On holiday, away from my husband, my enthusiasm for life is returning – I feel content
I am in my parents’ kitchen before everyone else wakes and the room becomes a canteen filled with hungry children, lively animals and tired adults. I stand on a chair and perform what look like an amateur array of modern dance moves, waving my phone back and forth above the router. “Work dammit.”
The red light flashes and I’m hooked up once more. I discover that our neighbours did get the message about feeding the cat, so he hasn’t died, that I’ve been paid by work, and that John Lewis has new bed linen in stock. I move away from the router and am out of contact once more.
In my mind, holidays are not real holidays if you can be reached easily through any other means than by landline telephone.
Otherwise, I feel people can ask me things that require an immediate answer. I am pleased to be away from that for now, mainly because R and I are getting the break we need.
It would be hard to go cold turkey once back home, so this is a taster of things to come. Most days at home, save the times R has gone on a bender or a lone adventure and turned off his phone and laptop, we’d be in contact several times a day. Whether the exchanges were anger-fuelled, filled with love and desire, or talking about what we’d eat for dinner, I now believe that being in constant contact was probably unhealthy for both of us.
It was not so much the number of messages, it was the content – our habit of taking the focus away from the present. With a single text or email, one of us could inject anxiety or worry into next week or, worse, we’d be glancing remorsefully back at the past. We were obsessed with dissecting our problems, planning for better times, trying to heal each other’s scars.
We were not allowing each other the silence in which to think.
Here, in the last few days before I return with the children, time moves along pleasingly, very much in the present. My sister and I watch the children bounce on the trampoline, calling out to us to pay attention to their new tricks. This is how I imagined it would be.
In the past few days, I have been observing my sister and her children in an attempt to be a happier parent. It irked me somewhat that my children have recently christened me Grumps.
My sister seems to exude kindness with herself and others and I can’t say I’m not slightly envious. I am realistic, though, and realise that she can’t always be like this, though her consistent good nature is something I try to imitate. I’m sure I was once more like her, and even though some of my smiles seem forced, I have found that my attempts to find fun where there’s fun to be had have proved fruitful: I am no longer the joyless fairground attendant pressing the buttons for a ride to move then stop. My enthusiasm for my life and my children is returning.
At midnight, I stand on the chair, my phone hovering above the router. Perhaps the cat has died today, I think, idiotically. In reality, I want to see if R has sent me anything. I can only pretend to others that I don’t miss him.
In my new emails, there is this from R: “I find my ostracism by you really off as I don’t know what I’ve done wrong. You send me emails that ask me to check our joint account balance, then treat my subsequent attempts at making a connection with you with such disdain.”
I send an email back and explain that I have barely been in communication with anyone. He apologises and says he feels incredibly low and needy. He’s staying with his parents (his new flat is not ready for another week), and everything feels like it’s fallen apart. I say I understand and that I’m sorry he’s feeling so bad. Then I head upstairs.
In bed, I am assailed by sadness. Here, I am surrounded by unconditional love: my sister, parents and the children. I feel strong, content and supported. I know that this won’t always be the case, but I wonder if R ever really feels this. His parents are wonderful and considerate; his friends are great too. But he finds it so difficult to share anything with anyone, and in the end he always seems to turn to drink.
If I could I’d probably email him back. I want to comfort him, but this no longer seems appropriate or helpful. While I have to sit with all of these uncomfortable feelings, so does R. It is clear that there will be no remedy for the pain that we will endure as the pulling apart of homes, relationships and the emotions that have been bound up within all of this slowly begin to unravel.