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My cultural MOT

I’ve recently joined a gym, mainly for the regular Yoga classes and the pool rather than the iron pumping weights and scary black machines. Today I pootled down there for my Health MOT.

Probing at everything from my BMI to the amount of oxygen my heart pumps around my blood as an indicator of my level of fitness, I scored 677 out of 1,000 – I gather that 1,000 is super perfect athlete status, so I’m in good shape.  I was quite proud of myself, I’ve worked hard on my healthy lifestyle and power walking and goodness knows I’m not a natural athlete.  If I improve my score over the next few months I get rewards like day passes for my husband, Hugh, or a session with a personal trainer.  Which all got me thinking  about the things that we, as a society, measure, set up as goals and so value as worthy of our efforts – and the things I don’t.

As I sat there being pricked and measured and asked questions about how much water I drink and whether I get enough sleep, I wondered why we there weren’t MOTs for other areas of our lives, especially those that matter to us.  For me, it would be a Cultural MOT, for others it might be a social MOT or a family MOT or a logical MOT (the science, maths, bridge and soduku types).  We can’t all be good at all of them, but we can focus on those that matter to us as individuals.

For my Cultural MOT, these are the kinds of questions I’d ask:

How many times a month do you go to the theatre?

How often do you watch quality TV (think lean protein, The Wire, rather than cream cakes i.e. Eastenders)?

How many hours a week do you spend expressing yourself creatively?  For me it would be writing, for others it might be singing or acting or dancing or directing.  Are you a bit of a procrastinator, a cultural couch potato, full of good intentions but with little will-power?

How many books do you read and how frequently?  A little jog every day?  A power work out every week?

You get the idea.

To me, these things are just as important as my heart rate and my blood glucose levels – they certainly play a major role in my happiness and sense of wellbeing.  Maybe I could set up a questionnaire, give myself a score out of a 1,000, work towards improved cultural health and reward myself (a beautiful hard back, a new notebook, good seats at the theatre. Oh, and sometimes it’s good to reward yourself by indulging in the thing that would, to all intents and purposes, set you back, like a piece of chocolate fudge cake, in other words (for me), a brain softening, smaltzy romantic comedy that gives me a temporary hit.

There’s a great deal of talk about happiness, mindfulness, wellbeing at the moment, and I think this might be the key to it.  Find what we care about most and create ourselves an MOT and build our fitness in that area.

I’m off to read my current novel, the wonderful Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple – not hard core abs, but a gentle and definitely an enriching workout.