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Dance with What You�ve Got
by Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D.
December 31, 1997. My husband, Mark and I, were dancing at a party house celebrating New Year�s Eve. Of course I did not think that would be our last dance. Six months later, I was paralyzed from the waist down when crushed by a falling tree.

Time has continued for me and Mark, and what I�ve learned is that I�ve had to adapt my life, and forget about dancing the way we used to dance.

Dancing is different now. I�m in a wheelchair. But what I felt for Mark on New Year�s Eve is no different than what I feel for him today. When the music is playing, I still have an urge to dance with him.

I remember going on the dance floor in my wheelchair the first time. I felt self conscious. People looked at me. Tears welled in my eyes. It was an emotional experience to realize that I couldn�t dance like I used to.

Something was missing in my life. Mark and I had taken dance lessons before my injury and went dancing on a regular basis. I wanted to have fun again. Dancing was just one of the activities that brought me joy. I wanted to have my life back and move my feet, legs, and hips in time with the music. I decided to give wheelchair dancing a try.

Wheelchair dancing is gaining in popularity. There are videotapes available to show how the �wheeler� and �walker� work as partners. Dance studios are accepting clients in wheelchairs. Wheelchair users are participating in dance competitions. When Mark and I go out on the dance floor, we spin with the best of them.

When I was first injured, I saw my limitations as road blocks. I had made a decision that there were certain activities I would have to give up as a result of my injuries. Now I look back and see how I have been able to regain my activities. My limitations are not as limiting as I once thought.

We all have our limitations. Some of them are visible, while others are not. As we go about everyday life and interact with people, we are not aware of their health problems that limit activity. Some people have accepted and adapted to their limitations, while others have not.

Too many times our limitations keep us from doing activities we once enjoyed and are capable of enjoying again. We are resistant to change. We don�t want people to see us with limitations. We are embarrassed by our handicaps. We decide that we will give up.

We need to change our views of what is possible. If we modify the activity, it may be possible to once again enjoy life. There is much more that we can do if only we try. We might have to relearn it or use a new piece of equipment, but joy can return.

As we make progress in adapting to our limitations in one component of our lives, it is easier to adapt in other components as well. For example, I had to learn how to drive my van with hand controls, since my feet are paralyzed. I trained my hands and arms how to use the new controls to accelerate and brake. Other modified activities that were introduced to me, such as snow skiing, were easier for me to learn because I was more willing to take a risk and accept my limitations. I have also resumed: biking, tennis, golf, racquetball, ice skating, and horse back riding. Adaptive equipment makes these sports fit my lifestyle.

My message to you is look at your life. Look at the challenges and the troubles that you�ve got, and realize that you�ve got to adapt. You�ve got to look at yourself and your situation a little differently. It may not be over. It may be just beginning.

� Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. would like to read your comments about her column and the impact it has made on your life. She also encourages your ideas for future columns. Contact her at: Rosemarie@RosemarieSpeaks.com, or 1008 Eastchester Dr., Columbus, OH 43230-6230.

Byline: To book Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. to speak at a conference, contact her at: (614) 471-6100; Rosemarie Speaks. Rosemarie works with organizations and corporations that want to bring out the best in their people, and she demonstrates how to live life with conviction.