quite unhappy with a sick headache from having fallen asleep with her glasses on combined with a stuffy sinus) I can't contemplate that with anything but horror.
So to change the past we change the present, and the future; to regain a lost daughter we have to lose another.
That's not an exchange I could, or would, make.
So I have to release that phantom-Bryn, that skinny girl wrapped in night-bedclothes, that stern young woman standing over my grave, to retain my very real Missy who is at this moment cuddled up with the Yellow Blanket and her beloved "stripey wubbie" watching some sort of awful Air Buddies movie her brother adores.
And - while a part of me grieves at the betrayal - the greater part of me is not displeased with that.
Lois McMaster Bujold writes that the problem with result of making the inflexible pledge of death before dishonor means that time will produce only the dead and the foresworn. I am in the unenviable position of the latter; for my living daughter I must foreswear any wish to restore my dead one.
I'm sorry about that, lovie, but the dead must bury their dead. I have a now-dear child that calls to me from this side of the Veil, and I would - even if I could, even if I had the power to change yesterday to be otherwise - go to her.
This time next year I will grieve for you again. But buried in that grief is the smaller sadness that I would now choose her over you, choose the life I have over the life that might have been, choose the messy reality of today over the unrealized promised of the tomorrow that never came.