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Sunday, November 01, 2009

The Year of Yes

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Vessel made by Beatrice Wood

My disappointment in the outcome felt like a hollow dirty blue plastic molded bed pan. I felt sick, like throwing up into it. After all, I had invested my time, energy and love into someone who was desperately hurting, and what happened thereafter? Within just a couple of weeks, we were right back where we started. I wanted to scoop her up in my arms and just let the bad things spin away from us.

Feeling thus the other morning, hugging my hand thrown pottery mug full of fresh hot coffee (not the chalice made by Beatrice Wood in the photo above), I opened Google Reader, scrolling down through the words and images miraculously appearing on my laptop screen from my friends' worlds. What a wonder.

And then there was a poem. Called The Year of Yes. I read, and the words released the sickness in me. Instead of throwing up, I cried - a cleansing sob. The ugly blue plastic morphed into a glazed earthen cup ready to be filled again.

Shaista wrote the poem and posted it at her blog Lupus in Flight. This is what she has written about herself in her About Me.

I live a meditative life in a green village in England. I was diagnosed with Lupus when I was 18 and much of my poetry writes itself in response to living with such a peculiar, demanding and life-altering illness. I write about love and longing and hope. I have lived half my life in India and the other half in England. I was born into two religions in a country of a myriad faiths. I have been writing since I can remember holding a pen, a crayon, paper, anything that comes to hand...


The illness Shaista lives with is "a chronic inflammatory disease that can affect various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, blood, and kidneys," as the Lupus Foundation site says. I didn't know much about it until reading her blog posts, which sometimes talk about her regular hospitalizations for treatment.

Just from Shaista's blog title Lupus in Flight you understand how she lives with illness. Her story is about letting something from within her experience of incessant pain, ache and disruptive hospital treatments surface and be expressed in poetry. Well, her About Me above says it far better. Here is Shaista's poem.


The Year of Yes

- for Victoria and Perveen,
dearest, patient girlfriends
who nonetheless went off to Bury Farm
without me
and inspired this poem

I wish I had said Yes!
beloved
When you asked me out to walk
among the leaves
the turning leaves
You were offering me
the sound of dreams,
And I turned you down
politely.

Not today, I smiled
Perhaps,
Maybe, tomorrow?

But I wish I had said Yes!
beloved
I wish we had shared this light.

Next time don't ask
Just take me!
Order me to dress!

I am going to need your help
beloved
To begin the Year of Yes.
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63 comments:

Barry said...

YES!

Yes, that is a powerful and moving poem! Beautifully and courageously written.

I like the idea of a year of "Yes"!

Susan said...

Oh, my dear, how much it hurts to think you're making a difference only to find out it wasn't true at all. I've been there many times, and it is not a fun roller coaster ride.

What a lovely poem...it is very healing.

CottageGirl said...

I'm hurting for you, Ruth. I wish all involved peace.

Lupus is such a tragedy, but Shaista generously (whether she realizes it or not) teaches us from her experience. For me, next time ... I will say yes.

California Girl said...

Beautiful poem and so many meanings within. Thank you for posting this and I hope things get better for you. xo

Kat said...

What a wonderful and thought provoking poem. Thanks.

ellen abbott said...

I haven't been reading you long enough, I suppose, to know what you are going through but I hope that things get better for all.

This is a wonderful thought...yes. Why is no so much easier?

Jeanie said...

I am sitting at this keyboard in tears. I never needed to read anything more at this time in my life than this poem, and I'm so grateful you shared it with me. With all of us. I so need this to be my year of yes.

I'm sorry you have been going through pain or challenges -- the start and stop and back again is so very hard. I'm glad you found this poem, too.

Shaista said...

Dear Ruth,
The irony is, of course, that had I said yes, I would never have had the opportunity to bring something particularly special to your doorstep, to your heart. I must have been meant to write it for you :)
Today, however, I am saying yes despite my body saying No... to tea and cakes with a friend and his family.
The biggest of big hugs, and a deep curtsy to you and your readers...
Shaista

julie king said...

my heart goes out to you ruth as you struggle with a battle that obviously continues to wear at you. may you find peace.

thanks for sharing the poem and the link to shaista's blog. this is the exact kind of inspiration that many of us need -- a reminder to put our little complaints aside and admire those fighting much larger issues with hope, confidence and so much heart!

Kim said...

Ruth,
You are a courageous woman. To give your heart is a risk. To love is a risk. But you took action to heal, and though you did not see outward healing or restoration, you yourself grew a little deeper, a little wider, your world expanded.
Take a deep breath, and say Yes.

You sparked my resolve to say yes as well. Reminds me of the fantastic story "The Year of Pleasures" by Elizabeth Berg, a woman's journey of saying Yes.

-Kim

The Bug said...

Just lovely! I wish I could write so well (I know, it's all about me - sorry!). But this just opens you up & lays you bare - why the heck NOT say yes!

ds said...

Oh, Ruth, I am so sorry. You tried, and sometimes that is the best (and only)thing that we can do. The day may come when you will have to try again--and you will--and maybe that little blue plastic vessel will appear, and maybe, just maybe it won't (we hope for that!!)...
The chalice is beautiful--as is your cool treatment of it--the mug sounds divine, and the poem.Oh, that poem. I bow to Shaista and to you for sharing that poem. "The Year of Yes." Yes...
That's enough of me. Thank you for this.

ds said...

P.S. Can I come walk in your new header? So soothing.

Oliag said...

It may not seem it now but I feel certain that if time, energy, and love are given it is never in vain...it may be hidden or take a long time to mature...or maybe it will only be one-sided...but it is never in vain...

The year of yes...a good idea indeed...I think I will be bringing this poem to my sister's house today...A bit of synchronicity... ShutterSisters had a post regarding "Just Say Yes" recently...

...and as a semi-retired nursing home employee...the "blue plastic molded bed pan" metaphor is very apt:)

Oliag said...

...Oh! I forgot to tell you how much I liked your new header...it looks like you took this photo just for this use...

I'm still trying to figure out how to resize photos for my header...if anyone has any ideas I could use a heads up!

Loring Wirbel said...

Two people very close to me have significant auto-immune diseases (lupus, RA, a few other rare ones all share certain symptoms), and there are a lot of times I feel like I've failed them. And that brought to mind Anne Hathaway playing Kim in Rachel Getting Married, since she really did need that help, but at the same time those helping felt like there was a narcissistic component they were feeding into. I don't feel that way about lupus and RA, just a sense of being overwhelmed and of knowing how much to give. There always must be time, somehow, always a light that never goes out. It's hard, though.

Christina said...

ruth, i send you love and energy. i shake my head, and feel as though, you can see my face, filled with understanding, toward the words you share.

what a lovely poem.
xoxo

Jill of All Trades said...

Just beautiful.

Arti said...

I admire those who in the midst of adversity, can still be positive towards life. Sometimes it takes great courage to say yes. Thanks for an inspiring piece!

Patricia said...

Ruth, I don't think any of us know what you have been through but I think that perhaps we all have been there before in one form or another.

Stay strong and know that more than one light is shining for you.

Peter said...

I went to Shaista's blog (and read your comment there). This all bring some mixed but somehow positive feelings to me this morning! Thanks Ruth, for often finding and indicating which blogs one must read! :-)

Claudia said...

Thank you so much, Ruth! I'm now a follower of Shaista's blog and left a comment there.

rauf said...

of course she can jump on me, i hope i am not wrong.

Shaista, to be precise, 'Shaistah' is extreme purity, highly refined, well bred, its a beautiful name Ruth.

i think she thinks in Urdu and writes in English. Chaubees pachees ekattees,(24, 25, 31) i always do mental calculations in Urdu. i count in urdu. Never one two three four, always ek doh teen chaar. All my mental debates, response to the comments are in Urdu.

wish i had read Shaista's poem in Urdu, would have created better impact.

i wish Shaista all the courage and patience in the world to deal with her illness.

rauf said...

Ruth, the word 'beloved' sounds like a sledge hammer falling on a butterfly. When compared to the word for it in Urdu.

you can understand how difficult it is to convey the exact meaning in any language.

'Mehboob' is the word which is very soft and delicate. There are many words for beloved.

Renee said...

Boy Ruth, I think you were only talking to me today.

The bedpan Jacquie deals with is pink though and not blue.

Lupus, well my oldest daughter has lupus and I know about it to well and wish I didn't.

The year of yes is wonderful and now I will go visit your friend.

Love Renee xoxo

Nancy said...

Wow. A very moving post. I will not turn my husband down for a walk today. I will say, yes!

Ruth said...

Barry, every day I say YES to Barry's life.

Ruth said...

Susie, you don't know how much it has helped me knowing you are there, supporting, out of your own hurt.

Ruth said...

CottageGirl, thank you for your tender heart. Yes, it hurts. I would have liked a different outcome. But every day I recognize that we can only control ourselves - and sometimes that is even hard to do.

Ruth said...

Hi, California Girl, oh I am fine. I have no suffering in my life. It is always like my poem on the sidebar about advising the student who came home from Iraq. My life is quite ordinary, yet full and complete. It is through the suffering of others I feel pain. I have so much I am grateful for.

Shaista's poem catches my breath each time I read it.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Kat, I hope Shaista will see your response.

Ruth said...

Ellen - no, even if you began reading here in January 2006 you would not know. I don't mean to be mysterious. I only share it to reveal the power of the poem for me, which I knew I had to share here with you - it was an instant recognition of the need to open it to more readers.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, sometimes I am miserable that others suffer more than I do. There is a strange temptation to guilt in it that I am learning to transform into just, well, love. You are a sensitive person, which makes the difficult times especially difficult. Please keep finding ways to restore yourself. I feel full knowing Shaista's poem met you there.

Ruth said...

Dear Shaista, you see what your heart - through skillful words - has done to touch many readers here. My hand touches my heart in your honor, with a deep thank you.

Ruth said...

Julie, as an artist you take feelings and release them in your work, the way Shaista did in words.

I remember last spring after a very depressing faculty meeting that the weight of the economic downturn finally hit me, hard. It took me a couple of days advising students to pull out of my own spiral about it. What pulled me up was the realization that in tough times humans are resilient, and it becomes more important than ever that writers - like my students - express those tough experiences. Art can be a burden shared.

Ruth said...

Kim, I don't know that book, so thank you.

Thank you for thinking I'm courageous, but I'm not too sure. I was probably more naive, and arrogant, to think that I - I - would make a difference. We have only so much power. In some ways it's immense! As Shaista shows. In other ways it's limited, by the power within someone else to turn it away. There are so many complications in every person that make them do what they do.

Ruth said...

Dana (did I get that right, from your current post?), the power of words - in the right hands!!

Ruth said...

DS, never enough of you.

Thank you for reaching out with concern. I am fine, someone else is not, and that is troubling day in day out, isn't it? I want to fix. But it doesn't work like that.

Ruth said...

Oh, and I'm glad you like the header, DS, thank you.

Ruth said...

Oliag, I guess it's what you said - the belief that it isn't in vain - that keeps me going about most things. Our energy is so important, and it does make a difference - good or bad.

Thank you for doing what you do in a nursing home. Something I don't think I could.

Thanks about the header. Did my email help at all?

Ruth said...

Loring, essentially, I think we're each living our own life. Just knowing you're there, anxious to help, even feeling helpless about that, I bet your friends feel better. The fact that this person turned to me and asked for help tells me something - about her and about me. I hope both those somethings will grow.

Ruth said...

xoxo Christina, you are a caring soul oozing with love, always. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Jill, YES.

Ruth said...

Arti, until we go through it ourselves, it's impossible to know how we would be. But with the model in mind, I'm guessing it would be a little easier to be positive too. Something in it gives courage to me too.

Ruth said...

Patricia, that is so good of you. Our lights shine for each other, in each other. The human exchange is a powerful, powerful thing.

Ruth said...

Peter, we are points of light, aren't we, spread around the world. I like knowing you're in the City of Lights - adding to its brightness.

Ruth said...

Claudia, I read your comment at Shaista's. I'm glad you found comfort in her words, in her blog.

Ruth said...

rauf, I hear you about the word 'beloved.' It is very, very difficult to write that word and not clobber a butterfly, as you said. What an image. I don't know how she managed it, but Shaista's use in this short poem completely worked for me. I have sat under a poetry professor for five classes who clobbered us if we used a cliché or too precious a word - such as 'beloved.' It is too poetical, too archaic, too steeped in religion, too sentimental. But here, the word rose to a new level for me.

How I wish I knew Urdu!!!!! I am too lazy and old to learn it now. I would like to go to sleep and wake up knowing it (like when Facebook turned my page Spanish overnight).

There are still Turkish words that come into my head that have no English equivalent.

Ruth said...

Renee, you are one with a world of NO crowding in around you. And your daughter too. You have already responded with YES, big time. It's nice to find another like minded soul in Shaista.

Ruth said...

Nancy, sometimes we have to say NO. For our own and others' welfare. It's good to be aware of the best response at the moment. But I think we should all be a little more Yes oriented.

photowannabe said...

Whew, that is an achingly piercing poem. The Year of Yes...I must remember it when deaing with some of my friends and myself most of all. Thanks for sharing this.
I'm glad it spoke to you too.

Renee said...

Ruth thank you for introducing me to such a wonderful girl.

Love Renee xoxo

lesleyanne said...

that is hard to go through. maybe we'll talk about it? the play i did a couple years ago, "Sampaguita", was about a young woman with Lupus and her fight, especially fighting the want and almost need to have a child. Very sad. It is a very difficult disease.

Beautiful poem too. I love you.

lesleyanne said...

when i say the play i did, I mean the set design!! :)

Ruth said...

Sue, my grief was a response to the pain of another - like a secondary pain. But I also felt sorry because of my own expectations, that I would make a difference. I failed. But as others here said, what was done for her good is there in her somewhere still.

Ruth said...

Dear Renee, I am so pleased you found Shaista. What a mystery this human experience is.

Ruth said...

Sweet Lesley, I knew that about the play being about a woman with Lupus, but I had forgotten. Poor Shaista's is quite severe. And Renee's daughter has it, and Loring's friend. Do you remember Wayne in Milford? His mom had it, or she was in the process of getting it diagnosed back then. It was pretty hard for her to raise little kids, but she was a great mom.

Abbey Adams said...

I read this post because of the title, the poem is wonderful. Did you know there is a book called "The Year of Yes"? That is what caught my eye. It isn't a very deep read but it has great stories and the same sort of message. A woman challenged herself to say "yes" to anyone who asked her out for a year. You should check it out. Thanks for the lovely poem!

shoreacres said...

Flannery O'Connor lived with lupus. It was hereditary in her family - when diagnosed, she was told she had five years to live, but she lived and wrote for fourteen.

Her collected letters, "The Habit of Being", provide another vivid look into the world of that disease - albeit with Flannery's strong stamp, which could be quirky at best.

Flannery was determined that the old verities are important even for our modern lives. Detachment, for example. We think of a detached person as one who's uncaring, when in fact, it's quite the opposite. Detachment means we love, we commit, we attempt to be just and ethical in our actions simply because it is the human thing to do. The outcome is almost irrelevent.

It's the only way to keep moving forward. Love, and let go. Decide, and let go. Write, and let go.
Embrace, and let go. Say yes, and let go.

Ruth said...

Abbey, I just heard about it through this post. I think it would be a fun read!!

Ruth said...

Linda - I agree that we need to let go. I will have to think about what you wrote about detachment and caring. Having just read one of Renee's posts about her inflammatory breast cancer, and how no one knows how to engage with her, with it, and having just finished "The Death of Ivan Ilych" with his long drawn out death and no one knowing how to be with him - I don't know if I agree that detachment is how to love someone in this state. I have a SIL who is very sick, and I have no idea how to be there for her. I know I am not doing it, and I don't know what to do.

Ginnie said...

It's an incredible poem, Ruth, and brings tears to my eyes. It reminds me of all the early years when my immediate reaction to the kids' requests was almost always "No." When that started to change, I don't know. Amy would call to invite me to lunch while at work, when my lunch was already made and sitting in the fridge. It could have lasted till the next day, but I said No. Then I started "seeing" what I was missing...and started saying Yes. Now I try to say Yes before I even think of No. It's taken lots of practice but it's gotten easier and easier. Life is too short for No. Besides, tomorrow never comes!

Ruth said...

Bless you, Boots.