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

Jack

Jack was a farmer’s son, sensitive and kind to all he met. One day he was sat in the corner of the hay barn, eating his lunch of curds and whey, when a spider appeared and made young Jack jump. His twin sister Jill was eating lunch with him, laughed at her brother, pointing at him for being so silly and started to call him “Little Miss Muffet”. For he was in her eyes the little girl not the boy for she was the one that climbed the trees and helped father with the animals, he preferred to be inside with their mum and make cakes. This made young Jack cry and run out the barn, hating the spider and his sister for hurting him so, he thought one day they’ll see I’m a brave boy.

That afternoon Jill suggested they climb hill near by, Jack usually said no but thought I’ll show her that I truly am a boy and will climb it with her. So together they set off with a pail to fetch some water for the farm. Jack loved all he saw and heard, suddenly a gust of wind caught his legs and sent him tumbling down, bumping his head as he did, with Jill tumbling down beside him. On arriving home Jack’s mum sent him straight to bed with a bandage of vinegar and brown paper upon his head. As he slept the vinegar leaked through the paper to his brain, for the next day Jack was changed bitter and angry to the spider that frightened him, his sister for laughing at him and the hill for falling, he would make them pay not just now but forever.

The older Jack got the more and more people became frightened to utter his name, even a simple “Hi Jack” led to an exchange many were keen to avoid. It was rumoured he murdered people in London but that was never proven it was really him at all although known for being a lad. On his death he vowed he would haunt the world from beyond, which he continues to do even now. He points a finger unseen by the naked eye but makes all it touches dance in a shiver; the innocence he lost he uses to paint the world in a white rage; making all slip and fall like he did on that hill; and freezing all like statues for they dare not mock him like his sister did or they will end up as one.

This winter we all see and feel Jack’s revenge upon all of Planet Earth cursing his name, which gives him great delight. However, just remember spring time will come soon and will make him retreat for a few months for his angry and jealous heart and mind cannot deal with the true beauty of spring flourishing and life being born a new. His revenge shows us that our actions at all ages have consequences and can have impact beyond our lifetimes. Revenge does not pay for it only hurts others and karma will have it bounce back our way. So do not be angry and bitter as Jack at the world, the world owes us nothing and hurting those closest to us hurts us too. So embrace the world with a loving heart filled with empathy and understanding, for even the most frozen of hearts can melt with love.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Dystopian Dreams

Wandering around the city, passing the financial district, I am suddenly aware 0f how closed in I feel. The invisible walls close in around me like a scene from a movie from which I must escape. My chest tightens and the claustrophobic air suffocating. Others walk around blindly with their heads in their mobile phones or holding a take away coffee from some global company. I look for some trees but the only ones I see are like standing twigs, as naked due to winter. I feel all is spinning and shaking around me as all at once it hits me what a world I am truly living in. Tears fall from my face as I fall to my knees and I realise there is no way to really ever escape from it all.

More and more we’re choosing to living in cities, far from the nature as more things to do and easier to get to/from work. The title of a British television show “Escape to the country” flurries through my mind; it is like escaping from these concrete cages that we call cities, trapping us in like we have already to other animals in the name of food from chickens to cows. Fracking I can only see degrading our beautiful countryside, so the only option left is to be like the cows that no longer chew on the fresh green fields but forced to live in these concrete mega cities like the mega dairies I campaigned against coming to the United Kingdom only a few years ago now.

I realise that within a few of generations we will not know the ways of nature, it will be something grandparents talk of till nobody left ever remembers them at all. I recall meeting a man of twenty five from London that had never saw a sheep till the day we met, it hits me twice as hard remembering it. Gradually more and more conversation is dying, people reach for “friends” that live inside the goods they have bought and showing off with “look at me”. This leads to people wanting more and more, but cannot afford, and feel the world owes them. Food prices will increase too and people will end up fighting like I saw on images from Black Friday over manufactured food.

I resolve to spend as much time as I can with the world outside the city walls. Where I can climb hills to see it all, listen to the songs of birds, admire the beauty of the flowers that mark my path and know there is something else out there beyond the cages. I wonder if this is what it is like to finally wake from the sleep beyond the endless sleeps, as how do I know I am truly awake? Like an onion the more I peel back to try find the ultimate answer, but like Dorothy I find the wizard is no more than a fraud. Suddenly, I notice an evergreen tree in my line of sight, I do not care who sees me now, as I run up and hug him like an old friend and whisper to him “thank you, always”.

© Fi S. J. Brown

A Samhain Story

The trees are aflame with red, orange and yellow across the land, for today marks the Samhain ball. All season long the deciduous trees have prepared for this day, changing their leaves in celebration. All because today signals the end of the year to the natural world, as a new year starts tomorrow and will winter begin her song, a bittersweet and tearful lament.

Some humans spend the day in celebration of their ancestors past and those who left this year, making bonfires to match the glow from the trees, feasting and dancing till dawn to bring in the new year. Others dress up in costumes from witches to vampires and ghosts to trick or treat the neighbours with a song or dance, hoping to be rewarded for their efforts.

Whilst other animals, from squirrels to turtles and bears are also busy today, running around making their last minute plans as with the coming of winter marks the start of their deep sleep. All fear the laughter of Jack Frost, a hollow chill that freezes all that hear it and they don’t want it to be them he turns to ice forever. Remember nothing is safe from his laughter.

However, to keep the world is safe, some trees remain green, the evergreens. They act as the world’s guard from Jack Frost’s laughter, protecting all from hills and rivers, to pigs and horses who choose not to sleep but stay awake, is it insomnia or choice it is uncertain. As humans choose to carry on, till they realise even they are not immune to his laugh.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Memories of Plavecky Hrad

Plavecky HradDeparting from the village with a stream and air of times past I began my ascent. My journey was joined by cornflowers, clovers and cowslips marking a path with flashes of blue, purple and yellow lights to guide my feet to the edge of a forest.On entering the forest it was like I had completed level one of a secret test to locate the castle. The climb now because very steep and enclosed by trees, which were trying to prepare for their autumnal ball or awaiting a Prince Charming for a dance. Steeper and steeper every step seemed, I felt like I was missing an equine friend to enjoy the journey together. I stopped five times to rest and refresh, with each one my legs felt like they were climbing Everest five times over such was the distance and steepness climbed.

Then level two cleared as the ruins first caught my eyes and I felt at one with those who had made the journey before me. The light of the sun caught the remains of every window to the highest tower, giving each one their moment in the spotlight. The view with a hazy filter caught my breath, it then felt like it was that which covered my view. Through the haze were fifty shades of green, like soldiers standing guard over the land. The human settlement that shares the land appeared to be singing nature’s songs along with her, a far cry from the fifty shades of grey that I often saw back home. I then saw a solitary tree beside where I stood, he whispered in the wind he now guarded this view, which once human had; Mother Nature told him it was the most important role in all the land, so he took great pride in his work. Then I returned to the remains of the castle which glowed in the sun, almost showing off medals of past victories against an enemy now nowhere to be seen or heard. Looking out of her ruined windows was like looking into her soul and how much the view had long been part of her; she was as much part of the land as the tree who guarded her.

The descent felt like I was on fast forward, although watching for branches and roots with every step, the steepness seemed almost to have been a mirage, perhaps it really had been part of a test to see if I was worthy of rescuing a princess, which in this case was the castle herself. Soon I was met by the floral friends I met on my my ascent, who I felt were cheering my way for seeing what few of them ever could or would. My final step down was accompanied by the rushing of the stream, almost applauding and toasting me on behalf of the village as I had seen their princess. On meeting the mayor of the village I felt like I was meeting a relative or colleague of the tree in human form, a foot soldier at the the bottom of the hill. I smiled as I now knew a secret that the world did not of this village and her castle, which I then realised were twins as there would not be one without the other.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Sciurus and Me

Today I walked in the late summer sun, the leaves were chatting to each other to discuss the forthcoming autumnal ball and the birds were busy packing their bags for the journey to the south. As I looked to my left I saw a flash of grey dart past, which then settled down in front of me, as my eyes caught up they saw it was a squirrel. I swear he smiled before he was off again. I followed with my eyes and ears where he ran, up the nearest beech tree to the top, then looking down to see if I was watching him, he paused for just a few seconds but unlike an Olympic diver he did not jump off but run back down the tree and paused again to see if I would ever catch him with my camera lens or not.

Instead of running he teased me walking slowly through the grass, posing briefly in the sun before running off once again up a tree. This time he chose a sycamore, going through a hole then stuck his head out from it, like a small child it felt like he was sticking his tongue out at me. As I went to take his picture, again he disappeared. Soon I felt a brush by my feet, as I spun round into the distance between to oaks I saw he’d run. He stopped again, but this time was to say goodbye. I held out my left hand aloft and waved his way but he was gone again for his next adventure. I hope one day we’ll meet again, even if we do not, I know I will always remember our all but brief encounter.

© Fi S. J. Brown

Sciurus