Thursday, July 2, 2020
We Often Delight in the Beauty of the Butterfly....
The Chrysalis from "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life":
Trembling with excitement
shaking it off
allow yourself to be with a capital B
Being who you were always meant to be
yet time well spent
on tiny legs
grounded to earth’s energy
garnering wisdom along the way
a time of uncertainty
this is the path
abide in darkness
lose grip on grasping
As I stood up from the dining room table with ease, I paused and said thank you to the Universe for the miracle of healing that has happened in my life. I thought of Maya Angelou's quote about delighting in the beauty of the butterfly but rarely admit the journey of transformation it takes to get there. Ten years before the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome was made, I began having symptoms. By the time the diagnosis was made in December of 2006, I had difficulty:
Walking up a flight of stairs
Getting out of bed in the morning
Getting out of a chair
Getting up from the toilet seat
Walking any distance
I got still and asked for Divine Guidance as I found myself at a crossroads in my life.
While I wrote poetry that poured out of my heart and soul, I began to heal my past trauma and create a future of health and wellness through the power of visualization that included imagining myself Running the Race! It foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon run!
Those early days of rehab at Spaulding Rehab Outpatient Center were grueling but I was blessed to have an earth angel of a physical therapist, Allison Lamarre-Poole, who did not subscribe to the "If you use it you will lose it philosophy" of the medical profession at the time. She held the faith for both of us as once again, I had to do what I had done when I was 5 years old after initially contracting polio, coaxing deconditioned muscles and nerves back to health.
She did encourage me to leave my award winning social work career. She used a biofeedback machine to show me how the stress of my job was adversely affecting my physical body and encouraged me to follow my new found bliss as an author and a poet. It wasn't an easy decision to make. I was walking away from a very good salary and a career, that until those recent years, brought me much professional satisfaction. Helping the veterans and their families was my life's work for almost 20 years but I knew that I could no longer help them to heal while I was struggling with caring for myself.
It took an abnormal mammogram that I was able to reverse through the power of visualization and meditation, that gave me the courage to set the date for my retirement: May 25, 2007.
While I started to feel better without the stress of work and with the joy of writing poetry, I continued to be in a deconditioned state. I worked my outpatient program that was given to me at discharge from Spaulding but my body literally and figuratively burned and yearned to do something more. I was feeling antsy. Part of that "itch" had to do with not having work as a part of my life. I had worked since I was 14 years old! But there was something else...
The Universe sent me a personal trainer, Sierra Ann Hightower, (aka Janine Hightower) in October of 2007.
From "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":
Shortly after being discharged from outpatient physical therapy I met Janine Hightower through Herb Simmons. He knew Janine through his participation in the Cardiac Rehab program at Boston Medical Center. I was launching my business New World Greeting Cards, original poetry for every occasion. She was a member of BNI, a professional networking group. As we sat in my living room, she talked about BNI and the benefits of being a member of this networking group. As she talked, I wasn’t focused on growing my business. My mind zeroed in on her sharing with us how she used BNI to promote her in home personal training business.
“You know I’m curious,” I said to Janine. “Do you think you could help me? I was just discharged from Spaulding Rehab.”
I went on to tell her about my journey.
“I don’t know,” she said “but I’d certainly be happy to set up an assessment with you.”
I couldn’t even pass the initial fitness assessment.
“You’re way too young to not be able to get off of the toilet seat without holding on to the sink or to not be able to get off of the couch,” she said to me.
It was a statement of fact without judgment. She spoke the truth about my deconditioned physical state. I signed on to work with her once a week in personal training. I had no idea what or why I was doing this. I did know that if I was going to be in pain, I’d prefer to feel the pain of recovery instead of the pain of decline. Janine held enough faith for both of us that I could come out of my leg brace and have a good quality of life despite the diagnosis and prognosis I received.
Janine’s mantra for our work together was a quote from Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right!”
Despite the warnings from the Post Polio community of "If you use it you will lose it," there was something literally and metaphorically burning inside of me. As I said, if I were going to experience pain, I'd rather experience pain in the service of healing.
Once a week we worked together and I discovered muscles that I did not know existed in my body. Whenever I experienced doubts, Janine held enough faith for both of us.
After six months, it was time for my re-evaluation and to set new health and fitness goals from the original ones of being able to get off of a low toilet seat or the couch without assistance and to be able to pass the assessment.
At my six-month evaluation in February, I made dramatic improvements in every area of the assessment. I had come out of my leg brace. I knew I was on a healing path.
“Let’s write down your goals for the next six months,” Janine said feeling proud and satisfied with my progress.
“Well I want to feel free in my body. I want to dance. I want to be able to walk outside and feel unencumbered when I take a walk.”
Janine feverishly wrote down my goals, and we worked out a plan. She gathered up her belongings and had her hand on the door knob.
“Wait. I have one more goal.”
Janine stopped and turned around.
“I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital. I know they have a Race for Rehab team and I want to do it next year.”
Did you ever have one of those moments when words fell out of your mouth after rising up from the depths of your soul without going through any thought process?
Janine was non-plussed. I don’t know what kept her from turning tail and getting as far away from me as she could. She came back into my house, set down her things and without missing a beat said, “Well the first thing you are going to need is a pair of running shoes.”
She laid out a cursory training plan and said that we would begin indoors to build up my cardio endurance. As soon as the weather got a little warmer, we’d go outdoors and I would learn how to run.
What had I just done?
I had just changed the course of my life after the VA and began the journey of discovering my new purpose in life; to send a message of healing, hope and possibility and how, despite all appearances to the contrary, all things are possible when you believe you can!
My mind, body and soul were transformed on the road to the 2009 Boston Marathon and during those 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston.
After years of feeling I was trapped in my body in the wake of paralytic polio and severe trauma at the hands of family members, I was finally able to fly free.
My journey of transformation took incredible hard work, dedication, faith, strength, courage, humor, earth angels to provide guidance and support and instill in me a "can do" attitude; that I was never destined to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
I feel incredibly blessed and grateful for this journey and enjoyed taking you along on a behind the scenes look of the changes I experienced from being a fuzzy little caterpillar crawling through life to a butterfly soaring free.
Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com to learn more about my journey of transformation.
My books are available on Amazon.
From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
To healing, hope and possibilities!