However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
How true! Attitude is everything –
‘Life is like a world made up of different windows where good and bad intermingle and everyone has their own perspective. In this world we each try to make a place for ourselves.Some allow fate to cast a shadow over their future whilst others create positive outcomes from whatever life throws at them . . Our lives may not always be what we have hoped for, but seldom is it as bad as we sometimes allow ourselves to believe . . We each seek happiness and to achieve it we should choose to look at life through the ‘happiness window’.As I look out from my self-created window I see the world filled with colour even though ‘fate’ painted a black picture for me some years ago . . From my small world I have managed to reach inwards to realise huge dreams and have trained my arms to drive my wheelchair towards hope.Although I was paralysed 15 years ago I am thankful for having had the opportunity to live in this diverse and multi-coloured world because it is life itself that matters, and to be able to share the sunrise of another new day with those I love.
When I was forced to change my perspective on life I was never alone in my struggle . . . I am thankful to the rainbow of people who have given so much support on my journey of hope – how lucky I am that you are all there . . . ‘ Gülay Çolak
Over the few years that J and I have known Gülay we have watched her blossom as her self-confidence in her own creative ability has grown. Her positive attitude has drawn others to her and those people have, in turn, found their own lives enriched whilst, at the same time, enriching hers. People like Len who, when he realised Gülay’s need for a proper workshop, set about organising his mates and, using their former work-skills, they built one for her. Positivity is a very ‘attractive’ power and a force to be reckoned with.
Mutlu (which translates as happy, lucky or fortunate in Turkish) is well-named
People like Mutlu Bengüler, a successful business owner from Izmir who so admires Gülay’s grit and determination to overcome her disability and provide for her family that he sent her boxes of stuff that she can turn into desirable items using her self-taught skills as an artist. He wrote to her of his admiration for her courage and attitude. He said he had a good life, a great family and a good business and wanted to help her in her endeavours – he has, quite unannounced, repeated this kindness on several occasions.
Recently she received a pallet-load of marble tiles of various sizes from the Denizli Marble and Stone Manufacturers’ Association with an commission to decorate some of them. The idea being that the association would give them away as gifts.
This was followed up with an invitation to be an expenses-paid guest of one of the companies at the massive, annual Marble Fair in Izmir. The invitation included a commission to paint some eight portraits on marble of various ‘big-wigs’ such as Kemal Kılıçdağoğlu leader of the CHP (main political opposition party), İzmir and Denizli Valis (Provincial Governors), Commander of the 4th (Aegean) Army, the Economy Minister as well as several mayors and heads of chambers of commerce. She was also able to demonstrate her art to visitors and potential clients.
Gülay described the experience as one of joy, excitement and tears. Joy at the reception she and her work received; joy that the company paid most of the hotel expenses for her, her husband and daughter for the four days; the excitement of staying in a hotel for the first time in her life; the excitement of being interviewed by a television crew (see her interview here as long as the link stays up); the tears when she realised that their four-star hotel had put them on the third floor, had no toilet access for anyone in a wheelchair and a lift that was so small she had to be carried like a sack of coal up any stairs! Tears when she realised that the huge İzmir Fair site (the size of our local town, Ortaca) did have one toilet facility for disabled visitors but that access for a wheelchair was impossible because of a barrier! Legs crossed and whistle, then! Not only does she have a wonderful attitude, she proved she has some serious will-power, too! Mind over matter, as my old sergeant, Danny (The Beast) Haddon, used to say!
Some of the beautiful stuff she took up with her has found its way to the US as well as into boardrooms, offices and living rooms around Turkey. She was handed photos and given commissions on the spot for collection the next day. This resulted in late night painting sessions in her hotel room ending in the early hours before she was off again the next morning to the fair for another day of smiling, working and (metaphorically) keeping her legs crossed!
How much her exposure at the fair will reflect in future commissions remains to be seen – what I can tell you is that the experience has been great for her, boosting her confidence and self-image no end. I would also add that if intestinal fortitude – guts to you and me – was worth its weight in gold then Gülay Çolak would be a multi-millionaire many times over!
Alan Fenn, Okçular Köyü (bathing in the reflected glory of a wonderful lady)