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Instant Gratification

Well, There's Fruit On The Plate
Well, There's Fruit On The Plate

I instantly get gratified each week when I see Lorie’s email with her “blog attachment”. Take it away Lorie:

She finished her dinner of grilled steak, loaded baked potato and deep-fried onion with gooey dipping sauce. Just as she folded her napkin, a waiter walked by carrying a tray on which stood a hot fudge sundae. “I’ll have one of those!” she said, feeling instant gratification. The next day she went for her regular medical checkup and was told that her cholesterol was still above reasonable limits and that she had to begin taking medication. She also had type 2 diabetes. Her impulsive decisions and need to be instantly gratified have now affected her long-term health and happiness.

My friend called me in tears. Her husband had cheated on her. He swore that it “meant nothing”. Their family has been hurt and they are now headed toward divorce. His need for instant gratification has ruined his long-term happiness.

Our financial advisor told us of the clients he has who, after only a year into a new Presidency, were angry that we were not out of the recession. They thought we should be back on track and the economy should be stronger than ever. He tried to explain that it takes time, and that things are moving slowly in the right direction. There is no magic wand solution to a global economic crisis, and yet the public doesn’t want to hear that it takes time. They want to be able to receive loans for larger homes and spend money on vacations and newer more expensive cars, not understanding that lack of impulse control helped lead us into this mess. They want to buy now and pay the bill later, if ever.

Hopefully as of next week I will be spending my days in a rehabilitation hospital instead of an acute care hospital. I am preparing my father for the long road he faces. I have told him that some other patients will have an even longer recovery than he will have. There is not a quick fix. There is no other way to becoming functional than to work hard every day. It takes time. We all want him home NOW. We all want him to get out of bed and walk, to be able to swallow his food and to get in his truck and drive off to work. But we cannot snap our fingers and have those things happen. It is going to take months of hard work and patience and determination. He understands all too well. Our family has been down this road before, after my husband’s stroke. It is not fast and it is not easy.

We used to have to wait until evening, when we heard the voice Walter Cronkite or Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, to hear the news of the day. Now, we can turn on one of many 24-hour news shows, or head to our computer, or even get instant updates via our blackberry. We don’t have to wait. In many respects this is good. Sometimes having instant access is even lifesaving. But what happens when we become so accustomed to getting what we want when we want it that we no longer have the ability to wait? If we aren’t used to ever having to exercise impulse control, how do we learn patience? How do we learn patience when we are used to instant gratification?

There are times in life when not being able to delay our instant gratification will undermine our long-term happiness. There are times when, no matter what technology is at hand, there is no fast and easy way to an end result that we need or want. What then? Sometimes we cannot have what we want when we want it. Sometimes we must wait, and understand, in the words of The Most Trusted Man in America, the late Walter Cronkite, “that’s the way it is.”

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