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A Lil’ Inspiration #4

The Power of Words

Instagram Jill 3.5.16Today’s Words of Wisdom come from Woman on the Move, Jill Khoury. The first time I saw this quote back in 2014 the words struck me with such a powerful blow I had to reflect on my use of not only this particular word but on other words that can influence how we as a society might view any given situation.

There is a challenge in conquering stigmas but if we begin to pay close attention to what we are saying and how we are saying it, this will bring us closer to victory!!  I posted this quote to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on Saturday and it’s become so popular that I had to share it here as well.

Following is a Facebook comment from Jill posted yesterday and immediately following her comment is the quoted text and image description:

Stephanae McCoy is a blind blogger and fashionista turned community organizer. She raises awareness of blindness issues by profiling many talented, expressive women in her “Women on the Move” series. I am humbled by her generous heart and her take-charge spirit. She’s helped me realize the beauty in myself, and put me in touch with other blind women–these gifts are beyond valuable. Steph has featured my words a few times on her site, but I have to say: this is my favorite quote! Words have energy. Words have power. Let’s use them in a smart way.

“When you use a phrase like, “blindly accept,” “go blindly into X situation,” “blindly take him at his word,” the adverb you are actually searching for is IGNORANTLY or “without forethought.” When you use the word blind or blindly in this way, you are equating blindness to ignorance.” ~Jill Khoury, Poet

Image: Quoted text is dark gray against a white background overlayed on a blurred dictionary background. ‪#‎womenonthemove‬‪#‎livingwithvisionloss‬ ‪#‎letstalkvisionloss‬

Thank you Jill for your deep insight and very kind words. ~Steph

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Women on the Move: A Look Back Jill Khoury & Sue Martin

Let’s Get Serious For a Moment

Foggy, misty day with weeping willow tree and solitary bench with a person sitting on it representative of depression found on Google
Image found on Google Website no longer online

Today’s post was originally intended to be published last Friday however as oftentimes is the case the day got away from me and I’m bound and determined to get this out today. My grandson will be here in a few hours and I’ve got to get crackin’ so here goes:

Lately I’ve been having a number of conversations with different people about numerous life issues from failed aspirations, rocky relationships, extreme traumatic episodes, death, and disabilities to depression. One of the common threads in many of these discussions is when we are going through a crisis we sometimes have a tendency to hide the pain especially if the difficulty is depression or some other mental illness.

I understand some of the hesitancy in sharing our anguish has to do with time and place although even when the timing may be good we can still hesitate to unburden ourselves. Perhaps we’re afraid of judgement and being seen as what we may perceive as weak. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve felt that bringing others into my pain was unfair and that I alone MUST be strong but I had to ask myself to what end?

A few months ago I hit a very rough patch and thankfully realized that I could no longer go it alone. It was the one time in recent memory when I put aside foolish pride and reached out for help.

Looking back over my life and those times when I stubbornly refused to admit I was hurting seems so silly now. I mean I sincerely doubt that on my deathbed I’ll regret not being a stronger person, on the contrary, I believe I’ll think about those missed opportunities of sharing with others.

Back in March and June of 2014 respectively, I wrote about two amazing women: Sue Wiygul Martin and Jill Khoury. To my knowledge these women do not know one another yet they share common bonds – one is they are extremely hard-working and good at what they do, and two is the topic of depression.

Sue Wiygul Martin

Sue with her Guide Dog
Sue with her guide dog

Sue wrote a book last year, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation, on her experience with suicidal depression.  I found her honesty and frankness in talking about a very personal issue that many find difficult to discuss to be refreshing and extremely helpful.

In a recent communication with Sue, she said something that has stuck with me: “I think it’s important for people to know that even the most confident people are fallible. Having once been depressed doesn’t inoculate us to future trouble. Nor is having once been depressed a life sentence.” This was so powerful to me because 1) I sometimes forget I’m only human and therefore not perfect, 2) it’s highly probable that my depression will be ongoing unless I become the recipient of a welcomed miracle, and 3) more importantly it is not a life sentence.

To view a recent blog post that Sue shared with me click HERE. To read the article I wrote back in March click HERE. When I read Sue’s blog post it reminded me that real strength is facing the crisis, riding the wave to shallow water, thus coming through it. The reminder that this process can, and many times is repetitive, helped to put things in perspective for me.

Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury Reading at the Indiana Writers Consortium
Jill Khoury at the Indiana Writers Consortium

A very busy lady, Jill teaches writing and literature in high school, university, and enrichment environments. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Bone Bouquet, RHINO, Inter|rupture, and Stone Highway Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net award. Her chapbook Borrowed Bodies was released from Pudding House Press.

I wrote about Jill Khoury twice last year: once in June and a follow-up article in September. In my June post (HERE) I introduced Jill as a talented poet, artist, and activist. The follow-up post was about her decision to once again use the white cane, to read click HERE.

Since my last post, Jill did a reading in the Creative Writing Conference Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence at the Indiana Writers Consortium in October 2014. For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, starting at 7:00 p.m. on Feb 13, she will be doing a reading  in the MADFRIDAYS series with Bernadette Ulsamer at Delanie’s Coffee located on the South Side at 1737 E. Carson St.

With everything Jill has going on in her life I found a recent post she did on her blog (Visceral Poetics) very interesting. The post was the outcome from her experience at the Indiana Writers Consortium. I could feel Jill finding her voice after having come from an abusive background, struggling with her disability, dealing with childhood bullying, depression and other issues. Showing empathy with other women who aren’t as fortunate in finding an outlet for their similar circumstances and yet using her voice in an art form she is passionate about, can help these very women find the strength they need to make a move.

The issue of mental illness and depression are serious topics in our culture and just like stigmas associated with many disabilities, the only way we can get beyond the negativity is education and awareness. There is no shame in having a physical illness (no one chooses to be sick) so why can’t we show the same amount of compassion for those with mental illness?

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

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Women on the Move: Jill Khoury on the White Cane

about to flip the transformation switch

Toggle switchThe following article is being re-posted with permission from Jill Khoury. If you recall, I wrote a post on Jill back in June of this year (you can view it HERE). To give you an idea of what it’s like to be visually impaired I’ve provided a YouTube video on the day in the life of vision impairment. It’s important to note that due to the vast range of blindness, vision impairment differs from person to person.

Today’s piece spoke volumes to me and I’m sure others who have, or are, experiencing vision loss can identify with some of Jill’s sentiments. The decision to intentionally no longer “pass,” like using the white cane, is deeply personal, life-changing, and to some extent cathartic. Jill, thank you for allowing me to share this with my readers and please know that I’m sending positive vibes your way – you are not alone.  

Family, friends, colleagues, secret foes: I have a life announcement. No, I’m not pregnant and my manuscript did not get picked up. I have a new white cane, and I’m going to start using it full-time.

As many of you know, I have struggled with the concept of passing. Most of my life I did; then for a few years I didn’t, then my mom suicided and I put the cane away indefinitely. I was under the impression that it made me more comfortable to blend in. Maybe for awhile there, it did. But it takes a *tremendous* amount of energy to pretend I’m a sighted person. I’m starting to feel tired. Like, in my spirit.

When I last tried the cane in the city where I currently live, I became filled with anger. I lived in a neighborhood with a lot of alcohol and drugs, hence perhaps lower inhibitions, and I constantly being beset by hassling and offensive comments from men.

The neighborhood I live in now is more obsessed with being proper, so I’m hoping less harassment.

A woman I know, B, who barely knows I exist, is teaching me patience by example. I secretly appreciate her as a role-model for dealing with what I call “the in-betweeners.”

On the street, all over the city, over top of the harassment I got in my neighborhood, I was getting constant offers of help with basic tasks. I did not give a shit if people meant well. It filled me with anger to be condescended to. I was so bottled up with anger that I was almost out of control. In my experience, most people don’t understand what it is to be blind; some people don’t even understand that there are many different types of blindness which make (nearly?) every blind person capable of different things. The constant “helping” made me just … I was just… every muscle in my body was tense with anger.

However. I have met this woman B. Who knows a lot about being condescended to and much worse than that. She is patient but assertive. She has lived a long time and been through much. She seems comfortable with who she is and not having to fit in anyone’s box.

I have watched her interact with these people who “mean well,” and I want to try being like that. Patient but assertive. December draws ever closer. Maybe this is what year 40 will be for me. The year of learning a new way to respond to situations that will be healthier for me in so many aspects. Not to mention, my chances of getting hit by a bus are greatly reduced.

This transition will be so hard. I still have my dad’s voice in my head that I will pretty much be victimized because I am blind –the implication being that I am essentially weaker than the norms.

I have tried this experiment before and failed, so failure is the precedent.

Using the cane, having the signifier, will make me wear my vulnerability on the outside, when I have been preoccupied with quietly trying to stuff it away. Don’t look behind the curtain!

The truth is, using the cane will make me so much less vulnerable. Literally. To cars. On stairs. In crowds. And I will not have to chase fractured images of this world that moves so fast, way too fast for me, like a child batting at a butterfly, because I am so obsessed with passing. Maybe I won’t have to play the “face-name game at readings,” when people forget that I can’t see and presume I know who they are.

So if you are reading this, please send me supportive energy. This is a big, huge, enormous deal for me. It will cause me to move differently, interact differently, and interpret my own social identity differently. To make the successful switch, I will basically have to transcend my current self and become a new self. No big deal. Yeah, I need you. I need your positive vibes. For serious.

[On a more practical note, if you live in the area, let’s make a plan to go for a walk! It doesn’t matter where. This kind of white cane is different than the kinds I’ve used before, and so there will be some relearning of skills and re-acquiring of grace. I may look more awkward –walking with people has never been my strong suit –but I will feel less alone if you are with me.]

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu

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Women on the Move: Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury
Jill Khoury

Have you ever met a person who you were so in awe of you simply could not find the words to describe them? You know the type – they are so talented, intelligent, imaginative, and mesmerizing to the point of being almost other-worldly? I have a group of artist friends and acquaintances who are so unique and colorful their mere presence just blows me away – Jill Khoury is one of these people.

Before I go any further I should tell you while I haven’t met Jill in person (she crossed my radar when I featured Leigh Anne Focareta) to my delight I found that both she and Leigh Anne know another artsy friend of mine, Marcel Walker. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that Jill would share some of the same amazing characteristics of others within this circle of friends.

Like many of my other Fierce Friday’s interviewees, I contacted Jill by email and she granted me permission to write an article about her. I knew that Jill was a poet from my conversation with Leigh Anne so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I visited her blog at www.jillkhoury.com.

When I was a child I dreamt of falling
belly first, through the roof and into the attic
through the night sky and into the roof,
through an alien universe and into this one.

FROM “BODY ART” ~Jill Khoury

At first glance I knew I stumbled upon something extraordinary when I clicked on Jill’s Bio and saw her intriguing photo. Granted my imagination could be reading way more into the picture than what Jill intended but it immediately grabbed my attention because it was out of the ordinary in that it awakened within me questions.

From the upper left to the right, then the lower right corner of the photo is what appears to be autumn foliage in the forefront. In the background there is lots of sunshine, green grass, then in the distance trees as if looking out over a field. Then hiding among the leaves is who I assume is Jill. You can barely see her face as she’s partially hidden and my first thought was “genius, why didn’t I think of doing something like this?” Then a succession of rapid-fire thoughts: why is she hiding, what does it mean, what is she trying to say, was this intentional, why am I compelled to ask these questions? I finally settled on the photo is just as artistic and compelling as Jill’s writing and I wanted to know more.

I want to be apart. I want to be a part. I want to partake. I want to part ways. I want, I want to participate. ~Jill Khoury

Under the heading Blog (Visceral Poetics) I was not disappointed when I found Jill’s answers to the Tagged! Writing Process Blog Tour. In this section she talks about the projects in process, how her works differ from others, why she writes and her process. While this provided a snapshot of how Jill works what really got me was her raw honesty when she talks about her mother’s death in 2012 and the resulting aftermath. She gives us a glimpse into her fears and how she coped.

Reading further down in Dotting the I in activism Jill talks about her recent trip to Washington, DC where she attended the poetry festival Split This Rock. What I enjoyed most in reading this bit was how she would transition from giving highlights on the festival to “real-time” for example she speaks about issues with her fibromyalgia to a previous life’s situations, to her use of the white cane, disability and other tasty nuggets.

My poetry is more grounded in the body. It engages the senses. There is usually a subtle or not-subtle threat involved. ~Jill Khoury

Though I cannot claim to be a connoisseur of poetry (I hate to admit many times it’s over my head), I do appreciate Jill’s use of words. Her writing to me is magical but then I guess this in its simplest terms is poetry.

When you have a spare moment I’d like to invite you to experience for yourself the many layers of Jill Khoury.

“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash”