The beat is calling

Heather Watkins, USA

Disability advocate, author, mother, graduate of Emerson College with a B.S. in Mass Communications, and lifelong resident of Boston, Massachusetts.

(Submitted by the author)

As the music played at a recent family event - my grandmother’s memorial dinner - I was doing my usual 'chair dancing', but was urged by one of my aunties to move beyond just sitting, swinging and tapping. Her suggestion included, “Life is short, the beat is calling, and if you want to dance, just get up and do it!”

This sounds easy enough, but not for me, since my compromised mobility makes things a little more complicated: born with muscular dystrophy, a progressive muscle disease which affects my core muscles, I walk with a cane and often move cautiously, in order to mitigate the risk of falling.

Reading the ambivalence on my face, my aunt reassured me that if I did fall, then my family would help me get back on my feet. H'mm, that was all very well and good, but who would assuage my bruised ego?! Who'd quiet the critic within, teasing “I told you so?” This is the part of falling which hurts far worse than a chance meeting with the floor at gravity’s insistence and even extends to loving, well-meaning, and able-bodied family and friends who have all their faculties intact.

The fear of embarrassment seeks to destroy the sense of empowerment - if we let it. Oftentimes, as a person with a disability, I've let thoughts of my safety usurp my fun. When I’m reminded to hold a balanced view and put things into perspective, however, then both safety andfun can be achieved. One doesn’t necessarily have to eclipse the other, but can, instead, be adapted to achieve the desired outcome. A'hh, now that’s thinking with the advocate’s cap on!

So with the beat blaring, the support of my family and the empty spot on the dance floor just waiting for me to occupy it, I pushed off from my seat and steadied myself to stand up. I left my cane perched on the back of my chair, turned to grab my sister’s hand and gingerly advanced toward the dance floor. My other hand was held by another aunt, while still another danced alongside me.

And so I stepped lively, swayed back and forth, was supported, and when I felt tired, sat down. I didn’t fall and I had a damn good time! I shimmied right on past feeling ashamed, my serotonin levels were raised naturally (I was high from the vibe for days), and my spirit thanked me, as I allowed the authentic me to show up unapologetically.

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