Shoes - shoes is the title for a blog post? Yes it is when you are a polio and post polio survivor who is going to Lincoln Center tomorrow night for the End Polio Now benefit concert. In the world I grew up in - Westchester County, NY, a suburb of New York City, appearances were very important. I received that message through the media and through the women in my family. My mother's outer appearance was always impeccable. She modeled for the clubs my father belonged to in their annual shows. She wore spiked heels. My grandmother and aunt always wanted me to wear starched white blouses and focused on outer appearances. They tried to stuff me into outfits which were clearly not me and left me feeling less than with my special shoes with cookies in them. Since the doctor told my parents I had to wear these shoes, I was not allowed to wear the Mary Jane 'party' shoes except on special occasions like a school play. It was as though the inner self did not matter as long as make up, hair and nails were sprayed perfectly in place. Of course, now I know better but I digress...
Back to shoes -- three years ago, almost to the day, after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome (PPS) it was recommended that I go back into a leg brace. It's called an AFO - ankle foot orthosis and it compensates for the lack of flexion in my left foot. In order to use an AFO, I had to go back into 'polio shoes' - referring to those less than elegant tie shoes. My initial poems after being diagnosed with PPS focused on healing the Spirit from the taunting and abuse because of my outward appearance and embracing (no pun intended) the beauty within regardless of what I wear on my feet. In our soon to be released documentary, Keeping the Pace, The Mary McManus Story, there is a poignant scene in which I express my feelings about the equipment I need to use versus the inner beauty which is untarnished by any outward appearances. When I trained for the Boston Marathon and did a lot of strength training, I was able to relinquish the AFO - as if the AFO was something to be relinquished. I realize now that I probably would have been a lot more comfortable running the Marathon in the AFO but old habits die hard. The 'polio' mentality was one of coming out of braces and orthotics as soon as possible and to lose any outward signs of having been affected by the polio virus. As Katherine Ott said in a video about "Polio:Forgotten But Not Gone" it was the AIDS of its day.
I am now wearing my AFO in my walking and running shoes, but can I wear running shoes to the Symphony -- to Lincoln Center in New York City? Well I could if I chose to but instead, I am choosing to wear my black polio shoes with the AFO. We are going to be walking from our hotel to Lincoln Center and yes, I could put on a pair of elegant boots or I could wear a pair of dress shoes - and I did wrestle with what shoes I should wear when common sense and comfort prevailed. I shall feel wonderfully elegant as I stroll into Lincoln Center knowing that I am there to contribute to creating a polio free world. Is the music which comes out of the Stradivarius violin which Itzhak Perlman will play tomorrow night be any less magnificent because he comes out on stage using two Canadian crutches and leg braces? I think not!
If you are unable to attend the End Polio Now benefit concert, you can make a donation on line.
Give while you give this holiday season. With each purchase of my book of inspirational poetry,"New World Greetings:Inspirational Poetry and Musings for a New World" I donate 20% of proceeds to Spaulding Rehab's International Rehab Center for Polio. If you are a Rotarian, I will make a donation to the End Polio Now campaign.
Light up your holidays with an original poem from New World Greeting Cards the company borne out of the diagnosis of post polio syndrome.