Róisín Ingle on . . . a problem shared
I’ve never done this before, I probably won’t again, but this is a column about another column. Last week I sat down and wrote a piece about my relationship problems. It was one of those times when the sentences spilled effortlessly onto the page. As I was writing, a large part of me was desperate to grab the kitchen towels and mop up all those seeping words. To write about something else instead. (I mean, like statement necklaces. They’re everywhere. What’s that all about?) But I couldn’t stop the spillage. Then I filed the piece and put it out of my head.
Well, I pretended to put it out of my head. The truth is I was embarrassed. Morto. I took a redner every time I thought about what I’d done. I’d written a column about something I hadn’t spoken about with even my closest friends. I’d written something I hadn’t shown to my boyfriend first so he could have a say on whether he was comfortable with having our grubby washing aired in public. I’d written a piece illustrating in forensic detail how I was failing spectacularly at an element of life crucial to the happiness and stability of my family. “Nice one,” snorted my constant companion, the critical voice in my head. The same one I try to ignore around 50 times a day. “Nice one. You’ve really done it now. Way, too much information. And I’m not talking about the black pudding.”
But beneath the mortification I knew I had done something good. For me, anyway. And more importantly for us. Yes I was embarrassed but I also felt free. I had stopped pretending. I had told it like it was. I had admitted that I was finding this part of life horribly difficult. And there was something liberating in that.
What I didn’t mention in last week’s column was that I’d been in that exact place in a relationship before. (“Ha! See a pattern here, loser?” says the critical voice helpfully at this point.) I was married then. And when we tried to work it out, it became clear almost immediately that my husband wasn’t on the same page. He didn’t want to work on working it out. He wanted to give up. I couldn’t blame him although I did for a long time. He wanted out. And so he left.
I kept the pain of that break-up to myself. I kept it close to me, as though the pain was an invisible pet in my pocket that I’d stroke, lovingly, as it grumbled and growled. I learnt something basic from that experience. Keeping it to yourself may seems like the easiest option but it’s like feeding the Pain Pet the most nutritious superfood. The pain grew bigger, fatter, meaner. It took longer to heal than it might have done had I not been so busy putting on such a brave face.