The Edge of Forty

Every year I have written a reflective piece on the previous one on the lead up to my birthday. This year’s birthday is slightly different as it will be one of those big milestone ones as I turn forty. I am finding most people are flattering when I tell them how old I will be as say I do not look that age…but that begs the questions how should someone on the edge of forty look and how should they behave? Those younger than me are full of questions such as how does that make you feel and are you ready? Whereas those older shrug their shoulders and tell me I am still a baby or young. I am fast beginning to learn why it is the so called mid-life as feel a strange filling in the sandwich of youth and old age.

Looking back on my thirties as a whole at first they may seem quite frustrating but equally sedate after completing my PhD at thirty one and life since has been a very different journey to that of my twenties. They have brought good friends into my life that are like family who I would do anything for and love with all I have. The biggest part of this decade has been self discovery and acceptance as the ogre that lived in my head from my teens has gone and left a Fi-shaped person in its place that has the same love and respect as I give any human being on Earth that deserves them.

I have learnt to embrace life with making the most of each day and remembering to hold tight during the downs of the rollercoaster but remembering there are hidden positives and lights even at the darkest of times. Acceptance is definitely the key word to describe my thirties as have also understood what being asexual means to me and although it is very hard knowing I will never have my own child I have two lovely nieces. Equally, I no longer feel the outsider or alien that observes life rather than takes part in it as felt I did not belong or could not be what others wanted me to be. Labels and boxes are not meant for human beings and normal is a function on a washing machine!

I have also rediscovered my quirky creativeness and embraced it with open arms like a lost love, but my first love has become a greater passion with every passing year, which everyone that knows me was and is music! The written word and/or visuals are my talents to tell of my life, the tales of this planet’s citizens (not just the humans) and ensuring the forgotten or lost songs of the muted are sung for all to hear whilst spreading light and colour with my thoughts, actions and habits.

So what will my forties bring? There is hope and fear for the world we live in but determination not to let the negativity or hate drown me. On a personal level I am hoping I have final worked out my path and what that means in terms of career. As for love of the romantic nature…well I have never been one to chase it and if it is meant to be it is meant to be. The cynic in me still says it is for others not me. However, I am not scared or nervous at levelling up to a new decade in fact I am ready for it as see it as the next section in the book of my life that currently lies unwritten and that excites me…so bring it on!

© Fi S. J. Brown

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The whisper of 38

I sit here writing this as my thirty eighth birthday is almost whispering in my ears, and have decided to write another of my reflective pieces considering what this year been has been like and what I would like the next one to bring. Last year after being asked what I would like the next year to bring I wrote about the jigsaw puzzle of life and hoping it would mean a key piece would fall into place, which was followed by finding a physical jigsaw piece sat on the bench at a local bus stop a few days later; I still have the piece and plan to frame it to remember this year and what it has brought.

So what has the last year brought? In the past people’s negative comments were like being shot with a loaded gun, with positive ones unable to stitch up the bullet holes and would end up being pricked by the needles of others that tried to as did not always have my best interests at heart. However, I have learnt over the last decade to deal and cope with health issues particularly with my mental health, i.e. depression and anxiety to poor body and self image, which this year although tested at times, including a tearful breakdown at Easter, I have bounced back from and have served to remind me why I nickname myself Zebedee (the Jack in the box in the Magic Roundabout) as I will bounce back from whatever life throws at me. I know now I am a strong woman despite my extreme sensitivity and I may hurt me initially but it will not stop me from saying ENOUGH I will dance in the rain as the thunder and lightning roar for they will not drown me or kill me.

Did I find that key piece of jigsaw? Yes is the shortest answer but it is far from simple. I started the year by reflecting back to my teenage years, as realised I needed to learn from my mistakes from then to the present to truly be in the present and dream the impossible dream of the future not yet written. By the age of around 15 I knew what mattered to me and the path I felt drawn to, yet let myself be swept in a series of waves without remembering I could swim and could do alone if necessary. Others made recommendations which I followed almost blindly, but that only lead me up dead ends, as I did not question them and thought they knew better than I did. The truth is only we know ourselves as only we walk this life with our knowledges, skills and experiences, thus walking another’s path is like wearing our neighbour’s high heels for ten miles and wondering why we have blisters all over our feet.

I have interests and passions that I no longer hide from as thought others would bully and/or hate me for more as well as accept me as a ragdoll made up of all my many experiences and adventures in life so far not an ogreous beast my head had painted. Through the clarity of the ragdoll now in my head I saw she was also symbolic of the support and help I give others and what I learnt from them, which is stiched together not with needles that will hurt me but with love from my closest of friends. For those that try to fire bullets now do so out of jealousy, envy and greed as do not like that another stands up for themselves and that of others; putting the voice of the abuser or bully to mute and turning up those that deserve to be heard. For this is my key piece, this is what and who I am to others and must do for myself too.

So what would I like the next year to bring? Well I knew a long time ago I would never have children of my own but my youngest niece reminds me of the magical innocence and imagination we can have in this world and exploring it at times together will keep me seeing it afresh and perhaps a touch less cynical (if that’s possible); her big sister I gave a copy of my favourite book, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), which I hope she learns to love as much as I do in time and the messages it contains. Life as well as a path, journey and jigsaw puzzle is also a maze, which I am near to finding the centre of mine as now know I am on the right path and after finding that key piece in the jigsaw I am certain it is.

I no longer want to build a wall to protect myself from the world, but breakdown them down all over the world and use the bricks to lay new paths for those stuck behind them through discrimination and prejudice. There are some that wallow in the pond of self pity but do not realise it takes part of their soul every time they do, which I try not to do as know my wings would be singed again and this phoenix is ready to fly far and wide this coming year. So watch out, watch me fly without fearing my wings will being clipped or hitting glass doors and I will soar further than I can ever dreamed I could.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Tori’s lyrics

10 years ago the lyrics of this song and many others by Tori Amos haunted my ears and tears would fall from my eyes when I heard her sing as each one felt like I could have written them myself. Lines such as “I got the anti-Christ in the kitchen yellin’ at me again” made me think of my mother who I then called ‘she who must be obeyed’, as I was frightened of her, nothing I did was right if did do not do things her way but now know she is a narcissist and need to carry on being me regardless; “I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years” as I  started having counselling to try make some semblance of why I felt my life was painted in monochrome and saw myself more like Princess Fiona the ogre from Shrek than the princess, through a journey that was just as rocky as any shore with no lighthouse in sight, not realising I am the lighthouse; and “So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts, what’s so amazing about really deep thoughts” not realising how powerful they are and what a gift they can be to inspire others. Now life I see as multicoloured and multi-sensory, grateful for the special people that make me laugh and smile for being in it and the importance of living mindfully. Today is Tori’s birthday, so a timely reminder to myself of all I have overcome and remind others not to give up, making that first stepping stone today is possible as things do change for the better.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

Birthdays

Birthdays are curious events when we stop to think about them, a celebration of us being alive and the passing of time. Sometimes we stop to think of those who have been part of the journey with us, those that left lasting impressions (good and bad), and those that are no longer with us that we would give anything to have just one more meal with them.

Today marks my father’s 78th birthday, a leading paediatric neurologist across the world, achieving many things but alas I shall not be marking it with him. In my early years he was the parent I loved to be around, from visiting antique shops and art fairs, to museums and bookshops, although a very busy man he was the big arms of comfort that when needed were there.

Equally, he was the one that introduced me to politics and to open my mind to what was going on in a greater context than my own bit of the world. We’d regularly watch together current affairs shows like World in action, The Cook Report and Panorama, with documentaries by the great John Pilger and supplemented with the comedy of Monty Python and Blackadder

That all changed twenty five years ago, I felt abandoned by him as he left to live his new life and even asked him at the time “why are you leaving me with her“, the answer of “because I have to” still rings in my ears and sends my eyes gushing like a great waterfall. I would sit glue eyed not to the soap operas but the news broadcasts as felt his presence when not there.

In the years since he has let me down, often a conversation to explain a situation was needed; from the birth of my half sister (rather than discovering via a card dumped on my brother as he ran out the door) to after my near suicide attempt being told I could not stay with him (we’d been estranged for a decade and been in contact 18 months when it happened).

My father’s achievements in medicine and to the world we live are quite impressive but as a man I feel I do not know who he is. Regardless of what he did or did not do, he will always be my father and the 21st of May I’ll always pause to think about him. So happy birthday to him, thank you for the good memories and hope he continues to be happy in his senior years.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Robert Burns

Today marks the birthday of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, with many having a traditional meal with a haggis but not me. Many of us that grew up in Scotland will remember learning his works at school, I still stumble to understand and read them now. However, Burns was part of my childhood in a different way, as my beloved great uncle Lauderdale and I would always walk along the banks of the River Nith to the Robert Burns Centre in Dumfries.

Although there was a play area outside I seldom played on it, instead we’d watch the majestic swans gliding on the river, the deer that lived on a near by hill but nobody could explain to me why they were trapped in a wire cage not free to roam and the changing colours of the leaves, like the world we live in, which was often a theme of our discussions. This was in stark contrast to the exhibitions at the centre, which would never seem change; we’d laugh when the statue inside of Burns had a paint job between visits, as the centre seemed lost in a time I did not know and my great uncle had seen and now gone.

Lauderdale helped me to see as it really is, the only time that matters is now, and life’s only constant is change, although some things may seem constant with no apparent change. Yes as an adult I would love to spend another hour in his company, and feel safe with my hand in his as he’d smoke his pipe and wear his deerstalker hat, which always made his long white beard smell. Even now if I smell it in the air, I swear at times it’s him keeping me company or checking I am okay. So Mr Burns, Happy Birthday, and once more I’ll walk along the Nith with my great uncle Lauderdale.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Robert Burns Centre

Thirty Six Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Fi S. J. Brown

Great Uncle Lauderdale

Perhaps because I never knew my grandparents, who died before I was born, the previous generation to my parents enchanted me in childhood. Their wisdom gained through living in times I could only imagine and how different the world that changed around me daily through my young eyes but to them must have felt like a different world to them. A place filled with hard times and bloody wars they had survived to be met with the concrete jungles of corporate buildings of fifty shades of grey and a sound like drones of bees in a hive, which were growing across the land instead of old forests of greens, reds, oranges and yellows filled with unique sounds, smells, words and tastes.

My guide to the world then was my Great Uncle Lauderdale. His role was to awaken me to use all my senses, look for every colour and shade, take in the changes at home and away. When we were together, be it in his little room away from the noise of my great aunt playing a game his father had made with a home-made die or walking along the River Nith proudly with a man who looked like a slim Santa Claus and Sherlock Holmes in one, perhaps the beard, hat and pipe gave him even greater wisdom beyond his years. He was a gentle man, I never once heard him angry at anyone. He gave me powerful gifts and insights, which he encouraged me to use in oral and written form.

I was not related by blood to my great uncle but the memories I share of him for nineteen years play back in my mind as happy times. A person that I will forever be grateful that touched my young life and showed me the world as I continue to see it. Earlier this month marked 110 years since his birth, so wanted to write a little thank you note and feel his presence once again, remember the times of happiness in a childhood that had many tears. In the autumn leaves as I walk I can smell his pipe and we’ll go one day again to walk along the river. I may have felt his passing as he died those years ago but his gifts to me will never die and it is these gifts I share with you now in my writing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Tea and Ponders’ first birthday

Today is this blog’s first birthday. When I started I was still uncertain of my own written voice but over the last year I have learnt who she is and what I want this blog to be about. Like me it is quirky, full of deep thought, and passionate about this beautiful world we call home. Thanks to everyone who has joined me on the journey so far, I cannot tell you where we will go next, but keep following and liking, keeping your mind open at all times and think freely like the wind blowing in the trees.