Tuesday, 29 July 2008

2008 sucker punch

So, I thought 2008 would prove an exciting year; it has certainly provided unexpected (and unwanted) twists. Things were off to a good start with a very good Zizek masterclass in February. We joined the ICA in January and were busy with members' previews, private views, concerts, talks and films (Ariel Dorfman and Fuck Buttons being just two of the highlights). The PhD work was ticking over nicely and in April attended Martha Rosler's opening talk for her installation of the Martha Rosler Library in its first UK site at John Moores University, Liverpool. In May, we attended Etienne Balibar's Birkbeck Masterclass, which was also very engaging. It was the same two weeks as his daughter, the actress Jeanne Balibar was on the jury panel of Cannes.

Then came the day we went to see Winter Soldier at the ICA. Saturday 17 May, I believe. The day of the FA Cup Final. First the film and then off to a pub to watch the match; then home. Home, where we found a message from my mom telling me of a family member's serious illness. Five days later I was in Dallas trying to help for a fortnight. When I left 6 June, all seemed much improved with happy prospects all round. Less than two weeks later, my loved one had died and straight back to Dallas we went.

I've been devastated and in shock ever since. It feels like trudging through treacle. Part of my enfeebled attempts to 'deal' with this situation has been to distract myself as much as possible with various displacement activities and inquiries. So I got obsessed with the release of the 3g iPhone (I don't own won, but now know all about its spec nonetheless). I decided that like Charlotte Higgins of the Guardian (with her inspiring laptop on the knee mobility) I would become a diligent blogger. I bought Wired and read up on the coming of the cloud, server farms and the paradigm shift of the petabyte age. I got into Clay Shirky and his web2.0 revolution. I decided to join the Real Food Revolution and bought Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food (along with three new cookbooks: Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite; the Kitchen Revolution; and the new Chinese Food Made Easy by Ching-He Huang from her BBC programme). Did you know Michael Pollan is Tracy Pollan's brother - brother-in-law to Michael J. Fox, therefore? Betcha didn't. Such are the tidbits of grief-distraction.

But last Friday it all just hit me. Came crashing in. I stoically had managed even the unfortunate coincidence of having in February bought tickets for the final night's performance of Vanessa Redgrave at the National Theatre in a one-woman production of Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" (the play she wrote to transform her novel of the same name at the urging of David Hare). A performance which we attended three days short of the one month 'anniversary' of my loved one's death. A play which is all about the attendant disbelief and shock and eventual coming to terms with the loss of the two most loved ones in one's life. This I handled beautifully. What finally did for me, I couldn't even tell you. The floodgates didn't open, but the box began to leak. That box I'd stuffed all my disbelief and grief and rage and unhappiness and shear shock into had obviously corroded and toxic seepage had commenced. Maybe it was like the leak from an air mattress, slow and so soft as to go undetected as the bodies lay upon it for the first few hours, but such that by morning there was little support left.

So on I soldier with my to-do lists mockingly nearby, their multitudinous tasks frolicing gaily on the pages, taunting me with their un-done-ness. I'm sure I will again be able to subdue my pain with escape into practical chores (as in the very first days and weeks). But for now, I am suffused in the cotton wool numbness that cossetts me between the rounds of buffetting winds gusting out of that nasty box of pain.

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