18 Feb 2015

Seeing a Brighter Future

“As we rise to meet the challenges that are a natural part of living

we awaken to our many undiscovered gifts, to our inner power and our purpose.”

Susan L. Taylor

My journey as a writer and inspirational speaker has brought me to a wonderful NEW opportunity! To give more presentations this year.

To give some of you more of an introduction to my life’s journey, this post is an excerpt of an interview I was invited to do with the editor of Exceptions Journal | The Art & Literary Journal for Students with Visual Disabilities in the USA.


How did you get to where you are today?


In a nutshell – with a determined heart, a resourceful way of thinking and with tenacity of spirit. My father likes to say I’m stubborn but I don’t agree and won’t hear of it!

My aspiration to become an artist emerged around the age of tenand my parents encouraged me to pursue my deep appreciation of drawing, especially my Spanish mother who had many talents in the creative arts.

My English father was a lecturer and researcher in ‘Romance Languages’ at University and on some Sunday afternoons, I pestered him until he agreed to take me to the empty university as my heart was fixed on one mission: to draw in the private classroom with coloured chalk on the wide blackboard.

But a few years later, I was struggling to see anything on the blackboard at all. An alarming inability to see my school work at fifteen, led to a serious investigation and countless tedious tests. It took the skill of fifteen Opthalmologists and other specialists to deliver the definitive diagnosis. I had an incurable eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) and was pensioned off as legally blind.


How do you think this has affected your experience of life ?

I do remember a defiant spirit rise within my young heart that I would take the obstacle of vision loss as a challenge, and not view my life as limited.

I have learned through this experience that often it is my attitude that will bring me victory or defeat in what I am trying to attain. Instead of saying what I can’t do, I look for realistic ways to reach my goals. Sometimes this might be on my own and at other times it involves seeking assistance from others.

I have learned a beautiful truth that to ask for help when you really could use a sighted person’s eyes is not a sign of weakness but actually gives both of you a wonderful opportunity to interact and to achieve together – the classic win-win situation.


What have been the most important resources for you in adapting to vision loss?


My personal philosophy is that there is an ART in being blind.

Life is about developing our skills in whatever career or hobby we choose to master. The only difference with losing sight, is that we didn’t choose this ‘vocation’.

Obviously, as the organ of sight weakens, we are forced to rely on our other senses. Apart from these sensitivities, three personal qualities that have proven to be powerful resources in my life are attitude, intuition and memory.

I have found trusting my intuition to guide me when sight cannot, and improving my ability to remember the smallest of detail, to be the two best friends of attitude.

What do you write about? 

My writing is mainly nonfiction, memoir type stories where I reflect on many aspects as a person facing the gateway to blindness.

Ideas jostle to be written and, like children, I have to ask them to kindly wait their turn.

On good writing days, inspiration flows and often situations that occur as I travel or the funny things people say end up being my published stories.

But on those very difficult days, I can feel like I’m stuck in a sand bunker slogging out words that won’t lift out of the sandpit of this writer’s despair.

I have learned, as in life in general, to let it go, take a break and come back later.

“The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” Michael Lee

 What role do you think storytelling plays in our human experience?


When we open to the sharing of our personal stories, we feel the connectedness with others. Every single person has a challenge in their lives and they will be confronted to face it at some point.

It may be a health issue, the diagnosis of pending blindness, a mental illness, a relationship incompatibility, a financial concern, a family crisis – we have been enrolled in the school of life, and when we find others in our similar situation, it is like opening a window to a heart-warming realisation: we are not alone.
Cradled at Cradle Mountain, Tasmania


To read the in depth interview please visit Exceptions Journal:
exceptionsjournal.com/2014/05/09/interview-with-maribel-steel/


Over to you now, please share how you have met your own challenges along the journey to a brighter future, we’d love to hear YOUR story…

You might also like to read…

Benefit #1 Being Blind: you are the rose among the thorns

8-Threads to weave into the garment of change

3 Easy Ways to hopscotch into your dreams

© 2015 Maribel Steel

18 Jan 2015

15 Effective Ways to Get on the Right Track




‘Keep in mind that, even if you are on the right track,

you can still be left behind if you just sit there.  Anon



For those of you who may be feeling overwhelmed with the new year already taking off without you having made your plans and resolutions yet, be reassured: you are not alone.

By mid January of each year, I have usually drafted up an elaborate ‘to do’ list of realistic goals and am chomping on the writing bit to get started, to get on track and get moving after the hectic Festive Season of the previous year. But this time, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by all the different directions I could choose to explore, the creative projects I could revisit that didn’t get done last year or new ideas to nurture into fruition. Yet all the while, the year is moving on and I am still sitting here, reflecting, thinking, pondering options and possibilities… when suddenly I realise this is the phase before progress.

YAY – it’s OK to just BE for a while without the DOING!





Do you feel the same?

While I reflect and intuit my next step in 2015, may I share with you the words of successful writers and deep thinkers who may help us in turn to jump aboard the New Year!


Love of words – my first cuddles with quotations

I first became aware of the magic behind a poignant quotation when I was a teenager. The wisdom captured within these gems written by others seduced and engaged my thinking: caressing my thoughts and enlivening my imagination.

I had been diagnosed with an incurable eye disease and was facing the prospect of going blind. Quotes became a lifeline to positive thinking and I began to cuddle and collect them like dear friends. The ability to read long texts in my books was an arduous task but short quotations were easy to read and to remember.

I combed through books with the aid of a magnifying glass and kept a private collection in my diary. The power within each quotation often transported my thoughts over the hurdles of doubt and helped to lift my attitude out of a negative perspective to a positive vantage point.

As a writer living within a sensory world, the gift of blindness often opens my mind to a different perspective. Here are some ‘magical’ quotes that have enhanced my positive attitude towards facing a major life challenge.

Try them, lean on them like friends for a while, and see what happens for you. Allow their wisdom to lighten your heart and pretty soon you will feel a positive shift, your confidence lift and your thoughts soar with new possibilities… until you are refreshed and invigorated and inspired to move forward again.



15 Quotations


1. 'When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’

~ Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

2. 'Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.’

~ Albert Einstein

3. ’We must be willing to relinquish the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.’

~ Joseph Campbell

4. 'Do just once what others say you can’t do and you will never listen to their limitations again.’  ~ Anon

5. 'People of character find a special attraction in difficulty, since it is only by coming to grips with difficulty that they can realize their potentialities.’

~ Charles De Gaulle

6. 'All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.’

~ Havelock Ellis

7. 'Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.’

~ Raymond Lindquist

8. 'Use this day to do something daring, extraordinary and unlike yourself. Take a chance and shape a different pattern in your personal cloud of probability.’

~ Vera Nazarian

9. 'Getting it "perfect" is not an act of artisanship, because the true artisan remains in a state of perfecting.’

~ Sina Mossayeb

10. 'There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.’

~ Anaïs Nin

11. 'Hold on to your dreams, for tenacity is the force that will anchor your visions, to create a reality that once seemed impossible.’

~ Barb Mayer

12. 'When you are inspired by some great purpose, some extraordinary project, all your thoughts break their bounds: your mind transcends limitations, your consciousness expands in every direction, and you find yourself in a new, great and wonderful world.’

~ Patanjali

13. 'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.’

~ Helen Keller

14. 'If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible.’  ~ Soren Kierkegaard

15. 'Perhaps someday you will be thankful for some temporary failure in a particular direction. When one door closes, another always opens: as a natural law it has to. To balance.’

~ Brian Adams




How a quote a day can change your life

In 1998, a college student began sharing one enriching quote a day with his friends. Today, his website, Daily Good shares positive and uplifting news around the world to more than 100,000 subscribers...

LINK for 'Daily Good':  http://www.dailygood.org/

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Do you collect words of wisdom too? Please share them with us in the comment box, we’d love to hear how words move and empower your world too!

You might also like to read:

Being Blind is the Obstacle and the Stepping Stone (Jan 2014)
Tools of the Blind Tradie May 2013
Benefit #1 Being Blind: You are the Rose among the Thorns (March 2014)

Introduction Copyright © Maribel Steel 2015
Photographs Copyright © Harry Williamson 2015

20 Dec 2014

Forever Stella Young



“I will do everything I can to meet you, eighty-year-old Stell. By the time I get to you, I will have loved with every tiny little bit of my heart and soul…By the time I get to you, I'll have written things that change the way people think about disability. I'll have been part of a strong, beautiful, proud movement of disabled people in Australia.”

Stella Young (1982-2014)




Stella Young wrote a letter to her eighty-year-old self – but the charismatic old lady will never get to read it – it is for our eyes only…dear Stella died two weeks ago, aged thirty-two.

At her colourful Memorial service today, I felt her strong, beautiful, proud and passionate spirit move through the crowd as thousands of people gathered in the Melbourne Town Hall to celebrate her life. Stella is remembered for her dynamic wit, her direct honesty, her strength to speak her truth and her warm and generous heart for her family, friends and community.

Wherever Stella went you were sure to notice her presence – she was a dynamo on wheels, a force to be reckoned with and a woman who was easy to admire but her challenges didn’t come easy…

Born with a condition known as Teogenesis Imperfecta, a genetic disorder that causes bones to break easily, Stella’s feisty and passionate nature to enjoy life with the same expectations as any normal human being put her at the forefront of advocating for the disabled community in Australia.

Leaving home at seventeen to study journalism at Deakin University, Melbourne, Stella became a member of the Victorian Disability Advisory Council, the Ministerial Advisory Council for the Department of Victorian Communities, the Youth Disability Advocacy Service, and Women with Disabilities Victoria.

Her public profile brought Stella into our lounge rooms when she was invited to host eight seasons of Australia's first disability culture program, called No Limits where her mischievous humour carried a punch line like no other!





Stella was an award winning comedian, writer, activist and former editor of ABC Ramp Up.

But in today’s moving memorial service she was a beloved daughter, sister,  mentor and friend, a cherished woman in our community reminding us in her passing to never give up feeling proud of who we are, never give up the pledge to make life a better place for having been apart of her dreams and her legacy…. 

“By the time I get to you, I'll be so proud. The late Laura Hershey once wrote about disability pride, and how hard it is to achieve in a world that teaches us shame. She said, 'You get proud by practising'. Thanks to my family, my friends, my crip comrades and my community, I'm already really proud. But I promise to keep practising, every day.”

The above is an edited excerpt from Women of Letters, by Michaela McGuire & Marieke Hardy. Published by Penguin Books Australia

Stella Young


Our dear Stella – you are a true star! God bless – and I pray you have told the good Lord to replace the stairway to heaven with a decent ramp up for those following your lead…!

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Read a fuller excerpt of Stella Young’s letter to her eighty-year old self at:

http://disabilitythinking.blogspot.com/2014/12/stella-youngs-letters.html

And be captured by her charm at

Ted Talk  "Im not your inspiration"

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“We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity.

We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.”

Max de Pree



Copyright © Maribel Steel 2014 Photographs © Harry Williamson 2014

12 Nov 2014

Why be Fashionable if You Can’t See


When I give presentations to interested groups on what it is like to be visually-impaired, I can guarantee one question will ALWAYS be asked at the end of my talk – “How do you know what you are wearing?” Women especially, are surprised that I can be colour-coordinated from top to toe. There is no great mystery involved, there is no other person dressing me in the morning. The simple answer is – choosing one’s clothing is a matter of FEELING first, then seeing how it all fits together. When you feel good in what you wear, you will look great!

The other reason why I love clothes shopping is because browsing with my hands is an exquisite experience. Feeling textures of clothing or gliding my hands over jewellery is not always because I want to buy it but is a curious desire on my part to see the choices at my fingertips.

Here are some fashion questions I was asked recently, so let’s take a closer look why being fashionable is not just about seeing, but about feeling. Oh, and a little warning too, the photos, well, yes, they were taken a few years ago, funny how one can think one is being fashionable at the time!

How important is fashion and style to you?


Fashion is fun and I enjoy feeling garments which allows me to visualise the world of ever changing trends. I think it’s a ‘girlie’ thing – taking delight in touching clothes, lingerie, shoes, dabbing on perfumes or smelling leather hand bags because it is highly enjoyable to ‘see’ what’s in fashion.

The other reason for my ever-readiness to touch the world around me is because it is not normally permitted in galleries or museums so when I am in a store or market place, it allows me to touch all sorts of objects I can’t see and by doing so, I feel less excluded from the visual world.

What sort of fabrics do you enjoy the most?



Soft fabrics, satin trims, things with buttons and bows. I also enjoy knitting and making luxurious scarves for friends as winter gifts. In summer, I look for soft undergarments and layer my outfits with flowing chiffon tops. Lingerie is another one of my touchy-feely delights – as it is worn close to the skin, I won’t compromise the feel of luxury by purchasing cheap underwear – it has to be soft and silky (including hosery).

I believe that when you begin the first layer of clothing feeling feminine, you will wear the dress with an upright back and carry an air of chic – like a proud Spanish Lipizzaner!

What are your considerations when choosing garments?

 


Apart from seeking comfort and prettiness of garment, even in casual wear, I am fussy about colour and design. When on my own, I take quite a while to scout out an item as I examine the texture carefully and the cut by feeling the collar, shape etc. I know what styles suit me by past experience and many times, a garment falls off the hanger as if to grab my attention and often, it is a good choice – could this be intuition helping? Then I quiz the shop assistant for the colour and price and if it passes these two questions, I will buy it.

Colours seem to have a certain ‘vibe’ for instance, as soon as I put grey near my face, my skin begins to feel drained. My favourite colours are strong and bold as in red, orange, colbalt blue, sunshine yellow and hot pink as these tones not only feel ‘right’ for me, I can see them in natural daylight.

At home, I hang clothing in groups so that matching items are placed together to be colour co-ordinated.

What shops do you frequent the most and why?

 


I enjoy being independent and setting my own pace as well as going out with friends to meander into the odd gift or fashion store. I often end up buying things because my girlfriends or partner point out items on special I wouldn’t have seen.

I go to the same clothing stores because it is easier to get around the shop without feeling overwhelmed. I visit the local stores where the shop keepers know me and are quick to offer help – even though it might be more expensive, the price of being looked after is well worth it.

But I do have to be in the right mood as it takes a lot of concentration to keep track of my movement around the store, to avoid prams and other obstacles. Sometimes the bumping from one object off another can feel like being inside a live pinball machine and if I can’t cope I will leave the store.

I particularly love feeling shoes! As I have no idea what people wear on their feet, a shoe shop is a lovely place to wander. I get to understand the different types of heels, shape of shoes and just adore this sort of shopping.

My partner, Harry, takes a particular delight in bringing objects closer into my reach and we often take time to enjoy the experience together (unless it is a cactus plant, which he has accidentally done on one occasion, misunderstanding my fondness for feeling flowers!

What challenges do you face when shopping?




On the whole, people are pretty helpful and understanding if I ask for assistance. A few pointers however, when a person is training to work in a department store or fashion counter, it would be extremely beneficial to know not to do the following -  as the store assistant, don’t ask my friend, “Would she like this?” It is kinder to ask me personally.

Some of the main challenges are:

·        first is to locate the right shop and entrance, sometimes blaring music indicates a clothing store plus sense of smell helps me to sniff out the correct place

·        manoeuvring around a shop I have not been in before and avoiding the racks while keeping the cane tight in one hand, the other loose to stray over fabrics to give me some sort of clue as to what I am ‘looking’ for

·        main disadvantage is in not being able to see the size and price on tags, colour of garment

·        must be very careful that the clothing I am feeling is on a mannequin and not the clothing of another shopper!

·        have no idea where the ‘specials’ rack is unless I ask for assistance

·        indoor shopping centres are a nightmare to navigate through especially as there is a bombardment of clashing sound coming from all quarters that hinders my hearing and can be very stressful (so I tend to shop in places that I know or are on a street front)

·        a fashion item that is hard to choose on my own are sunglasses. Often whoever is with me will pick the style they like and then when I wear them, my family will comment “who helped you to buy those sunglasses?” which means – they wouldn’t have chosen them for me so needless to say, I have a few dead pairs in my drawer.

How important to you are the perceptions of others of you fashion wise?


I like to demonstrate that blind or vision-impaired women can enjoy being colour co-ordinated, wear smart and trendy gear with high heels and enjoy fashion just as much as our sighted friends do. People are often surprised to see me turn up at a function with matching jewellery, fashionable dress with lovely bag and jacket and I am surprised by their reaction – why wouldn’t a vision-impaired woman be dressed well?

I also have a passion for smelling fragrances at perfume counters and put my nose to the test to pinpoint individual scent molecules from cleverly concocted blends. The art of wearing fragrance – mmm, that’s another story…


If you want to be bold and beautiful, you can - let Stephanae (Steph) McCoy, the Blind Style Blogger show you how to strut your stuff at: 

Bold Blind Beauty: Style Concepts for the Visually Impaired

AND, in the UK, Emily Davison speaks the language of fashion That Comes From the Heart and Soul at

Fashioneyesta: Bridging the Gap between Fashion and Sight


you might also like to read eight threads to weave into the garment of change

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2014