Róisín Ingle on . . . sibling stuff
Sometimes we stayed up late in my kitchen and I was able to tell him of my nerves and dread around sharing my story
Last week, I mentioned my brother, aka Somatic Sibling, was over on his annual Dublin stopover. His work takes him across the world but once a year he organises somatic workshops in Dublin and stays in my house.
Some of these visits have been less successful than others. I love him dearly but, as in most sibling relationships, there can be moments of conflict. We seem to have found our brotherly-sisterly groove now though. He’s a one off and he’s gone off again and I know I will miss him, perhaps more than ever. I’ll tell you why.
In the weeks before the extract from my book containing my abortion story was due to appear on these pages, I was often sick with nerves.
Sometimes I lay awake, wondering what the reaction would be and what kind of abuse I might be in for. An interview with Marian Finucane had been arranged for weeks, and I was in bits worrying that I would open my mouth to speak to her only to find I’d lost my voice. Also, I hadn’t spoken to anyone in my family apart from my mother about the abortion. So I was apprehensive about what they would think. I needn’t have been.
I sent the 6,000-word introduction to the book to all of them but I sent it to the Somatic Sibling first. I wrote: “If you wouldn’t mind having a read of this and letting me know what you think, I’d appreciate it. It’s a bit controversial in parts ...” Within an hour he had got back to me saying “nice intro ... let’s talk real soon”. The relief! Other emails from brothers and sisters followed. All of them supportive with one saying “it’s none of anyone’s business”. Their responses, which ranged from genuine nonchalance to out and out cheerleading, were the first hint that perhaps the sky was not about to fall in.
My brother arrived back home a couple of weeks before the article appeared. I was glad to have him there.
Sometimes we stayed up late in my kitchen drinking the cognac he’d bought from Russia and I was able to tell him of my nerves and dread around sharing my story. In the past, we’ve clashed because I’ve felt he’s been insensitive or disregarding of people’s feelings but perhaps turning 50 earlier in the year had mellowed him.
He was beautifully sensitive. He listened as I spoke about my worries. I’d say: “I know I am always putting myself out there, but this feels different, I worry what people are going to think of me”. He’d say: “Mmmmm” and “You just have to trust yourself and trust your readers”. Which was great because all I needed was someone to listen. I didn’t go into details and he didn’t ask for details. He was just there for me.
When he had a break in his work schedule, I brought him to my friend’s house in Co Kilkenny. She was having a gig in her back garden. We were camping in the garden and both being wrecked left the party a bit early. I remember lying there beside him on the blow up mattress, going through the dark spiral of anticipation again. What would people think? Would bad things happen? And again, him lying beside me, just listening not saying any of the irritating or accidentally offensive things he would sometimes be prone to saying. I remember thanking him for “holding the space” for me.
The nervous days wore on. Some of my colleagues knew about the article but many didn’t. One day in work, Irish Times columnist Fintan O’Toole after reading my introduction came over to my desk to talk to me about it. (DISCLAIMER: even though I work a few desks away from him, my high professional regard for O’Toole can often cause me to get flustered in his presence). I went home elated.
But if I am a Fintan O’Toole fan, Somatic Sibling is in whole other league of fandom. When I told him how chuffed I was about the mindblowingly kind things Fintan had said to me, my brother began to look a bit strange, as though he was sickening for something.
Pink of cheek, I recounted the praise I’d received while holding with pride on to my book. As I spoke, my brother came over trying to grab it off me saying “just let me have it for a second”. This was most odd. He was freaking me out. I stood grappling with him for a minute, until in exasperation I told him:
“Ah, look, you don’t need to be reading all about my abortion again.”
And that’s when my brother said: “YOU HAD AN ABORTION?”.
Yes he’s a one off. And now he’s gone off again. And with the shock on his face making me laugh every time I think back on that moment, I will miss him more than ever. firstname.lastname@example.org Roisin’s book Public Displays of Emotion is now available to buy at irishtimes.com/ irishtimesbooks for €14.99