When Magic Happens…
Barney and Kada Miller are featured speakers at the Byron Writers Festival this month. Talking about their extraordinary relationship, their ability to overcome the odds, and showing that there really can be a happily-ever-after ending, except this time when the princess rides off with the prince it’s not on a horse; it’s on his wheelchair. The Echo spoke with the husband-and-wife team.
Barney, what was the inspiration for writing this book?
It all happened pretty organically. In 2016 we released a film called You and Me about Kada’s and my life journey. My wife Kada is a songwriter but neither of us had ever done anything like this before. All we knew was that we had to dig even deeper than we did for the film. This time it was us telling the story and we needed to show people the very essence of who we are and what makes us who we are, which is where we landed with the title The Essence of You and Me.
What do you attribute your resilience and persistence to?
I would say mostly from my upbringing. I was fortunate to have encouraging parents my whole life but I was mostly raised by my mum, whom I watched work hard for everything we had. She used to always say to me ‘the power to win comes from within’. It wasn’t until my road accident 18 years ago, that these words really rang true for me.
How much of how you saw yourself and your life had to change after your accident?
Everything had to change. As a male and one who had been the man of the house since I was seven years old it was really hard for me to ask for help. I was out to prove a point in the early days that I was just the same as I was before, so I would try to outdrink everyone, but that never ended well. Independence was the biggest thing I lost in the accident and still is something I struggle with today.
How did meeting Kada change your life?
My life really started when I met Kada. She gave me hope again and lit a fire within me to get off my butt and train harder than I ever had. I knew very early on that I was going to marry her and I just needed to find a way to ask her down on one knee and then to somehow share our first dance as husband and wife.
What is different about you today from ten years ago?
Ten years ago I was the typical statistic of a complete C6 quadriplegic. I could not move or feel anything below the chest and I could hardly push my own wheelchair. Today I can stand on my own and I am taking assisted steps with controlled activation of my lower limbs. I have even trained myself to hold my breath for up to three minutes, which in itself is an accomplishment as I was told I would be on a ventilator for the rest of my life.
What was your first impression of Barney when you met?
His smile. It was filled with so much love and kindness. It gave me hope, hope that if he could live through his pain then I was going to be more than okay, maybe even happy.
What effect did Barney’s philosophy and outlook on life have on you?
It was life changing. For the first time since I was a child I saw life as not just chaotic but beautiful. I was able to see beyond myself and my problems and believe in something more. Believing in his dream helped me find my own and inspired me to sing again.
You had a pretty difficult childhood growing up in a small country town. How do you think we can help country kids going through similar issues?
Finding a purpose or a passion that stimulates and inspires them. I also believe in teaching them tools to honour and process through their feelings in a safe space surrounded by support and love. For me, journaling helped me a lot. Writing our book actually helped me understand my heartbreak more than I ever thought possible.
How did you and Barney manage the collaboration when writing? Was it hard to make the text cohesive?
Writing this book was one of the most challenging things I have set for myself. Getting Barney to dig deep and remember things he thought he couldn’t remember, like his accident or even just his childhood, was our biggest task. I almost had to interview him as if I knew nothing about him. It really surprised me how much came up that I never knew or had even thought to ask about in the 10 years we had been together. It was confronting but also comforting to know that we had the support of each other to get us through any painful memories that were brought to the surface. Which happened to be a lot. Barney would write his chapters by speaking to text in his phone then email to me to edit into the story so it all flowed together. I am so proud of what we created together.
How has music changed your life?
Music gave my soul a voice when I wasn’t brave enough to speak. It is the universal language that has the ability to unite people from all walks of life. It’s how I express my feelings and connect with others who are feeling the same. It inspires me every day.
What is different about you today from ten years ago?
Ten years ago I was still very closed off and had a belief that I wasn’t smart enough and my ideas were stupid and belonged in a fairytale. Now I love learning. I take pride in myself for asking the questions that challenge the norm and even my own beliefs. I aim to learn something new every day and I am now open to endless possibilities. That is when magic happens.
Barney and Kada Miller will be appearing at Byron Writers Festival in a session entitled Resiliance, Hope and Love on Friday at Feros Care Marquee.
Tickets at www.byronwritersfestival.com