My writing and me

Every time I see a leaf blowing in the wind, I imagine the sound it is making and the surrounding environment making its own accompaniment. Every time I hear music it paints vivid images in my mind, with the different instruments and texture providing the brush strokes. I am inspired by the natural and the anthropocentric worlds that ignite the fire within me to tell tales of these parallel worlds. Mindfulness enables me to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. All this is reflected in how and what I write.

Fi S. J. Brown

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Black Friday

Today has been termed “Black Friday” where retailers try to entice us to buy yet more goods we do not need; it won’t improve our lives to own something and nor will we look cool to show off what we bought on social media. At a time when many people are struggling to pay their rent, bills and food, do we really need to buy more?

Instead I would like to use it as a day we think of the darkness or black in the world. Not everyone has a place to call home, a job or people to call family. Equally, many live with physical and mental conditions or coming to terms with terminal ones. Also, many these days have a sense of “as long as I’m ok!” Where is the empathy?

As well as thinking of black in the world, let us send hope and peace with light of multicolour to brighten up the world. We need love, empathy and compassion to all living creatures of this world. Finally, let us breakdown barriers and labels we use to judge others, respecting and appreciate all.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Tunnels

What is depression? If you have not ever experienced it, as it is not physical disease like heart disease or high blood pressure, or visual so others cannot see internally what damage it is doing, so therefore is hard to explain in a way for others to be empathetic and try to understand. For me at my worst it was like a series of tunnels, constantly under attack by forces unknown, whilst scrambling on my hands and knees trying to find an end with a light that was the end. When pulled from the tunnels by some incredible friends it felt like I was pulled from a well. At first as I was adjusting to what could be light, I often could feel my fingers slipping back down only for them to grab me and pull me back. I am now free from the tunnels and learning to enjoy the light, even if it burns my eyes at times. I know I do not want to fall back among the maze of tunnels, so found writing and photography give both a voice and image to how I feel and give hope to others still stuck among the tunnels.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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A new canine friend

Met a lovely West Highland Terrier outside Starbucks in Edinburgh today, full of hugs and sniffs, returned the hugs and gave tickles. Staff told me he and his owner are regulars, with the manager keeping dog biscuits for his visits. Perhaps this is something coffee or tea shops could consider, a dog for hugs on your visit!

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Thirty Six Years

As I approach the thirty sixth anniversary of my birth, I walk up the hill with an observatory that I have climbed many times before, often in the company of a four legged friend of fur and bark. However, today I walk alone to reflect not the lens of a telescope to the stars but my mind on the journey I have taken so far to reach the point I am at today.

As I walk, I look out to a city that became my place of birth after an eleventh hour decision meant I was not born where my journey had biologically started. This city of birth is also the place of many childhood memories that now echo across where I look and make trees sway as feel their vibrations. Many of the trees look on fire, not with passion but as a warning not to dwell on the past for too long. If look close some are shedding their leaves in empathetic tears to the memories they now feel from my memories, good and bad.

I think back to my earliest days, filled with wonder to the world around me and curious to its ways like a newborn puppy yet as wise as an owl in what I seemed to know. I remembered a world that was filled with many colours, but school and family taught me that it was black or white; they replaced the songs of birds and rivers with their own drills and guns; they said I had five senses but I was sure I could pick up at least twice that; and gave me pills to sedate me from asking the questions I wanted answers to, as could or would not answer them. The grown-ups ultimately told of a world of them and us, where the humans ruled over all that l could see and deeper, wider and higher than my eyes could; they were only judged by a man named god, who had created it all and forgave if I did wrong as long as I asked him to.

As I became a grown-up myself I felt a boomerang effect, in whatever I did and wherever I went this city would bring me back. Sadly, I never wanted to be back, in fact quite the opposite, I longed to explore the world like the explorers I read about in childhood books and was not content to do it from a seat any more. At the same time, those around me were settling in “normal” life: getting a job, finding a partner, setting up home and having kids. I felt like an alien in a world to which I did not or would ever belong. Restricted to a tourist visa but not granted citizenship to this world.

Like a circus freak in Victorian times since my earliest teens I wanted to hide away, as my head said I looked like the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dane, an unloveable ogre with growths over my body, and faults greater than San Andreas. I often wondered on making my curtain call, I had enough of being a player in someone else’s movie and being used by those I thought I could trust. When I took what I wanted to be my final bow, I fell not on concrete but autumn leaves, leaving no visible scars but many scratches that I could not itch. Picking the pieces up I knew only I could glue them as there was no one but me there to add glitter or shine.

Much of my life I felt like a donkey among the thoroughbred horses in a race of life, but against the odds I completed a degree, masters two and PhD before I reached the age of 32. When I signed off my final word on my doctorate, I took my own Hippocratic Oath, never to work or study in a laboratory again! The relief felt like I had been given the chance to start again from where I had last saved, which turned out to have been almost twenty years before. So I picked up my pen and let the colours, visuals, sounds, tastes, feelings and smells of that moment release like a series of tributaries forming one big river with each ones strengths and weaknesses.

Now I return my thoughts to today, spinning around on where I stand, thinking where in each direction I could go next without the boomerang pulling me back here. I thought of people that I knew in every one, the special people who’s emails, texts, and phone calls make me smile like I could never have imagined but two years before, for it hurt my face to even try. Whereas now I could share my journey with them, sharing in tears of both pain and laughter. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know where I have been. Life has a bittersweet taste but the colours, sounds, visuals and things that belong beyond my wildest dreams are within my touch, so I’m going to take a leap and follow them wherever they may take me next.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The song of war

On this the 11th day of the 11th month I think of those that have given their lives physically and mentally in the name of war. Generations old and young lost in rivers of blood that flowed through Flanders Field and continue to this day. It is not only the fallen to think of but those that returned and replay the events in their minds unable to comprehend how and why.

The picture shows many crosses: I wrote one for Mr Glasgow, a childhood neighbour and prisoner in Japan that could not tell me of the horror he saw and heard; I also wrote one for my great uncle George that documented Africa through the lens of his camera with images of sadness and happiness; and finally I wrote one for the innocent bystanders that are nameless but not forgotten that war’s name has taken from their families.

A dreamer and ponderer I may be but I do not want to hear war’s red song, singing it as though it was glorious feels quite wrong. However, I thank those men, women, children and animals the song has called their name, those that returned only to be haunted by it, and those right now live in fear of his song. I hope one day you and I may sing the white song of peace.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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A poppy, a teardrop, a memory

On the 11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour each year we remember those who gave their lives in times of war with a two minute silence. The closest Sunday to this the UK traditionally marks to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom by wearing a red poppy. These are almost our blood stained teardrops as we think of innocent lives lost in the senselessness of war. However, we should also shed a tear for those that did return home but are forever scarred by the sights and sounds they witnessed.

This year is extra poignant as marks a 100 years since the start of what is known as World War One, which those that fought would be the biggest war of all time but sadly it was not to be. Even as we pause in remembrance, many globally have their every day marked by seeing seas of red and hearing the battle drum get louder and louder, as the songs of war continue to be heard louder than ever as the words of peace and understanding become almost footnotes of history themselves.

Will we ever learn that the rivers are not meant to be red, but to run clear, free from the red, let it flow with love and understanding?

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Perfect happiness

Does and in what ways appearance and body image – being perfect – is it connected to happiness? A current prevalent assumption is that those who are more perfect will be happier. Many women (and men) judge themselves and others on how much they ‘fit’ the dominant ideal, on how perfect they are, and their sense of self often follows from this. That being perfect connects to being happy is often assumed: ‘if I’m thinner, prettier, sexier s/he’ll love me more’ or ‘if I was ten pounds lighter, I’d be happier with myself and my life would go better’.

The images we are presented with these days from movies, television, magazines and newspapers are real but not real, the people represented in them maybe real but the images are not as have been subject to edits that in some circumstances show someone to be something they are not. Yet even if we know these are not real these are still presented as representations of how a modern woman or man should be. If anyone is not fitting with this view, many often laugh at them in the way some with disabilities were regarded as freaks for a circus in Victorian times, but who are we to act as judge and jury to another we know or don’t for gaining weight but celebrating another losing, when we ourselves are not perfect. This idealisation of being a specific body mass index as in some way it’s a number to show we are within ideals, but it is only a number, like our weight or height, that says nothing about a person’s personality…it really is comparable with shoe size in that respect! By chasing perfection we’re trying to catch a fish with a hole in the net, it is flawed and unrealistic. Looking at a meadow of flowers in spring to the leaves falling from the trees in autumn, all are different shapes and sizes as even within nature nothing is perfect, should that not be telling us something?

We look in a mirror ,sometimes conjuring up images of someone we want to be if only this outer shell was different…if I lost weight, had bigger breasts/muscles, or was a bit taller, I’d be happier…but happier how? Have we actually stopped to think that this shell is just that as it is within that the beauty really is? Some try to say it is “only ugly people say that”, which I think is bollocks, it is only ugly people that say it is about looks only as cannot see beyond the image they see. A person’s beauty shines from within to the outside, but narrow-mindedness and prejudice eats away at this so twists their view of how either gender should look. Happiness is not something we can buy, yet many think by creating a new version of themselves via a surgeon’s knife or buying certain things like “diet” drinks or pills we will be. We’re being brainwashed into believing this image of beauty is the norm and achieving it will bring us happiness, which many wonder why they are failing to find this happiness. Some spend money on “beauty” products but is like adding glitter and stars to a tortoise’s shell, it adds nothing but a bit of colour or a mask to hide the real us from the world.

For the last five years I have been on a journey of not just self-discovery but self love, appreciation, respect and understanding. I thought I truly was ugly compared with my peers and the world around me, being laughed at and mocked. I had thought since I was 18 I was the love child of Frankenstein and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, but I never resorted to surgery or pills to change it as I could not look in the mirror and I realised I was “stuck” like this for the rest of my life. However, between 2008-2009 I had lost weight to the extent I looked ill, I had people at my work place concerned for my well being, and I knew deep down the key to happiness was not my weight, it certainly had not helped my self confidence in feeling sexier or prettier. With the advent of selfies becoming more and more the norm, I turned the camera on to myself, and asked “is that really what I look like!?” I realise now I am not ugly or unloveable, I am just me, which may not grace the covers of magazines or newspapers, be a famous musician or movie star, but who really wants to be with people constantly judging your every bad hair day and weight gain.

When we make the image of ourselves in our heads it is not what to outside world sees, in fact as I learnt many are just hoping that nobody is laughing at them. Anyone who imposes how another should look be they are magazine or partner deserves a slap on the face, only we truly know what our shells of a body can and cannot do and these are not representations of the people we see about our streets. Furthermore, if someone is slimmer or larger than normal we should not be jealous of the slim one who maybe trying to gain weight just as the larger one maybe trying to lose it. We should not change who we are to fit among the “cool” gang by altering our personality, this also applies to our outer shell. By chasing these ideals we’re trying to throw off our shell like it was a layer of an onion and reveal a new one but humans the layers are inside not outside.. Equally, we’re not robots that are programmed to be one thing, we’re filled with emotions that different things trigger different ones, we’re pieces of art that our behaviour and actions paint the person we are beyond the initial image of our shell. Finally, we are part of the natural world, we are beautiful because of our imperfections not despite them, think of a four leaf clover that is said to be lucky but the majority have only three, its beauty is in its difference and imperfectness.

© Fi S. J. Brown