A sharing by Alan Ho Chok Chan
Chronic insomnia, like everything else in life, can be regarded as a curse, or a blessing. Besides the choices of counting sheep, or popping pills, the extra hours of involuntary wakefulness can be deployed constructively, like reading a book, or just letting your thoughts have free rein and run riot.
Disjointed pieces of thought, captured when the soul is in limbo between lucidity and oblivion, form the basis of this article.
On Contentment in Life
Life is an ocean, and we are seafarers crossing it in a myriad variety of vessels. I am travelling in a wooden sampan, with only oars as the means of propulsion. I have to row very hard, and brave the elements to reach my final port of call. You are travelling in a luxury liner, with all the worldly comforts at your beck and call. But that is your karma. I must learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of the sea breeze in my face, dolphins and seagulls as my companions, and I would have had a fulfilling journey. Yearning for the unattainable life on the luxury liner would only bring envy, jealousy, bitterness and anguish.
On Health and Longevity
I do not know how long I will live. Nobody else does too. Longevity depends on the interplay of two factors : your genes, and your lifestyle.
Genes are the gifts from your forebears. Your ancestral lines are modified over the millennia through random processes we call mutations, with better or worse consequences. If you have good genes, and all your ancestors lived to be octogenarians, then you will also probably live as long, barring unforeseen circumstances. That is a blessing you are born with.
If your gene pool is less than auspicious, and genetic diseases, chronic ailments like diabetes, hyperlipidemia, auto-immune diseases or familial cancers abound, that is also your karma. But it is not inevitable that you must suffer the same fate. This is where medical science and health consciousness, when put to good use, can prevent, delay , or ameliorate the consequences. Fate dealt you a poor hand, but you can cheat fate and buy time. Healthy lifestyle, exercise, sensible diet, regular screening and early detection and treatment can, and certainly will, modify the course of the disease, and improve the quality, if not the quantity of life.
I believe in moderation. The ancient Chinese call it the Middle way ( or the Mediocre way ) One should moderate one’s way of life. Avoid excesses in every aspect: physical, mental, emotional. It is not necessary to be first all the time. Having the most is not necessarily the best. Leaner rats live longer than fat ones, that is a scientific fact.
After all, didn’t someone once taught : the meek shall inherit the earth ?
I come from a lower- middle income family, but my mother inculcated in me, early in life, a culture of giving. We came across a beggar in front of a sundry store. My mother gave me five cents and said : “ Here’s five cents. You can go into the store and buy your favourite sweets or you can give it to the beggar.” It was a painful, difficult decision. I gave it to the beggar, but my mouth waters for the sweets. “ Why ? ” asked my mother. “ I am hungry ( for the sweets ) , but he is hungrier.” The decisions became easier with time.
Later on in life I came across a Russian proverb which says : “ What you give remains yours. What you keep ,you lose.” There is a lot of truth in it, and it became one of the guiding principles in my life.
On Marital Harmony
I have a harmonious relationship with my wife of 43 years. Nobody taught us this. Marriage counselling, like psychotherapy, wasn’t imported yet in those days. We found it by trial and error, so were all marriages then. The basic ingredients, irrespective of race, cult or religion, are the same : love, respect, rapport and the willingness to listen, acceptance of flaws and imperfections, and an overriding desire to give, not take, are the cement to any marriage.
Man, is by nature polygamous, by choice monogamous. My wife fits me like a pair of old shoes, nothing to shout about, but extremely comfortable to live with. I wouldn’t trade it for any new pair.
Thank you for keeping me company. ZZZzzzzzz.
Dr Alan Ho Chok Chan is a Paediatrician in private Family Practice. He also spends time golfing, swimming, playing tennis, wine tasting, playing guitar and singing. He is also a bibliophile and a voracious reader.