Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'I was so pleased to get Mum and Dad in the same room, even if it was a cathedral'
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The Independent Online

Weather-wise, it was probably one of the loveliest days of the summer so far. I saw it briefly, this week, glimpsed through the crack in my curtains. It was a day when I could hardly move. It happens to me on a monthly basis. My body turns into a weighted mass of tiredness and lethargy. Now I don't fight it, I just go with it. I just lay in bed and went into a deep, deep sleep. So deep that I don't even remember my dreams.

I woke up sometime late in the afternoon, slightly sweaty, the back of my neck damp. Docket was stretched out beside me with his little paws gently resting on my hand. It occurred to me to question how much Docket was aware that he was more or less holding my hand. How far does a cat's level of consciousness actually go?

When he was a kitten I made him watch Stuart Little with me, hoping it might give him some kind of clue of where he really came from. Imagine if one gave birth to a cat, or should I say kitten; it would be really strange and most definitely Egyptian. When I was younger, I had a very sadistic boyfriend who took great pleasure and delight in showing me a dead kitten. He opened up the palm of his hand and said: "I've got something to show you." And there it was, this stiff, petrified, furry little thing, with its paws raised up and a look of complete terror frozen on its face.

I remember screaming and going into some kind of convulsions over it. It had some kind of primal relevance to me. An act of cruelty is far worse when the perpetrator has calculated the effect. And this was one of those occasions.

This week, I wanted to write about the effect of giving birth to something that is dead. But for some reason I am actually afraid to write about it. It's somewhere my consciousness really doesn't want to go. This week, I wanted to write about life and generosity and spontaneity and all the wonderful things life has to offer. For some reason I keep seeing that dead kitten. The image is trapped in my central eye and I'm desperate to replace it with something positive.

I guess this is part of the monthly lethargy; the brain slowing down to a mild point of depression, and there's only one thing that can probably sort it out – an intense burst of energy. As soon as I have finished writing this column, I'm going to march myself up the road and swim for a good 40 minutes. I think it's what they used to call shaking off the cobwebs. I'm like a fly trapped in some giant web waiting to be eaten by some giant spider.

Ahhh... two hours later, that's better! I have just had the most incredible swim. The water in the pool was the perfect temperature. And when the lifeguard turned his back, I dived in and did one length underwater. It felt like I was being baptised. My muscles sprang into action and said: "Thank you, God."

And it was brilliant – I tried out my new flippers. I did 15 lengths backstroke, three lengths using both my arms in a butterfly action on my back, 12 lengths just using my legs – really fast, really splashing – and 10 of breaststroke. It was cool, I beat my own personal world record. Which in actual fact is quiet slow. It took 25 minutes.

Can I just add here (in case there is some debate over this time) that I was using flippers, which is sort of cheating. In fact, everything I have just written about swimming is cheating as I actually haven't been anywhere!

Anyway, I'm still laying in bed, desperately trying hard to use mind over matter. Oh to be a whirling dervish and to be able to levitate a mere four feet off the ground. I saw the whirling dervishes in Istanbul. They were doing the April ceremony. It was so sweet it made me cry. I often cry at things that make me really happy. I embarrassingly cried on national television because I was so overwhelmed with the ceremony in Canterbury Cathedral where I received my honorary doctorate last week. I wasn't alone in the crying stakes, Michael Gambon shed a few tears when he received his, too.

Ah good, the kitten is going now. I'm in Canterbury Cathedral. My Mum and Dad are looking at me as I lead the procession. It's all regalia, pomp and ceremony. Trumpets and bugles are playing. It really is a grand occasion and I keep seeing myself from outside of myself, looking down. Part of my soul is levitating above me – the part which is happy and light and free.

When you have perspective on yourself, when you're outside of yourself, it means you are in a good place. It's like understanding how a dream works. It's very comforting. I should know – trust me, I'm a doctor. So I just spent the last hour or so making myself feel better, enjoying some of my small achievement, congratulating myself. Thinking how pleased I was to get my Mum and Dad in the same room, even it was a giant cathedral. At one point my Dad tried to flirt and kiss my Mum on the cheek. She screamed and ran away. My Dad is 86. My Mum is 79.

Yes, I'm feeling much better now. I think I'll get up.

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