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Trip Up in the Sun

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.

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I also went on a tour of Teide National Park. I was able to take some great photos.

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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:

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Here is me doing the jump:

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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).

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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.

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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.


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This has to be my favourite picture from Tenerife – some of my new amigos

This trip lifted my spirits beyond belief and reinforced that there are endless possibilities if you can only dream them.

Be your own worst enemy or your best friend

It’s so awesome! I’ve accidentally led myself down a trail of thought which has solved the major problems currently holding me back in life.

Genesis by Niick Verron (statue of John Hampden)

Genesis by Nick Verron (statue of John Hampden)


Yesterday, I was writing some notes about what to say in the short film I’ve been asked to do. This is for the charity UKABIF, who have asked me to talk about the daily issues that my brain injury has caused. I will share some of these notes:

I have been so focussed on making progress with my physical recovery and have had great success with this. People have often said, “You should live in the moment, make the most of now.” Although I agree with this in normal circumstances, I saw a better investment of my time being to improve my quality of life for years to come. All my hard work paid off, leaving me with so many options for my future. While my “re-ability” (my rebellion against disability) skyrocketed, I didn’t notice my self-esteem dwindling away. As I didn’t have time for a normal life or any social interaction, the prospect of this has become very scary. Where I’ve been allowed to spend the last few years alone behind closed doors, I now don’t have the confidence to go past them into the unknown, where things can go wrong and people can judge me. I’ve only just acknowledged this problem and desperately want a social life again, but where do I start?

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I like to think that I can give quite good advice. To anybody else except myself! Realising this (after recently telling somebody here on WordPress), I decided to imagine that somebody else had written the notes above. Suddenly the problems which had swamped me, restricting me leaving my “self-imposed prison”, seemed like child’s play to overcome! I looked at them objectively and did a spreadsheet containing weekly goals. Things such as new places I have to see; I specified a minimum of three per week, but that more equated to “super happy fun time” (I did say it was child’s play!) I then imagined a “therapist” was giving me the spreadsheet, and saw it as a challenge to overcome.

It’s really funny how all this happens the day I post the paperwork for something I’ve tried to do to help people. Is this karma at work? When I was watching the documentary The Brain with David Eagleman, he talks about just how much neuroscience can learn when a brain operates outside of normal parameters. My brain lost the concept of normal parameters on 4th July, 2009! I got a call yesterday from someone representing Thomas Willis Brain Collection, explaining how they don’t normally get people volunteering to donate their brain, but how grateful they are and how this may help ease the suffering of hundreds of people to come. Apparently they’re even generous enough to wait until you’re finished with it! I must say, it does make me smile to know that I can continue to help people long after I’m dead 🙂

I have covered my wardrobe with motivational quotes to start the day with. One of my favourites (not just because of the scantily clad lady!), is:

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Waste no more time

Last year my mind and soul were

ripped apart.

I emerged from the destruction with a psychiatric injury called hypervigilance 

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Hypervigilance means that I notice connections between any and every situation, and during the acute stage, an alarming number of POTENTIAL situations! It was basically my self defence mechanism gone mad. I just couldn’t comprehend how another human being could be this cold and calculated, WITHOUT LYING?!

I was privileged to have recorded a very small portion of the unmanageable volume of  thoughts on my mum’s blog.

Apparently extreme situations give birth to extreme realisations. See the (temporarily wise?) ramblings of a (temporary?) madman below:



“I’ve just been through the most terrible experience in my life. If you imagine how bad it was when my world collapsed following my attack, that was preferable to what I’ve just endured. But from it has come something amazing.

Every time I go through something terrible and am convinced that’s the most extreme pain you could possibly feel, life goes and proves me wrong! When you’re on your death bed though, I bet you will be glad you didn’t fast forward. Even though it’s not nice at the time, you couldn’t possibly feel more hurt. You have to be alive to feel anything. Also, you have to know the really bad to appreciate how good something is by comparison.

I can’t really say what I’ve just been through. Suffice it to say that it tore my heart and soul to shreds and at the time, I really couldn’t see how any good could ever come of it. However, the biggest life lesson I’ve learned so far is yet to come.

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“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one” Marcus Aurelius

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I know in myself that I have been the best man I can be. I now truly love who I am and what I have done. The freedom that gives you is unparalleled!

Pain does force us to learn life lessons we wouldn’t choose to learn, but that gives birth to the best things that happen to us. A good example is being stabbed in the brain. Sounds crazy? Well ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’. The attack, on face value, seemed to ruin my life. But from such a dark deed came the fact I was forced to suddenly appreciate everything which I had to earn. If life is getting you down and there seems no light at the end of the tunnel, do not let the seemingly unending darkness change who you are. Letting little unimportant things slide is fine as long as you just stay true to who you are deep down. Just remember, you’re due for an opposing good reaction. The worse the bad, the better the good. It may not be obvious as the relationship is often obscure, but the good could have started already, you just might not be aware of it yet…..

How can you stay true to yourself when in a situation that agonisingly envelopes your entire existence? Things can seem fine on the surface and your head tells you logically everything’s OK. However, that niggly feeling in your gut says something’s wrong. To stay true to yourself, always pay attention to that feeling. NEVER, under any circumstances, dismiss it!

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“Always trust your gut. It knows what your head hasn’t yet figured out.” Me

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I’ve recently been recording these feelings. In hindsight, these feelings somehow knew way more than should’ve been possible. I don’t know how. So if you ever have that niggly feeling, your gut may have worked something out that your head has not. To interpret these feelings though you have to be COMPLETELY honest with yourself. Your gut is your best friend. It is your soul, and your soul ultimately wants what’s best for you.

Another quote that I feel the need to share is:

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“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius


The Leg End that is Marcus Aurelius

What is “the truth”? We make our own truths, based on opinions and perspectives. What “the truth” is to one person, may not be the truth to the next. Everyone’s truth may share similarities, or it may be completely different – but it’s yours. To stay true to yourself, you need to bear in mind that your truth is constantly evolving and can even completely change direction in an instant. Have conviction in the belief of your current truth about your life, and it can grow as you feed it opinions through your perspective. Every experience, good and bad, moulds your personal truth and subsequently who you are. Be grateful for absolutely everything that’s happened to you – if one tiny thing had happened differently, your truth would not have formed to be what it is, and you wouldn’t be who you are now.”

 

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