Living out a dream during the Covid-19 pandemic: Becoming poor and homeless in Colombia in a wheelchair.

In man’s search for meaning in life, a never-ending process of trials and tribulations, all without logical reason or rational explanation, whilst most live in the mind instead of in the heart, often it is a confusing mess, sometimes disastrous – where experience and growth trump all else, but one where happiness, a byproduct of the process, is the intended goal – with all of life’s lessons serving a greater purpose. The question of how to achieve this endmost goal through the phenomenal mystery of life begets humanity.

Society has replaced the hero’s journey, the person who faces his demons head-on, inevitably navigating through the labyrinth of darkness to find light, with stars in tabloid news, resulting in worship of the rich and famous. Modern society has never been as plentiful in wealth and choices as any time in history, yet we are more unhappy and unfulfilled as ever. Why? We have been taught that he with the biggest house, most impressive title and amount of toys wins. However, the answers lie within, not without.

Over twenty years ago, after leaving a successful career in corporate America, I decided to embark on an odyssey, the inner quest – replete with immense meaning and ambitious purpose – and so I looked into my heart and decided to follow where it directed me. It took me all over the world, from London to Tel Aviv to Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, all the while filling my soul with lessons that would in time mold me into who I was meant to be – the meaning of why I was on this magma filled rock hurling through space.

All that invaluable world experience gave me a unique perspective in which to give back to the world one day – but yet to no avail. At the age of thirty-seven I figured I had a few answers, the sum total of all those parts of my journey up till that point. It was not until a life changing event occurred, after waking up in a hospital trauma center with a priest by my side, that I knew I had no genuine answers, that a more imaginative approach had to be found – all so that I may heal and find light, love and happiness.

After a night out in Philadelphia celebrating the success of a new business venture, I awoke a full quadriplegic. Waking up paralyzed from your neck down is one way to gain new perspective in life, but not one I would recommend. Over the next ten years, with grueling physical therapy and countless insurmountable obstacles, by peering into my heart, making others the focus of my healing, writing a book and creating two blogs, mentoring and helping others in limitless ways, I found resolve, healing.

It was those years of never-ending hardship and healing that led me to my real purpose in life: to guide others on their journey, to help others in finding light through their darkness. Or, simply put: to assist others dismount their story horse, to look into their heart to discover their truth – which is exactly what eventually led to me to Colombia. It is a project that encompasses all the infinite lessons and experience of my life, fully preparing me for this new venture, specifically suited to someone with my detailed past.

Following a talk with an old college roommate, an idea being kicked around for two years, finally took form: a TV show to assist the masses. Steven Quigley Wheels Up was born. A spiritual travel show where I traverse the world conversing with others about their daily struggles, their desire to find new meaning and purpose in life, what led to their breakthrough, and the results – serving as a psychological mirror for the viewers at home. Soon after hearing my story a director and producer signed onto the project.

Life is a best learned through our peers – what we see in others we see in ourselves. It is only by hearing their stories and truth that we fully come to understand how to overcome our own battles. By learning that we all share the same life experiences, no matter the culture or country, we can relate to ourselves and one another in deeper ways. Through a travel show steeped in psychology we hope to utilize others’ examples in order to assist the viewers in their own personal journey for inner healing and happiness.

In May of 2020, expecting to move to Amsterdam to film the TV pilot, with the impetus of an international pandemic underway, thinking there was no reason to store my belongings, I decided to give them all away to the poor and homeless. Soon after in June, I left to NYC to see friends before flying to Europe. Little did I know what my future held and what my recent actions would mean to my life in due time. My profound journey into the heart to live out a dream project would be severely tested.

After being denied entry to board my plane at an empty Newark, NJ airport, resolute on making it to Europe, I moved into a hotel in Queens, NYC in order to await new entry rules into Europe. After three weeks at an expensive airport hotel, with funds dwindling while awaiting an update, I purchased a new ticket to Europe; once again I was unable to board the flight. That is when a good friend from Maine decided one morning to drive down to NYC to jettison me to Portland until the storm passed over.

Unable to find a suitable place to live, and after nine months living in a hotel in Maine – with nowhere in the world to move, as international travel was all but closed due to Covid-19 restrictions – eventually it appeared some countries would soon open. During this period I settled in to experience my first “Maine winter” while exploring moving to twelve different countries, but all were closed. The next part of my journey would bring me to Miami, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, back to Miami, and then finally to Colombia.

Tests completed, flight reserved, it was time to find a place to live in Cartagena. A good friend from Bogota, with local connections through family and friends, was determined to help me secure a new home in my adopted country. Prior to my arrival in Colombia, over six weeks many people helped me to find the right living match. With a stroke of luck, ten days before my departure, with thirty units already disqualified, she secured me a flat in the one of the hottest neighborhoods in Cartagena, Boca Grande.

Once landing in Cartagena and checking into a hotel for two weeks, while the lady we negotiated a deal with was away in Miami getting her vaccination, I relaxed and waited to sign the final contract. But soon that all changed as it became clear she was untrustworthy. From Bogota, of the newly minted nouveau riche class in Colombia, a result of recent expansive economic growth, she had zero commitment to a schedule or to her word. She paid almost no regard or respect to her renters, especially those in need.

Little did I realize how prescient a harbinger she would serve when attempting any successful real estate transactions in Colombia. Her behavior was egregious; her example did not set the bar too high. At this point, with no contract or apartment to rent on the horizon, I extended my stay at the hotel for another two weeks. With unexpected costs adding up (again), friends immediately went back to the drawing board, this time expanding their search to include other neighborhoods and possible living options.

One natural impediment to wheelchairs in South America kept repeating itself – small doorway widths. The main entrances are wide enough, as are many other doorways in homes, but bathroom doorways here are notoriously small, depriving access to the toilet and shower. Otherwise, when contractors are not cutting costs or because they are older buildings, limited consideration is paid to accessibility. Until recently many developing countries had no laws on the books requiring building codes for accessibility. 

Two days before my hotel reservation was to expire it looked like as if we had found the perfect location, building and apartment. It was in the neighborhood I wished to live, with restaurants, shops, cafes, supermarkets and a pharmacy all within close distance. It also had a steep ramp, albeit suicidal – requiring assistance, and two balconies, including one with a view of the ocean and the other with a nice vista of the bay. Once all measurements were verified, I scheduled an appointment to meet the realtor.

The next day the realtor came to the hotel to take receipt of my deposit. All was set, I would move there in 48 hours. A good friend from Venezuela volunteered to help me with the move. Friday arrived and early that morning we got into two taxis with luggage in tow and drove to the building. Two hours later all my belongings were on the ninth floor, awaiting the contract and final payment. As soon I got things settled I headed to the back balcony. That is when I realized the bathroom entrance looked a bit tight.

Immediately I tried entering the bathroom and was unable to enter. The manager soon arrived and attempted to increase the doorway width. Now just barely able to squeeze into the bathroom, I was unable to access the shower. The manager’s response was for me to use a plastic bucket to shower on the balcony. Unwilling in the face of evidence on text between the realtor and my friend, with agreed measurements, he refused to refund my money. He placed the key on the kitchen table and departed.

Wow – what a precarious situation: to either live in an apartment where I could barely access the toilet, and certainly not the shower, or face becoming a vagrant on the streets of Cartagena in a wheelchair.  To return to the hotel would have caused me to incur paying the highest daily rate. It was decided my friend and I would spend the night there and figure it out in the morning. Morning arrived and I was able to get a good daily price again at the hotel. Later I reported the transaction as fraud and was refunded.

Back at the hotel for a third extension the staff was beginning to think I may end up living there. Shortly after it was decided I would leave Colombia, returning to Europe. Holland recently opened their borders again to American travelers – and within two hours I had a reservation on KLM to Amsterdam. It was then that a good friend from another more relaxed city further up the Caribbean coast convinced me to give her country a second chance. Five days later I arrived at my new home: Barranquilla AKA Qiami.

Once there, after checking into another hotel, I immediately began looking for a new apartment. An exhaustive search resulted in no other possible options, until a friend at the hotel told me of a unit for rent in the private residences on the top floors of my building. That evening I met the owner, and after three hours of talking we came to a rental agreement. I was in heaven – a dream come true. Until the day before I was supposed to move in, a text arrived from the owner cancelling the deal at the 11th hour.

This meant I had to extend my stay in yet another hotel for an extended period of time, at full cost. It did not take long for the bill to add up to over two thousand USD, leaving me in a tough position continually paying such excessive living expenses. It was only a matter of ten days before I would be totally out of money. Until this point it was expected my monthly rent would only be a third of my hotel cost, but that was not my reality. My reality was I was about to be broke and on the streets in a second world country.

After careful consideration and conversing with close friends, it was decided I had to swallow my pride and ask others for assistance through public online donations. Otherwise, in the near future, I would have ended up living in the barrios in Colombia in a wheelchair. Since this had happened to me already twice in my life, first after my accident when I lost everything, and second when I could not enter Europe, I could not think of a less desirable place for such an event. A serious crisis was in the making.

A fundraiser was started and within a few weeks friends, through endless love and support, stepped up with legions of contributions. The support I received from the Hilton where I was staying was a Godsend. Christine, the manager, then Paola, the acting manager while Christine was on a leave of absence, along all with all the staff they supervise, were spectacular – both were essential in helping allow me to find a way to remain at my newfound home in Barranquilla. They allowed me to live on credit while I got it all figured out, whilst reducing my daily rate to a livable monthly fee – a true blessing from the heavens.

As life is one big mystical journey filled with otherwise impregnable hurdles, I am grateful for all the aforementioned – amalgamating me into who I am today. It is all a part of the magic of the spiritual trail. However difficult seeing a path forward, I had to remember it would all work out fine in the end. Iron sharpens iron. And although unknown at that time, as nothing worthy in life comes without sacrifice, I had to remind myself that it is all for a greater purpose to benefit myself and others in the near future.

When I set out on my quest to delve deep into the unplumbed frightening expanses of my heart, I had no idea where it would lead me. It has led me all over the world; and eventually to the vision of creating a TV show to help others find healing in life. There were inexhaustible barriers all along the way to derail me from my intention. Certainly I look forward to the day I can look back on all this with a smile. In the interim, I continue to follow the path of my heart, the hero’s journey, the fated work of life, my dream.

Travel Blog: Click here.

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Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

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Thank you for your love and support.

2021 – Forget your resolutions, affirmations and manifestations; You have your agenda in life and life has its own: Never tie a bow around it!

As we approach the New Year, it is a time of introspection, where we look back on the prior year with either regretful dismay or joyous glee, a period when the future, though uncertain, holds a refreshing breath of hope and promise, when we get a short respite to reassess where we are in life and where we’d like to be, beware jumping to any conclusions or having set attachments to any outcomes, as it is highly likely, all resolutions, daily affirmations and drive-through-Guru manifestations aside, that what events and actions you think will occur this year most likely will not result in the wishes you so desire.

At this point you are probably thinking that is a bold statement for one to make. It is. But there is truth behind it. For, we are not in control of our lives nor our minds in the ways we think [and have become accustomed] or feel we are. Alone, almost ninety percent of what we do on a daily basis is done without our knowing, our conscious willing, as we are on auto-pilot. Our mind and what we know is of a system that is in itself incapable of answering the biggest questions, for how can a system think outside of itself, it is self-contradictory and paradoxically absurd. Most modern ideas on decision theory, the what, why and how we reach them, have now been debunked by the likes of Gladwell, R Wright and Kahneman.

The cultural heuristics alone at play, if appropriately understood and applied to any said period, would make the average person rethink how their mind works.  Many of the ways we come to decisions are out of our control; and they are made before we are even aware – as if pre-programmed in our subconscious. So, where then are decisions made? And how are they made? We know only one side of the equation. We know why we see the color red but we do not know why it is red. Other than outside environmental factors, affecting the person through epigenetics, imprinting memories from emotions and context links, the brain itself is only a machine good for calculations, logic and reasoning; otherwise, it is an unnecessary, stressful and anxiety loaded ping-pong machine filled with unfathomable confusion.

2020 has been a year for the history books, a year millions would rather have forgotten ever happened. But we cannot – we cannot change anything that happens in the universe or in our own lives even, we can only change our reaction, our attitude and perspective. We can only live in the present, the now – we have no choice, it is impossible to live in the past or future, there is only the present, and the present is now. As the ten-year anniversary of my horrific accident comes to pass, rendering me quadriplegic below the neck, waking up in a cold dark inner-city trauma ward with a priest at my side, it reminded me that we have our agenda in life, but life has its own – and guess whose wins, every time? Dare to guess?

“Love the hand that fate deals you and play it as your own, for what could be more fitting.”

—  Marcus Aurelius

Once we are knocked down in life we have a choice, we can either choose to stand [or try] back up again, refusing to yield a victim, choosing instead to become a survivor by pushing forward and finding purpose and meaning in life, or lay down, crying “poor me,” allowing ourselves to wistfully blow abound in a blizzard of overly-emotional ‘snowflakes,’ offended by every little one of life’s idiosyncrasies, creating a world of delicate little ‘flowers,’ where no one can speak their mind or truth without causing harsh judgment or irreparable psychological damages to a ruling generation already in need of increased self-worth and inner-confidence. If there was ever a doubt, go read Jordan Peterson of the ‘true north.’

When I went out that Christmas week night with three girlfriends I had no idea I would wake up severely injured. Well, I was almost lost on the trauma table four times so I guess it was a bit worse than was originally thought. Most are not found under a moving train and live to talk about it, let alone become eighty-four percent recovered through a long torturous road of recovery and healing – resulting in a book. In due accorded time, I fully plan to walk and run again. It is through Doing The Dirty Dishes of life that one achieves something of any real integrated value or virtue – anything really worth having in life. 

But, did I have a choice? Do any of us have a choice what [personally] happens to us in life? Are we mere products of fate, pre-destined to be a certain someone or somebody? How much of it is in our control? Does free will exist, or is it the greatest invention of the mind since Siegfried thought he could befriend a wild white tiger – crude bold trickery of the mind? This is not the appropriate space or place to address such lengthy complex subjects or concerns, as they are worthy of their own book chapter each, however it is important that they have some mention. Had I not gone out that night to party and celebrate the success of my new business venture would I have still have ended up in a wheelchair? The answer is YES.

One could go so far as to the hard-determinism view on life, where Elon Musk, a huge proponent and supporter of simulation theory, where it is believed our whole lives are being lived out through a VR headset, sitting in a comfortable cosmo chair, somewhere in a universe conference room, believes we see and experience modern life and reality – virtually – the “ultimate reality.” It is no wonder he wants [and will] to take us to Mars one day in our future, our lifetime. Not that determinism, the doctrine that states that all actions are outside the will of humans, is flawed. Free will is a phantasm of the brain.

The existential and corporal illusion of free will once discovered is overtly disappointing, and at the same time covertly surprising; but once fully understood, an [third] eye-opening occurs, an enlightening and freeing of the mind and all its constraints. Along with believing we have control over our lives, they are the two most critical elements in contributing to the massive increase and ramped rise in stress and anxiety in modern society. There is no need to worry or stress, you have no control over any of your life, including your thoughts. We do not live in the universe; the universe lives within us.

“Fate leads him who follow it, and drags him who resists.”

—  Plutarch

Your life was pre-planned long ago at a meeting somewhere and sometime in the universe. It might have been near your home planet, or somewhere else of past assimilation or experience, but you were there in pure soul-spirit-form and agreed to every little facet of your life. In pre-birth soul planning you planned every part of your life, every last detail, from whom would be your parents, brother, who you will marry, kids or not, divorce, disease, accidents, graduations, travel, likes and dislikes – nothing is left out, or to chance. You spend all your lives surrounded by the same tribe of people, interchanging roles in each lifetime. So in this lifetime your mother could have been your brother in a past life, other-where.

Ever wonder sometimes when you wish to give up, when you ponder taking your own life through suicide, that there is this small flame deep inside that still burns on, a dim pilot that gives you a flicker of hope, a connection to something, a something familiar that makes you feel as if it will all be ok? When you intuit such feelings, even those you feel as you are committing wrongs, there are multiple reasons other than your inner body’s feeling of dis-agreement, they are also influenced through angel, spirit and ancestral guides, as well as your inner Holy Spirit, higher-self, inner-spirit-being, conscious existence – God, and the inexhaustible wheel of karmic debt self-balancing and inescapable cycle of reincarnation.

For those who question fate, and especially for those who believe in [what others blindly tell them] self-manifestation, for those who think you can (or sell other “sheep” into slaughter) do and become anything you wish, or order from the fast food universe, never having done the “actual” inner-work to achieve the desired results, who occupy their time being narcissistic, self-centered and egoistic, have not gone deep within their heart – into their soul – try temping it and see what results. Thus differently, without giving up control in life and what it brings us daily, it is impossible to garner the said outcome cleverly sold to you. That is for those who see success in the most verdant sense, not riches of the heart.

“Everything hangs on one’s thinking…A man is as unhappy as he has convinced himself he is. “

—  Aristotle

For those who think that success, since in the modern world he with the biggest and most toys wins, the prevailing current ethos of our society where we elevate the superficial and reward the shallow, in constant need of daily emotional affirmation, is the result of untold selfless hard work, sacrifice, perseverance, Sisyphus grit and determination, are in for a shock. It is not due to their hard work, lack of personal conviction or endless resolve. The Bill Gates and Oppenheimers of the world owe their success to a complex sinew of universally inter-woven and inter-connected ensemble of synchronistic events.

Resolutions are also a waste – as if the habit, the base of the addiction or pattern, is not changed, so too will the results remain unchanged – rendering them worthless. Otherwise, beware, by definition, if you continue to do the same thing each day and yet wake up the next day expecting different results, one may be labeled insane. There can only be one Michael Jordan, no one else. Focus on yourself, figuring out who you are, why you are here and your passion and purpose, for everyone else is already taken.

Free will does not exist; it is a mental construct of the mind – same as linear time. They are two sides of the same coin – multiple choices in the tree of life, insofar all decisions lead to the same place, your fate.  You become what you are meant to become, even if you take a few detours on the way. You might even have an Unbreakable Mind and choose the road less traveled. It might take more lifetimes as Samsara plays itself out but, eventually once the lessons of earth are learned, you vibration increases manyfold. To begotten one must beget. Life will not come to you, you must go to it – what you put in, you get out.

All the ascended masters over time, whether Jesus, Buddha or Krishna, have increased their frequency and sprung forth their vibration not by logging onto “Rock-sta-app,” wishing they owned a large Mc-mud-hut atop a large desert rock outcrop – replete with haboob window-covers, through manifestation, by endless prayer (as if it is a list; as if God does not already know your wants and concerns), through daily affirmations (which have been proven to have little value outside the warm-fuzzies), or by the hand of any number of self-ordained – fill-in-the-blank on any social media type – life and success coaches.

These are the newly ordained graduating class of ass-hats, requiring  self-sacrificial thorns, a lamb of the self-crucified sub-group of those who have who have in life only successfully achieved mid-life crisis, a never-ending link in the infinite self-help movement societal noose, where a license found in a Cheerios box is no longer par excellence, however thoroughly ensured you are of impossible results via their Facebook PhD – the same group who they themselves have not walked the path by way of traumatic mistake, planned purpose or even happenstance, yet believe themselves worthy of guiding, or even worse, advising others on life – incessantly selling you inbox success and happiness. It is condescending and arrogant to think you know of another’s life better than he himself does; or that you affect change.

“Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have.”

—  Epictetus

Whether I went out that frigid December night ten years ago in Philadelphia or not, I still would be injured, in a wheelchair at this time, unable to walk. If it were not the Friday night Express Train tragic accident, it would have been the Saturday morning bus smash incident – it was fate I would end up where I am now. There are no mistakes in life – or chance meetings of places or people of our collective memory. No mud; no lotus. Everything in our lives is inter-connected, with limitless imagination and possibility, as the trees in your backyard are inter-twined and co-dependent – one cannot escape the eternal condition and balance of our own personal karma – each lifetime and lesson must be lived out.

The meaning of life is just that: life – living. It is an experiential process that requires your participation. Sure, fate will bring us to where we are going, and we will get there, eventually, but only first by getting your hands dirty, Doing The Dirty Dishes of life, do you advance. Think of life as a garden, you can either till the soil, providing the proper earth loving nutrients and sunlight, so splendid flowers of love, support and friendship can take root and develop and grow into healthy and mature, bright and beautiful shining souls, or you can pay it no mind, denying it the necessary inner-self-love and natural needed nutrients to bring the plant, your life, to fruition. Life can and will, and is almost guaranteed, change in a just a flash of an eye – if only the Local Train! In life, by the way, your agenda ne’er wins: Never tie a bow around it.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

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Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Ep. #5 The greatest gift I ever received: Beaten, left for dead: Found under an inner-city train.

All throughout history humans have lived, laughed and learned through narrative and story. As I speak of my accident for the first time publicly, one parable especially comes to mind, speaking volumes: Sower and the seed. The point of the story is not the sower or even the seed. It is the soil that we need be most concerned. Without proper conditions (self-nutrients) present in the soil, the seed (you) will not thrive and grow, thus deteriorating into decline, meeting its death.

As it is with human trauma, without the proper nutrients of love, care, compassion, profound self-understanding and forgiveness, one cannot hope to recover or heal their self. Just as the fate of the seed is determined by what soil it falls, so too does your recovery.  If it falls on rocky ground, it will not receive proper nourishment and cease living. If placed within the right conditions, it will flourish and grow into a healthy human, delivering light to a world in such dire need.

Just in from the competitive city winter winds, I sat down to relax, take a breather. Life was good, or at least so I thought. I had recently founded a financial company in Philadelphia with a silent partner. And it was growing quickly beyond our means. We could not locate office space or hire employees fast enough to accommodate our rapid expansive growth; sales were breaking new records each month. The 2008 financial crisis was in full swing and we were well positioned to assist homeowners in trouble, those in need of loss mitigation or negotiation.

It was Christmas season and so I decided to take one of my employees, a Peruvian Spanish translator, out for a thank you meal. We had a splendid dinner at an Irish pub, replete with Guinness and Irish fiddle. Shortly thereafter, an old friend phoned me to join her and visiting friends at her favorite corner watering hole for holiday cheer and to celebrate my newly found entrepreneurial success at a different neighborhood in the city, a short distance away. I was due back in New Jersey to meet an old friend, Dominic. That meeting would never take place.

Having had my fair share of holiday beverages, I decided it was safer to be driven home. I was feeling quite good; it was a time of revelry. Business was booming and it was celebration time.  My motto in life was always let the good times roll: Carpe Diem, even if pot-valor. Safety was not always at the front of the list. At eleven-forty or so in the evening, the night ended and we exited to the street to hail a taxi – unaware the fate that awaited me only moments away.

After sitting in the backseat of the taxi, exchanging pleasantries with old and new found friends alike, and telling the driver to take me to New Jersey, life as I knew it would forever be altered. Something terribly wrong occurred at this time. Five hours later I would awaken on a gurney, in a cold dark hallway, with a priest at my side. Father, I stated, in desperation, “Am I dead – am I in a morgue?” “No, my son, you have been in a tragic accident,” he said.  Those words are forever indelibly etched into my memory.

Nothing could have prepared me for that moment. It was the first time in my life when I knew I was all alone (or, at least I thought); there was no phone call to be made, no one person that could help resolve this emergency. After ten seconds of pity, while lying there with the priest at my side, unable to feel my body below my neck, a small voice came to me and said: “Yes, Steven, it is bad. You have been in a very tragic accident. It will be difficult, it will be almost insurmountable, but, [with my guidance] you will be ok. You will walk again and go on to help others in great ways.”  Immediately the pain subsided, a feeling of peace and calm unfolded, leaving me in trance state, a deep peace of mind.

From that moment I never looked back, never had pity for myself or situation again. I was determined to overcome this devastating tragedy with a fortitude I have to this day, without a clue from where it came.

Immediately, my attention turned to being positive, determined that this would not beat me, that I would walk again. The priest continued on with his prescribed religious rant but I asked rather that he focus on the solution. He was not happy with that request and ran off, never to return. Could I survive this trauma? Would I get see my friends and family again? There were so many unknowns – it was mentally devastating as these concerns raced through my mind.

However, not wallowing in self-pity, it was hard not to be overcome with emotion. Would my business survive; who would now run my company; would I ever be able to have sex again – marriage or babies; would my legs repair themselves– would I ever camp or hike in the woods again; how would my bills get paid – would there be enough money? I would not realize it as this time, but the accident would turn out to be my biggest gift of my life: a second chance.

Thought most of my memory from the time I stepped into the taxi until I woke up in the Jefferson Health trauma center was erased – a result of activation of the fight-or-flight reptilian response of the brain. As a psychological built-in defense mechanism of the body, the part of the brain that involves memory is often shut off in a trauma.  But, through proper investigation, and the help of a prestigious city law firm, additional information on events that occurred that fateful night came to light.

Upon investigation, it was determined I was a ghost, unseen on any camera for an eight block surrounding area. My taxi was just off view from the restaurant cameras. I stepped out of the recorded area by only a few feet but it was enough to obscure which taxi I got into. Somehow I ended up about four blocks away, beaten and left for dead in a city alleyway. We know this due to cellular records and triangulation. Two phone calls were made to two close friends for help. No one answered. It was 03:30 at this time – quite late to answer a call from a wild friend.

Upon entry to the trauma center, as doctors and surgeons conferred for what seemed like years, eventually a consensus was reached. Apparently I was struck with a large, long heavy object; most likely metal. They determined this by the width and length of the strike welt marks on my back, in three places. The strikes inflicted on me were intended to kill. The 45 angle blow to my neck caused six vertebrae to explode like hot popcorn kernels, causing bones to touch my spinal cord, resulting in quadriplegia: paralysis in all four limbs. But trauma can cause the body to react in unimaginable ways in order to survive, or find safety.  

There is some small memory of me waking up in the alley late that night but it is hard to say what is real and what is imagined – what parts the brain is filling in to make sense of or to complete a narrative, unclear as to where the story left off and the surreal dream I awoke to began. However, I do remember being on all fours, in severe pain, fully aware I was in deep trouble, realizing I was experiencing a serious trauma – that shit had hit the fan. It is unclear how I made it to the train station, whether by crawling or walking with adrenaline. A body under severe trauma, induced with adrenaline, can do accomplish extraordinary feats.

Forty minutes later I appeared on close circuit cameras entering the train station. I remember in all the malaise, as if stamped into me as a soldier: find a way to safety. Of course through  retrospect, after knowing what I know now, trying best to remove any bias, that would only make sense to get back to a place of safety, my home – via the train. In my confused state of being I figured I could get home, sleep, and then seek medical care. I was gravely mistaken.  

Most of my time at the train station was a blur, as are most memories from that night. Unclear how I arrived to the station but once there, I do recollect some actions but mostly only thinking I must get home, I must get home. After a short while, the adrenaline wore off and the pain set in – pain that no words can fully encompass. It felt as if a torch had been lit at the bottom of my spine. To say that it felt as if I had been electrocuted by high-tension wires with untold inexhaustible fire inside my lungs would be an understatement.

For the last nine years I have thought about what could have lead up this trauma. There are three possibilities I and others close to me have considered: 1. there was an argument with the taxi driver that lead to a physical altercation in the streets; 2. an argument with the taxi driver ensued, resulting in me exiting the taxi and then meeting my fate in the rough city back alley; or 3. I exited the taxi without paying, walking off, he pursued me and hit me from me behind, then dragged me down an alley to finish off the job. I believe it could be the first but I am unsure.   

I could immediately feel pain throughout every part of my body, causing bouts of blurred vision and physical blackouts. After what seemed like a year, a train finally arrived to the station, and someone was trying to help me, but I was in too much pain. As I was rocking by body back and forth in the platform chair, a result of reeling pain, suddenly the adrenaline wore off. After a few minutes, I stood up to look down the tracks for any incoming train. Not stepping past the safety bumps at platform’s edge, with no train in sight I leaned back up against a support pillar – and then, like a tree in the forest, I fell seven feet below onto the tracks. We know these details to be accurate as witnessed on various train station security camera recordings.

I do remember feeling a hard thud against my body.  Not realizing where I was or the true imminent danger that lay before me, I was unaware the life altering changes about to drastically unfold. Without total recall of the event, I do however remember looking down the tracks and seeing headlights coming straight at me. The train I was waiting for would arrive 2 minutes and 17 seconds later.  At that moment, I felt a gust of wind, my body rolling – then, all went black.

There I lay, in direct collision with a moving train. And it was the express, to boot. The train would not stop for me; it hadn’t sufficient time. The driver later swore he ran over a boy. Left for dead until the third rail electricity was turned off, waiting for the city coroner to arrive with a body bag, a group of fire, police and medics stood, chatting and drinking coffee. Late it came to light, after twenty minutes or so, a policeman who had just returned from war, figured he had seen much worse on the battlefields of Afghanistan and would see if by some chance I had survived.

He jumped down onto the track area, pulling himself under the train cars by sheer arm and hand strength, until he came to my body. Locating my arm, he felt a pulse, and called for me to be boarded my medics. I later heard that a cheer went up from the bystanders observing the scene when they heard the news come across the radio that I may have survived. More than one spray of coffee must have hit the wall of the station when that update was heard. The train engineer had already been taken for psychological evaluation.  He later found out through a policeman friend that I had survived.

Thank goodness one of the best trauma centers on the East Coast was only a four city-block free-ride away. Within minutes they had me on a stretcher and in the back of the ambulance. I do recall briefly being in one, sirens wailing – but unsure really if it was a dream or real. My mother told me I spoke of the emergency ride while in the trauma unit. Many things said at the time of a trauma are only to be forgotten later, a by-product of morphine and other drugs, plus the leftover effects of a full night of partying.

The doctors and all supporting medical staff at Jefferson Health were a godsend, making my stay there as comfortable and accommodating as possible. My time in the ICU, where I would spend Christmas, was brightened by one of my four full-time nurses, Mark, a musician who one evening entered my room playing Christmas carols on his violin. I cried. My team of doctors, five in total, seemed concerned for my care as if one of their own children – it was heartfelt, and made all the difference while spending your holidays all alone in an ICU unit.

As fate would have it, my surgeon was not only a world class doctor but also a gentleman of pragmatic healing, forever interested in what new crazy treatments I was considering or using to recover – so he could then share for the mutual benefit of other patients within his care. It was his level of compassion and concern for the well-being and recovery of his patients that help keep my inner fire lit. 90% of recovery and healing in psychological; and he absolutely was critical in that process by not giving me %s or probabilities of walking, or any level of recovery, resulting in never making it to the finish line before ever having had a chance to start the race.

After my extended stay at Jefferson I was farmed out to a nursing home for six weeks so my bones could heal; required in order to gain entry into a rehabilitation hospital. After healing my bones enough to place fifty-percent weight on each leg, multiple physical tests and an in-person interview, I was accepted into and transferred to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia. A top institution when it comes to brain and spinal cord injuries, of which I am hugely grateful.

Now a part of the same hospital system, Jefferson Health, but at the time the only independent hospital left in the country, Magee is one of the top rehab hospitals in the country. Their motto: The road back begins here. My team there certainly provided me the right conditions to do so. My head therapist, Elizabeth Watson DPT, was the lynchpin; bridging my off-the-wall healing methodologies, such as cold-laser treatment and other cutting-edge electromagnetic type treatments, with her education and experience helping others recover and heal. Carol Owens, the manager, deserves a medal of honor for putting up with my irascible personality.

My recovery and any true healing, I was aware, would only occur if the right conditions were present. As with the seed and the soil – if the soil is not properly nourished and watered, the seed would die, regardless. A close friend, Danny, a MD, visited me while in the hospital and told me: “Steven, I know this might sound strange but you need to learn to love yourself again, kind of like making love to your mind and body.” Yes, it sounded very strange to me but deep inside it resonated with my soul, my higher-inner-self.  He clearly understood my confusion.

Prior to the accident, saying I was capable of understanding or providing self-love through compassion and forgiveness for myself, would be the moral equivalent of betting it all on the shortest guy on your basketball team to dunk – simply not possible. It was very hard for me to accept help from others, in every capacity. I was a bit of a pissant, overly critical of self and others.  It was only by choosing the road less traveled, the journey of a thousand miles, enduring endless mental toil and torment, which resulted in a brutal physical recovery and veracious healing, that I was able to find compassion of self, of which without, there would never have been any lasting hope for inner-peace, empathy or therapeutic sympathetic amelioration.

It all begins with having compassion for yourself, and the circumstances in which you find yourself. It includes the highest form of forgiveness – true unconditional forgiveness, not only of self but others too. Forgiving others is not for their benefit, it is yours – it allows you to find peace of mind to sleep well at night.  Recovery would require a seemingly boundless list of requirements in order to fructify.  But without the right conditions present, you, the seed, will not grow and flourish in to a healthy plant, capable of bringing goodness and light to the world.

Without deeper inner forgiveness and unplumbed self-love nourishment I would not have found the wherewithal to write my book, Unbreakable Mind, as a give-back to the community, my way of paying it forward – helping others who face struggle in life. It was through ‘Doing the Dirty Dishes’ of life, facing one’s greatest challenges head-on, overcoming one’s fears and adversity, that provided the proper soil in which to heal. I figured if a train did not kill me, there must be a reason for my existence. Without that self-ethos support system in place, providing me a solid foundation, and through fathomless self-compassion and forgiveness, overcoming past errors and regrets, my rocket would not have made it off the launch pad, self-immolating into a pyre of worthless self ashes.

In our lives, we cannot choose where the seed falls, which is the result of intense fortitude and courage: one’s inability to become a victim of life. However, we can provide it the best environment in which we find it in order to allow it to grow into a survivor. Just as you would water and provide sunlight to a plant, you must also do the same for yourself, nourishing your body and soul like photosynthesis. Self determination and commitment are the cornerstones of any successful journey. At the end of the day, the choice is ours whether to become a withering weed or grow into a mature human capable of assisting others on their self-journey of healing.

Quote of the day: “Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”             — Epictetus

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Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

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Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

Per, you touched my mind and heart, my left butt-cheek responded.

This is my first official blog post. It is a blog of love and gratitude: dedicated to Per Gjeding.

The idea of a blog has been presented to me many times over the years but was never a true fit.  As with all things in life, the sands of time did their infinite magical dance and, as a result, I was again faced with Doing the Dirty Dishes in life.  So, as I embark on this new chapter of my story, on the journey we call life, it is my hope you will find my musings informative, light, witty and funny, or any combination of the above.  Please take a minute to read on and share with me my first official blog post sent into the universe.

As I sat in the shower today, as on most days, I let the hot water run over my head, trickling down all over my body, comforting my over-worked muscles and frazzled nerves, contemplating what could ever I write as a blog. There were so many ideas running through my head.  They were endless; all over the map.  Another part of me was unsure who would want to read it, but after a quick reality check of what my life has morphed into, and with the continued robust monthly sales of my first book, Unbreakable Mind, I finally capitulated to the universal forces to be and decided that I would post one blog entry per month.  And so it goes. 

As I continued on with my bath routine, a peculiar Wilander act of sudsy balance, something was amiss, suddenly change was upon me. This was not my first time down this road; big changes always portended future recovery. In massive amounts of pain in my groin, hip, pelvic cradle and glute muscles for weeks, nothing out of ordinary, I was in search of answers.  I knew a newly introduced Physical Therapy system, PAS by Aktiv Form, created and developed, the result of twenty years of endless and selfless years of dedication to heal himself from tragic injury, by Per Gjeding, of Danmark, was affecting my nerves and muscles but had no real or clear idea where all that hard work would lead me. For the first time in my injured life I was able to lift my left butt-cheek and wash it without any bracing or other assistance.  I was so ecstatic I wanted to get up and jump in the water.  I knew what this meant: It translated into a major piece of recovery still required before I could walk again. I was over the moon with love for Per, and incredibly grateful to all others who helped prepare me to get to this point to be ready for PAS therapy.

Not long ago I was on a trip to Iceland.  There I would be meeting an old friend, a friend whom is special to me, a friend I met while living in Tokyo over twenty years ago. She was originally from Nepal but was now a married nurse in Boston, with a lovely teenage daughter, Hazel.  It was a ‘layover’ in Iceland, en route from Sweden to Philadelphia, a result of the infamous Iceland stopover in Reykjavik. Which, it should be noted, and perhaps will be elaborated on in a later post, is not really a stopover where technically you pay taxes to exit the airport, rather, it is actually two separate flights they string together and refer to as a stopover.  If it truly were a stopover, the cost to stop in Iceland would be much less money out of pocket. With tourism on the decline, an over-priced and over-supplied housing market in full throttle, they might heed lessons from the past, and change their bait-and-switch ‘stopover’ international ad campaign.  Otherwise the country is absolutely amazing. I plan to return this year.

After arriving at Reykjavik airport early, I stopped for a cup of tea and some last minute local Nordic sweets; a pre-flight relax routine I have developed over my years of extensive world travel.  That and older age have me arriving for flights extra early these days.  Actually, I find it more fun and it eliminates any undue stresses on my body.  Nothing tenses an injured body more than rushing it – even though you are not pressured, your body will become so on its own.  Normally I am first to board but the flight crew did not have the aisle wheelchair for the plane ready for me.  Finally I settled on having a nice young strong Polish ground crewman carry me the ten feet onto the plan to my seat.  Until he found out I was sitting in seat 1D he was not overly thrilled at the thought of my request.  I have been a few places and knew better to get on the plane sooner than later.  After a few minutes of settling in I looked to my right to introduce myself to my seatmate.  “Hello, my name is Steven,” and he introduced himself in a heavy English accent as “Piere.”

Upon first hearing his accent, I thought I had a Frenchman sitting at my side.  The stewardess came out with some champagne and fresh fruit.  It must have been a long day for us both as the glasses never had a chance to touch the tray. A few minutes passed and I was curious where my new flight compatriot was from.  As the stewardess poured us some red wine, people filing past, Piere and I were locked into deep conversation. Though I was still unsure what is his actual name was, and from where he hailed.  At some point in his explanations to me, as I assume he is answering my questions, I hear him say “Slovakia.”  Ahh, that is it!  He is Slovak. Lucky me, I speak some.  “Aka sa mas? Dobre?” I say to him.  He looks at me as if I have three eyes.  Fifteen minutes, and another round of Spanish red wine later, I conclude his name is actually Per and he is Danish, a true Scandinavian.  I decide at this point to skip any attempt to utter any bit of my small Dansk repertoire. 

As it turns out, in our mutual attempt to get over one another’s initial accents, he was telling me the story of how had been paralyzed in an accident as a young man, and taught himself, through sheer gritty determination and the endless quest to understand how his body heals, his own method of Physical Therapy.  The name of the system he created is PAS by Aktiv Form. He then goes on to not only tell me of his recent groundbreaking speech at Oxford University, which, in case you are wondering, floored the audience, before handing me an actual copy of his presentation, with his whole 7 keys system of healing revealed to me. Well, talk about synchronicity of the universe; the unconditional unending love of God – I was speechless.  For those who know me know that is no easy task to accomplish.  Stewardess, two more wines, please.  I was unsure what had just happened.

When we got back to Philadelphia airport, it turned out Per was staying at a hotel near to my home.  He was in town visiting his son, Jack, whom I have rarely seen such love for a son by a father.  Two hours of our flight were spent listening to stories of his awesome American university, Division II star basketball player son, along with plenty of photos, also including those of his family and home in Jutland, Danmark.  We shared a taxi.  I got out of the taxi at my residence and as I went to shut the door, Per asked me, “Steven, are you free in a few days for lunch?”  “Sure, Per, that sounds spectacular. Let’s do lunch soon.” I said as I exited our Uber ride.  Later that evening I tried reaching Per at his hotel and they had no record of him.  The Whatsapp number he gave me was also unreachable.  I was unsure what to think and soon got back to settling in my home after a one month mentally and physically exhaustive trip to Scandinavia.

Three days later, early in the morning, a text arrives from Malik, my local Pakistani Uber friend.  He asks me if I am ready for lunch at 12 noon with Per. Oh shit, I guess he did not forget our unconfirmed appointment, even though we had not spoken a word since I left the taxi three nights prior. It turns out his wife forwarded him the email I sent to him through his Danish website the night we had met.  As he enters my home, with a big smile: “Halo,my good friend,” jolly and joking as always. We have tea and chat.  Then he asks me to lie down so he could do some tests.  Observations completed, with a big smile on his face, he informs me my body is healing well and with further physical therapy regimen, his, I could complete all the circuits and start walking again.  He then popped up, said he was off to see his son practice basketball, and asked if I would be free again in two days.  Before I could holler out a loud yes, he was out the door.  As he ran off, I quickly made it to the door to scream out the door, “yes Per, yes, let’s do it again in two days.”  As he moved out of site, I could hear him say, wrapped in an impish child’s laughter, “see you in two days, Steven.”  Two days later at high noon he was there.

What was transpiring in my life? What galactic forces had combined through serendipitous means in order to bring us two together, sitting next to one another on a trans-Atlantic plane ride, and later in my living room.  It is my belief that forces beyond the comprehension of the human mind are responsible for bringing us together in Iceland.  Nothing is random in life; everything happens for a reason. Including Per. But there I was, sitting quietly with information I knew could help me walk again. Over the next two months I would follow his system exactly as he instructed. After about thirty days, I began seeing the results of his ground breaking physical therapy system.  It was tremendous, some might say miraculous.  It is only a matter of time before I start walking with a walker.

Per, you touched my heart and mind, and my left butt-cheek responded. Never before in my wildest imagination would I have dreamed of meeting you, or the result of such aligned planetary forces that brought me together with you and your amazing PAS Physical Therapy system. There are no mistakes in life; there are no chance meetings. We met for a reason – which is now clear to me and hopefully soon to others in the universal shared conscious of our cosmos. Thank you for your love and support. Steven

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.

DoingTheDirtyDishes Blog has begun….

It is exciting to be starting a new chapter in the DoingTheDirtyDishes book of life. After much thought, following publishing my first book, Unbreakable Mind, Channeling your Survival Instincts after Catastrophic Injury, by Steven Quigley, I decided to start a blog to expand on existing ideas in my current motivational and inspirational book, a book on fighting the struggle we all have deep within us, the need for deep spiritual work, on healing and recovery; to write on other areas of research for a second book I am writing on the heart and to share other daily musings on areas of mind, body or soul. Each month or so I will create one blog entry and share it with the universe. This is all new to me, I never intended to become a writer. But the universe had other plans for me. And so it goes. My life has become one of helping and assisting others; helping others get through their daily struggles, to overcome the cross that each of us bears in life; and perhaps I can inform you along the way and, if even luckier, get you to smile. Life is meant to be enjoyed, if not today, when?! Memento Mori. Teeth to the wind.

Travel Blog: Click here.

Spiritual Blog: Click here.

Book: Unbreakable Mind. (Print, Kindle, Audio)

Doing The Dirty Dishes Podcast: Watch or listen to episodes and subscribe: SpotifyApple PodcastBuzzsprout.  Also available on Google PodcastiHeartTunein, Amazon Alexa and Stitcher

Doing The Dirty Dishes YouTube channel – watch and subscribe.

Social Media linksTwitterInstagram and Linkedin.

Travel Blog links: Covid-19 stranded in NYC JFK and Maine – also travel stories on Ireland, Spain, SwedenBelgiumIcelandColombia (Espanol version), AmsterdamGermany, New HampshireTN and NYC.

Personal Website link where you can also find my bookphotos of my travels and updates on current projects.  

Thank you for your love and support.