It started with a fish! No that's not quite true. The day had started normally for us. I was doing my Friday follow recommendations and OH was glued to the news. Suddenly he shouted 'another fish is stuck'. What he meant was one of our cherry barbs had found its way through an opening in an ornamental tower we have in our aquarium and it couldn't release itself. This had happened on a previous occasion with a happy ending but this time the fish was so badly injured we had to put it out of its misery.
We were both upset. After all it is sad when any living creature dies but because I'm not emotionally attached to the fish I accepted it had happened and turned back to what I was doing. My spouse felt unable to do that. He was really affected. He is a softy when it comes to pets of any kind so to some extent his response was normal. However, after awhile I started to feel irritated because his response seemed out of all proportion to the demise of the fish. I mean this is a man who is an enthusiastic fisherman and though he tells me it's not painful for the fish to be pulled through the water I am not convinced it's fun for it either. Anyway back to fish, aquariums and upset.
What was it that made my OH respond in that way and how could I shrug it off? I think in part he was feeling guilty about not removing the tower after the first incident. We had agreed it was a hazard now the fish are bigger but we hadn't and the accident occurred. But what made him feel the guilt so profoundly? After all we are both invested in 'doing the right thing' and yet I was able to accept the unfortunate incident whilst he was metaphorically wailing and gnashing his teeth.
I tried to speak to him about it but he would not be drawn. We went for our walk with Billy Westie and not a word was uttered. If I tell you we usually have a good natter you'll get my drift. So by now I'm feeling grumpy and it's starting to infect our day. I'm thinking for goodness sake shake yourself chuck we don't even know which cherry barb it was! I don't know whether that's relevant but it seemed it to me. But no my love continued to stay in the slough of despond and I'm really hacked off. I realise I run the risk of seeming hard or unsympathetic and I know that there shouldn't be a hierarchy of response but in my world the death of an aquarium fish isn't a major disaster. It's regrettable but....
Perhaps I have become inured to suffering after all counsellors listen to very disturbing stories and if the client is to heal we have to show we can handle it. However, I don't really feel it's that. I often find myself overwhelmed reading about or watching other people's pain and suffering. I think it's about connection and attachment. If I can connect I feel. I don't connect with aquarium fish. I think they're pretty and calming to watch but I have nothing invested in them. By the way I don't think my OH has either. I think he was connecting with his failure to do what he thought was the right thing.
So what happened next? I went out to meet a friend and by the time I returned he'd recovered his equilibrium. We've taken the tower out of the tank and we're just off now to buy something to replace it and to look at some other fish. In our household that could be the basis of another trauma!
What about you? How would you have responded to this situation?