READ MY NOTES: Motherhood

Dlouho jsem čekala, jestli kniha oceňované kanadské autorky Sheily Heti nevyjde česky. Nevyšla. Tak jsem se do ní pustila v angličtině. A dobře jsem udělala. "Motherhood" je mimořádně osobní vyprávění o nejzávaznějším rozhodnutí v životě ženy - mít nebo nemít děti. Celou dobu, co jsem ji četla, protože teď děti mám a je to s nima skvělý, se mi chtělo křičet, že musíš, jinak přijdeš o tolik! Na druhou stranu, kdybych si její knihu přečetla třeba před osmi lety, je otázka, jestli bych se k tomu kroku vůbec dopracovala, jak moc jsem jejím důvodům "proč ne" rozuměla - a svým způsobem je chápu do teď. Někdo by mohl říct, že je to zbytečná knížka filozofických esejů, která je poplatná sobeckému západnímu světu, kde spousta lidí nemá na práci nic jiného než se hrabat sami v sobě. Možná je. Za mě je ale perfektně napsaná, silně se mnou v mnoha ohledech zarezonovala, baví mě, jak Heti přemýšlí nad otázkami rodičovství, ženství, partnerství, o tom, jak, pro koho a pro co vlastně žít. Další skvělá na seznam nejlepších tohoto roku. A toto jsou pasáže, které mě rozechvěly nejsilněji.

If you can get that existential satisfaction from parenthood, would you feel as much desire to make art? He said that one can either be a great artist and a mediocre parent, or the reverse, but not great at both, because both art and parenthood take all of one’s time and attention. 

Although my parents were eventually unhappy in their marriage—she valued achievement and work; he valued wonder and play—she was happy to have married a man who was a devoted parent, at a time when most men were not. She was relieved she could rely on him to take care of us—to do far more than most men would. In this way, she made the right match. She married the right man for her work, although he wasn’t the right man for her happiness.

After I had finished talking to Sylvia, I left the dozen guests who were mingling in the garden and went into the kitchen, and saw Sylvia’s eldest daughter leaning against the kitchen counter as her two-year-old played on the floor. I said to her, I’m so jealous of mothers because whatever else happens, they have this person, this thing. She said, That’s not right. I used to have things. I don’t have anything anymore. I don’t have my work … my daughter is her own person. She doesn’t belong to me. In that moment, I saw it was true: her daughter was something apart from her, not her possession or belonging at all. 

The egoism of childbearing is like the egoism of colonizing a country—both carry the wish of imprinting yourself on the world, and making it over with your values, and in your image. How assaulted I feel when I hear that a person has had three children, four, five, more … It feels greedy, overbearing and rude—an arrogant spreading of those selves. 

I fear that without children, it doesn’t look like you have made a choice, or that you’re doing anything but just continuing on—drifting. People who don’t have children might be thought not to move forward, or change and grow, or have stories that build on stories, or lives of ever-increasing depth and love and pain. Maybe they seem stalled in one place—a place the parents have left behind. 

If you want to know what your life is, destroy everything and move away and see what builds up again. If what builds up a second time is much the same as the first, then your life is pretty much as it could be. Things couldn’t be much different from that. 

The time-span of a woman’s life is about thirty years. Apparently, during these thirty years—fourteen to forty-four—everything must be done. She must find a man, make babies, start and accelerate her career, avoid diseases, and collect enough money in a private account so that her husband can’t gamble their life’s savings away. Thirty years is not enough time to live a whole life! It’s not enough time to do all of everything. If I have only done one thing with my time, this is surely what I’ll castigate myself for later. The day will come when I’ll think, What the fuck did you waste all those years putting in commas for? I will have no idea how I could have been so naïve about how time acts in the life of a woman; how it is the essential realm in which a woman lives. All the things I neglected to do because I refused to believe, fundamentally, that first and foremost I was female.

I spent four hours last night on the Internet, reading accounts of women who suffer from their moods in ways that feel so familiar—they want to run away from their life half the month, and the other half, life feels fine. Since tracking my periods, I see it’s the same for me. But how can I tell whether there’s something wrong with my life or not—when half the month all is roses, and the other half all is thorns? Which perspective should I trust? Is either one the truth?

All the times I’ve listened to myself, has it ever been a mistake? Often, yes. But wasn’t the freedom to make those mistakes greater than all the advice in the world? 

Walking through the neighborhood, the grasses are pushing up through the sidewalk, but they all had their start beneath the ground. So maybe it’s okay that for a very long time, I have also been underground. The thickest tree was once the thinnest. What very strong thing in nature did not start off as weak? If up until now I have been weak, that does not mean I will never be strong.