Always Look On The Fright Side Of Life

I lost it on the plane. It was the bumpiest flight I’ve ever been on. I lost it. Public Humiliation. Hy per ven ti la tion. Geometric fabric design on the seat in front of me. Seven little squares in each row. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… eight?! No, no, no. Seven, seven, one, two, three…We are going to die! I made my daughter cry. A kind woman sitting in front of me offered me her hand to hold. I squeezed her fingers and hated myself. Later, that night, instead of sleeping, I went on with self-hatred. Such loser! Embarrassing! Pathetic! The human body is supposed to be 70 percent water. I am 70 percent fear! Can anything good come out of Fear?

70% fear

My first clear memory is of a man shouting at me at a kid’s party. Music is loud. The hall is dark. He looks like an angry giant. I want my mum. I’m too shocked to cry. I am frozen scared. Little fear sculpture. That evening I told my mum this man has scary eyes. They got married. We leave my grandparents’ house behind, the garden, the swing. I am five and I am scared. They fight a lot. They beat each other up. I am scared. He introduces his son. My mother goes ballistic. I share a room with the boy who steals my toys and treasures. I’m too shocked to complain. I am frozen scared. I stop sleeping. I eat very little. Often I am ill. The kids want to shut this cry baby up for good. I hide in a cloak room after lessons. My mother shouts at me for being late. I am scared of God who is ‘always watching’, the choleric nun who teaches religion, scared of war, of Nazis coming back, of concentration camps. Russians v Germans on TV. Tiny Scouts fighters of the Warsaw Uprising, soldier girls raped with glass bottles. When they reach up for a handle bar on a tram I notice people’s bare forearms with small numbers tattooed on them. God dies. Allegory painting world turns into a badly executed collage. A large accumulation of random elements gathered together. Lonely creatures, I’m one of them, longing to attach themselves to things or to other creatures which brings no comfort but only sadness and despair…

I’ve always loved modern art.

If anger, regret and comfort eating — my mother’s way of life — didn’t terrify me so much I would never seek love, friendship and trust in others the way I did, which gave me great happiness. If the ideas of an omnipotent god and fate didn’t scare the shit out me I would never read and study as much as I did, which gave me great satisfaction. If the bigotry, misogyny and catholicism didn’t terrorise me in my youth I would never move abroad, which gave me safety and freedom. If it wasn’t for the fear of ignorant men, men like my stepfather, I would never search the world for the kindest man, the man who is now my husband. It took me many years to get over the fear of having a family however the fear of not having a child to teach about anarchism, pacifism and Chagall was stronger. The idea of screwing up the only life I have. Scary.

The flight back was a doddle.