Real Dystopian Life

Thinking about the false images and stories that the media and internet are filled with. Where the truth is hidden like the tip of an iceberg we will never see the bottom of; scratch the surface and the only thing we get is a bit cold, but dive down and discover a whole new world exists full of tunnels that once discovered there is no turning back. Back on the surface they are sensationalised and toxic norms that want us to fit into tidy boxes, which make those that don’t question their beliefs and sanity, rather than throw away the boxes we were never meant to fit into in the first place.

Twenty four seven news, advertisements, publicity and entertainment is the diet we are fed direct from the black box in the corner to the black mirror in our hands. How can we tell if it is a promotion for a new film, or a car commercial that looks more like it is selling perfume than something to drive. It makes us scratch our heads and overthink, which results in us remembering the product longer than we thought and even consider buying one as given it that much thought.

With celebrities famous for the slightest thing ready to cling on to the false spotlight above them. Only a few walk away from the false light, because it becomes as addictive as the white powder that they are given to sniff and become locked in contracts they can never escape. Whilst influencers prey on the vulnerable in a bid to try grab that light onto themselves, and begin to believe their worth, which is in fools gold not real money. Filled with toxic smoke and mirrors, which are really best left alone.

We are currently in the midst of a global pandemic, our every day lives have almost stopped with a full stop with the noise of sirens and flashing lights in the background. Those that at the turn of the year were in jobs that were seen as unskilled, have become essential to keeping our countries and world running. As the media plays on and on with updates upon more updates, creating fear and worry, making trying to adapt to this changing world harder and harder. Many feel their comfort blankets have been taken away and replaced with ones of different colours and textures, but are meant to hold on to the familiar faces still there on the black boxes and black mirrors, as though that should bring us comfort.

And so, as I now sit here, staring into the screen of my laptop, finding myself looking at my friend’s latest posts on social media and answering emails from work. None of them seem to offer any real hope or break from the falseness that infected our world long before the virus. The door to the outside are out there, they just forgot to let everyone know they could tune out at any time. My suspicion is that they do not want us to know that we have the key the whole time.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Back to Normal!?

It is said the only 9% of Brits would life to return to ‘normal’ once lockdown is over. This has caused others and me to address the elephant in the room…just what is this normal they want to return to and is that not impossible in light of everything that has, is and will happen over the next few weeks?

I feel the impact of the coronavirus, covid-19, will impact on life much the same as the end of World War 1 (WW1) and Spanish Flu changed life at that time. We are not fighting our neighbours or another country, but something that might very small, yet to some is potentially fatal across the world. Six million men were mobilised during WW1, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That’s around 11.5%. In fact, as a British soldier you were more likely to die during the Crimean War (1853-56) than in WW1. Those that returned were forever changed by their experiences, with what today we would call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The frontline may have changed, where the soldiers have been replaced with medics in hospitals, but it is still a war, which is far from over.

For every day people, unemployment will rear its ugly head, and economies of countries will drop, as the price of living will increase, making the poorest around the world struggle even more than before. Equally, our routines of meeting up with friends and family to shopping at the supermarkets will continue to have to be restricted. The virus will still be around, and we will need to be diligent as it has and will mutate making it harder to deal with. Vaccines will not be developed overnight, proper trials will need to be done before they can be given to the public, there cannot be and should not be any shortcuts to this.

Time at home, especially those not used to it, with restrictions on what we can and cannot do will change how we are now and in the future. Some saying how this experience has increased mental health awareness, but has it? Mental health is so much more than depression and anxiety, although the experience may make people more understanding of how others feel that do. With too much time on our hands we are liable to overthink; for example, the little things about partners we love and hate amplified like never before, questioning just who the person is, and the what if’s that will go round and round in circles in our heads as try make sense of a situation that there is little sense to be made of.

So how can we return to the world we knew before lockdown? That world does not exist, for the changes keep happening, which for many with autism spectrum disorders in particular is hard to cope with. It is said ‘we are in this together’, but are we? How we are and will have experienced it, as with any experience be differently unique to us. Normal is used to describe something that actually never existed, and will not exist in the future. For example for many in Britain being married with two kids, a house, car and dog is one way to live life, but calling it normal to me is wrong, as there are many ways to live life. Even in the 41+ years I have been alive it has changed, take gay marriage that for many now is accepted, but twenty years ago it was still hard to acknowledge one had feelings with someone of the same gender. Personally, I find it harder for people to accept I am asexual, and what that means than if I had come out as gay.

I’ll finish with the words a friend once used to say to me – ‘normal is a function on a washing machine’. We are not artificial machines, we are the sum of our genes, environment and experiences, and normal is just being ourselves not collectively. So I personally won’t be going back to my old ways, as this experience is teaching me more about myself each day.

Stay safe and at home, but if out there doing your bit, thank you.

© Fi S. J. Brown

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

Will you join me?

In a world that the visual image has been heavily manipulated and spun almost as much as the written word how do we know what we see is real and the people in them actually exist in the form we see them in any shape or form? Praising those that exemplify the fake a la Kim Kardashian to Cheryl (whatever her surname is right now) and putting them on pedestals of what 21st century beauty should aspire to be. In contrast calling someone brave for their attempts to step away from it as though they are being daring for to go without make up to choosing not to have Botox in their lips by the age of 22. Personally I find it ridiculous that we let someone’s manipulated image show us what we should look like and aspire to be as in reality nobody can look as they’re shown to be without deception to surgery. Some may say it is not their fault but sadly the golden carrot of money is often enough to make many follow blindly like a sheep or dance like a puppet on stage.

We do not need designer clothing but clothing that is made fairly for those making them under often horrific conditions to the consumer that will wear them. Fashion magazines and websites are built on insecurities that we all naturally feel and urge us to change with the seasons and years but as we all realise soon enough they come round again at least twice or thrice in our lifetimes! Fake tans to skin bleaching almost make us feel bad for our natural skin tone and heritage yet why should it, just look how stupid racism is and judging another based on their physical form of family history. Instagram or Snapchat filters for a bit of fun or help us hide behind masks as feel we fit in better so won’t be judged or laughed at…and even worse perhaps encourage more likes on social media. These likes that eat in to our self esteem that we must have so many likes in order to feel pretty or approved of by others; we are sugar coating our lives with unnecessary filters.

How can we learn that the imperfections we see in the mirror or talk to us in our heads are not things to air brush or filter away? Differences are seen as flaws not part of what makes us the unique person we are and the word ‘normal’ used for humans when there is no normal or average human being! There is no life Photoshop to change what we do not like about ourselves and lives, although I am sure we have all seen others try rewrite their history. Our individualism is under attack as now rather look and act like our favourite celebrities than the real us. However, as I said before these people are paid to edited to look the way they do to us, and make us feel bad over the slightest of things. Can we keep living in a world so fake and ultimately lose our individualism? I do not think so. So it is time to start the fight back, I refuse to bow down to someone’s manipulated idea of how a human being should be. Will you join me?

© 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

World Mental Health Day (2016)

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

Life is an anagram of file

Everyone of us is born like an empty file, which over our lifetime is filled with different words, pictures and sounds that are unique to us.
There are special moments we save to our file to remember them again years later, but also those we forgot to press save on now gone. Equally, there are those we wish we could delete as bring us pain when we see them, as well as those in haste we erased with anger or in tears.
Life is full of repeats. Copied and pasted throughout the file, perhaps they are lessons we are meant to learn from. Cutting toxic people is a must for our sanities, as act like a virus on our file, but it is not always easy as a click of a mouse to remove them permanently.
Sometimes it feels like it be good if we could star a new file, but this is impossible. Stop to think of all that be lost if succeeded in aborting. Remember even if the file gets corrupted and refuses to not open, it is not necessarily the end. There is support out there that can help us.
Arial 11 in black maybe default, standard or “normal”, but there is no such thing as a standard human being. So explore the fonts, sizes and colours till find one that is us. Sometimes adding italics, bolding or underlining works, but it’s not for everyone. Find and create our normal.
As a new year approaches, a time of resolutions and possible change. Think of it like a new page on the file, how we fill it is up to us,
© Fi S. J. Brown

Real life

As popular reality TV shows return for their autumn runs in the UK few stop to think of the contestants that in many ways are like actors in a play. Winners already decided to scripted arguments, edited video footage to manipulative judges comments, all make us invest emotionally in the contestants and vote in a certain way. Thus the contestants are presented in neat little packages, which are often far from how the truly are around friends and family.

However, it is not just confined to TV shows, for it is something nearly all of us are guilty of. Take a look at your Facebook profile, if have one, and see the image of yourselves that you promote to the outside world. We share our lives like the diary room on the show “Big Brother“, editing our photos to elicit a certain response, trying to look slimmer and younger than we are, to the portray of how life is and the person we want to be seen as by others.

Learning to be comfortable in who we are can be very difficult. Combined with the media and entertainment telling us we need to do x or y to become rich and successful or this is what true beauty looks like via a heavily edited photograph. Those that differ are seen as abnormal or freaks as their individuality is erased at a click of a mouse. Therefore, nowhere do we see examples of ordinary individuals as almost want to conform to these ideas.

Is it not time we stopped watching and listening? Gave ourselves a break for not being how the world paints what human beings are to be. Not everyone will have a partner and/or children, a fulfilling career does not mean one that brings lots of money and owning houses to cars are extras that should not be forced as must haves; what is wrong with renting a home or use public transport, owning a car may seem convenient but costs so much to run.

However, by all means continue watching television and posting to social media if you wish, but perhaps tuning out from or switching them off them now and again so can appreciate what we have without needing to share it, the little things that are special to each of us. Spending quality time with friends and family as life is precious and short, which is why the present is the only time that actually exists; based on foundations of the past and start of tomorrow.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Normal…a redefinition

How a dictionary defines normal can be very different to how as people we do, ask hundred people and you will get a hundred definitions. Equally, ask the same hundred people what they define as abnormal, and you will get the same result. This is because our life experiences to the people we meet adding different colours and layers to how we see the world. With the advent of social media to the cult of celebrity these too add to this perception we have of the world. Seldom do we stop and think of what is normal and/or abnormal and do not question it.

We pass judgement every day; be it how best to serve tea or coffee to how to dress ourselves and the partner we choose to have in our lives (if at all). They all serve as means of self-expression, that is to say they say “this is my way” of living life. The choice of partner you will already have opinions on, some maybe tutting or swearing at the thought anyone may want a partner of the same gender as themselves to choosing not to have a partner at all. So which is the normal way? Simply put all of them are and none of them are.

Even people that claim not to be judgemental make judgements every day, knowingly and unknowingly. So on deciding if another’s choice partner as in the above example is normal or not we are making a judgement, not on morality or ethics but based on our personal sense of normality.

In defining what is normal, we need to look at our own lives, where we make judgements and where others judge us. Whilst doing this we also need to consider not just why we think this way, but what is the root of this belief and why we have these expectations of others and equally ascribe them to ourselves.

Expectations of ourselves and/or others can be due to our families, beliefs, and cultures we grew up in to the ones we find ourselves living in now, which by breaking these can lead to estrangement and even death. Equally, we need to learn not to be hard on ourselves and/or others for failing to live up to these expectations: For example, in some areas of the world you would be expected to be married with at least two children by 21, but we have to remember that may not happen for all and trying not to be judgemental on someone that by 25 is single and a virgin. How can we ascribe the actions or personality of ourselves and/or another normal and/or abnormal just because they are different to our own?

So should the word normal in this case be left like many prejudices and stereotypes be left in the past? Just because we do not agree with, have no knowledge, expect life/another/ourselves to be a certain way, is it really abnormal? Equally, should we expect others to agree with and/or collaborate with our ideas of what is and is not normal? Have they not also got their own, just as valid, ideas and ways of expressing what is normal to them?

Let us return to defining what is normal, a friend once said “it is a function on a washing machine”. Normal in real terms is what is right for us and our journey, trying to conform to the expectations and ideals of others is like wearing our neighbour’s underwear! We also try to put labels on ourselves so can find like minded people, only do this if you must to let them explore your world but remembering not to judge them by our ideas of normal, for we are not them, have not and never will experience their journey their way.

I am currently writing a short book exploring the above themes, to find just what is normal to us, the journey to find what it is but always remembering that one size will never fit all, and finally accepting what we have found, which can be just as difficult as the prejudice we can encounter from others.

© Fi S. J. Brown