Being a mother

As I write this on Mother’s Day around the world my social media feed is full of posts on people’s mums that have a special place in their hearts to their own children that mean the world to them.

There are group of people we rarely mention on Mother”s Day, those that have loved and lost a child, which causes a pain few can ever begin to imagine. I have also noticed few posts talk about non-biological mothers, the step to foster and adoptive mothers that come in and give the love to a child that is not biologically part of them but are still part of their hearts.

Being a mother is something very special that we often take that bond for granted. Not all mothers are best friends or understanding, some are abusive and hurt their children emotionally, mentally, and/or physically. Having a narcissistic mother that makes everything about her, controlling your every move, and hates when break free as you have done her wrong.

Yet what about those that are childless? Not everyone wants to have or is able to have one. I felt in my teens I would never have my own and now I know I probably won’t, not 100% by choice for my body says no. As for adoption it is certainly been a consideration in recent years, but I can only see me adopting a furry child that barks and woofs than one that speaks and walks as a human does.

Mother’s day is a privilege to have and share with either one we have given birth to or one we have taken into our hearts. However, please remember it’s not a day of joy for all, from those that have lost to those that are victims of their mother’s action. Equally, to those of us that may never understand that unique bond, we are not failures or freaks, we are loved as siblings to aunts and friends.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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A survivor’s song

Crying tears that were never seen or heard
Heart was broken but unable to heal anew
Isolated as uncertain how or who to trust
Lonely for the prisoner and jailer in one be
Dispirited so picked at scars until they bled

Angry that trust turned into a lifelong pain
Behaviour that made the abnormal a truth
Unbearable seeing their faces in the present
Secretly wishing they could feel this pain too
Every day getting stronger to fight on through

Survivors learn to dance to their colourful beat
Undoing the chains that bound them in fear
Ready to take on the world with both hands
Victim no longer be what they call themselves
Inspiring others not to give up hope in the dark
Visualising a light to keep them safe and warm
Observing karma do her thing without revenge
Revealing a new path filled with peace and love

© Fi S. J. Brown

A child’s question – mental health

Yesterday I was asked: how do you explain mental health to a child? The child in question being 4 years old. Although I will never have my own children, it is an important to realise with an increase in mental health that we consider it from a child’s point of view and not ignore their questions. So, I felt it was an important point to ponder. N.B. I am not a trained counsellor but considering a basic course in 2016 as many have said I should be one, but use my own experiences to offer support and advice to friends.

Immediately I remembered my step-mum after my breakdown and suicidal thoughts said I could not stay with her, my dad and step-sister as was not fair on my step-sister as she was too young (I was almost thirty where as she was twelve). My own parents split up when I was eleven, so thought when I was her age I had already gone through a major traumatic experience. Equally, she was of the age when lots of changes would be occurring and have questions about life. Was she really too young to understand why I felt the way I did or was this the stigma of mental health kicking me at my lowest ebb?

My step-mum also would never let me explain fully why I was depressed to her and events had become the way they are. I was having therapy at the time so I could understand my past and how I got to where I was today. So what I had learnt from therapy, I could never put into practise, for as soon as my mum’s name was mentioned, she’d go deaf; my mum had painted her (wrongly) as a scarlet woman thus could not hear a bad word about her. It was incidents like that every time I saw her that lead to my re-estrangement with my father, as she would corner me to ask me again and again, but not give her the answers she felt I should be saying. How could I explain when what needed said was not being heard?

My family never talk about things, so all sorts that hurt me from physically to emotionally and mentally can still trigger or impact upon me decades later as cannot always move on from them. Only the other week I had a panic attack at the dentist, partly through a fear I was choking as I nearly blacked out and my fear of people coming in my face after things my brother did to me thirty years ago, which my parents never punished. I once nearly punched an optician as he came close to my face when helping me try contact lenses and my head kept thinking he was going to strangle me like my brother kept trying to do. I would never knowingly hurt anyone, so both incidents left me crying and shaking at being a fool to let the past strangle my present and possible future. However, it also tells me that I also need further therapy to move on from them.

Going back to the original question I was asked. I feel honesty is the best policy, especially with children, but just how do you tell a small child about something many adults do not understand or accept? The friend told me the child already knew they cried, got angry and took medication, but as children often do, wanted to know more. It made me consider both my nieces, one almost 4 and the other almost 5, how would I explain how Auntie Fi’s health? The eldest already asked why on why I did not do certain things. I also felt that children need reassurance and that it is not them, but their parents still love them and always will.

I thought back to my own childhood, how I used the Care Bears to show how I felt. When I was seven, my tummy felt like Grumpy Bear with a cloud on it with the drops feeling like the tears I had in my tummy. He was the only Care Bear I was never allowed to own, as my mum found his image too depressing! Ironic given it was me trying to tell her I was depressed from events at home and the bullying at school.

I looked up an image of Grumpy Bear on the internet, and immediately hit upon an idea. The friend could colour in with and/or supporting their child the image of the bear, describing how sometimes they felt like the bear, the raindrops were like the tears he cried and medication the hearts that stopped the raindrops falling as much, which together with their loved made more hearts form. My friend felt this was a good idea, but reminded them they knew their child in terms of development and sensitivity required.

Discussing mental health is not easy, whether it is with a child, teenager or adult. However, it is by discussing what it means to us and impacts our lives with family, friends and colleagues that will end this terrible stigma, which I believe should have been left in the 20th century. In many ways discussing mental health is like discussing having cancer, diagnosis under either umbrella term can change lives forever but they do not have to mean the end. We all feel like Grumpy Bear some days, needing the love of others to be the hearts when sometimes we forget to love ourselves and know it is okay to cry like the raindrops, as the sunshine after the rain is almost worth dancing in the street!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Jack

Jack was a farmer’s son, sensitive and kind to all he met. One day he was sat in the corner of the hay barn, eating his lunch of curds and whey, when a spider appeared and made young Jack jump. His twin sister Jill was eating lunch with him, laughed at her brother, pointing at him for being so silly and started to call him “Little Miss Muffet”. For he was in her eyes the little girl not the boy for she was the one that climbed the trees and helped father with the animals, he preferred to be inside with their mum and make cakes. This made young Jack cry and run out the barn, hating the spider and his sister for hurting him so, he thought one day they’ll see I’m a brave boy.

That afternoon Jill suggested they climb hill near by, Jack usually said no but thought I’ll show her that I truly am a boy and will climb it with her. So together they set off with a pail to fetch some water for the farm. Jack loved all he saw and heard, suddenly a gust of wind caught his legs and sent him tumbling down, bumping his head as he did, with Jill tumbling down beside him. On arriving home Jack’s mum sent him straight to bed with a bandage of vinegar and brown paper upon his head. As he slept the vinegar leaked through the paper to his brain, for the next day Jack was changed bitter and angry to the spider that frightened him, his sister for laughing at him and the hill for falling, he would make them pay not just now but forever.

The older Jack got the more and more people became frightened to utter his name, even a simple “Hi Jack” led to an exchange many were keen to avoid. It was rumoured he murdered people in London but that was never proven it was really him at all although known for being a lad. On his death he vowed he would haunt the world from beyond, which he continues to do even now. He points a finger unseen by the naked eye but makes all it touches dance in a shiver; the innocence he lost he uses to paint the world in a white rage; making all slip and fall like he did on that hill; and freezing all like statues for they dare not mock him like his sister did or they will end up as one.

This winter we all see and feel Jack’s revenge upon all of Planet Earth cursing his name, which gives him great delight. However, just remember spring time will come soon and will make him retreat for a few months for his angry and jealous heart and mind cannot deal with the true beauty of spring flourishing and life being born a new. His revenge shows us that our actions at all ages have consequences and can have impact beyond our lifetimes. Revenge does not pay for it only hurts others and karma will have it bounce back our way. So do not be angry and bitter as Jack at the world, the world owes us nothing and hurting those closest to us hurts us too. So embrace the world with a loving heart filled with empathy and understanding, for even the most frozen of hearts can melt with love.

© Fi S. J. Brown

I wanna hold your hand

There is something uniquely special, intimate and comforting about holding someone’s hand. Perhaps as it something that reminds us of earliest childhood, that comforting feeling when a large hand enclosed our little one, creating bonds and memories throughout our lifetimes. Then as we become teenagers we no longer want to feel the hand in ours as want to feel the freedom of not being tied to our parents or anyone else.

We touch or hold hands with the person we love as bonds us together, symbolising that two souls are touching and uniting. It may not be a kiss but a clear signal to ourselves and others of our love for another. A Pagan wedding tradition is for handfasting, which entails gentle wrapping cords around the bride and groom’s clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically binding the couple together in their declaration of unity.

As adults ourselves, we are the ones with the big hands, which comfort and bond with our little ones. We connect with friends and strangers alike in stress and crisis. We also want to hold our parents hands as now look wrinkled and older now, they seem more fragile as the child’s and want to relive our own happy and carefree memories from childhood without the responsibilities that being a grown up has brought to us.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The song of war

On this the 11th day of the 11th month I think of those that have given their lives physically and mentally in the name of war. Generations old and young lost in rivers of blood that flowed through Flanders Field and continue to this day. It is not only the fallen to think of but those that returned and replay the events in their minds unable to comprehend how and why.

The picture shows many crosses: I wrote one for Mr Glasgow, a childhood neighbour and prisoner in Japan that could not tell me of the horror he saw and heard; I also wrote one for my great uncle George that documented Africa through the lens of his camera with images of sadness and happiness; and finally I wrote one for the innocent bystanders that are nameless but not forgotten that war’s name has taken from their families.

A dreamer and ponderer I may be but I do not want to hear war’s red song, singing it as though it was glorious feels quite wrong. However, I thank those men, women, children and animals the song has called their name, those that returned only to be haunted by it, and those right now live in fear of his song. I hope one day you and I may sing the white song of peace.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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Dare to imagine

Walking past Summerhall (formerly home to the vet school of the University of Edinburgh) I saw an art installation outside by Mexican installation artist Antonio O’Connell called “Virus”. I took photographs and examined it from different angles before reading his note on it. O’Conell states that that we live in a “contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”.

I immediately thought of the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in his brilliant book “Le Petit Prince” (The Little Prince), which has a theme of while children have imagination that is capable of understanding the essence of things, grown-ups have had their imaginations encumbered by attachment to the quantifiable. They have lost the curiosity of childhood, and their lives are bound by the here and now. What we see with our eyes is merely a shell; the essential reality of things is detected only by the heart.

I first read the book in French around twenty years ago and is still one of my all time favourites. As a deep thinker with a vivid and visual mind I can see this still true of now. I have a curtains that are a mix of blue flowers, which I swear the leaves spell life or love at one point! Equally, I agree with O’Connell that it has become a luxury as we too often do not take the time to look or read with the creatives or artisans that try to look beyond the boundaries and make us do the same.

If we do not know the answer to what a child has asked us we probably look the answers up on the internet so can explain it in a way they understand. My favourite time of year is autumn, I remember asking my great uncle and later my biology teacher what was happening, despite understanding the science I see it as part of nature’s art. I love the idea that the deciduous trees are the girls of the forests where as the boys are the evergreens; the girls are in all their different coloured dresses ready for the autumn ball, but like Cinderella must disappear at midnight, hence they fall off the trees.

I think using our imaginations as to understand and appreciate what is happening in what we see, read, hear, feel, smell and taste is important as lets us experience more from this world than we can from a book or the internet alone.This in part is why do I not work in a laboratory now; I would be imagining the environment changing as I worked, the seeds or pollen from a particular tree telling me it was growing around 2000 years ago to the present day. The world is an infinite art gallery, with innumerable works of art.

Let your imagination lose, don’t be afraid of being “silly” or “childish”, it’s what matters to and part of you. For example, water from a tap, does it not tickle the fingers or is sand on a beach the stars of the ground? Meanwhile, I’m off to find beech (Fagus sylvatica) seeds that have parachuted from the trees by my house and think of what the escape from each year, perhaps taking some photographs of them too.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Childcare Paradox

Why is it that a woman who chooses to stay at home to bring up her child it is seen as a “waste of time” instead of having a job, where the child is left in the care of others? “You’re throwing away your potential” cry some, how is wanting the best for a child throwing anything away, surely we are by being there when our child needs us most, being a true mother and not just the woman who gave birth to them. A child’s relationship with each parent is different and unique to that child, surely the influences of both matter?

We praise our teachers as they do so much and are often overstretched by doing increasingly more than teach, which should be the role of parent but is blamed on bad parenting for them having to do so. It’s almost like we cannot win, whatever we choose. A parent of either gender can act as teacher, nurse, counsellor, disciplinarian, storyteller, chef, etc. on one day alone, but does not get the same recognition or respect from others as chooses this as their vocation rather than a slave for money to others.

If we educate our children at home instead of mainstream schools there is also a stigma that some how they are failing to learn important life skills that being at school brings. Yet as life is all about learning new things and age is not a barrier to learning, why not use the world around us as a classroom rather than box in a child physically, mentally and emotionally. A child’s curiosity should be encouraged as much as their creativity, to develop who they are as individuals not what is interpreted they need to learn.

Is the family unit being destroyed like so many other things, another part of the ever crumbling cookie. We are told each generation is getting smarter, faster, better, when the reality is we’re getting stupider, slower, and sicker than our elders. The lack of respect some of the younger and older generation show each other is worrying too. Older people have the experience, knowledge and wisdom, the youth as want it all now and cannot wait for tomorrow, with the new adventures it will bring. 

© Fi S. J. Brown

Solstice Song

Darkness has now fallen on this the winter solstice day,
The shortest one out of all three hundred and sixty five.
Stars twinkle and ring aloud the solstice bells from above,
As we thank mother nature for her wondrous gifts to us.

These gifts cannot be exchanged in the upcoming sales,
As her touch can be seen, felt and heard all over Earth.
Despite the actions of some to change or mute her song,
This fat lady will continue to sing long after we are gone.

Today we shall look like children and gaze at her work,
The miracles all around us from tall trees to bird song.
Together let us dance and sing to mark this day of Yule,
And get merry on the beauty that is around us every day.

© Fi S. J. Brown