They wheel-chaired me forward. I admit it. I was scared, afraid, and excited. Tears pushed against my eyelids as I tried to hold them back. My heart raced, and I was shaking… and a few tears leaked out from the side of my eye, so I sleeved them away. Everything I worked for encompassed into this very moment.
Over taken with anxiousness I kept repeating a quote by Michel de Montaigne “A man who fears suffering, is already suffering from what he fears.” But it didn’t really help. “ Final boarding call! Final boarding call to Malaysia!”
I was scared to end up in my old hospital state. I didn’t want to be so shaken up on the flight, that I left as a slab of paralyse man.
The flight had two purposes, first to fulfil my biggest wish to see my grandma again, thinking that I’d never get to see her again since the sport’s accident, and secondly as a test flight to see if I could fly to England for my course a few weeks around the corner. Succeed and I go, fail and I start over.
The gate opened up, and I handed the counter attendant my ticket.
“ Have a nice flight.” He said.
Thump* Thump* We went over two groves and into the loading tunnel, funnelling closer towards the plane. Thumping deeper in, as if there were safely locks restricting us from turning back.
Three smiley faces greeted me at the entrance, “ Welcome Mr. Lucas, let me help you to your seat.” The muscle behind the wheelchair locked it and said, “Okay, go.” Somehow I didn’t want to leave the wheelchair. I felt so much more in comfort from these wheels touching the ground, compared to the new ones supporting a mammoth structure that had no purpose in the air.
“ Well, thank you for the ride.” I replied. The three smiles in front, helped me up and one directed me to my seat. “ If there’s anything you need please let us know.” She said.
“ I’m kind of afraid…” I replied.
“ Well you have nothing to worry about, the smallest thing would be turbulence, because of the typhoon we’re exiting out of in Hong Kong.” She said smiling and walking away.
My fingers squeezed the armrest. I darted my eyes outside the window for comfort. We were pretty high up. What could I do now? I lifted my shirt and fasten my steel back brace even tighter.
Sheek* Shek* Embraced the Velcro.
Thump* The doors slammed with a sound echoing attached to it. I knew it shut, because the capsulation swayed the plane lightly from side to side.
Tssk* The air pressure equalised. Searching for comfort my eyes darted outside, catching on to a serviceman pressing the button, and giving hand signals to recall the tunnel for detachment. I felt trapped in a space rocket stuttering to launch.
I closed my eyes, and squeezed the armrest some more.
“ Maybe watching some TV or listening to music would help.” A stewardess said smiling.
“ It works before take off?” I asked.
“ Yeah, but don’t tell anyone else.” She winked.
“ Okay, thanks.”
I put on a comedy, closed my eyes, and then shifted my hands on to my laps, palms facing up forming a circle with my index and thumb touching each other.
I started meditating and visualising. “ I’m healing, healthy, happy, strong and fit. I’m healing, healthy, happy, strong and fit.” The wheels started turning, rotating to gravel with each cycle, turning on to the next piece of cement for it’s next fresh press.
“ Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking. We’d like to welcome you on board with us to Malaysia. The flight duration is around 3 hours and 40 minutes. We are exiting the typhoon, so please keep your seatbelts fasten till the green light is turned off. We hope you have a pleasant flight.”
I looked at the light green seat belt sign.
Sounds of roaring fire shook the plane as its turbines spun faster. The sound scaled to a higher pitch. I looked out the window one last time. We creep forward faster and faster, until rattle, rattle, rattle…
Everything I have worked for was going to be tested in this moment. I closed my eyes. “ I’m strong and I’ll survive. I’m strong and I’ll survive. Who am I kidding? I’ll survive, I’ll survive. Please survive..?” It felt as if I was just pummelled with punches in the back, and someone stuck their finger in a wound. “ Please survive…”
I know I can’t control the outcome, but I can control my behaviour. I’ve done everything I can to prepare for this moment, the only other thing I could do, is put myself in the right mind-set, to maybe get through this battering of attacks.
Has everything that I had done, added well to the sum of its parts?
Well to achieve what we want in life and how to do for it, can be broken down into 3 easy steps:
- Think of what is important to you?
- Reduce to essentials
- Plan, organise and automate what you have to and to do the things you love
For me, to walk and have an able body again, so I could see my grandma and enjoy life. I did it by automating what I needed to do. I didn’t have to love what I was doing at the moment, but love what it was going to bring me, so that I could focus on everything else in life that I love.
For you, you have to focus on what you love, because you don’t have time to do what you hate, unless it’s mandatory. Automate it until it is habitual, then you have less things to focus on, and can use that energy on what you love.
As stated by Daniel Kahneman from the book Thinking, Fast and Slow, we only have a certain amount of decision-making ability and effort that diminishes with each choice made and action taken, so do whatever you have to do first and get it out of the way. For me it was 2 sessions of slow daily water walking for about 2 years, before progressing on to anything else. Once it’s out of the way, you can do the fun stuff.
And as Chris Sauve a business student speaker at TedX Carleton said, “We can’t keep up with everything, and will fail if we try to do it all without doing the things we love.” By trying to do all of it, we really miss out on some of the things that are important to us. Here are some facts to prove it.
Every two days we create more data than from the dawn of man to 2003. Everyday 900,000 hours of YouTube video is uploaded, that’s 10 hours every single second. If a 22-year-old male missed 24 hours of YouTube, he would need to spend the rest of his life catching up on what he missed.
So focus, so that you can give your entire self to what you love. My grandma is the love of my life, so I focused on her to make it through. The pain caused by the vibrations now, was nothing compared to the love for my grandma.
The plane started rattling. The sound from my earphones cut off, so I opened my eyes.
“ Ladies and gentlemen this is your captain speaking, please fasten your seat belts as we prepare to descent into the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.”
I took off the headphones.
We swooshed faster through the air as the view of little houses grew. “ I will survive, I am strong. I will survive… please survive.” I said circling my index finger and thumb again.
Thump* Thump* Thump* Bump* Bump*
Skreetch* Thump* Bump*
“ Welcome to Malaysia. The weather is currently 38 Celsius. We have certainly enjoyed having you on board today, we hope to see you again real soon, and thanks again for flying with us.” Blared the announcer.
Rolling out of the airport, into the car, and staggering to my cousin’s house, my Auntie and cousin greeted me with gentle hugs. “ Is grandma in?” I ask.
“ Yeah she’s in the kitchen cooking. Don’t scare her though. Go hide.” My auntie replied.
I went into a neighbouring room to the kitchen hiding in the dark.
“ Ama, we have a guest over, take of your apron off and comb your hair.” My auntie said.
“ Oh okay. Who’s over?” She asked.
I heard the sound of an apron and gloves being placed on the table.
“ You’ll see.”
The kitchen door opened and my cousin walked in first with his girlfriend.
“ Oh it’s just you.” Said my grandma to them.
“ Hi…” He replied.
My auntie quickly shuffled into the neighbouring room to get me.
After letting the air settle, I walked through the kitchen doors.
Her eyes opened wide and she started pointing at me with one hand, the other on her mouth.
“ Lucas? Lucas? Who are you? Is that you Lucas? No one told me you’re coming!” She said.
“ Surprise Poh Poh.” I said.
I bent down to hug her, and with her feeble arms she kept patting me with unrestricted adrenaline filled force.
“ Ouch grandma, go lighter please.” I said hoping my back was okay.
“ Oops, sorry. Did you grow taller?” She said smiling.
I smiled back knowing that I shrank a bit since breaking my spine, but so did she from old age.
“ I don’t think so, but maybe you did Poh Poh.” I laughed.
“ Please sit down let’s eat Lucas. I made food and your uncle is bringing back food too.”
We sat down for a feast of kwai tweo, hokkien mi, fried rice, beans with mince meat and lots of other Malaysia delights. My mouth cried with tears of joy.
“ No wonder they asked me to cook so much! You better eat everything up.” She said.
We ate and laugh.
“ How long has it been since we last saw you?” They asked.
We started recollecting memories and fingers started going up for the count.
“ 6 years.” My cousin and I said looking at each other.
“ Well, you better eat more, we’re all done eating, it’s all yours. You can’t leave till the table until it’s clean.” Said my grandma.
“ I’ll try, but I’m pretty full.” I said.
“ Non-sense, this is for the past 6 years.” She pointed at the nine dishes remaining.”
“ Wow that’s a lot.”
She mounted as much as she could on my plate, not taking no for an answer.
“ And those are for the next 6 years.” Another cousin pointed at the remaining dishes.
“ Hahaha.” We laughed.
I loosen my back brace around my stomach.
“ Yes that’s right. Don’t leave the table till it’s done, I’m going to watch you eat everything.” She said.
She stacked more food on the mountain with every spoon I shovelled away.
“ Yes grandma…” I replied heart smiling and mouth chewing.
What do you want to achieve?