Thoughts from the Kiltwalk

On Sunday I took part in Edinburgh’s annual Kiltwalk, 24 miles walking for a small charity I work for. It gave me plenty of time for thinking. Seeing people of all ages joining together to walk to support all sorts of charities and non-profit organisations, country wide to small local ones, put a smile on my face. It was such a wonderful friendly and supportive atmosphere, which was great, but made me wonder why we cannot have that more often these days. People smiling and laughing not stuck on their phones, chatting with each other and enjoying each other’s company. Equally, why online there is more hate and judgement, with trolls determined to bring people down for perhaps looking and/or being different to what they know.

Also, we as people have also physically changed, many of us torturing ourselves over how fat or thin we look, distorting our faces and bodies into the weirdest shapes, and some living their whole lives online. Trying to fit into a world that would rather we all be the same, while we struggle to be individuals as want to fit in. Whilst in other parts of the world they struggle to feed their families, try to stay alive in conflict zones, and coping with non existent medical treatment when things go wrong. What a flawed beings we are, all living at the same time but experience the world in such different ways it can be hard to understand.

I then thought of what a strange world we have created to fit in with our environment, not the one of nature but humans. The homes we choose, the traditional brick houses to the ultra modern with views out to sea. Gardens full of flowers to one with the scariest looking scarecrow I had ever seen. A few kids en route waved good luck, one even shouted ‘good luck’ (I replied ‘thank you’ and the eight year old shouted back ‘you’re welcome’), and the odd car honked its horn to acknowledge our feats. My favourite bits were walking along the coast from Musselburgh to Leith, and in the parks of Edinburgh with the green of trees rather than grey concrete that was more fifty shades of sighs.

Overall, I was glad I did the walk, a huge personal challenge but reminded me how much we can do when we put our minds to it. Equally, even though life can be physically and mentally difficult for me and others by doing this I can look back when things are bad to say you did that Fi. What will I do next…I am not sure but like everything I put my all into it as want to make a difference to the world, not so I can show off but lead others to see they can do it too. I believe in you, and maybe now myself too! I remembered the line from Mary Schmich’s speech – ‘do something every day that scares you’ – as I walked, and thought maybe I should do this sort of thing more often. Here’s to next year’s walk!

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Brave the Shave – Not in my name

I caught MacMillan Cancer’s ‘Brave the shave’ advert on television this morning, which I previously posted about. How is this campaign still going and winning awards? Oh yes, it brings them in millions of £. I cannot believe they still do grasp how insensitive this is. Not only does it trivialise hair loss, which has been a source of many tears and self loathing for over twenty five years for me.

Loosing our hair is very different to shaving, unless you experience it for yourself, you cannot grasp the emotional and mental changes that go with hair loss. Would we ask people to paint bruises on their body to empathise with victims of domestic abuse, neglecting the emotional and mental abuse that can accompany it? It is distasteful.

The advert has people looking in mirrors desperate to see how they look now, with hair loss mirrors become something to hide from as scared of the image they now show. Shaving hair is not empathetic, I mean why would you choose to look this way? Hair loss isn’t all in one go either, it can be a slow process of waking up to hairs on the pillow, which are only matched by our tears, until it is gone. It is heartbreaking.

This plays up to the narcissistic, attention-grabbing, selfie generation that want to show they are doing good things for charity, but it is really all about them – lapping up all the whoops and grins from others. As they spend the follow period showing us how their hair is regrowing, never sparing a thought for us that it will never grow back, and forgetting the cause as they do too.

Go on bra walks, run marathons, or make cakes, but please think before you pick up that shaver in someone’s name.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Visions and Sounds

Sight and sound are equally important in the way we experience the world, yet the visual dominates.

Sound has an important role to play in nature and human societies. From the bird song that breaks out to let us know dawn of a new day has begun, the use of drums by some cultures as a form of aural communication, and the songs we sing to accompany of life’s journeys, to the speeches made by orators that move us by their words alone. What we hear influences how we feel and what we do.

As technology has advanced, the world has become an increasingly noisy, confusing and disturbing place. However, the visual still overides the sound. Social media has reinforced the visual with Instagram, Snapchat and even Facebook focusing on it. How many reading this have tried the filters on them, or the new age app to see how we will look when older? YouTube is about the moving image, but it is still more watching than listening that dominates it. Furthermore, loosing our eyesight is seen as far worse than our other senses – research found in medical students almost 60% considered blindness worse than deafness while only about 6% considered deafness worse. Yet, we can buy a pair of reading glasses from a supermarket for our eyes, why is it not that simple for our hearing?

We live in a world of fake and manipulated images, so how can we believe what we see as real? Equally, what we hear is just as fake – from the latest pop song that the vocals maybe the vocalist’s own mixed with others then autotune to produce the voice we hear streamed in our ears, to the mainstream news stories told by reporters as fact but maybe spun or based on slight truths. In many ways we live in George Orwell’s 1984: “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.

Perhaps we let visual dominate as we like to see the world through rose tinted glasses, and by listening we are forced to hear things we may not want to. Equally, by listening properly we have to engage in a way we are forgetting, as have become too addicted to the little black mirror that has more technology in it than took a man to the moon fifty years ago.

So what can we do? Use all our senses, not just our vision and hearing. “Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Roy T. Bennett,

© Fi S. J. Brown

Happiness

I used to think I wasn’t allowed to be happy, then I slowly realised I did not know what happiness actually is.

From the small child that had tears in her tummy like a Care Bear through bullying and isolation from her peers to abuse from family, which at times was disguised as fun and games, to the adult that felt like the alien watching a world go by that she was never meant to be part of. I also blamed my black dog, i.e. depression, as it painted the world in monotone and every day felt like one step away from falling down a cliff whilst sat on a rocking chair. How could I find this pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, when I could not even see the rainbow? And if I found the pot, what would I do with it, for I knew I would not want to keep it to myself.

I decided to go back to basics and see what others had deemed happiness to be. For many happiness was linked to being successful, which in the most simplistic terms was money, power, fame, looking hot, owning stuff. None of which had I ever wanted and/or craved, but did not seem to me the path that would yield happiness. They seemed more a fool’s gold type of happiness, superficial and fake, as well as following the Pied Piper who was never seen, but everyone followed his tune. It all reminded me of my late father saying to me in my teens ‘all this world, apart from you, wants is money‘, after a conversation discussing this golden carrot we seem to be programmed to chase, and some how when I was reincarnated into this life I missed the injection for it!

I realised the above was superficial, and I had always been one to go through many layers to strip away the falseness and lies so would never be able to accept the ‘normal’ way of defining happiness. I also knew the one person I needed to know and love above all else was myself, which I was not doing and felt I almost needed to reboot myself after a breakdown. In the end I decided that a restart from a safe place was the best option, as I knew as a child what made me happy – deep discussions with my great uncle to music and nature that were my comfort blankets. Rediscovering my passion for music through good friends and their friendship showed me a world I had not understood before – friendship. People that cared, not on a superficial level, but gave a damn back and saw the world through eyes I had tried hard to make sense of alone, now knowing it needed more than one pair to truly see through the forests of mists and lies. Finally, awaken what and who I truly was, that was hiding amongst the test tubes, chemicals and microscopes, instead with my piano, pen, paper and tea mug.

It is said happiness can never be bought, I would completely agree. Equally, that pot of gold is everywhere and nowhere as there are little things each day that bring us happiness, which we should remember and not take for granted, but also it is highly individual and inside of us. There is no right or wrong path to happiness, no street map or guide, it is far deeper than the superficial things we have attached to it. Furthermore, there is no normal, we need to stop inferring an one size fits all approach when no two humans are alike from their outer shell to how they experience it. Perhaps once we have relearned these, alongside empathy and understanding, then we may find the happiness meant for us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

I was reading blogging prompts and ideas when I came across this one…What is the best gift you’ve ever received? The Oxford Dictionary defines the word gift as: “A thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present”, which I feel perfectly sets the tone of what to me is the best gift.

I could say my DSLR camera that has taken me on many personal journeys, both physically, mentally and spiritually. It assisted me with therapeutic photography, which in the last ten years since I was given it has in turn given me self acceptance and love. However, I put money towards it, and if I take the dictionary definition it does not fit.

Equally, the answer may be my exercise bike, which I have travelled 1000s of km on since I was given in Christmas 2017. It has given me the needed push to exercise more, even when it is cold and wet outside I can mount it, and put music on, to be taken to other places, as use my imagination to imagine where I am cycling that day.

However, for me the best gift is life itself. As someone that daily battles depression, and has had suicidal thoughts off and on for over twenty five years it may seem an odd choice. However, since 2008 when life froze for a few days, I no longer wanted to be part of it, I have grown to see it anew, returning to seeing it like I did as a child.

Why a child’s view you may ask yourself. A child lives in the moment, enjoying and noticing the changes around them. I let my imagination run wild, as I let my visual mind combined with all my senses try make sense of the world around me. Painting the world in colour, not the monochrome it had become, and shining light into the darkness of others.

There could be evil lurking round a corner determined to shatter everything around us into a thousand pieces. However, we cannot live through fear, and there is so much more good out there that needs to be seen and heard. Life is a gift, which we can unwrap daily to enjoy, big and small, and treasure the memories they bring us.

Gifts do not have to cost a lot of money, if any, to mean something special to us. It is often the person that gives us the gift that can transcend the thing we are given. With my chosen gift of life it is Tim I should thank for he was the one that saved me that weekend in 2008, and will never forget just how selfless and special that gift is.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Eight years on

Some anniversaries are times of celebration, some are ones we want to forget. This weekend is a personal anniversary of days I’ll never forget, shaping and painting the foundations of the woman I am today.

I was dreading Easter 2008, I did not want to travel north or even be part of Planet Earth any more. I felt alone with nowhere or no one to go to. Yes I was on antidepressants but they only made me feel worse in every way. Also, I was having psychodynamic therapy but felt I was left on top of a cliff in a rocking chair at the end of every session. I decided there was only one way off the merry go round and the chair was ready to snap, sending me over the cliff.

Nervous breakdown and suicidal, yes and yes to both. I also self harmed, usually my feet but that weekend I used a pen to create marks in my hand to show the world finally I gave up. No matter what you may think of those that consider suicide or do it, please know it is not an act of cowardliness. Being stopped from jumping in front of a train or hanging from my dressing gown robe were not signs of being crazy but more a white flag to say I can take no more.

Eight years on, my depression is giving me a good beating recently as feel purple and blue all over from where it has kicked and beaten me with its stick. However, I have friends that are like family who I open up to, feel less the watcher of the play of Planet Earth but have a few lines, use the pen not in self hurt but to give voice to what hurts me or give voice to those that have none, and use trains to have adventures accompanied by my trusted camera.

On my left wrist are tattooed three words that say much more than they do alone, you may be able to guess them but I will not say them aloud such is the magic spell they cast upon me. They are not your regular tattoo because they are written in invisible ink. There to remind me of the journey to this present time and what the present moment holds, the good things and people, and why to throw it all away now as could not hurt them with my final actions.

So remember dear reader, no matter how dark the present moment maybe, there is always light (outside and within). Nothing in life is black and white, it is that muddy grey bit in the middle that we find ourselves living in and our normal lies within it. Normal is what is right for us and our journey, trying to conform to the expectations and ideals of others is like wearing our neighbour’s underwear! Life is multisensory and multicoloured, so lets go painting!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Festive Ponders 2015

It is almost the shortest day of the year, which means the final countdown of the festive season will truly begin. A time for excess, but let’s make it of love, compassion and empathy, not envy, jealousy, or the largest turkey to diamond ring we can afford. Remember, it is not the size of the gift or price tag, but the thought another human being thinking of us that does. They took time out of their day to do so, even if we don’t like it.
 
It is also the time when we reflect on the year now almost over, resolving to make the next better than this. Instead of resolving to change habits that we will break as soon as the 1am bells ring, why do we not consider being ourselves 24/7. Be true to who we are and what matters to us, nobody has the right to tell us it is not normal or wrong as it is what is what and how life’s colours paint our story and no two are ever truly a like.
 
Also, be gentle with ourselves when things don’t go as planned, that way when success comes it can be like enjoying the view from a mountain seeing all we overcame to get there. Do not feel guilty at that piece of chocolate or extra mince pie, as we all deserve a treat for surviving those dark and hard times. However, using alcohol to drunks to cover those times do not work, like a band aid on a gaping, the pain will always seep through.
 
Nobody is truly ever alone, we all have someone somewhere that we matter to even in thought and spirit. It may not be a happy season for all but send hope. To those we call family or close friend, keep them close in heart not just at Christmas but every day by letting our thoughts and actions show how much they mean to us. To those we may only speak to via Facebook or Christmas card, are symbols of our life’s journey from past to present, giving it shape.
 
To those that follow my blog I appreciate you doing so as you follow my journey and do not judge it, accepting my quirks and idiosyncratic ponders, as paint the world as it is through my experiences and points of view. To those these are the first words of mine you have read, thank you for taking time to read. Now take all these words as my gift to you all, wishing good health (mental and physical), love, light and peace today and everyday.
 
© Fi S. J. Brown

Real life

As popular reality TV shows return for their autumn runs in the UK few stop to think of the contestants that in many ways are like actors in a play. Winners already decided to scripted arguments, edited video footage to manipulative judges comments, all make us invest emotionally in the contestants and vote in a certain way. Thus the contestants are presented in neat little packages, which are often far from how the truly are around friends and family.

However, it is not just confined to TV shows, for it is something nearly all of us are guilty of. Take a look at your Facebook profile, if have one, and see the image of yourselves that you promote to the outside world. We share our lives like the diary room on the show “Big Brother“, editing our photos to elicit a certain response, trying to look slimmer and younger than we are, to the portray of how life is and the person we want to be seen as by others.

Learning to be comfortable in who we are can be very difficult. Combined with the media and entertainment telling us we need to do x or y to become rich and successful or this is what true beauty looks like via a heavily edited photograph. Those that differ are seen as abnormal or freaks as their individuality is erased at a click of a mouse. Therefore, nowhere do we see examples of ordinary individuals as almost want to conform to these ideas.

Is it not time we stopped watching and listening? Gave ourselves a break for not being how the world paints what human beings are to be. Not everyone will have a partner and/or children, a fulfilling career does not mean one that brings lots of money and owning houses to cars are extras that should not be forced as must haves; what is wrong with renting a home or use public transport, owning a car may seem convenient but costs so much to run.

However, by all means continue watching television and posting to social media if you wish, but perhaps tuning out from or switching them off them now and again so can appreciate what we have without needing to share it, the little things that are special to each of us. Spending quality time with friends and family as life is precious and short, which is why the present is the only time that actually exists; based on foundations of the past and start of tomorrow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Song with no name

Standing on the edge of the hill,
Like an entertainer to an empty crowd,
And nobody hears their warning words.
No more practising in front of the mirror.
There’s a silent pause in the evening air,
As though even the wind has been muted.
And the sun sets, another day has ended.

Watching from the edge of the forest,
For the next chapter to unfold.
Words and music for now lie unwritten,
And new adventures to begin.

I am the phoenix,
I am free in heart,
I crave nothing and no one.
Like a warming mug of tea,
A calming energy to others.
Inside my cracks may show,
But I repeat ‘believe it again’.

Standing on the edge of the lake,
Looking at the world reflected there in,
Hoping to find some truth not more lies
And an end to the loop of endless repeats.
There’s a silent pause in the evening air,
As though even the wind has been muted.
And the sun sets, another day has ended.

I am the phoenix,
I am free in heart,
I crave nothing and no one.
Like a warming mug of tea,
A calming energy to others.
Inside my cracks may show,
But I repeat ‘believe it again’.

I am the phoenix,
I am free in heart,
I crave nothing and no one.
Like a warming mug of tea,
A calming energy to others.
Inside my cracks may show,
But I repeat ‘believe it again’.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Mirror…reflections

What is a mirror? To most people it is something that shows their reflection. If we think beyond that, it is a silent mime act following our every move. If we go a little deeper, it is showing us in live action motion how the outside world sees us. Deeper still it is a magnifying glass that highlights all we dislike about ourselves. However, is it all of these things and none of these things? It physically may show these things but how we interpret what it is we see is another. Furthermore, it is said if we met our own double we would not recognise them, as we have an image in our head as to how we actually look. So does a mirror really reflect the real us and how we look to those we meet in the workplace, streets and malls?

The silent mime act may make us laugh as children, as there is someone doing all we do. As we grow we get worried how the outside world sees us as fear the fingers of judgement and rejection. Then we find it to be a truth sayer, telling how much weight we need to lose to how old we now are, reflected back at us. However, what we forget is it does not have a voice, and I don’t mean our own internal one, for if it did it may say something very different. It would not massage our egos but tell us how well we are doing with life; like a scar we see above our forehead, the mirror may show a small scar but our insides know it hides the painful memories it tells. So perhaps it gives us a version of us or hologram of our mind’s image?

These days we put so much emphasis on physical appearance that the mirror may reflect back to us. However it is what it does not show what is on the inside, from our personalities to the colour of our auras. I remember one of the early photographs I took of myself in Italy mid-May 2007 and asked someone “do I really look like that”? To which I got laughter of “erm yes Fi, who else did you think it was?” It hit me hard as realised the image I felt of myself was not the girl in the photograph. The girl in the photograph looked sad and in pain, needing a big hug to say all would be all right, and I knew in that instance I had to find my true self if was ever going to be free. Now I know a mirror does not reflect the full us; best viewed like a child, as a mime act copying all we do in that moment and nothing more.

© Fi S. J. Brown