Masks

When we are young we often want to be someone else, that is anyone other than ourselves. As we become adults we do not always loose this as hide behind masks trying to fit in with others not realising they too are wearing masks. In some ways we also forget who we really are if we are learn at all to accept what lies hidden.
Then we can become so attached to our masks we become frightened someone may see us without it and how they will judge us accordingly.

However, sometimes, if we’re lucky, someone comes along and shows us who we really wanna be, who we should be. The real us deserves our love and apologies for all the ways we mistreat it daily and speak about ourselves as though we should be better to be more normal. What is this normal? There is no such thing as a normal human being as we may share characteristics but equally we do not. We learn more from our differences than our similarities.

We owe ourselves an apology and probably more than one too for feeling shameful of what lies beneath. I threw my masks away a few years ago as learnt those that matter will always see through it and encourage us to be who we really are. Are you ready to remove yours and face the world as the real you? You can do it, believe in yourself and not the masks that you think is. Let go of your fear and step forward into the world as you, the beautifully unique human being you are.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Advertisements

Return to Spring

The evergreen soldiers remain on guard
As Jack Frost always wants one final dance
Even though spring time has stirred anew
And footprints in the snow belong in the past

The snowbells have rung their tiny icy bells
As crocuses spread like a vibrant floral virus
Daffodils loudly blow their golden trumpets
And blossoms dance in white and pink dresses

Rebellious winds take flight as days lengthen
Roaring up and down valleys, hills, and trees
Awakening all with their high pitched shrills
Only calming when the first lambs are born

The tulips are waiting patiently in the wings
And the bumble bees ready to pounce for pollen
To peels of bluebells ringing throughout forests
Springtime is here with adventures to be written

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dating and Me

It is nearly two months since I wrote my blog on asexuality and I have written drafts of a follow up entry but nothing felt right. However, I decided it was about time I put my fingers back on the keys and write.

Eighteen years ago today I went on a blind date, I will probably always remember it was St Patrick’s Day 2001 for the following reasons. My friend Dianne had decided to set me up on a blind date, which in my years at university nobody else had tried to do or do since then. I was living in Aberdeen in the final year of my degree and had only had my first kiss the previous autumn at almost twenty two with a guy that stalked me by text for around three months and other things I do not wish to write about. To say I was nervous was an understatement as did not have a clue what the etiquette was for such an event.

We had been texting for a couple of days and agreed to meet that evening for a meal. All I knew about him was that he was 23 and Dianne had known him for a couple of years…oh and like me had glasses! I looked at my clothes and thought what do I wear…I don’t want to give out the wrong signals and not sure I want anyone in my life in that way. In the end I went for a long black skirt, grey jumper, boots and black coat. Just as I put my jumper on Dianne text me – “please don’t kill me after you have met him”. As if my nerves were not already in a mess and what was she meaning by this cryptic code!? Where was the reassuring good luck message? If she was sending that to me…what was she sending him?

I remember meeting Irish guys on my way to our rendezvous point, and part of me just wanted to go out with them rather than face this unknown person. I arrived five-ten minutes early (I was OCD with time and numbers so couldn’t be late at all for things) to see a man fumbling on his phone – 6ft tall, short dark hair and glasses – I realised it was him. My instincts said ‘run’ as still not too late. However, before I could my phone went off, it was him texting was I there yet as our eyes met. This put me off further as I was early and I knew from Dianne he was shy but this felt like someone ready to pounce or stalk me.

After the formalities were over and done with we were trying to decide where to eat – I love Italian, Thai and Moroccan food but wasn’t fussy. He led me round the back streets of Aberdeen to the biggest dump of a pub I had ever seen. I asked as we arrived if they had a lady’s toilet to which I was told ‘er I’m not sure if they do or not’! Where was I…not the notorious Grill Bar but one its equally appalling siblings by that response. My heart sank, how could someone bring a woman here for a date. It did not get any better as I felt like all the other men were staring at me for being in their pub. I declined anything alcoholic and went with water, after what had happened with the stalker I did not want any repeats.

Conversation was very hard, we had almost zero things in common…only he had graduated from the university department I was at and our mutual friend! It is almost ironic that Mr PMS I mentioned in my previous blog had exactly the same personality and interests…I have learnt my lessons believe me and will not let history repeat! I agreed to go onto another bar but I was allowed to choose so went to one which a friend managed so I could feel safer and politely tell him it was going nowhere as clearly did not get that. We were opposites in many respects – I love music, he only really liked heavy metal at a push; he preferred to spend Saturdays playing Dungeons and Dragons, I liked visiting art galleries and museums or going for walks in the countryside, to concerts and plays…! In this case opposites would not be attracting each other and I would not be killing Dianne but more demanding why she thought we’d click at all!

In the eighteen years since I have hardly been on any dates, even Mr PMS only managed one proper date with me to the cinema to see his choice of movie! I was told around twenty years ago that I am ‘far too independent for my own good‘ by a male friend. Perhaps that is true but being hurt and asexual means I have never looked for love and find the idea of ever finding romantic love more and more meant for others but not me. I do not judge others or have attraction as I am asexual so the idea of meeting someone through online dating makes zero sense to me. Equally, through this experience would I really trust someone to set me up with another person? Other friends do not date and that has helped me come to terms with this aspect of my life as slowly accepted I am just a girl that loves but not in a romantic love kinda way.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Asexuality and Me

For as long as I can remember I have felt different to others in many ways and that includes my sexuality. As a child of ten I was asked in the playground ‘are you a lesbian‘ to which I was uncertain what the meant and on asking my mum that night I was told ‘never mention that word in this house ever again’. It was only as I became a teenager I discovered its meaning and why her religious beliefs had led to the comment she had made, which all these years later have never changed.

In my teens amongst the many things the girls of my year chose to bully me over was my music choice as one they could not understand as I love all sorts of music and not just what was in the charts. I remember the day one asked me ‘which member of Take That do you fancy‘, like it was some great important thing to know, to which I answered ‘none of them‘. This was true I didn’t fancy any of them nor did I fancy any other male celebrity such as Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. They also asked if I was a virgin, which I was but the idea of sex was never something that I thought of and furthermore any signs of male genitalia had me running from biology classrooms to the thought of anything (even a tampon) made me frightened from memories my head did not want to remember. This led to me questioning my sexuality every time the subject was brought up.

By the time I reached university in Aberdeen and saw magazines aimed at teenagers with ‘position of the fortnight‘ in them I still had zero interest in it, if anything it made me want to retreat even more at what might be expected of me. I only ever had a fleeting interest in one guy as we spent so much time studying together and even then never thought of kissing him or more. By the time the year 2000 came round and just before my twenty second birthday arrived I finally kissed someone but he wanted more and tried to rape me twice and then stalked me for three months. The only other experience of note was a blind date a few months later, which when my friend text me just before it with ‘don’t kill me after you’ve met him‘ didn’t exactly fill me with confidence! The date itself was awful as he took me to a pub that he was uncertain even if had a woman’s toilet and had zero mutual interests to talk about!

Five years on and I was about to embark on my PhD in England when I invited a friend to visit for the day and he turned the visit into the start of a long distance relationship. On hindsight there were many warning signs: his visits being restricted to monthly (ironic given his initials were PMS), contact was on his terms through MSN (he destroyed his mobile phone sim card so I wouldn’t text him) to sexual things as forced me to have sex with him and perform oral sex, which I still had zero interest in but wanted to make him happy. This led to other issues of a physical kind in terms of pain due to vulvodynia and discovery of spasms from vaginismus as well as blacking out at times too. He was zero support when trying to explain this to a gynaecologist and when we finally split up nine months later I probably had only ever seen him five times. It was a welcome relief as spent every hour he visited in fear at what he wanted and even at night time I could not sleep for the two days he visited for. Although I was in therapy for other issues with my mental health he certainly added to the issues I had there too. The only other person to show any interest in me over the time I lived in England was a guy I knew online and lets just say I could spot his lies a mile off to the negative energy he gave off told me to run for the hills!

Since then I have returned to live where I grew up in Edinburgh, but it was only when going to Aberdeen to see a friend in concert and stay with a second friend that I had my first kiss with a woman, the friend I was staying with. She identified as bisexual and someone (her or a barman) spiked my drink so my memories of the time are hazy and cannot say that kiss was any better or worse than my previous experiences with men. It no more confirmed for me that I am straight, gay or bi as cannot tell from looking at someone if I find them attractive or not as genuinely is their personality that if I am ever to have any level of attraction it will be from. It was only after this experience I learnt of asexuality and realising that is probably what I identify as – a Grey-A.

Over the nine years since that kiss I have grown to accept, appreciate and love me for who I am. I am now 40 years old and beginning to wonder what the whole relationship thing is really about. I have zero interest in apps or online dating and would rather be introduced to someone through a friend. The kiss in Aberdeen showed me that I cannot classify the gender of a person I would be interested in. My experiences in England have shown me the kind of personality I do not want in a partner and those I do want if I did have one. I still have zero sexual attraction or interest in sex with the idea of looking for to having a partner scares the bejeezus out of me and beginning to wonder as I have often felt that it is something just not meant for me…and perhaps just need to accept that.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Free Will and Technology

Anyone with even a passing interest in philosophy will have thought about and/or discussed the notion of ‘free will’, i.e. the power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; the ability to act at one’s own discretion. This was explored recently in the Black Mirror film Bandersnatch on Netflix, which is presented to the viewer as an interactive ‘choose your own adventure‘ but really shows like the main character Stefan has no free will to make his decisions as we choose them for him that we actually have little choice in how the story will end from the numerous choices we have made. Much like another character’s speech, Colin, whilst on LSD says about PAC-man meaning “program and control”. This in many ways shows Stefan himself is being led about a maze by us, which we ourselves are doing in making our decisions on how he leads his life.

A magician can learn to look for blind spots, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perceptions as can influence what people do without them realising it. Once they know how to push people’s buttons they can play them like a piano (look at any episode of Derren Brown’s to see this in action). This is what happens again and again as designers of products from music to iPhones to by playing our psychological vulnerabilities (consciously and unconsciously) against us at race to grab our attention. They can do this as Western Culture is built around the free will I mentioned above as we fight to defend the right to our ‘free’ choices but we do not realise we are already being manipulated like Stefan was by selections we didn’t even make. Magicians do this by making us feel we have made the choice ourselves but have really directed us down the path they want us to follow.

Take reality television we see an edited version of a far more complex story given to us with the contestants merely puppets in a theatre show with many of them being scripted and pre-determined so any voting we make is giving us an illusion we can make a difference and choose the winner when producers have already determined this weeks to months before. We are made to feel we know these contestants, ordinary people that have risen to fame but only a fraction of what we are told is true as lead us to their desired outcomes. Or celebrities that are trying to improve their fame by redemption or seeing them in new ways so will invest in future projects they undertake. The real winners are never the contestants but the television companies that make money from them and us.

Ask Alexa or Siri ‘what is the best bar in Edinburgh’ and they will pull up results from sites that have given the highest ratings. We fall into the trap sometimes in think these truly must be the best and do not look around to see for ourselves what is around us as could miss the next big thing in music playing at a small bar that may not get the best ratings online or see a pop-up gallery that is having its opening night party for free so not on their system.

Technology creates a ‘fear of missing out’ as convince us we need to subscribe to newsletters, friend people we may not have seen in twenty years and happily never see again, and turn on notifications so know the instant something has happened. However, we will always ‘miss out’ on somethings as we might be asleep as is natural at say 3am on a Tuesday, never meet our dream partner on Tinder as did not swipe on and on, or miss a phone call that could change our lives forever. We also see people together in activities that we were not invited to and made to feel bad that they made a decision to exclude us. We are meant to live in the moment, not in the fear that we will miss that moment forever if not attached to technology or have the notifications turned on.

Social media and technology make us want to be accepted and approved with our ‘friends’. As soon as we update our new profile photo we hope x number of people like it and leave us a comment on how good or beautiful we are. Are we really truly accepting of ourselves if have wait for a certain proportion of our friends agree with how we have chosen to represent ourselves? Where is our choice in being who and what we are without caring what others think? This ‘social approval’ we all respond to but vulnerable people are more likely to be drawn into the web of lies it spins.

Then there is a social reciprocity that if someone comments on something we agree with we click like or if they say ‘thank you’ we feel we have to say ‘you’re welcome‘ and if someone follows us it is almost rude not to follow back. We have no choice but to follow up as the unwritten rules of social etiquette have said we must not leave it dangling in cyberspace. However, if we disagree and say we are offended this triggers a massive up surge for daring to be offended. There are certain things we should be offended such as rape or murder by but taking what is posted to the extent we are feel outraged over the smallest of things are we not going too far?

Are we blindingly following what the designers of technology, with these apps and websites making us to do what they want us to as though we were PAC-man in the maze or Stefan in Bandersnatch? Have we lost the ability to step away and say no I don’t need that app or notifications for every little thing as do not care if miss out? Asking Siri or Alexa to do something for us are we letting a robot make a decision that we no longer have to think for ourselves what to how to do something from first principles? If we continue to accept them are we entering a world beyond that of Black Mirror that we are so dependent on the technology that it is part of us and cannot live without being constantly plugged in?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Jack Frost – The Phoenix of Ice

It was mid-December when the snow began
To the beat of Jack Frost’s clapping hands
Making all that saw it dance like his puppets
For he is the master of the winter white ball
Manically he laughed creating many shivers
The annual uninvited guest had returned

That malevolent jester that is seldom seen
Same bad old jokes but new tunes to learn
So again he clapped his hands again to snow
Changing the tempo from waltz to foxtrot
Filling his cold and empty heart with delight
Not even the sunshine could melt this one

Stomping his feet that made rippling cracks
As all slipped and slid trying not to fall down
Leaving a strange sweet taste sweet in the air
Hypnotising some to actually enjoy his games
Where is freedom from his prison with no key
Even the trees had turned into his white guards

The answer lay in shaking salt on the streets
Burning his dancing feet and made him scream
The tremors could be felt throughout the world
All he tried transformed into puddles of water
He had lost but vowed to return stronger and wiser
And like a phoenix of ice he shattered into pieces

© Fi S. J. Brown

Christmas 2018

As angel halos are polished brighter than Rudloph’s red nose
And Santa samples every sweet his elves have made this year
It is almost here that frantic rush to buy gifts we think others want
Hoping that in return we get more than some perfume or slippers

But for the supermarkets it started back in the heat of August’s sun
We popped in for the creams of sun and ice only to find crackers
In September out came that seasonal swear box if say its name
Surely only a fool would begin their annual celebrations so soon

By October the air begins to turn that distinctive autumnal smell
Advertisers scream through the leaves Christmas is coming soon
‘Buy this now to ensure it is the best you’ve ever had’ they lie to us
Every time we fall for them anew despite promises we made before

November is when any children make their annual written pilgrimage
Making lists of things that they’ll hate by that day in late December
Thinking of nothing else as they try to behave as know he is watching
With the wanting ever growing from iPads to ponies or weight in sweets

December dawns with a black thump as the credit card receipts mount
With the trimmings on the tree many colours and sprouts that nobody eats
Quickly we must write those cards we bought for charity but not be the first
Must change with the times too sending Instagrams, Tweets or Snapchats!

Christmas Eve is the calm before the storm with little time to relax or unwind
The shopping maybe over but there is always lots of wrapping left to do
Hanging up stockings to signal to Santa Claus we are ready for your visit
And a glass of mulled wine soon turns into just the one bottle for tonight

Next morning it begins early with the excitement of kids young and old
Long lies are not meant for this day so no point even beginning to try
Presents carefully wrapped but in seconds in a hundred pieces on the floor
With forced thank you’s exchanged matched only with the fake smiles

As the knife hits the turkey’s breast all eyes stop their games and stare
Even the sugar high children’s screaming and fighting stops for a second
The crackers go bang and paper crowns worn to a chorus of bad jokes
Time to overeat with no regret – well until the wake of Boxing Day morn

Watching the festive specials on the black box that never seem as good
Was it nostalgia or even the drink that says it was better in the old days
As the calm settles a collective world taking deep breaths that it is over
At least that is for another year when we will do it all over again!

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Ogre

There was an ogre that lived
As bald as a newborn baby
But had lived at two and ten years
When she first walked this Earth
Writing formed only death wishes
Laughter tasted of bottle green
Dancing to another’s beat
Crying muted lonely tears
Growing the seeds of doubt
Record needle stuck again and again
Set on fire with self inflicted wounds
Collecting certificates for study
Stuck in laboratories like a monkey
Or was it jail with no key
As the train grew closer and closer
Time froze
Truth from camera lens not glasses
Picasso’s painted woman glanced
As a rag doll developed digitally
Sewn with threads of friendly love
But this was still not the whole truth
And the ogre wanted the final word
Humiliation across a brave new word
From an image cast on a black mirror
A selfie
No laughter came
After over two and a half decades
The ogre had lost the final battle and war
Blinded by the dawn light
Deafened by the dawn chorus
Leaving behind a human being
That is me
Now almost 40
And she is still just me

© Fi S. J. Brown

Technology – 20.18.11

This is not a rant against technology but more thoughts after watching an old clip on YouTube and considering what was said then to what is true of today’s technology. Equally, is today’s technology an escapism and/or all bad news?

Everywhere we go today almost everyone has a mobile/cell phone. Some have them stuck to their hands and stare back at the black mirror to this world where a version of them exists. It is like almost like old computer game The Sims but with better graphics and have more control of the worlds we create. Others hold them aloft to an invisible god as take selfies and hope this god will ensure they get many likes on the assorted social media as they apply filters to portray themselves in the worlds just mentioned.

Mindfulness has become a big thing but yet many do not just stop and look to enjoy the moment as feel the need to have proof they were there at all. Our memories are like movie with only edited bits we remember but yet by taking videos or pictures are we trying to hold on to them for that bit longer? Do we have to document our lives and share them to these worlds…is anyone really that interested in our fiftieth meeting of a so called celebrity or posing drunkenly with our mates when we are over twice the legal age?

Are our lives so vacant or boring we need the justification, reassurance, acceptance or love that come with these worlds? Acts of random kindness feel cheapened too – how can they be so random when it is recorded then shown to others to showcase the deed in action? Do we need these black mirrors of vanity and worlds to justify our being in the 21st century? Looking back at these records of memories are they not more painful or do they cheapen the so called good times, making them seem like they lasted longer than they did?

The word technology comes from two Greek words, transliterated techne and logos. Techne means art, skill, craft, or the way, manner, or means by which a thing is gained. Logos means word, the utterance by which inward thought is expressed, a saying, or an expression. So perhaps technology in this case is a means to present our art and inward expressions of the way we see the world after all. As no two people see or experience life the same way perhaps we can use it to help humanity grow after all and not a step backwards.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A Centenary to Never Forget

An autumn breeze gently blows over Flanders Field
Poppies stand to attention in red
An autumn breeze gently blows over Flanders Field
One hundred years since they fell

All silent now from their guns and youthful screams
Poppies stand to attention in red
All silent now from their guns and youthful screams
One hundred years since they fell

Some returned only to experience daily repeats in mind
Poppies stand to attention in red
Some returned only to experience daily repeats in mind
One hundred years since they fell

And innocent nameless bystanders now but whispers
Poppies stand to attention in red
And innocent nameless bystanders now but whispers
One hundred years since they fell

That lead to a bloody pointless and unnecessary sequel
Poppies stand to attention in red
That lead to a bloody pointless and unnecessary sequel
One hundred years since they fell

And a dark song can be heard on across the world
Poppies stand to attention in red
And a dark song can be heard on across the world
One hundred years since they fell

But imagining peace’s white bells tolling with light
Poppies stand to attention in red
But imagining peace’s white bells tolling with light
One hundred years since they fell

Finally learning the lessons that time keeps repeating
Poppies stand to attention in red
Finally learning the lessons that time keeps repeating
One hundred years since they fell

© Fi S. J. Brown