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In January 2007, at the age of 51, I joined a 12-step program and began my recovery from food addiction, losing 75 pounds in the process. Read more…

In January 2011, at the age of 55, I began my recovery from a multi-trauma accident, 36 fractures, damaged lungs, and post traumatic stress. Read more…

I am deeply grateful for all the kindnesses, large and small, offered to me in recovery. Here I am... alive… still making progress … still not perfect … finding a new way forward in a growing community of women and men who share a lot in common around food and life.

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‘Tis a gift

Dances fo Martha

 

I commend this dance to you. It brought to mind the gift of being in a body. It brought back memories. It brought home gratitude.

Watch from the very beginning. Watch 5 minutes. Or watch the whole thing. I’ve watched it twice already. I wonder what will happen for you… in your body, mind, and spirit.

In 1973 I went to a Quaker high school for the last half of my senior year. There was a teacher there who I’m sure wasn’t much older than her students. It was the choreographer Liz Lerman.

I didn’t think of her as a teacher or a choreographer. I just watched her. I watched her encourage all kinds of people to be in their bodies with curiosity. I allowed her to encourage me to walk across a stage, even though I felt like a giant, even though I was afraid, even though I was sure I’d trip over my own feet, even though I worried I might humiliate myself. I did it because she somehow let us know that there would be a gift of grace. We learned that our bodies had something to say that we’d never said before; we could trust our bodies and the message; and we could have fun! She gave us hope.

As I watched Dances for Martha, I remembered that, about 2 months after my accident, still in intensive care, I was lifted by a skinny, middle-aged physical therapist into a sitting position on the side of my bed. Then she put her arms under my arms and began to lift me as if I might stand. I howled… not in pain. Terror! I had nothing to stand on. No leg strength at all. I was sure I’d pull her down and both of us would be injured. I felt the fear… and something in me said Yes, go ahead.

Today, for the first time, I realized that this therapist was not hoisting a 6 foot tall, 250-pound woman. Since I was in a right-size body at 158 pounds when the accident happened and I had lost 40 pounds in 2 months of shock-trauma care, she was bracing herself and hugging all-of-about 120 pounds against her… for just a moment. She was checking to see if I would be willing and able to tolerate 3 hours of physical therapy a day. She saw something in me that said Yes.

A week or so later, at National Rehab Hospital I was lifted by harness into a vertical position. Panic! I didn’t know how to be upright… even strapped into a machine. I called out Help!

There was fear with every new challenge. It wasn’t just that these were hard things to do. I couldn’t imagine how to do them. I would have to fail again and again. I failed, but I didn’t fall.

There were many attempts before I could push myself up on parallel bars into standing; take a step with a walker in front, two people holding me and a wheelchair behind me; transfer with 3 people assisting me from bed to wheelchair; turn myself in bed with my catheter, and IV lines, trach, and O2; go up a stair, turn and go back down; and look at myself in a mirror. Very, very scary.

I began to make progress and it struck me at the time that I was lucky to have taken ballet as a child. I was lucky to have danced with Liz Lerman in high school. I was lucky to have encountered yoga and meditation in my 30s. I was lucky to have come fully into my body through a 12-step program for food addiction. These were all experiences that helped me to make progress much more quickly than the therapists anticipated. I had experience being in my body, being uncomfortable, being afraid and doing the hard thing.

They would say try this. I would say I can’t. They would say OK. I would say well show me. Then I would create a signal in my mind and send it to the rest of my body and something would move… a little.

Eventually, of course, I walked. The wobbly ground firmed up. Legs grew underneath me – one hip weak, one leg numb, each side different, both sides working together. I found myself in space… to a certain extent. I knew when a rail, or an elbow, or a cane was needed. I was told healing would be infinite. I began to forget the worst moments. I laid my burden down. Then I lifted it up in a celebration of life.

For three years I was glad to know how to walk. It took a long, long time before I could see the progress. Then I wondered, would I ever walk gracefully? I was hopeful. I started to have fun!

Just a few months ago, with the aid of gyrotonic, swimming, yoga, and walking Miranda-the-labradoodle I am graceful.

‘Tis a gift.

Thanks, Liz.

Love & Light,

Valerie

12 Comments to ‘Tis a gift

  1. Myra Tate's Gravatar Myra Tate
    September 4, 2014 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    True from beginning to end and beautifully transcribed.

  2. Theolyn's Gravatar Theolyn
    September 4, 2014 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Again, so beautifully written, Valerie! Yes, you have made fantastic recovery and now, you are GRACEFUL!! Yes, it is a gift – take it and cherish it!

  3. nicola's Gravatar nicola
    September 5, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    ah do i know the feeling
    clumsy and seize:
    sitting up in classrooms where the desks were to low, falling asleep because of long hours of sitting bent over, running into things .
    <bsallet helped that
    Jazz and African Dance in DC was very good

    Tai Chi was the best. Now when i stumble ( when my head or my heart is not in my body) i stay upright. juhu
    Love our guiding spirits

  4. Sandra Michaels's Gravatar Sandra Michaels
    September 5, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    Dear Valerie,
    Do you remember the conversation we had at your house about Wayne Dyer and his miraculous healing? He was completly cured from leukemia and he said, “With God all things are possible.” I remember the Light in your eyes when you heard the promise. I remember thinking how I was looking at the embodiment of faith as I looked at you. I knew you would heal. I knew you knew too. You are such an inspiration, living into wholeness.Thank you, thank you. May love and all good things be yours this day and always.

  5. September 8, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for sharing your story Valerie. It is a very inspiring, insightful, and educational narrative.

    I really needed your message today. Thank you for being obedient to the spirit within you that led you to share it. It is a real blessing for me. I know it will also be a blessing for many others.

    Reflecting Love and Light back to you.

    Bill

  6. Em's Gravatar Em
    September 10, 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    Omigosh, the orchestra is dancing! How wonderful.

    Liz Lehrman sounds like she was an amazing teacher…but I’ll bet she felt lucky to have you for a student. And look at how well you remembered the lesson!

Leave a Reply to Sandra Michaels

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