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My Parkinson's Journey

In which Terri shares a humorous look at her journey with Parkinson's disease and Dystonia:

For me, illness and health are not opposites but exist together. Everyone has something that is challenging to them. Mine just simply has a recognizable name. My life will take a different path because of this but that's okay. Everyone has changes in their lives that create their path.  I'm learning how to enjoy whatever path I'm on.

Filtering by Tag: rhythm and grace

Making Friends with the Mirror

Terri Reinhart

My dad has a wonderful attitude about growing old. He tells his doctor that, with all his aches and pains, he doubts he has more than twenty good years left. He just turned 87 last week. When he feels his age more than any other time, is when he looks in the mirror. Then he wonders who that old man is looking out at him. It's a shock, realizing that he is looking at himself. He doesn't feel that old. 

During my first year of kindergarten teaching, I had a young boy in my class whose father could do anything, at least according to his young son. I had the task of reading a story to the nap time group every afternoon and, no matter what the story was about, as soon as I finished reading, this boy would say loudly, “My dad can do that.” As his dad just happened to be one of my colleagues, I had a delightful time imagining him, in his white shirt and tie, fighting tigers, climbing high mountains, and capturing alligators.

In my own way, I tell myself the same thing all the time. When I saw home made brooms for the first time, I was immediately intrigued and looked hard at how they were made. My first thought? I bet I could do that. The same thing with binding books or sewing a diaper stacker for my new grandson. How are they made? I bet I could do that. I've gotten myself in trouble from time to time because I commit to doing something that I've never done before, assuring myself that “I know I can do that” before I realize what I'm doing or how large of a job I've just taken on. 

This is why I am now finishing numerous craft projects, starting a business, preparing to be a health mentor to a group of medical students later this week, and writing a novel. Can I do that? I have no idea, but that's not the point. If I don't try, I'll never know. 

Watching someone dance is beautiful, amazing, and awe inspiring, and it makes me squirm in my seat. I don't want to just watch, thank you very much. To be truthful, I am more likely now to say, “I wish I could do that”, but that's just my thinking. My arms and legs decide on their own and begin to follow along. I can feel it in my bones. My body decides it can dance and is just waiting for me to catch up. In my imagination, I look and move just as beautifully as the dancers whom I am watching.

Dancing in my Dance for Parkinson's class is even better than in my imagination because I'm really moving! I might miss a step or two and I might accidentally start walking the wrong way, but that's okay because I'm a dancer. I'm determined. I can do that. The music starts and I'm off. Plie, port de bras, tendu, brush forward, brush back. Even the words are beautiful.

Then we turn and face the mirror. Ohmigod. I don't really look like a dancer, do I? Who is that dumpy middle aged woman with Parkinson's disease, who is trying awkwardly to keep up with the teachers? Again I realize how much we, especially all of us females, are taught to dislike our bodies. Really, I don't look at anyone else and feel the need to be critical of their bodies. In fact, as an artist, I find myself savoring every wrinkle and all the wonderful oddities that make each of us unique. As a friend, I see you, not just how you look. I know my friends do the same for me.

Okay, my next challenge is to make friends with the mirror. That is who I am and I really wouldn't want to be any different. I rather like who I am right now. Along with learning how to dance, I'm taking on this bigger challenge. I'm going to learn to enjoy watching myself, as I am, moving and dancing, awkward as I may be, in the mirror.

I can do that.

This video is from our Rhythm and Grace dance class.  Thank you to the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies for the video and for sponsoring this class!!

Rhythm and Grace

Terri Reinhart

A friend of mine once complained that his girlfriend had signed them up for a Jazzercise class so they would have something they could do together. My friend was less than thrilled. In fact, he ended up by saying that just about anything would have been better than a Jazzercise class. “If she had signed us up for ballroom dancing, that would have been okay. I would've done that, but not Jazzercise.”

I learned a good lesson from this. I had been going about things all wrong. Instead of suggesting, asking, or begging my husband to take a ballroom dance class with me, I should have simply signed us up for Jazzercise. Dancing would have been welcomed after that. I briefly considered telling him that I had done this, just to try it, but abandoned the idea quickly. He wouldn't have bought it. He knows my bladder wouldn't hold up to that kind of exercise.

Nevertheless, I have always been interested in dance, so when the Parkinson's Association of the Rockies decided to start a “Dance for Parkinson's” class in Denver, I was ready to sign up. Chris declined my offer to sign him up as well, out of the noble viewpoint that if he was to come, he would be taking up space that should go so someone else with Parkinson's. I accepted his noble excuse while noting the look of relief on his face.

Yesterday was the first class. I had looked forward to this ever since participating in the demonstration class last month. Because parking was limited in the area, I had the brilliant idea that I could drive to our school and take the bus back and forth to the class, arriving back at school in plenty of time to take our daughter home. In theory, this was a good idea. The bus dropped me off right at the door of the Colorado Ballet. After an hour and a half of vigorous exercise and another bus ride, I walked the two blocks back to where I had parked the car. I swear that each of those blocks must have been at least a mile long. It was my triathlon: walk, ride the bus, dance, walk, ride the bus, walk again. My timing was a bit off but, all in all, I didn't do too badly.

The class itself was incredibly fun! I can't even tell you what all we did, mostly because I can't remember what the steps were called. Our teachers, Private Freeman and Sharon Wehner, are professional dancers and we had a lovely woman providing live music for our efforts. And effort it was. I learned a lot of things yesterday.

First of all, I learned that I function quite well from the waist up. Okay, I knew that already. I know right from left and my arms generally do what I ask them to do. My legs, on the other hand, have no interest at all in cooperating with me. They refuse to obey the simplest commands, especially if it entails knowing which is the right foot and which is the left; or it might have been that they were competing and each wanted to go first. It's not just a physical workout. It also requires that we pay attention to the other members of the group and how we are moving. I am proud to say I did not bump into anyone.

Then the music started and we danced from our chairs, behind our chairs, and then across the room. It didn't matter that we weren't perfect. I was moving to the music and I felt like a dancer! I credit the teachers for this. They treat us as though we are peers and they make it clear that our movements, even if they are limited, are beautiful to them. They didn't have to say this, it was obvious in every way they interacted with us. This could be another benefit of the class.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll start to see my movements as beautiful, too.

It's not surprising that the class is called “Rhythm and Grace”.