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

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

My “real self”

I was reading an article posted to Facebook on “Depression is the unavoidable by-product of not being who you really are?” I decided to ponder this and reflect on my own experiences of depression and self hate.

Looking back on my days pre-therapy I hated every part of me, frequently dreaming that I would have every part of me surgically changed, as thought I must look at total freak for the way people pointed and laughed at me in the street. My self image was so bad in waking life that I thought that I must look like the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dame, I mean why else would people do that or call me ugly to my face? I decided that as heard it so often, it must be true, I must be truly have something repugnant about physical appearance. However, at no point in time would I ever have considered plastic surgery to change it for real. At the same time I was not allowed the freedom to express myself; I always Frances’ daughter not an individual in my own right, and she always wanted the final say in how I looked from my wig (I have alopecia universalis) to my glasses and how I dressed. Any medical appointments she would come to, encase I said something she did not want said. It took me a long time to realise I am the daughter of a narcissist.

Shortly after moving to Loughborough in October 2006 I began therapy, at first I had no real reason for feeling depressed as just always seemed to be there like raindrops in my tummy as I put when I was a child. It was then I started to unravel all I kept inside and found I had razor blades inside my stomach too, as often beat myself up emotionally for things that were not my fault and/or had never had a voice to say stop or no. I had been hurt so much by life that I almost gave up just before Easter 2008 as came close to suicide, I felt like the puppet mistress would never let me be free to be me. On my return to Edinburgh in October 2009, I had begun photographing, but nowhere near as much as I do now, with a feeling of sickness and dread. I had tried to turn the camera on me for around a year by then, perplexed at the woman that appeared on it as she was not the ogre in my head. Gradually over the next few years as I returned to writing combining with my photography and finding supportive friends I saw me as a person and learnt to appreciate, respect and love this unique person that I am. I belong not in a laboratory but helping others, writing and photographing, and dressing the way that suits me!

So was my depression caused by not being who I am? Yes and no. I am far happier internally than I have ever been, I can look in a mirror and say it’s just how I am at this moment and that’s okay. Equally, I can delete or edit a photograph based on it being a picture and not make it feel so personal. However, I still have depression as there are still things from my past that hurt me and in my present but try not to let them. To me mental health conditions, including depression, are far more complex than a simple and singular explanation. I have mentioned before that we let things take root and suddenly faced with a tree and sometimes a forest of issues we should have dealt with at the start. To me it is this forest that overwhelms us as we do not know where to begin to cut it down; borrowing an axe from someone else is like trying to use their methods to solve our issues it may work but not always; and often a combination of many things help, but the most important is living for today as per mindfulness so that the roots can take hold of us. So be true to ourselves, but equally be gentle with ourselves, as we’re not all meant to be Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Kardashian, or Kelly Brook, but also note the images we see of them are heavily edited and may also have just the same insecurities as we do!

© Fi S. J. Brown

Kindness

Kindness is something we usually instinctively know – when others give it to us it is met with a smile and when they do not we notice its absence. We often try our best to be kind as we can to our fellow human beings, but when someone is unkind to us the outrage we feel echoes throughout our body like an echo in a canyon. Continued unkindness is like a pinball bouncing around the canyon following the route of the echo.

Making someone else’s life unpleasant as we want to hurt them as feel they have something we should have or doing something we wish we could leaves a deepened tone in our shadow and bitter taste in our words. Making up lies to justify the actions makes our eyes turn darker and darker as no longer see the light and the soul’s tears become covered in increasing thick layers, till it can no longer be seen or even felt.

Real kindness does not require us to be selfless, doing so because we want to and/or we kind is truly beautiful. It costs nothing. In some ways it is a dance between our needs and wants with those of another. This world can a very cruel and dark place, so why do we not shine a torch of light that is kindness? Enough hurting and hunting for gain, for in the end would we like it if someone was doing it to us?

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dominoes

This morning as I woke I considered how important one person is to Planet Earth, can one person really make a difference. I’m not talking celebrities or politicians, but people like you or I, someone in our lives from friends, loved ones and family.

So I imagined a picture of my left eye, then zooming out a picture of my body with the collection of books and art on the walls of my room, and out again looking at where I live being grateful to have a home with all its luxuries within.

I then considered the street I live on, with people I did and did not know, then to the city I live with its seven hills and the history it all could tell, and on to the country that marks my culture, an island in the North Sea, which in itself is small.

I zoomed out further to Europe, a continent full of different traditions and customs, then to the world filled with all sorts of different life not just human of shapes and sizes, and finally an universe that holds secrets that few really understand.

I felt so insignificant, I cannot make a difference as only a dot. Then I considered where I saw dots, dominoes. I then realised that my words and actions were like the dots of them. So really my life is but a series of domino displays.

I decided that this week, when I feel why do I bother or give a damn, I will remember my dots,  touching the lives of others that I may never see but go beyond my street, town and country. I may be one person but the impact with others, amazing.

© Fi S. J. Brown

What’s age got to do with it?

Last night I watched the movie “Logan’s Run“, which left me questioning many ethics and morals of the society Logan lives in. Within this there were two things that made me think overnight; the age that people were euthanised was thirty and the “old man” played by Peter Ustinov.

More and more we are fixated with looking younger, trying pills, potions and injections to have the face of youth, which also makes me think of those getting new faces in “Logan’s Run“. How long will it be till seeing a face like that of “the old man” is something many no longer see?

There is already a growing gap between young and old, as one does not respect the other. Equally, part of older people’s beauty is in their wrinkles, each one tells their own story, removing them is like trying to erase their past, which we cannot do. Being old isn’t promised to us all.

In many ways the strive to be immortal has been replaced by looking young; but does looking younger than our physical age really matter after all it is a number and our outer shell not what truly makes us human, it is the inside that gives colour to our thoughts, actions and beliefs.

The media and entertainment business is always telling us of the latest young talent, the new x or y, it is almost like Logan 6 or Jessica 5, as saying those ones have gone now. What happened to originality and creativity, we’re all individuals not replacements, a name is but a label.

So perhaps in the future we will live in a society that is just filled with youth, but to me that sounds horrific as we learn so much through life. It seems like wanting to be like emotionless, identikit clones and drones, rather than embracing what colours we shine and sharing that light.

© Fi S. J. Brown

I wanna hold your hand

There is something uniquely special, intimate and comforting about holding someone’s hand. Perhaps as it something that reminds us of earliest childhood, that comforting feeling when a large hand enclosed our little one, creating bonds and memories throughout our lifetimes. Then as we become teenagers we no longer want to feel the hand in ours as want to feel the freedom of not being tied to our parents or anyone else.

We touch or hold hands with the person we love as bonds us together, symbolising that two souls are touching and uniting. It may not be a kiss but a clear signal to ourselves and others of our love for another. A Pagan wedding tradition is for handfasting, which entails gentle wrapping cords around the bride and groom’s clasped hands and tying a knot, symbolically binding the couple together in their declaration of unity.

As adults ourselves, we are the ones with the big hands, which comfort and bond with our little ones. We connect with friends and strangers alike in stress and crisis. We also want to hold our parents hands as now look wrinkled and older now, they seem more fragile as the child’s and want to relive our own happy and carefree memories from childhood without the responsibilities that being a grown up has brought to us.

© Fi S. J. Brown