37 – The Life Jigsaw

Last year before turning thirty six I wrote a long reflection on the thirty five years lived, now as thirty seven is within finger counting distance I was asked yesterday what I would want from my next year. As someone that tries to stay focused on the present and thinks of others before herself this is not an easy question, however this is the answer that I have decided.

Life for me is a jigsaw puzzle; each piece shows people that made or make a difference being in it, and events that shaped or coloured our lives, good and bad. Therefore, it shows the bigger picture of what it means to be us and our life. How each shape fits together and the order they show themselves is very much like trying to solve any jigsaw puzzle without the box.

Sometimes we see an outside piece but cannot find a context for it, like a bird flying over a mountain or a bit of a rainbow in the sky, which on their own we may feel make no sense at all. Also, trying to make things work can be putting the pieces in the wrong places in our heads, even when we feel they should go together. So all in all can leave us quite literally feeling puzzled!

So for the next year I feel and would like a key piece to be revealed, as there are several missing. Not my purpose in life per se as feel we all have many purposes that change with where we are and who we are with, as well with the passing of time. I also have some incredible friends that mean a lot to me and fit together. So what will be the missing piece?

To be honest I do not know and nor do I want to know. As much as a few things in life make me wonder why do I bother or feel like the outsider watching in rather than being part of it. I have realised this is just what is “normal” for me and our experiences of life have similarities but equally difference. So bring it on life, I’m ready, tea in hand and passport in bag.

© Fi S. J. Brown


The unlucky day struck her chord,
Turning the tricolore to purest red.
A world united in Fracophilie grief,
To events that there are no words.

A city admired for her vast beauty,
Now scarred by the acts of hate.
How can humans hurt another so,
With a sickness of deepest orange.

Before the dawn chorus could sing,
Whispers of blame echoed all over.
With revenge of green eyes glowing
But should not be the answer sought.

Now fear tries to paint it a whitewash,
But use the brush of indigo’s wisdom.
Know the minority are not the majority,
Unite all in empathy and compassion.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Art therapy 

The German philosopher Nietzsche describes how art can be a force for healing the wounds of emotional trauma. His words illustrate the link that exists between creativity and spirituality. He points to the usefulness of art making as a form of communication that can access the depth of human suffering and in so doing allow the artist to transcend pain and re-experience existence from a new perspective.

As someone that uses creativity as therapy at times I can relate to this. From my earliest years I have been known for my emotional sensitivity, which to those that do not understand call it extreme. Thus it makes sense to express myself in creative form, freedom not from judgement but to be me. For example turning my camera on myself showed me the person not the distorted image the logical part of my brain kept trying to paint as muted the creative part.

From writing to photography and music, or visiting galleries and museums, art continues to help me cope with pains past and present. They give a voice to what I or others cannot say aloud through muted fear to visuals in my mind that paint life as I see it. By being creative I see things from the different perspectives I see in the world; seeing the larger picture of multicolour and multisensory not tunnel visioned to paint it black and white with all being x or y it is often depicted as. 

Art to me is self expression of different media as life is between the two extremes and sometimes than one. So write, paint, photograph, sew or knit wherever and whenever you like, we set the rules not anyone else as it is our life lived our way, warts and all.

© Fi S. J. Brown 

I wear a white poppy

I do not wear a red poppy as is my choice, no I am not being disrespectful to the dead. The red poppy makes me feel like I have a bullet wound upon my chest with its blood pouring out upon the streets as I walk in a strange empathy with those that fell on foreign streets and fields near and far, then and now. Everyone should be free to remember and mark this day in their own way, united in our respect the dead.

I do not wear a red poppy as it does not remind me of all the victims of war. We stop for two minutes silence remembering our fallen armed forces that give their lives but what of the innocent unarmed civilians killed or maimed in the name of war? If it symbolised our sorrow and regret to all that lose their lives in wars (i.e. all nationalities, armed forces and civilians alike) and not a select few, then I may wear a red one.

I do not wear a red poppy as war is painted with in history and the media as a heroic sacrifices and violence is necessary but it is really cruel, bloody and inglorious. How many of the armed forces return from their service changed forever by what they have experienced? Do we respect and honour those return from killing or maiming another human being, but lose part of themselves and/or forever haunted by their experiences?

I do not wear a red poppy as it is not only humans beings that have given their lives in war’s name but animals too. During World War I, dogs and pigeons were used to deliver messages between frontline trenches and further afield. Horses, donkeys and elephants have been used as beasts of burden. Today, animals continue to be used, for example to detect explosives. We rely on them so much but how soon we forget their aid.

I wear a white poppy as it is a symbol of the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts, and embodies values that reject killing fellow human beings for whatever reason. Over a hundred years ago the ‘war to end all wars‘ began and yet we still see wars around the world, but I dream on of peace.. Why a white poppy chosen to symbolise this nobody is certain but it wasn’t intended to compete with the red one, only to be different from it.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Bonfire Night

It was the fifth of November
When suddenly out of the still and foggy evening sky
Came a loud bang from the left and scream to the right
As splashes of colour glimmered for seconds above me

Smells of chemicals drifted by
Visual memories of childhood flashed before my eyes
Before jumping with another bang louder than before
Like an unseen enemy approaching closer and closer

The whistling did not stop them
The echoing of spits and bangs sounding like guns
As the red then seemed to dominate the colour above
Had the troops now gone over the top in war’s name

Sparklers waved in the distance
Catching my left eye with their hypnotic swaying song
A sign of hope that all was not lost to this new enemy
And the stars would soon return to wish upon again

© Fi S. J. Brown

Hollywood Love

Movies, who does not want to see the latest blockbuster at the cinema or curl up on the sofa with a loved one to watch one? Well I don’t and I have not been to the cinema in over six years. I do not subscribe to Amazon Instant, Netflix or I love Film as there is nothing that grabs my imagination or interest to say “oh I must make sure to see that” after hearing publicity or friends talk about movies they’ve seen. Certainly when it comes to Hollywood movies it feels like I have seen it all before with the amount of remakes, sequels, prequels and even the new ones have old themes that have been done before, often better, to the point of saturation. So where is the originality and/or creativity?

Is it because the big studios do not want to take risks, rather have a guaranteed income with star names people will go see? Take the current movie about the Suffragette movement in the United Kingdom, I have nothing against Meryl Streep, but why does she have to play yet another iconic Britain (having previously played former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher) when there are many British actresses who could have played the role. The same thing echoed when Renne Zellweger first played Bridget Jones, when I thought of many comedic actresses in the United Kingdom that fitted the roll better. Have a Hollywood name and then can sell the movie not just within the United Kingdom but to America and beyond seems to be the order of the day, as providing the money to pay for the movie to be made and stakeholders want to have a large return on the costs.

However, this post is not about the creativity and/or actors of Hollywood, it is about the way movies portray love. In Ancient Greece romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it, instead love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other. Where as today when someone says to us they love us BUT just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. So when did this switch begin and what role has Hollywood played in this?

The idea of unconditional love is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god. Today we would almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. Yet what has influenced this and caused such a shift?

From almost the moment a child is born we read to them fairy tales of a princess and prince meeting after he’s rescued her from horrible existence and they live happily ever after. I should note if you have ever read the original Brothers Grimm versions you will know how sanitised these versions are of the tales, you will never read or see Sleeping Beauty the same way again. Little girls dream of being princesses, sometimes beyond, conditioned to believe one day their prince charming will come to free them the life that traps them. Despite the fact few of us look like the so-called princesses and even fewer are a real life one.

Many Hollywood movies made in the 1980s and 1990s were aimed at the growing teenage market, particularly the so called Brat Pack, depicting how life was in an often exaggerated form to be that age. Girl meets boy, they secretly fancy each other but cannot be together until something happens. However, even when they get together there is a sting that he’s done something she won’t like so they split up until he finds a way to prove to her he loves her unconditionally. Like the fairy tales it is implied that they both lived together happily ever after. Conditioning us further to believe that this is how love is meant to be for teenagers.

The so-called romantic comedies play up the fairy tale notion of love conquering all to be with the one we’re meant to be with against the odds. They are like the teenage movie but aimed at all ages, in particular women. As a woman I am suppose to enjoy these kinda of movies as appeal to my feminine side, where as in reality most movies I enjoy are driven by a good plot and idea(s), particularly those set in the dystopian worlds as feel more realistic than the unrealistic utopian ones the romcoms portray. To me they are saccharine sweet and far from funny but add to a perpetuation of how a female and male are. They also almost exclusively heterosexual.

Another way love is shown in movies is how they show the so-called TRUE LOVE, which is filled with passion, romance, drama, desire, sacrifice, electricity, devotion! This is to typify the unconditional or fairy tale love. They long for the person that completes them or is their soul mate. We are led to believe that this love is everlasting as after all they did live happily ever after at the end of the story/movie, right? When a relationship ends we some times find people say that it was never true love they felt for him or her, which is often false, as what you felt for that person was love, it is the feelings that have changed with time. So yes (s)he really loved us and was true love, but it does not mean it lasts a lifetime for everyone.

Many movies now also have sex scenes, which show us its so called importance within a relationship. Wait stop, why is sex seen as so important these days unless due to us watching movies, TV programs, music videos and the media that have made it such an issue? For some sex is the ultimate expression of love, but in reality it is far from that, a person’s thoughts and actions is what matters not how often they have sex with us. For some it has such an important part of a relationship, a partner that does not want it is seen as weird or frigid, or force them to have it even though they have said no. The partner then looks for it elsewhere, thus affairs behind the back of this person we’re meant to love unconditionally. Many now think nothing of having alcohol and having sex with a complete stranger, which may or may not become a partner/lover in the future.

Some like myself are asexual, we have no sexual desire, but that does not mean we do not enjoy the other aspects of being in a relationship. Even within asexuality there are many differences, it is not an one size fits all definition. Equally for me sex is a trigger, I cannot watch scenes with it on as my head says please stop and I do not want to see that, so I avoid it where I can. Sex is not a dirty thing to me so do not get me wrong, it is more I feel it is something to do with someone we trust and comfortable in the company of, not a throw away line at the end of a night out with friends and the next morning it is like yesterdays newspapers best for wrapping fish and chips.

From observing the relationships of friends and family with those they love it can be seen how it is very much an umbrella term to cover many different ways we can feel about another human being. My closest friends I love unconditionally and will do anything for until my dying day as they have such a special place within me that when I think of them individually and/or collectively that I feel blessed to have them in my life. My sister in law said when she first saw my brother she knew that was the man she wanted to marry, compared with a friend that kept meeting a girl at the school gates, a fellow single mother, neither of which would have called themselves gay or lesbians then but fell in love with the person.

I often feel like the odd one out as see people in relationships and at almost 37 never experienced what it is to be in love. I never had a childhood sweetheart or did the drunken rumble as a student, as not something I looked for or did it call at my door. The one relationship I have had was nine years ago, long distance for nine months, that should have been nipped in the bud; it was a false start from the start as they did not respect me as a person nor would support me back as I was to their needs and wants.

I have had attraction once in my life, but have never told him how I feel, as like the Ancient Greeks friendship to me is just as special as romantic love if not more so. As for Hollywood love vs. real life love, I feel we need to stop being sheep or robots believing that is the way for us all, life is not an one size fits all t-shirt but human sized. Therefore, love is full of different quirks, flaws and idiosyncrasies that are unique to the love we have for the other person and they bring out within us as play out the movie of our lives.

© Fi S. J. Brown


It never fails to surprise me what companies pass for as “Halloween costumes”, often using them as a way to laugh at a group of people that are part of society. One I have found over the years repeating is the “mental health patient”. So I decided this year, if you can’t beat them, join them.

This is the result – a picture of me as a mental health patient. Is it what you were expecting, oh no blood stains, straight jacket or crazy eyes. Can you not see the tears I cried for a week when I took this picture? Or the negative thoughts that ate away at me as I tried to enjoy the autumn sun? Also, how many years it took me to smile and take a photograph? This is what depression and anxiety can look like not those costumes you can buy.

We use costumes and masks to hide pain and sometimes the real us. Trying be happy as someone told us to “cheer up, what’s the worst that can happen”!? Personally, I am through with hiding behind them and scared of the stigma of others, they are part of the colours that make me but do not define me. So dress up tonight if you like, but be yourself tomorrow, shine on every day to end the darkness and break down walls of ignorance.

© Fi S. J. Brown

My path and detours

I wandered through the dark and silent streets,
Lined with fallen autumn leaves and empty seats.
With the sun long set and moon hiding her eyes,
Not even the stars would catch my tired old cries.

Breathing in and out in time to the rhythm of life,
Knowing the answers were not kept with that knife.
Stopped the rivers of blood and falls of sadness,
Or absorbing the grey world’s carnival of madness.

But the birds that guided me thus far are so astute,
Helping me find an once lost but now found route.
Replacing the daily drowning and endless falling,
With a self belief and respect for my truest being.

Enough setting other people’s dreams on track,
It is my time to sing and dance no turning back.
So enough pondering just trust instincts and go.
Paint with my words, pictures and colours aglow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The autumnal opera

The autumnal opera opens with the air biting like a bitter lemon on dry lips and the air smelling of decaying leaves and wood smoke. A prima donna sings an aria that touches almost every leaf, painting them every shade of red, yellow and orange; each colour matching the notes of her song. This is then echoed by a chorus throughout the land, turning forests to fire with colour. At the same the daily rhythm goes from legato to staccato, as the day length gets shorter, which in turn makes the leaves fall like ghost notes as few hear the sound of them falling. The crunch underfoot as walk through them is like listening a plucked cello playing, which is at times drowned out by the violins mimicking the sounds of human traffic. Then as the final note is sung, trees stand bare, and the theatre empties till all is silent. Well at least until Jack Frost sings his melancholy blues next season.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Patchwork Doll

Nobody heard the tears from the years of hurt, which rained down in a rhythm that matched them beat for beat. Nobody saw the pain of a stomach filled with razor blades ripping away at the confidence of a newborn lamb. And nobody saw her trying to fly the white flag, surrendering to the end the pain.

Questions that were never answered; left like rhetorical questions lingering in the springtime air. There were no reasons why their words and actions were now scars upon her soul. For hers was a muted song with only their laughter echoing from wall to wall around her childhood bedroom to be heard.

Nobody saw the barriers to the cage that trapped and protected alike. The effort needed to rise from the ashes of life on a nearly daily basis. Craving hugs of love and support, so absorbed the ones of treasures friends she found near and far, using them as thread to sew on patches over her deep scars.

With the sensitivity of a glass vase in a toddler’s hands, the patchwork doll took to writing what she could not sing herself. Collecting songs and stories of others as she did, so they too could be seen and finally heard. United in sound to breakdown barriers, no matter what the number of bruises.

Nobody can stop her now. She had found her life’s purpose, even those that hurt her can now no longer hold her back. Yes, still many tears flow like the River Nile, but seeds have been sown in confidence, hopes and dreams, which are watered with love and respect, now blooming and blossoming.

Does the past really matter now, for the present is building a foundation to the future and the past of tomorrow. The patchwork doll has learnt to believe it again and never give up. And now she will never raise that white flag till she has told the tales and sung the songs of all life that lives on Planet Earth.

© Fi S. J. Brown