Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reflections on Acceptance and Appreciation

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."

I've always been a mover and a changer. As a social worker at the VA, I was passionate about helping my veterans and moving the system to help meet their needs.

I've always been great at the courage to change part of the serenity prayer but when it came to acceptance and the wisdom to know the difference - well not so much!

After I was diagnosed with post polio syndrome, I did not "take the diagnosis sitting down" as I like to say and got moving to make changes in my life. My journey of transformation has taken me to some amazing places like the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon. After the tragic events of 4/15/13, I returned to the running community after a two year hiatus. Knowing I did not have another marathon in me, I became part of support crew for fund raising and supporting runners during long training runs. What a blessing to be a part of the 2014 Boston Marathon training season, the phenomenal events leading up to Marathon Monday and celebrating the joy of the 118th Boston Marathon on the third Monday in April as President Obama predicted in a speech he gave on 4/18/13. Runners ran harder and we cheered louder than ever.

I was outspoken about the philosophy in Western medicine of "if you use it, you will lose it" and believed that post polio syndrome or any diagnosis for that matter was something that needed to be overcome.

But recently, in my quiet moments of meditation, I came to this realization which I recently added as an Epilogue to my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":

I realize that trauma does not get out of the body nor is post polio syndrome something that needs to be defined, refuted or overcome. I learned that you cannot outrun or outsmart the past and there is no going for broke in trauma recovery. There is moving through the moments to heal. My experiences are a part of the fabric of my life and of my form but they need not define me nor rule my life. I no longer have to suffer or struggle but can find peace and equanimity honoring all that went before. I live with a neuromuscular condition and a history of trauma that took its toll on me mind, body and Spirit. Yet with fierce determination and resolve, I chose life.

And I continue to choose life, living life with passion and purpose.

I make choices that support my health and healing. I choose races that challenge me yet do not push me way beyond my limits or are going to stress me out. I know races with a fast field are not where I need to be. I accept, embrace and enjoy my role as spectator.

I love being support crew. Marathon Sports Brookline Run Group needs volunteers for the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon. I opted to volunteer at the Expo instead of a water stop. I declined the opportunity to volunteer at the Run to Remember and instead will enjoy cheering on my husband and daughter and many friends who will be running Memorial Day weekend.

I used to call Aquatics Therapy classes at Spaulding Rehab, "cross training" for running. I have a letter of medical necessity from the doctor who oversees my care for post polio syndrome for Aquatics Therapy and massage therapy. How wonderful that I can now embrace the need for Aquatics Therapy, accepting that I live with a neuromuscular condition that requires vigilance and care; strength training and exercises with a therapist trained in helping me to maximize functioning while honoring my condition.

I am no longer reckless with the choices I make.

Which brings me to appreciation. Even though Dr. Rosenberg, my post polio doc, has not seen me since after I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon, he has let me know that he is always there to support me. He is a doctor of his word. I appreciate what I have lived through and the toll that paralytic polio, 9 years of unrelenting trauma and 25 surgeries have taken on me mind, body and Spirit. My heart overflows with gratitude for the resources available to me for healing. Throughout my journey, I have had excellent health care and access to the best that Western medicine has to offer. I have found my way to Sollievo Massage and Bodywork where biweekly massage sessions for deep relaxation and healing incorporate the mind/body therapy of Zero Balancing.

While there were times of financial uncertainty after I quit my job at the height of my award winning career as a VA social worker, I was finally able to swallow my pride and applied for social security disability which Dr. Rosenberg suggested to me at my first visit to the post polio clinic. He was an advocate for me to ensure that I received my benefits quickly; 5 months from the time I applied to when I was approved. My husband has a wonderful job with benefits. He was the first to say it was a no brainer when my team at Spaulding told me I needed to quit my job if I had any hope of stabilizing the symptoms of post polio syndrome.

Life is so sweet now. I am no longer fighting against my body trying to create change. There is nothing more to prove. I embrace the miracle of healing and my journey of transformation having no idea what the future may hold for me. I do know that I am grateful to be here now with all that I have lived through, the challenges I live with and all that is wonderful and beautiful about my life now. My intention is to be a source of inspiration for others with my message of healing, hope and possibility that now echoes the refrain of the Serenity Prayer.

A Golden Thread of Gratitude from A Celebration of Life

From toe tips to crown of head
a golden thread of gratitude
open your heart and remember

after a bitter cold Winter
Springtime blossoms

shedding bulk of winter’s heavy coat
summer grass tickling bare feet
delighting the sole

heart swells
appreciation overflows
flowers waving in gentle breezes
weave a circle of love
a hoop of healing.

"There is nothing more beautiful than seeing a person being themselves. Imagine going through your day being unapologetically you." -Steve Maraboli

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