Róisín Ingle: I am choosing not to listen to the scaremongerers in charge

Instead I listen to Adele, and remember the day I realised my marriage was over

In song after song on 30, she’s fiercely honest about the impact of her leaving her relationship and sorry for the pain it caused, especially to her young son. Photograph: Simon Emmett/Columbia Records/PA Wire

In song after song on 30, she’s fiercely honest about the impact of her leaving her relationship and sorry for the pain it caused, especially to her young son. Photograph: Simon Emmett/Columbia Records/PA Wire

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‘I’m having a bad day, I’m having a very anxious day. I feel very paranoid, I feel very stressed … I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot” – Adele

I feel it’s important to point out, in case you’ve somehow missed the marketing juggernaut that has accompanied the launch of Adele’s new album, 30, that despite the above snippet from one of her songs this is not an album musing on the emotional impact of a global pandemic. It’s an album about breaking up and dealing with loneliness and doing hard things in the pursuit of happiness. Crucially, the album is also a Covid-free zone even if one of the songs – I Drink Wine – has a title that could serve as a pandemic anthem for many of us.

However sad most of the songs are, and they are heartbreaking, I am choosing to listen to Adele at the moment rather than to the people in charge. The people in charge are deliberately and tactically scaremongering. They aren’t even trying to hide the fact any more. According to one senior Government Minister, a combination of our chief medical officer “scaring the bejaysus out of people” and booster shots is going to keep us out of lockdown. Fear as a weapon. Fear as a cattle prod. No thanks. Bejaysus, I’m not buying into that.

Anyway, it could reasonably be argued that the much more likely impact of the round-the-clock relaying of the same messages we’ve been hearing for nearly two years is that you risk boring the bejaysus out of people. No offence meant to him – he is only doing his extremely difficult and unenviable job after all – but lately when the Chief Scaring Officer comes on the radio I’ve been turning him off and sticking on Adele instead.

“I feel a bit frightened that I might feel like this a lot.”

Leavings and endings

Let’s be clear. Adele is singing about some seriously scary stuff too, but it manages to be comforting as opposed to fear-inducing. Comforting in its relatability and universality and vulnerability. She’s singing about leavings and endings, the kind of endings that happen so the rest of your life can begin. It has brought me right back to an ending of my own.

The day I realised my marriage was over was a dark one. I had a reporting job to do in Dublin 4 at some conference or other, which I did on automatic pilot. Afterwards I limped, like a homing pigeon with a broken wing, back to my childhood home on Sandymount Green which has since been demolished and rebuilt as a cosmetic surgery clinic.

But back then in the late 1990s it was not a place where you could get eye-bags removed or inquire about surgery to attain a smaller nose. It was still the home I’d grown up in and I remember walking to it in a daze and going upstairs to what used to be my bedroom. I got into the bed and under the covers. This broken bird lay there and howled for hours, making sounds I’d never heard myself make before or since. My younger brother and sister were in the house, I seem to remember. I felt ashamed for a long time that they had to bear witness to my pain.

To listen to Adele’s album 30 is to bear witness to her pain over the ending of her marriage. It’s uncomfortable to observe such emotional suffering, even when the person who is in pain is a millionaire celebrity you’ve never met. Listening to the album on repeat I was grateful to the singer for her candour. In song after song, she’s fiercely honest about the impact of her leaving her relationship and sorry for the pain it caused, especially to her young son, Angelo. In the second song on the album, My Little Love, she intersperses recordings of conversations between herself and her son which exposes some of the devastating fallout of her decision.

Act of self-care

Not everyone will approve of this level of exposure but, for many, the album is a helpful and healing work of art. What Adele has made very clear in interviews and throughout the album is that leaving her marriage, however painful that leaving turned out to be, was ultimately an act of self-care. “If I can reach the reason why I left, which was the pursuit of my own happiness, even though it made Angelo really unhappy – if I can find that happiness and he sees me in that happiness, then maybe I’ll be able to forgive myself for it.”

It’s an album that offers both solace and courage. As she sings on Easy On Me, the most streamed song in music history with 24 million downloads in 24 hours:

You can’t deny

How hard I tried

I changed who I was to put you both first

But now I give up

I’m listening to Adele on a loop lately. I’m remembering past pain and thinking about life and love and endings and leavings. I’m thinking about this strange time and how it’s frightening enough for people without adding deliberate and tactical scaremongering to the mix.

Nearly two years is a long time out of our lives. It’s a long time to be putting a pandemic first. We know everything we are supposed to do but I don’t think anybody can be blamed for feeling close to giving up.

As Adele might say, go easy on us.

roisin@irishtimes.com