This year has been emotionally gruelling for me. From within a situation, you can become overwhelmed, not knowing which way to turn. I needed to take a step back and reassess my priorities. So, I booked a flight to Tenerife. I cast my mind back to my wish to go travelling so decided to see this as a test run. I deliberately didn’t make plans, no itinerary, no expectations. Was I going to find myself? Lose myself? Only time would tell…
I was waiting for the taxi early Monday morning, around 2 AM I think. I was “bricking” it. I have never been out of the country on my own, much less in an electric wheelchair, which is in itself, quite restrictive already. I’d not slept for some time, so the stress was already starting to take its toll. I only became more nervous when I saw Stansted airport looming. To say I was daunted would be the mother of all understatements. It reminded me of venturing into the corporate world when I had only been a factory worker. I asked myself am I biting off more than I can chew? When I had checked in and was waiting to board the plane, a helpful member of staff came over and informed me that it was unlikely I’d be able to transport my cumbersome electric wheelchair, being that it doesn’t fold down. Brilliant, my test run had potentially crashed before it had even taken off. He explained that he’d see what he could do, so I boarded the plane hoping that my wheelchair would be waiting for me in Tenerife.
When the plane landed four hours later, I got off the plane and my wheelchair was indeed waiting for me. Happy days! I pointed at it to the Spanish staff member who didn’t understand much English. He understood enough, though, to inform me that it wasn’t mine. I had quite a compelling argument as to why it WAS, but he couldn’t understand it. I sat in the wheelchair and firmly refused to budge while he had a debate with his colleagues. I’m not sure what the outcome was, but I managed to “steal” it and get out of the airport, and waited for a bus. For some unknown reason, I’d decided to stay in Santa Cruz at the other side of the island. The right bus came but wasn’t equipped to take my wheelchair. I waited for the next bus and had the same problem. And the next, and the next. I decided to call the local bus station and enquire. They explained that there are only two accessible buses for this long journey, that I’ve missed the first and the next is in a couple of hours. Looking at the hundreds of people going about their adventures freely, and me not even being able to get out of this airport, I was feeling lower than low. Couple that with the tiredness and stress, and I was a mess. When the accessible bus finally came, the driver had to drop everything, holding everyone up, to operate a complicated lift system. He got me onto the bus and strapped me in like a useless piece of meat. This wasn’t what I’d envisaged his trip to be like at all! I got to the hotel after having a meltdown and feeling about as upset as you could possibly be. I was cheered up immediately when I got there and got a much-needed early night.
I did a bit of research and found out about a local beach which had been made accessible. I took a bus (all of the inter-urban buses are accessible) and went to the nearby beach. It was lovely and I sunbathed for most of the day. I got chatting to some people who are employed simply to help the disabled visitors. They explained how they can take me out into the sea. I expessed how I would very much like this and they dumped me in the sea and left. THIS was more what I had in mind!
I went back to Santa Cruz in high spirits and sat “people watching” outside with some rum. I then went back to the hotel, did some more research and made some enquiries. The rest of the holiday became a bit of a blur. I know that I went to see the new Star Wars movie a day before UK release.
I also went on a tour of Teide National Park. I was able to take some great photos.
The tour guide said, “Hey, I’ve got a gift for you.” He handed me a piece of obsidian. I don’t know if this is merely coincidence, but from here the holiday became amazing and I managed to make some tough personal decisions. Since looking at the symbolism of obsidian, it is told to remove negativity and help cut attachment cords. This great day was rounded off when I went to take a closer look at the National Auditorium. I thought wouldn’t it be cool if I could see an orchestra play here?
I went in to see if there were any tickets available for anything during the duration of my stay. The girl behind the desk explained that there was only the gospel choir playing within the date range I’d given her. Then added, “The Symphony Orchestra are playing tonight…” Amazing! And they were just that.
I got a reply back from one of the enquiries that I’d made; I’d explained my mobility issues to a company who specialise in paragliding from Teide. They told me it would be entirely possible. I arranged to be picked up from my hotel, armed only with a walking frame. The lead up to this experience yielded this beautiful picture:
Here is me doing the jump:
Feeling a sense of elation, I went back to Santa Cruz and found out just how generous this Spanish are with their glasses of rum. I woke up the next day regretting having made this discovery. With the state that I was in, I resigned to just get a replacement case for my sunglasses and go back to the hotel to feel sorry for myself. As I was rolling up the street, I thought I’d heard English sounds emanating from a couple up ahead. Having only spoken to Spanish folk in the manner that you would talk to a baby, I was missing exercising my vocabulary. I stalked them for some time until they sat down by the side of the road, on a shop window ledge. I approached them and we got chatting. They were a couple, Taciana from Argentina, Joe from New Zealand. They explained how they had just travelled across Europe, paid for only by music. They fascinated me, living a life I had dreamed of.
They were currently busking to raise money for a guitar for Joe, which he normally played while Taciana (or Tash) sang. They had a speaker and microphone but the adapter for these broke, so Joe went in search of a replacement. They said I was welcome to stay and watch Taciana sing a cappella while he was gone. I did this.
She sang a Spanish song, and it was beautiful. I could hear her passion for life in her voice. I can hardly comprehend someone going to such lengths, simply to enjoy this world. I then got thinking about how I am only where I am, because people have helped me. It’s time to give back. I approached Tash and told her that I would buy them the guitar. When she’d finished telling me that I didn’t have to do that, she was over the moon and couldn’t wait for Joe to get back. She excitedly managed to give him the good news and he disappeared yet again, this time to procure a guitar. Upon his return, wearing a smile like the Cheshire Cat, we set off so that they could buy me some drinks to say thank you. Joe’s smile didn’t fade, apart from when he started beat boxing and playing his guitar while walking; he had so much music pent up in him. They are my kind of people; we had the best conversation about life. They played me a few songs, some of which Joe had written himself, one which he dedicated to me as it resonated with me. It was called I’m Not Stuck in the System; I’m sure most reading this know that I indeed should be, should have been written off with no hope of life. Of THIS! We went back to the spot where we had met, and they sang with their new guitar, to raise enough money so they could buy me dinner. I loved watching passers-by taking joy from these two, a woman even grabbing the guitar and singing a song! We had dinner and agreed to meet the next day.
When I met them the next day, they were with Bart, a nice Polish chap who was travelling in the same manner. I saw the Law of Attraction at work, as these sort of positive people seem to group together. We all went for a drink and everybody passed the guitar around and laughed (apart from me, I just laughed).
Then the “guitar grabber” walked past and did her thing. She grabbed and sang. She is filled with an immeasurable energy and love, which is highly infectious.
She said that she was having a party in the mountains tomorrow, and that we should all come! I said that I would get us all a taxi up there, but the next day she was to turn up at my hotel having procured the use of her friend’s minibus. I went off to the mountains.
That night I saw a side of life I have not yet had the privilege of knowing. It was a group of people, many of whom had never met, whose only motives were to make sure that everybody had as good a time as they did. It was like I had known them for many years, and it was an honour to be accepted in this way. I stayed up till 5 AM, drinking and singing and laughing, enjoying more happiness than I have done in a long, long time. They next day, I was sat on the porch, overlooking spectacular views while the fiesta continued (minus the drinking!) Joe started playing with some beats he’d made from scratch with an app on his phone, which was connected to a speaker. I got excited and asked him to play my song, which I promptly recorded. I can’t believe that this music sprang out of nowhere without warning, most of it being improvised “on-the-fly”. This sort of thing has been happening constantly, but I was too busy enjoying it to be recording. Caution, the following video contains some naughty words (the picture is the amazing view I was looking at):
P.S The guitar get’s amazing!!
My only regret is that I didn’t re-book my flight and stay for longer. I have taken a lot from this holiday. One of the main things I noticed was my differing reaction to the two amazing events of the previous day. I have been recording the summary of the days events using a dictaphone. When describing the epic paragliding experience, I was quite calm and reserved. However, when I was describing the invitation to the party, it started, “OH! MY! GOD!” So, it appears that I get much more fulfilment from amazing people than I do amazing experiences; that amazing people to me are amazing experiences! The other main thing I took from this holiday is a note I wrote to myself, to be repeated to me every day:
Look at the things people overcome to experience this beautiful world. They mainly contend with money, you don’t have to. Instead, you have mobility problems. Swings and roundabouts. You owe it to yourself to not waste this opportunity.
This trip lifted my spirits beyond belief and reinforced that there are endless possibilities if you can only dream them.
I know I haven’t been on here for a while. But once I’ve explained why, maybe you’ll forgive me.
It’s been quite liberating, brutally selling all my possessions through car boot sales and eBay. I hope to soon have nothing but dreams and freedom to pursue them.
I’d been forward in stating my intention to go travelling. But let me show you why; I was shown the most profound 5:30 video I have ever seen. Here it is:
It spurred the thought process where I asked myself, “Have I really worked hard to make the most of this miracle I have been blessed with, to sit here and stare at these four walls?” This got me thinking, about how I was surrounded by nice materialistic things. All the things that I have been led to believe that their attainment would lead to certain happiness. But I have them and am not happy.
So, I weighed up my options. Continue with my safe but unfulfilling life, and always wonder what could have been, or face soul crushing fear. Fear of the unknown. But I realised something at this point which made it all okay; if you’re in a situation where you can’t know all the things that can go wrong, equally you cannot know all the things that could go right.
I’ve been quite privileged to be able to look back over a group of extreme situations, condensed over the last few years, and clearly see what has transpired. Applying this life lesson makes me smile even when facing the bitterest, most painful situation. I have learned that if something isn’t going your way, keep in the back of your mind that “life” is steering you toward something better. Remember, though, that it is only steering; you still need to provide the momentum to keep moving forward. Always try your best and believe in your dreams. This mindset has propelled me much further than I ever thought possible, to the start of an unimaginable dream.
On the subject of propulsion, let me fill you in on the amazing discovery I’ve made this weekend. As you may know, I am confined to a wheelchair when “out and about”. Most people can push the rims of these useful devices to propel themselves. Frustratingly, I do not have the coordination to do this.
I am quite exhausted after a weekend of propelling myself through Ashridge Woods and Stowe Gardens. I have hired a piece of equipment to test its suitability and it is simply AWESOME. It can handle most terrains, hills, is transportable (on planes for instance…) and most importantly, I CAN PROPEL IT!!!
Enter the Mountain Trike.
This is my favourite picture from today. The beautiful catalyst responsible for showing me the life changing video pointing me to my dreams, sat on the equipment that can take me there.
I just wanted to put a quick post together, to give you a sample of the different photography related stuff I’m playing with. To ensure some variation, and to make sure I’m not closing any doors, I’m dabbling in everything right from digital art through to wannabe photography.
I’ve noticed many parallels in understanding between life and photography/art. I’ll share with you a photo/picture, then gabble away a bit about it.
It’s a given that our perception affects how we see the world. In the case above, I have made a conscious effort to adopt and express a different perception, the results of which are manifested in something you wouldn’t normally see. I have often wondered: how do others see the world? Do things look similar?
The follow-up question to that is: do others feel the same emotions as me? I know there are many similarities. For instance, in the picture above, I read into it that the bird at the top is making the bird beneath it angry, who in turn has passed on the anger towards the third bird, causing it to fly away. They all share the same anger, but were the motivations similar? The fact is, they’re probably just doing what birds do, with no meaning behind it. I find it absolutely fascinating how we try and work out the meaning behind everything, even when it’s very unlikely that there is one!
This picture is unashamedly heavily processed, but is more of a photograph than a drawing and follows some of the rules of photography.
The parallel in this picture lies in how I see similarity with the adversity that I have just faced. I couldn’t see a way out, in fact there shouldn’t have been one. I had to believe there was light at the end of the tunnel. Often, when you’re in a “tunnel”, the only person that knows the way out is you. We all have an “internal compass”; to find your way, follow the arrow where it’s pointing to “hope”.
This picture shows me that it is possible to look at something many people have looked at before, and see something completely different. I can’t imagine that many people have come to this conclusion, and probably wouldn’t do so in the foreseeable. Except, where I’ve had enough conviction in my idea to immortalise it in a photograph, anybody who sees it will now look twice at this object.
Just as you have the power to change images to match what you’ve envisioned, so too can you change your life. Remember:
Happiness is highly contagious 😉
In a recent blog post, I recognised the “social reflection” phenomenon. After watching the next documentary instalment from David Eagleman, I now know why this happens.
I’m sure everybody reading this has been in the following situation: a stranger smiles at you, and you can’t help but smile back. After finding out the reason behind this, I am absolutely fascinated!
This is because the human brain is always trying to understand what is around it. It is quite common that brains find their selves surrounded by like-minded creatures; the brain’s quest for understanding is no different when it comes to intricate social comprehension. To undertake this complex task, mirror neurons within the brain cause it to mimic expressions, “trying them on”. This is so you can experience this specific configuration of subtle facial expressions for yourself and better understand what they are intended to project. The same underlying principle relates to when we see people experience emotions, and is why we flinch, cry and smile etc at movies. Even though you know the people on the screen in front of you are acting, you can’t help but simulate what they’re feeling to understand them. This is empathy.
The brain is very good at avoiding pain. Therefore, it shies away from simulating potentially painful emotions it’s not prepared for. To block its automatic empathy, it dehumanises the potential source of pain. For instance, many brains will unconsciously dehumanise homeless people. It is manipulation of this mechanism which is the main purpose of propaganda. In extreme cases, empathy is blocked by dehumanisation on a wide scale, resulting in genocide.
I wish to see people who have just had an injury, live a better quality of life. This involves me leading by example. I have recently taken the first step in this, in acknowledging that my pride wouldn’t let me admit my self-image was governed by fear. Whenever I interacted with people, those that didn’t automatically dehumanise me (before being subjected to a painful simulation), would reflect my worry and self-consciousness. Until now, I had thought that all this negativity and subtly being treated as a “lesser being”, emanated from people around me. This strengthened my projected negativity, becoming an exponential vicious cycle. I understand now it was self-inflicted. To combat this, I need to give myself the following advice. These words are “one size fits all”, so apply to everyone who has problems to deal with:
No matter what you feel inside, face the world with a smile and truly believe you can achieve your dreams.