Saturday 8 January 2011


One can never consent to creep
when one feels an impulse to soar
- Helen Keller

 By the time she was seven, Helen Keller was already in despair.
And it was not bleak because she could not see or hear but because nothing had a name. And, she admits, she was spoiled rotten. Every plea for attention (every tantrum), was rewarded by silencing her with sweets.
Helen, the graduate, and Annie, circa 1904
And then came Annie Sullivan.
And water felt like it sounded, spilled into her hand. And doll - the thing itself could be smashed across a wall, but the name? The name remained, carved, curled, into the palm of her hand.
There is a picture of Helen dancing with Martha Graham, reading the lines of the faces of political heads like Reagan, Roosevelt and Nehru, laughing with Alexander Graham Bell.
Expecting the worst, she saw joy because the right person entered her life, and fought for her, advocating on her behalf only for a while, until Helen had the language to do so herself. And on those birdwings she flew and flew into the limitless skies.

Helen K with her long time friend Eleanor Roosevelt, 1955
The consultant wasn't there yesterday. In her stead was a junior registrar, in no position to deal with the fierceness of my own advocate, my brother. She was a lovely young doctor, very cheery and glowing with six months pregnancy, but she was not the face I needed to see. And yet... I see this as part of the learning curve. Today, I need my brother to advocate for me so I can learn the tools, the very language of successful negotiation (his is more than a skill, it's an art!), so that tomorrow, I can do so myself.

And when tomorrow comes, these butterflies will turn to birdwings. 


Maggie May said...

I'm so glad you have your fierce brother, Shaista.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Yes, you don those birdwings and soar, Shaista. Today I held a stone in my hand that had written on it the letters BELIEVE, and I thought of you. When next that consultant is sitting in his chair, you go back and tell him you have a life to be lived and need the means that he possesses to allow you to live it. 9Or tell him I'll swoop across the sea on my bat-wings and slap him up-side the head!) I love the story of Helen Keller! And all inspirational people - and you are one of them!

wendy said...

Isn't it wonderful that we have people in our history like Helen Keller to "draw strength and inspiration" from.
and I picture your brother as a Ninja
powerful on your behalf.

we all could use that.

Lisa said...

I didn't realise there are pictures of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan to see. I enjoy seeing them. And I didn't know that Eleanor Roosevelt knew Helen Keller. I am going out to find books on Helen Keller and The Roosevelts. Just the other day I watched a movie about Roosevelt and I learned, for the first time that he was unable to walk because of polio and the challenges he went through to walk again. You see I didn't know all these stories when I thought that I knew a lot.

It is good to have a brother that is there for you.

Anonymous said...

Wise choice to have your bro with you. Another day perhaps, same battle, different approach (of negiotation). All the very best. Regards. ~Ser~

Ruth said...

It's a beautiful connection you make. And like you to remain positive. And like birdwings, open and close, open and close. Let it go, then hold, let go, hold.

Your deepest presence
is in every small contracting and expanding,
the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings.

The overflow from Rumi a few days ago, here today. And this is what the Rilke reading was today, which is pertinent too:

Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain's higher basins
spill down like strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it.

Tess Kincaid said...

The story of Helen Keller is one near and dear to me, since I was once a licensed interpreter for the deaf. The obstacles she overcame were monumental. Such an inspiration.

Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

Soar Sista Sour Sista.....

Jeanne-ming Brantingham said...

...Soar Sista SOAR sista
(I was typing with out my readers )

Shaista said...

@Jeanne-Ming, It's ok, I'm not Sour about it ;)

@Ruthie, thankyou so much for the Rumi and the Rilke - it was the Rumi poem as you guessed that inspired the piece...
'Expecting to see the worst, you look, and instead,
here's the joyful face you've been wanting to see'

The Blog of Bee said...

I first learned of Helen Keller when I was a child. Her story has stayed with me ever since and it's wonderful to be reminded of it here on your page.

I hope you don't mind but I have given you a 'stylish blogger award' which you can find on my page.

Cait O'Connor said...

I love the Keller quote.
And this post and its feeling of burgeoning strength.

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