August 20, 2016

Page 87

It is not love that troubles me when I leave the baby, like a rope and harness paid out behind me wherever I go. It is rather that when I leave her the world bears the taint of my leaving, so that abandonment must now be subtracted from the sum of whatever I choose to do. A visit to the cinema is no longer that: it is less, a tarnished thing, an alloyed pleasure. My presence appears almost overnight to have accrued a material value, as if I had been fitted with a taxi meter, to which the price of experiencer is inseperably indexed. When I am out I am distracted by its ticking. My friends, whilst glad to see me, cannot necessarily afford me. We meet at the uncrossable border between the free world and the closed regime of motherhood. Though I have for the moment forgotten them, such divisions existed, of course, in the life I knew before. I have spent many evenings with people who were haunted by undone work, by unhappy relationships, by lack of money, by practical anxiety or grief. I have felt their restlessness, their fever, have seen things prowling behind their eyes. The difference lies in the mater of valor, for while it is easy to encourage your friend bravely to throw off the bonds of her anxiety, to forget her troubles and hope for better things, no one is going to cheer a mother's recovery from feelings of responsibility for her child. Instead the baby lies at home like some unintelligible goddess, luminous, pulsing, strange, an icon of lofty requirement. As her disciple I cannot but appear to have undergone some mystic conversion which distances me from those I love. I  must go back to her as to something other people don't understand, and respectfully, concernedly, they let me go.

- A Life's Work by Rachel Cusk

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