The Swan

Earlier this week I tuned and adjusted the white balance of this picture, which I recently took of me with my mobile/cell phone; finding myself looking in the eyes saying ‘yes that’s me‘ and ‘quite a good photograph for a quick selfie.

For a long time an ogerous monster lived in my head that would have said something like this: ‘eww, what an ugly and loveable freak of nature you are, no wonder people point and laugh at you in the street. Delete that at once, nobody wants to see your ugly face on Facebook or Instagram. Don’t bother taking any more selfies, shows your ego is growing. Oh and may break your phone…ha ha!’

Instead another voice came out, the one I use when talking to others with my natural empathy and understanding ways, and not one I have heard myself say to me: ‘You look pretty and happy there Fi. Who cares if you see flaws or things that aren’t right in this photograph, better to knit a scarf than nitpick at yourself for no reason. Anyone that laughs and/or calls you ugly can spin on your middle finger, that’s what it is best used for!

I nearly choked on my own emotion, not for the first time, but this was in a positive way of my own doing to myself. Pondering, perhaps this former ugly duckling has finally seen her own swan-like reflection, and will glide the river of life wherever it is leading her to go. I do not need a mask of chemical colours or a surgeon’s blade to syringe to make me look beautiful; I am me, not an ogre but a swan, and that’s fine with me.

© Fi S. J. Brown

me 2017

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The Sunshine

When the blood flows of innocents it has no colour, race, or religion,
Far away few hear their cries but at home it echoes throughout the land.
The sun is a spotlight to these hideous crimes with a ruby tainted glare,
Scarring those it touches with marks that will never be washed away.

Some sing songs of revenge with a bitterness as sharp as any sword,
As the hate boils inside them as it did those that struck the initial blow.
Never learning that violence is not an answer to this twisted circle,
For those that teach do not know the real question from spin and lies.

Dealers will always have the aces but never the joker in the pack,
Laughing and dancing to their old Machiavellian rhythm and beat.
Empathetic love would deafen them but few now know that path,
As follow distractions with false gods into darkness far from light.

On and on this tainted sun will shine on across this broken world,
Stranded in a desert wishing for but one drop of tearful rain to fall.
On and on this tainted sun will burn those that try for the moon,
In a dystopic reality that is far from a fantasy written by the stars.

© Fi S. J. Brown

First Dates

I am not a lover of reality television, but decided to try watch a dating one called ‘First Dates’ as one of the participants like me has alopecia and was interested how the woman would be shown to their audience as well as how it impacted upon her and her life.

The lady in question was called Eve, much younger than me and a beauty therapist from Wales. I felt her tears as she told her story and felt proud of her for telling it in such a public way. She approached the topic with her date early on, which if had been me this would be not a topic for a first date even if for TV and led to her removing her wig. I have to say she looked so much happier and confident without it, the style and jet black didn’t suit her at all. She had a tattoo on her scalp with a few patches of hair (I have neither) but seemed to fit her personality as shown on the screen. The confidence she gave out was incredible and her date was lovely about it all; in the end he was too nice for her (why do some women do that I have no idea). The media and people on social media I have seen have been very supportive and positive generally, which has made me cry a bit.

I have been wearing a wig for over twenty five years now and could never have done this so fair play to Eve. However, it has gone from seeing me naked if saw me without it to just part of what makes me who I am; only last night my best friend and I were discussing what colour and style I should try next time, which I could never have done a few years back as felt shamed that my body killed its own hair cells like they were a disease. Every time the wind blows heavily I worry it will blow away, which can lead to panic attacks and why I always have a scarf on me, but it fits my personality anyway. Being bullied for my hair loss and wearing a wig in my teens are still massive scars for me, which I don’t know if time will fully ever heal. I maybe able to take selfies and share some on social media but that took therapy and a huge effort to get there, going from an ogre to a rag doll, to rewire my brain that I am not ugly or a freak to the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and Hunchback of Notre Dame. One day I would love to do a charity walk without mine but for now I will plough on finding new confidence daily. This free spirit is learning to fly, the phoenix I will forever be, who needs hair anyway…not me!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mental Health Awareness Week (2017)

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week worldwide, so excuse my little essay that follows. For it is a chance to start those conversations that for some are so difficult to begin we do not know how, and need to listen actively with an open mind that does not judge or laugh back. We all have good days and bad days but when those days seem to merge into one grey mess it can be hard to find the courage to ask for help as do not know who’s hand will grab ours back and those that will push us under to drown us. It is often through surviving through the thick fog we discover our true friends that will always have one hand there for us and the other with a tea/coffee to give with us; sharing experiences and a slice of cake and laughter as realise we do that thing too.

For some the image from Hollywood movies is still very much how they see someone that has any mental health condition, yet the truth it can happen to any of us at any time and we look no different to anyone else. We cannot just ‘snap out of it’ as events can leave scars that may not be visible but inside are ripping us apart days to weeks and months to years later, reliving those times again and again without them ever stopping. We may also have a brain who’s chemistry is out of sync, so need medication in order for it function, just as we may take insulin for diabetes. Finding an outlet such as writing, painting and dance can also help us, but others turn to alcohol and/or illegal drugs, as sometimes we just want it all to stop with a full stop/period.

Going to therapy is a way to express just how we feel, words aloud can be scary and ring on in our minds after we have said them. Letting in a stranger can feel as invasive as brain surgery, which is why a qualified therapist is a must. The current UK general election has even been discussing mental health provision, at a time when many services have been or being axed already perhaps this should have been considered first. Health should not have to be split into health and mental health as adds to the stigma; medicine should be holistic covering body, mind, and spirit as everything is interconnected. We are all human, we all experience this journey uniquely, and we are all loved and appreciated, just remember that. The past is gone but yet still may hurt us, the future is unwritten but we can choose a new path; yet we live in the now, we can support and be there for each other today, and we can end this old stigma on mental health for good.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Fireworks of my mind

For as long as I can remember I have been blessed (and/or cursed) with being highly sensitive alongside an excellent long term memory, strong sense of empathy, curiosity to know more than the surface area that I am told or learnt, a vivid imagination that opens doors to new worlds, and highly visual mind that paints these. The world around me acts like fireworks with one thing firing off these, which together makes up something uniquely special. I am only ever sad that I have yet to find media beyond the spoken or written word to share these with others, perhaps an installation of some kind. However, I am uncertain if they would understand or get what they are saying and/or showing, as sometimes something very personal or just of that moment in time so may not be able to replicate it again.

As a child I felt like that many grown ups were just as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written in Le Petit Prince (‘The Little Prince’) with no imagination, with only my Great Uncle able to tell the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor that ate an elephant. Teachers told me to write about what I knew, not the stories I felt from the world around me from reading newspapers to watching starving people in Ethiopia with famine or war hit families in Bosnia and Iraq all of which called out from beyond the television screen to the rivers and hills with the animals that called them home that I passed regularly when out with family on foot, bus or car. I wanted to tell their stories, the empath in me wished it could do more than watch my fellow humans hurting in ways I could never imagine and giving money felt like a tablet that never cured anything. As well exploring the rivers and hills to tell the stories that people like my ancestors would have known and told the tales of. Being a grown up I still want to tell these stories. but now more determined than ever that I do, as they need to be seen and heard with their own voices not through the biased lenses of the media or anthropomorphise into cutesy images that no longer speak to the younger generation.

My family enjoy the arts and are highly musical: as a child my father and I enjoyed visiting art sales in the local area and beyond, as well as his own painting (sadly I do not remember what he painted) to the playing organ, often Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with a passion you could feel as his fingers touched the keys and were escaping to the worlds he was playing as I sat beside him equally immersed in this world but with my spin; where as my mother sings alto in choirs and plays the piano a little but lacks the artistry with it as almost a painting with numbers not colour when she does, and does not get art beyond the popular artists of Monet and Turner. This I often find when I hear mainstream pop musicians their voices are similar, perhaps as they are not investing in the emotion, feelings and story of the lyrics and music, which with autotuning have become quite grey and maybe because they did not create it  to begin with (despite claims they have done, but perhaps only changed the odd word if that) and was written for profit not as a piece of art to be admired, it truly is disposable.

The song Pure Imagination from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ for me celebrates imagination and showing us that it is all around us if we let it. Our imagination can be a comforting way to escape harsh realities in our present world rather than dwelling on what has or is hurting us now, which with an outlet can stop the pain from flowing for a while. I find it hard to understand, despite my empathy, those that may see this is childish or day dreaming when great ideas to art works can come from it, but then I remember an art installation I saw a few years back with the following quote:  we live in a contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”. I find anything and everything can start the fireworks display in my brain, from something I have seen or heard, a picture to a quote to a song or video, I never know what will next and that is part of the enjoyment and excitement as it is endless.

One example of my recent fireworks display was walking back from a shopping centre/mall on Easter Monday. I have walked down that street umpteen times, yet rarely walk up it as it is a steep hill, which may explain why I had never spotted an old mile stone on it, simply showing Edinburgh 2 miles. I stared at it for a good minute and took a picture of it before walking on but then my imagination kicked in, what was this street and area like when this milestone was new. I am now watching the 21st century disappear around me and be replaced by how it may have looked around three hundred years previously when there were distinct villages all over that are now part of the city of Edinburgh. As my visual mind and imagination worked in tandem to create a scene so different to the one I now found myself in, as tried to use my senses to get a clearer idea of what it was like to be there then. After about five minutes I took my phone out to investigate further the area as curiosity was now wanting a piece of what imagination and mind were doing, as I could not draw or paint the scene I decided to let it and return to the 21st century. I discovered that author and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle had lived during his childhood aged seven to nine (1868-1888) around two minutes from where I had seen the milestone, which ticked a box in my head as to why the doctor’s surgery by the shopping centre/mall bore his name. The house he lived has recently been restored, and believe me I had to resist running back to look and see! Learning this created fresh ideas and colours to paint into the scene, ensuring Arthur was the little boy at one of the houses, that I will continue to see for some time when passing that street.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Do we live in harmony with our environment?

Maybe as our environment is dominate by shades of grey and red that are rarely seen in the natural world we have learnt to adapt to this new environment. Unlike those in parts of Brazil to Borneo, which live untouched by outsiders and live in tune with an environment have no need for human manufactured medicines, supermarkets that sell everything and anything, and a welfare state that is meant to support those in a vulnerable position in life. It is impossible for their numbers to grow beyond the level which their environment is capable of supporting. They are interested in preserving as much of their environment as they can because otherwise their ability to support themselves would be lessened and their numbers would decline, with a special bond with their environment that is very different to our own.

However, many of us see them as ‘backwards’ and how we live as civilised. Let us pause for a minute to consider how crazy that really sounds. We no longer see food coming out of the ground, being caught out at sea, or living in a field eating grass. Ask a child today and they will tell you our food comes from Lidl to Walmart. Our attitude is to shrug our shoulders and say ‘what does it matter’, it all goes the same way in the end. The sea is massive, so a little bit of toxic waste won’t matter. The sky is even bigger – who cares if we pump a little methane into it? Plenty more sky where that came from. Doesn’t matter if the harvest is failing in Africa, we still get our bananas or pineapples from Latin America and the Caribbean. Cannot be bothered to cook tonight, we’ll just get something to cook in the microwave. Now perhaps we should reconsider who are the crazy and backwards ones!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Earth: The Movie

Lilly of the valley ring out all along the river bank as the daffodils nod their heads like jaded heavy metal fans to a new beat but young tree branches sway back and forth like teenagers at their first gig. The sun shines and paints the sky in a blue of 50 shades and clouds gather like sheep in the fields. River waters run past hearing stories and songs from the birds to bees as it goes by but never stop long enough for the endings. Generation after generation this is the way the movie went, well until now that is.

Ragged men and plastic women walk on by oblivious to the songs and stories around them. For theirs are not those of their ancestors but ones repeated from words and pictures seen and heard on black boxes; as false as a rabbit laying chocolate eggs and lies spinning in quicksand. As young cyborgs cling to handheld blocks with screens to create their own tales and music that are just as false and fake as those from the black boxes. Creating new worlds but do not know the script of fate is already written.

How long until the songs of nature are replaced forever with auto tuned cover versions by the cyborgs and will anyone notice in a decade or more? Pictures of their ancestors are mere images stored in clouds in cyberspace but nobody dares look at the sky’s clouds as chemicals fell poisoned many. Stories that nobody alive now remembers how as it was before, rewritten and spun so many times now so are accepted as truths and history of this planet but not the one many fought and died to try to preserve for them.

The world is always changing as the Earth spins on its axis with few prepared to pole dance at the north or south. Human song is a symphony by a group of composers but not the only one on the planet. cats and dogs, flowers and forests, sing too, just listen. There are stories written down by the birds and bees to the trees and mountains engraved in an ink that is not invisible. Humans stop trying to direct and act this movie, it’s not the role for us, grab the popcorn and enjoy the journey to the fullest.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A little something for World Health Day

By the age of 7 I knew there were tears in not just my eyes but my tummy too. I was sad from school and things that even now feel like razor blades self harm if dwell on them. I did not understand what they meant.

By the age of 14 I knew these tears meant I was depressed but had no outlet for them. Turned away if talked to family and a school guidance teacher that did not understand the wounds bullies leave behind.

By the age of 21 I knew I was an outsider looking in on the world and felt I did not belong. The music that helped so much in my teens now felt like they sang of a life I would never know and forbidden entry to.

By the age of 28 I knew therapy was a must and began to admit openly I had depression. A scary label but it would not define me as a person and would not let the stigma scar me as memories had before it.

By the age of 35 I knew the image inside my head was wrong, I was not an unloveable ogre or Martian that observed earthly activities. Depression still lingered but it was never going to make me take my own life.

I am approaching 39 with optimism. The tears in my tummy are still there but no longer sting as they did. The ogre is vanquished forever to be replaced by a rag doll, made from parts of my story and sewn in love.

Today is World Health Day, which this year focuses on depression. It does not mean someone is crazy and should be locked up. Nor does it mean walking on eggshells around them. Talking is good, listen never judge.

© Fi S. J. Brown

I believe in a thing called love

I have always felt we do not pick who we fall in love as it is the person with their quirks and idiosyncrasies, their gender should not matter and we should not judge another for picking someone that is the same as their own. It took me until my mid-30s to accept I am asexual, i.e. I lack sexual attraction to anyone, with zero interest in or desire for sex. Yes, I’m a grey-A as they say, but as most of you know I dislike boxes or labels, they belong on food not people.

The hate some give to another if they say they are gay, lesbian or bi can be considerable, even in areas like the UK and America that are seen as more accepting than others. Some use religion as a reason for this hate, why put your beliefs on another? Believe what you like but when it comes to love does a god or book really define something we all feel and that every songwriter tries tell us afresh from their prospective and redefine for a new generation?

Opponents of gay marriage say it changes what marriage means; what it doesn’t mean that two people that love each other and want to show commitment to each other for the rest of their lives? It breaks down traditional family values is often argued too; how many married in the past as they were unable to be true to who they were and be with the one they loved? Or stuck in an abusive relationship that they could not escape from as would not let them leave them for another?

It is not natural is one that sometimes makes me giggle; have they seen how all animals behave in the wild and not in circuses or zoos? It maybe idealistic to have a child to be raised with their natural father and mother, but with relationships breaking up all the time, isn’t it better a child is loved by two people that love them than two people staying together for the sake of that child? Being a parent is more than being a sperm or an egg to a name on a birth certificate.

So Barry Manilow has admitted he’s gay and been in a relationship for 40 years, should we be shocked or say so what we already knew? It doesn’t matter, to me what is amazing is that he’s managed a relationship that lasted so long particularly one in the entertainment industry that are fake or typify how disposable love seems to be for some these days. Should it matter who our favourite entertainers, be they musicians or actors, have as their partner as it is their business and not ours.

What should it teach us, if anything? Be yourself, be happy, and those that complain it says more about themselves than it does you! This world preaches enough hate, envy, and jealousy these days, can we not have more love, acceptance, and appreciation for others? Love is a rainbow as we’re all different. Believe what you want to believe, but I believe in a thing called love…just listen to the rhythm of my heart!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Personal Wealth

This morning I met my friend Julia and her friend Val for the first of a series of pilot workshops Julia’s running, which are “designed to explore ideas and to encourage conversations that matter.” Today’s workshop was on personal wealth, exploring ways to transform our thinking, leading us away from a scarcity mindset and toward an abundance mindset. As Julia says: “Too often we focus on what we don’t have now or yet, rather than tuning in to what we already do have, right in front of us and also inside us. We will dig a little deeper into this phenomenon and learn how to realign ourselves to the abundance in our lives“. This is some of my thoughts during and since the workshops.

Julia first asked us to define a series of words in our terms, which are below with my own interpretations:

  • Wealth – This for me is taken to be often associated with money and materialism, the more we have or the bigger we have the wealthier we are, however I also add a second version which I termed ‘social wealth’ that is the friends, family and loved ones we have that enrich our body and soul by loving, accepting and supporting us to memories that makes us laugh and/or cry, which money cannot buy. We look at those that have excessive wealth and do good work for charitable causes as philanthropists, but what of those that give themselves not which may not have an that type of wealth, not because it may make them look good to others, instead it makes them feel good and making a positive change or contribution to the society or world we live in?
  • Rich – As above it is often associated with money, having more than one car or a second home abroad for example. I think of the kids cartoon series Duck Tales, in which the lead character Scrooge McDuck during the opening titles dives into a pool of money to symbolise quite how rich he is. However, as with my thoughts on wealth, can we not be rich in ways not associated with money? As with wealth can we not be rich on happiness? We can spend money on a child’s education from school to university, buying them anything they ever wanted and more, but will it make them happy in the end? When perhaps spending quality time with their parents for a few days together rather than buying them a new designer handbag or day at the races as have not got the time.
  • Abundance – To me this is having far more of something than is necessary, in financial terms we might think of having a greater income than have outgoings. Someone may have an abundance of friends on Facebook, but how many of them do they know well, would any of them support them in an emergency, or do they even know outside of it? However, is having too much of anything a bad thing? Having an abundance of love may at first a good thing, but by spreading it among many those that truly deserve our love are losing out to those that may not give us a second thought, unless they can gain from it.
  • Affluence – Similarly to abundance but an overflowing of material wealth, which maybe associated with prosperity, opulence, and luxury. However, unlike the other terms I could not come up with an alternative of it.

Julia then discussed three truths she learnt from Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money, which are:

  1. There simply isn’t enough is a myth that we use to delude ourselves into believing that there is a “pie” of a certain size that can’t grow any larger and that if we don’t grab a bigger slice of it, someone else will.
  2. More is better causes us to always grab for that bigger piece of pie, even to the exclusion of others.
  3. This is just the way things are gives us a very weak excuse to act greedy.

The truth? All of these are complete myths – there is abundant resources for all and the only reason to grab more and more and more is greed; we use these myths to justify greed. So what can we do about it? When we realise this is the case, some do nothing as expect someone else to make that difference, but why should they? Or if they do it maybe to perpetuate these facilities further for financial gain. Having worked with grassroot organisations in Africa and Asia I have seen how something small can make a difference to a community and with support it can grow with potential to become a forest not just a lone tree…as per the phrase ‘mighty oaks from little acorns grow’ .

From this we looked at what we can give, this was my list:

  • Empathy, understanding and support
  • Non-judgemental
  • Friendly and approachable
  • Life experiences
  • Time

For me giving myself be it in physical or spirit form to another or cause not only makes me feel good inside but as I have said since early childhood there is so much darkness in the world, why add to it? If would want someone to be there for us, show by being that person, rather than expecting it to appear like some divine miracle. I do not do things for financial gain or fame but because I want to, I believe in others and want them to succeed. I have no place for hate, envy or jealousy, they only make your eyes deader and deader until no light shines from them and blind to all.

This lead on to how we see life right now, which for me is a real mixed bag:

  • Frustration
  • Ever changing but groundhog day
  • Thoughts and ideas but unable to develop them
  • Restricted but free
  • Content and happier than ever been
  • Feel loved, appreciated, respected and wanted by friends

I know that we cannot control every part of our life, but there are somethings in my life that upset and frustrate me that I cannot move forward with. Trying to open doors and keep them open once I’ve peaked inside seems like a constant battle. However, my friends make life special, without them I feel I would not be as far forward as I have come in terms of self acceptance, respect and love to doing what for them as shown me back what I give to them, it truly is beautiful.

For me the workshop was an interesting way to look at personal wealth particularly as I have never been financially driven and see money often being used as golden carrots to entice us to do things that we may not otherwise do and/or encourage us to follow behaviour that maybe against our beliefs. It has also helped see clearer how fortunate I am in a spiritual way, the inner contentment I have now to the friends I have, which matters to me so much and could never have dreamed of either perhaps a decade ago. As a child I only wished for three things as an adult: a place to call home, a dog and to be happy…I’m getting there, slowly, but one day at a time.

If you live in Edinburgh please check out Julia’s workshops, as worth attending as the discussion helps not on Julia to develop these as future workshops for others but does encourage us to think and discuss as well as learn new ideas and concepts.

© Fi S. J. Brown