How Makabali Uses Creativity and Connections to Simplify Life

Editor’s Note: When Hydred Makabali became paralyzed at the age of 18 due to a spinal cord injury, early adulthood proved drastically different than she had ever imagined. But after battling depression and moving out on her own, she began to develop critical life skills as she faced complete autonomy for the first time. With a desire to do things independently, she often found herself in scenarios without any forethought forcing her to devise new methods of completing everyday tasks. Makabali, an artist and Comfort Medical ambassador, chatted with Wheel:Life writer Betsy Bailey about developing creativity and resourcefulness, and how nearly 26 years later, these skills continue to enhance other areas of her life. 

The Mother of Invention

I feel like the car accident pushed me to think about how I process things. At the time, I wasn’t very mindful. I was more into image or impression management — how I appeared in front of others.

I quickly grew up after the accident.

My priority list changed from obtaining things I wanted to pondering over abstract thoughts on contentment and happiness.

The way I process things has always been a little bit out of the box, but after the accident, it evolved into something more primitive and simple. You’ve probably heard the quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I believe that along with necessity, you could also lump in desperation.

Hydred Makabali in her wheelchair holding a broom with a mug hanging from the stick.

My first apartment after leaving home was not accessible. It had standard shelving, cabinetry, and appliances. I can't remember why, but I had some mugs up on one of the top shelves, and I needed to find a way to get them down. I grabbed a broomstick thinking I’d be able to reach them from my chair if I looped the end of the stick into the handles. But the first time I tried it, the mug slid down the pole and smashed at the bottom. I had broken the mug, so I needed to find a better method. On my next attempt, I took an oven mitt and wrapped it around the bottom of the broomstick to cushion the impact, and it worked.

My point is you resort to whatever is available, and you figure things out.

Developing resourcefulness is a way to simplify your life.

Trickling into Art

Painting with a closeup profile view of a man's head. He's playing a brass instrument.

This type of creativity has found its way into my art as well. I've always thought of myself as a realist style artist, but I'm discovering that I'm moving more and more toward the surreal and abstract realms. My concept of art is not so glued into one school of thought anymore or even on one type of texture or medium.

I feel this tug and pull of reverting back to more simple uses.

For example, the type of medium I'm using now is called casein which is derived from milk. It's considered an aqueous medium like watercolor, but when it dries, it becomes a velvety, matte texture and looks similar to acrylic paint. There aren’t many people who use it these days, but being receptive to exploring different ways of doing things has revealed new techniques and mediums I didn't even know existed before.

a surreal painting of two traffic lights, a turn sign, and electricity lines. There are white cars in the background among what seems to be fall foliage.

Flowing into Interpersonal Relationships 

Creativity and resourcefulness have also helped me with interpersonal relationships. I’ve noticed I've become more tolerant. These days, I'm able to meet people where they're at. Even if I think I know someone really well, I recognize they come with their own rich and varied history which is different from mine.

I used to look at things in black and white; if I disagreed with someone, I would get frustrated easily.

In turn, I wasn’t capable of thinking clearly. But now, I’m able to look at the facts in front of me. What is this person like? Where does he or she come from? It's like I'm playing a game with myself in situations where I'm feeling a little unbalanced. I always try to check myself.

Hydred and Richie in convertible

If we compare this to the mug example, becoming angry over the one I broke wouldn’t be productive. Instead, I took the time to think the problem through and find alternative solutions. These days, I’m able to apply the same strategy to my relationships. I do expect failure along the way, though. I'm going to have some broken mugs before I get it right.

Connecting and Sharing

Before and after photos of old method of placing wheelchair in her car and new method of stacking wheels within the frame to create more room for passengers.

A few years back, I got to talking with someone who ended up teaching me how to stack my chair differently so that I could fit more people into my car. Previously, I would just throw my chair and the wheels into the back seat. From this person, I learned how to place my chair a certain way so that the wheels could be stacked within the frame. I wasn't taught that in rehab at the hospital.

These are the kinds of things you learn through connections with other people.

We're like Transformers. If we can connect to each other, we're stronger, bigger, and more powerful. Two brains are better than one. Ideas build upon each other and become even better and more efficient.

Editor’s Note:  Do you have any inventions or creative ways of doing things? Head over to the Wheel:Life Facebook page and share your lifehacks on this post!

This article was excerpted from an interview with Hydred Makabali. It has been lightly edited.

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About the Author


Betsy Bailey has a diverse background that includes experience in marketing research, business operations, travel and culinary writing, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.

Betsy has been writing for Wheel:Life since January of 2017 and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. She also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!


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