This time last year…

I have been alive for roughly 17000 days so far. How many more have I got? Maybe eight thousand, maybe one, who knows? Not enough, and never will be. Out of all those days, how many do we truly remember? Probably not that many… For me, there are only a few whole days that are chiselled in granite in my mind. Most days are like hastily scribbled notes on the back of fag packets, soon forgotten as the random events pile up and become almost interchangeable. I account for the bulk of my time now by the art I do, I know that I will be able to look at this last month or so and say that February and March were the time of strange creatures, where my world was strewn with the chaos of their making. For my first working life though, there is next to nothing, a decade in the civil service, faded memories and things that have drifted from my world through wear, obsolescence or as changes in me or the world have made their need unnecessary. I have kept all the time sheets though, all those hours and days I can never get back wasted on earning money to buy crap or get blitzed to divert myself from the utter pointlessness of the work I did back then. I have this strange feeling at the moment, at first I found it hard to place, like a new form of music or the taste of a food I have never tried before. It turned out to be satisfaction, I feel it rarely and, after days of doing stuff with people that actually matters and makes a difference, I find the lack of need to push myself any further once I got to the end of the workering day rather disconcerting. 

Most memories I collect are more like scratches on records or chips in a paint surface or scuffs on shoes, fleeting but permanent. Flashes of events, the warm glow of bliss, the gut punch of betrayal, the iciness of fear,  the full narrative of the event lost but the extremity remains, stark moments fixed in time. My memory of this day last year is in technicolor with surround sound as its not everyday that starts with you thinking that there is a good chance you might die. The spectrum of emotions that day and their extremity was huge. Fear, obviously, oceans of it, sloshing about everywhere, not so much of death as you are gone and that’s that, but more of the other potential outcomes, strokes, open heart surgery, being airlifted to Brighton in the event of certain outcomes, brain damage, loss of fine motor skills, the loss of everything I relied upon to make me, me. I had already had a taster to upcoming events earlier that week and that was bad enough and more of the same was not at all welcome. Coming in a close second to the fear was the feeling of utter helplessness, knowing that my destiny and the events I had to undergo were utterly out of my control a feeling that soared to unimaginable heights during the procedure itself. When your arteries are being slit open and catheters inserted and wires and tubing thread inside your body in the manner of a David Chronenberg body horror movie, you soon realise that you aren’t going anywhere. Next on the list was wonder, a horrendous experience is still an experience and the artist and documentor in me wanted to store it all up, squirrelling it all away for use at a later date. It’s not often you get to see your own heart being operated on and see it beating inside your own rib cage. After that came the pain I guess, mostly the throbbing headache from all the nitrates pumped into my bloodstream but also the internal bruising that got worse over the course of weeks. Below that was a combination of hurt, disappointment and a little anger at the inevitable shittyness of a few people in my life and the inevitability of their poor behaviour. You always expect people to be better versions of themselves when you really, really, need them to be…. but they rarely are. I’d like to think I felt more pleasure with how lovely most people had acted but the fear and pain made that hard to contemplate on until much later. Disappointment though cuts to the heart of things like a diamond, it’s hard and sharp and takes so long to dissipate and of everything on that day it remains with the most clarity. The targeted apathy of it, the cowardliness of it and the utter lack of remorse of it stings like vinegar on an open wound. Then there was amusement, the detached observance  of the intravenous Valium, the surrealness brought on by the weird visual effects of all the iodine in my bloodstream, the novelty of being able to still crack a joke about hoping not to die on the same day as Paul Daniels and having to deal with the annoying bugger in the queue for heaven. 

Every moment of that day had solidity, none more so than the relief when I was was wheeled back to the ward again. I’ve tried really hard to appreciate every single moment of the last year and see it all as a gift.. I haven’t always succeeded and at some points I have probably let myself down quite badly, but I’m trying… I’m very trying apparently .


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