On friendship and marriage

This year is the 14th year my husband and I have been married. It may not be that long for those who have been married for at least two decades, but I am grateful we have come this far and are as committed to each other as we were on our wedding day.

As I reflect on my marriage, I feel so grateful that my husband still has the patience to stay married to me. I joked about it with my Facebook friends, but in all honesty, I really am grateful. I am not a very easy person to live with — I can be really mean to my husband, but we do find more reasons to laugh about with each other than reasons for meanness.

I don’t think there’s really any special secret to a lasting marriage — friendship and commitment are all that’s needed.

Ad Astra: To the Stars

img_3818

The moon one beautiful Jimei night.

“THE WORDS THAT NEVER GET SPOKEN to a loved one will remain inside of you always. They become part of your inner dialog, emerging periodically to your consciousness like buried treasure, whenever you think of that person who is no longer in your life.” 

These lines from  moviejoltz’s  review of Ad Astra made me want to watch the movie, and I did. When I first heard of this Brad Pitt movie, I was not keen on watching it because I am not a Brad Pitt fan.  But after watching this movie, I can honestly say I like how Brad Pitt played his character, Roy McBride, so well that I forgot him as an actor and just saw Roy the cold and lonely astronaut.

All throughout the movie, the character’s isolation, loneliness is apparent even in his smile, in his politeness and composure, and that isolation/loneliness has been brought on by the uncertainty of the fate of his father who had left earth and never came back.

There are three themes that made me like this movie: one-sided devotion, stubborn pursuit of a  dream, and attitudes toward failure and success.

How many of us, in our youth, have experienced being devoted to somebody — spending day and night thinking about that person, wondering what they were doing that very minute and if they were thinking about us too. Then we find out that that somebody has been living their life and has not had time to think about us. Roy, in his 40’s, had not been able to fully live his life as the pain of losing his father in his youth had somehow made him build an emotional fortress around himself making him stoic in the face of many challenges. Then when he finally saw his father again, he realized how all these years when he thought his father was dead without being able to say goodbye, his father was alive and consumed by his dream of finding intelligent life in another planet, with not much room in his mind for his only child. Yet Roy as a grown man, only remembered his father’s words, “I love you, son” and told his father, “I still love you, dad.”‘ He was a young man when his father left him, and his heart remained a young man when he saw his father again, still filled with love for the father who had abandoned him.

Clifford McBride’s stubbornness in pursuing his dream of finding intelligent life in another planet even though it was already clear that there was none, is no different from the many different people’s insistence on finding something that is not there or achieving something that is obviously unachievable. Where some people easily give up on their dreams, others, for whatever reason, will fight to the end achieving that dream even if it meant leaving everything else that used to mean something to them — even family. And Clifford McBride did just that, in the end he lost everything but the love of his son, which would have been enough but sadly, it wasn’t for him.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie is the conversation between Roy and his father when his father finally admitted to Roy that he had failed in finding intelligent life in Neptune, to which Roy answered: “You didn’t. We’re all we’ve got.” And this shows a very clear contrast in the way the two men viewed failure and success. The father viewed “not finding” a failure. He could not see that the proof that there’s none is a form of success. But his son did. (If you’ve ever read my Not About Me page, this is exactly how I view my “failures” in life.)

After watching this movie I said to my husband, this story would still be good if it were set on earth, and not in space. Instead of flying from earth to the moon, from the moon to Mars, then Neptune, Roy could have traveled from California to Maryland, or from Kansas to Uganda. But then the title wouldn’t be AD ASTRA which is Latin for “To the stars,” from the expression “Ad astra per aspera” (literally, to the stars through difficulties.) Roy literally went to the stars through numerous difficulties which he all amazingly overcame. But then again, because it is set in outer space which involves a lot of science stuff, I simply focused on the drama part of the story and was not concerned about whether the science of it was right or wrong.

This is the first Brad Pitt movie that I have watched and truly liked, and one I don’t mind watching again.

Passion vs Commitment

Today I read a passage about following rules to show one’s faith or having passion about your faith. The writer didn’t like the idea that rules, after being observed mechanically “can be followed with minimal effort and almost no thought.” Passion is deemed more important.

This made me think about how people often prefer the definition of love as an emotion, particularly passion, rather than as commitment, especially in marriage.

Emotions are unreliable.

You cannot force yourself to be passionate about something. You cannot will passion. But you can will yourself to do something even if you have no passion for it.

Marriage is not for grown ups who think like kids. They are not for people who think of their partners as toys they can get rid of once they lose interest in it and find it boring.

Growing up with a mother who had no qualms talking about her problems with her then young daughters, I knew from a young age that marriage had its ups and downs (especially because my mother was such a drama queen and I say that with no disrespect but with a fondness for her whom I miss every day still, even years after she passed on.) There were days when she and my father were this sweet couple, slow dancing to a Nat King Cole song. And there were days she did not speak to him at all

Had my parents given up on each other after their first or hundredth fight, I wouldn’t have been here in this world. And my mother wouldn’t have been there holding my father’s hand on the night he died.

They were married 35 years and were each other’s best friend. I know there were times they both felt they could no longer stand each other, probably questioned whether they still loved each other whenever they had a fight, but as devout Catholics in a country with no divorce laws, they remained committed to staying together, if not for themselves, then for their daughters. And it was the right decision to stay together as they became even closer after my father was diagnosed with a heart disease. My mother took very good care of my father in the last few years of his life, and mourned him for a long time after he died. Even though she complained about my father so many times whenever they fought, when he died, she just remembered how good my father was to her.

If we only rely on our emotions, none of our relationships will be safe from falling apart. Rules may be rigid, but they can help us from going astray. Passions will fade, but if two people in a relationship are both committed to each other, then they will work to keep that relationship strong.

The Sun: A Haiku

Do not get too close.

It will burn you and blind you,

Farther — gives you warmth.

—–

Some people are better seen (or heard) from a distance, too. 😛

(Btw, the framing of this picture is far from perfect as I wasn’t even looking up when I took the picture! Just pointed my phone camera to where I felt the sun was and click! Hey! It wasn’t too bad!)

Have a lovely week! 💕

T.

Being alone in old age

“No one should be alone in their old age. But it is unavoidable.” Santiago in Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

I think I have written on this theme before, but I am reminded of this again recently rereading Old Man and the Sea and also by something I saw while walking at the park one evening.

While walking at the park a few evenings ago, when the lights had not been turned on yet although it was already a little dark (the lights are turned on at 6:30 in the evening), I saw this tiny, frail-looking white-haired woman, her back hunched, sitting alone on a bench under a tree.

I don’t know her story, maybe it’s not a sad one, but it made me think how at my age now, I love having a “ME” time — being alone during the day and certain of company later in the day when my husband comes home, having someone to talk with about how our day went.

Many times I have heard parents of young children and teenagers complaining about how they don’t have time for themselves and cannot wait for the time when their children become adults and leave the house. But I have also heard many older parents who talk about missing their adult children and hoping, waiting for them to visit or even just call.

Sometimes we behave as if we will always be what we are at present — strong, healthy, not needing anybody. I think the more often we remind ourselves that one day we will need company, one day we will need help, one day we will miss our children, one day we will fear being alone — the more gracious we will be in living our present lives, and the kinder we will be to people whom we think we have no need for at present.

Sure, aging parents can be a burden sometimes, especially when they become demanding or even mean. But perhaps it is their illness that makes them so; they would probably never think of saying or doing these things when they still had full control of themselves. Perhaps they need compassion and understanding more than anything.

I learned this from my mother whose own mother disliked her when my grandmother was still strong and able. But when my grandmother became sick and unable to walk, my mother came and offered to help and forced us, her daughters to help as well. At first my grandmother still refused to talk to my mother but after a while she probably realized my mother was not going anywhere. They were able to forgive each other before my grandmother died. My mother’s humility in front of my grandmother and her sincerity in helping her in her hour of need made an impression on us, her children. My mother was not perfect, but we loved her and took care of her the best way we could. From her we learned that though your parents made mistakes, they did raise you the best way they knew how, and just as you have compassion on strangers who are suffering, you can be compassionate with the ones who loved you enough to try to give you a better life than the one they lived.

We are all going to grow old and weak, if we don’t leave this world earlier than expected.

The sooner we realize this, the more compassionate we will become.

Blessings. 🙏🏽

T.

On Unlikely Friendships

Recently I was told by someone they couldn’t believe I am friends with one of my best friends when we are so different from each other. What did we talk about?

I wasn’t able to give an answer that satisfied them (they have asked me this at least twice), so I got to thinking , why indeed?

The answer really is, we have known each other for years, and in those years we have talked a lot about everything — politics, religion, philosophy, music, movies, our families, our work, our worries and fears, things and people we love and hate — I can’t think of anything we have not talked about.

Isn’t that how friendships are formed?

We become friends with people who may seem different from us at first, but when we spend time to get to know them and for them to know us, we find that underneath the unimportant differences, we have more in common in our hopes and dreams, joys and sadness — in our humanity.

All it takes is listening: we listen to them, and they listen to us.

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” — Aristotle

My three best friends and I may have very different temperaments, and we disagree with each other on so many things — but we respect each other’s views and accept each other as a friend with different views on things.

“A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.” — Baltasar Gracian

What I am most grateful for in my friendship with my 3 best friends is that they all have taught me, at different periods in my life, something that I find valuable, useful.

Apart from my son, these three have helped shape me into the person that I am now — one that is still not perfect but one that I like and respect.

Wouldn’t you feel blessed to have such friends?

Have a peaceful weekend!

T.

Ghosting

When I was younger, “ghosting” was not the term for when someone you had been chatting or texting with all of a sudden went quiet.

As an older person who has experienced being ghosted and ghosting someone, I realize “ghosting” is merely a one-sided view of the situation. The one who stops texting (A) does not think of her “indifference”as “ghosting” as she is just living her life. She does not see the need to text or contact because she is busy with other things.

If the other person she has been texting with (B) also has a busy life, her (A’s) absence or silence will not be an issue. But if B relies heavily on A’s “company,” then B will definitely see A’s silence as “ghosting.”

Is someone “ghosting” you? Or you just need more friends? 😉

Have a fun-filled weekend!

T.

What matters most to you?

Jimei, Xiamen

Why do people feel the need to be always doing something exciting or at least perceived by other people as interesting? They put undue pressure on themselves to be perceived as an interesting person themselves. This sounds exhausting to me.

I can understand young people being under this kind of pressure because it is a normal phase of every person’s development. If you are past your 20’s , you still can’t be as obsessed with being the first one to discover a new bar or restaurant, to be the first one among your friends to have seen the latest Marvel movie, or to have climbed Mt. Everest. As an adult, you need to be out of that playground mentality. Though competition can be healthy in that it encourages you to better yourself, it ceases to be when you constantly compare yourself to others in every aspect of life and put yourself down for not reaching the standard you, yourself, have unnecessarily set to achieve.

Some lives are indeed more exciting than others given the nature of their occupations or their personalities. My life as a wife, mother, and teacher may not be as exciting as that of an artist or a single woman who is a paragliding instructor or a UN volunteer in a war-torn country, but who says there’s an ongoing competition as to who has the most exciting life? Given my personality, I don’t think I’ll find satisfaction doing what they do. We all have different personalities, talents. Hence we create our own stories about our lives. It’s not a competition.

This sense of competition is so obvious to me in daily life. For instance, I have been living away from home for almost 2 decades, and most of my friends have left the country. The ones who are still around I seldom see because when I’m home I spend most of my time with my son. When I go on Facebook I see photos of new places of interest in my city, and it makes me happy. When people ask me if I’ve been to such and such a place, and I say “No,” they have this incredulous look on their face as if I had just come out of a cave!

If I were still in my 20’s I would have gone to the place right away just to prove to them that first, I could afford to go. Second, that I was one of the “in” crowd. Third, that I will not be the last to know.

But I am in my 40’s, and knowing the latest gossip about celebrities or the newest restaurant in town, or what is currently “lit” is the least of my priorities.

I would rather know what my teenage nephew is learning at school; what new sentences my autistic son has learned to say; how my husband solved the problem at work; what my sisters are busy with; how my friend is coping with the big change in his life. These are more important to me than Bradley Cooper and Irina Shayk calling it quits (though as a Bradley Cooper fan, that truly made me sad!)

I would rather go out for a quiet walk with my husband, read or sing to my son, read Dostoevsky, have coffee with my friend as I listen to him complain about life, or have a noisy meal at home with my sisters and nephews than go out with a group doing things that do not really interest me.

But then again each one of us is different. Some are more extroverted than others and prefer the company of more people in a variety of settings. Some of us, introverts, though are pressured into socializing — we are told we have to go out more often; it’s healthy for us to socialize; we have to widen our circle of friends. Is socialization always healthy though?

I force myself to socialize with a group once in a while, and most of the time I only get stress from it — it is too much of an effort. I prefer socializing with a friend one-on-one, but then again I have a very small circle of friends.

My point is: my life may not be as exciting as most people, to most people. But it is MY life, and I choose to live this way.

Something my friend said to me the other day made me think — that being away from home “so much has gone on you.”

Though it may be true that so much has changed in my home city or country in the last 17 years, that my cousins now have grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I have not even met; that my home city has more restaurants in an area I did not even know has been developed; that there’s a new TV series that everybody is talking about; that this or that celebrity has finally come out of the closet and I know nothing about these things — I am fine with it. It is life. There is so much going on every second in every corner of my small city. I cannot possibly make myself care about every thing that is going on in it. I am not bothered by the fact that I am the last to know.

I know myself and I know what matters to me. For as long as I know that the people who mean most to me are happy, healthy and safe — I’m good.

Everything else is for another time or others to care.

What matters most to you?

Have a lovely weekend! ♥️

T.

On getting over a breakup

img_1995-1

Saw these lovely hydrangeas by the roadside in Vancouver

Though the last time I broke up with anybody was over 15 years ago, I can’t help but be reminded of the pain of breaking up every time I log on to my Facebook and see posts about recovering from a broken heart. The pain I went through was something I will never wish on anyone, not even the people I don’t like that much. But then again, one does become stronger and smarter after a breakup.

The other day I saw this excerpt of an article that cited a theory on recovering from a failed relationship that said, “… after half the length of a relationship passes, you’ll be good as new (in other words, if you dated for a year, you’ll be fine in 6 months).” I thought it was silly. (The article did go on to say there’s no “actual science to back up the claim.”) So I thought I’d ask my Facebook friends how long it took them to get over a breakup. It was quite interesting getting answers from my friends, some of whom I have not seen in decades!

No time to cry
A few of my friends said they have no idea what a breakup is as they are happily married to their first boyfriend/girlfriend. Though some may think people like these missed out, I think my friends are truly blessed!

Getting over what?
Whereas the first group did not experience breaking up because it ended in marriage, this second group is made up of people who found someone new right after or just before the breakup, and so the excitement of meeting someone new overtook whatever little pain (or guilt?) there could be in ending the relationship.

Too cool to mope
Some people are too cerebral when it comes to relationships. Some of those I asked said it took them a week to 3 weeks to get over the relationship. Less than a month! One guy friend said to me, “The more you mope, the more you lose.” Yikes! But yes, I do admire them. I told my one friend that’s exactly the reason he has been my idol for years!

Out of sight, out of mind
Not as cerebral as the previous group, but still considering themselves too cool to mope, this group recovered in less than a year. Average is 2 months. One friend who is now happily married said she could easily forget especially if she did not see the person anymore. Hmmm.

Love hurts
The more one has given into the relationship, the more painful it is to watch it end. These relationships ended after several years of being together and, for some, having children together. Hence, letting go was not easy; but after a few years (1-10 years) they were finally able to forgive and move on. One friend said it may seem unbelievable to some that it took her ten years to move on, but that it was really true. I believed her. It took me 10 years as well.

One friend told me 15 years passed before he could say he got over his ex.

A couple of friends told me it will take a lifetime. I guess because the breakup just happened recently.

And another friend said, “We remember our exes from time to time, no matter how [much] we pretend we’re over them.” But then again, remembering is different from wishing things had not gone the way they did or that they could be the way they were.

Reading my friends’ responses to my question convinced me even more that time does heal all wounds. I know 15 years may sound like forever, but just live your life. You don’t even have to try to forget because there is no way you will forget. There will just come a time when you realize you don’t think about them anymore; that when you actually do, there’s no pain or anger anymore. It will come when you least expect it. But it will definitely come.

May you find the strength to move on. A blessed weekend!

 

T.

tetsun

Jimei 

On Friendships, Secrets and Hemingway

“THERE’S no such thing as autobiography.  There’s only art and lies.” 
— Jeanette Winterson.

img_2608

Friends are people with whom you share some of your deepest secrets, with the hope and faith that they would carry these secrets with them to the grave. But as it is, some friends are simply incapable of keeping secrets. If your friend is married, know for sure that your friend’s spouse will know your secret. In today’s world, especially among young people there doesn’t seem to be any secrets at all. The idea of “secret” seems to be dying. Everything is posted on social media for the world to know.

Still, how would you feel if you actually had an extremely embarrassing secret and told your best friend about it, and the next day when you woke up, you checked your Twitter only to find out you have become famous after your friend had posted your embarrassing secret on Twitter for everyone on Twitterverse to enjoy making memes about?

Since last year I had been re-reading Hemingway, but this year was the first time I read “A Moveable Feast.” I enjoyed reading it until I reached the part where he wrote about Fitzgerald. And I was just disappointed.

When I started reading it, I did not think of it as a memoir and simply enjoyed his description of his life in Paris — his struggles, the people he met and spoke with and his impressions of them. I did not even mind so much the things he wrote about Gertrude Stein as I did not feel there was real friendship between them.

But with Fitzgerald it was different. Here was someone who trusted him, and told him something very personal, obviously in confidence, and he wrote about it for all the world to read and know about a very private thing about someone he considered his friend.

I guess writers, artists have been doing this for ages — writing about someone in their life including what has been told them in confidence — and not thinking about how their revelation will impact the life not only of the one they are writing about, but also of those related to the person, their spouse, children, great-grandchildren.

If Hemingway had made an effort to protect his friend, he would not have been so explicit in sharing Fitzgerald’s problem to the world. He was quite careful in not saying so much about his then-wife and child, which shows that he could have refrained from revealing too much about Fitzgerald. As it is, the part on Fitzgerald just came out gossipy and not a gentlemanly thing to say at all.

Maybe it’s just me, but reading “A Moveable Feast” changed my mind about Hemingway, especially that he said this about Dostoevsky, my favorite author, “How can a man write so badly, so unbelievably badly and make you feel so deeply?” This book made me “feel so deeply” but not in a good way.

Responsibility, Emotional Maturity and Heartbreak

When someone I am genuinely close to (like one of my best friends or my sisters) makes what I think is a poor decision or does something I find childish, I tend to say, “Jeez, how old are you?” Of course, they are free to say the same thing to me when they think I’m being silly. But they have “nicer” words to say!

How old are you really?

We, humans, have three types of ages: chronological, biological and psychological age.

Our chronological age is the number of years we have been alive. Our biological age refers to the age of our body’s systems. Some people who are 50 years old may have the body (health) of a 40-year old. One who is 25 years old may have a biological age of 50. Finally our psychological age refers to our cognitive functioning and emotional maturity. Some people may be 50 but have the cognitive ability and emotional maturity of a teenager! ( Like someone I know who thinks he has the emotional maturity of a 13-year-old! Self-awareness is important though!)

This is just my observation: if a person does not like or fears becoming responsible for another person, it will be difficult for that person to reach emotional maturity. Being in a relationship where you are committed to one person whose happiness means more to you than your own happiness is a stepping stone to reaching emotional maturity. I think this is why most of us in our youth go through that period of becoming head over heels in love with somebody who later breaks our heart into tiny pieces that we feel can never be put back together again. But the truth is, as we find out, our hearts are only as resilient as we want them to be.

If we have gone through heartbreak and are mindful of our experiences, we can prevent ourselves from going through the same heartbreak again. Mindfulness is necessary in achieving emotional maturity. Something I learned in my early twenties as a young woman trying to become a nun which I value to this day is how we sometimes fall into a pattern of behavior, and I witnessed myself several times over the past decade almost getting suck into a pattern again. Fortunately for me, I have more responsibilities and commitments; I know my priorities, and I am much more aware of myself and my weaknesses.

My point is, one does not have to suffer so many heartbreaks if one truly endeavors to learn something from the experience.

You can extricate yourself from the pattern if you sincerely want to free yourself of it. But you have to want it. If you do not have other responsibilities and commitments you can anchor yourself into, it will be even more difficult to disentangle yourself from this pattern.

Are you stuck in a pattern? Does the same story of heartache keep playing out in your life?

Look within.

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.

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

Daily Prompt : Compromise

We’re not children,

We don’t need to fight over petty matters,

It shouldn’t matter who has the last witty retort,

In fact there’s no need for a retort

Nor for the cause of such.

Let’s be the grown ups that we are.

Compromise.

——-

Daily Prompt: Compromise

Weekly Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

I grew up in a coastal city and love watching the sunset. Yesterday, my husband and I went to my favorite spot in the city and watched the sunset.

It’s been a very busy month for the two of us, so it was good to have to some quiet time, walking. I will always love this part of my hometown.

Tour Guide

Daily Prompt: Superficial


Why can’t we be

As pure as a flower

Growing naturally, artlessly?

Why do we have to pretend

To care when we don’t,

To feel when our hearts are empty,

To believe when we’re full of doubts,

To love when there’s only contempt?

They say if you live in society,

You need to socialize,

Be friendly, smile.

But what if society’s superficiality

Is killing you?

And you’re dying a slow, painful death

With your fake smile, and your fake laugh

And your equally fake concern

For your fake friends.

 
Perhaps this is part of living.

Perhaps life itself is superficial.

Daily Prompt: Grit 


By understanding the enemy and yourself, you can engage in a hundred battles without ever being in danger.”   Sun Zi 孙子

This is good advice not only for those who have enemies but also those who battle challenges, temptations. Some of us don’t have enemies, but on a daily basis we are confronted with situations that test the firmness of our character, our grit.

As important as knowing what we are up against is knowing what we are and what we are not capable of doing. We need an honest assessment of ourselves and work from there. If we truly understand who or what we are up against, and we truly understand our strengths and weaknesses, we can be confident of not being defeated.

You can play with fire with the confidence that you won’t get burned. 😁
T.
(I’ve been rereading Sun Zi’s Art of War. It’s always an interesting read.)

Torment

img_5999

 

The savage in you

Like to tickle me

To death – you

Relish seeing me squirm

When your hands start sneaking slowly

D

O

W

N

My arms, my waist

Then up the sides of my breasts

Where your fingers deftly move

Like a pianist’s hands on the keys

Or a wolf’s claws on its prey.

 

July 5, 2000

(Written 17 years ago when love meant something totally different. Sigh.) 

 

Daily Prompt: Savage 

“Too much love will kill you” 

The title of this post is in quotation marks because it’s a reference to Queen’s song of the same title.  I was reminded of this song after I finished reading Balzac’s Father Goriot, which is such a tragic novel about a man who had spoiled his beautiful daughters, sacrificed himself for them but whom he didn’t get to even see before he died.

M. Goriot’s mistake was loving his daughters too much that he forgot to teach them what they needed to learn to be able to live independently. Perhaps his spoiling them was his way of making himself feel needed by his children for the rest of his life. And that he surely got from them — they needed and got his money until he was left with nothing except for the rags he was wearing.

One of his daughter’s, Anastasie, also made the same mistake in loving a man (not her husband) who made her happy but who was only using her to support his gambling. She gave up everything — husband, children, father, her reputation for this lover who only loved her for her money.

In a lecture by the neuroscientist, Vilayanur Ramachandran, he talks about a hypothetical situation where he, in his capacity as a neuroscientist, shows a woman the brain scan of a man who is supposed to be in love with her and which parts of the brain are activated. The woman says, “My God! Is that all? It’s all a bunch of chemicals?” Ramanchadran advises the young man to say, “My dear, this proves it’s all real. I really am in love with you. I’m not faking it….” 

Now that we know that “love” is all a bunch of chemicals, we ought to be more careful about how it controls us.

If we are aware of how our bodies are reacting to the presence of another person, and we think it is “love,” we ought to ask ourselves if this “love” is right or wrong for us and the person we “love.” If it’s only “good” for our bodies, I don’t think it’s wise to simply give in. (My friend would say, “Jeez, just don’t think!” But I say, YOU HAVE TO THINK!) 

Be it romantic love or fraternal love or paternal love, our actions should be guided by reason not just by what our bodies tell us. I know sometimes it’s easier said than done, but at least we can try.

Don’t let love kill you.😇
T. 💕

Unhappy? 


Happiness may be momentary, but then so is unhappiness. One can’t be happy every second. It’s just not possible. I’m sure even the happiest person in this world has had his/her share of heartaches.  And one can’t possibly be unhappy every second. Even the most depressed person can find something to smile about, no matter how fleeting that moment may be.

I’ve been reading Balzac’s Father Goriot, and in this novel the titular character, M. Goriot devotes his life to making his two beautiful daughters happy even if they do not really care about him. His young neighbor, Eugene, asks him why he does everything for his daughters and even live so poorly when his daughters live such extravagant lives in their luxurious homes. M. Goriot replies, “Some day you will find out that there is far more happiness in another’s happiness than in your own.”

When we truly love someone — our spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends — it makes us happy to see them happy especially if we are responsible for that happiness. It does not even matter if they consciously do something to make us happy or not, just seeing the happiness reflected in their eyes is enough.

And this is proven to me every time my son laughs or smiles at something I say or do. That look on his face and the sound of his laughter give me joy that last as long as I can recall them.

It is easy to be happy: make someone happy. 💕

Have a lovely week!

T.

Daily Prompt: Commit

A patch of blue sky on a cloudy day in Jimei

To commit not only means “to do; perform; perpetrate.” It also means “to give in trust or charge” and “to pledge, to bind, to obligate oneself.” 

It was only after I got married that I  formed a different idea of commitment. Before marriage, I was committed to making myself happy. I was always my first priority — if I was unhappy, or worse, angry, I showed it and never mind if somebody else became unhappy or angrier than I as a consequence. Marriage made me realize that commitment means not only pledging or binding yourself to your partner but also doing what is best for both of you. And sometimes what is best for both husband and wife is humility, which is quite a tall order of a virtue. 

I know I am not an easy person to live with, but my husband is committed to being with me for the rest of our lives, and so am I with him. I have a personality that I’m sure no other man would be able to tolerate, but my husband does. And for that I’m grateful. Both of us have changed so much in over a decade of being married, and despite the many trials we’ve been through we’ve managed to remain each other’s best friend. I guess we both have accepted who and what we are — good and bad, and just remain focused on our first priority, which is not our individual selves, but our son.  To me, that’s commitment. 

Have a lovely weekend! 💕

T. 
Daily Prompt: Commit 

For Women (who like to laugh) Only

forwomenonly

May 20th is a commercial festival for lovers in China. You may ask what that is. Like Singles’ Day (11/11) which is an unofficial festival to celebrate being single (1=single),  May 20th (or 5/20) is considered lovers’ day because the Mandarin for 5-2-0 (wu er ling) sounds close to “wo ai ni” which is Mandarin for “I love you.” I know. It’s just a reason to go shopping which seems to be  young Chinese people’s favorite pastime.

I’ve heard several young Chinese talking about this day, and somehow I was reminded of a conversation I had with a twenty-something friend where she lamented her boyfriend-less situation and how difficult it was to find Mr. Right. I wasn’t very sympathetic with her because it isn’t actually that difficult for a young woman like her who is tall, attractive, well-traveled and smart. In fact, lots of young men from her university like her, but as she says, “They’re not handsome nor smart enough.”

That’s the real problem: she’s waiting to meet someone who is handsome AND smart! In this area, she isn’t so smart.

I think there are only four kinds of men according to how realistic women view them for their looks and smartness:

  1. The BBC-DOCUMENTARY type. This is the kind of man you can listen to for hours. He can talk about a variety of subjects, and you just feel you are growing in intelligence just by listening. Never mind what he looks like! You don’t have to sit facing each other over a cup of coffee; you can just walk next to him and talk and listen and walk and talk and listen. That can be romantic too. 

  2. The TOO-HOT-TO-LISTEN-TO type. This man is your multivitamins for the eyes. Just looking at his handsome face makes you smile. Never mind if he’s telling a tragic story about the death of his dog, you don’t hear it because your mind is somewhere else with him where he’s not talking. It doesn’t matter if that mouth is  spewing out pseudo-intellectual or even idiotic statements. It’s not meant for words anyway! (Incidentally, my young friend prefers this to the first type!)

  3. The GHOST type. This type of man you have probably been with for too long that you can’t stand looking at his face or listening to his voice, but for some reason you’re stuck with him.  Nothing he says makes sense to you. Nothing he wears makes you want to look at him.  So you just let him talk, but you don’t hear him; he walks about the room, but you don’t see him. (Honestly, I don’t know why some people insist on being together when being so only makes both parties unhappy!) 

  4. The OCCASIONALLY-HANDSOME-AND-SMART type. The occasion being when you’re in a good mood and you find him so adorable and so smart. Beauty, after all, is in the eye of the beholder. What is handsome to one woman when she’s happy, may become ugly when she’s unhappy. This kind of man’s handsomeness and intelligence all depends on your mood. He can be the handsomest and the smartest when you’re in a good mood, but he can also be a candidate for the third type when you’re in a bad mood.

This is a superficial observation, and I’m writing this just for fun (partly to comfort my young friend). But what I really want to say is, sometimes we cannot choose who we are attracted to, and sometimes too, the very thing that once attracted us to one person may be the very thing that we would one day find most annoying about that person. Hence, these emotions we have towards people are truly unreliable. It is always wiser to listen to reason than to our emotions when we choose someone with whom we have to share the rest of our lives.

Have a lovely week(end)! It’s already weekend for me! Yay!

T.

Thoughts after Reading Gogol’s The Overcoat 

I’m not entirely sure if it’s mere coincidence that last night I read Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat , and this afternoon, I watched the second episode of The Young Pope where Jude Law’s Pope Pius XIII spoke to the faithful for the first time, and he said something like we have to be closer to God than to each other, that he will never be closer to the people than he is to God because we are all alone before God. 

Akakievitch’s death was truly tragic, just as tragic as his life. Tragic to the reader, anyway. If he existed in our times, he would probably be diagnosed as being on the spectrum and would get some help. But in the story, in his adult life, no one cared about him. 

The quote I pasted on the photo reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend a few years back. I told him how the sight of so many people who came to my father’s funeral made me think there would be very few people who would come to my own funeral because as I grow older I’ve become less sociable, less friendly. Especially now that I’ve been away from home for 14 years, and most of my friends and former students have left the city or the country, and I don’t visit friends or relatives whenever I go home; I don’t attend family (clan) reunions….

At my mother’s funeral last year, I was moved by the number of people who came to condole  with us. A lot of them I’ve never even seen before — my sisters’ co-workers and friends, my mother’s former co-workers and students, my father’s former co-workers. It was comforting to see so many people cared about my family enough to come to my mother’s  funeral. My parents were luckier than Akakievitch. 

Now and then I would remind my husband not to die ahead of me, or I would never forgive him. We often laugh when I start talking about this, but we both know I am serious. No way he’s dying before me. Good thing is we agree this is a good idea. 

Having said that, I’ve decided to try to be a little more sociable again. Not because I want people to remember me, but because I want my husband and my son to find comfort in the thought that they’re not alone, that there are people who care enough to come to my funeral. 

In today’s society where fake online friendships are common, will people care if one day you just disappear? Or will you be like Akakiy Akakievitch whose death mattered to no one? 

Old Age and Dependency in Neruda’s Don’t Go Far Off

dont-go-far-off
Mindanao, Philippines 

Don’t go far off by Pablo Neruda

Don’t go far off, not even for a day, because —
because — I don’t know how to say it: a day is long
and I will be waiting for you, as in an empty station
when the trains are parked off somewhere else, asleep.

I like the hesitation expressed in the repetition of “because,” as it seems the speaker seems unsure whether the reason he is going to give for asking the other person not to go too far even for a day, would be reasonable enough for the latter. And to me, he succeeded in sounding convincing with his use of the imagery of the empty train station – empty of not only people, but of the trains as well as they are “parked off somewhere else, asleep.” This last line of the first stanza emphasizes his feeling of emptiness – everyone and everything else has gone and they are asleep (not dead, just having a rest), which I think signals what the speaker himself is going through (revealed in the last line of the last stanza.)

Don’t leave me, even for an hour, because
then the little drops of anguish will all run together,
the smoke that roams looking for a home will drift
into me, choking my lost heart.

His demand not to be left alone becomes urgent as he argues even an hour would be too long. He knows himself and knows that slowly but surely anguish will come in full force. I think “smoke” here refers to fear that can overwhelm a person and make one’s heart rate grow faster thus “choking my lost heart.”

Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;
may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.
Don’t leave me for a second, my dearest,

Whereas in the first and second stanzas, he gives reasons for not wanting the other to leave him (he will be waiting, feeling empty; he will be full of anguish and be heartbroken), in the third stanza, he reveals further that he is not only thinking of physical distance, but emotional as well – “may your eyelids never flutter into the empty distance.” These words show the total dependence of the speaker to the other person. He never wants to lose sight of this person (“Oh, may your silhouette never dissolve on the beach;”), nor to have this person not being in the present with him. From not being able to be without this person for a day, then for an hour, then for a second, the speaker obviously relies heavily on the other person for his existence.

because in that moment you’ll have gone so far
I’ll wander mazily over all the earth, asking,
Will you come back? Will you leave me here, dying?

Normally, I would be very cynical about people being too dependent on other people, emotionally. But I totally understand that certain people like the elderly and young children, and people with certain developmental disorders cannot help being so. And this is how I see the speaker of this poem. He is not a young and healthy man in the best years of his life. Rather he is old, and nearing his end and fears dying alone. This is not a man speaking to his lover, but a mere human being asking the one he trusts not to leave him, physically and emotionally.

This is not a love poem.

A couple of times, I have heard old men, who when they were young, were once brave soldiers and then, stern fathers; but, as they became old and frail, they became fearful of being left alone, begging their children not to leave them. This, I find extremely sad.

This is perhaps the saddest Neruda poem I have ever read.

 

Here’s the Spanish version (probably the original)

“No lejos de mí un solo día”
Pablo Neruda

No estés lejos de mí un solo día, porque cómo,
porque, no sé decirlo, es largo el día,
y te estaré esperando como en las estaciones
cuando en alguna parte se durmieron los trenes.

No te vayas por una hora porque entonces
en esa hora se juntan las gotas del desvelo
y tal vez todo el humo que anda buscando casa
venga a matar aún mi corazón perdido.

Ay que no se quebrante tu silueta en la arena,
ay que no vuelen tus párpados en la ausencia:
no te vayas por un minuto, bienamada,

porque en ese minuto te habrás ido tan lejos
que yo cruzaré toda la tierra preguntando
si volverás o si me dejarás muriendo.

 

 

On Friendship with the Ex 


I stopped communicating with my best friend #2 of 16 years, who also happens to be my ex-boyfriend for the same number of years. Whereas in the past I couldn’t last a week without talking or even just texting with him, it has been two months since we’ve had any communication. Best friend #1 who has always known and accepted my romantic-turned-fraternal relationship with M. tried to get me to, at least, ask him how he’s doing, fearing one day I would regret my silence. 

I probably would regret ending this friendship, but I have to take care of myself before I can take care of others. Something was done , and I didn’t like it. My not liking it manifests itself in my actions. I cannot control my emotions, only my actions. However, controlling my actions is exhausting because it takes so much effort, so much energy which I know can be expended on other more substantial endeavors. My only solution is to eliminate the source of these feelings by ending the relationship. 

Whereas in the past, I could shamelessly ask my friend to do or not do something; now as a more mature person, .I can never, will never ask my friend to change himself for me, or stop him from doing what he wants to do that is not bad for him. I have no control over him, but I have control over my life. Surprisingly, I do not feel sentimental about these things. I will always treasure what we had. Those were wonderful memories. 

There won’t be new ones, though.

Goodbyes

GOODBYES1

Some goodbyes are sweet — 
You smile and hug and kiss 
And say the word, believing
That you’ll be better people 
When you see each other again. 

Some goodbyes are bitter —
You turn your back 
Perhaps with tears 
Or with a frown, hoping 
You’ll never have to see each other again. 

Some goodbyes are not meant to be —
You think it is over 
That the last chapter has been written
And another one cannot be added. 
But then a sequel is started. 


Some goodbyes are inevitable — 
You hate to part 
You know you shouldn’t 
But you’re not characters in a book 
Or lovers in a rom-com….

These goodbyes leave you feeling cold and empty 
Like a house stripped 
Of every furniture, curtain and picture,
Of every sign of being lived in, 
And all that’s left is a hollow sound 

And the echo of one’s sigh 
And the memories of a voice…

Such is the goodbye that, in my ear,
You gently whispered
As you kissed away 
A tear on my cheek 
And softly,
Quietly

Left me
For good. 

*****

“Love is so short, forgetting is so long..” is a line from one of my favorite Neruda poems, “Tonight I can Write.” I think it’s a beautifully sad poem that captures not only the pain one feels at the thought that love has gone, but also the courage to imagine that the person one has loved so passionately will eventually move on.

Tonight I can Write by Pablo Neruda:

Click here for the English and Spanish versions.
Click here to listen to Andy Garcia’s reading of the poem.

 

Love on a Gloomy Day

dead leaf final

Beauty in the eyes of love

It’s cold and cloudy in Jimei again. I’ve already said this several times this week: This weather is depressing.

But luckily, there are people who can see the sun behind the clouds. Figuratively speaking, of course.

Yesterday, I was walking with a young friend, who was gushing about a guy she’s in love with. She thought I was a mind reader because I knew exactly how she’s feeling and what went on in her head whenever he failed to reply to her text messages right away. Sigh.

She was very happy and kept smiling. She said she even noticed herself smiling while walking alone even though it was raining.

Been there, done that.

But I’m happy and excited for her. I don’t plan on telling her to be ready for the heartaches. Anti-climactic. (But you, dear readers, who I’m sure are older than my friend,  if you’re suffering from a broken heart, might be able to help yourself recover by reading this article on the science of a broken heart — a good read.)

My young friend’s happiness and excitement makes me think that falling (romantically) in love is perhaps the most effective cure for pessimism.  To one who one is in love, even a single dead leaf looks beautiful.

Perhaps it is better for us to always feel like we are madly in love because, then, everything can be beautiful; every little thing can make us smile.

Of course, that is not possible (or is it?)

I guess we are all entitled to falling madly, stupidly in love once in our boring lives.

I wonder if there is such a thing as falling smartly in love?

On Age, Music and Chemicals in the Brain

music

A few days ago, I came across this interesting post on serotonin and dopamine and was reminded of it yesterday as I was listening to the songs of Barry Manilow. (OK. Please. Just be patient with me. I do have a point I want to share.)

When I was younger (“…so much younger than today…”) whenever I heard Barry Manilow’s songs, I would sing along until I cried (Yeah, I was that disgustingly dramatic.) I would think of the guys that I liked but didn’t even know I existed, or the guys that I liked but were not free, or the only one that broke my heart to pieces. (Who would not cry listening to “Even Now” and “Somewhere down the Road”???)

Now that I’m in my 40’s and in a stable, loving relationship with my husband of 10 years, and together raising a child, I feel absolutely nothing when I hear the songs that used to make me cry and later make me smile. When I listened to those same songs yesterday, there was not even a sigh. Nada. It seemed like that part of my mind or my heart just disappeared!

My husband thinks it’s just because I’m over that time in my life. Well, I have been over that period in my life for years now. But I used to have fond memories of that time. Now, even that fondness is gone.

So I wonder if those chemicals in my brain are up to something, or I am just getting old or already old.

Do old songs still make you cry or smile or angry? Do they have any effect on you at all? 

Neruda’s “If You Forget Me”: A Lesson in Loving

1458787384042.jpg

Centennial Park, Iligan, Philippines

Whether Pablo Neruda wrote this poem for his country, Chile, or for his wife, Matilde Urrutia does not make much difference to me. I like the kind of love portrayed in this poem. I like the tone of the speaker as he warns his lover …

“If you forget me

I want you to know
one thing. ” 

It is not the sound of a desperate, pathetic lover who begs or promises to continue  to wait even though the other has moved on.

It shows a speaker who thinks and is not controlled by silly emotions, a speaker/lover who demands reciprocity in a relationship.For truly, if one can be, and is reasonable, one will demand reciprocity in a relationship.

(Even God demands, commands love and faithfulness!)

“If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.”

Who wants to be forgotten by the one person you cannot forget? Of course, trying to forget someone is easier said than done. The more you try to forget, the more you will be reminded. This is perhaps the speaker’s way of saying, “Don’t think  I will be pining for you. I will forget you before you can completely forget me!”

“If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
remember
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land. 

“…and my roots will set off/ to seek another land.” This is how it should be. One should be brave in seeking and starting a new life and not waste time and energy on someone who has forgotten.

Yet….

Though the poem begins with a kind of warning, a threat as to what the speaker can do should his lover forget him, it ends with a promise, an enticement as to what he can give if his lover remains true to him,

“…ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.” 

Reciprocity.

  • Click here for the English version of the poem
  • Click here for  the Spanish version (Si Tu Mi Olvidas)
  • Click here to listen to Madonna read the English version of the poem.

On Forgiveness and Second Chances

 

I have often wondered what Jesus meant when he said one should forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-35). I don’t think anyone will take that literally (like 490 times), but I guess it means many, many times.

If God could forgive the world for what the world did to His Son (unlike Leonardo diCaprio’s character in The Revenant), then how could we, mere mortals, not forgive our fellow mortals?

But that’s just it. We are not God. We can try to forgive one person many, many times, but in the end the other gift that God gave us –reason, logic — would teach us to protect ourselves from being fooled, cheated or hurt again.

My question then is, is it immoral to refuse to give someone who has betrayed you,  lied to you, hurt you,  for the nth time, a chance for the nth time?

In the parable, the king sounded like a businessman, a moneylender who was compassionate enough to cancel a slave’s debt and actually “let him go”, after the latter begged the king to give him time to pay the debt.

Say for instance, the parable ended there, and the slave did not beat up a fellow slave who had owed him, would the king have trusted the same slave again? Would he have lent him money again? I don’t think so.

My point then is, yes, we can forgive people for the many times they betrayed our trust,for the many times they hurt us. But I think only a fool would give the same amount of trust to traitors/wrongdoers.

To me, forgiveness means accepting the fact that one was wronged, and not wishing the wrongdoer any ill, and actually sincerely wishing him well. But it does not necessarily mean giving him a second chance. Rather, it means letting him go his own way. Alone. Peacefully.

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.”