Tag Archives: Perspective

Tap Dancing Class…or Priceless

IMG_0142 Fotor.jpgDid you ever think someone in a wheelchair could tap dance? Well think again. With special gloves sporting metal plates affixed to their palms and fingertips, the members of Mount Sinai Rehabilitation’s tap dancing class skillfully manipulated their hands from “heel to toe” along to a crooning Jerry Lee Lewis. I couldn’t help but tap my toes in time as I observed their display of skill and joyful tempo. Attired in tap shoes and a glittery “Gotta Dance” tee, Mary Six,  a former Rockette who lives with dystonia, taught us about brushing and cramp rolls as I languidly swayed to the enticing music. Then Mary Six waltzed around the room demonstrating with her feet the unique steps each participant should execute with their hands.

They say where there’s a will there’s a way. Everyone in this class has certainly found their way, giving me pause to reconsider what we really need to accomplish our goals. “Disabled” you say? Perhaps you need to review your dictionary, starting with the meaning of “ABLE!”

 

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Disability Pride

80489597_s copy_FotorYesterday was my first occasion participating in New York City’s Disability Pride Parade and I couldn’t have been more proud and inspired by the very best New York City has to offer as I marched with Mount Sinai Rehabilitation. As our joyous celebration wound its way through the city streets on a hot Sunday – 5,000 richly diverse human beings strong – we forgot the pounding sun as we shouted our disabilities from the rooftops.

“Disability Pride” teems with an inherent irony: Take pride in a lack of ability? Yes, we announce ourselves with pride and incite inclusion. What is more empowering than accepting – and loving – ourselves, imperfections and all? We puff out our chests in celebration of how we persevere…and more…notwithstanding our disabilities and of all we overcome amid the daily muck muddying but by no means devaluing our lives. Whether we’re wheelchair bound, deficient in sight, gait, hearing or speech, struggling with learning or mental deficit, suffering from a disability that is “hidden” or glaringly evident, we take heart in our robustness of spirit as we bend and sway but never break in response to the challenges we face and conquer.

I am Pamela Sloate. I have Dystonia and I’m proud!

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Me 2.0!

8480264 - running girlPost DBS, my life has been revolutionized by a startling revelation: Traveling from Point A to Point B is as “effortless” as moving from one foot to the other! I exist in a surreality I never could have imagined. Who would have thought I’d ever be in a position to compare and contrast smooth and twisted gait! Conquering distance has become user-friendly. Has NYC shrunk? This on-the-go rookie well knows the act of walking straight is deceptively simple – even miraculous – and with profound effect. Now that all my ducks are lining up in a row, I attach new meaning to the words “independently mobile.”

I stand before you “Pam 2.0” – action-oriented, driven and efficient – roaring out of the gate to tackle my errands and responsibilities with the vigor of an NFL linebacker. I’d never grasped the smooth side of multi-tasking or the effervescence of living life on the run. Dystonia erected a prison of limitations constraining my every effort…in ways even I didn’t fully appreciate. Sojourns out of my neighborhood loomed daunting. Rain or inclement weather provided a convenient excuse to stay home. For many years, life passed before me in lackluster shades of grey. My involuntary movements and their psychological toll crowded out the innumerable possibilities that lie within arm’s reach when we’re not squandering energy struggling with basic bodily operations. Now I feel free as a bird spreading her wings for the first time.

They say life is about the little things. For me, life is about a wealth of glorious but supremely basic minutiae virtually invisible to most of us…empowering us to enjoy a magical day!

 

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Life In The Trenches

5365287_s_editedI’ll confess, for most of my life, I didn’t view myself as “disabled,” reserving this term for those with even more extreme physical liabilities. Yes, I felt “different,” but it never occurred to me that Dystonia qualified me for membership in any kind of exclusive club.

In my confused reality, I viewed individuals with disabilities as mirrors of my own imperfections, reflecting a self-image I couldn’t bear. Now I simply see people whom I count among my closest friends for reasons that have everything to do with the spirit their hearts embrace. No saints or heroes, just soldiers on personal battlefronts waging reluctant but necessary combat. After all, life is lived in the trenches not on a pedestal.

My argument with the whole concept of disability is how it creates a notion of us vs. them. Those of us with chronic illness don’t conduct ourselves by majority rule or elect representatives to a special Disability Congress to proclaim declarations of common attitude and award badges of merit for supposed acts of heroism. We take our lives thought by thought, day by day.

Think you’re so far away? Challenges abound for all of us, what’s your struggle? You could even try it for a few minutes, an hour, a day. Blindfold yourself. Shake your arm every time you eat, drink, write, keystroke, or play an instrument. Spin around crazily, then swim and sway down the street. Attempt 24 hours in a wheelchair. Do you feel to be a “sore thumb” or is your entire attention focused on your tasks? How much of you feels “able” and how much “unable?” It’s not our physical differences that mark us with a scarlet “D” but how society finds the need to distinguish us by them. The only “sore thumbs” are those thusly viewed by the rest of the hand. How about examining the degree of perfection the other fingers can claim!

The lesson I try to embrace every day is that each of us is a composite of unique information, no one aspect so particularly remarkable that we stand out as any more “different” than the person sitting or standing next to us. When it comes to my personal data, Dystonia is a fact tucked into the details of my life that’s completely uninformative regarding my worth as a person. While Dystonia is a bit of a visual drama queen, why it should dictate a “one size fits all” label is beyond me…and unfortunate.

I’m just like everyone else. I carry hang-ups, sport frustrations, worry about inconsequential details, celebrate life, laugh, love, dream, and strive to hold inner peace. May you find yours as well.

Useless Why

17688053_sWe’ve all read inspirational stories of triumph over physical or mental challenge…or met people who believe they were given their illness for some higher if unknown reason. While I undertake the utmost admiration for these points of view, I don’t find a grand design in my circumstance beyond writing this blog…and I wish I’d never encountered Dystonia in my bout of chance in our family’s genetic lottery, whether stronger for this experience or not. One of my greatest battles is the “Useless Why” that relentlessly besieges me.

Over a span of 40+ years living with Dystonia, I’ve frequently traveled to the Land of Why: Why me? Why Dystonia? Why the unnecessary obstacles? Of course, these are dead-end detours in pursuit of unanswerable questions, pointing me in the useless direction of life’s random unfairness. My daunting “whys” deliver a knock out left hook to productive focus as I grapple with comparisons serving no practical purpose.

I’m not alone in a wasteland that swallows more voraciously than quicksand. The “Useless Why” game is intrinsic to human nature. Our instincts compel us to seek explanations for senseless adversity or what we perceive as worldly injustice. Check in with your internal barometer – “Useless Why” plays out on many levels: Why is my hair insistently frizzy? Why can’t I find a more satisfying job? Why doesn’t my child behave? Why haven’t I met Mr. Right?

Amid my searing search for answers to life’s more perplexing questions, I’ve found the antidote for “Useless Why” resides in “Useful How” – the tactics we embrace to dig ourselves out of our holes and lead purposeful lives. So make a plan of action and trash those Useless Whys!