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I can’t believe what just happened. No matter that I was new at my job with the Visiting Nurse Association, that I was swamped handling our own referrals and had no time for supervising. She poo-pooed my objections, said that I had been recommended by the social worker at Cardinal Glennon’s for her practicum placement and no other would do. Besides, she was late for her class at Washington University and had to leave. Laughing, she grabbed her stuff and said, “See you Monday. This’ll work out—You’ll see!”

And it did, but not as you would think. She had no need for supervision: I needed it from her. Thus began our dinner meetings in the Delmar Loop, August 1979.

A single mom, she was raising five children, working nights at Glennon’s ER and finishing her master’s degree in Social work, besides having one in nursing. She inspired me to minimize my arthritic pain and engage in life around me. It worked, even to discarding my social work practice and becoming a certified chaplain, a better fit with my emerging gifts.

Our bonding deepened with annual retreats at Gloucester, where we continued our dinner meetings over fresh seafood and more laughter. There, she found her God in tending seagulls, their wings broken by the casts of anglers on the breakfront by Gloucester harbor—My wings have long since been whole.

Long seasoned with life’s fullness, she continues touching many.

Her name is Pat.

 

 

“Remember to scoop your abdomen and purse your lips when you exhale,” my Pilates coach said, her voice supportive and encouraging. Again, I concentrated as my bare feet pushed the bar forward on the reformer, moving the padded carriage upon which I was lying. Still, I could not visualize my breath enhancing my movements. My mind was split off from my body, my cheeks flushed, my breathing shallow.

It was September 2001, my third lesson in her studio. Balance issues had led me to seek her guidance. Walking across grass or uneven surfaces had become hazardous, and my usual exercises did not help.

“You’re doing very well, Liz,” she said drawing me a cup of water from the cooler. “It takes a while to get the knack of this—Pilates is different from your workouts in physical therapy: gentler, a slower more effective toning of the body. You’ll see.”

She was right. That winter’s wetness did not prevent long walks up and down the hills in my neighborhood as strength coursed through my body.

But over the years more than coaching was offered me. She loaned books on anatomy for my review, recommended supplements, shared spiritual insights, channeled the world around me, even supplied my needs when hospitalized—all with lightness of Spirit hiding out in the next breath.

She still serves, despite chronic illnesses kept at bay with Pilates and research into healing modalities. A wounded healer, she’s touched me deeply and still does.

 

 

Her name is Mary.

“And you can change in here,” said the director, her curvaceous body and shocking pink nails unnerving me as I stepped inside the locker room with my new leotard and tights.

It was a rainy autumn afternoon, 1970, following the failed synovectomies of my knees. My surgeon had regretted the outcome, but recommended total knee replacements when the technology was further refined. In the meantime, I was to exercise, keep my body strong. For some reason, I complied—even received my superior’s permission to join the First Lady’s Health Club on St. Charles Avenue, just down the street from our convent. I was thirty-six years old.

Inside the cubicle, the curtain pulled behind me, I grunted as I pulled on the skimpy outfit, black like the habit I used to wear. Whining saxophone music further undermined my resolve to go ahead with this venture. I abhorred exercising, yet I kept moving toward the workout room with mirrored walls and cherry carpeting.

Fluorescent lighting momentarily crazed my vision. In front of me stood a tall brunette looking back at me. Stunned, I touched my waist. She did, too. I smiled—My body was different, with the twenty-five pound weight loss from the surgeries. Smiling again, I greeted the trainer approaching me. I would do this.

From that afternoon to the present, exercise has buoyed my spirit, kept me functional, and cleared out low moods. It also enlisted Spirit’s love and protection to support my efforts in becoming woman.

It’s never too late to start, no matter the stiffness or pain. It worked for me, and still does.

 

 

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