Don’t forget to breathe | Angie Stewart

This is a guest blog written by Angie Stewart as one of her 40 challenges in 50 weeks raising money for the Brittle Bone Society...

There are definitely worse places in the world than floating across the Mediterranean on the top deck of a cruise ship, writing my first blog! The cruise is a gift for my 40th birthday from my Dad and is the first time I have ever been on one. I can certainly see why they are so popular, especially with wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. The ship is so accessible and it is far easier and relaxing than flying. Having the peace of mind that my powered wheelchair hasn’t left my side (or my bum) is fantastic as you are never sure if you are going to see your wheelchair again!

Being in a confined space with so many people, means you can’t help but listen in on conversations and get a snapshot of the relationships there are between people. There are couples, friends, Mum’s and Dads on holiday with their grown up kids and many disabled people with their supporting companions. I confess I am finding this totally fascinating! Even in these beautiful sunny surroundings, where things couldn’t be any more chilled, people seem to find it really hard to have time and compassion for each other. This is especially true for the many people on the ship who have a disability and at times, I can practically feel the tension between them. I wonder if they are disappointed that even on their holiday of a lifetime, they can’t quite relax and let the tension go. It is understandable why this happens, as those frustrating support needs make it very difficult for many people to get much space from each other. We are all human after all…

I need support to give me a hand with daily living tasks and it does get frustrating that I can’t just book myself a holiday and jet off into the sunset. Its a tricky thing to accept that you need to rely on someone else to get out of bed, with your hair looking glamorous every day. Even though I have amazing family, friends and paid Personal Assistants, who never grumble at my requests, I don’t like asking for help and at times the need to do this can eat away at you. Determined not to let this thought turn into loosing independence or generally make me grumpy, I decided to see what I could find on Google!

Practicing mindfulness sounded to be the answer to all my troubles, so despite my skepticism, I decided to give it a go! Sitting cross legged on the floor meditating has never been my thing, so I didn’t have much confidence that this was going to work for me… But I was wrong!

I now attempt to adopt many of the areas mentioned in mindfulness practice in my daily life. I am certainly not all zen and unicorn bubbles, but where I have found this works the most effectively is with relationships. Having the ability to be sensitive and compassionate towards myself and the people around me is something that comes naturally. But when you need to rely on that person to do the simplest of things for you it is easy for it all to go a bit wrong! I always try to take the time to listen properly and give the people in my life my full attention. When someone does or says something that I don’t like and I find I am whipping it into a major disaster in my head, I ask why has this happened and why do I feel the way I do.

Usually the answer to these two questions leaves me understanding and appreciating the situation, with compassion for them and myself.

I know mindfulness isn’t for everyone, but right here and now on this cruise, I am fighting the urge to ask the Entertainment Co-ordinator if I can run a session in the planet bar…. We need to take time for each other, put our phones down, talk and don’t forget to breathe…

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