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
Mariah Carey is hitting the headlines this week, not for her diva behaviour or music for once, but for acknowledging her mental health and that she has bipolar. Although she may not be a singer I like on many levels, however I have empathy with those that like myself that have mental health conditions, and having friends with bipolar I know the ups and downs even with medication can be horrific to deal with.
However, it is the language that I have seen used that disturbs me the most. Headlines that say she IS bipolar…would we say someone is cancer or diabetes, of course not so why do we say it with mental health? Why does this matter? The way language is used shapes how we see things, and in turn perceive the world around us as words evoke images and ideas. If I said my skirt today is blue and purple I’m sure you all will have an idea of those colours having seen them throughout your lives and interpret how it looks. By calling Mariah bipolar rather than saying she has it has a way to conjure up images of stereotypes from movies or TV shows of what this disease is like and continues the stigma as believe the stereotypical crazy mental health hospital patient. Their individuality is lost as seen as a label not a person. This negativity can effect their self esteem, hope for the future to accepting of help and negatively impacts on recovery to reaching out for help when they need it in the future.
The difference between physical and mental health in the ways we talk about them is from the past filled with scientific misunderstanding to social ignorance, which had those that have them seen as witches to possessed by evil spirits, or even as a sign of weakness or failing. The reality is that these illnesses can happen to anyone; they are biological and arise from a combination of genetic predisposition and environmental impingement. We can no more ‘be’ bipolar than we can ‘be’ cancer. We cannot ‘just get over it’ and is not ‘all just in your head’.
When we have an opportunity with social media to humanise or dehumanise others when we talk about mental or physical conditions, so please think and use your words carefully.
© Fi S. J. Brown
Listening to the sound of snowdrops ringing brightly,
Waking all across the land from their winter’s sleep.
With the croci’s stamen vibrating like a bass’ strings,
Vibrating throughout Britain’s gardens and fields.
A melody sung in harmony by newborn baby lambs,
Backed by the reliable evergreen ash, pine and holly.
This sets off daffodils dancing in the springtime breeze,
Blowing their trumpets as only ones so narcissistic can.
Trying to drown out the sounds of their rival bluebells,
Who have long dominated the woodlands and forests.
The tulips try to act as independent and impartial judges,
And let their red be a reminder of love not hate to all.
Then there are cherry blossoms dressed in pink and white,
Singing a duet that begins the next act to the spring opera.
Each white petal glides like a majestic swan as it falls,
And the pink as though thrown as confetti at a wedding.
A bittersweet relationship that is doomed to always fail,
As into the gutters they land to be swept away forever.
Let us not forget the biggest diva on Planet Earth is left,
For humanity is the fat lady that must sing the final aria.
Thinking their modern songs with autotune are far greater,
And their cover versions far better than all nature can do.
Finally before the curtain finally falls the days get lighter,
As colour fills Earth as a symphony of sound and visual.
© Fi S. J. Brown
Music is everywhere and everything. It teases the ears with hypnotic rhythms that send us into a trance and waves of sound that make every cell in the body vibrate. Keys that define moods, major and minor, with chords that bring the sound together as one. Words that make us repeat them like parrots and take them to our hearts and soul as though written just for or about us. Every instrument paints in its own unique colour, making masterpieces visual not just aural, and opens our eyes to new journeys that words alone could not do. Vocals do not need synthetic additions, they’re an instrument in their own right, and lose their true emotion when become one with machine. Together it makes a special something that can lift our spirits or make us cry, a therapy and medicine that’s not a luxury but necessity for surviving life.
© Fi S. J. Brown
I am not a lover of reality television, but decided to try watch a dating one called ‘First Dates’ as one of the participants like me has alopecia and was interested how the woman would be shown to their audience as well as how it impacted upon her and her life.
The lady in question was called Eve, much younger than me and a beauty therapist from Wales. I felt her tears as she told her story and felt proud of her for telling it in such a public way. She approached the topic with her date early on, which if had been me this would be not a topic for a first date even if for TV and led to her removing her wig. I have to say she looked so much happier and confident without it, the style and jet black didn’t suit her at all. She had a tattoo on her scalp with a few patches of hair (I have neither) but seemed to fit her personality as shown on the screen. The confidence she gave out was incredible and her date was lovely about it all; in the end he was too nice for her (why do some women do that I have no idea). The media and people on social media I have seen have been very supportive and positive generally, which has made me cry a bit.
I have been wearing a wig for over twenty five years now and could never have done this so fair play to Eve. However, it has gone from seeing me naked if saw me without it to just part of what makes me who I am; only last night my best friend and I were discussing what colour and style I should try next time, which I could never have done a few years back as felt shamed that my body killed its own hair cells like they were a disease. Every time the wind blows heavily I worry it will blow away, which can lead to panic attacks and why I always have a scarf on me, but it fits my personality anyway. Being bullied for my hair loss and wearing a wig in my teens are still massive scars for me, which I don’t know if time will fully ever heal. I maybe able to take selfies and share some on social media but that took therapy and a huge effort to get there, going from an ogre to a rag doll, to rewire my brain that I am not ugly or a freak to the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and Hunchback of Notre Dame. One day I would love to do a charity walk without mine but for now I will plough on finding new confidence daily. This free spirit is learning to fly, the phoenix I will forever be, who needs hair anyway…not me!
© Fi S. J. Brown
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
If we lived in a world like something from a science fiction novel where we could go for a full body scan at any time that would tell us what was physically and mentally wrong, which would be followed up with a customised pill to cure whatever was wrong with us, would we live differently to as we do now? Would we be free from bullying and abuse or jealousy and envy? How would we define or set limits to what a normal human body should and should not be capable of? Would a human being’s blueprint be just like we read about in science textbooks? What about individualism? Would we see that as dangerous as all should looks and feel the same with a hive mind? Is being different being abnormal?
Now consider the world we do live in. Why when someone is diagnosed with cancer, arthritis or asthma are our reactions different to dissociative identity disorder, schizophrenia, and anxiety? Why do some let a diagnosis change how they see a person was from the person they knew yesterday? Why are they now not normal, and what therefore is normal? We are not robots or clones, we do not experience this world in the same way as anyone else has or ever will again. A book can only so show much of the human experience, but does not allow for individualism that comes from being true to ourselves and living life the way that is normal for the journey we alone are on.
What about the future? In the past we may have swept problems or issues under the proverbial carpet to locking someone up in an asylum as a danger to society, but even now mental health issues are stigmatised as cannot see by looking at someone how much they are suffering mentally. More and more the world is getting darker with fear, greed, envy and jealousy, instead of light with hope, empathy, compassion, and understanding. Unless some of us start to punch holes in this darkness it will only continue until we all stagger around blind and deaf to the needs of others. Today World Mental Health Day, so let us use it as a stepping stone to hold open doors and windows with light today and every day.
© Fi S. J. Brown
10 years ago the lyrics of this song and many others by Tori Amos haunted my ears and tears would fall from my eyes when I heard her sing as each one felt like I could have written them myself. Lines such as “I got the anti-Christ in the kitchen yellin’ at me again” made me think of my mother who I then called ‘she who must be obeyed’, as I was frightened of her, nothing I did was right if did do not do things her way but now know she is a narcissist and need to carry on being me regardless; “I hear my voice and it’s been here, silent all these years” as I started having counselling to try make some semblance of why I felt my life was painted in monochrome and saw myself more like Princess Fiona the ogre from Shrek than the princess, through a journey that was just as rocky as any shore with no lighthouse in sight, not realising I am the lighthouse; and “So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts, what’s so amazing about really deep thoughts” not realising how powerful they are and what a gift they can be to inspire others. Now life I see as multicoloured and multi-sensory, grateful for the special people that make me laugh and smile for being in it and the importance of living mindfully. Today is Tori’s birthday, so a timely reminder to myself of all I have overcome and remind others not to give up, making that first stepping stone today is possible as things do change for the better.
© Fi S. J. Brown