Netflix’s “After Life” and the Cycle of Depression and Self-Absorption

Alona Beach, Panglao, Bohol, Philippines

I am glad that I was told about “After Life” as I positively enjoyed every single episode. My friend and I agreed in our thinking that it’s not black comedy. Yes, it addresses the subject of death and suicide and Alzheimer’s but it does so with delicacy and compassion and with an adequate amount of humor that only heightens the pain of reality. I prefer to categorize it as dramedy.

(If you haven’t watched it, then you may not want to continue reading.)

Though he’s not my favorite character, I admire Tony’s brother-in-law for his quiet strength. Frail-looking and too kind for most people, he is able to live his life with all the problems without complaining to or bothering others about it. He represents the many mature people who selflessly help others without being asked in return how they, themselves, are faring in this life.

And then there’s depressed, self-absorbed Tony. Though we can understand and even empathize with him in his pain over losing his wife and best friend, and we admire his devotion to his late wife, we may also want to shake him into waking up to reality which is that he actually has a good life — much better than most people, and the only reason he is depressed is he is focusing on what he lost, not what he still has which is so much more than what majority of humanity have.

I understand that we all experience grief when we lose someone we love, but we are not supposed to be entombed in that grief among the living. Unless one has damage in the brain, I believe we are all capable of recovering from this emotional pain, suffering, or depression.

(I love how the scenes are shot mostly in the day time or in well-lit rooms. It reinforces the overall optimism that this show presents.)

Tony has people around him who truly care about him. Even the new employee, Sandy, likes him instantly and asks him to be happy. His brother-in-law tolerates him, forgives him for his nastiness, and helps him in every way he can even though he has his own problems.

Tony has a job which may not be the best, but he likes his co-workers who are all good people.

The old widow he meets at the cemetery has more wisdom than the therapist he pays to help him. And he did not have to pay her for getting him out of his self-absorption.

What truly saved Tony in the end is his desire for the pain to stop. Julian was right in saying that Tony had not given up on life yet. Tony just needed to find the right way to get the pain to stop, and thankfully he had the patience and the right people around him to help him. Personally, I think it is most important that one believes and knows that the pain will eventually come to an end. That cliche, “Time heals all wounds,” has always been true.

When you stop focusing all your energy on your pain, and see how others are hurting worse than you are, and if you knowingly try to open your eyes to others’ needs and make an effort to make somebody happy, you’ll be surprised at how, little by little, the pain will subside. And in its place will be peace, and probably even joy that somehow in your own little way, you have made this world a better place by simply being you.

Look around you.

May you find joy in life. 🙏🏽💕

T.

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Would you rather be beautiful/handsome or hot? 😉

A week ago, one of my best friends who is dating someone new, asked me what kind of compliments women liked to hear. He had thought I’d be flattered when he said my hair looked beautiful, but instead I simply answered, “I already know I have beautiful hair.” [insert wicked laughter]

But I did say that I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with hearing, “You look beautiful” because I know I never looked or even felt beautiful. And that is not being insecure or belittling myself. That is simply the truth. Other women would probably like to hear men tell them they’re beautiful. Everyone’s different.

My husband often tells me I am cute, and he has the same look on his face as a person who looks fondly at a puppy, when he says that to me. I guess I look like a pet to him. It’s not romantic, but it’s good enough for me.

When I asked my friend what compliment he would prefer this new woman to say to him, he said he would indubitably choose to hear that he is “hot” except that nobody has ever said that to him [he gets “handsome” too many times; it has no effect on him.]

Then I thought to myself, perhaps all men feel like this — they prefer to be seen as sexually attractive rather than just aesthetically attractive. My curiosity led me to ask around 90 people, co-workers, students (current and former) and some Facebook friends (I know and have met every single person I have as friend on Facebook) from 14 to 65 years old the question (with a slight variation from the original one)

Which (compliment) would you prefer to hear from a person of the opposite sex:

a. you look cute

b. you look great

c. you look beautiful/handsome

d. you look hot

(A few of my friends clarified that they would only expect it from a person with whom they are quite familiar.)

The answers I got were quite revealing. Majority of Chinese girls (19-25) and Filipino teenagers (boys and girls) prefer to be perceived as “cute.” Even my 16-year-old nephew picked “cute,” which I truly doubt! I had asked him the question in a group chat with him and my sisters (his mom included!) I am quite certain he wasn’t being honest!

Most of my male friends (except the ones I’m quite familiar with) chose “you look great.” When I asked them why they chose b, they said it is “all-encompassing.” One friend said he is too realistic and too old to desire to be called “hot” but if he were 25, then “hot” it would definitely be. Only very few of my male friends, 7 in fact (my 3 best friends and 4 other men I’ve known for years and have always been pretty transparent about their lives with me) admitted they prefer to be called “hot.”

Most of my female friends (ages 30-50) picked “you look great” or “you look beautiful.” Just like the men, they said “you look great” covers everything. But one friend said, “you look great” is boring! She and 6 other female friends (hey, just realized that’s 7 men and 7 women! Dang!) picked “you look hot.” These are women in their mid-40s to 50’s.

My one friend who is in her 30’s and has always been considered “hot” by everyone we know, picked “you look beautiful.” When I asked her why she didn’t choose d, she said she hears it too often that she just wants to be seen for what she is inside, spiritually, (not just inside her clothes). Hmm. I wonder what it’s like to be always told “you look hot!”

Only one friend, my classmate in high school, whom I haven’t seen in 20 years, gave me an answer that I’m sure 99% of my friends would have chosen had it been one of the choices. He said he would pick “e” that says: I’ll give you lots of money!

Note: majority of my friends are Asian. I am sure the results would be different if I included more non-Asians!

Which would you pick?

Have a fun weekend!💕

T.

Because there’s no such thing as forever…

I saw a picture of a huge graffiti on a wall in my city that read: WALANG FOREVER (There’s no forever) and shared it with my family, joking that whoever wrote it must have been really hurting. But my ever-serious 16-year-old nephew replied: “There really is no forever.” To which I said: “But that’s not what Kenny Loggins said!”

When I checked on Google, there is actually a good number of people asking why “forever” is promised by people in love when everyone knows this is a mere impossibility. I did not bother reading the answers because I think we all know what the answer to that is.

And I am not going to dwell on the reason people say it, but rather on the benefit of there being no forever.

I learned this years ago when I was young and naive and stupidly in love with the most unromantic man I have ever met. We were walking in a quiet, wooded area, dead leaves crackling under our shoes as we walked. I looked up when I heard the sound of the leaves as a gentle breeze blew. It was such a beautiful moment, walking with the man who meant the world to me then. So I told him. And he said casually, “You know why this is so beautiful now? It’s because you know it’s not going to last.” At that time, it made me feel so sad, but now whenever I think of it, I am grateful that at that moment, I learned to appreciate things that have a short life span.

Now when my husband leaves for work in the morning and says goodbye to me, no matter how busy I am, I stop whatever I’m doing and give him my full attention.

As I travel every month, I say a proper goodbye to my family and friends because who knows, we may never see each other again (that plane could … you know?)

This is not to dismiss the anguish of those who are suffering, but I sometimes think those who are told they only have this or that much time to live have the benefit of preparing not only themselves but also their loved ones of the former’s impending departure.

A few months before my mother’s demise, I was telling bestfriend no.2 what a terrible time it was watching my mother suffer. And as usual, he was his brutally honest self and said to me, “This time in your mother’s suffering is God’s gift to you, her children. You will become so tired from not having enough sleep and in pain watching her suffer, you will eventually be ready to let her go.” He was speaking from experience, of course. He gave up his own dreams to take care of his father for two years until his father’s death from pancreatic cancer.

And he was right. Although it was a stressful, exhausting time, we — my mother, my sisters and I — were given enough time to prepare ourselves for what was going to happen, so the last few days were filled with kind words, sweet smiles, lots of tears, of course, but they were tears of love.

The beauty of there being no forever is that we then see beauty in everything, and we appreciate everything, and are thankful for everything.

We become better people when we remember there’s no such thing as forever. Or at least we should.

May we always try to become better people. 💕

T.

On Pure Love

This post on love made me think, again, on whether or not there is such a thing as “pure” love.

My students, I would say 99% of them, say that a child has to be grateful to their parents for not abandoning them when they were babies, and that parental love is the only example of selfless love in the world. That sounds nice and all, but I just cannot accept this kind of thinking (though I don’t really argue with them on what they have been taught by their teachers and parents.)

First of all, if a couple decided to give birth to a baby, that baby is their responsibility — morally and legally. Having that baby was their choice. They just cannot change their minds after the baby is born that it’s not the kind of baby they wanted. It’s not like a badly-cooked Kung Pao Chicken that they can refuse to eat or not pay for after having ordered it. Should a child be grateful for not being abandoned? It would be thoughtful of him to be so, but I do not see it as necessary. After all, he did not ask his parents for the “favor” of being brought into this world.

Second, parents decide to have children FOR A REASON. And there are a variety of reasons from the most romantic to the most practical:

1. they want to prove their love for each other

2. they want to contribute something to this world

3. they want to continue the family line

4. they want someone they can care for and love

5. they want someone to take care of their wealth when they die

6. they want to have someone look after them in their old age

7. they want someone to bury them when they die.

There may be many more reasons, but all of them stem from a couple’s or a parent’s inherent desire to fulfil something that they themselves want.

So how can that love be truly “pure”?

As a parent, I love my son. He is my world, the reason why I try to stay healthy and not die yet. But I cannot say that I love him selflessly because that would be a lie. I love him not only because I am responsible for bringing him into this world but also because he makes me happy.

I think we, humans, are simply incapable of pure love, no matter how we try to make ourselves believe that we are. I wonder if one day, science will be able to make that happen for us. Perhaps by that time being “human” already means something else.

South Korea blues

After 14 years, she finally saw him again. He was waiting for her at the airport. They saw each other at the same time. They hugged and laughed, incredulous at seeing each other again after that quick goodbye at an airport in China like a lifetime ago.

For the next three days, they went out to a number of places, different cities, exploring like they were racing against time.

But the truth is, they really were — they are — racing against time.

And as they drove past Surisan Mountain on her last day in the country, she thought to herself, “Goodbye, Surisan,” because she knew her voice would break if she said it out loud. But then she heard his voice as he said, “Goodbye, mountain,” like he knew exactly what she was thinking (perhaps he did.) And that was all it took to make the tears fall, and she looked away, trying not to let him see as she wiped the tears away.

They had said goodbye so many times before.

But this was different.

T. 💞

*****************************

A few minutes before landing in Incheon

Banwol Lake, Gunpo

DMZ, Imjingak

Sanbon Catholic Church, Gunpo

Blue and white and green — photos taken in Chomakgol Ecopark

View of Surisan from Chomakgol Ecopark

Main Gate of Seoul National University

Incheon Bridge on a cloudy day

On Not Being Able to Sleep Alone

sleep

My husband has been away on a 5-day trip, and I’ve not been able to sleep for the last two nights. The day he left, I made sure I exercised and kept myself busy and physically tired just so I would be able to sleep well at night. I watched TV, read a book. Nothing worked.

Yesterday, I did the same thing and thought perhaps a little alcohol would help me sleep. (I’m actually alcohol-intolerant, and I’ve been told more than a couple of times I shouldn’t drink, but I thought “just a small amount to make me sleep.”) It didn’t.

I have read articles that said women prefer to sleep alone. One of these says, “…women’s brain power was undiminished by sharing a bed. Indeed, we can sleep through most things; thunderstorms, gales, burglar alarms, breaking glass – anything except the sound of our babies crying. But our quality of sleep is certainly better when we’re sleeping solo.”

But that is not true of me. I cannot sleep alone. When I am supposed to sleep alone, no matter how tired I may be, I will just be tossing and turning in bed. I may be fine being alone all day, but I need my husband next to me when I sleep. I may not be able to sleep through the night, and sometimes awake to my husband’s snoring or sleep-talking, but I do not mind that (most of the time). I prefer to feel the warmth of a human body next to mine. And this is not just trying to sound cute.

I appreciate this explanation from an article on The Atlantic that says, “We sleep together not because it’s fiscally responsible, but because we are affectionate beings. Our minds need rest, but our minds also need camaraderie and intimacy and whispering. Anxiety and stress seem less intimidating when discussed with a partner while wearing pajamas. It’s important to talk about our days lying side by side, discuss children and household situations, gossip about neighbors and colleagues, plan for tomorrow in the confines of private chambers. We cuddle. We laugh. At the end of each day we remove the onerous cloaks we’ve donned to face the world, and we want to do this lying next to our best friends, to know we’re not in it alone.”

That best describes how I feel about bedtime.

The good thing is I don’t have to start work till two days from now, which means I have not had to get up early and had been able to take afternoon naps. In a couple of days, my husband will be home again but until then, I have to find ways to make me sleep.

What do you do when you can’t sleep?

Daily Prompt: Constant

He laments the quick and merciless

Passing of time and the white strands of hair

That are starting to show on his temples.

He looks at old photographs and then looks at himself

In the mirror and sighs …. “Time is unkind.

“We were so young then…,” he says.

“And stupid,” she adds.

 

She looks at herself in the mirror and sighs…

This is inevitable,” she says to herself.

“The only thing that is constant is change.

Nature, too, ages.

The sun may rise and set again day after day,

And the waves rush back and forth,

Second after second…

Yet they, too, go through change.

 

“But some things can remain constant

In our lifetime.

We can keep them constant.

And that should be enough.”

Daily Prompt: Constant