The Edge of Forty

Every year I have written a reflective piece on the previous one on the lead up to my birthday. This year’s birthday is slightly different as it will be one of those big milestone ones as I turn forty. I am finding most people are flattering when I tell them how old I will be as say I do not look that age…but that begs the questions how should someone on the edge of forty look and how should they behave? Those younger than me are full of questions such as how does that make you feel and are you ready? Whereas those older shrug their shoulders and tell me I am still a baby or young. I am fast beginning to learn why it is the so called mid-life as feel a strange filling in the sandwich of youth and old age.

Looking back on my thirties as a whole at first they may seem quite frustrating but equally sedate after completing my PhD at thirty one and life since has been a very different journey to that of my twenties. They have brought good friends into my life that are like family who I would do anything for and love with all I have. The biggest part of this decade has been self discovery and acceptance as the ogre that lived in my head from my teens has gone and left a Fi-shaped person in its place that has the same love and respect as I give any human being on Earth that deserves them.

I have learnt to embrace life with making the most of each day and remembering to hold tight during the downs of the rollercoaster but remembering there are hidden positives and lights even at the darkest of times. Acceptance is definitely the key word to describe my thirties as have also understood what being asexual means to me and although it is very hard knowing I will never have my own child I have two lovely nieces. Equally, I no longer feel the outsider or alien that observes life rather than takes part in it as felt I did not belong or could not be what others wanted me to be. Labels and boxes are not meant for human beings and normal is a function on a washing machine!

I have also rediscovered my quirky creativeness and embraced it with open arms like a lost love, but my first love has become a greater passion with every passing year, which everyone that knows me was and is music! The written word and/or visuals are my talents to tell of my life, the tales of this planet’s citizens (not just the humans) and ensuring the forgotten or lost songs of the muted are sung for all to hear whilst spreading light and colour with my thoughts, actions and habits.

So what will my forties bring? There is hope and fear for the world we live in but determination not to let the negativity or hate drown me. On a personal level I am hoping I have final worked out my path and what that means in terms of career. As for love of the romantic nature…well I have never been one to chase it and if it is meant to be it is meant to be. The cynic in me still says it is for others not me. However, I am not scared or nervous at levelling up to a new decade in fact I am ready for it as see it as the next section in the book of my life that currently lies unwritten and that excites me…so bring it on!

© Fi S. J. Brown

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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

Life – The Unwritten Rules

1. Forget whatever rules you’ve been told before, this your life and can lead it whichever way you want to. That is except if you hurt another living being by physical, mental, or emotional means to get what you think you should have as greed, envy, and jealous individually and collectively will taunt and tease you to get their way.
2. Normal is different for everyone; for example your body may not look like those in a magazine or on a website but neither do the people they are of as manipulated to someone else’s idea of ‘perfect’ or ‘normal’. Equally, an anatomy and physiology book shows a human body, but does not allow for variations that make you human.
3. Beauty is everywhere, but requires all our senses to truly experience it; for example using the eyes of a child experiencing the world for the first time, if something feels wrong trust that instinct as far better than burnt fingers for not doing so, and actively listen but never judge or be too busy as never know when you may need to back.
4. Very little is truly black or white, it is that murky bit between where all lies, the real fifty shades of grey. So do not assume or disregard something you have never experienced as trivial or unimportant; even if you have, the way you did and how will never be the same as another as have your own skills, genes, and experiences of life.
5. When trying to wait for a signal to do something, do not put it off for another day or except another to help you. The signal to do it is when you realise this is it. Do not try to run or expect success straight away, take your time and listen to advice from others but remember it is just that and not a fullproof recipe of must follow steps.
6. Time is a healer so do not expect someone else to ‘just get over it’ as no idea how deep the scars (visible and invisible lie). With passing days to years it may fade into the distance but equally it can be like an old record stuck playing the same line again and again with no way to make it stop unless you stop iy yourself.
7. Money cannot buy happiness and success, as with everything else these are determined by yourself and not by others. In many ways it makes you dance to the beat of someone else’s drum as you follow their golden carrots, but are invetiably fools gold and only serve to make the puppet masters richer and richer.
8. Lessons are not confined to classrooms and books, in many ways you will learn more through life’s journey than can be taught by another. When rocks block your path don’t try to kick them but try carving them into something to take with you to show you how far you’ve come or roll them slowly and steadily away.
9. Everyone makes a mistake, admitting to them when they happen is best as the lies become as twisted as the roots of trees they become and create shadows that hang over you. When the tree eventually falls it is not just you that will be hurt as it does, tripping up over the now exposed roots, no mistake (great or small) is worth it.
10. The meaning of life is difficult but simple too. Life is an ever changing, ever evolving experience. Each day is full is full of patterns you may recognise but new ones come in to colour in that pattern or change the shape of it so not the same as it was before. Adapting to this constant similarity and change is key.

© Fi S. J. Brown

It’s okay

It’s okay to be 22 or 42 and not know what you want be when you grow up. You can also change your mind, try new things, or take wrong turns, as discover what your true path or paths really are.

It’s okay to be single. Maybe you prefer being on your own, tired of other’s crap. Perhaps you have been hurt in the past so healing, or learning self love before you try again with someone new.

It’s okay if you cannot find your Prince Charming or Fair Maiden, love comes when you least expect it. Do not chase after it, but kissing a few frogs and toads along the way is to be expected.

It’s okay to be gay. Whether you like men, women, both, or do not care as long as they have a pulse, no book or other can define your version of what love is. We do not choose who we fall for.

It’s okay not to want kids. Being a parent is not for everyone, and is a valid choice. If you cannot have children it can be very hard; however, adoption or fostering are still your choices not others.

It’s okay to have that bit of chocolate, one piece won’t change you or the world. You do not have to excuse or explain yourself to anyone, people judge all the time, even themselves.

It’s okay to feel depressed. Remember you are not alone and depression loves to lie. Not everyone will listen, some may laugh or whisper behind your back, but do not ever give up. Someone will listen.

It’s okay to be different. There is no such thing as an average human being, we are human coloured/sized/shaped. You look as your genetic lottery decided, knives and syringes do not add, look inside.

It’s okay to be you. There is no one on this planet that’s the same, identical twins are not the same person. You can dance to another’s rhythm, but you have your own so embrace it and the colours it makes.

© Fi S. J. Brown

September third, 1990

Eight years ago this week I was writing about Roman fires as part of my PhD write up with a glass of red wine at my side, leftover from cooking my dinner earlier that evening, when an event I witnessed became a catalyst for something that I can only call a milestone in my life and fate wanted me to forever recall that very moment. Tonight I am sharing my photographs and digital art on social media as well as writing this piece, things I could only have dreamt that I could do, or that people would understand or follow them. However, it is none of these I am actually going to write on, instead it is something prompted by seeing children (re)start school after their summer break, which has reminded of the third of September 1990 when I changed schools, and the miserable seven years I had there.

As a child we are told repeatedly that our school days would be the happiest of our life, which made me question throughout my early childhood and into teenage years how miserable must life be as an adult if these are meant to be happy times! Perhaps in the more recent past they were more innocent times than then or even now to be a child, and those carefree days were led to be so happy as did not have the stresses and strains that adults experienced. I only need to look at pictures of my young nieces to worry about how sexualised the youngest is at five years old and posing like a woman four to five times here age in a bikini on a beach. The little carefree girl I played with last autumn seems a million miles from this wannabe model, a child stuck in an adult world, which in turn makes me wonder what world her and her sister will be part of as this ever changing world grows fifty shades greyer by the day.

Back in 1990 dressed almost head to toe in green (yes even my underwear had to be green) I entered a classroom with the stares of my fellow pupils and invisible sounds telling me it was not the place for me…perhaps the near accident the year before should have told me to listen to my instincts and run, but alas there was nowhere and nobody to turn to. I can still recall my classes that day, which included drama and German – giggling to myself at learning that Varter was German for father, which to my 11 ¾ year old ears sounded like farter and very appropriate for my dad! The school was different in how my old one had operated, but ultimately left me just as miserable as its predecessor with bullies and time on my own. My teachers however for the most part were excellent, and as someone that likes to learn thrived under ones like my Latin teacher that encouraged everyone no matter how good or bad you were. Her methods are ones I use myself whenever teaching or supporting someone, and still wish in part I had studied Latin at St Andrew’s University as I considered back in 1996 in tribute to her, but my PhD did involve the Romans so in a way I have done.

The impact of those year years left scars that even now I can feel throughout my body, but they are beginning to heal with the passing of time combined with good friendships that help me to see how naive and stupid the bullies were. I have achieved more than even I thought was possible when I packed my clarinet away and left them behind at the Usher Hall with a smile and the largest sigh of relief that had ever been heard in its corridors. This was just after being pushed off the platform while singing our school song and national anthem to say to me even in our final moments as pupils they did not accept me as one of their own. Ironically, I officially left a month before but had come back to play my clarinet at the request of the head of music, to which I had agreed as long as did not need to follow uniform restrictions to rehearsals! Even now I do not wish any of them ill or bad times, but as someone that knows karma eventually comes a knocking, it will do what needs to be done. My name in full is still one I struggle to own as tainted with the echoes of their laughter, but grown to prefer my shorter form as shows those that really know me to use it.

Going forward the echoes and laughter will eventually go as let the last scar heal, I promised myself I would not pick them. So what will the next eight years bring, twenty seven is far to hard to imagine…well as Coldplay sang – “You can take a picture of something you see. In the future where will I be? You can climb a ladder up to the sun. Or write a song nobody has sung. Or do something that’s never been done” – I intended to do them all and more as this woman can. What I have learnt is that there will always be some that judge and make assumptions, or make our lives hell as their own is not very good, but they do not know the real us and the best action is to show them we do not care to how far we have come.

© Fi S. J. Brown

It’s a crackpot life

Each of us has our own unique flaws, like cracked pots and vases. These cracks and flaws are not bad things but make our lives interesting and rewarding. We need to accept people as they are and look for the good in them, not dwell on negatives or taint with constant hate and jealousy. Nobody and nothing is perfect, and that’s what so priceless about it.

All too often we focus on the bad and negative, forgetting there is a lot of good and positive out there. We are human shaped, not fat or thin, flexible and adaptable not out of shape. Taking time to appreciate all the different kinds of people in our lives, better to colour in life with every crayon than colour with a single one; imagine a world in rainbow compared with sky blue. Living the crackpot life.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The whisper of 38

I sit here writing this as my thirty eighth birthday is almost whispering in my ears, and have decided to write another of my reflective pieces considering what this year been has been like and what I would like the next one to bring. Last year after being asked what I would like the next year to bring I wrote about the jigsaw puzzle of life and hoping it would mean a key piece would fall into place, which was followed by finding a physical jigsaw piece sat on the bench at a local bus stop a few days later; I still have the piece and plan to frame it to remember this year and what it has brought.

So what has the last year brought? In the past people’s negative comments were like being shot with a loaded gun, with positive ones unable to stitch up the bullet holes and would end up being pricked by the needles of others that tried to as did not always have my best interests at heart. However, I have learnt over the last decade to deal and cope with health issues particularly with my mental health, i.e. depression and anxiety to poor body and self image, which this year although tested at times, including a tearful breakdown at Easter, I have bounced back from and have served to remind me why I nickname myself Zebedee (the Jack in the box in the Magic Roundabout) as I will bounce back from whatever life throws at me. I know now I am a strong woman despite my extreme sensitivity and I may hurt me initially but it will not stop me from saying ENOUGH I will dance in the rain as the thunder and lightning roar for they will not drown me or kill me.

Did I find that key piece of jigsaw? Yes is the shortest answer but it is far from simple. I started the year by reflecting back to my teenage years, as realised I needed to learn from my mistakes from then to the present to truly be in the present and dream the impossible dream of the future not yet written. By the age of around 15 I knew what mattered to me and the path I felt drawn to, yet let myself be swept in a series of waves without remembering I could swim and could do alone if necessary. Others made recommendations which I followed almost blindly, but that only lead me up dead ends, as I did not question them and thought they knew better than I did. The truth is only we know ourselves as only we walk this life with our knowledges, skills and experiences, thus walking another’s path is like wearing our neighbour’s high heels for ten miles and wondering why we have blisters all over our feet.

I have interests and passions that I no longer hide from as thought others would bully and/or hate me for more as well as accept me as a ragdoll made up of all my many experiences and adventures in life so far not an ogreous beast my head had painted. Through the clarity of the ragdoll now in my head I saw she was also symbolic of the support and help I give others and what I learnt from them, which is stiched together not with needles that will hurt me but with love from my closest of friends. For those that try to fire bullets now do so out of jealousy, envy and greed as do not like that another stands up for themselves and that of others; putting the voice of the abuser or bully to mute and turning up those that deserve to be heard. For this is my key piece, this is what and who I am to others and must do for myself too.

So what would I like the next year to bring? Well I knew a long time ago I would never have children of my own but my youngest niece reminds me of the magical innocence and imagination we can have in this world and exploring it at times together will keep me seeing it afresh and perhaps a touch less cynical (if that’s possible); her big sister I gave a copy of my favourite book, Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), which I hope she learns to love as much as I do in time and the messages it contains. Life as well as a path, journey and jigsaw puzzle is also a maze, which I am near to finding the centre of mine as now know I am on the right path and after finding that key piece in the jigsaw I am certain it is.

I no longer want to build a wall to protect myself from the world, but breakdown them down all over the world and use the bricks to lay new paths for those stuck behind them through discrimination and prejudice. There are some that wallow in the pond of self pity but do not realise it takes part of their soul every time they do, which I try not to do as know my wings would be singed again and this phoenix is ready to fly far and wide this coming year. So watch out, watch me fly without fearing my wings will being clipped or hitting glass doors and I will soar further than I can ever dreamed I could.

© Fi S. J. Brown

 

If

If life feels like you are trapped in someone else’s maze,
Remove their blindfold from your eyes letting in the light.
If you find yourself among the ragged men and plastic women,
Keep your individuality without a surgeon’s knives or needles.
Do not follow the monotone sound of the pied piper’s pipe,
Keep to the rhythm of your heart with its multicoloured tune.

If you feel lost in a forest surrounded by endless trees,
Tackle the roots first don’t try cut them down at the middle.
If something looks or sounds far to good to ever be true,
Listen to that instinctive reaction to run and never return.
Do not look back with painful regret if bitten on the bum,
For that creature will only return to attack again and again.

If you have friends you can trust with secrets that do not tell,
Do not stab them in the back with the knife they gave you.
If you can stop to help others without wanting fame or gain,
As others post on Facebook or Instagram to look at them.
Jealousy is filled with a bitter green liquid that envy loves,
Which spreads from outside to inside until burns you alive.

If your dreams seems to have all turned to rust or in ruin,
Use their foundations to create something even better.
If the world around you rages with thunder and lightning,
Learn to dance in the rain and jump in every puddle.
Getting wet is a simply reminder that you are alive today,
Even if the water is tears that roll down from your eyes.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Questions to ponder (and my answers)

  1. When was the last time you tried something new?
    – Last month, learning the Danish language.
  2. Do you think crying is a form of strength or weakness?
    – Strength, as letting go of what is hurting us and a sign to move on from it as best we can.
  3. Are you living or existing?
    – I try to ensure I live in the moment but some days feel like it is existing by joining the dots going from day to night.
  4. Are you holding on to something you need to let go of?
    – Yes, some personal stuff that still hurts from my past and impacts on the present.
  5. How old would you be if you didn’t know how you are?
    – Mid-70s, feel I have seen the world many times over and so many repeats but yet still room for surprises too.
  6. What makes you smile?
    – Seeing a message from one of my closest friends or my niece Isabella’s excitement at life without the jadeness we gain with age.
  7. When was the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing?
    – The other day when sat watching autumn leaves fall around me.
  8.  What has life taught you recently?
    – Some people will always judge others by their standards or how they think life should be lived, best not give them your oxygen or time.
  9.  Can you describe your life in six words?
    – A cryptic maze with false paths.
  10. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make mistakes?
    – As in admitting we were wrong or caused an error leaves us feeling exposed and vulnerable, thus open to pain and hurt.
  11. If life is short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t?
    – We dwell too much on negativity and find positivity really hard, but should focus on we do have or are not would like or had.
  12. Is it more important to love or to be loved?
    – Both, as being loved shows us what love is and we should share that with those we feel are important in our lives (not just on anniversaries and special occasions).
  13. What act of kindness were you were once shown that you will never forget?
    – My closest friends by believing in me and encouraging me when I was not able to do so for myself.
  14. What is your goal for the next six months?
    – Find the middle of the maze.
  15. If you could live one day of life over again, what day would you choose?
    – Hard to single out one day as changing things would change who I am now but days filled with good memories I would like to keep being special for their uniqueness.

What about you? What are your answers?

© Fi S. J. Brown

20 Life Lessons

  1. Normal is an abnormal word, everybody lives a life that is normal for them in an ever judging world;
  2. Life is unfair, do not expect something or behave as though you feel it owes you a favour or two;
  3. Do not compare your life with that of another’s, you have your own highs, lows, twists and turns;
  4. Your friendships can help you grow and develop, but require loyalty, honesty and respect to blossom;
  5. Life is too short, so do not waste a minute hating and/or hurting another with envy, jealousy or greed;
  6. When you feel sad and hurt by life, allow yourself to cry aloud and learn to be gentle with yourself;
  7. You are a survivor of life and will learn to dance again after the thunderstorms have crashed around you;
  8. Stop looking for that physical sign to make your decisions, it is an invisible feeling from deep within;
  9. Yesterday cannot be changed and tomorrow lies unwritten, so live in the present moment of today;
  10. You can be old at 35 but young at 70 for age does not mean wisdom and maturity but years around the sun;
  11. How smart or intelligent you are cannot be measured by exams, numbers, letters, or pieces of paper;
  12. You do not have to be an artist or musician to be creative, so let your imagination flow like a child’s;
  13. Communication is key to any relationship you will ever have be it with family, friends or work colleagues;
  14. Your actions will always speak more than words alone, so follow through but do not make false promises;
  15. Arguments are not there to be won, learn to agree to disagree from differences of opinion to your own;
  16. Trust your instincts when feeling someone is being dishonest with you and talk with them but not assume;
  17. Deal with things at the root level before they become trees and forests that overwhelm you;
  18. Your happiness does not depend upon on outside influences, i.e. anyone or anything, it is up to to you;
  19. People can be toxic to you, do not assume everyone has your best interests at heart, even your family;
  20. Be true to yourself and what you hold to be your beliefs, you do not need to defend them to anyone.

© Fi S. J. Brown