Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

It's time for me to leave. This time tomorrow I'll be sipping tea in New York with Louise Bourgeois'
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The Independent Online

Today I feel physically sick. Every 10 minutes I am gripped by nausea for a number of different reasons. The main one being that tomorrow I go away for two months and I have nothing packed and about a million different things to do, this column being one of them.

Yesterday I spent all day at home just walking around from one room to another in my dressing gown. It's like I wanted to experience my house, my home, the things that I love, the things that surround me every day that I take for granted. I wanted to experience them as though it was the last time I'd ever see them. My cat Docket follows me everywhere. He knows that I'm leaving tomorrow.

I read a very strange thing in the paper the other week about a little cat that lived at a hospice. The cat would be generally friendly, but not over-friendly, and then he would be seen curled up on someone's bed, or purring by their pillow. Always when this happened the person would die shortly afterwards. The cat was never known to be closely affectionate to anybody until their moment of death. The nurses and doctors at the hospice over time had noticed this and would know when to call the patient's family.

Cats really do have a sixth sense.

I've known for months that I was going away tomorrow, but I'm still incredibly ill-prepared. One part of me really wants to leave, and the other part is too scared to go. To fling myself to the other side of the world, at this moment in time, seems painfully unbearable. But I know once I get there time will fly. It almost feels like everything is last orders. After moping around for hours yesterday, I decided to have a bath. I never have a bath because my bath is too big and I have to fill it with about 20 gallons of water just to have it up to my waist.

But yesterday as the taps ran I started to do something incredible. I finally cleaned out my bathroom cabinet. Half a dustbin bag full of shit. The relief was amazing. Not just for me, but my whole bathroom seemed to heave a sigh of relief as I plunged myself into the boiling-hot water. It's funny the things we do before we go away – the expression "to put our house in order". I make my bed every day before I go out. If I don't it affects me like a constant irritation, as though I had forgotten to do something very, very important. It's not an obsessive thing; it's more to do with how I would like to be remembered. (That's not a joke!)

A part of my physical sickness today is that I hardly slept last night. I went to bed at 10.15pm, really very, very tired and I made the stupid mistake of deciding to watch a bit of telly before I dozed off. Dispatches this week was about abortion. I thought, as I have such a strong opinion on the subject and I'm so fucking righteous because I've been there, it would be good for me to watch. Frankly I'm amazed that the programme was ever allowed to go out. There was a warning beforehand saying there would be graphic scenes of abortion, but nothing, nothing like I would ever have expected. On top of the horrific scenes there were the most straightforward, matter-of-fact descriptions, most of which were unemotional.

I have always been pro-choice on the subject of abortion, on the grounds that no woman wants to have an abortion, but for reasons beyond her control it is something she has to do. Also you have a matter of a few weeks to make a decision and you have the rest of your life to think about it. Some women inevitably will be left with the sad fact that they felt they made a mistake. Luckily for me I have never felt that way. I was devastated with guilt and felt that I had done something wrong, but I knew in my heart that I had made the right decision. But last night, watching Dispatches, I heaved with grief.

Maybe it's my age, and maybe it's because I don't have children, but I became very angry at the fact that teenage girls don't have someone to talk to, have no proper advice early on in pregnancy, and end up having 24-week-old foetuses removed from their bodies in pieces. I could be a lot more graphic about this but there is no need to be. A child/foetus/baby can survive from 21 weeks' gestation. The whole thing is just insane. I spent most of the night tossing and turning filled with the most horrendous visions and emotional trauma of my own experiences. It's unbelievable what women have to go through.

So now it's time for me to leave. This time tomorrow I will be sipping tea in New York with Louise Bourgeois. I'm sure we will cover many subjects from birth, to cats, to art. And then I fly off to LA to install my show. It's a very ambitious show and I'm very excited about it. It's all new work, which means I'm entering a new time. Then it's off to Australia where I will become fit, sober and beautiful again, from the inside out. My grand finale will be surfing with my flat belly on top of a wave! See you from the other side of the world. Love, Tracey x

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