The Room

When my depression was at its worst it felt like I lived in a room with no light, be they electric or natural. I could not escape the room as I was a prisoner, but equally I held the key if I only knew where to find it. I knew there was something large covered in cardboard, that I would only notice when I finally discovered there were curtains. My knowledge of the world outside the room was from stories others had told in whispers to songs and books. Despite the darkness I had always found ways to hear and see them. Was I frightened to remove the cardboard? Yes and No. Initially I would say no as did not know any different, and yes when I found the cardboard I was frightened as uncertain of what lay behind them. It was almost better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.

One day while daydreaming and pondering curiosity challenged me to try remove part of the cardboard to see what would happen. I accepted, despite my initial fear. It led to a glint of light shining into my darkened world; creating something new that I never realised I needed so badly. Gradually I decided that I would remove the cardboard to see what lay beyond as the light I was seeing from the small gap intrigued me. Bit by bit I slowly removed it until I saw what appeared to be a large window that looked on to a large garden and rolling hills. The view made me cry as felt more a prisoner than I had ever done before, perhaps the curtains and cardboard had sheltered me from the truth. Equally I saw the room properly for the first time. It held – a music player with vinyl records, bookshelves of fiction and non-fictions, a chair, table and bed with cushions. Simple in some ways but I guess held all I really needed for living, if you could really call it that.

As days past I found myself looking more and more to the view beyond. I had not looked to try find a key to the door, which took me a while to notice even after the cardboard had come down. How was I to make the journey to the view I kept wondering, for the only openings appeared to be firmly sealed shut. Was I destined to forever dream of this world that I could see and not use any other sense? I looked at my collection of items and thought…what would happen if I smashed one of the windows, could I not climb out and escape to the world beyond? I mean, I already had scars (physical and mental) what would a few more make in the name of freedom?! I took an old jumper and tied it round my left arm hitting one pane of the window, partly in hope and partly in wishful thinking I could finally be free.

The air that came through the crack was hypnotic filling the room. Gassing me not in toxins but fresh air’s taste and tickle; it even allowed me to hear the sounds from outside like birds in song. The window then became an itch that I had to scratch, knowing I had to make a larger hole and remove myself from my prison. It was only as I had removed the largest pane that I saw a mirror in the room and saw my reflection. In it I saw the face of someone I did not know but knew she deserved my love and respect like any other. As the tears fell on my cheeks I saw what lay round my neck, the key as a necklace. I shook my head, it had been with me the whole time but it took going through all to realise it. Much like life, what we need is something inside ourselves and do not realise that until the last moment.

This left me with a predicament, did I take the door or the window? As I knew not of where the room was and what lay beyond it, but instincts said best to help myself first before trying to help others (if there were any in this place). I took my step outside the window to a ledge and took a deep breath…I was free but where to now? I saw a drainpipe so rather than jump into the garden of the unknown I would slide down slowly into it. The garden at first glance was even more beautiful than I could have imagined from the window, was this like the biblical Eden? I looked back up at my window I saw all the others were covered in cardboard too, hundreds of them. In that moment I knew my life did not belong there and to head for the hills for the garden may hold hidden dangers if I stayed too long…or even worse returned to my cell.

It was in the foot of the hills I found a cottage and where I now live; listening at dawn to the birds that bring me news of the world to enjoying the other gifts that the natural world brings. The sights, sounds, tastes, smells and feelings they bring with hope. Day by day I walk further and further up the hills, knowing one day I will reach the peak and climb over the other side. I will see how far I have come from my darkened room and know I am finally free. For now I look back with the shadow of the room, house and garden within a few miles, so still hanging over me. I am determined to reach that peak and the follow my path in the light, far away from the darkness the held me prisoner for so long, accompanied by bird song that keeps me going through day and night.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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The Privilege of Old Age

I haven’t written for a while as much has been happening in my life that’s left me more than a touch stressed and emotional.

Where to begin… My semi-estranged father has cancer, he developed secondaries and is now terminal – he is also paralysed in what he calls god’s little joke over the Easter weekend. He recently turned 81, an age neither of his parents reached and both died before I was born (three years and eight months respectively). Discovering his mother and grandmother died of breast cancer through a throwaway comment from my mother has added a layer of stress I did not need to have. As he has no siblings I have no idea of any personal risk to myself or nieces.

Weirdly I only saw my first pictures of his parents in the last month after my eldest brother took to scanning old slides my father had taken in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It was funny to finally see images of people that shared genes with, but I felt no connection to or reference point other than being my father’s parents. My brother also scanned slides of my father from fifty years ago, which included him posing with a mug of tea…I guess some things in the genes I never realised before! Those that have seen the few I have posted to social media have seen the physical resemblance between the two of us.

I am also dealing with my mother, who is waiting for a hip replacement operation (she is not in pain and is muscular) but is not quite prepared for how big an operation it is. Her worry is understandable but trying at times to out do my father for my emotion, ensuring I worry about her over him. It is hard being an empath when she is an emotional vampire and knows what she is doing as plays the victim like the narcissist she is. She turns 75 in August, retiring at the start of the year, but does not realise the people she often calls old are younger than she is! Her parents died when she was young, and have only heard snapshots of what either were like as people and never seen an image of either of them.

My father calls me the English one, and yes I have always felt more connection to England than Scotland. I am hoping to visit his home town this year to see the streets and places I know family lived to try understand part of me as feel I do not know where I belong or who I take after beyond much of my interests are similar to his. So many questions but realising that I will never have the answers. That is perhaps what is hitting me the hardest after our estrangements over the years, and feeling I never knew him as a person. I could not even tell you what his favourite colour, television show, or song is for example.

This makes me in turn wonder about both sets of grandparents – how they lived their lives, their interests and what they would make of the world today. As neither grandparent saw true old age it makes me wonder not only will my siblings and I see it, how different the world would be from the one I have seen many changes in my almost 40 years in another 40. The world feels like it is in such a mess right now I also wonder will there be anything left in 40 years time or would I recognise it as the one I grew up in. In one year I will be older than my father was when I was born. Makes me laugh when I explain the pre-internet world to younger people makes me feel like a dinosaur some days, but I am an old soul too that compounds things further.

Last Sunday I saw one of my mother’s best friends that has severe dementia in a care home, which has the worst reviews you can imagine…! I am the first to admit I cry easily but seeing a woman in her mid 80s reduced to a child with a television blaring whilst water and food were out of reach made me sad for her and angry at her daughter having known how badly she treated her. I felt like I was feeling the pain and loneliness of all the older people that have nobody. B is a gentle soul but nobody deserves to be left in the care of others that only work there due to the free parking (I joke not). It feels like we are so obsessed with youth that we do not want to consider the other end of the spectrum, and may yet end up living in a world like Logan’s Run.

Seeing B made me realise my sad reality, unable to have children with no financial savings or home of my own that there would be nobody to be there for me. Yes, I have close friends but would never expect anything of anyone, although I would be first to be there for them and help in any way I could. As for my siblings – my eldest brother is as useful as a chocolate teapot that’s been put in a microwave, the other is caught up with his with and daughters so rarely speak, and my sister is hardly part of my life.

The privilege of old age comes at a price, do I really want to pay it? Do we really want to live longer, or dare I say forever as the pay offs from here do not seem to be worth it. Almost an illusion like the one to look younger; surgery, needles and knives create masks but cannot change what’s going on inside our bodies…why have the face of a 35 year old when your body is that of a 70 year old!? Surely if we do achieve old age we should be proud to of it, an achievement like any other in our path. Respecting older people should be part of being human, but alas like so many things these days it is becoming less and less.

Tomorrow is always a whisper away that all too often we try to put off things until it comes but of course it never does come (or until we have no further option). If anything old age should tell us not to put things off and enjoy them while we can now. Life changes in the click of a finger, for better and worse, which is why living mindfully is so important. It is too short to have regrets or not taking opportunities. I may not be a risk taker but I’m learning to swim (not jump head first without looking or keeping my toes dipped in and out) and embrace what my life is all about…if I reach my 70s or 80s it will be a privilege I will be proud to have achieved.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Being a mother

As I write this on Mother’s Day around the world my social media feed is full of posts on people’s mums that have a special place in their hearts to their own children that mean the world to them.

There are group of people we rarely mention on Mother”s Day, those that have loved and lost a child, which causes a pain few can ever begin to imagine. I have also noticed few posts talk about non-biological mothers, the step to foster and adoptive mothers that come in and give the love to a child that is not biologically part of them but are still part of their hearts.

Being a mother is something very special that we often take that bond for granted. Not all mothers are best friends or understanding, some are abusive and hurt their children emotionally, mentally, and/or physically. Having a narcissistic mother that makes everything about her, controlling your every move, and hates when break free as you have done her wrong.

Yet what about those that are childless? Not everyone wants to have or is able to have one. I felt in my teens I would never have my own and now I know I probably won’t, not 100% by choice for my body says no. As for adoption it is certainly been a consideration in recent years, but I can only see me adopting a furry child that barks and woofs than one that speaks and walks as a human does.

Mother’s day is a privilege to have and share with either one we have given birth to or one we have taken into our hearts. However, please remember it’s not a day of joy for all, from those that have lost to those that are victims of their mother’s action. Equally, to those of us that may never understand that unique bond, we are not failures or freaks, we are loved as siblings to aunts and friends.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Watch our language

Mariah Carey is hitting the headlines this week, not for her diva behaviour or music for once, but for acknowledging her mental health and that she has bipolar. Although she may not be a singer I like on many levels, however I have empathy with those that like myself that have mental health conditions, and having friends with bipolar I know the ups and downs even with medication can be horrific to deal with.

However, it is the language that I have seen used that disturbs me the most. Headlines that say she IS bipolar…would we say someone is cancer or diabetes, of course not so why do we say it with mental health? Why does this matter? The way language is used shapes how we see things, and in turn perceive the world around us as words evoke images and ideas. If I said my skirt today is blue and purple I’m sure you all will have an idea of those colours having seen them throughout your lives and interpret how it looks. By calling Mariah bipolar rather than saying she has it has a way to conjure up images of stereotypes from movies or TV shows of what this disease is like and continues the stigma as believe the stereotypical crazy mental health hospital patient. Their individuality is lost as seen as a label not a person. This negativity can effect their self esteem, hope for the future to accepting of help and negatively impacts on recovery to reaching out for help when they need it in the future.

The difference between physical and mental health in the ways we talk about them is from the past filled with scientific misunderstanding to social ignorance, which had those that have them seen as witches to possessed by evil spirits, or even as a sign of weakness or failing. The reality is that these illnesses can happen to anyone; they are biological and arise from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental impingement. We can no more ‘be’ bipolar than we can ‘be’ cancer. We cannot ‘just get over it’ and is not ‘all just in your head’.

When we have an opportunity with social media to humanise or dehumanise others when we talk about mental or physical conditions, so please think and use your words carefully.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Springtime

Listening to the sound of snowdrops ringing brightly,
Waking all across the land from their winter’s sleep.
With the croci’s stamen vibrating like a bass’ strings,
Vibrating throughout Britain’s gardens and fields.
A melody sung in harmony by newborn baby lambs,
Backed by the reliable evergreen ash, pine and holly.

This sets off daffodils dancing in the springtime breeze,
Blowing their trumpets as only ones so narcissistic can.
Trying to drown out the sounds of their rival bluebells,
Who have long dominated the woodlands and forests.
The tulips try to act as independent and impartial judges,
And let their red be a reminder of love not hate to all.

Then there are cherry blossoms dressed in pink and white,
Singing a duet that begins the next act to the spring opera.
Each white petal glides like a majestic swan as it falls,
And the pink as though thrown as confetti at a wedding.
A bittersweet relationship that is doomed to always fail,
As into the gutters they land to be swept away forever.

Let us not forget the biggest diva on Planet Earth is left,
For humanity is the fat lady that must sing the final aria.
Thinking their modern songs with autotune are far greater,
And their cover versions far better than all nature can do.
Finally before the curtain finally falls the days get lighter,
As colour fills Earth as a symphony of sound and visual.

© Fi S. J. Brown

We can do it

Sometimes we think how will I be remembered and what for? Will my mistakes not my triumphs be what they sing, or will it be my looks not the kind heart I had that is seen forever? Actress Marilyn Monroe is often thought to be a dumb blonde, but in reality was far from it. This is due to the characters she played on film cementing a false image of her as a person. In modern times we live in a world where celebrities are often defined as something to aspire to be. Like actress Angelina Jolie’s humanitarian work, for which has seen her involved in high level political talks on human rights. Furthermore, as today is International Women’s Day she is one that many admire due to this. Equally, those that love animals may cite the work of Jane Goodall as their heroine, or if like me are also into environmental issues Rachel Carson’s name is one we may add.

Yet what about those people we have forgotten or like Marilyn see them for one aspect of their lives and even that is not the whole story. An example is Hedy Lamarr, who like Marilyn was an actress and seen as a beauty queen, but that does the achievements of this Austrian actress a diservice. She helped to develop a ‘secret communication system’ to combat the Nazis, which included a ‘spread spectrum’ that ultimately would galvanise the digital communication boom and forms the the technical backbone that makes mobile phones, fax machines, and other wireless operations of today possible! She also read and observed fish and birds, leading to the design of airplane wings we see today as realise the design from nature was more effective. Alas like many female inventors little of her work was recognised at the time, but has in recent times thankfully.

What this serves to tell us is that no matter what we achieve in our lifetime it may not be seen as groundbreaking, against the odds we can achieve things but may only be seen or read by a small group of people. Equally, there should be no limits to what we can achieve, dream the impossible dream. There will always be others that hate us as believe we have what they desire, or our lives are easier, which is false and those that know us truly know this too. Some crave fame, as seen as the ultimate achievement, but unprepared for the smoke and mirrors that hide beind this poisonous golden chalice. Being a woman is still an obstacle in many parts of the world as seen as weak or feeble, only suitable for bearing and rearing children (making my inability to have them seem like I’m worth less than a flower). But we should be ourselves, do our best, and believe in ourselves.

Fi S. J. Brown

Music – a definition

Music is everywhere and everything. It teases the ears with hypnotic rhythms that send us into a trance and waves of sound that make every cell in the body vibrate. Keys that define moods, major and minor, with chords that bring the sound together as one. Words that make us repeat them like parrots and take them to our hearts and soul as though written just for or about us. Every instrument paints in its own unique colour, making masterpieces visual not just aural, and opens our eyes to new journeys that words alone could not do. Vocals do not need synthetic additions, they’re an instrument in their own right, and lose their true emotion when become one with machine. Together it makes a special something that can lift our spirits or make us cry, a therapy and medicine that’s not a luxury but necessity for surviving life.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Then and Now

Were the every day thoughts, hopes, and daydreams of our ancestors really that different to our own now in 2018?

Painted caves, sharing myths to jokes imprinted in clay, hieroglyphs with 2-3 meanings, and illuminated scrolls,
Philosophers pondering the meaning of the world around us with none finding a true meaning to life itself.
But now words are written not in verse or prose but with hashtags and abbreviated words accompanied by emojis.
Taking pictures that hang not in galleries or shelves in the home but in virtual clouds that in a tap are deleted.

Great discoveries from the wheel to medicines and the internet itself are achievements that make humanity proud,
Knowledge is finding the right app to do it for us or knowing a tomato is a fruit but wisdom is not putting it in a salad.
All the knowledge and information we have from the past to the present of life is available at the tap of a button,
But we use it to share videos of cats, get into arguments with people we don’t know, or legally stalk a celebrity or two.

The food we no long hunt on horses with bows and arrows but drive metallic beasts that lead us to it already prepared
Seldom considering the journey it has made to the plate other than the instructions half glance at the cooking instructions.
Beauty is created with chemicals that mask our real faces and surgeon’s knives to create the perfect body craved,
But is also manufactured in heavily edited images to sell a fake life that makes the normal become the abnormal.

No worshipping of gods and/or goddesses with gifts left in blessing and hopeful acceptance to a heavenly afterlife,
Replaced with puppets saying or singing the words of their masters to be taken as their own thoughts and views on life.
As we crave the simpler life without the hard work our ancestors did in one day to than we ever could in our lifetime,
And have not mastered not judging another or thinking war is the answer without understanding the question.

With the keys to a time machine would we travel back in time or be content to live in the present day in modern life,
Or would we take a peak to a future that for now lies as an unwritten whisper but not a guaranteed promise to us all.
Changes occur great and small throughout our lifetimes just as they have since those now long forgotten in time’s dust,
The only way to survive it is focusing on the present without letting negative thoughts take root and live the daydreams.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Life – The Unwritten Rules

1. Forget whatever rules you’ve been told before, this your life and can lead it whichever way you want to. That is except if you hurt another living being by physical, mental, or emotional means to get what you think you should have as greed, envy, and jealous individually and collectively will taunt and tease you to get their way.
2. Normal is different for everyone; for example your body may not look like those in a magazine or on a website but neither do the people they are of as manipulated to someone else’s idea of ‘perfect’ or ‘normal’. Equally, an anatomy and physiology book shows a human body, but does not allow for variations that make you human.
3. Beauty is everywhere, but requires all our senses to truly experience it; for example using the eyes of a child experiencing the world for the first time, if something feels wrong trust that instinct as far better than burnt fingers for not doing so, and actively listen but never judge or be too busy as never know when you may need to back.
4. Very little is truly black or white, it is that murky bit between where all lies, the real fifty shades of grey. So do not assume or disregard something you have never experienced as trivial or unimportant; even if you have, the way you did and how will never be the same as another as have your own skills, genes, and experiences of life.
5. When trying to wait for a signal to do something, do not put it off for another day or except another to help you. The signal to do it is when you realise this is it. Do not try to run or expect success straight away, take your time and listen to advice from others but remember it is just that and not a fullproof recipe of must follow steps.
6. Time is a healer so do not expect someone else to ‘just get over it’ as no idea how deep the scars (visible and invisible lie). With passing days to years it may fade into the distance but equally it can be like an old record stuck playing the same line again and again with no way to make it stop unless you stop iy yourself.
7. Money cannot buy happiness and success, as with everything else these are determined by yourself and not by others. In many ways it makes you dance to the beat of someone else’s drum as you follow their golden carrots, but are invetiably fools gold and only serve to make the puppet masters richer and richer.
8. Lessons are not confined to classrooms and books, in many ways you will learn more through life’s journey than can be taught by another. When rocks block your path don’t try to kick them but try carving them into something to take with you to show you how far you’ve come or roll them slowly and steadily away.
9. Everyone makes a mistake, admitting to them when they happen is best as the lies become as twisted as the roots of trees they become and create shadows that hang over you. When the tree eventually falls it is not just you that will be hurt as it does, tripping up over the now exposed roots, no mistake (great or small) is worth it.
10. The meaning of life is difficult but simple too. Life is an ever changing, ever evolving experience. Each day is full is full of patterns you may recognise but new ones come in to colour in that pattern or change the shape of it so not the same as it was before. Adapting to this constant similarity and change is key.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Santa’s Blues

‘Tis almost that time of year,
That I fly through the air.
Avoiding speeding tickets,
And those low flying UFOs

Last year Donner had the trots,
Blixen got herself pregnant,
Prancer and Dancer retired,
And Rudolph won Strictly.

Kids today want too much,
Who do they think Santa is?
Do I look like Amazon.com?
What happen to wooden toys?

The elves all want to quit,
Some have repetitive strain,
Others demand flexitime,
And not one works overtime.

All Mrs Claus does is moan,
Once I tried the Atkins diet,
But nobody told me no beans,
Oh that poor old Ozone Layer.

So I have decided to quit,
Moving somewhere hotter,
With the blonde from Tinder,
Merry Christmas Everyone.

© Fi S. J. Brown