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.

1. Air
2. Hair
3. Forehead
4. Clear
5. Thinking space
6. Seeing space
7. Cheeks
8. Fleshy
9. Breath
10. Fill
11. Lips
12. Split
13. Empty
14. Chin
15. Soft
16. Bang
17. Lump
18. Bang
19. Peak
20. Bang
21. Breathe in
22. Pain streak
23. Breathe out
24. Gone
25. Fleshy
26. Round
27. Wobble
28. Nips
29. Slope
30. Skin
31. Dough
32. Reverberate
33. Sparks of pain
34. Still
35. Heavy
36. Space
37. Round
38. Middle
39. Deep
40. Dip
41. Spread
42. Pain edge
43. Gentle
44. Buzz
45. Broad
46. Spread
47. Intense
48. Deep
49. Column
50. The Knot
51. The Centre
52. The Peak
53. Pelvis
54. Pubic
55. Light
56. Ache
57. Buttocks
58. Buzzing
59. Pain edge
60. Two Legs
61. Thighs
62. Solid
63. Streams of sensation
64. Quiver
65. Top of Knees
66. Rough
67. Round
68. Hard
69. Under Knees
70. Not Shin
71. Shin
72. Shin
73. Shin
74. Seam
75. Shin
76. Shin
77. Shin
78. Shaft
79. Shin
80. Still shin
81. Shin
82. Arc
83. Ankle
84. Pain edge
85. Pain
86. Pain edge
87. Crunchy
88. Air
89. Sole
90. Air

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.”

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