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  • iaindryden1

renewing ourselves

Yesterday I noticed I’m different. It’s quite startling. A new person has entered my mind; it happened  slowly, imperceptibly, a stealthy invasion of my privacy. The old cheerfully positive personality has been pushed backwards. But all is not lost. We are malleable, we can become what we want, we are each made up of many characters; my long and complicated life filled with troubles and challenges, love and joy has taught me this.

I need to regain chirpy old Iain, and quickly. Doctors say danger lurks but hours away on any given day, my future is inevitably as fraught and uncertain as my recent past has been. That ebullient ‘Tigger’ friends have loved for decades (but who many an Englishman finds too much) is still within. The infant hardened by the emotional and physical violence imposed by a narcissistic father who made my mother cry and forced her to abandon ancient wealth and flee to the frontiers where she eked out a meagre existence in real poverty, must awaken.

Luckily for me we lived alongside an extraordinary, extremely tough and much feared tribe in the Kenyan bush and they became my mentors. I play-fought boys training to be fearless warriors, was protected by their spears. By a warming fire, I slept beneath the stars as they guarded cattle where leopard, hyena and pythons lurked in the dark. I absorbed the traditional stories encapsulating the timeless wisdom of those peoples who for centuries had repelled slave traders and later defeated for ten continual years, crack British troops. Those noble characters who laughed a lot encouraged my cheerful nature, they honed my toughness, they who saw the negative as illuminating a way forwards, moulded my core character.

But we change. And these last 34 months have done this. When, every few weeks you are struck down by the resurgence of an internal infection which powerful antibiotics can’t kill and which, each round, futher weakens you. When regularly as a clock for two to three weeks you’re too weak to cross the room with ease. When you emerge and try to make contact in a town new to you, nobody understands hence nobody is interested. The other day, returning exhausted from a shop 200 metres away,  I went faint and accidentally slumped against a wall 50 paces from our house, though neighbours were in the street, nobody reacted. It was not raining, I rested, moved onwards. I’m not bitter, just hardened. Resigned to the situation. Feeling sorry for yourself leads to the ditch.

You stand alone. Luckily, extremely fortunately, I have a remarkable companion whose love is unbounded. Imagine those poor people who are alone! But even Camilla who has worked in health and hospitals with dedicated vigour all her life, is worn down by looking after me. It is often harder for the carer. You who are unwell have a fight to occupy your attention but they who love you are dealing with the emotional load as well as the new character you have inevitably become. It is why I insisted she took a month away slowly driving with her best friend to Barcelona.

She returned full of beans. But all our troubles soon hit her when, this week of frosts our boiler broke and we’ve not the money to replace it because this old house has eaten everything we had. Camilla’s trip, apart from food (& cafes!), was largely funded by the family whose guitars were collected from Spain. She is resilient, for three decades she has fought the constant stream of cruelty which has thwarted our lives. It began weeks after we met when working for a charity in a remote tropical lagoon and I was medi-vaced (twice) to a UK Tropical disease hospital. With only one salary and my poorly paid freelance work, we’ve often been forced to move house when debts mount up.

But I must now play my part. I’m too emotionally detached, facing the very edge, suffering, emergencies, hospitals… that forces you to be. I’ve become hard. Finding the positive in people and events has gone. I’m just a cool lump surviving the onslaught.

I start by mentally beaming positive emotion at any negative thought or feeling. It feels false. But research has shown that ‘faking it till it works’ has been found to do the job. My task is to find the old Iain.

In these days of climate uncertainty in a troubled world, it is imperative we each try to find our strength so that we can fight the tidal swell which wishes to keep the old ways going, despite all the evidence. Today it’s COP 28 or is it 29?, how many do we need? Laughably, it is taking place in one of the many oil countries which have (and still do), actively fought against organisations concerned by Climate Change.

This corrupt system we are inadvertently under requires our money and so we each have power - the power to sway the system by buying sustainably, locally, organically if possible. Even on our meagre pensions, Camilla and I can do this, so anyone can. It simply requires making the mental, emotional and physical effort to become a better being. And it makes you feel better.

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