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  • Writer's pictureMatilda Butler

Would You Be Pessimistic If This Was Your Life?

Updated: Jul 5, 2022



No matter how difficult your personal situation, be optimistic.

But First, a Word from the Blog Author…

While researching and writing this blog about Helen Keller, I'm also on vacation. I’m with our Oregon family for a special trip — one that celebrates our 50th wedding anniversary. The trip — postponed for two years thanks to the pandemic — is probably all the sweeter for the delay. But I didn't always feel that way.

Our granddaughter now eight years old can enjoy the trip so much more than if she were six. One grandson just finished his junior year of high school with high marks thanks to his own determination and efforts — something he was still struggling with two years ago. The second grandson is working for his father at the nature-based school he founded a number of years ago. Two years ago our grandson was just getting ready to try to figure out Zoom college classes.

I won’t bore you with the details of everyone on this fabulous trip. Just let me say that this is a joyous time and all the more appreciated because of the Covid postponement.

Now, to Helen Keller…This Week's Amazing, Inspirational Woman

I am providing that family backdrop to explain my reaction to the following quote by Helen Keller — the amazing woman we’re focusing on for this inspiring woman blog.

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” ~ Helen Keller

When I found that quote I stopped. It almost took my breath away. Why? The first sentence --

“What we have once enjoyed we can never lose.”

made me think that I will always remember this time with family. In the years to come, I can recall majestic sights we’ve seen, different activities we’ve done, meals we’ve shared, conversations we’ve had. Kind of a sweet thought, but nothing spectacular.

It was the second sentence that got to me --

“All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.”

I immediately realized that remembering isn’t the issue — isn’t the point of Helen Keller’s words. I now understand that the deep love in this family not only is a part of me, but has changed me. It is part of the person I have become over the years. And so, of course, it will never be lost.

I hope you also will find meaning in Helen Keller’s quote.

Inspiration through Adversity

When I think of inspiring women, I am especially struck by Helen Keller and all she had to (and did) overcome. You might even say that “Adversity” was her middle name. You know of Helen Keller, but the particulars of her life may be a little fuzzy. Let me give you a quick overview:

  • Born 1880; died 1968

  • Lost sight and hearing at 19 months (thought to be the result of meningitis)

  • At seven, taught herself to tell who was walking nearby through identifying the vibration of their footsteps

  • Created about 60 distinctive home signs for communication with family

  • Learned language (including reading and writing) from Anne Sullivan, her teacher and lifelong companion

  • Attended Radcliffe College (at the time, the woman’s college associated with Harvard University)

  • FIRST deaf/blind person to receive any Bachelor’s degree in the US (See photo)

Helen Keller and Alexander Graham Bell?

Alexander Graham Bell, in the mid-1880s, worked with deaf children. The Kellers consulted him, and on his recommendation, turned to the Perkins Institute for the Blind where the director suggested they hire an alum of the school. Her name? Anne Sullivan, the visually impaired instructor who began as a governess but who became Helen Keller’s companion for more than 50 years.

Just Imagine…

Try to imagine — you are deaf and blind and have been since you were less than two years old. Even today in the third decade of this 21st century, with all the medical advances and marvelous assistive technologies, life would be extremely difficult for you. Right?

So just try to imagine what it was like for Helen Keller in the late 19th and early 20th century. And yet, despite the difficulties, she left a quote to inspire us even today:

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. ~ Helen Keller

The Importance of Optimism (for Helen Keller and for YOU)

Optimism became a major theme for Keller. For example, we have a newspaper account of her talk given in the small town of Menomonie, Wisconsin in 1916. The reporter wrote,

“She gave a message of optimism, of hope, of good cheer, and of loving service … a message that will linger long with those fortunate enough to have received it. [Keller] who has so brilliantly triumphed over the triple afflictions of blindness, dumbness and deafness, gave a talk with her own lips on "Happiness", and it will be remembered always as a piece of inspired teaching by those who heard it.”

More about Helen Keller’s Life…

…But first, what about you? How are you using your life? While reading about Helen Keller’s life, take the time to think about your own life.

Life, whether easy or difficult, is spent day by day. We use our limited supply of time day by day, week by week, month by month…well, you get the point.

  • How do you face hardships?

  • What are your life goals (at least as you understand them now)?

  • What steps are you taking to achieve your aspirations?

You don’t need to tackle earthshaking goals. You don’t need to aspire to the Nobel Peace Prize. But you should have — and I hope you do have — large goals that move you out of your comfort zone into a life worthy of you.

Helen Keller chose to become an activist and work for the rights of those with disabilities. She carried the message of the deaf to more than 30 countries, working to bring about change in conditions and opportunities. But that’s not all. She campaigned for:

  • women’s suffrage

  • rights of workers

  • world peace.

She helped found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1920.

In other words, she tackled big issues.

One way she spoke out was through her writing. She authored 14 books as well as hundreds of speeches. Because she knew she needed to communicate directly with people, she learned how to speak even though she had not heard the spoken word since she was less than two years old.

There Are Many Ways to Share Your Inspiration with Others...

...many ways to explain your perspective to others...many ways to encourage others to examine their own lives. You don't have to be a world renowned speaker or a bestselling author. You just need to find your own way to reach out.

I'll give you an example. Two days ago, we had a marvelous guide showing us Skagway and the two routes to the Klondike where tens of thousands trekked, seeking their fortune. As it happened, there were just the two of us plus the guide so our conversation ranged far and wide. We were driving for two hours so there was lots of time for her to both tell us the history of the area as well as share her personal history and the journey she is on in her own life. We gained a new perspective during this time and we are grateful for the time she spent with us, talking of her philosophy and spiritual sojourn.

How will you share your inspiration with others?


Want more inspiration? Before you consider the additional Helen Keller quotes below, read this:

If any of these quotes are particularly meaningful to you based on your current life and needs, I suggest that you copy the quote(s) onto a 3x5 card, a Post-It, or into Notes on your iPhone. Read the quote several times each day. Focus on it. Let it provide much needed inspiration.


“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light. ~ Helen Keller
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. ~ Helen Keller
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart. ~ Helen Keller
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ~ Helen Keller

"Never shall I seek or receive honors alone ~ Helen Keller

(And for some unknown and unknowable reason, my personal favorite is…)

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. ~ Helen Keller

Which Quote Means the Most to You?

Which quote speaks to you? Be sure to write it down or even memorize it. Look at it several times every day for the next week. Internalize its message for you.



No matter how difficult the situation, be optimistic.

Put Helen Keller’s Message into Practice

Sometime this week (unless you are living an amazing and incredibly fortunate life), you’ll feel pessimistic. It might be:

  • Family related

  • Work related

  • Education related

  • Health related

  • Money related

  • News related

  • Etc.

I urge you to think about your pessimism, about the problem. Try to find just one good point in the situation. Turn at least one aspect of the “bad” into “good” — even if there is just a little good. That will set you on a path toward optimism.

Want a simple (basically trivial) example?

Go back to the opening of this blog and re-read it. I was genuinely pessimistic about this trip. Instead of looking forward to a joyful celebration, I considered cancelling it and just doing something else with the family.

After all, we had to cancel the reservations made in 2019 when the pandemic shut down cruises in 2020. We booked again in 2020 for 2021 and had to once more cancel. Then we booked in 2021 for 2022, not sure if we were being foolish. A lot of effort had gone into planning a trip that was beginning to seem like a doomed effort.

And yet, I can now find good that came from the delay. In other words, I’m optimistic about the outcome and can value the delayed timing of the trip.

We Hope You’ll Put Helen Keller’s Message into Practice in Your Life

And One More Thing…

…Here’s a Romantic, Sad, and Little Know Fact About Helen Keller

Helen Keller had a love affair. It began when her longtime companion, Anne Sullivan, fell ill. That meant Helen was without a secretary. I cannot determine how this happened, but a reporter, Peter Fagan, for the Boston Herald was sent to help with her correspondence and other writing tasks.

Helen was in her early 30s and had never been around men her own age. Obviously, Helen and Peter, then age 29, spent a great deal of time together. Enjoying each other’s company, they realized they had fallen in love. They became secretly engaged and made plans to elope.

But Helen’s extended family found out about the plans and were set against the marriage. Specifically, they said that a blind and deaf woman could not marry and have children. Without even her beloved Anne Sullivan to stand up for her, Helen felt she had to put aside this new possibility in her life.

So while she worked to open opportunities for others in the disabled community, she was unable to take advantage of all of them in her own life.

I don’t know this, but I can imagine that Helen Keller looked on that time of love and romance with gratitude rather than with anger. She had the opportunity to be cherished by a man and I feel certain that enriched her life.

Thank You Helen Keller

for Inspiring Us with Your Optimism About Life

POSTSCRIPT: Bring out a camera to take a family photo and Aunt Sophie, my grandmother’s sister, always turned to the left. She said, “My right side is my better one.” I heard this over and over right until the end of her life when she was just three months shy of her 100th birthday. She continued to be concerned about how she looked. To me, her left and her right sides looked the same. But to her, they were different and that is what mattered.

Why am I mentioning this? Helen Keller’s left eye protruded. Until late in her life, she always insisted that photos be taken when she was turned to the left, just like my grandmother. In a way, I find it lovely that she was concerned about her appearance even though she had never seen herself.

I like to imagine that since she used her hands on the faces of others in order to “see” them, she used her hands on her own face and knew about the irregularities. I admire her for wanting to put her most attractive side forward. Helen Keller was an inspiring woman, yet she had the ordinary needs and wants as the rest of us.

By the way, both of her eyes were removed in about 1911 and glass eyes were inserted for what were called “medical and cosmetic reasons.” I am sure that is when she allowed photographs to be made of either side of her face.


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