Ninety Layers of Me
Back in October we were in Inverness working with young creatives on Hacks For The Future, it was brilliant but the days were pretty exhausting both physically and mentally and in the evenings my pain was often very intense. Whenever the pain is really bad I always have a strong urge to find creative ways to express and understand it.
One evening I started imagining my body as layers. If each layer was roughly the width of my index finger I worked out that there would be 90 layers in total. Starting at my head and working down I gave each layer a colour depending on how much pain was present in that part of my body. I remember feeling reassured that however overwhelming my pain felt there were actually more pain free layers than painful ones.
It’s the early hours of the morning now, and I’ve woken up in a lot of pain, so I’ve decided to think about the layers of my body again but rather than colour codes I decided to assign each layer a word. Some of these are descriptive, others more abstract but together they make up a moment of me.
5. Thinking space
6. Seeing space
21. Breathe in
22. Pain streak
23. Breathe out
33. Sparks of pain
42. Pain edge
50. The Knot
51. The Centre
52. The Peak
59. Pain edge
60. Two Legs
63. Streams of sensation
65. Top of Knees
69. Under Knees
70. Not Shin
80. Still shin
84. Pain edge
86. Pain edge
The layers where pain is present are highlighted in bold. This morning there are only 23, less than a quarter of my whole body, which means 75% of me is pain free!
Just like my wiggly body, my pain is never still – it seems to shift constantly. It’s only taken a few minutes to write this list of words and my pain has already moved about.
I think one of the reasons I try to pin my pain down creatively is to demonstrate to myself how different it can feel one moment to the next. This helps me feel hopeful – however intense it gets I know it’ll change.
While I’m still very uncomfortable I feel more settled now and I reckon I’m ready to go back to sleep – although not before my tics have had a quick word with the lamp-post:
“Lamp-post, you probably think this post is about you”
“How many layers in a lamp-post?”
“Lamp-post, you could be a performance poet called Metal Jar.”