Navelgazing

Six long years.

by Veronica Foale on June 23, 2015

in Navelgazing

I spend the day in bed.

A mild virus, combined with the middle of winter blues, and a shoulder injury all conspire to see me feeling shitty and getting shittier.

I spend the day in bed, a warm toddler snuggled at my back and crappy TV on my netflix. I cry, and cry some more. My shoulder hurts. My soul hurts.

Death anniversaries are always hard, but this one is hitting me harder than I expected. Maybe because I didn’t expect it. Maybe because after six years (six long years, tomorrow, six years, six years, it’s a litany over and over in my head) I expected to be okay, finally.

I am not okay, and everything is not okay.

June is hard. The puppy chews all my books, stealing them delicately from the bookshelf and shredding them while we’re out, while we’re distracted, while we’re sleeping. She pulls out the books I like most and destroys then. Roman Mythology. Alice in Wonderland. Zombie Survival Guide. They’re all dead and I am so so tired as I pick up pieces of my books from all over the floor.

It is hard enough I had to pack away most of my books to make room for business, squishing down the pleasure of reading all day, of researching and learning and writing, in order to work and make money, in order to improve our lot in life, without a puppy chewing all the favourites I lovingly left in the few remaining bookshelves which do not hold soap.

There is shredded paper everywhere and I spent the day in bed, pretending tomorrow isn’t the anniversary of anything, pretending my shoulder is not damaged, pretending everything was going to be okay.

Tomorrow will come, stay, and pass, like it does every year. Like every day before it, and every day after. I will try to distract myself, but my broken shoulder is making it hard, and I suspect I will spend the day in bed yet again.

Six years. Six years and so many missed milestones and events.

The sharp knives of grief might ease, but the missing never truly does.

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Spinning in circles

by Veronica Foale on March 29, 2015

in Life, Navelgazing

I am spinning in circles inside my house, around and around. Kitchen, office, bedroom. Kitchen, office, bedroom. I keep forgetting what I’m doing, but it’s okay, there’s always a child available to shout at me when I forget their drink/clothes/lunch.

“Make it for me, Mummy! MAKE IT!” the two year old implores as I look at her all curly haired and strangely angelic as she stomps her foot and demands a bottle. “Make it! I tired! I lay down. Make my bottle Mummy! Make it now!”

Around, and around.

No one sleeps for days, least of all me, and I am a frazzled nervous wreck. We’ve got markets on the horizon and stock is coming ready but where’s the time to pack and sticker everything when there are three children who need to be fed and clothed, and more soap needs making so we don’t fall behind.

The overwhelm is high and I’d rather just crawl into bed with a book, or netflix, both of which are ruining any productivity I may have had.

And so I spin, around and around. Was I making a cup of tea? Where is my notebook, has anyone seen my spatula, hey kids where is the puppy, god I think I microwaved a cup of tea an hour ago.

My sugar scrub refuses to thicken seven hours after I melted the blasted oils and I tweak the recipe on the run before deciding it’s probably the weather, the sunshine, the heater which has been running incessantly in my house because the eldest child is fighting with an eating disorder and spends all her time cold and getting colder.

Winter is coming, winter is coming. The rain has ice in it and the sunshine feels like a blessing from the Gods when I can stand in the sunbeams, silent and remembering to just breathe. Right before I remember the tea in the microwave and the oils in the mixer and the puppy tries to kill a chicken.

My calender is full, but we need another market because money is tight. Starting a small business is a labour of love, blood sweat tears all streaming down my face as I count the dollars and wait anxiously for tax time and the relief of bills paid and everything caught up on.

Until then I am spinning in circles, surrounded by the confetti made out of a thousand lists and chewed to pieces by a puppy and a toddler working in tandem while I look in another direction.

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On writing. Or more accurately, my lack thereof.

by Veronica Foale on January 16, 2015

in Navelgazing

I am broken, my brain is broken, and I can’t write anymore. Words used to drip from my fingertips, drowning me under their weight until I could shake them off like flick flick flick, water words everywhere.

Then: Depression (again), pain (more), medication, brain altering chemicals.

Writing is a muscle and if you cannot flex it, it shrivels until it’s almost dead. Poor wormy grubby thing hiding in the shadows. Coax it out, feed it books, hope it isn’t dead.

Remember the music, it helps.

I make a lot of soap now; it’s soothing. Measure the chemicals. Measure the oils. Mix it together and magic. Chemistry and art smash into each other. Works of beauty.

But a business requires a lot of work – not least of all an owner who only tells the good, who doesn’t complain when coming off anti-depressants breaks her brain over and over again, when the pain medication doesn’t work and everything is hard and tricky and broken.

No.

If you want people to invest in you, you present a front to the world, a shiny beautiful front filled with shiny beautiful things. It’s all good here.

And truly it is, it is really good. Business is good, despite my happiness now seeming tied to how many sales we make in a week (buy more soap, feed my addiction, enable me). Markets – we’re being accepted left right and centre. My calender is filling up and it’s a crazy kind of chaos. A beautiful kind of chaos.

My fingers don’t drip as often anymore and I am too busy to let my soul leak all over the keyboard.

I need writing. Soap soothes me; writing lifts me up, makes me better.

It’s hard though, dripping soul blood everywhere. Sticky tape and string bind me together as I carefully create science every day, lost in the numbers. This + this = that, every single time. Soap isn’t messy or hard or soul destroying when it doesn’t work. Not like writing. Soap isn’t bleeding in public. It doesn’t ask the same things of me.

Maybe that’s the problem.

I read back through my archives and wonder what happened. I used to be amazing. I used to think and write, and poke and prod.

I have three children now and the last one broke my soul a little, PND does a number on a person.

But I’m here, and I’m trying. Feeding that cold wormy part of me I tried to forget about. Indulging the darkness.

I need to write.

 

 

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Everything is a mess, but I think that’s okay.

by Veronica Foale on July 23, 2014

in Navelgazing

The house is a mess.

That’s where I’m at. It’s where I’m stuck. The house is a mess and I cannot function in this chaos.

I can hear my older children cackling maniacally in their bedroom. They’re meant to be asleep and it’s fingernails on a chalkboard.

They’re meant to be asleep and instead they’re in there laughing and throwing things. The house is a mess and the children aren’t sleeping and the TV is too loud and someone has lost the remote because the house is a mess.

It’s everything and nothing all at once.

Move through this space for long enough with stories so big you can’t tell them and you’ll find your words disappearing too, all the while the house is a mess and the children are too loud. Everything is too loud. Too hot, too cold, nothing is just right. I’m Goldilocks and everything is broken, ruined forever, or wrong.

I miss writing.

The baby turns two in less than a week and I wonder where that time has gone. Of course I wonder where the time has gone. I spend a lot of time wondering where my time has gone.

There’s 7 weeks until we launch our business and I don’t know where that time has gone either. I spend hours daydreaming about soap, oils, balms. I wonder where the line is between beneficial and therapeutic, how to label, where to advertise. I make, create, tweak, test, retry. I take notes. I am writing, but this isn’t writing. A book of recipes and notes isn’t writing.

Did I remember to jot down what happens when you add blue mica before the lye water? Did I remember? I don’t think I did. It turns green, in case you’re wondering. A beautiful sea green, but not the blue I was after.

I’m a soap maker now, but I’m a writer too, and I miss writing.

All my websites languish under the weight of stories not told. Of disability, and disadvantage. Stories of triumph and failure. Winning and losing. I’ve lost my thick hide, jabbed too many times in the soft places and I am all full of holes.

How do I tell stories now? How do I tell the truth when my truth brings out the witch hunters with their pyres and fires.

Witch, witch. Burn the witch.

I don’t know what I’m doing any more.

I miss writing.

I start antidepressants in the morning. Last time I couldn’t write on them. Now I can’t write anyway, so maybe they’ll change something. Maybe it will be better.

Who knows.

 

 

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Art, appreciation, and the teaching of children

by Veronica Foale on November 15, 2013

in Navelgazing

paintings on wall 002

My seven year old is beautiful, amazing and talented. I found a drawing hidden in her bedroom the other day; chalk on brown paper. It’s a duckling and I love it so much I pinned it to the wall next to my desk.

She draws things and screws them up into a little ball, lobbing them across the room to end up land mines of destroyed creativity, left for the baby to chew to pieces and for her to feel lesser, somehow.

Her imagination doesn’t match up to the skill of her fingers. Not yet, not yet.

I take the abandoned papers, smooth out their crinkled lines and point out that I really love her artwork. I tell her I’m proud of her, she has a talent, and drawing is a skill that you work at. I tell her of course her drawings don’t look like the ones in books, because she is seven and illustrators are much older than that, with years of practise. I want her to keep drawing, because it makes her so happy.

Raising children is touch and go. Encouragement and discipline. A mix of you’re amazing and keep trying because you’ll get there.

I was talking with my husband today, about encouragement, and children, and art. And suddenly I remembered my art teacher in Primary school telling me I had no talent for drawing and she didn’t know why I bothered.

I remembered having a sculpture I’d made out of clay screwed up in my face, while being told that it would never work and that I was no good.

Visceral reaction to a memory I didn’t realise I still had. My art teacher didn’t like me, and for years, I believed that I wasn’t any good at art, that I couldn’t draw, couldn’t paint, couldn’t art.

This is the power adults have over children. Turns out I’m still angry, about my sculpture, about the disillusionment that she instilled in me.

Children need encouraging in the things they enjoy, and we don’t give that enough. Flippant comments cut deeper than we realise.

Related:

For years, I stopped showing my mother my writing because she used to correct my spelling and grammar before encouraging me. I refused to let her read my homework. I didn’t bring my stories home. If I needed help with school work I went to my father, or my grandmother, who were softer critics. I was a sensitive snowflake and I couldn’t handle my mother at that stage. She wielded her red pen like a sword and she was very good at it.

Years later, I get my revenge. I hack her blog posts to bits sometimes, and put them back together, better. I am a good editor, and I learned at her feet. I write things for a living. Her red pen didn’t cut me down, although it felt like it at the time.

But I get my revenge, even as she still rings me to point out a single error in my writing.

“But did you like it?” I ask.

“Of course I liked it, but you need to fix this sentence that doesn’t work.”

She wants me to be better. I want to be better. I have thicker skin nowadays. But I didn’t then, and it was hard, and I hid myself from her.

I’m trying to be a softer parent. Walking between encouragement and teaching. My red pen is not a sword for my daughter. But then, maybe hers wasn’t when I was seven either. Maybe it all came later and it’s muddled up in my brain, a great timey wimey ball of yarn.

I remember sitting at the plastic covered desk, working on a sculpture of a fish. Smoothing and scaling and reforming the arches. I remember being proud of how it looked, of how it matched the picture inside my head. I remember the art teacher appearing over my shoulder, telling me I was no good. I remember her hands, reaching over to touch my work. Don’t touch my work. I remember her picking it up, as I watched, ten years old and fragile in my new found creativity, picking it up and crushing it into a ball. Destroying the last hour’s work, telling me I was no good.

I remade that sculpture, and gave it to my father for father’s day. It wasn’t as good as the original, and I never forgave the teacher. For the record, my parents loved the fish, and it’s still hanging in my parents house, if I remember correctly.

But it’s a poor imitation of what I started to do in the beginning.

As a writer, and an editor, I truly believe that sometimes tearing things apart and putting them back together is a good thing. Strip things down to their bones, hack out all the marrow and resculpt them into something new, something better.

Is that what my teacher was trying to do, when she reached over and took over?

My memory tells me no. I remember more than one time when she took the pen off me, took the paper, stole the paintbrush. I remember more stories of destruction than of creativity. Maybe my memory is flawed.

Maybe not.

My art teacher in Primary School was not a good teacher. She did not make me better with her criticism.

I looked her up on Facebook, earlier today. She’s not really on there, it seems. But neither is she an art teacher anymore. She’s moved on to real estate, which in my opinion, is a much safer place for her to practise her destructive tendencies.

Teaching children is a difficult thing. They’re fragile in your hands and it’s an honour to be allowed to shepherd them through to adulthood.

Don’t fuck it up, okay?

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