Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Marshmallows and Impulse control


One day, many years ago, I was sitting in a Starbucks, and I had a coffee with the reading I wanted to do. I saw a beautiful display of a book I wanted to buy a friend as a gift.The book was new, and an instant bestseller. This was ideal timing indeed.

Even as I looked at the display, I knew I would visit the local monster, corporate bookstore in a few days. My knowledge was greater still. I know that hardback bestsellers have a sizeable discount at that store. I knew in a couple days I would most likely be in a place where I could buy the exact same book at a five dollar saving.

I drank my coffee, and I stared peacefully at the book I just bought. I do not want this to be a celebration of impulsiveness I believe my goal is to transcend impulsiveness, and remember whatever it is my mother told me about deferred something or other. I can't remember everthing she says. Buying that book, there and then, felt good. I wanted to do it. That display was there for me. I felt it. I felt as if the stars were aligned. This was my harmonic convergence. Buying that book at that moment felt wonderful.

It feels better than my past choices to use an ATM card at the nearest bank , ignoring the up to five dollars in tolls, when -for th price of a pack of gum- I could stand in line at a grocery store, and claim the same amount of cash back at no penalty. Earlier in my life, impulse control was a much greater problem for me than it is today.

So, now I am thinking about Walter Mischel, a psychologist who while working at Stanford University in the 1960's told children in a controlled study that he will give them a marshmallow. The child was informed that if they do not eat the marshmallow before he returns, the child will get another marshmallow.

Mischel, apparently not an impulsive man, proceeded to follow the children's development over the next fifteen years of their lives. The children that waited the twenty minutes without eating the marshmallow were students who in later life were well adjusted, performed better in school, and scored higher on SAT tests.

I never cared much for marshmallows, but even then I would probably have fallen in the impulsive group. Still, I ask myself what could I accomplish in life if I continue to practice reasonable restraint. So far I am just getting more grateful, and more peaceful each day. I remember a man telling me , "Keith, if you absolutely need to buy something today, wait."

Sunday, July 4, 2010

SCI*: San Jose

*SCI: spinal cord injury
Note: the picture to my right is not my neck, but does show hardware similar to what the doctors gave me...

Since I left the hospital on June 22, I became humbled by the events that followed. I remember the anxiety I felt in the week before I was discharged from the spinal cord rehabilitation unit. For four weeks I enjoyed the finest cuisine, daily therapy, gym sessions, counseling, classes, and stretching. All my care staff was kind and courteous. From my day of spinal decompression May 24, 2010, until I left, my days were all about preparing to go home.

My daily therapies regularly addressed functions I lost as a result of my surgery. Prior to the cutting day, I was still able to stand up to move my bottom from one seating surface to another. Now, I cannot stand up of my own power. Skills therapists tried to teach me in months' past are now a focal point in me regaining my independence. I never wanted to learn how to use a slide-board. This is a slick board placedunder my thigh to help bridge my move from one chair to another.

Also, I am taught by doctors (more convincingly than by my mother) the danger of sitting on my ass all the time. Of course, my mother was always concerned with my inaction. Doctors are now sharing how important it is to move my body to avoid pressure sores. Silly point is I no longer roll my body when sleeping anymore. Shifting my body from time to time is now imperative.

Yes, it is true I have to find my own motivation. But, with good information, I am learning how staying proactive will get me to achieve my goals. I am the one who has to continue to exercise, seek outpatient occupational therapy, and physical therapy. Piece by piece, and day by day, I can continue to progress towards safe transfers, standing, and eventually walking again.

So now I share a house with several men who all have mobility issues. We share care givers who help us with such things as getting out of bed, dressing, and bathing. Now the pressure is on, but I am grateful for all the help I have received along the way. From th social worrkers, to the therapists, the doctors, and the nurse that brought me to this point. The doctors will not promise me anything. I work fome my hope, and the hopes I borrow from others. I am learning from quadriplegic people the miracles that continue to occur in their nervous systems. I can only believe that great recoveries lie ahead for me.

My family has worked hard to help me the entire way. They helped me make phone calls, arrange appointments, collect my mail and set up my room at my new residence. One day at a time, I am adjusting. This is an exciting journey, and it would be terrifying if not for all the people working to help me succeed.

Thank you for reading..