I tend to have vivid dreams that I can recall in the morning. They are a very important part of my healing journey. Many of them have not been pleasant to say the least but I know that the trauma dreams, as I like to call them (as opposed to nightmares) have been an important tool as I heal the effects of trauma and paralytic polio. It's exciting to experience the progression of healing through my dreams and then to experience the transformation in my life.
Last year I had several powerful dreams with my grandmother. In one, I show her that I have the ability to create an out of body experience to avoid her terror and in another dream, I felt utterly wretched for daring to stand up to her.
This morning I had an early morning dream. My mother and grandmother were standing there just as they looked in life. No more fear. No more terror. No confrontations. No need to dissociate and withdraw. I ran by them feeling strong, empowered and free.
I had no expectations for today's run. Wednesdays are usually an Aquatics Therapy day for me but with the holiday week, class was cancelled. I could have gone to the Boston University pool but the weather was so gorgeous outside that I didn't want to be indoors. I was thinking of combining a walk with a swim at Houghton's Pond or going to our local outdoor pool for a swim.
I opted for a 3.1 miler; twice around the Route 9 Reservoir and then to Dean Road. There is a huge hill on the loop back.
I was initially going to walk at a leisurely, comfortable pace as I had when we did my first 6.1 miler on Heartbreak Hill. I pushed my pace on Saturday's training run for the Tufts 10K and took 4 minutes off of my time. On Monday, my daughter and I did speed work.
I got up early feeling refreshed after a solid 10 hours of sleep to have breakfast with Tom before he left for work. We really value and treasure our time together now that we are both in our 60's. I am so grateful that he is willing and able to continue to work full time to support us financially.
I decided it was a perfect opportunity to get out and do an early run to try to beat the heat and humidity.
I was out the door by 8 am.
There was a breeze and shade when I started out. I wanted to make it a leisurely pace but something inside of me wanted to do more and so after a little warm up, I picked up the pace.
I did not have any time goal in mind and as the sun got hotter and the day more humid, I knew that I had to be careful with how I was running.
I stopped for water and walked at times.
It was me, my iPod and Nike+ along with the geese, ducks, squirrels and rabbits.
And I noticed there was something very different about this run.
I tried to figure it out. What was I feeling?
I was smiling. I was happy. I was pouring sweat. I was working hard. I was deeply connected to myself, to the moment, to my mission.
I know I have absolutely nothing to prove but I felt a need to push my pace. What was my mission anyway?
Was I feeling angry? Was I outrunning my past? Was I proving that I could overcome post polio syndrome?
The answer came back no to every question I asked.
And then it hit me. For the first time I wasn't breaking away or running away or proving them wrong ...
for the first time, I was me - running free!
And if you are curious about my time, it's the first consistent sub 16 minute/mile pace on a training run with a negative split of 32 seconds from mile 1 to mile 2 and a 16 second split from mile 1 to mile 3. It's my best training run time since I returned to the roads a little over a year ago now after a two year running hiatus. And to be able to do it in the heat and humidity is quite an accomplishment. But more important than any time on the clock, is how I felt inside, deep in my soul to experience my own sense of greatness that I never gave up. Somewhere deep inside of me I believed a time would come when the shackles to the past would come off and I could be truly me as I wrote in my first poem, "Running the Race."
From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
I sat at my dining room table on a freezing cold dark February evening. No one else was at home. I had printouts from ‘new age’ teachers spread out all over the table. Dr. Bernie Siegel, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins, teachers from “The Secret” which was very popular back in the day were beckoning me. The theme was gratitude and a call to create.
“I am so happy and grateful that I can create,” was an affirmation from a Lisa Nichols newsletter.
Create? Create? I asked myself over and over again. What am I going to create? I had twins and my childbearing years were over. My career was quickly coming to an end.
And then I felt a stirring in my second chakra (only then I didn’t know it was my second chakra – I thought it might have been something I ate). I went over to my laptop in the corner of the living room and I wrote this poem:
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.
My memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility" is now available on Amazon.
"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.
I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.