I planned to go to see a friend's band play a gig yesterday evening. I haven't seen them play yet, and I really thought this would be the first time.
Then I got a call from Deena late yesterday afternoon. She was feeling some mild contractions. Baby wasn't due for two more weeks; Deena still had another day of work before beginning her maternity leave.
Naturally, after a moment of dithering (surely baby isn't arriving quite so soon), the husbandly/fatherly hormones hit my brain and rushed to my bike, sped over to her work, and met her to take the bus home.
By then, it was becoming clear that it was just Braxton-Hicks contractions (ie, not labour contractions). Not a great surprise, but there was no way I'd go to see the band after that.
Deena is now officially on maternity leave. A few more B-H contractions today, she tells me, but no reason to think actual labour is imminent. I still have plenty of work to do – not only on my PhD, but also around the flat to prepare for baby's arrival.
One thing this episode brought to my mind is the undeniable fact that my time, our time, doesn't really belong to us in any sort of meaningful sense. No more than the current belongs to the canoe. We make our plans, we navigate the eddies and curves in the river, but ultimately it is not by our own efforts that we move on toward the sea. The only merit that earns us passage is our buoyancy, and the alternative to that is hardly a real choice. (Okay, the metaphor gets a little thin here. What is the sinking canoe? Death, perhaps.)
So although I may use phrases like, “wasting my time” and “use my time wisely”, I know that these are just polite fictions – euphemisms to help me ignore my powerlessness over one of the great impersonal forces that dominate my life.
What other fictions might I indulge in? Would I recognize them all, or do I need vivid wake-up calls like the birth of a new life to snap them into focus? I read a novel like Ursula Le Guin's The Dispossessed and wonder how far any notion of “property”, of mine and yours, reflects the actual reality of the world.
But there are some things of mine that seem to be beyond the reach of even this aggressive philosophical barrage.
My love. Not in the sense of the smitten poet, speaking of a person who is “his” or “hers”. Rather, the love that I give – my love for Deena. It is mine because I am its source. In creating it I let it go, I pass it on. The same goes for my deeds. My thoughts. My blog entries.
My child. The process of letting go may take longer, but eventually, like my parents did for me, I will have to finally relinquish any claim over this person who will so soon be appearing in our lives.
Is it just me, or is this list of things that are “mine” in a deep, irrevocable sense also some of the things that we humans value the most in our lives?