Last Sunday I had an epiphany. I walked for more than an hour for the first time (do you know how much things you can think about in that time frame?). It wasn’t just a walk though. It was supposed to be a stroll through Parke Den Dunki and maybe reach the salt plains of Jan Thiel. But then I remembered I was me. I don’t do things the ordinary way (pirate…) And something special was going on.So it became a full force hike pushing myself. Loving my ability, loving my motion, loving my life.
My (+/- 8 month old) pup Fresku (Papiamento for Fresh) accompanied me (his first time to the park and plains). It turned out to be my first hike and mostly because I had somebody else with me (us). She was the spice of the day and my courage to take a hundred steps more. It couldn’t have been better or any weirder because the day just felt complete. Everything was right. Yet, so out-of-place. I was walking with my girlfriend and pup in the wilderness like it was an everyday thing but still it felt so special. So freeing.
I stepped over rocks and trees that I hadn’t seen for more than 4 years. Sentiments told me how much I missed it all. Meanwhile, I didn’t fall or lose my balance. I barely dragged my feet, except for he last 300 meters or so when my legs where burning away underneath me. My oh so cool Fresku walked behind or next to me as if he had to make every single step count even more. And my girl, being my friend, my camerawoman, and dog whisperer when needed, made me feel loved and strong. She is the kind of woman who would let me fall, for I choose to not be weak (and stubborn), but be right by my side to help me get up if I’d needed her help.
That’s why I dared to take another step this day and they let me rediscover the world. As an adventurer I trotted through the woods that once used to be my backyard. I felt the need to share this beauty of Den Dunki as I felt so perfect in place with them, right there in that bewildered piece of natural art. I was loved, yet I was free.
Set goals, set steps, take chances.
Live, love, laugh all the way.
Don’t ask “Why me?”
Don’t cry because it’s you.
Take, to give back.
Give and don’t ask for a return.
Fight, not for war or for peace, but for love,
for you heart and who you carry in there.
Nobody or nothing is made to please you ,
but you are here to please the world.
I stopped looking for a lot of things a couple of years ago. I decided to change the way I think. Instead of wishing for a better life, I started building one. I changed the way I look at situations. I don’t ask what I deserve anymore. I give for what I think is deserved to be given. I don’t expect anything less than just another try at one day. However, I choose to take that one day and create it into something beautiful. A smile, an art, fill it with strength, love, beauty. Whatever is at hand. I choose to give that to my mom, my dad, to enrich my day and my surroundings and don’t expect anything in return. But it did return…
This small puppy walked into my yard, sick, hungry and thirsty, barking at everything in his way. Now he is a bundle of joy that became my daily shadow (and tries to discuss his rules and eat my food like a real pirate dog should). He makes me smile even more when he trips over his own paws just to be close to me, his human. I found love in a woman (as she helped me take care of this needy little creature) who sees me for me. Who makes me reflect what kind of man I am. I found joy in things that normally would’ve been a scare. I didn’t adjust my view on life, life adjusted me (slowly) with it.
I gave my day a smile and hoped it would eventually smile back. This Sunday it did (again). It gave me love, like it would water a plant. It made me love my world, even more, for what it is. A world of wonder needing a breath of change.
I have tons of hopes and I’m using them as blocks as I rebuild this world where I wish to live in.
It’s already been a week since I stood in front of a group of teens. Correction, 3 groups of +/- 60 teens. In this last week I barely had the time to reflect what that day meant. I’m on a constant high for a couple of months now. My pain level has lowered significantly to “acceptable” while my energy level skyrocketed with every new possibility on my path. I even managed to pass for my driver’s license after 3,5 years of no driving.
The only way for me to reflect all this, is to write. It’s my zen to settle down and to accept all that is coming on my path. To read my own thoughts and to remember the past. Sit still and realize:
This is my life!
In December 2012 I left my psychologists office after a therapy session for the last time. I was red-hot, blazing and waddling on my two crutches to wait on my ride home. My therapist had asked me what I wanted to do with my future. I honestly didn’t know yet. Seven moths prior I laid in a hospital bed not knowing what had happened to me and now I had to tell what my future would bring. All I knew, was where I came from and that I had a long long road to go. I was scared. I was determined. And I knew people where surprised how far I already had managed to come in such short time. I also knew I had a lot more in me that I needed to “let out.” So my reply “I want to become a speaker. Inspire people to rise above themselves.” It was maybe a bit early to start at such a level but I didn’t get the reply I hoped for or deserved either. After multiple physical therapist and nurses had told me how they admired my will and strength, my psychologist thought differently. As a cancer survivor he might have known something that I didn’t or maybe he wanted to motivate me or maybe he just didn’t believe in me like I did. His reply “Why? What did you achieve? You haven’t succeeded in anything yet.”
Back then, these words hit hard. Now I look back and see them as motivation. I realized there and then that I had to rise higher above myself and anybody else to reach the goal I had just set in his office. This is where the settings in my head shifted. Not one moment did I think I was going to proof him wrong. I was going to proof myself right. He had made a crucial point.
January 2013 I had a severe depression hanging over my mood. I found myself crying on the floor of my shower with such a heavy heart that it scared me. I had a tremendous and beautiful December month behind me. Back to work for the first time since the accident, selling fireworks, seeing friends all jolly and hugging every single one of them. Christmas spend between friends was the best Christmas-y feeling I ever had. I was alive and I realized it between all these wonderful people who embraced me back into their lives. But then came January. The emptiness after all the festivities gave my feelings all the space to take control and I lost myself in my sorrows.
Picking myself up from that bathroom floor took more guts and strength than everything I had done before. Again. Debbie wasn’t there anymore. I had to do it by myself. All the physical pain from the month before, that I’d bitten through, had dried up my strength and had made me so weak I could only fight with my head. If there was one thing I am scared for, it’s to be weak. To not be able to help myself. To help others. Being mentally despaired is much worse than not being able to control your physical body. When your mind works against you, you lose control over your whole life.
I picked myself up to never let myself down to that ground again (except the two times I tripped over my own feet.) I found my strength in the disbelieve of my psychologist. How was I going to proof my worth lying on the ground? I found determination in the voices of my physical therapist(s.) Who I had to proof right for giving me so much of their knowledge and patience. I found faith in my friends who showed me I was loved and welcome in their lives. How was I able to ever love them back if I kept doubting if I deserved any love at all? Here I began with recycle life.
I stood in front of three groups with 60 first-year students. These young teens were just starting a new chapter in their lives. The Nilda Pinto SBO gave me the chance to encourage them to grab the chance they were getting. I got the chance to tell them to forgive themselves, accept themselves, and take responsibility for their actions. For their island, their world. Our future. I got the chance to redeem myself on my way to the man I want to become. Opening Levi Silvanie show, getting the cover on GO WEEKLY, winning JCI IOBA Aspiring Young Creative Entrepreneur Award, it doesn’t mean anything if I can’t use it to empower the ones around me. I can’t fill my pockets and leave others hungry behind. It is however a step closer to where I want to get. I’m aiming to open hearts and set smiles. I see all those kids and their teachers got to me as I got to them. I am the man who got up from that bathroom floor and I wasn’t to proud to tell them about it. But I told them how I changed my settings.
To all present that Monday August 10 2015, you are the beginning of (again) a new change.
Change your personal settings and inspire! Everyday. Again and again.
Choose to let go of what’s not meant to be, become who you want to be!
Yes, breathing. It’s as simple as it sounds except for when you really need to do it, except, you don’t know how…
How can something so natural, so basically necessary be so crucial in your change? Again, it’s simple. It is a basic need! An automatic motion that needs to be done correctly to replenish the core of your energy.
Let me give you some key examples:
You have a headache? Breathe!
You’re stuck and need inspiration? Breathe!
You’re mad and feel the need to curse? Breathe!
You’re dealing with physical pain? Breathe!
And the best; You need to stretch further for your yoga exercise? Breathe! Deeper!
With that last one, that’s exactly how I learned that I needed to change my breathing. I still hear Olga’s voice during my physical therapy “come on breathe.” Or Harm, my other physical therapist, as he was enjoying himself way too much folding me in two “Come on, breathe deeper.”
With my muscles tightened during my rehabilitation process, their help, stretching my body, was the most painful and crucial part of my days. It was instant relief after hours of pain. It felt sooooooo good being ripped apart and bend in two. The physical therapist(s) pressing their body weight(s) on me to stretch my body parts to give me relieve by actually hurting me at my request was possibly the most fun we had together. (It’s like that first Friday beer right after work. Now multiply that, tenfold!)
Mirjam was the physical therapist that got the most fun. (She was my “steady.”) She took pleasure in folding my head between my knees and hearing me make the most “complimenting” noises, including many farts between the “oh’s” and the “ah’s.” “Keep breathing” she would say while I chuckled, bend in two released of all tension. (That I just farted on my therapist doesn’t need to be mentioned…) In that chuckle I realized how much was wrong (and no I do not mean my flatulence) I was breathing heavy from my chest, a high-pitched breathing that was doing more harm than good.
We both realized I drastically needed to change my breathing behavior to improve my physical condition. So a new struggle commenced.
“Breath through your stomach!”
Breathing through your stomach sounds was the stupidest thing I ever heard. I didn’t understand how it worked. “My lungs are in my chest, how do you want me to breathe through my stomach?” I replied more annoyed every time she would repeat herself. An appointment was made with a speech therapist (logopedist.) Hands on my stomach I learned what it meant to breath deep. Laying on my yoga mat staring at the ceiling feeling 1000 ants running through my legs (due to all the nerve damage) I lay still, breathing, feeling air fill my lungs (breathe deeper, through your balls)and emptied them completely. Controlling my breathing, I controlled my mind(set). Everyday 3 minutes prior to my core training, I exercised on my breathing and finished with deep groin stretches that I could only do if I breathed correctly . The adaptation of my body came with practically every breath that I took. I inhaled possibility and exhaled the pain and despair.
Slowly I was gaining control of my spasms, tense muscles, nerve pains and nausea attacks. Deeper stretches every day. Most days were hell but some were heaven. My muscles regained strength quicker after intensive exercises. Balance was not only found physically but mentally. As I became aware of this gained strength I started pushing my limits further, train harder, stretch deeper.
Every time my brain told me to quit, I thought about that first time I stood up from the training mats at the rehabilitation center. “Breathe, keep going, keep breathing” Femke pushed me before I managed to stand up from the ground for the first time without help other than breathing deeply and feeling every muscle in my body scream for more air. “I controlled my breathing” I thought as I stood proudly.
With the change of breathing came the much-needed physical trust in my body. Came more patience. An improved posture. I was on my way. This was the Andy 2.0 I dreamed of lying in my hospital bed. I still needed to change my sleeping, adjust my diet, improve my training. But now I had the fuel to do that. “If I can control my breathing, then I can control my whole being” I kept telling myself.
I’m still conquering my body, that will be a fight till the day I die. I keep paying most of my attention to my breathing. It’s not as automatic or natural as it may seem but with a change of breath comes a lot more than just fresh air.
See how standing up for the first time without additional help looks like: *Click Click*
“Levi, Levi, you don’t know me but I need to thank you. I want to shake your hand. You inspired me, bro. During my rehabilitation your music motivated me to take responsibility. To accept change. You rock dude!”
His eyes looked at me, black, dark, it was night. He was sweating and surprised and shy-ish accepted my hand. He had just finished playing the drums at 27 (Granbeeuw). He asked me what had happened to me, I told the short version and a half hour later I left the bar with an autographed CD, a bro hug and a friend richer. This was in 2013.
We stayed in contact and met occasionally, accidentally. There was mutual respect but also filled agenda’s. And as most people find hard to believe, we are both shy (he more than me.) Levi moved to Curacao. I kept going to physical therapy (twice a week) and brewing on my production plan(s) for 2ndLife Curacao(between yoga, nausea attacks and nerve pains.) We never needed much words, but when we talked there would be waterfalls of them. I was proud of him no matter what and I felt his sincerity every time he’d say “don’t give up, you’re an inspiration!”
Let’s rewind a bit…
Levi came into my life in 2011 by the voice of Gilmar Fraitas while working on Gomez plein as street entertainers(You should really waste your time watching that, we used to rock downtown Punda with a whole team.) Gilmar played GsMeMiss (simply myself) and it became my personal anthem. I saw him (Levi Silvanie) perform on another square in Punda a couple of months later but I wasn’t all that impressed. The dude had style but he was just too sweet and shy.
Fast forward to 2012, someday in July (about two months after my accident.) Some musical notes popped up in my brain, suddenly I needed to hear my anthem. I was down, tired, in pain. I just finished a physical therapy session and had climbed back in my rehabilitation center bed, parked my wheel chair within hands reach and turned on my laptop. My headphones ready on my head I googled Djis mi mes(that’s how you would write GsMeMiss if you were a normal person… I’m looking at you Levi!)
As soon as I heard the first notesI smiled. Through my tears I smiled. I instantly smiled.
Mi’n ke pasa un dia riba e mundu’ki
Sin hasi loke mi por
Mi’n ke pasa un dia riba e mundu’ki
Den un mundu yena ku maldad
mi ke ta bon
Mi ke ta e kos korekte den esnan robes
Den un mundu yena ku maldad mi ke ta bon
En todo kaso mi ker ser mi mes
I would not waste a day on earth,
without giving it my best
I do not want to waste a day on earth
In a world full of evil, I want to be good
I want to be the right thing amongst the wrong
In a world full of evil, I want to be good
In any way, I want to be simply me
I played another of his songs and another and another and then came “Ami ta Korsou” (I am Curacao) and my smile turned in big tears. This time I cracked, I totally broke down sitting on my bed in this big impersonal empty room.
Ami ta korsou, mi ta banda ariba I mi ta banda abou, ami ta korsou
Ami ta korsou, un kurason chiki meimei di mundu
Si abo ta korsou, no ta importa si bo ta hel of blou si bo ta korsou
Si abo ta korsou, bo tambe tin un luga spesial den e mundu
I am Curacao. I am Banda Riba (eastern area of Curacao) I am Banda Bou (western area of Curacao) ….
If you are Curacao, it doesn’t matter if you’re yellow or blue (colors of our flag.)
If you are Curacao you, also, have a special place in this world.“
The song immediately replaced one anthem by another and this was by that one shy dude I once saw on stage on Whilhemina plein. His message was powerful and changed my perspective in 15 minutes (I put the song on repeat.) From that moment on these songs identified me, motivated me, encouraged me and most of all, guided me. This was what Pearl Jam’s Alive or Radiohead’s Creep did to people and then some! Now I had added these two. It didn’t have their brutality but it had the message.
Things grew quiet. We’d share some brotherly love once in a while but we had lives to lead. I worked as hard as I could to get physical stronger so I could live instead of rehabilitate. I beat a severe depression and life was looking up again. My life was on the move, I was on the move. And that’s when that phone rang “Dude, we need to talk. Let’s meet!” I knew he was working on something (like always) but had no idea what he was it was about. Driving to 27 bar at Pietermaai he handed me his phone and gave me a sneak preview of his upcoming clip. Filmed around the corner of where I had my accident I immediately recognized the area. I recognized Alton Paas and felt so much power and courage while being overwhelmed by emotions. “What? What did Alton just do? Levi? For real?”
Just like that day sitting on my bed listening to Ami ta Korsou. I swallowed. “Can I watch it again?”
Mi sa ku bo ta den un luga skur
Siega pa miedu
Ketubai bo ta insigur
Den profundidat di bo alma tin un lus
Asepta bo forsa
Ilumina bo realidat
Diskubriendo bo berdat
Maske tempu parse di ta move superslow
No entrega tanten bo’n yega superfisio
Bo ta bo superhero
Al reskate di bo alma
Bo ta superando
I know you’re in a dark place
Followed by fear
Every day you’re insecure
Yet in the bottom of your soul there is light
Accept your strength
Light your reality
Discover your truth
Even when time seems to move super slow
Don’t give up until you reach for the surface
You are a superhero
You are saving your soul
You are overcoming
After a few deep breaths Levi explained why he made the clip, what he had to overcome. That we are more disabled by our own thoughts than that we are by our physical disabilities. (I couldn’t have agreed more.) That we needed to show what we did, what we could do, if we really wanted to and that I was an inspiration to my inspiration (you follow?) I was breathless, emotional and again at 27 with Levi. A documentary concert with Alton Paas and me. (Me?) My brain started to go in overload and we brainstormed for another hour and a half till we left to see each other soon with brand new ideas.
As I was already experimenting with the semicolon for Project Semicolon it all seemed to fall in place and I donated seven cans for Levi’s #Superando project. The semicolon stands for overcoming, choosing to go through with your life no matter what, it wasn’t only fitting but in just a few weeks it would come back to hunt me.
Two weeks before the concert I participated in a Paralympics training week for athletes, coaches and planners held at the SDK stadium by our national sport institute, FDDK. This meant sitting in chairs for long hours in air-conditioned rooms. I didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t really prepared. Not very smart with my condition and I got that message that shortly after. My body rebelled as soon as the training week was over. My muscles cramped, my nerves were burning, nausea attacks came with a revenge and a bladder and urinary infection complimented my achievement in such way I felt the need to warn Levi that I wasn’t going to be able to partake in the show. I cracked and gave up. I needed rest!
“This is what it’s all about. You can’t give up now. I need you. #Superando, we all have to overcome. This is on you. Get your act together and get ready for the show”
That was the reaction I got as I lied in bed impaired by pain and self pity. I cursed him (for just a brief second) rolled out of bed on to my yoga mat and did the breathing exercises I had learned to guide the pain. Control my brain, overcome, superando. Levi on the background on my laptop I started to regain my strength, again…