Friday, June 29, 2007

29th June 2007
Trying to get ready to go on holiday tomorrow.
It is a weird feature of contemporary life that holidays, which was supposed to help us recover from the stress of our daily lives, actually cause intense stress in themselves.
It's all left me so eaxhausted my mind is a complete blank.
Perhaps its a prelude to renewed creativity, but I'm too exhausted to gamble on it.


Wednesday, June 27, 2007

27th June 2007

I was at a meeting today, about THE CROSSING.

This is a project that has been rumbling on for years, loosely inspired by the oldest representation of the female form in Scotland - in the Royal Scottish museum, where we met.

The theory is that she guarded the crossing at Ballachulish: that travellers made an offering and a prayer to her before embarking on its fierce currents.

Then when the Christians came, she was wrapped in wicker and buried in a peat bog to preserve Her.

So she would not be forgotten.

The prokect began as a dance/text collabioration between Claire Pencak and me - Claire is the artistic director of Tabula Rasa Dance Company - which we thought of in a residence in Cove Park in 2005. It was in June: and at the end of that week I discovered Susie had suffered her first stroke.

That was the beginning of her Crossing.

I'd also thought at the time it was the beginning of mine.

The piece is about the meory of the body: and the memory of the earth.

Peat stands as an image for both.

Recently Claire went to a dementia study centre in Stirling where they use 'Memory Boxes' to help people suffering with dementia remember who they are.

Memory seems to function a bit like a peat stack: layer on layer.

Dementia sufferers lose the upper layers - the most recent memories - and retain much earlier ones.

And perhaps our meory forms part of our identity, that means they also regress into childhood.

The Boxes are set up to help them remeber.

I spent the evening clearing out the cupboard under the stairs: a hateful task.

Because it takes me back to past lives, to past selves.

There was Susie's walking stick, that she bought after her stroke.

There was the sun umbrella that she always insiosted on keeping, year after year, much to my irritation: rather than buy a new one.

I felt strangely reluctant to bin it - until my daughter reminded me of how I always longed to bin them when Susie was alive.

i didn't expect her photo to be at the head of this entry: but there it is, dear love.

No wonder its so hard to let go of this past.


Friday, June 22, 2007

21st June.
Last time I went to the opticians they took a photo of the back of my eye.
They saw warts there, and blood vessels looking all twisted and gnarled.
So they told me to comeback in two months, and i did today.
I said that in between visits I'd been diagnosed with high blood pressure: but it was going down, I said, and when she looked at the back of my eye she could see nothing unusual.
And then she took the photos, and the spots or warts had gone and the blood vessels that had looked as if they were in some distress no looked distinctly healthy, untwisted and utterly straightforward.
And she said: come back in two years.
We have all these sayings like "getting to the heart of things" or "the heart of the matter" which I used to understand in an intuitive kind of way but which now I can relate to in the directest way possible. After I had the heart operation, I had the sense that the whole centre of me and been wrenched out and then put back together, higglety pigglety, by a rather clumsy giant.
And that process obviously reached right up to the back of my eyes.
And so seeing those happier looking blood vessels made me feel that I really am healing again.
I cycled to the supermarket and then to the art college for the landscape architecture opening, and that feeling intensified.
It's very strange how so much of her industrial activity leads to the minimising, or rather the disguising, of physical effort.
That's one of the things cars are about, for instance.
We prize it: even though the effects are actually very bad for the world around us and even for our own dear selves. Lack of exercise makes it harder to dissipate our tensions: we store them up, they make us ill too.
But I felt so blessed to be taking even this simple exercise: more and more fully back into my body again.
And so back more fully into the world.


Tuesday, June 19, 2007

19 June 2007
An envelope arrived at the door today. With my daughter's exam results.
I didn't dare open it, she didn't dare open it, it got left in the hallway till late afternoon.
Then she opened it.
She'd passed.
One down, four or five more to go.
One of the saddest things about our education system is that the one thing that seems most important - your results - is actually the least important thing of all.
Or at least when it comes to real learning.
I think of my grandfather being made to recall facts, under presure, for his competitive Indian Civil Service exam.
The system hasn't changed that much.
And it seems to occur to nobody to think about how it all began; and whether, in fact, a system designed to select administrators for the British colonial empire really makes a lot of sense now.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Monday 18th June
Sleeping badly again.
I stopped sleeping when Susie fell ill.
We were told she could die at any time. In fact, she died after six months.
But it made sleeping difficult.
She couldn't sleep often, and would pad about, very wobbly because the motor section of her brain seemed to be one of the parts effected. Often she would come upstairs and sit in this upper room where I'm writing this.
(And then when i was ill, and couldn't sleep, I would find myself doing the same)
Soon after she died I would dream she was still alive and found this so unbearably painful when i woke up again that maybe I was trying to stop myself dreaming.
But when i dream of her now I am glad to.
Yesterday at a dance workshop they played the Burns song "Ane fond kiss" which I left her listening to the last time I saw her conscious.
This was in the hospice, where she stayed the last 6 weeks: it was always horribly difficult to leave her at night.
That night she gave me a clumsy kind of hug, and I didn't really respond too warmly. i was just too exhausted to.
I still regret this, and when I heard the song I completely collapsed. I cried and cried and cried and felt in a state of shock for hours afterwards.
Which is maybe why I slept so badly.
And tonight, who knows. The nights all tend to be something of an adventure.

Friday, June 15, 2007

15 June 2007
I remember now: when I was last here I was still 'John'
A few months later, I went to a Dance Workshop one weekend.
It was in between being at 'Celestina' rehearsals in Birmingham and going to rejopin my family on holiday in Portugal.
There's an exercise in Biodanza where you split into pairs. One lies down while the other sings their name into their body as a blessing.
I went with a very dear man I was very fond of. And when it was my time, I lay down and closed my eyes and he started singing "John... John..." very gently and lovingly.
And I felt at a level much stronger and deeper than conscious "That is not my name".
And I began singing my new name to myself: "Johanna... Johanna".
It was all rather uncanny and I didn't want to talk about it.
I went off on what was to be our last holiday together.
Later, when we all knew Susie was dying, I remembered this experience.
I'd had another similar experience that September, as I lay awake one night, with Susie ill and dying in the room next door.
I was in fear and anguish, and it was as if a voice said...
But it wasn't in words...
What I understood was that the female part of myself, of which I had always been so deeply ashamed, and so profoundly fearful, was in fact a good energy.
Wholly good...
That I needed to trust this energy, because it (She) would help me through this terrible time and help me rebuild my life.
And that's when I started to become Jo.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

14th June 2007
I've just been reading my last post... in March 2004!!
I feel utterly discombobulated.. my partner Susie must have been still alive.. in fact not even ill.
She had her stroke at the end of June, seemed to be getting better, was ill again in August, diagnosed with a brain tumour on August 13th. They said she would probably die very soon.
She lived six months...
Died at the end of February 2005.
Is that right? And then what happened...
I wrote FAUST PART ONE, FAUST PART TWO, translated THE FORCE OF DESTINY, wrote THE WORLD for my students...
FAUST happened in January 2006.
I went to Greece that March. I felt my grief was healing.
In June 2006, I started to feel the intensest fear.
A valve in my heart was badly leaking: and the fear was happening because I was entering heart failure.
On the waiting list for heart surgery until October.
October 15th, 7 hours open heart surgery.
Recovering.. and then about a fortnight later poisoned by warfarin. I had been proscribed far too much and my blood was 9 times thinner than it should have been.
Bad internal bleeding: 2 and a half litres of bloody fluid had to be drained from my chest.
And only now beginning to feel as if I am recovering...
and perversely thinking seriously of Sexual reassignment Surgery to help me search a new identity.
And I have lived through all this...
That entry probably marks one of the last months I actually slept properly...
Perhaps through keeping this blog.....

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