Summer 2020

Summer is here, and for some of us the summer vacation/holidays have begun. However, this year with lockdown/quarantine the annual break from work has taken a different turn as for most of us it will be spent at home. Some airlines will be flying to take us away, but how many of us will risk catching Covid-19 in so doing?

It is also the time of year when we have adverts to pressurise us to loose weight for fitting into a bikini or swimming costume. The world is full of TV, magazines, and diet talk constantly reminding women of the young, smooth, skinny ideal. Men are not exempt from this either. Some blame on the rise of social media, and the narcissistic selfie culture that the late fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld rather accurately aptly described as ‘electronic masturbation’. However, reality tv shows such as ‘Love Island’ brainwash viewers with an idealised version of how both men and women should be in the 21st century. Then there are celebrities and influencers on social media, who edit their images and lives, and so when we do not match they can leave a big hole in our self confidence, self image and mental health, leading to depression and even suicide.

Despite lockdown, the pressure for the impossible ‘perfect body’ for the summer still seems to be in full swing, although much of our normal routines have changed, temporarily to permanently. Also, there have been many jokes about haircuts done during this time as cannot access a professional to do it for us. Equally, some have gained or lost weight as ways to cope with these strange times. I also realise this pressure will keep continuing as people return to their works and routines beyond the summer. Have you seen the Facebook meme entitled “When You Meet Your Friends After Quarantine,” which shows toddler girls baring their admittedly adorable bellies which they bonk together? So how can we be ourselves, comfortable in our own skins, when there is pressure to be something we are not? How do we combat these messages, and the negativity they may bring to our mental health?

It is not easy, but gratitude is a good starting point. Being grateful to our bodies for getting us through another day, and keeping going through an enormously stressful time for all human beings. For some keeping a journal writing five positive things each day about themselves may help, or even sharing them on social media to encourage others to join in. Finally, accepting that there is no such thing as a ‘perfect body‘, in fact in some ways every type of body is their type of perfect. A couple of quotes I like says it all from anon: “The number on the scale does not define your health or your worth” and “Imagine if we obsessed about the things we loved about ourselves.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

 

June 1st, 2020

I reside in one of Edinburgh’s many streets
At the fifty-fourth house I call it my home
A shelter from an uncertain changing world
As a virus holds all its citizens to ransom
No mountains of toilet rolls can protect them
Or pasta shaped cure to be found for now

As the humans are now the caged animals
Venturing out only to forage and exercise
An unmentionable odour of death lingers
But some try to break the rules in blind hope
Meeting in large crowds while the sun shines
Leaving behind litter as a sign of their escape

A second peak lingers on like a dark shadow
The strength to keep fighting is wavering thin
Track and trace with big brother’s little sister
Defenceless against the sleepwalking sheep
Lest we learn any lessons from recent past
And enlightenment is driven into the night

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Be Kind

It is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, which this year is on the theme of kindness. In modern life it has be come a norm to overlook many things in life—to shrug it off, roll our eyes, and simply walk away. We avoid interaction on a very basic level unless on social media. Prior to lockdown, we missed so many opportunities to extend our human kindness to each other and ourselves.

Life was like a fast-paced chess game with no end. Trying to to stay two steps ahead of ourselves as went from A to B, our brains would be filled with worries and thoughts. We saw poverty, abuse, disease, war, hunger, bullying, and violence on the news and online, so often it was so overwhelming that we choose to do nothing. We did not have time or energy to do something someone else, as did not even make time for ourselves.

As human we have a gift that can change ourselves and others – that of kindness. It can be a smile at a passing stranger or a comment on Facebook. Equally it can be having that piece of cake without feeling guilty. It costs nothing. It is a true kindness when we don’t expect anything in return, like gratitude or reciprocation; we simply want to make someone feel better.

Finally, kindness is good for our health. Being kind regulates our heart rate; we get a warm, cosy feeling. Our brain releases dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, all of which make us happy. So don’t be hard on yourself for any weight gained during lockdown, or the grey hairs are starting to show, we all are struggling.

Life cannot carry on as before, we need to throw away this idea of normal. We are all unique, there is no such thing as an average human life or being. Instead, lets be kind and respectful to ourselves, others and the world around us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Real Dystopian Life

Thinking about the false images and stories that the media and internet are filled with. Where the truth is hidden like the tip of an iceberg we will never see the bottom of; scratch the surface and the only thing we get is a bit cold, but dive down and discover a whole new world exists full of tunnels that once discovered there is no turning back. Back on the surface they are sensationalised and toxic norms that want us to fit into tidy boxes, which make those that don’t question their beliefs and sanity, rather than throw away the boxes we were never meant to fit into in the first place.

Twenty four seven news, advertisements, publicity and entertainment is the diet we are fed direct from the black box in the corner to the black mirror in our hands. How can we tell if it is a promotion for a new film, or a car commercial that looks more like it is selling perfume than something to drive. It makes us scratch our heads and overthink, which results in us remembering the product longer than we thought and even consider buying one as given it that much thought.

With celebrities famous for the slightest thing ready to cling on to the false spotlight above them. Only a few walk away from the false light, because it becomes as addictive as the white powder that they are given to sniff and become locked in contracts they can never escape. Whilst influencers prey on the vulnerable in a bid to try grab that light onto themselves, and begin to believe their worth, which is in fools gold not real money. Filled with toxic smoke and mirrors, which are really best left alone.

We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic, our every day lives have almost stopped with a full stop with the noise of sirens and flashing lights in the background. Those that at the turn of the year were in jobs that were seen as unskilled, have become essential to keeping our countries and world running. As the media plays on and on with updates upon more updates, creating fear and worry, making trying to adapt to this changing world harder and harder. Many feel their comfort blankets have been taken away and replaced with ones of different colours and textures, but are meant to hold on to the familiar faces still there on the black boxes and black mirrors, as though that should bring us comfort.

And so, as I now sit here, staring into the screen of my laptop, finding myself looking at my friend’s latest posts on social media and answering emails from work. None of them seem to offer any real hope or break from the falseness that infected our world long before the virus. The door to the outside are out there, they just forgot to let everyone know they could tune out at any time. My suspicion is that they do not want us to know that we have the key the whole time.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Coronavirus – Mental Health & Well-being

As many of us are now at or going to be at home for longer periods than usual, maintaining good mental health is as important as washing our hands and physical health.

Here are some tips for maintaining good mental health in these uncertain times:
1. Know what you can control and what you cannot. We do not need to watch television putting fear and scaremongering us. Equally, what we read or watch online can lead to mass hysteria and panic. Take all in sparingly, if at all. There are too many uncertainties that will only lead to anxiety if we let those feelings take hold;
2. Do what makes you feel safe. If that is self isolation due to existing conditions, then do not feel guilty about it, but do not isolate due to depression (I’ve been there and it’s not a path to follow). If sharing silly pictures on Facebook that helps then do so, as we can all use the laugh, but remember humour can be objective too so do not use it to turn to xenophobia or racism;
3. Get some fresh air. The garden can be a great place to focus energy into something positive, and can feel a sense of achievement. Otherwise, try go for a walk, even briefly, get yourself some vitamin D and appreciate there is more positives in the world than negatives at any time;
4. Create something new. It doesn’t have to be a work of art, a Beethoven symphony, or epic novel, but could equally be making a cake or biscuits to eat while working from home. Equally, you can use the internet to discover something new like a new band or author, which you could then download to a tablet to read/listen to;
5. Challenge yourself to stay in the present, which can be hard when worrying about an uncertain future to how much better things seemed only a few months ago. Notice the sights, sounds, tastes and other sensory experiences, using mindfulness techniques to help ground you when find your mind drifting off into negativity and hopelessness;
6. Stay connected, and reach out when needed, use social media and telephones to talk to people. Even if in social isolation, this does not mean you can speak or see someone even if it is remotely. It can be a comfort to know someone is there, even if it is just a quick reassurance that they are there.

Do not try to be a hero, a bit like the plane safety demo – only fix another’s mask when you have fixed yours. It’s ok not to be ok at any time, do not feel alone, as we are here for each other.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

Rat in a cage

Rat in a cage
Rat in a wheel
Rat in a race
Like a rat in a cage
Treat me like a criminal
Treat me like a puppet
Treat me like a number
Treat me like a failure
Use me like a tool
Drain me till I’m empty
Leave me out in the rain
Watch me turn to rust
Treat me like an experiment
Just another rat in a cage
Like a rat in a cage
Treat me like I’m prisoner
Leave me until I confess
Blind me til I’m lost
Freeze me until I’m cold
Beat me till I bleed
Grind me until I’m dust
Push me til I break
Wire me until I conform
Treat me like an experiment
Just a rat in a cage
Another rat in a cage
Another rat in a cage
Another rat in a cage
Rat in a cage
© Fi S. J. Brown

To Me (for Valentine’s Day)

Do not feel this day is only for lovers,
Love yourself and forget the others.
Twist from left to right to form a hug,
Or fill tea or coffee in your prized mug.

Stop counting flaws in worried fear,
Self-love is something sing and cheer.
And for all the tears you have shed,
Forgive yourself in whisper to the head.

Flowers and chocolates are nice things,
But a temporary fix for the heart strings.
Embrace your talents and value yourself,
Do not leave them making dust on a shelf.

Know your worth cannot be bought or sold,
And do not follow the path of fool’s gold.
You are free flowing like an endless wave,
An unbound spirit that few grasp or crave.

Embrace not in a passionate lustful kiss,
And fill with inner compassionate bliss.
Your light is bright like the stars at night,
Shine on knowing everything is alright.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A Lesson in Self Love

This weekend I have been thinking about school, and what they do or do not teach us. We are taught about relationships, but they miss out the most unique and complicated one of all, which we can never walk away from. That is our relationship with ourselves.

Every flaw we magnify like it was a volcanic crater, finding ourselves like a Swiss cheese not the work in progress we are. We do not let wounds heal, as seldom give ourselves time out, or pick away again and again at the scabs so continue to hurt us. Every mistake we judge ourselves, sentencing to years and life, which we would never demand of another, unless for some heinous crime. We wear masks, as frightened that others may not like the real us, and wear them so often we do not know or love ourselves.

As this year is 2020, maybe we should see ourselves with clarity and/or sharpness of vision. Put down the rose tinted glasses and masks, and see ourselves afresh. Nobody is perfect, but we are normal; human beings trying to make it through this journey with the only guaranteed companion ourselves. The scarecrow, tin man, lion, and Dorothy are all parts of ourselves that we need to survive. So let’s follow the yellow brick road, being wary of false wizards, and enjoy the journey…wherever it takes us and the steps along the way.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Y2K – Looking back and Forward

Almost twenty years ago at midnight clocks were waiting to strike twelve at the start of a new millennium. I remember my friend Iain’s sister asking me ‘how will we know if the world has ended’ – she like many others were caught up in the ‘millennium bug’ hype. With Iain himself saying the first words I heard of the year 2000 – ‘I can’t get my cork out’ (he meant champagne for those of you with dirty minds). The world was changing with every bang of fireworks I saw rippling across the city, and almost felt an innocence was being lost (not sure if was my own, the world or both).

Twenty years on and the world continues to change, with one step forward and two backwards as we no longer accept old ways and embraced new ones (not always for the better). I am still a free spirit that does not like being caged, and finally found the key to that freedom as rid myself of the beast in my head that let negativity to self hate make their own nests. We have never been so connected, but yet I feel more apart than ever. The 2010’s were a frustrating decade as well, but surviving the battles just make me more determined than ever to bite back with karma at my side.

As to the next twenty years, what will they bring? We don’t have the jet packs to flying cars we thought we would have, but the robots look less human yet Siri and Alexa are in many ways the things of science fiction books. We need to continue to focus on the good in life, not comparing our lives with others, and be empathetically compassionate. Fear has been allowed to suffocate us for too long, it’s time to fight back with light to conquer those that want darkness and slaves of us.

Meantime, whatever it brings we are stronger together than apart, and hope the start to the third decade of the 21st century brings us all happiness, good health (mental and physical) and all we could wish for.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A Fakebook of Friends

Facebook – whether we love it or loathe it, is still very much what we think of when discussion is about social media. We add our ‘friends’, at times with the most tedious of connections – you both play ‘candy crush soda’, that lead vocalist in a band you once bought a single of as fancied the vocalist for all of five minutes, the best friend from of thirty years ago at primary school, and our uncle’s dog Henry; giving a whole new definition to the word ‘friend’. However, isn’t the most tedious and fake friend on the entire network Facebook itself? Although Myspace gave us all one friend to begin with – Tom, we are not all automatically friends with or following Mark (Zuckerberg), but the sheer vastness and power of Facebook, has it now become the ultimate fake friend?!

It only takes a few days away from the site to realise quite what a stranglehold it can have on our lives. Although, some cannot go for more than thirty minutes without checking, a few days away may sound like a lifetime! The ‘so called’ friends we have no longer require nurturing or effort, their lives are presented for us to see at the touch of a screen or click of a mouse. If someone ‘defriends’ us it can “oh well their loss” to “why have they defriended me…what did I say/do?”

We end up comparing our lives with ‘our friends’, rightly or wrongly’, and nearly always find ourselves dwelling on the negative aspects. I’m sure some also glee when they read of misfortunes of people they secretly never really liked at high school, as perhaps karma is calling their name. This however can also has a negative impact on our mental health, as see others soar and fly, while we feel confined to a cage (without bars). As we feel we are not good enough, leading to self-isolation and self criticism of our every move and move, as see them through the eyes of this new friend that has taken away our ability to just be ourselves. We crave likes and hearts just to be accepted by others, and some create fantasy lives just to hide the misery, or to seek attention from these 100s of friends we are meant to have, with only one answering us back when we message for help.

So what can we do? The ‘easy’ answer would be delete the app, remove our account, but that is not an answer for everyone. There maybe people we have connected through Facebook that are worth having in our lives, enjoy talking to and seeing what they are up to. Instead, take back our profiles as our own. Posting things we love and hate, if not much is happening in our lives don’t feel we have to update every week or respond to every post that fires us up or makes us cry happy tears. Keep our eyes, and not those of the fake friend that is telling tales behind our back, open – not everything is real just as real life. Be yourself always, your real friends will accept that and be there for you as you would them.

© Fi S. J. Brown