Room 101

You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world” – with these words come from author George Orwell in his famous dystopic novel 1984, which I highly recommend any reader who has never read it to do so, or re-read it as always find something new when I do.

Earlier today I watched Northern Ballet’s production of it on BBC 4, which was excellent. I remembered listening to Nick Hancock on BBC Radio 5 show, which has subsequently become a highly successful TV series, called Room 101. The radio show had the guest to nominate their “least favourite people, places and pop songs” in order to have them consigned to Room 101, and it was up to Nick to decide if they should or should not go in. I decided to follow this model but extend to my least favourite people, place, objects and music.

For my least favourite people it was very clear to me who I would put in – those that hurt others (particularly with no remorse or guilt) be they human, scales, fur or feather. I cannot understand or tolerate abuse be it sexual, physical, mental or emotional of another, there is enough darkness in the world, why add to it? I maybe highly empathetic, but cannot understand how someone finds joy in it.

For my least favourite place initially I was uncertain but then it came to me – Los Angeles. Now I do not mean any offence to anyone from or lives there, but to me it seems so fake and artificial based on false promises and dreams, full of lost souls, where few ever get the gold ticket without insider genetics or contacts, and contracts that would make even old Lucifer raise a smile for a decade or more.

For my least favourite object it becomes tricky as between several. My initial one was escalators, as I fell top to bottom on one as a small child when the lady in front stopped in the middle top to talk to her friend with nowhere for me to go but down! However, I also considered unnecessary chemicals used on our bodies in creams to deodorants or in our foods, particularly as additives or preservatives.

Finally, for my least favourite music. As someone who openly admits to being something of a musicnut and open minded to hearing old or new songs across all the genres I find this hard but easy. I would not single out a particular genre as there are exceptions to rules in all things in life, including music. Instead I would pick unnecessary booming beats or autotuning a piece so much it loses colour and life.

What about you dear reader, do you agree with me? What person or people, place(s), object and music should be in Room 101? As we all to often think about what we like but do not always consider the power of what we dislike and what it says about us as people. Hate is a strong emotion that we throw about without considering its powers, as along with love every other emotion seems to stem from it.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Life Lessons

Nine lessons I have learnt in life:
1. Love – self-compassion and being gentle with ourselves when things are rough and/or black, letting go of self-criticism.
2. Kindness – random acts of kindness by others can lift our spirits, so why not be the giver rather than wait to be a receiver.
3. Resilience – when life knocks us down, don’t be out for the count, instead learn to adapt or spring back by from the punch.
4. Hope – one of the greatest gifts we can give another and helps us move on from the obstacles that block our paths.
5. Courage – not only an absence of fear but to be able face problems head, trying something different or new.
6. Mindfulness – being aware of the present moment, who and where we are now not who were or maybe in the dreamy future.
7. Gratitude – little things are like sweets in a jar mean far more than one giant bar of chocolate as can appreciate alone or in all.
8. Support – be it friends and/or family, they are keys to our growth as their love waters, enriches and strengthens roots.
9. Individuality – we all contribute to this world in unique and special ways, each one of us is a superhero with superpowers big and small.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Which way now…?!

I was once asked by one of my closest friends “is there anything you CAN’T do?” I could instantly in my head think of 101 things I could not do in this lifetime. For me perhaps the hardest of all is finding my little place in the world as often feel the outsider looking in. How I can showcase what I can do and who I am when I cannot shout? I may have academic qualifications that many envy (degree, masters 1 and 2 and PhD) but realise now they were not my real passions and was led to what I thought was my path but was filled with dead ends, promising avenues and false starts. Currently I feel I take one step forward and two back, such is the merry dance life has got me stuck in a loop doing.

So to find a vocation that fits with my interests, skills and traits I have been reading Richard N Bolles’ famous book What color is your parachute?  I have drawn my flower diagram on paper and on my laptop, which you dear reader can see below, and asking friends what jobs or vocations they can see me doing. What do you think? Suggestions from friends have ranged from counsellor and social worker, to trek leader for those with disabilities or older people’s activity co-ordinator, and even policewoman or teacher.

WCIYP_Tea

This helped as I thought old ideas a new, such as ecotherapy or therapeutic landscape designer to speech and language therapist. However, with thinking of old ideas, my old negativity and self doubts crept in, with questions over my health too. Things like I cannot drive to I cannot draw due to my dyspraxia, or I get tired easily due to fibromyalgia, and what about my depression?
Ironically, Dick’s next chapter was on dealing with handicaps and disabilities. He suggested I looked at my skills in more detail. Initially I thought there are many things I cannot do, but it forced me to see actually, there are many more things I CAN do than CANNOT, so perhaps my friend was right after all! The results of this are below. However, I still feel no further forward than I was this time last week and maybe last year.

Skills_Tea

Perhaps my friend was right, the sky really is my limit (well I cannot drive into the sunset)! Finding where we belong can and a job that is us when we do not have a dream of our own, a dream job does not exist as burnt from past experiences or the present feels like it is constant fog.

If asked what my dreams are it is usually for my closest friends to have what they work so hard on in life to get the respect and recognition they deserve, beyond friends and family. For now, I’ll finish reading Dick’s book and may be something(s) will click into place, keep dancing to the rhythm I want to dance to and not the dizzy dance I have been caught in, and like the lens on my camera, focus on what I can control and matters.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Art and mindfulness

Look around you, what is the closest piece of art you can see? It maybe a copy of a painting as your computer or phone’s wallpaper, it maybe a tapestry on the wall, a photograph framed of a memory, which now all that remains is that solitary image, a vase made of glass or clay with flowers freshly picked from the garden, a doodle drawn while talking on the telephone last night, the mug that holds the now cold mug of tea, or a piece of music on YouTube. Art is everywhere and anywhere around us, fighting for our eyes attention before letting the other senses join in the party. We all live in our own museums and art galleries of our own device and curation.
 
Now imagine you came from a distant future, try to see through the eyes of some futuristic persona, and look at the piece of art you chose again with fresh eyes. Each one is full of unique colour, shape, purpose, texture, age, and design. Note in your mind or write down what your piece of art has. For example: I’m looking at cross stitch that hangs in the middle of my bookcase, which has my name and birth date upon it, but there is a flaw in the A as one x was stitched in the wrong place. Also, the child does not look like me as it has blonde hair and I am a brunette. Finally, I look at the flowers of pink and purple falling like rain from the sky that match the umbrella or parachute I’m attached to as I come to land in a gap between four houses.
 
Works of art gather meanings beyond the surface because we give them one; sometimes trying to understand the mind of the artist that made, but it could also be something that we have added sentimentality to, maybe it is an every day object that we do not look at beyond the function of it, and occasionally it is seen as something disposable as was only belonging to that one moment. By considering seeing them with eyes of the future we see new meanings that they may have otherwise never had, as the way we see them is based past and not what they mean to us now. We get so used to seeing the every day around us, they lose their original stories and why or how we chose to have them. What would archaeologist of the future think?!
 
This is like seeing our problems and/or issues, by seeing them with fresh eyes we can see them a different way and see how they impact on us now. For example realising the abuse we suffered as a child occurred twenty five years ago, but acknowledging the amazing things we have done despite this pain and beautiful person we are that would hurt nobody. Equally, it maybe a regret for not taking an action, which we feel may have brought us happiness and/or success, but remember we have things in the present that also make us happy with their own successes. Be focused not just on the present moment but appreciating what we have now is what matters.
 
© Fi S. J. Brown

The dance of love

Roses have thorns tasting of bitter sweet tears,

Painted grey with pains and sorrows over the years.

Yet they are also the colour of a truest romance,

As another teaches our heart and soul to dance.

 

Every dance has its own unique theme tune,

That makes fools of us all in the fullest moon.

Lyrics from collected from shared memories,

And a melody as sweet as from any bakeries.

 

It will soon be time to celebrate Valentine’s Day,

But remember the dance is not bought on eBay.

It is in the daily words, thoughts and actions,

This is the secret to endless satisfactions.

 

However, not all are fortunate to have a partner,

But everyone is appreciated and loved by another.

So keep wearing that smile and not the tears,

As tomorrow is a promise full of potential cheers.

 

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Ego Trick

For the last few days I have been reading contemporary philosopher Julian Baggini’s book The Ego Trick, in which he poses the following questions: Are you still the person who lived fifteen, ten or five years ago? Fifteen, ten or five minutes ago? Can you plan for your retirement if the you of thirty years hence is in some sense a different person? What and who is the real you? Does it remain constant over time and place, or is it something much more fragmented and fluid? Is it known to you, or are you as much a mystery to yourself as others are to you? I found the questions ones similar to many I had myself in recent years about myself and changes I felt I had experienced. They also reminded me of early 20th century philosopher Rudolf Steiner’s Stages of life, which I had previously considered in my post on the meaning of life. I decided to look back on my life and the changes I felt had happened but had they really happened, was I now the swan not the ugly duckling?

I thought back 20-25 years ago during my teenage years, as I hid in my high school library from the bullies surrounded by books for company with one thing that always stuck out – the Greenpeace leaflets that sat on the librarian’s desk. I knew of Greenpeace as watched the evening news nightly, preferring it over the Australian soap opera Neighbours. Combined with my occasional discussions with my great uncle, winning prizes for my writing against CFCs, and reading Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, my interest in the environment and natural world was very much the teenage me. I also got into trouble, not with my teachers but my mother, for drawing peace symbols against war and nuclear weapons to anti-animal testing doodles on my chemistry to religious education notebooks; issues which even now I feel strongly about and would draw them again. Equally, I’d spend my evenings listening to or practising playing music for bands and orchestras, as well as enjoying writing when I could, and questioning to myself the world around me. Therefore, on some level I am still the same as my teenage self with her passions and interests, but have I changed at all?

However, despite my passions and interests noted above, my school and family pushed me away from three of the subjects I excelled at and loved the most – music, Latin and French, and towards chemistry with biology. I found the sciences interesting to an extent but not the laboratory time, it didn’t quite grab me the same and often went wrong! One time doing an experiment connected to a computer, the whole thing had to be abandoned as the computer broke down and was unable to be retrieved…I joked to my teacher it was a sign I shouldn’t be studying chemistry. Yet if you look at my university qualifications you will see my undergraduate degree was a mix of both biology and chemistry, my first masters is in environmental analytical chemistry, second masters is in archaeology and PhD is in geography…not bad for the girl they bullied and called stupid! I tried to convince myself every year that I enjoyed being in the laboratory but quite simply I was fooling myself, I considered giving up during my second year undergraduate as felt so unme, but not one to give up I kept going. My current eyes see it as a form of emotional self harm, which is why I will probably never work in a laboratory ever again in this life time (or I hope not to)!

The last few years since my PhD I have been considering where my life is going and what I want out of it beyond my three desires (a place to call home, a dog for company and to be happy). Realising that my love of the environment and the natural world is still as big as my teenage self, so often photograph and/or write about it here, equally my love of writing has come to become something beyond what I could ever have imagined. Yet, I do not feel the same woman who looked down the microscope counting proxies of charcoal, seeds, bryzoans, ostracods and daphnia ten years ago; she would draw and daydream what she saw, trying to make the data visual from her mind to the paper and not in numerical form. I feel a sense of freedom now that I am finally being true to myself – the woman I have learnt to love, appreciate and respect, is a quirky creative not a mad scientist. I also know how often I am the person people turn to for help as have an unjudgemental ear, caring shoulder and arms happy to hug, leading others and myself to question if I should not be a counsellor or perhaps speech and language therapy due to my voluntary work with adults with aphasia. I am currently putting the foundations down to try go that path as feels like I’m being deafened by the screams!

Therefore, I do and do not agree on being the same person as I was before. Part of me is the same that has always been there, deep thinking to gentle woman and lover of the natural world. However, there are parts of me that I was either to scared to share or did not know they were me. I have also learnt the importance of a select group of friends that love, trust, respect and appreciate you as you do them. A few years ago I hated myself and found the darkness blinding but now see the light of the world’s multisensory being as though a child experiencing it all for the first time. I also feel it is our experiences in life that change us, for good and bad, so we are in a constant change like the constantly changing world, which we are trying to adapt to. This all brings me back to being aware of the present moment, so we perhaps should remember to try not to be who were ten years ago but use those ten years of life experience to be who we are now. Equally, we can make foundations today for where we would like to be in ten years time but a full on plan is impossible as tomorrow is promised to none of us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

My life purpose

I was reading an article online entitled “How do you find your purpose when you don’t know what it is?” I felt an affinity with what the article was about, as often find myself playing over again and again in my head or writing, what is my purpose in life? I then remind myself of a song from the musical Avenue Q called “For now; in it the character of Kate Monster points out who really does know their purpose and the cast sing about the importance of the present moment, with some things only being temporary. Remembering the lyrics to this song and words from a close friend help me stay focused on the present moment, i.e. living mindfully, so worry less over the things I cannot control and enjoying the good things when they come.

Going back to the article, I found four things stood out, which are listed below and then my answers to them, therein lies my life’s purpose. The four are:

  1. What am I grateful for?
  2. What are my gifts and talents?
  3. What do I love?
  4. What feelings do I want to have?

Gratitudes

  • I am grateful for being able to read and write. This makes me happy or benefits my life because to me there is so much to explore that others have said before me to writing my own experiences of life or giving voice to those that have none. So simple yet taken for granted by many as learn them at a young age but not all have the chance to learn them at any age.
  • I am grateful for being able to see and hear. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me look beyond the surface level, looking deeper and longer, and hearing the songs of Mother Nature to musicians that write their own and/or play ones that paint visuals in my mind, become soundtracks to my life, and give words to what perhaps I find I cannot.
  • I am grateful for good friends. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me feel loved, appreciated, and accepted in the world where many get jealous or envious, wanting more without realising what they have already, and feel like the ugly duckling now gliding down the river of her life as the swan she truly is not the ogre she thought she was.
  • I am grateful for being an empath and highly sensitive This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me appreciate the little things that cross my path, keep the light shining for those that are in darkness as know that it can suffocate when it overwhelms, and although I may not understand psychopaths or narcissists they show me what I am not
  • I am grateful for surviving the bad times. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me know the importance of this present moment, which can change from bad to good or the reverse at any moment. They taught me lessons that I can share with others so they can survive their own and do not define me as a victim but a survivor of them.

Gifts and talents

  • I am lucky to have the gift to write my thoughts and words of others so that their songs can be heard even when I am gone.
  • I have also the gift of a vivid imagination and a visual mind, so can look at a scene to see it many ways beyond the initial glance.
  • Another gift is having a non-judgemental ear to comforting shoulder and arms to hug those that come on the journey with me.
  • I have a talent for research, looking beyond the tip of the iceberg, diving deep to see how far I can go and what lies hidden.
  • I have also the talent to realise there is so much in the world to learn, so each day I try find something new to wonder at a new.
  • Another talent is knowing myself, strengths and weaknesses, pushing myself when needed and withdrawing when needed.

Love

  • My closest friends who mean the world to me, I’d do anything for them as their place in my heart and soul is as unique as they are.
  • Walks along with nature as my guide and friend, fighting all my senses at once which one that I should taken in first or all at once!
  • Writing and/or photographing to record or give voice to a sight, sound, experience, thought or moment so has its own voice and/or image.
  • Supporting others as feel privileged and honoured that out of all the human beings on this planet that could help them, it’s me that does.
  • Exploring somewhere old afresh with a child’s eyes, as well as somewhere new where there are memories and stories to tell.
  • Mindfulness and meditation, to be centred on this present moment, realising there are more roses than thorns growing at any time.

Feelings

  • Freedom – To be me, not what others expectations or wants. Follow my path not one created or walked by others, the so called normal life.
  • Appreciated – I have no desire to be rich and/or famous, but to be appreciated by those that I enjoy having in my life as they do with me.
  • Determined – Not to give up when feel lost in the darkness or suffocating from trees I should have dealt with when were but seeds.
  • Inspired – Every day and by everything, seeing the world like a child and not taking it for granted that it will be there again tomorrow.
  • Worthwhile – I do not want to reach the age of 60 and wonder what I did with my life or why I continued to ignore what my teenage self knew.
  • Wanderlust – I would love to see more of this world with its different cultures and traditions that share similarities and differences to my own.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

My “real self”

I was reading an article posted to Facebook on “Depression is the unavoidable by-product of not being who you really are?” I decided to ponder this and reflect on my own experiences of depression and self hate.

Looking back on my days pre-therapy I hated every part of me, frequently dreaming that I would have every part of me surgically changed, as thought I must look at total freak for the way people pointed and laughed at me in the street. My self image was so bad in waking life that I thought that I must look like the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I mean why else would people do that or call me ugly to my face? I decided that as heard it so often, it must be true, I must be truly have something repugnant about physical appearance. However, at no point in time would I ever have considered plastic surgery to change it for real. At the same time I was not allowed the freedom to express myself; I always Frances’ daughter not an individual in my own right, and she always wanted the final say in how I looked from my wig (I have alopecia universalis) to my glasses and how I dressed. Any medical appointments she would come to, encase I said something she did not want said. It took me a long time to realise I am the daughter of a narcissist.

Shortly after moving to Loughborough in October 2006 I began therapy, at first I had no real reason for feeling depressed as just always seemed to be there like raindrops in my tummy as I put when I was a child. It was then I started to unravel all I kept inside and found I had razor blades inside my stomach too, as often beat myself up emotionally for things that were not my fault and/or had never had a voice to say stop or no. I had been hurt so much by life that I almost gave up just before Easter 2008 as came close to suicide, I felt like the puppet mistress would never let me be free to be me. On my return to Edinburgh in October 2009, I had begun photographing, but nowhere near as much as I do now, with a feeling of sickness and dread. I had tried to turn the camera on me for around a year by then, perplexed at the woman that appeared on it as she was not the ogre in my head. Gradually over the next few years as I returned to writing combining with my photography and finding supportive friends I saw me as a person and learnt to appreciate, respect and love this unique person that I am. I belong not in a laboratory but helping others, writing and photographing, and dressing the way that suits me!

So was my depression caused by not being who I am? Yes and no. I am far happier internally than I have ever been, I can look in a mirror and say it’s just how I am at this moment and that’s okay. Equally, I can delete or edit a photograph based on it being a picture and not make it feel so personal. However, I still have depression as there are still things from my past that hurt me and in my present but try not to let them. To me mental health conditions, including depression, are far more complex than a simple and singular explanation. I have mentioned before that we let things take root and suddenly faced with a tree and sometimes a forest of issues we should have dealt with at the start. To me it is this forest that overwhelms us as we do not know where to begin to cut it down; borrowing an axe from someone else is like trying to use their methods to solve our issues it may work but not always; and often a combination of many things help, but the most important is living for today as per mindfulness so that the roots can take hold of us. So be true to ourselves, but equally be gentle with ourselves, as we’re not all meant to be Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, or Kelly Brook, but also note the images we see of them are heavily edited and may also have just the same insecurities as we do!

© Fi S. J. Brown