I went to the Elderly Clinic for my annual health check yesterday. This is a Department of Health programme for citizens over 65. One pays $110 for a general checkup, which includes ECG, BMI, blood pressure, blood tests, cardio vascular checks, lung, eyesight, hearing and mental health checks, which is good value. The staff there receive everyone with due care and respect, but they tend to speak louder than necessary, probably because many of the clinic users could be hard of hearing. To assess my physical and mental health, the nurse asked me a host of questions based on a questionnaire. To start with, I was asked to stand on one leg for five seconds to see whether I would fall. Then I was given three unconnected words to remember, such as MTR, Peak Tram and lemon, and was asked to recall them 5 or 10 minutes later. The questions part was rather fun: Why do I turn up alone? Whom do I live with? How much exercise do I have? How much vegetable do I take each day? Do I take milk? Who do I talk to when I have problems? How many friends do I keep? What do I do with my free time? Do I think others are living better or cleverer than I? Do I feel lonely and bored? There are others too, all rather funny. The nurse was probably bored half way by the speed and monotony of my replies which are meant to reflect that I don’t have any apparent mental or psychological conditions that require attention.
At the end, the nurse referred me to page 5 of the Membership Booklet – which is a little red covered booklet issued by the Clinic with all records of visits and the vital statistics of the member – which list the symptoms or signs that would signal changes in one’s constitution, corporeal or mental, and at which point one should seek medical or professional help. They include sudden body pains, changes in bowel movement, sudden weight loss, frequent falls, depressions and suicidal moods. My immediate thought is that one probably won’t recognize early enough if one is suffering from depression, which is why it is not good living alone.
I’d like to believe that I am an optimist, and I am probably mood-congruent, so that everyone around me would know about my mood if they care to know about it, which is not necessarily a good thing. Some friends have said they notice that I have mellowed a lot since the time they first knew me, which was some 20 years ago. Others had said that I was stern and harsh with people. One of the kinder friends would say that my problem was that I was always right such that my enemies became disappointed in having to wait a long time to catch my mistakes. Here, my friend was referring to mistakes in judgment as opposed to the many mistakes I made day to day. These days, I stop thinking about what others think about me. I have found that this actually helps me going and makes me happier. After all, I would tell myself, there is preciously little I can do to stop others doing anything at all, but I can choose to make myself happy, or at least happier, thereby healthier.
A classic me is this. During my bad dreams and before I wake up, I would dream of telling myself that I am only dreaming so that I need not fear about what was happening to me in my dreams. I commend this practice to you.
I also believe one can train oneself to be happy and hence make oneself healthy. First, one must not set unreasonably high standards for others and for oneself, but one must believe in what one does. For myself, I believe in daily exercise for an hour five days a week, more if possible. It has become a ritual, but I won’t beat up myself in the week I cannot make five days. I am eating less generally, less meat and more vegetable; and Su would monitor that I follow the regime, which helps. I believe in keeping friends that won’t make me unhappy. I would as a start avoid loud and aggressive people; and I would avoid people who are calculating and self-opinionated. I have said before that I won’t do business with anyone who doesn’t drink, but I am more relaxed now, primarily because I don’t think I would do any business now. Nevertheless, I prefer to mix with friends who enjoy a couple of good drinks. I don’t watch horror movies so as not to upset my moods, or silly and serial TV dramas because I don’t have the time and I can never follow a full series. I try to take my afternoon nap when I can; and I try not to eat or drink too much in the evening, but I would never give up my good wines and whiskies.
I would talk to you again soon.