Escape from Lockdown

Sitting out on a sunny day
The blue sky the warm sunshine
Looking out over the Pentland Hills
To the lands of freedom so far away
Not far from these hills a pandemic lingers
An invisible grey cloud
Once in a while we would forget

The days we escaped to the beaches
And left our rubbish to the wind
The days we dreamed we could be free
Riding the waves of liberty
Meeting one more of our friends
And no homeschooling for our kids
Feeling the warm sun on our faces
And no coughing from our mouths

So we headed for dunes with suntan lotion
Made it thought the motorway queues
To the waves at Bournemouth
Coughs and fevers swapped for sand and ice cream
Not far from these hills a pandemic lingers
An invisible grey cloud
Once in a while we would forget

The days we escaped to the beaches
And left our rubbish to the wind
The day that we dreamed we could be free
Riding the waves of liberty
Meeting one more of our friends
And no homeschooling for our kids
Feeling the warm sun on our faces
And no coughing from our mouths

So we made our way
Through the Dartford Tunnel
To the southern coast of England
Through the sun and crowds
While the second wave waited on

The days we escaped to the beaches
And left our rubbish to the wind
The day that we dreamed we could be free
Riding the waves of liberty
Meeting one more of our friends
And no homeschooling for our kids
Feeling the warm sun on our faces
And no coughing from our mouths

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

T’s Song

Inspired by a friend’s experiences with autism, mental health and divorce during the coronavirus lockdown.

These four walls are not my home
I’m sat afraid and crying all alone
Trapped in a cage with no bars
There’s no freedom from here for me
Looking through the eyes of change
Shining like the evening sky’s stars
And a cold that makes me shiver
There’s no freedom from here for me

But through the darkness whispers
A light in the forest breaks
Gentle birdsong calls out my name
Singing out across the land
So high up into the heavens
There’s no freedom from here for me

I was blinded by your foolish love
Wandered from across the country
To be in the arms I thought understood
There’s no freedom from here for me
And the diagnosis nobody understands
The meltdowns as cope with uncertainty
A desert that grows barren by the day
There’s no freedom from here for me.

But through the darkness whispers
A light in the forest breaks
Gentle birdsong calls out my name
Singing out across the land
So high up in the heavens
There’s no freedom from here for me

Knowing this is where my story may end
Poor in wealth, body, mind and soul
Standing too close to the edge of the cliff
There’s no freedom from here for me
Burned out like days old cigarette butts
Awaiting fate’s final twisting tale
Defrauded of every love and need
There’s no freedom from here for me

But through the darkness whispers
A light in the forest breaks
Gentle birdsong calls out my name
Singing out across the land
So high up in the heavens
There’s no freedom from here for me

© 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

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

Love is a mystery

Now and again I find curiosity gets the better of me and tune into television programs just to try understand being human and how others see life differently to me. This includes ones like ‘First Dates’ that set up people and film them have their first date together in a restaurant, which of course is heavily edited like any reality television program. The program makers decide how they are going to edit someone to be like to the narrative of what unfolded. As someone that love is very much that mystery I have all but left out of my life so far it is interesting to me what the participants are looking for and what love means to them. From ‘friend zone’ to ‘baggage’ it often leaves me more bewildered than anything on the ways they often justify reasons for saying ‘no’ or to why they are single and thus decided to do the show in the first place.

The concept of ‘friend zone’ stems from the 1990s television series according to the Oxford English Dictionary but seems to be very 21st century to meet someone and decide they’ll only ever be a friend so immediately that’s any chance of anything more developing as someone learns more about a person over time to be zero. I guess it may feed into this instant gratification we now seem to have as often see on First Dates some say ‘there was no instant spark’…which to me is silly as they’re in an artificial environment and unless there was good reason to avoid that person in future then why not see how that person is away from the camera? Equally, a ‘spark’ can develop over time as the other person’s little quirks make us smile and see that person as someone we like to be in the company of. How many relationships in the past started from a friendship that grew into something more? It is almost stunting something with a full stop before it could be a beautiful friendship that means far more than something romantic too.

Although I am openly asexual to my friends (“An asexual is someone who does not experience sexual attraction. This does not necessarily mean that they do not experience sexual arousal, or romantic or aesthetic attraction, or that they do not want intimacy from their relationships.”) it is sometimes left unsaid on why I am single. Equally, it is always someone’s personality for me that makes them attractive or not, although I have had horrific vibes off people that I have learnt meant to run and keep running from them too. I do not care about someone’s gender when it comes to love as I have had rarely had feelings for anyone (male, female or however someone wants to define their gender); of the people I have kissed two have been male and one is female. Who that person is as a package not the shell around their body is what speaks to me. As a teenager I questioned my sexuality as had no idea who I found sexy but did find any sexual talk a trigger as made me upset and uneasy, which it still remains to this day due to unresolved issues.

That last point brings me onto ‘baggage’ that any human being that has ever lived has got. Yes some of us seem to experience more things in life than others but does not mean we should be determined by it. First Dates seems to love its sob stories and tragic events or stories from its participants. It takes a lot to learn to love ones self as I have learnt and know it would take a lot for me to love another as to me that is absolutely terrifying at beginning to imagine it. I know to some my personal ‘baggage’ may seem a lot but by sharing the weight becomes lighter as it also does with the passing of time, something that the only person I sort of dated did not grasp. Nobody gets to the age I am at now without a few scars but equally they should not be defined by their past as makes them the person they are today and what happens today will influence the future. Baggage sounds like we have several suitcases we bring from relationship to relationship, but equally they can contain amazing experiences and things we have done. However, they also show to me how we should deal with things properly and not bottle them up so become dragged down by them.

My love of music and musicality is no secret but have rarely understood why we write so many songs about love when there are so many other human emotions. One album I am enjoying right now is exploring many themes from awakeness to not giving up on life so meaning a lot to me beyond the fact the singer/songwriter is a special friend. For me I feel romantic love is a mystery meant for others and not for me. If I am honest if someone said they fancied me or loved me in a romantic way I would be sure it was a joke and/or a bet such is my cynical view. Love comes in many forms and we should be embarrassing that not giving friend zones at the drop of a hat as the love of a good friend should not be ignored but treasured as far as I am concerned beyond that of romantic. I do not believe in fairy tale love but would like someone to challenge my suitcases and me to see beyond the love I have learnt through friends that I did not think was even possible. So don’t give up as you’re single, enjoy it and who cares…the spinster cat starter kit is only a phone call away from your local animal shelter!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Just talk…

We live at a time when it has never been easier to contact another. With the tap on a mobile/cell phone we can speak by voice, by video, and by text with someone five minutes away to five thousand miles away. We may have 1000s of friends on Facebook, or followers on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, yet find in an evening we still have nobody to talk to or go to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster with us. We can send a message to say ‘hello’ but receive no replies, which makes us wonder are they ignoring us, scared of what we will say or ask of them, or perhaps their social media erroneously is showing their presence online. The light has gone green, but no traffic is flowing our way, as wonder who are true friends are, and who is truly there for us when we need it.

We have never been so connected with other people, but we have never been so disconnected. Meet up with a friend and they spend all the time staring blankly at the black mirror we keep in our bags, or take selfies to show off where they are and show off their latest look or plate of food, make others look at who they are with but mock that you are not, almost giving the middle finger to those they did not invite. Making permanent records of our lives, but only it may be far from real; creating a version that we curate as want to be seen a certain way by others, composing near fictional tales of just how great truly is for us (but may also want to create the opposite so that gain the sympathy and empathy of others). Making it near impossible to differentiate from the girl that needs help from the boy crying wolf for the tenth time, how do we know when to ask the question ‘are you okay’?

Today is World Suicide Prevention Day, a day that should remind us that a conversation is two way traffic, listening does not mean gazing into our black mirrors and pretend that we have heard or even care what another has said, but being an active participant. It only takes a minute to change somebody’s life, be it a passing smile to a strange in the street to a random compliment on a tattoo they have as like the design, or like on a picture just to say we have seen it and acknowledge what its message is. No matter how dark life may seem, how hopeless and lost we feel, there will always be someone who can help, even if it is not the first person. We need to keep going and learn those that are there for us without judgement, and not tell all we tell them in whispers of gossip, but we must remember to be there for them too in return. So please reach out, tell someone that the rain has return, and tired of trying to learn to dance in the rain to our own beat as all too often it is dancing to another’s that causes the problem. Never feel alone, the darkness lies, and don’t give up.

© 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

A cry for help?

Why is it when someone tries (or sometimes succeeds) to take their own life do we call it a ‘cry for help’? When they may have been trying to tell us things just aren’t right but we have either been too busy or could not read the signs. How can we be there for someone when they pretend that all is alright until we have that sudden alarm call that everything is far from ‘fine’?

When I was at my most depressed I likened it to sitting on a rocking chair sat on the edge of a cliff. I could see rocks falling by the side around me yet had nobody that saw them fall but me; I knew that one day the rocking chair would snap and send me hurtling down down to the canyon below. That ‘scream’ would be my ‘cry for help’, and lying at the bottom of canyon was like hitting life’s metaphorical bottom. Sometimes the fall kills us, but sometimes when we fall we find our wings and fly. Could I have let others see the rocks falling? I tried but most were more interested in their own lives or I could not tell how I ended up on the rocking chair in the first place due to fear that led to me losing my words even in therapy. I was not strapped to the chair so yes they could have helped me escape it, but we do not always realise how much things from the past have built up to in my case a cliff one hell of a drop.

So what can we do? Be the friend that actually listens and cares in a two way form, it is not an one way street for what you or I want, it’s what WE want and can do as a partnership. I had one ‘friend’ that after hearing me say I wasn’t good would turn things on themselves before saying they were off or suddenly too busy to talk. Distance should not matter, in these days of text messages and social media a message can be sent in an instant and let another know we care and there if need someone. Yes, it can be hard to admit we are on the cliff or see a friend on the cliff but we need to let others in not shut them out. They can help us set fire to the rocking chair, not burn both of us as some may do in jealousy, envy and/or greed; a true friend does not care about splinters or shards hurting them as worried how and/or why they are hurting us, The burnt remains of the rocking chair can then be pushed over the edge. from which the ashes can act as a fertiliser to help us grow and gain the strength of a tree that formed the chair. Do not be afraid as that one person can be all that it takes to see the view from the cliff that actually shows how far we have come in life and is not the end of the journey.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Love

Valentine’s Day will soon be upon us, that commercial day of love sold to us by companies across the world, online or offline. Telling us to take someone special out for a candlelight meal at an expensive restaurant, buy a dozen red roses for the one our hearts desire or send a card anonymously to one we secretly adore in the hope that they love us much as we do them.

However, do we really need a day to say what our words, thoughts and actions do every day anyway, no matter how unspoken they may apparently be or hidden we try to keep them. Nobody has the right to say we cannot love another due to their gender, racism, beliefs, or ability, as it is their personality ultimately that matters and makes us fall in love with them. That love being like a parent, sibling, friend, or romantic, it is universal but one size does not fit all.

The way we view love now is has changed over the centuries, and is quite different to the our ancestors. In Ancient Greece for example romantic love was not held with the high regard and emphasis we put on it; to them love for friends was considered every bit as special as romantic love. The philosopher Aristotle regarded friendship as a lifetime commitment to mutual welfare, in which two people become “second selves” to each other.

The idea of unconditional love, which is a fairly modern concept. Love was been seen in different ways by philosophers until then: for example Plato saw it as conditional on the other person’s beauty; Aristotle emphasised another’s virtues; for St Augustine it was their goodness; and for Rousseau it was their moral authenticity. It was during 18th century Enlightenment philosophers suggested unconditional love on others rather than god.

We almost expect someone that said “I love you” to mean that they loved us unconditionally and accepted us for who we are. However, when someone says to us they love us but just as a friend we feel it is a second rate love as will never have that romantic love with them. To me for a friend to acknowledge their love for me is truly special as mean I matter to them and that is every bit as important as romance. Having a loyal and trustworthy friend counts for so much, and never know what it may blossom into.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Memories

Memories are curious things, one song or smell and we are taken back to a time or event that is just a something from our past. I sit writing this in Aberdeen, at the campus of the university I attended for degree and first masters and finished almost fifteen years ago, but it is like a different world from my time at the university as now based by the River Dee as a very modern single site campus not spread out over the city. I have have visited twice briefly since my time living here, once for a job interview eleven years ago and seven years ago for a gig, making memories of the city mostly from when I lived here before.

Upon arrival by coach, just as I had when I first visited Aberdeen to an university open day in early 1997 the city’s grey stood out, it is not nicknamed the ‘granite city’ for nothing, one could say it had fifty shades of grey before it was cool! I wandered briefly around before taking the bus to my current destination with a mix of memories that flooded back and new ones being made. Sites like the Music Hall and His Majesty’s Theatre that brought back music to my ears from concerts to musicals I attended there and others that had been the soundtrack to my days living there. Street names jumped out in my memory of the events that took place on them, Market and Union Streets and others such as South Silver Street I finally knew the name of. I laughed upon seeing a bar called The Grill on Union Street that famously did not have a woman’s toilet until 1998 (it did not allow women at all until 1975) and smiled on remembering my project management lecturer saying he’d be propping up the bar if needed help with his course.

Shops and bars that were like friends but now had changed but not gone either; Ottakers bookshop where I sat many a Saturday afternoon with a tea and book is now Waterstones, and Triple Kirks the pub which was a firm favourite of many studying at Schoolhill and St Andrew’s Street without its pew seats. This in turn reminded me of an event forever ingrained in my memory – my friends doing a pub crawl with a 6ft inflatable alien called Hilary, who did it all from karaoke with Fraser to Iain’s attempts to keep it blown up before either Ewan or Rich put their cigarette out on it until they were no more. Nobody knew if Hilary was meant to be male or female, perhaps they were truly gender fluid before we mentioned such things as do now. There are also many statues in the city centre such as Edward VII and William Wallace but it is the lion war memorial that is the one I remember most as forever an almost unspoken right of passage by students in the near by Woolmanhill halls of residence to ride the lion during their fresher’s year when drunk (no reader alas I never did).

I come back to the university and sat in what is now where students would go to learn similar to I had in my day. One friend from my student days remained here and is now a lecturer. I had went to see the university library, which in my time had been a subject specific one in my part of the campus and remembered someone sneaking in fish and chips to it! I usually hid in the jurnal section so not to be disturbed but in later years  Alex and MC joined me with MC’s pile of biscuits and donuts that never got even a tut from the librarians! Computers around everywhere for students to use where as we had a few open access rooms in the building and one specifically for us within Applied Sciences; giggling at the thought of a lecturer searching for water sports but got the wrong kind, which led to a firm talk at the start of every year on being careful when surfing the internet. I thought of people I had known then and those I have contact with now, how life had panned out for us and what we expected it to.

Recently I read something that said our past is just stories we tell ourselves in the present, and being back in Aberdeen made that statement feel so very true. All the memories I have sat writing about are just stories of the five years I lived here, the city has changed but so had I in so many positive ways, equally there are many parts that remained just the same and can say the same of myself. The past may make us who we are now but the present is all we truly ever have, for the future is a whisper and not a promise. We do not skip to the end of a book to see what happens in the end, we take it page by page just as life is a page in the book of our life. Finally, life should be led like a piece of music, it can only be truly enjoyed in one direction with all that it brings with it, and dancing the rhythm of our life not anyone else.

© Fi S. J. Brown