Thursday, 16 November 2017

Grief. Grief is a cruel place. There is no hiding. There is nowhere to hide. I have no skin. I cannot face out the world. I can only be me, raw in pain. I am "sans vetements" - excuse me, I don't speak french and I don't know how to put the hat on the e but those words are the ones that came to me.  My being, my belonging is gone. 
How do I reach out from this awful space. It is so huge. So unlike anything I have ever known before. I am alone here. I am alone and I don't know how to move on. I don't know how to move, period. I am fixed in this terrible solitude. I have reached into my solitude before, solitude can be ok, can be a sanctuary, but now it is deep loneliness. Deep knowing that here in life there is no-one who will understand the world as I do. 
Maybe we all carry this grief in us. Maybe it sits in us waiting. Waiting to meet us. Waiting it's moment. It lurks in the shadows. And we look away. Refuse to acknowledge it's existence. Paint over, wall up, shut down in order to protect ourselves. 
What do I do now ? What do I do now that it exists within my body, something I cannot deny, something I can neither repress or express. I am locked into stand-still. And yet the world moves on. And asks that I move on too. 
I am letting deadlines pass, this, that and the other, submitting a proposal for an exhibition doesn't guarantee you a place in that exhibition, but not submitting guarantees that you will not be in it. I know that what I have to do now is draw in to my studio practice, make the work I need to make without care for how it is received by audience or witness. It is a test of my resolve because it is easier to give the world what the world seems to want to see. Clap-clap, well done, oh yes, this is pretty, this is good, this is accomplished, mathematically sensible, technically excellent, creates order, or shocks only in ways that we understand and accept shock. 
I can't fall back into technical brilliance, I'm not technically brilliant, if I could, life might be simpler. My primary medium is thought and feelings, from those base points I attempt to make work that makes visible that which I'm thinking and feeling in order to offer a window into my being. At the moment my mind and heart are blown away and my thoughts and  feelings far out and beyond. I can't draw them to order they will do what they will, go where they will, be what they are. 
Slowly I am reconnecting with my workspace, it is, I know, where I will make sense of where I am, but I am bringing in to that space something bigger than me and it's daunting. I will be fighting my demons I'm sure and that's scary but what else can I do, where else can I turn, this is my battle to stay good for my family and there is no one but me that can fight that battle. Death is stood at my back at the moment and I'm having to force my face to look at those I love here, to let myself plant hope in my future, and joy. I think I'm not unusual in living this space. I think it is probably common to anyone who has loved and lost to death. But, it sure as hell is not comfortable or cosy.  

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Today I am wrestling with a deep sense of futility, I don't know what the point is, I don't understand why people are mean, I'm worn out with the mean-ness, not just other people's mean-ness my own too. Mean-ness is a poison, a virus, mean-ness gets passed along, one to another, until it's source becomes unclear, and it intermingles with mean-ness from other sources and becomes even more deadly. It is ugly and unkind, it is bad laws, bad teachers, bad parents, bad families, bad friends, bad government, bad being. It is maddening. How do you transform the anger, regret, frustration and sadness that mean-ness creates into something that hurts less ?  
I think about Jon, I think about the good things, and then I think about Jon, and I think about the bad things. And I think what am I supposed to learn from this ? what am I supposed to make out of the past ten years in which he played such an important part ? 
I don't really know what to do. I seem to have drawn to a halt. To be fair I was in pause before I found out he was dead. But now I'm in arrest. And then my mind kicks in and says "come on, get on with it, life goes on, better get a move on, no time to waste" .. but my heart says "woah, slow down, let things be, this is big, you need to give yourself time, be patient, be still, it will all be ok" .. I know which voice calls to me but the other one is commanding and hard to ignore. 
It's a trust matter. Do I trust life enough not to push, not to pull, to just be ? Do I trust life to carry my matter to where it needs to be ? Am I strong enough, malleable enough, to let my intuition guide me ?  Whew.
Death is a break. A break in the line. Where once there was possibility now there is not. Grief is not a chosen course. I had no idea that my response to Jon dying would be so profound. We hadn't seen each other in years, sure I harboured hopes, but the reality was our paths had diverged and were unlikely to cross unless by design. I was sure if we met our friendship would come through, my love for him was more than the love of lover and more than the love of a friend, he was my kin.
I have had no control over my feelings these past few weeks. I really have felt more crazed than I ever have before and it's pretty scary. There is definitely a before and after. I look back at myself coming home from Dublin, innocent and unprepared, happy and full of myself and my where i was going and what I was doing. And now I am in changed space, it's unfamiliar and I'm acclimatising to this new world where one of the people I turn to to talk about this that and the other is gone. If I read a book I can't tell him, if I see a lovely thing, I can't tell him, whether we would ever have watched another sunrise or sunset together is debatable, but the chance of that happening is nil now, I will not be able to make him laugh or smile again, I will not see his eyes light up with joy. I don't really know what to say about that except that it sucks and it's made me more aware than before of valuing and loving the people I value and love because people die and when they are gone you can't say "i love you" to their faces ever again. 

Monday, 13 November 2017

I made two pieces of work (White Work 2015) a couple of years ago about my time with Jon. They are double sided .. in the light of his death, and the way that I'm feeling just now, it feels right to give them documented form. They are small and made of scrap and memories. I understand these things are of no consequence to anyone but me now. 

Friday, 10 November 2017

Days pass and I am still feeling very odd but maybe not so mad as a couple of weeks ago. The initial shock of Jon's death is subsiding and I'm beginning to reconnect with my body. 
This is a complicated grief. Jon was my ex. Our relationship was not all sunshine and sparkles, his shit did not/does not smell of roses, my shit did not/does not smell of roses, and there was shit in the mix that was not ours and that didn't and doesn't smell of roses either. So with beautiful memories come also difficult ones.
The conflicting images I have of Jon make steady a hard place to find. I remember the tenderness between us, it felt like a miracle at the time and I feel blessed to have known such happiness, to have loved and been loved so well, but then the bits that hurt flash back and I feel angry and sad and frustrated.
People are generally a blend of good and bad. Loving someone means you put up with more of a person's bad side than you would if you didn't care. Love tips the balance so that it favours the loved, gives a little more to the quarter. Ideally this cuts both ways and that way balance is held.
My daughter lost a much loved ex about a year and a half ago and she said this time is a time of bargaining. It's the time where you find a way of living with losing irrevocably someone you love. 
Physically now that I'm coming back into my body I ache and I'm exhausted. My sleep is erratic, mostly I wake at 1 or midnight after crashing out too early in the evening. And food is still a bit of an issue, I am forcing myself to eat but my portions are child size and I am not. Smoking has been a useful crutch. And yoga a lifeline. I can't read more than a few connected lines. Poetry is most helpful, novels, even fairy stories, will have to wait. My heating is cranked up, I figure cold and grief don't go well together. 
That line makes me think of Jon. He talked to me when we were together about his childhood, school, young adulthood, marriage and family. Life had broken both of us, we'd met hardship and struggled and fucked up, but for a little while we found softness and light in each other. Jon's death feels like such a waste. I know it might seem like he was a jerk-off womanising drunk, he was that, but he was also someone sweet and beautiful, someone gentle, someone kind, someone extraordinary. 
Grief seems to manifest differently in each of us, my grief for Jon is like a desert, as far as I can see, in every direction I look, there is no horizon just a blanket of sand and light. 
And so days pass. I'm blogging as a way to make notes. I won't post this to facebook as a wide-open status. I don't mind if it's read, but I don't need it to be seen. Day's pass. Time passes. Love always.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Blogging today because I feel so empty, so voided. All summer I've been blathering on about identity. Blah, blah, blah .. my thoughts, my words, spattered out on a page as if they are important, as if anything I think or say is worth the time and space I give it let alone anyone else. 
Yesterday afternoon I fell asleep for a little while and woke from a dream in which Jon was still someone alive, someone still here, material, someone with whom I could still hold a conversation and get responses that came from outside of me. Waking, I had to recall that he's not here, not someone I can bounce ideas off, banter or flirt with, share moments of wonder that light up my heart in the hope that they'll light up his too. He's a ghost. Supposedly he is in me but fucking hell it's not the same.
Fuck seems to be a bit a word. Fuck, bastard ... the list goes on, sometimes swearing fits. One of the things that I've become aware of is how far in everyday life as I follow societal norms I stray from my heart-mind, how much I depend on the brag and bravado, the big-face voice that the mind in my head throws up. Putting an a thick skin to protect myself, my ego, so that the world knows how fine I am, in mind or in body, or occasionally both .. "I'm diddly-dandy"  "haha what a joke" "look at me and my greatness." 
But what does any of that matter when we are dead. I thought the other day about the impression we make on the world while we are alive. Over the past couple of decades the proud planet-lover will surely have calculated their carbon footprint, once, twice many times. Will likely have done very little about it too. But what about this ? What about the psychic impression we make. Our energetic footprint not in material but etheric terms. In death that footprint is how we are remembered, what we gave, what we took, who we were to those that our lives touched. 
Here, now, I have no new memories to make with Jon. What I have of Jon is what I can recall. I was shocked tho' maybe not surprised by his death, but also shocked at how deeply I feel it. This I think is what I'm trying to say. On a day to day level, we are charged to conform with an intellectual understanding of the world. Too often that intellectual understanding is an act of betrayal to the heart. Too often the outspoken beast - the brain - over-rides the intuition that our hearts offer us as another way. Too often the beast as guide gets it wrong I think. 
I know I'm talking out loud to myself on this blog and that is a sign of madness. I could write it in a notebook, and some that is very messed up I do. But it helps to be witnessed and it helps when people hold out a hand and say "I hear you, I see you, I am here." I think that maybe when I am less insane what I'm writing now may help me later, god willing.  

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Turning to my blog as a kind of journal so I have markers as I find my way though this bit of life that feels so sad and lonely and disorientating. Last night I dug out a book Jon gave me which I felt sure would help me to find myself in this new place I have arrived in. The book, The Arrival by Shaun Tan, kept calling to me. And yesterday morning I pulled it from the bookshelf to read in the evening. 
I'd had a rough night, waking too early, the small hours are grim, the dark confines, and grief often hits me like a wall. Maybe it's also because Jon and I often used to chat by email in the hours before dawn, sharing our insomnia, I'd send him a picture or a song or some-such because I was thinking about him and he'd come back with  "you're awake early" and we'd pass words for a while. 
I was out yesterday, my friend Sally took me to Strumpshaw Fen. Jon had worked there as a resident volunteer for six months and had loved it and made friends who I felt might want to know that he is a bit harder to reach now. Strumpshaw was beautiful in the rain. The river was up to the top of it's banks and a light lingering mist made soft the edges of the landscape, the reed-beds and fields and the trees in the distance.  Pheasants criss-crossed our path, Gelder-Rose berries bright red and shiny hung beautiful and under the apple trees were masses of sweet-smelling windfalls of various sizes and colours. 
I was worried coming home that I'd done the right thing, would Jon want his friends to know he'd died ? Was I making too much of a thing ? Would he prefer to slip away quietly nobody knowing ? Would he prefer that I stopped telling the world I loved him ? Had I wronged him ? Was I making a fuss ? And kicking myself for all the times I got things wrong, the times when we were together when I fucked up, didn't cope, when I could have done better, when if I'd turned a different way or been other than how I was maybe it would have gone differently. I don't really know what to do with those thoughts, they exist, putting them down here in my blog gets them out of me. Allows me to admit my failure and doubt.
Sometimes in the past two weeks strange things have happened. On the thursday after I heard of Jon's death, my boots appeared on the bench in my garden when I went out into the garden to smoke, I must have put them out there myself but I couldn't remember doing so, and it felt like Jon was close-close by and the same day a flock of tits came to my birdbath and hung about the rowan tree, a mixed flock, long-tailed tits and blue tits and great tits, and one brave blue tit perched on the threshold* of my back door and looked in just for a moment. And I found by chance the guide to the gardens at Trebah which we visited in Cornwall and inside was a photo of Jon looking into the distance. Last night I opened the aforementioned book he gave me and found a note tucked into cover, it said "you can hear their dreams I love you Jx" and I felt him all about me. I know I'll never touch his body again or be able to look into his eyes, I am confused and surely a bit mental at the moment. But the moments when he feels near are so precious I want to jot them down here in case I forget. 

* originally posted lintel but I had a feeling it was the wrong word .. one brave blue tit perched on the threshold .. it even looked me in the eye .. grief is very very painful  

Sunday, 29 October 2017

I don't know if blogging helps but it's still night and I'm awake and I don't know how to fill the hours till dawn. I am still reeling, still everyday in tears, still not decided if I want to live still. Maybe that seems melodramatic, overblown, crazy, but there's a significant part of me that just wants to die too. It's not a suicidal feeling, I've been there, just a not wanting to live. I have to keep pointing my face towards my children and my grandchildren to remind myself why I am here and that I have people here to whom my heart belongs. But Jon has taken a significant part with him into the land of the dead. 
You might ask why I loved Jon so much, why when he was surely and often emotionally abusive. There is a reason. There is a reason why. When I was 18 I was seriously sexually violated by my then-boyfriend, the act left me damaged both physically and emotionally. Jon was the only man, the only person, to ever respond, without a pause, with kindness and care when I told him very early in our knowing each other, just weeks in. It was at that point that I gave him my heart. Always when he did me wrong I would remember that he was that action. He lit a candle in a darkness that had kept me trapped for over twenty years. 
Jon and I held each other from 2007-2013. We broke up in 2012, but continued to see each other and sleep with each other until the summer of 2013 just after I graduated. When he first spoke to me of moving to Gozo he said it would be a new start for us but it wasn't to be. Whether he meant it when he said it or if it was a lie to soften the blow that he was leaving me I'll never know. He left. I was devastated and poured myself into making a go of being a working artist (what does that mean). I do not know if I have done that. I love what I do but his absence made, and makes, everything a little less, makes all my wins feel empty.
When he left we mailed a bit, me more than him, he was gone. I gather he was happy at first but started to drink again during the time we lost touch. He talked a bit about his drinking when we were together. Drinkers drink.  
In 2015 we got back in touch. I was working on the piece Bigod's Way 2 which was a celebration of our early days, our two year honeymoon period. And simultaneously I was acting as a volunteer arts facilitator with a  recovery group in Thetford. One day while I was in Thetford I was broken into and burgled. Oddly he was one of the first people I texted, and then later emailed. I didn't expect a response. But he got back to me with the words "I care, I read your email and I care" .. to understand the meaning of those words you need to understand that Jon was not an effusive man, he was not prone to showing his feelings, so a declaration of care was pretty momentous. 
From there we began a two year email correspondence. We'd chit chat and pass songs and quotes and news-stories to each other, and books and birds and beaches, pretty much every day. Sometimes we would have a spat and lay off for a week or so but always we'd come back, growling, but later declaring our affection. I was pretty sure that people would think I shouldn't be emailing but I followed my heart and I'm glad I did. Those two years are some balm to the pain I am feeling now. 
But what now. He is buried already. Nearly two weeks dead* and I am one week on from being told of his death. 
I am alone with my memories. I did not know his family and our relationship was essentially him and I so I've no-one to say "do you remember?" to verify our communion, or to celebrate his life with. Maybe that is how it is. That deep and heavy, dark and painful loneliness that is the counterbalance to all the joy that life brings. No one understands any one else, people make an attempt to a greater or lesser extent but in the end we are not that other and can not know that other. Stripped to the bone now as I am by Jon's death. I am more aware than ever of my flawed being, my unimportance and irrelevance and the unimportance and irrelevance of all our lives in the grand scheme of things. 
Apologies for speaking to my page. I long for witness in my sadness as the witness to my once-upon-a-time joy is dead.

Correction *nearly 3 weeks dead