Monday, May 12, 2014

Dirt Therapy

"Our stories are proof that passion and purpose in life can lay dormant for years. But then one day, you find your desire, your dream, your strength. It was in you the whole time. And once you find it, nothing will ever be the same. From that day forward, you will put everything on the line, make every day count, test the limits of your heart and embrace the challenge of your spirit." - Bill Rodgers

"Day by day, in every way, I'm getting better and better." - Emile Coue

During my morning meditation, I had this feeling stir in my soul that I wanted to work in our yard and play in the dirt.

When I had my PT assessment with Allison Lamarre Poole at Spaulding Rehab 7 years ago this past January, she asked me what things I enjoyed doing that I couldn't do at the time. One of them was gardening. I'd never really been able to garden because I couldn't squat down or figure out how to maneuver in the garden with my body that had physical and emotional constrictions and restrictions from polio and trauma. She made suggestions about equipment and what I could do to be able to do what I affectionately call dirt therapy. It took awhile to get myself together in the gardening arena but this morning I spent two wonderful hours turning soil, removing weeds (what a wonderful metaphor) and preparing our yard for a new season. I pruned bushes and low hanging branches on a tree to allow for new growth and renewal.

I had the upper body strength necessary to uncoil the garden hose and haul it to water the earth and get the winter grime off of our home.

On 5/25, it will be 7 years since I "cleared out" of the Boston VA Healthcare System to heal my life and follow my passion as a poet and a writer. I had no idea what that meant at the time. My plan before the diagnosis of post polio syndrome and the stirrings in my soul that I needed to embark on a new path in my life, was to retire when I was "eligible" in 3 years. I had begged my treatment team at the Spaulding Framingham Outpatient Clinic to just get me through three more years of work.

Allison, who I worked with at Spaulding Downtown because it was near my office, showed me with a biofeedback machine the physical stress of my job with answering phones, doing progress notes, being seated all day and needing to move my body in ways that exacerbated cervical spine issues. She told me that we weren't even taking into account the emotional stress of caring for my veterans and their families. She said that we could build strength in outpatient rehab, but the stress of a high stress 8:00am-4:30pm job would limit my rehab potential. She supported me every step of the way as I prepared the way to leave the VA. I carry her with me in my heart every day.

The adaptive equipment that was recommended by the outpatient team at Spaulding Framingham to do my job with greater ease never came. Well that's not entirely true. It arrived the day before my last day at the VA. When it didn't arrive, I knew it was a sign that I needed to leave and move on.

I have dedicated myself to this healing journey and recently to delivering a message of healing, hope and possibility to others.

I make every day count now, as Bill Rodgers poignantly said, and seven years ago, I put everything on the line. In February of 2008, I discovered my love of running and the running community.

There were times when I found myself straying from my healing path but I have always returned to find treatment modalities that support healing. Most recently, I have found my way to Sollievo Massage and Bodywork and Zero Balancing.

I am surrounding myself with people who are healthy, active, passionate and fully alive. Recently, I went through my Facebook connections and weeded out those with whom I no longer share common goals or lifestyle.

And what beautiful connections blossomed!

I've adjusted running goals for both pace and distance right now knowing that it takes time to build strength, endurance and speed again. I am training to run the Tufts 10K in October which I have not run in 3 years.

Feeling a deep connection to the earth and having mud and dirt streaked clothes brings me a sense of childlike joy and delight. Because I contracted paralytic polio at age 5, I didn't have much time to play in the dirt as a child. How wonderful at the age of 60, I am able to relish and appreciate playing in the dirt; feeling connected to the sensations and scent of our beautiful earth. It is wonderful therapy!

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