35. Pattern Play

I like this kind of pattern.

Cake by CCP www.ChristopherPatrickInteriors.com

I played some sort of card sorting game with OD4 at VT this week. The cards had 3 different types of shapes on them, those shapes came in 3 different colors and there were 1-3 shapes on each card. The brain exercising part came in that I had to look at each card to recognize its distinctive attributes and then OD4 had me do tasks requiring that I think about the cards and then categorize them according to 1, 2 or 3 attributes. I was thinking, Umm…I’m not sure I would have been great at this when I was well. But I did okay with a couple of helps from OD4 when we got into the 3 attribute area.

It reminded me of one of the games I played when my second neuro-psych (NP2) gave me my formal evaluation as an outpatient. I had met NP1 when I was an inpatient – he was the one I told about my “really bad reality TV show” idea – but we did more talking than testing. He did test me once, asking me all sorts of questions about analogies, categorizing, and even general knowledge, e.g. “Why do countries have to maintain good relations with one another?” at which point I thought, “Ugh. I should have read the newspaper more like Mommy told me to.” The rest of the time I was settled back in my wheelchair thinking, “Try again, buddy. Heh heh. Try again.” Sorry, NP1 – I didn’t know you were real, and I just thought the questions were something I had to get through so I could wake up from that dream that turned out to be reality.

When I saw NP2 it was different – there were some similar questions, but a whole battery of tasks that involved memory and motor skill involvement. One of them was a card sorting task. I think there was only one shape on each card (out of 3 choices), and they came in 3 different colors. My job was to put each card into one of 3 stacks – in other words, it was a sorting challenge. NP2 told me she wasn’t supposed to tell me how to do it, I was just to put a card down and she’d say, “(In)correct.” Based on her feedback I was supposed to discern the sorting rule.

I didn’t think it went so hot. I tried every rule I could think of, then when I got a few “correct” responses they would suddenly change to “incorrect” and I was back to the proverbial square one. At one point I started laughing so hard I was hanging sideways out of my chair. Don’t give up! NP2 encouraged me. I was like, Umm…this stack of cards in my hand is HUGE. So after a while I started just putting them down hoping she wouldn’t notice I was doing so a little haphazardly. Maybe I couldn’t contain myself and started sorting anyway, because in the end she told me – Good job. You didn’t know you got it, but you did. And she cleared the cards off the table.

I still don’t know what the sorting rule was and I’ve wondered about it for the past year. I’ve wondered and I’ve laughed. I think either I or Mommy apologized in advance for the uninhibited giggling that was sure to come, and it did. The sorting game was funny to me in that it was a low-risk situation. I might have failed that test but no one’s really going to get hurt via a bunch of colorful cards. What wasn’t funny to me was my inability to discern a pattern between how I felt on days I could move my legs better than on days my legs were more unruly when I first woke up.

The first time I didn’t have to think so much when walking was one day when PT3 was walking me down the hemi bars (a closed set of parallel bars that lets you hold on to the railing around the perimeter – sorry, don’t know if I spelled it right). I looked forward to walking during my next session, then was sorely disappointed that it was an excruciating task again. So I was deeply disturbed at there being no discernable pattern for what made a good walking day for me vs. a bad walking day. Basically, all bets were off concerning my body’s movement, and they’re still off.

I was an avid reader in my old life. I read and re-read the classics as a child (and adult) and my writing “voice” was formed early in life by the texts I devoured when I was little. Funny story: I learned to read as my family sat around the dinner table and I’d repeat the words Mom or Dad read for me out of the Bible. One day I used a reinforcement (those round donut stickers you put on 3-hole paper so it doesn’t rip) around a word I actually knew myself. That word was “the.”

I read somewhere that Corrie Ten Boom used to use a piece of embroidery as an illustration when she spoke. She’d show the audience the messy underside of the embroidery that was a tangle of colorful threads and tell them that it was like life – it was looking really messy. Then she’d flip it over and show the audience that the tangled mess had actually formed a beautiful picture – I think the one she used was a jewel-encrusted crown) and tell the audience that we don’t see the whole picture – we just see the messy part but we should be confident that there’s actually a beautiful picture being formed in the process.

Her harrowing experience in Ravensbruck (a Nazi concentration camp) and the death of her beloved sister and father (among other family members) as a result of incarceration gave her a lot of credibility as she waved that piece of embroidery in front of audiences around the world. I see the “ugly” side of the embroidery a lot these days, and I don’t like ugly. (Side note: if you haven’t read The Hiding Place run, do not walk, to Amazon and order it now.)

It’s possible that I won’t see the beautiful pattern God is making on this side of eternity, and that’s okay. After all, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” So I don’t need signs and wonders to believe. But as I told Mom one day soon after I learned to walk, “They sure would be nice.”