Pining for sunshine

by Veronica Foale on June 14, 2017

in Life

It has been a long week. Long like I’m moving through treacle and the tired has hit me. Slammed down, there’s a weight in my shoulders. My feet are heavy with the kind of bone tired you only feel in winter, when the temperatures stay low and you wake in the morning with the world frozen solid. Winter white and sunrise through the fog. It’s beautiful but you’ll freeze to death watching it. Or maybe you won’t, but I might.

We went away for a big market in St Helens, and it was amazing and exhausting and brilliant and it nearly killed me, but I’m still going to do it again next year, because fuck it. What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, right? Or maybe it makes me bendier, but hey, who’s counting that part anyway. We chatted to customers, both returning and new. I got to rave about my products, because I honestly love what I do, even when the cold is in my bones and I am hurting, I love how my soap smells, and how the hand cream feels, and how I feel when I share that with people. I love brightening people’s days, knowing that something I made with my two hands can make them happy, even if it’s only a little bit of happiness. It all counts, adds up, means something. To me at least.

Winter is in my bones, and it’s June again, which is always a month of remembering, of hospital rooms and death and funerals. Nine years on, you’d think it would be better, but it’s only different. Some things stay with you, like the trauma passed down through our DNA, making its mark on us all years later. Muddy boots on white carpet, you can clean it up, but you’ll never erase the memory of what happened. Nothing is ever gone, which is both blessing and curse really, love and loss, light and frost, the strength you get from putting one foot in front of the other.

My children are sick, and so there’s the incessant whining of “Muuuuum! I’m huuuuungry!” from the smallest one, and it’s inside my head. I hear it when I’m sleeping and it makes my shoulders bunch, because you. just. ate. five. fucking. minutes. ago. and if you’re hungry, maybe eat your damn crusts, and have a glass of water, and you can get your own yogurt out of the fridge, there is a whole fruit bowl available, why can’t you make your own sandwiches yet?

Then I feel ungrateful, because I am so lucky to have these small fragile creatures relying on me, but five minutes without needing me and get your own spoon, is it too much to ask? Really? I am not your slave, pick up your own toys, come and get your sandwich I am not a waitress and fortheloveofgodstopfuckingwhining.

Four is an interesting age, and it’s not my favourite, but it’s not my favourite in a slightly better way than 18 months old was not my favourite. Maybe. I’m not certain. So much of babyhood is foggy and lost now.

I am tired. Worn down and worn out.

[“Mum, I need a drink.”

“You can reach the tap, go and do it yourself!”

Heavy sigh. Huff. Stomp.]

And I remember this feeling from last year, but each year is a little worse, as I get a little older, as my collagen fails a little bit more, and I hold out hope for a short winter and the return of warm sunlight. The solstice is a week away and I am pining for the sun, for the light, for the warm.

I have filled my house with seedlings, in hope and new beginnings, in the germs of new life. I am hoping it helps to watch peas twine towards my roof and parsley grow wild on my kitchen bench.

We’re so close to the solstice tipping point I can taste it, as we slide down into the darkest bit of winter, the coldest bit, the hardest bit. August drags, but not in the same way June does.

One week left.

 

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Writing as self indulgence

by Veronica Foale on March 11, 2017

in Navelgazing

I stopped writing, and I have a thousand excuses for why I stopped, but none of them hold any weight anymore. Not when the words press down on me because I’ve lost the habit of dropping everything here (or there).

There’s no quiet inside my head any more. No space, no peace.

My youngest baby started school /where does the time go/ and here we sit, with a pile of school clothes to wash, and market boxes to pack neverending. Soap piles up everywhere, along with paperwork, and wholesale clients, and joy and I love it. I love bringing something tangible to people’s lives, something real, with the power to make them smile.

But.

I miss writing.

(So do it more, you idiot, just start again)

My children grew up. The mummyblogging died in a haze of advertorials and sponsored trips. I was tired, so so tired. Tired of justifying myself, of the side-eyed-glances at the school gates, of talking about my feelings. I just wanted to write without having to mention it ever again. Cone of silence. I don’t want to talk about my latest blog post, jesus christ, I wrote it, you read it, isn’t that enough?

But no, it was never enough. Everyone wants more. People want to know why you don’t mention anxiety/dislocating joints/pain in public, and it’s like, I have to live this. I don’t want to rehash it over and over. I just want to send things out into the ether and have them disappear. A weight off my shoulders. Gone.

“I didn’t know you felt like that.”

I didn’t know I felt like that until I typed it out and there it was.

This then, is the damage done when you write under your own name. When there’s nowhere to hide. When you just stop instead of finding a new tribe. The RSS feeds die and no one knows you exist anymore. When there’s too much criticism and not enough acceptance. When your children grow up and can’t be fodder for the stories anymore.

This is what happens.

The odd dichotomy of wanting to be listened to, and wanting to fade away into silence under the weight of everything I can’t talk about any more. Stories which aren’t mine. Stories which are.

I used to be funny and poignant and sad. Now I’m just tired and anxious, buried under a stack of paperwork and a need to make something real.

Who am I? What do I even want.

God. So self indulgent. Yet here I am still.

Is there anyone out there anymore?

 

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A tale of jelly.

by Veronica Foale on December 7, 2015

in Children

My youngest child wants jelly.

“You will make it for me Mummy? You will make it?”

She waves the box around in front of my face, as I attempt to run stocktake on essential oils.

“I can’t make it right now Eve. And anyway, even if I make it now, it will still have to go into the fridge to get cold.”

“Does the jelly needa get cold Mummy?”

I nod, distracted.

“Yes, sweetheart. I mix it with water, and then it goes away to get cold and set.”

She looks at me, smiles, and walks away. I hear the fridge open and shut, as I run my eyes over my remaining stock lists.

Five minutes later, Eve stands in front of me again, brandishing her box of jelly.

“Mummy! The jelly is cold now! Can I eat it please?”

Three year olds are chaos walking. Everything happens at high speed, high intensity. They feel things so deeply that it can be heartbreaking to watch them bounce around their day, like the silver balls inside a pinball table.

They’re the happiest they’ve ever been, right up until their heart breaks and everything is ruined forever. A broken banana is the end of the world. A stolen sock; a tragedy.

Three year olds are also hilarious. It’s why we don’t eat them.

“But MUMMY, the jelly is cold! You said we could eat it when it got cold!”

 

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Spring, grief, and success

by Veronica Foale on August 29, 2015

in Me

The rain fell wet and heavy as I dragged myself out of bed. First light peeked over the hills and I was grateful for it, grateful the light appears earlier each day, grateful that while it rained this morning, we’ve had a little sunshine lately, and spring is coming.

I dragged myself out of bed, double checked my market boxes, forced myself to eat toast. Tired children sat around the fireplace while I got ready to leave.

If I hadn’t had a market, I might have spent the day curled up in pajamas, with netflix and pikelets and hot chocolates. But there it is. I have responsibilities, and so I left my family at home while I headed out to work.

I have markets most weekends now, and when I’m not at a market, I’m frantically trying to keep up with demand. More soaps, more orders. I’m not complaining – success was the whole point of this venture, but sometimes I miss lazy weekends, and whole days spent in a patch of warmth with a good book.

My youngest child is three now, tall and gangly, running around like a maniac, demanding things. I have this idea in my head: if I can just hold on until she’s in school, maybe there will be time to do everything I want to do. Soap, writing, reading. Maybe.

I’m lying to myself, I know this. Things don’t get easier as your children get older. The questions just get more complicated and involved. “Mum, why do people have sex? Can dogs feel sad? Why do you look so tired?” At the very least, the three year old is a simple child. She wants milk and cuddles and cartoons. Hot cheese sandwiches and peanut butter on apples. She wants to know why she can’t draw on the walls in sharpie, and where her purple baby is, and can she share her breakfast with the dog. Simple. Intense, but simple.

Someone asked me today if soapmaking is all I do. No, I write things too, I replied. And then realised, that’s almost a lie now. I haven’t written anything in too long, I’m all full to bursting with unspoken words. I miss it. Success is never to be complained about, and yet …

My brain is breaking again. I can feel it. I’m holding it at bay with vitamin D and music and hot chocolates drunk in an almost-spring garden. But there’s grief as I head into the spring – grief worse than last year, and the year before. Or maybe I was medicated last year, the year before. I can’t remember anymore.

It’s been six years since my grandmother died, and I miss her more as I head into spring this year. I miss the unconditional love – when so much of my extended family barely likes me with conditions attached, I miss her. I miss her delight in my children, and her love of spring, and the way she showed up whenever we needed her.

It’s a funny thing, grief. Less linear than you’d believe, but there you go. It’s nearly spring, I’m full to bursting with words and emotions, and my grief is harder to deal with.

Outside, the world is full of muddy puddles, wet chickens, and cold crisp air. The warmer weather will hit soon, leaving the plants pushing upwards as fast as they can. I plan to join them, standing in the sunshine, stretching as high as I can.

I have work to concentrate on. Soap to make, orders to fill.

And spring is coming, soon.

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Broken and disjointed

by Veronica Foale on July 19, 2015

in Life

I used to write every day. With music in my ears and words spilling out of my fingers, I would write and write and write. My heart was soul slick, bubbling over, unable to be tamed.

Now I’m a bottle with a cork it; a well fast running dry; a knotted ball of yarn. I know how this works but I’m angry and my fingertips have run dry. There’s no words as I navigate an almost three year old having a meltdown, a six year old with home reading and a desire to have me watch all the video games, an eight year old who needs to know the why of everything.

I am lost in a haze of no words, of chemistry, of fatty acid profiles and caustic experiments.

Who would have thought that making soap could run the word well empty so fast.

My three year old screams in the background, angry again.

The weather is ice and wind.

I can’t send them outside.

There is sharpie on the walls and someone has stolen all my notebooks and unpinned my scribbled notes from the cork board I use to organise my life. I frantically hunt for a pen while I take notes on the shaving soap cooking, but someone has stolen them, my pen cup removed from its home amongst the high shelves and left scattered on the floor.

Now there are two children screaming.

Please just shhhhhhhhh.

I can’t believe there are eight pairs of scissors in the house and I cannot find one of them.

Find a playlist. Turn the music up. The dog is chewing headbands again. Shaving soap cooks and I stir stir stir the caustic mix, waiting for it to come together, to trace, to be soap rather than a messy collection of liquids.

Business is good. I love what I do. But sometimes I feel like a shaken bottle of soda, ready to explode if the words don’t come out. I need to write. Making soap is my passion, but writing saves my sanity and god knows there’s little of it left.

School goes back tomorrow, and the almost three year old will spend the day asking when we can pick up her siblings and screaming because she doesn’t want them to come home and ruin her games anymore.

I can feel a splash of lye on my finger and I should go and wash it off, but the pain reminds me that I still exist in this tornado of business and screaming and need.

Everything is too bright, too dark, chaos whirlwind, around and around. My hands are soul slick again and I wash them off, down the drain with the bubbles, there go the words.

I used to write. Stories. Books.

I’m drowning in a desert of no words and I can’t find my way out.

The soap cooks in the slow cooker and I make notes, ready for markets next weekend. There are twenty weekends until Christmas and 16 markets if I get into everything I want, and don’t get sick, or have my body fall apart. I take vitamin D, magnesium, fish oil, slow release opiates. I sleep when I can, but sometimes find myself sitting wide awake at 3am, wondering what I’m doing.

MUM MUM MUMMY MUM MUMMY MUM MUMMY!

I am not hiding in the bathroom. No, I’m not. Go away. I need to pee. Just, I’m working.

You’re always working.

Yes. Because you need new clothes and our house needs a new bedroom and a dining room and money doesn’t just fall from the sky kid. As much as I would like it to.

The soap is almost cooked in the time it takes me to write this, broken and disjointed.

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