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

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37 – The Life Jigsaw

Last year before turning thirty six I wrote a long reflection on the thirty five years lived, now as thirty seven is within finger counting distance I was asked yesterday what I would want from my next year. As someone that tries to stay focused on the present and thinks of others before herself this is not an easy question, however this is the answer that I have decided.

Life for me is a jigsaw puzzle; each piece shows people that made or make a difference being in it, and events that shaped or coloured our lives, good and bad. Therefore, it shows the bigger picture of what it means to be us and our life. How each shape fits together and the order they show themselves is very much like trying to solve any jigsaw puzzle without the box.

Sometimes we see an outside piece but cannot find a context for it, like a bird flying over a mountain or a bit of a rainbow in the sky, which on their own we may feel make no sense at all. Also, trying to make things work can be putting the pieces in the wrong places in our heads, even when we feel they should go together. So all in all can leave us quite literally feeling puzzled!

So for the next year I feel and would like a key piece to be revealed, as there are several missing. Not my purpose in life per se as feel we all have many purposes that change with where we are and who we are with, as well with the passing of time. I also have some incredible friends that mean a lot to me and fit together. So what will be the missing piece?

To be honest I do not know and nor do I want to know. As much as a few things in life make me wonder why do I bother or feel like the outsider watching in rather than being part of it. I have realised this is just what is “normal” for me and our experiences of life have similarities but equally difference. So bring it on life, I’m ready, tea in hand and passport in bag.

© 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

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

Humans 2015.5 AD

For me four words describe many humans in this the middle of the second decade of the twenty first century. They are: Narcissistic, Cruel, Ignorant and Fearful.

As we’ve entered the era of the selfie there has become a thin line between self love and narcissism. A look at most major celebrities social media it’s a case of look at me and my life, which gives the younger generations a false idea of how they must look to what they can achieve in life. The newspapers to websites show us altered images to say “this is what normal is“, yet we’re all normal and it is what is right for us not what someone else tells us. We also have products filled with chemicals to give us masks to hide behind and show off to the world, which if some post without some how become regarded as “brave“. The narcissism entered a new low recently with the news Kim Kardashian has published a book of selfies, frankly who cares; in the past family pictures would be kept to an album brought out on special occasions. The images offer nothing to aspire to and have in much in common with a tortoise’s shell with glitter and glue than they do about what makes that person human and their individuality.

At the same time we have become much less compassionate and caring about our fellow humans and the world around us, many laughing at those with emotions and make them feel like they are some kind of modern day circus freak for doing so. Some like to troll across the internet picking holes at others as do things differently or look different to them, hiding behind a screen as know the screen is not two way. They also will do whatever they can to get what they feel they are entitled to; doing so through lying and cheating, as long as they’re alright and does not matter who they hurt in so doing. Those that try to stand up against them are met quite often by more of the same so back down and lose their voice as pushed aside or muted into submission. Karma will have her way but even that does not seem to make them pause to think, simply because all they think of is themselves.

Is ignorance really bliss? How can we have more people staying on in education yet know nothing about real life. They follow celebrities blindly or get enraged by politicians but only look at the surface as do not think for themselves and allow handheld computers or smart phones to do it for them. No longer going to a library for finding the answers or trying to learn for ourselves, we head straight for Google and believing 99.9% of what is written; which is even more alarming when we consider the words could be written by anyone from an academic professor with an agenda to kid of sixteen that thinks he/she knows it all. For some it does matter as can say yes I agree with him or her and will never look further to understand, interpret their words or create something for themselves. Indeed some will rip off those that have, marking it as their own as don’t know how to, jealous someone else has, or will claim it as their own.

Finally, we have also become fearful that people of certain religions or beliefs mean to hurt us. Someone with a gun is liable to go crazy at a school, especially if they have a mental health condition. Some days it feels like the world walks on egg shells as ignorant to the truth and will hurt them for just being a certain way just to prevent them from hurting ourselves or those we love as gave us a “funny look“. Newspapers to website spread a form of fear porn to make us worry and whisper on what may be as we fear not what will happen if we do but more the fear from not acting when we feel should. Some campaign for peace, but while we are fighting among ourselves due to difference and/or ignorance, can it really ever happen or is it just something to hang hope on?

Four words, yet they say so much of life at the present moment. We cannot change the past as that’s now our history and today lays the foundations for tomorrow. We live life in one direction, even if time travel is possible, with past events re-written to suit the survivors or victor’s points of view. So perhaps stopping and thinking now and again to consider who we are, this world we live in beyond the concrete cages and finally what/who matters most.

© 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

Thirty Six Years

As I approach the thirty sixth anniversary of my birth, I walk up the hill with an observatory that I have climbed many times before, often in the company of a four legged friend of fur and bark. However, today I walk alone to reflect not the lens of a telescope to the stars but my mind on the journey I have taken so far to reach the point I am at today.

As I walk, I look out to a city that became my place of birth after an eleventh hour decision meant I was not born where my journey had biologically started. This city of birth is also the place of many childhood memories that now echo across where I look and make trees sway as feel their vibrations. Many of the trees look on fire, not with passion but as a warning not to dwell on the past for too long. If look close some are shedding their leaves in empathetic tears to the memories they now feel from my memories, good and bad.

I think back to my earliest days, filled with wonder to the world around me and curious to its ways like a newborn puppy yet as wise as an owl in what I seemed to know. I remembered a world that was filled with many colours, but school and family taught me that it was black or white; they replaced the songs of birds and rivers with their own drills and guns; they said I had five senses but I was sure I could pick up at least twice that; and gave me pills to sedate me from asking the questions I wanted answers to, as could or would not answer them. The grown-ups ultimately told of a world of them and us, where the humans ruled over all that l could see and deeper, wider and higher than my eyes could; they were only judged by a man named god, who had created it all and forgave if I did wrong as long as I asked him to.

As I became a grown-up myself I felt a boomerang effect, in whatever I did and wherever I went this city would bring me back. Sadly, I never wanted to be back, in fact quite the opposite, I longed to explore the world like the explorers I read about in childhood books and was not content to do it from a seat any more. At the same time, those around me were settling in “normal” life: getting a job, finding a partner, setting up home and having kids. I felt like an alien in a world to which I did not or would ever belong. Restricted to a tourist visa but not granted citizenship to this world.

Like a circus freak in Victorian times since my earliest teens I wanted to hide away, as my head said I looked like the love child of Frankenstein’s monster and the Hunchback of Notre Dane, an unloveable ogre with growths over my body, and faults greater than San Andreas. I often wondered on making my curtain call, I had enough of being a player in someone else’s movie and being used by those I thought I could trust. When I took what I wanted to be my final bow, I fell not on concrete but autumn leaves, leaving no visible scars but many scratches that I could not itch. Picking the pieces up I knew only I could glue them as there was no one but me there to add glitter or shine.

Much of my life I felt like a donkey among the thoroughbred horses in a race of life, but against the odds I completed a degree, masters two and PhD before I reached the age of 32. When I signed off my final word on my doctorate, I took my own Hippocratic Oath, never to work or study in a laboratory again! The relief felt like I had been given the chance to start again from where I had last saved, which turned out to have been almost twenty years before. So I picked up my pen and let the colours, visuals, sounds, tastes, feelings and smells of that moment release like a series of tributaries forming one big river with each ones strengths and weaknesses.

Now I return my thoughts to today, spinning around on where I stand, thinking where in each direction I could go next without the boomerang pulling me back here. I thought of people that I knew in every one, the special people who’s emails, texts, and phone calls make me smile like I could never have imagined but two years before, for it hurt my face to even try. Whereas now I could share my journey with them, sharing in tears of both pain and laughter. I do not know what tomorrow will bring, but I know where I have been. Life has a bittersweet taste but the colours, sounds, visuals and things that belong beyond my wildest dreams are within my touch, so I’m going to take a leap and follow them wherever they may take me next.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Autumnal dreams

Colour bursts have exploded all over the city, the trees are ablaze with autumnal fire. Soon one by one they will fall to the ground, like a thousand memories of this year now almost over. But they leave behind a green of guard to protect us from the bitter finger of Jack Frost. As once he starts to laugh and point, no creature on Earth is immune from his white brush and song.

© Fi S. J. Brown

autumnal dreams