Things fall apart: At a distance, you can see what you’ve been contending with
In the last year, Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart. She is now working on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she is exploring the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves.
We are on holiday and the weather is so good it makes anything but endless blue skies and evenings warm enough to sit on the beach until past nine o clock unimaginable. One vaguely overcast morning and we grumble in outrage. I bought a mini dress yesterday, because obviously that is something I can wear indefinitely. Instagram reassures me that home now enjoys a similar climate, so it’s a safe bet.
The last time I was here, a family place we come to each year, things were different. Despite the undeniably day-after-day blue skies, it felt like a grey cloud was hovering over me. Menacing, it threatened to pull me under. I could feel its attempts to drag.
It turned out this was a good thing. Because I saw it, and I kicked back. Not me, I thought. No way is depression pulling me under. So I pushed back and it gave an impetus to face thing and fix things. I was lucky. When depression, or any sort of mental health crisis, hovers, choice, deciding to go the other way, is not always the case. It tends to come in whether invited or not.
With all this, I promised myself a break every couple of months. A yoga trip, a meditation course, a weekend with a friend. In the last few months that got side-lined, so this holiday has some work to do.
Firstly, and most importantly, what it does is show up how much better, and easier, things have come. This too shall pass I tell my daughter regularly, admittedly more than is required for the ouchies of a four-year-old, but I want it to be inculcated in her.
From the outset, this trip has been just easy. Flying with children isn’t one of life’s great pleasures but we go with the flow. We arrive ridiculously early at the airport, but have a lovely time pottering, buying magazines for herself, skincare for me, enjoying a relaxed lunch.
Our plane is delayed for an hour on the runway. Baking in the heat, whatever tolerance Herself had for travel evaporates. And I have prepared like a novice, brought just one dvd, packed no food because she’s a big girl now so will eat whatever they have on the flight. Which it transpires is not her favourite lasagne, and so I am forced to lick all traces of relish from a sausage roll, for her consideration. Unimpressed by my efforts, she goes feral, adopting the family in the row behind us, entertaining their baby in return for a share of their snacks.
Usually the stuff of arriving at your destination a broken version of your former self, but high on the reality of the much longed for holiday, we just go with the flow, and it is all ok.
Herself is beside herself at the prospect of reunification with the grandparents. “Grandad, can you believe we don’t have to video call anymore,” she exclaims at the airport, in the tone of one for whom this has been a long-term means of communication, rather than the few weeks he has been away.
The ex joins us, and we go with the flow.
We have been here for potty training, and various other traumas; the morning afters of Trump and Brexit. The waking up to discover the whole world had shifted and things you thought were a given, could take for granted, were actually not. Not entirely unlike realising your marriage is over.
We were here when Herself was four months old, and basically refusing to fall asleep. I remember wishing I was struck down with a mysterious, temporarily life threating, painless-but-ultimately-recoverable-from illness which required me to lie in bed reading magazines. Herself would be brought for a feed, then taken away by someone else whose job it was to rock and cajole her into sleep.
This year it is all easy.
This year, she is a little person. I can see her toppling over from baby into child, the last vestiges of toddler being shed.
After a meltdown on the beach over sun cream, or sun scream as she unconsciously calls it, she quietly turns to me in the restaurant. “I’m sorry I was cranky mommy, I was so hot.” The rationality. And the wicked sense of humour. “I love you soooooo much”, she declares at bedtime one night. “I love you too bean” I reply, swooning. “I was talking to myself,” she replies tartly.
She is making friends. Herself is a conversationalist. As a person who hid behind couches from shyness as a child, I regard her advances to all and sundry with awe. If the child is too young or too teenage to respond, she moves onto the parent, adjusting her opening. “Hi, I like your baby,” she has informed numerous mothers on our trip.
There is another four-year-old next door, Lily. Herself spots a large inflatable dinosaur on their patio, and drags her own inflatable, a boat, to the end of her friend-to-be’s garden, where she stands honking its horn in a sort of four-year-old friendship mating call. Lily responds later that day by taking up a place on our lawn with her dolls, whereupon Herself dashes from the apartment, arms full of Frozen inspired Barbies. They play. I get to sit and read my book.
At a distance, you can see how much you’ve been contending with, and it feels nice to take a break. But there is also that holiday high where you see how much you love in your life, and there are so many things you want to do when you get back. Dinners, catch ups, outings with kids. But it is nice to have a few weeks to just be. To have breathing space. To uncoil in a way you didn’t quite realise you needed to.
We decide to stay on. To extend our trip. I ring Aer Lingus, unable to face the online process. The man could not be more helpful. It reminds me of other calls I have had to make, in the process of other changes; names on bills, the rearrangement of insurance plans. This is a far nicer call.