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

The Supermarket Dream

As well as deep thinking I have an active imagination and visual mind that like to play even in my dreams. For example part of a dream the other week included a koala feeding me at an Indian restaurant whilst he sat in a bin! They are often a dark comedy that doesn’t often make sense at first but when I stop to think them through they do.

Here’s what I remember of last night’s dream: I was outside a supermarket before it opened and decided I fancied something to eat when it opened. The store had recently been renovated so prepared to be lost trying to find what I needed. Only when I went in the store it was huge and had everything I could ever want or need and seemed like it was expanding as I looked. I only wanted essentials but other things kept coming in to my basket that I didn’t want. When I decided I had enough there were no tills to be seen or people to ask. I found what might be an exit and decided to try it as even if triggered an alarm someone would help…right?! It did eventually but they shook their heads when asking where I came in, which was miles from where I was then and uncertain how I had come so far. One of them took me to the biggest virtual flatscreen I had ever seen and said if I wanted to simply choose not browse I should have used this but with all the endless possibilities how could I? So I was sent in an elevator. I pressed a button to go to the tills and buy the small selection I wanted but the elevator voice spoke saying “are you sure that’s all you want, I don’t think so! There is much more in store!” It sprayed me with a liquid soaking me and my shopping! I then woke up.

What do I think it means? It’s a way of seeing my life, with endless choices and possibilities. I try to exit but that wasn’t an answer. The more I try to work out what I want the more complicated it feels. I only want a simple life but what does that actually mean? I only ever wanted a place to call home, a dog and be happy with a job I enjoy doing. As to what that job is has been a constant headache over the years as ignored my instincts. Although slowly feel I’m getting there at last.

Dreams are odd things breaking that one down finally makes sense of what my waking mind has been thinking. Hoping I am finally seeing my true path and not more trees growing blocking where I thought it was. I am nervous but excited by this development. Who knows what’s next and even if we knew would we really want to?!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Fireworks of my mind

For as long as I can remember I have been blessed (and/or cursed) with being highly sensitive alongside an excellent long term memory, strong sense of empathy, curiosity to know more than the surface area that I am told or learnt, a vivid imagination that opens doors to new worlds, and highly visual mind that paints these. The world around me acts like fireworks with one thing firing off these, which together makes up something uniquely special. I am only ever sad that I have yet to find media beyond the spoken or written word to share these with others, perhaps an installation of some kind. However, I am uncertain if they would understand or get what they are saying and/or showing, as sometimes something very personal or just of that moment in time so may not be able to replicate it again.

As a child I felt like that many grown ups were just as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had written in Le Petit Prince (‘The Little Prince’) with no imagination, with only my Great Uncle able to tell the difference between a hat and a boa constrictor that ate an elephant. Teachers told me to write about what I knew, not the stories I felt from the world around me from reading newspapers to watching starving people in Ethiopia with famine or war hit families in Bosnia and Iraq all of which called out from beyond the television screen to the rivers and hills with the animals that called them home that I passed regularly when out with family on foot, bus or car. I wanted to tell their stories, the empath in me wished it could do more than watch my fellow humans hurting in ways I could never imagine and giving money felt like a tablet that never cured anything. As well exploring the rivers and hills to tell the stories that people like my ancestors would have known and told the tales of. Being a grown up I still want to tell these stories. but now more determined than ever that I do, as they need to be seen and heard with their own voices not through the biased lenses of the media or anthropomorphise into cutesy images that no longer speak to the younger generation.

My family enjoy the arts and are highly musical: as a child my father and I enjoyed visiting art sales in the local area and beyond, as well as his own painting (sadly I do not remember what he painted) to the playing organ, often Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor with a passion you could feel as his fingers touched the keys and were escaping to the worlds he was playing as I sat beside him equally immersed in this world but with my spin; where as my mother sings alto in choirs and plays the piano a little but lacks the artistry with it as almost a painting with numbers not colour when she does, and does not get art beyond the popular artists of Monet and Turner. This I often find when I hear mainstream pop musicians their voices are similar, perhaps as they are not investing in the emotion, feelings and story of the lyrics and music, which with autotuning have become quite grey and maybe because they did not create it  to begin with (despite claims they have done, but perhaps only changed the odd word if that) and was written for profit not as a piece of art to be admired, it truly is disposable.

The song Pure Imagination from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ for me celebrates imagination and showing us that it is all around us if we let it. Our imagination can be a comforting way to escape harsh realities in our present world rather than dwelling on what has or is hurting us now, which with an outlet can stop the pain from flowing for a while. I find it hard to understand, despite my empathy, those that may see this is childish or day dreaming when great ideas to art works can come from it, but then I remember an art installation I saw a few years back with the following quote:  we live in a contrasting world – where imagination is a luxury for some but a necessity for others”. I find anything and everything can start the fireworks display in my brain, from something I have seen or heard, a picture to a quote to a song or video, I never know what will next and that is part of the enjoyment and excitement as it is endless.

One example of my recent fireworks display was walking back from a shopping centre/mall on Easter Monday. I have walked down that street umpteen times, yet rarely walk up it as it is a steep hill, which may explain why I had never spotted an old mile stone on it, simply showing Edinburgh 2 miles. I stared at it for a good minute and took a picture of it before walking on but then my imagination kicked in, what was this street and area like when this milestone was new. I am now watching the 21st century disappear around me and be replaced by how it may have looked around three hundred years previously when there were distinct villages all over that are now part of the city of Edinburgh. As my visual mind and imagination worked in tandem to create a scene so different to the one I now found myself in, as tried to use my senses to get a clearer idea of what it was like to be there then. After about five minutes I took my phone out to investigate further the area as curiosity was now wanting a piece of what imagination and mind were doing, as I could not draw or paint the scene I decided to let it and return to the 21st century. I discovered that author and creator of Sherlock Holmes Arthur Conan Doyle had lived during his childhood aged seven to nine (1868-1888) around two minutes from where I had seen the milestone, which ticked a box in my head as to why the doctor’s surgery by the shopping centre/mall bore his name. The house he lived has recently been restored, and believe me I had to resist running back to look and see! Learning this created fresh ideas and colours to paint into the scene, ensuring Arthur was the little boy at one of the houses, that I will continue to see for some time when passing that street.

© Fi S. J. Brown

My life purpose

I was reading an article online entitled “How do you find your purpose when you don’t know what it is?” I felt an affinity with what the article was about, as often find myself playing over again and again in my head or writing, what is my purpose in life? I then remind myself of a song from the musical Avenue Q called “For now; in it the character of Kate Monster points out who really does know their purpose and the cast sing about the importance of the present moment, with some things only being temporary. Remembering the lyrics to this song and words from a close friend help me stay focused on the present moment, i.e. living mindfully, so worry less over the things I cannot control and enjoying the good things when they come.

Going back to the article, I found four things stood out, which are listed below and then my answers to them, therein lies my life’s purpose. The four are:

  1. What am I grateful for?
  2. What are my gifts and talents?
  3. What do I love?
  4. What feelings do I want to have?

Gratitudes

  • I am grateful for being able to read and write. This makes me happy or benefits my life because to me there is so much to explore that others have said before me to writing my own experiences of life or giving voice to those that have none. So simple yet taken for granted by many as learn them at a young age but not all have the chance to learn them at any age.
  • I am grateful for being able to see and hear. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me look beyond the surface level, looking deeper and longer, and hearing the songs of Mother Nature to musicians that write their own and/or play ones that paint visuals in my mind, become soundtracks to my life, and give words to what perhaps I find I cannot.
  • I am grateful for good friends. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me feel loved, appreciated, and accepted in the world where many get jealous or envious, wanting more without realising what they have already, and feel like the ugly duckling now gliding down the river of her life as the swan she truly is not the ogre she thought she was.
  • I am grateful for being an empath and highly sensitive This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me appreciate the little things that cross my path, keep the light shining for those that are in darkness as know that it can suffocate when it overwhelms, and although I may not understand psychopaths or narcissists they show me what I am not
  • I am grateful for surviving the bad times. This makes me happy or benefits my life because it makes me know the importance of this present moment, which can change from bad to good or the reverse at any moment. They taught me lessons that I can share with others so they can survive their own and do not define me as a victim but a survivor of them.

Gifts and talents

  • I am lucky to have the gift to write my thoughts and words of others so that their songs can be heard even when I am gone.
  • I have also the gift of a vivid imagination and a visual mind, so can look at a scene to see it many ways beyond the initial glance.
  • Another gift is having a non-judgemental ear to comforting shoulder and arms to hug those that come on the journey with me.
  • I have a talent for research, looking beyond the tip of the iceberg, diving deep to see how far I can go and what lies hidden.
  • I have also the talent to realise there is so much in the world to learn, so each day I try find something new to wonder at a new.
  • Another talent is knowing myself, strengths and weaknesses, pushing myself when needed and withdrawing when needed.

Love

  • My closest friends who mean the world to me, I’d do anything for them as their place in my heart and soul is as unique as they are.
  • Walks along with nature as my guide and friend, fighting all my senses at once which one that I should taken in first or all at once!
  • Writing and/or photographing to record or give voice to a sight, sound, experience, thought or moment so has its own voice and/or image.
  • Supporting others as feel privileged and honoured that out of all the human beings on this planet that could help them, it’s me that does.
  • Exploring somewhere old afresh with a child’s eyes, as well as somewhere new where there are memories and stories to tell.
  • Mindfulness and meditation, to be centred on this present moment, realising there are more roses than thorns growing at any time.

Feelings

  • Freedom – To be me, not what others expectations or wants. Follow my path not one created or walked by others, the so called normal life.
  • Appreciated – I have no desire to be rich and/or famous, but to be appreciated by those that I enjoy having in my life as they do with me.
  • Determined – Not to give up when feel lost in the darkness or suffocating from trees I should have dealt with when were but seeds.
  • Inspired – Every day and by everything, seeing the world like a child and not taking it for granted that it will be there again tomorrow.
  • Worthwhile – I do not want to reach the age of 60 and wonder what I did with my life or why I continued to ignore what my teenage self knew.
  • Wanderlust – I would love to see more of this world with its different cultures and traditions that share similarities and differences to my own.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

My writing and me

Every time I see a leaf blowing in the wind, I imagine the sound it is making and the surrounding environment making its own accompaniment. Every time I hear music it paints vivid images in my mind, with the different instruments and texture providing the brush strokes. I am inspired by the natural and the anthropocentric worlds that ignite the fire within me to tell tales of these parallel worlds. Mindfulness enables me to maintain a moment-by-moment awareness of my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. All this is reflected in how and what I write.

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