October 1st was National Poetry Day. I discovered the gift of poetry in my soul in February of 2007 after the diagnosis of the progressive neuromuscular disease Post Polio Syndrome in December of 2006.
I got still and asked for Divine Guidance seeking the answer to the question what's next in my life? I knew I was at a crossroads and had no idea what would be next for me in my life's journey. I was at the height of my award winning career as a VA social worker and was told that if I had any hope of maintaining the progression of symptoms where they were, I needed to leave work. I was told that I should prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and expect a rapid decline in functioning as I aged. I was given a list of resources to consider either making my Cape home handicapped accessible or move to a ranch style house.
I was scared, depressed, anxious and yet oddly enough hopeful that somehow a new path would be made clear to me if I allowed the Divine to guide me.
As I sat in a leg brace using a cane, a toe up leg brace and at times a wheelchair for mobility, this poem flowed out of me:
Running the Race
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
Everyone around me filled with nervous fear
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
The polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.
Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone
and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.
Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
But with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist,
curly hair and a warm, broad smile
It tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.
I always wore those 'special' shoes
the kids they poked and teased
With no support and much abuse
with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.
Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else
and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.
Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
Suffered in silence, isolated from friends-
trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team
and they were on my side.
Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
Resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.
Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
For the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.
Poems flowed out of me as if a spigot turned on in my soul. I was healing the past through poems of forgiveness, gratitude and embracing the challenges of paralytic polio and trauma from my childhood while creating a future very different from the ones the doctors predicted for me. My pen became my divining rod for healing!
This collection of poems can be found in "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life".
Through the sport of running and crossing the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon, I became a woman transformed from victim of my past to a thriver experiencing the fullness of life free from the shackles of my past. My life became poetry in motion.
This past March, with the onset of the pandemic in the US, I once again turned to my divining rod for healing. I am creating my next book Hope: A Collection of Poems and Essays from the Pandemic of 2020. I open my heart and soul to receive messages that will uplift and inspire others noting how creation can help us navigate the most challenging times in our lives.
May we all move through life as poetry in motion.
From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com
My books are available on Amazon