As the autumn leaves turn

Published 20, Oct, 2017
Author // Patrick Italo Ettenes

Patrick Ettenes in praise of the simple pleasures

As the autumn leaves turn

Standing by the window, watching the autumn leaves turn, actually taking the time to watch as nature silently reminds me that seasons are real, the year is coming to an end, and life is taking place. I stand still, ever so slowly watching and taking in the fact that the trees have leaves still on them. The air is chirpy and the people are still clubbing away while I sit perched like a crow on the ledge of my office window on a Sunday.

Why am I watching people? Because it’s a long lost art, one of simplicity.

When I was younger I didn’t know anything about what it was to be gay, I met a guy who was in the same boat as myself, I lived in Croydon and would travel up to London at midnight and sit in a cafe and watch people from a cafe that was in Soho that was open all morning and all night. I’d admire them and hear their stories as they came in from clubs, wondering what their night or their life was like.

I was very observant and cautious as a kid. I didn’t do anything till I knew really what it was, but I wasn’t without adventure. I’d take a leap of faith into the unknown and try it out, so to say, and once I liked something, BAM! I was doing it all the time. But as my mother once kindly said to me during an observational discussion, once I got bored I got bored.

I was observant and cautious and now I sit at 34 years old, watching people do what I did at 17, bouncing around the clubs. I don’t remember the last time I did that so randomly. But I’m still doing what I did as a teen, people watching and wondering about those I see. Watching the leaves turn on the trees, bringing back the memories of the days when I too once sat outside on a Sunday morning, watching the world go by. As the seasons remind me of time, who would have thought at 17 that I would have HIV 4 years later.

HIV has been with me for many years, I think we realize that seasons sometimes bring out the best and worst of our emotions. I noticed when I was younger and still do to this day that my emotional state is attached to the seasons. Im sure is no different to many of us, but the reason for writing this is because, there are very few moments when I am calm, calm enough to express how my memories, the past and my future living with HIV have been as seasonal as the weather. Soon it will be World AIDS day. It’s a couple of months away, but preparations will soon start… and so the memories come back.

At 17 I wouldn’t have ever thought I would sit here today doing what I am doing, I guess my article has a few points in it I’d like you to take notices.

People watching, and simplicity. Its important when you’re HIV-positive to take time out for yourself. A lot of us keep ourselves busy, so busy that we don’t actually spend time alone, because alone time means reflecting and our minds have a nasty habit of reminding us of those things we're trying so hard to not think about. But you must, and I mean must, take a little time out for yourself and admire those around you. Sit in a cafe and watch how people interact with each other, and remember that the person next to you could have the same issues as you. It will give you courage sometimes to carry on and you’ll feel just a little more connected to those around, even if you’re not interacting with them. We all need to feel connected to our environment at some point in time, as we were not born onto this planet by ourselves.

Adventure. Its a strange thing to suggest to those who have different variations of adventure, but my HIV was an adventure on its own, and I believe when we catch it, many of us become shut off, and scared to live. Many things shut down in our minds, but that’s not to say we will never be the same person again. You must always take a little adventure when opportunity arises, because it’s what breaks the cycle. We get too caught up in protecting ourselves from the big bad wolf, wherever he is, that we don’t remember that he’s not always there. Our mind protect us with fear at times, its the best medicine to heal, it is… but there has to be a point where you step outside into the world and take a chance again, and that has to come from you, and sometimes from someone offering you a chance to do something different. Hey, take a risk again, life will catch you.

Seasons are important. They are a time for at the beginning of each seasonal chance to reflect and look forward to the passing of time. I know I complain about the heat when summer comes, but I adore my windows open. I know when the darkness of winter comes, I get depressed, so I remind myself to keep positive. You’d be surprised how many of us suffer from seasonal disorder, where the seasons affect our moods, and if you’re HIV-positive it’s important to not add more depression; it can affect your health. The weather might have an effect on you but remind yourself that it’s okay to be down. So many of us don’t really look up at the sky and admire it. We’re too busy on our phones and looking directly in front of us to see how the heavens above might actually be affecting our mood for the day. Look at the sky when you wake up, see the weather and adjust yourself accordingly. If you need to have an extra glass of wine to relax you on a dark day do so, but make sure your extra comforted… Because, many of us don’t have someone always around us to perk us up. So you must do that yourself. And sit in a park and watch the weather change, the smells of seasons are uplifting. And remember, if you need help don’t be afraid to go get it.. Your local LGBT foundation would br happy to assist, I hope, with someone to talk to… I learned a long time ago that no one can do it alone.

Take half an hour to go through some of the best times in your life. We sometimes don’t remember the good times too much. I make sure I do, because I’m alone and with my dementia I’m forgetting a little more. I make a point to remember stuff because it’s my memories that have made me fight again. I look at the past no longer with regret or envy, but as a lesson and a laugh. I was brave, so brave that I didn’t realize it and nowadays, for those of you recently diagnosed, you’ll feel less so, but no need to worry. You are going to become one of the bravest people, you’ll see. Take some time out and go through those happy moments in your life and giggle. Laughter is really the key to surviving this. To surviving the seasons, the loneliness, your diagnoses, and every single day of your life. Try and laugh at something good each day.. I promise you, you’ll find it easier and like a drug you’ll go out looking for something that makes you giggle more.

This is the oddest article I’ve written. I’m not sure what to call it, but just a little guidance for the following month.

About the Author

Patrick Italo Ettenes

Patrick Italo Ettenes

I was born and brought up in sunny Barbados. I come from a very loving family whom I still to this day adore with all my heart. I'm a very happy go lucky kinda guy. I'm pretty well traveled. I've lived and studied in different parts of the world which I think has made me understand the human race just a tad bit better. My friends are fast from traveling but my heart will always remain where they are. In the Caribbean.

At 15 I received a Scholarship for psychology where I lived in Cuba for about a Year. Moved to England and studied and lived for six years. Lived in Panama for two years and am now back in England, where I've managed to hold a column in OutNorthWest Magazine. I've been interviewed by BBC Out North West Tonight, been on radio with Mike Robinson, been a panelist on HIV matters aired on Gaydio, also in front of a live audience on HIV matters, and was interviewed for Worlds Aids Day for a video.

My blog The Broken Bones

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