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.

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Gratitude and Optimism

Yesterday I saw a video called “Life Lessons from 100-Year-Olds,” and it brought tears to my eyes. If you have time, watch it. I’m sure everyone can learn a thing or two from these centenarians.

I think it was fortuitous to have seen that video on the last day of the year, as it reminded me to look back at my own life during the past year (well, I am always looking back, lol)  and to count my blessings and be grateful even though 2018 saw me inwardly distraught about a number of things that I could not talk about with loved ones, as I do not want to spread negative vibes.

Today is the first day of 2019. I will try my very best to continue to be grateful and to believe that everything will be all right.

I hope you do as well.

Happy New Year!🎉💕

T.

Change, Challenges, Moving On

Jimei sky on a winter noon

Introverted, routine-oriented people like me get disoriented when something not part of the routine takes place. The occasional lunch with co-workers is always a task, even though they are nice people, simply because it’s not part of my daily routine, and I always make an effort to be an interesting or even just a lively person (I personally find it rude when a person joins you for a meal and looks miserable. I’d rather that person refuse to join me for a meal than be with me looking unhappy. Hence, my effort at being an interesting/lively rather than boring companion.)

This disorientation is magnified when bigger events occur in my life, like when some 16 years ago, my then-boyfriend left the country (and me!) and all of a sudden, I was left to make plans for the day for only myself. “What will I do with this much time all to myself?” I went to work moving about like a zombie for months!

When my mother died, I felt so vulnerable whenever I remembered (actually, I still do) that I no longer have a “prayer warrior.” In the past whenever I had a problem, I would just pick up the phone and call my mother long-distance and ask her to pray for me. I know it sounds so immature for a grown woman to be depending on her mother so much, but that was all I depended on my mother for. I never asked her for anything else after graduating from university. Just prayers. Still, when she died, I was at a loss not having anyone to call to ask for prayers. I mean I could have called my sisters or some of my friends, but with my mother I was assured that her prayers were most fervent because she was praying for her youngest daughter, the only one to leave her side to work in another country.

When introverted, routine-oriented people like me are put in a new situation, we tend to have an extremely difficult time adapting to change. We may seem to look like we are coping well with the change, but deep inside, the challenge is overwhelming. Yet, we survive and I think our introversion has much to do with it. As introverts, we rely on very few people, but more important and this is most helpful, we rely on ourselves the most. Slowly we learn to start a new routine, and we recover in due time.

And we move on. In due time.

May you find the courage to adapt to change, face challenges and move on.

Happy New Year! Happy New Life!💕🎉

“This is Us” and Bran Stark: A Lesson in Understanding and Compassion

You read that right.

Two of my favorite TV series this decade are GoT and This is Us, and I am glad that both shows support my theory on compassion, which I’ve written about on this blog a couple of times.

I just started watching “This is Us,” and I haven’t even finished watching the first season yet, but already this show has made me cry so many times, not because it’s sentimental but because the characters and their stories are so real and so relatable. No one is extremely bad nor extremely good. They are ordinary people, even the Hollywood actor seems normal (and he does admit he is normal and contrasts himself with the stage actress who is not true to herself.) The stories that really speak to me are the loss of a child, the loss of a father, the worries about starting a family — all those feelings I had when those things happened to me came back as fresh as if they happened yesterday, and it was a cathartic experience. True, most of the characters are beautiful and well-to-do and American, yet first and foremost, they are human and their emotions are not unique to them in their time and place. These emotions are universal. I guess the title of the show is quite apt as it is really about “us”. “Us” being whoever is saying it.

The narrative structure of “This is Us” allows audiences to see and understand the development of the characters, why they act or behave the way they do, thru flashbacks, and this is one reason why there are no extremely good or bad character in this show — because the viewers, who are the ultimate judges of who is good or bad — are made to understand the present person by looking at how they evolved through the years of a variety of experiences with different people in different situations.

In reality this is how we become who we are. We are shaped by our experiences and the people we meet and influence us. This is why, ideally, the people who know us best are our family, especially our parents who have seen us grow. Unfortunately many people grow distant from their parents over the years, hence what parents knew to be their child is different from what their child has actually become. However However, there are children who remain very close to their discerning parents, and these are the ones who have the benefit of having somebody who can accept them for who they truly are. These parents are a witness to their children’s lives and can understand why the children have become such and can therefore accept them and love them unconditionally.

(Just like in “This is Us,” “GoT” also made viewers change their mind about a character, from hating him to loving him. Jaime Lannister was hateful before it was revealed how he sacrificed his name to save the realm.)

My point is this: if we could only know everything that has happened to a person that we know or know of, in the same way that we are getting to know the characters of “This is Us” with every flashback in each episode, then we probably wouldn’t be too hasty or even cruel in our judgment of them. We would probably even become forgiving because we understand what made them become such. We do not have to be their friend or be close to them, but we do not have to hate them either.

Now this brings me to Bran Stark. Bran has become the Three-eyed Raven, which means he now holds the knowledge of the past, present and future, and because he knows EVERYTHING, he understands everything. Bran never gets angry nor says angry words, not even to Little Finger. He may seem cold, emotion-less, but I think deep down, he understands and has compassion because he has seen and sees everything.

Then there’s Jesus. As he was dying on the cross, He said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” I am guessing he can forgive because being God, he is omniscient, all-knowing, and therefore he understands everything about us, poor human beings.

As the year comes to an end, I hope you find the energy, the patience to try to know people before you judge them.

Some things to ponder at the end of 2018:

1. What are some of the things you are grateful for in 2018?

2. What do you look forward to in 2019?

I hope you find many things to be grateful for and to look forward to! 🙏🏽💕

T.

Inevitabilities

When I was in my early twenties, I truly understood the meaning of “everything has its end.” Both good and bad. Since then I have always been aware of how the happiness I may be feeling at one time, may turn into sadness any minute. As a result, I’ve learned to treasure happy times, and to look forward to the end of my troubles. This has worked quite well for me over the years.

Yet at that moment when I am going through a difficult time, it always seems as if the end is taking forever to come.

Like it is now.

Though I know I’ll be able to sincerely smile and laugh again, for now faking it will have to do. This is part of the process. Real happiness will come again, perhaps in a day or two, a week or two, a month or two. Or a year.

But for now, patience.

May you have patience to bear whatever burden you have on your shoulders today. 💕

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.

Week 10 Prompt: Juxtapositions (A Look at “First Reformed”)

First Reformed.png

Image source

There are a number of reasons to like this movie: for me, the first three would be Ethan Hawke, ETHAN Hawke and ETHAN HAWKE!!! And for my friend who recommended this movie, it’s Amanda Seyfried.

But if you are a huge fan of plot-driven films, this may not be your cup of tea. My friend thought this movie ran for 3 hours when it’s only less than 2 hours long.

The pacing is a little slow, even camera movements are predominantly slow. As I don’t have expertise in film, I can only say that as a viewer, I find the slowness a reflection of how Reverend Toller (Ethan Hawke) seems to be living his life — one day at a time, hardly any movement or willingness to move on.

Light and Darkness/Shadow

There are several shots of the very white and neat exterior of the First Reformed Church in broad daylight, and probably the same number of shots of the dark bedroom of Reverend Toller. Sometimes there’s only one candle lighting the whole room. To me this  reinforces idea of the duality in his personality in how he presents himself to the outside world (one who has strong faith, knows how to deal with all kinds of people) and how he really feels and thinks about himself. He leads the service on Sundays, even though on his own, he says he is incapable of praying. (To me, though, his writing in his journal is an act of prayer.)

Hope and Despair

When Reverend Toller speaks with Michael, he speaks against despair. Ironically in the end, he fails to rescue Michael from that despair which turns out to be infectious as he, himself, tries to end his own life.

Mary, on the other hand, is the epitome of hope in her own quiet way — despite grieving the loss of her husband, she looks forward to having the baby that Michael had wanted her to abort.

Interior and Exterior

Reverend Toller on the outside, exemplifies calm and composure, just like the ultra neat and white exterior of the church, but inside he is full of turmoil and uncertainty. His soul probably needs as much cleansing as his broken toilet that needs unclogging. And that metaphor becomes literal when he tries to use the drain cleaner to kill himself.

This duality is quite common. How many people do you know whose actions have surprised you as they are “out of character”? With Reverend Toller, however, there is dramatic irony— the audience are amply prepared for his decision to end his life, but the people around him are not.

Perhaps the one idea from this film that I liked best is restraint. Reverend Toller’s attraction to Mary is developed quite subtly. At first he seems to be simply a very dedicated pastor helping out a parishioner. But one scene that made me certain he is falling for her is that of the two of them cycling and, as he writes in his journal, “I had not been on a bicycle, I think, in 20 years. I was afraid I would fall.” And he went to muse on the curative power of exercise. There is a look of pure joy on his face as they bike on the trail.

first reformed

Spiritual, though not as religious as Esther, Mary brings out the spiritual in Reverend Toller. With her, he can pray with words and with his soul. Yet, he has to restrain himself in his attraction to her. This he is able to do for a while, but after Mary appears before him as he is about to drink the drain cleaner, that restraint finally gives way to full expression in an embrace and a long kiss. This last scene is my favorite part — the feeling of finally letting out what you have been holding in for a long time is more than liberating. It’s exhilarating.

first reformed2

For me, this movie is simply another reason to love Ethan Hawke.