Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'As I get older, I am more passionate. I want to ride on the wave of insanity and I don't want to feel afraid'
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The Independent Online

Tracey bombasey, stick a lacy fi facey, fi facey bombasey, that's how you spell Tracey. Chair bombair, stick a lair fi fair, fi fair bombair, that's how you spell chair. Table bombable, stick a label fi fable, fi fable bombable, that's how you spell table. Bed bombed, stick a lead fi fed, fi fed bombed, that's how you spell bed. I can do it with any word. Some are more complicated than others, depending on how many syllables they have. For example, computer bombuter, stick a luter fi futer, fi futer bombuter, that's how you spell computer. Doesn't matter what word it is, you can ask me in 10 years' time and I will still come up with the same nutty little rhyme.

Occasionally in life I come across other people that can do it. In unison our voices will chime with exactly the same words. It's almost a creepy little thing. Something I picked up in the playground, while playing cat's cradle or running underneath the skipping rope. In my mind, I remember all the other children playing the same word game. But maybe they didn't. Maybe that's just my wishful memory. Maybe it's what I used to repeat to myself at night, like a mantra, when I was afraid. A scared little girl curled up, laying awake listening to the windows rattle and the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs.

I wet the bed almost every night I can remember. I started when I was around eight and went on until I was around 11. In the end I was taken to the doctor and after much medical inspection, he determined there was nothing wrong with me and that it was psychological. Instead of finding out what was psychologically wrong with me, I was given the glorious wet-bed chart. I think I may have already written about this at some point but it's such a strange, weird thing, I don't think there's any harm in me writing about it again. The wet-bed consisted of a weekly calendar. Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night etc... and it was pinned up by my bed. If I didn't wet the bed I got a blue star. And if I didn't wet the bed for a week I got a sliver star. And if I didn't wet the bed for a month I got a gold star. When I got a gold star I got a tube of Smarties from the doctor. I dislike chocolate immensely. Not the taste of it so much, but somehow mentally how I relate to it – a reward for having to keep my mouth shut. As a child I was so sexually aware and as a teenager I was positively rampant. I confused sex with emotion because as a child I found it hard to differentiate. What the hell were doctors thinking in the Seventies?

I've been thinking about these things this week because I have been trying to understand guilt, where it comes from and why it exists. Partly this is due to the fact that I turned 44, and on Monday night, the eve of my birthday, I was catapulted into a deep melancholic state. I actually felt quite alone and this in turn made me think about when I was small. It's amazing how much we shut out with the fake idea of protecting ourselves. Some days I get really aggressive and I lash out at the world, but really I should lash out directly at the people who mistreated me as a child. But last time I heard, they were in prison. We spend a lot of our lives, as it says in the great book, forgiving those who trespass against us. Carrying around guilt and fear is a massive burden and extremely unhealthy. I'm at a halfway stage in my life and I really would like to clear the decks, but even for someone like me who is incredibly open, with a very loud voice, I find it extremely hard to holler the right words.

Where shall I go from here? I'm always making decisions. Organising the event. But now, at the grand old age of 44, I want to be taken. I want to be lifted out of my shell to bask in a pool of light. I find as I am getting older I am becoming more and more romantic, passionate. I want to ride high on the wave of insanity where everything feels unbearably real. Tingly, spangly, hot and exotic. I want to touch and be touched and I don't want to feel afraid. I'd like to sit in the dark at night and be able to count the stars, to celebrate their light and not be afraid of the night. I'd like to be able to go to bed with the lights turned off, stretched out, not curled up in some small crab-like ball. I want to feel like me, all of me, and I don't want no part to be locked away.

There are some men who make better boys and there are some boys who grow into very good men. I would like to become and grow into a very good woman. I'm glad the girl in me has gone. When I think about her honestly, I didn't like her very much, and she didn't like herself. Now I've got the rest of my life ahead. I'm happy to use the past as a barometer, a measuring tool, but that's it.

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