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St. Louis, MO 63122

February 1995

If You Choose not to Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice

I didn’t come up with this one on my own. It’s from one of my favorite songs by the group Rush. How do you make decisions?

I remember riding home from work one day with my attendant and her seven year old son, Ryan. As we drove past a cemetery, Ryan held his breath, so he wouldn’t "breath in" death. Once we got past those many rows of tomb stones, he let out an explosion of bottled-up air and this made me think about the fact that children, for the most part, are survivors. Their choices are made to "live". What happens to us as we age and make the choices that take away our will to live?

For example, a family member of mine was robbed. The masked man entered their home, put a gun to the father’s head and was verbally offensive. The children were stunned and sat there with their mother. After the intruder collected their jewelry and what money they had, he wanted more. The father was then told to drive to his ATM machine with the robber accompanying him, sitting behind his car seat with a gun aimed at the back of his head. After the robber got his money, he said from behind his mask, "I’m sorry your kids had to see this. I’m a family man too. But my life is crap."

The following week there was another robbery in the same neighborhood. This time the intruder was killed by the home owner. The police then asked my family member if they would take a look at the body to see if this was the same guy that broke into their house. It was.

The choices that the robber made were not very wise. He terrorized a family and was killed by another. People make choices and they often never think about the results and ramifications of their actions.

No one chooses to become disabled. I never did! There may have been factors or influences that led to our posterior position, but now being in it, it’s a given. The true test for us is making the most advantageous decisions we can under these circumstances.

The bottom line is- you must believe you can make good choices. Apprehension is good; it causes you to think. But sooner or later you have to poop and get off the pot!

Have you ever taken the Meyers-Briggs test? If not, I highly recommend you do. It can be a real eye opener. Some employers use it for employee hiring, and others for self evaluation. It reports your preferences on four scales: where you like to focus your attention, the way you look at things, how you deal with your outer world, and how you make decisions.

There are two aspects in how you make decisions: how you feel about it and how you think about it. Being a true Libra, I scored an even "0" between the two. The counselor interpreting my results said, "You think about your decisions a lot, don’t you?" I said, "Yes!" Anyone who knows me will tell you this is so true!

After my injury, the strongest resolution I had to make was: come hell or high water, I was gonna make it! After rehab, I moved in with my folks and immediately began reaching out to the community, seeking support. You know the old phrase—misery loves company! Try not to shut out people, and always accept assistance when it is offered. You can have happiness living as a person with a disability. You just may have to work a little harder, and balance more than the average person.

I began living independently in 1992, after my six months of rehab and then living with my parents. Independent living was a choice I had to make. My brother Tom, number seven, and I found a modest house in Crestwood, Missouri that met the majority of our needs.

I try to choose attendants who will enable me to live independently, yet be supportive. I started with a full-time live-in, but that led to total burn-out for both of us. What I have discovered, after years of experience, is that you must come up with combinations. Try different scheduling, really talk to your attendants and figure out how to have your needs met so that they may feel good about their assistance. But every once in a while, I meet and hire the "attendant from hell." If this happens, they are fired and I put an ad in the paper and look for a new aid.

I found a part-time job by being out there and not hiding away in my home. Serving as the Access Coordinator for the Webster Groves Parks and Recreation Department for the past two years has kept me very busy. My job description reads that I must provide awareness presentations, integrate people with disabilities into our recreation programs, and work at the front desk of our Recreation Complex. All this gives me a great sense of accomplishment and self worth. Just a few hours a week from home can do wonders!

But all this did not happen overnight. I’d been sitting for over five years. So you can’t read this thinking, "None of this can happen for me."

Are you really making a full forced effort? In life, one should never make a decision based on another’s needs or wishes. They should be based on love and the acceptance of yourself, and your situation.

Katie Rodriguez Banister works with audiences to embrace diversity
through motivational speaking and disability education.

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PO Box 220751
St. Louis, MO 63122