Tracey Emin: My Life In A Column

'Every large-scale decision I make involves Docket. The idea that he is seriously ill is making me afraid'
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The Independent Online

I'm in Florence, lying by a pool in the gardens of a hotel that used to be a palace. The pool is very beautiful with greeny, grey, bluey water that's fresh and soft to the skin. I'm surrounded by trees that have been planted in a man-made, majestic way. Everything has a look of calm and serenity. The sun is hot and beating down on me.

I should be feeling secure and comfortable, but instead I am filled with fear. As I lie out in the sun, tears burn my eyes as I recount in my mind the last eight years of my life. Today I was given the news that Docket, my cat, has contracted feline Aids (otherwise known as FIV). Docket is not just a pet to me. Without sounding too corny, he is really like my baby. I constantly say this. I love him more than anything else in the world. I love his yellow eyes, his big ears, his white paws with puffy pink pads, his fluffy white tummy and soft grey fur. But most of all, I love his warmth, and I love his smell. When I cuddle him I rest my face on top of his head and remind myself of how much I love him.

The reason why I love him so much is because of all the love I have invested into him. To some people a cat is just a cat. It miaows, it has to be fed, and it has a tail. But for me, cats are small animals which occupy a massive amount of my mind – especially Docket, who I live with. If I'm honest, I realise that I plan a lot of my life around my cat. And by this, I don't mean small things, I mean where I live, who I live with and my future plans. Should I move to the country? Should I live by the sea? Every large-scale decision that I make involves Docket. The idea that he is seriously ill is making me feel confused and afraid. I don't expect people to understand, unless they feel the same way about animals.

I can't imagine my life without my cat. It's as though it doesn't make sense. If someone asked me to truly describe myself in an abstract frame, next to me there would be small mark, like a smudge, and that small mark would be my cat. I know there are atrocities that are going on in the world, but personal fear and loss is often what defines our characters. Everything today has a very big shadow and nothing really feels real. At other times in my life when I have been afraid, it's like something is trembling inside of me, and as it trembles, I can feel it when I walk, my voice shakes and my breathing doesn't feel right. I felt like this when I was pregnant. I feel like this when people close to me die. And now I feel like this because I'm afraid of the thing that I love most in the world leaving me.

I'm lying here trying to think about what makes me the person that I am. My voice, my look, my resilience, my art, my home, all the things that make Tracey Tracey. There is so much that I could really live without. We adapt ourselves to the world which surrounds us, but sometimes we are in a position to completely create that world. I never created Docket, but I had a large part in the love that I created. It's hard to write when you're crying.

The past few weeks have been a real slog one way or another. I just felt like I was getting to the top of a hill, I was just starting to feel that things were all right. But they are not. There's always something there to cast a shadow, to remind me that fate is cruel, to let me know that things will never be easy. In life it can sometimes be the smallest things that knock someone. The higher you walk the tightrope, it's so obvious, the more dangerous the fall.

I have such a strong desire for my world to feel safe and cosy, for a sense of calm and serenity. I often feel that instead of just going out, I'm going out to battle. Today my armour has taken the loss of a massive, massive chink.

This column isn't really any good. Really I shouldn't have written it. But I think it's important to be true, and it's not always good for things to be consistent. I'm lying here, in these beautiful surroundings, seriously wondering what life is about. All the stuff in this world that makes us who we are can never add up to the amount of love we can give. And that's what I'm really afraid of – that the time will come when I'll have no place for my love to go.

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