Tracey Emin: I want to be suspended in time. Don’t let it move too fast

My Life In A Column

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Twice this week |I have had to tell someone that people they know and care about have died, and it’s not the same person, it's two different people. And this week I’ve heard of two other deaths, and in general just a lot of sad news.

I look out of the window and can instantly see that the days are getting slightly longer and the nights are drawing out. It’s only a fraction, |a few minutes of the day, but it’s enough for me to notice. I’m not wishing time away, in fact, anything but at the moment. I actually want time to go really slowly. I visualise time in a very corny, clichéd way – as the wheels of a locomotive chugging and turning very, very slowly. A slow chu-chush noise fills up my head and I want time to roll like this until at least mid-March.

I can see the mid-March evening skies, that strange dash of mauve and purple, a mist of anticipation that spring is just on its way. Usually I’m desperate for that time, and desperate to force myself out of these heavy, dark months of sadness and loss. But right at this moment I want to be suspended in time. I want to grasp and hold on to my thoughts. I don’t want them whisked away from me in a whirlwind of seasons moving

fast from one to the next. I want to have some kind of control over my time. That’s one thing that’s brilliant when you manage everything from bed – there’s a certain number of things that just can’t be done. They just have to fall to the wayside like dead trees, and the focus and priority become something different.

My priority at the moment is that I want to get better. But my focus is that I want to cut lots of crap out my life. I feel like I want to streamline everything and live with the bare essentials – and that includes emotions. I’m very tired of being tired.

Right now I should be up jumping around, springing about, running here, there and everywhere, making vast amounts of work for my next show, feeling good, feeling free, feeling like an enlightened spirit. But instead I’ve sort of trapped myself in my bed on the top floor of my house. It feels like my bed is on a tall spindly shaft and there is a gap around it of around three or four feet that goes right down to the basement of my house. So it’s as if, even if I wanted to get up, the gap is stopping me from going anywhere. I think this is a natural feeling with recuperation of any kind. It’s safer here, away from the world, away from big decisions and responsibility.

As an adult, unless we have a complete nervous breakdown, it’s rare that we are in a position to step back consciously for a couple of weeks and say no to almost everything. I realise it’s not just my body that’s physically been going through an onslaught, but my mind as well. My brain has been completely hammered. I realise that to get anything done I have to be thinking at least six or seven things at once, and be taking a great deal of responsibility for several more, and at the same time I get completely wound up by the smallest details of things – the angle of the chair, does the teacup match the saucer, that kind of list is endless. I’m sure if I wrote more of it out it would make people laugh, but in truth it actually isn’t very funny. It’s just more things that twist |and torment my brain. I know that |I have to care how things look and how things are and that it’s not superficial. I am an artist and the majority of my whole being, my whole existence, relies upon some kind of aesthetic judgement.

I can hear police sirens in the distance. As the noise fades away, |I wonder what they reach at their destination. All our thoughts and moments are somehow connected. My thought goes out of the window and latches itself on to the sound of the siren. The siren spins, spraying my thoughts high up into the ether, my thoughts travel on clouds; later in the evening rain begins to fall, lots of different ways to cry.

Today I have so much pressure on me I find it almost impossible to write. Even all my thoughts are far-flung and very disconnected. It’s like I don’t really have a centre. I know that I am engulfed in some kind of sadness. My eyes are hurting as though I have tears trapped behind my brow, but everything feels trapped, the tears feel trapped, I feel trapped, everything feels trapped and I’m just wondering how long this feeling is going to last. I’m also wondering how real it is. I can’t stand the way I feel, but it’s from inside.

I’m writing this really hoping that other people have felt the same way. It’s not even depression, it’s just a blankness, a world where there seems to be no harmony, clarity; where things are set up to confuse and annoy. This is a bad day for me to write my column but it’s the only day I have. So now I will just go back to reading Daphne du Maurier and listening to Radio 3 – and console myself with the fact that bed is a very safe place to be.

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