I love to dance. I love many types of dancing, but ballroom is my favorite. I love to Waltz and Foxtrot and Merengue and Lindy Hop. And Polka. I love the Polka. Before I was paralyzed, I could dance all night long – literally. I couldn’t mentally digest the words my friends were trying to tell me when they’d come and say they wanted to go home because they were “tired.” Tired? How could they be tired? It was only 3 am… One time I danced until both my feet were bleeding. I couldn’t walk for over a week, but it was worth it for a night of dancing (that night was West Coast Swing).
After I was paralyzed, it was of course difficult to accept not walking, but I think the more lasting heartache has been not being able to dance. Maybe that’s because it comes up more seldom than the desire to walk so I haven’t been able to quite temper the need.
New Year’s Eve has been the worst. Before I was paralyzed, I’d spend it dancing, but after, no matter what activity I try to replace it with, there still seems to be a hole in my heart. But on a happy note, every New Year’s in a wheelchair is a little easier than the one before, starting with the first one when my boyfriend, Whit, who is now my husband, gave me pink shoes with flowers on them – he calls them my “dancing shoes.”
I’ve written a monthly message before about a time when I was super sad about not being able to teach my kids how to dance. At the time, I was talking about my future kids. Now, 10 years later and married to Whit, I have one – a little music-loving girl. She’s just over one year old but seems to already have rhythm and loves to “dance” in her toddler way.
The stress and heartbreak I felt before have now amplified as I am living the nightmare I was afraid of. I really can’t teach her how to dance. I can’t show her how to ball change or sugar-push or even just step on the beat.
But there’s someone else I know who can’t dance: my husband. But even though he doesn’t know how to ball change, or sugar push, or how to step on the beat, that doesn’t stop him from picking up our daughter, Zula, and twirling her around and shimmying to the music (well, almost to the music…).
One night recently when my husband and I were preparing dinner, little Zula came in; bouncing in her one-year-old way to show she liked the music we had playing. Whit didn’t miss a beat (relatively speaking) and started clapping and swaying and stepping terribly off rhythm, but wonderfully in time. Zula laughed and bounced even more. I wanted to join in, but hesitated. I couldn’t dance and I knew it. I couldn’t even dance badly. But I was with a couple of people who weren’t letting their inability to dance stop them from doing it. So I joined in. I clapped and swayed and shimmied right along!
We dance at our house. Not well, but wonderfully. It feels good to dance, even though I know I can’t. I think as we stumble through this life with whatever disabilities we have, what matters isn’t what we can do, but what we will do.
Will we, as the ever-famous quote says, “dance like no one is watching?” Because people are watching. And they’ll know if we know how to ball change, sugar-push, and step on the beat. And I might be the one in the wheelchair, but most of us, for whatever reason, can’t dance.
But let’s do it anyway.
Let’s dance because people are watching.
Let’s dance because we don’t care what a “ball change” is.
Let’s dance because we want to, not because we can.
And let’s dance because enjoying this life isn’t ever about what we can do, but what we will do.
Thanks for the Dance,