August 20, 2016

Page 56

These two trains of thought do not disturb each other. I am surprised to discover how easily I have split in two. I worry; I console. Like a divided stream, the person and the mother pay each other no heed, although moments earlier they were indistinguishable: they tumble forwards, each with its separate life, driven by the same source but seeking no longer to correspond. 

The vision of myself that I briefly glimpsed in the park - unified, capable, experiencing 'the solidarity of life' - is one that I will continue to pursue over the coming months. It proves elusive. Its constituents, resolutely hostile, are equally unruly. To be a mother I must leave the telephone unanswered, work undone, arrangements unmet. To be myself I must let the baby cry, must forestall her hunger or leave her for evenings out, must forget her in order to think about other things. To succeed in being one means to fail at being the other. The break between mother and self was less clean than I had imagined it in the taxi: and yet it was a premonition too; for later, even in my best moments, i never feel myself to have progressed beyond this division. I merely learn to legislate for two states, and to secure the border between them. At first, though, I am driven to work at the newer of the two skills, which is motherhood; and it is with a shock that I see, like a plummeting stock market, the resulting plunge in my own significance. Consequently I bury myself further in the small successes of nurture. After three or four weeks I reach a distant point, a remote outpost at which my grape of the baby's calorific intake, hours of sleep, motor development and patterns of crying is professorial, while the rest of my life resembles a deserted settlement, an abandoned building in which a rotten timber occasionally breaks and comes crashing to the floor, scattering mice. I am invited to a  party, and though I decide to go, and bath and dress at the appointed hour, I end up sitting in the kitchen and crying while elsewhere its frivolous minutes tick by and then elapse.

The baby develops colic, and the bauble of motherhood is once more crushed as easily as eggshell. The question of what a women is if she is not a mother has been superseded for me by that of what a women is if she IS a mother; and of course, what a mother, in fact, is." 

- A Life's Work, by Rachel Cusk, Pages 56-58

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