Post Shingles

I left off two weeks ago with an account of my battle with shingles. I had meant to post something else in between, something slightly more interesting, but there wasn’t a lot to write home about from where I was, unless I began to discuss China-US relationship which would take up a lot of time and energies which somehow I seemed to have difficulties locating, with the body always seeking for more rest, in particular a lot of bed rest. I pray that none of you would have to go through such experience, ever; which is why I urge all of my friends out there who are over 50 to take the shingles vaccines as soon as you can find a few days – at least two – to prepare for the likely side effects which would require bed rest too.

Well, the good news from the dermatologist was that the virus was under control and that no more anti-viral drugs were required, but the bad news was it would take time for the nerve endings to stop sending out pain signals. Some doctors would routinely prescribe pain killers which are generally not good for the body; while the books say that nerves in general act with a mind of their own and that exercises, meditation and mindfulness practices may help. Friends have urged me to eat more to rebuild health and strength, but traditional Chinese wisdom require a rather strict and restrictive diet. In the midst of such struggles, Su brought back last Saturday a stock of caviar, as a distraction and a celebration of whatever. Well, what the hack, I haven’t been eating steak or beef or taken more than sips of whisky for weeks, but I don’t feel better. I took what Su brought back with some champagne; and somehow, I felt slightly better afterwards. Meanwhile, I thank my Facebook friends for the well wishes, advice and encouragement over a post by Su announcing my discomfort. I plan to resume my exercise routines from tomorrow, gradually, for I have actually lost weight and I dread that I might lose muscles.

Wild thoughts or dreams naturally crossed the mind during prolonged bed rest, including once again what I would put in the sequel to my memoir, if I ever start work on it. I read from Sunday’s Post Magazine that Simon Winchester who would soon be 80 was asked by his publisher when he would write his memoir, but he had other thoughts. To him, an autobiography is the very last thing one writes in one’s life. Well, he is a prolific writer and he apparently retains a successful publisher. I was actually asked last week by a very senior brother when I would publish my sequel. I responded by asking whether he had finished my first. He said of course, cover to cover, adding that since he had paid for the book, he had decided to get his money’s worth. Well, that’s a thought.

I had been thinking about an analogy that I had used before, about life in general which I had borrowed from a friend. It goes something like this. A person goes through life as if he is walking the rooms of a big house. He starts with the room nearest to the entrance and begins to explore what may be in it. He may be attracted by the design, decor and layout of the room or become fascinated by what he finds or meets, people or animals. He then moves on and somehow finds himself in another room, repeating what he did in the first. It would be somewhat similar to our visits to the French chateaux where we would normally move along according to directional signs; and in nearly all cases, we would never return to the rooms we had covered. In my big house analogy, the traveler – for want a better term – would move from room to room staying for different periods in any one of them, but very importantly, without thinking when or if at all he might return the ones he had already been and with no idea what he might expect in the rooms he would visit next.

Rosita once told me that I seldom looked up friends voluntarily or actively. She could be right. I simply muddled through. I had chosen a career which provided me a generous allowance for housing so that I was able to rent reasonably spacious apartments. At one time, my private tenancy allowance, or PTA, was more than my monthly salaries. Looking back, I had organized parties at home almost every other week, sometimes even more frequently, entertaining my friends and colleagues. Those were inevitably long sessions, typically with plenty of alcohol and singing at times. Those friends came and went, but on balance, we didn’t get invited back as often. It never bothered me. I have always enjoyed the parties and had often drunk to excess, which wasn’t too nice. Unlike some friends I knew, I did not make records of who had come or when, or what food and wine I had offered them. I was simply enjoying my partying with no agenda. It was somewhat like the moving-from-room-to-room scenario.

It was thus how I had been managing life, or rather how I have allowed life to manage me. I do miss many friends I have come across over the years, but I do not have a system to re-connect them, not after my retirement 20 years ago when I had to keep my own diary and run my daily chores. The situation got worse after Rosita passed away. For example, I had difficulties remembering the names of the colleagues and friends of Rosita we had met in the over 30 years of my public service career. I sometimes ran into them and invariably we had a great time catching up.  

I must have gone on a tangent and am beginning to sound incoherent. Suffice it to say that those thoughts had arisen when I began to explore whether I should be writing about my friends in my sequel. I think I would stop here. I hope to talk to you again soon.

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