Post traumatic growth

The other day, I read an article in the Huffington Post about “post traumatic growth.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: in the face of extreme tragedy or trauma, individuals grieve and get through this period, emerging stronger, more resilient, sometimes in very dramatic and visible ways. I thought about myself dealing with Ed’s death and how my perspective on a lot of aspects of life have changed. Sometimes that “change” is not always so visible to outsiders, but it’s visible to those who know us deeply and really listen to the things we have to say.

I was saddened to hear of the passing of a former colleague’s younger brother via Facebook (because this is how we hear about not just engagements, marriages, and births, but also deaths now). She left my company in the beginning of the year, and we always got along and had decent small talk. They had recently taken a trip together and hiked gorgeous areas of Hawaii, and he suddenly passed away late last week. He was just two days shy of turning 24. Because I know how isolating and awful it can be to face this type of tragedy, I knew I wanted to say something to her, if even just a few words. She was aware of the loss I experienced with my own brother, and of course, I didn’t want to make my outreach about myself and my own pain. So I sent her a private message and let her know that I read her obituary post for her brother and was sending my condolences. Losing a sibling, especially one who is not at a “normal” older age to pass, is probably one of the worst and most devastating losses one can experience. Siblings share a bond that is unique, and so the feeling of loss is unique, I told her. She responded right away and said she appreciated my words. She just needed to get through this time and have hope.

I wavered between sending this article to her or not, as I didn’t want to come across as presumptuous or like I was some know-it-all when it comes to loss, but decided to preface it with a “trigger warning” and say that perhaps this was not the right time to read this, but maybe she could read this article later when she had more time to digest and grieve. At the end of the day, she read it and reached back out to me. She said she was really happy I sent this article, and that this article actually gave her increased hope for the future.

It’s hard to know how to respond to other people’s loss and grieving when it happens. It’s difficult even when I’ve experienced it myself because everyone reacts so differently to death, as well as to how other people respond to them, whether they are very close or very distant. But as I’ve always thought, reaching out to say a little is better than doing absolutely nothing at all.

The mind of a 29-year-old man

Tonight, I sat at a bar overlooking this little island of Manhattan, having drinks with a friend and his friend, who is a former colleague of mine. I listened patiently as my former colleague discussed the perils of being on the verge of turning 30, in a relationship that’s barely gone on for a year, yet his girlfriend is asking him questions about their “future” together, which she foresees as having marriage, two children, and a house in the suburbs.

“Life was so simple in my early to mid-twenties,” he lamented. “I could just party, have fun with girls, no commitment, no nothing. Now, I get questions on the future, ‘are you the one?’ Life is so complicated now.”

What is this, the common late twenties/early thirties whining of every male in the city of New York? You have a romantic relationship, a job, a place in life, and it’s not enough for you, and you don’t know if you have fully “maximized” and are unsure if what you have is “good enough?” This is why I could never be with a guy who was my age. The talking of “check boxes” that women must meet to be “the one” seems to be a reoccurring theme in discussions I’ve had on dating and marriage with guys around my age. I really don’t think that looking at relationships like a job spec sheet benefits anyone.

Changing nappies

Tonight, I went to visit my colleague, who just gave birth to her first son two weeks ago. While sitting there with her, her newborn, and her friend, I watched from the corner of my eye as her husband went around the apartment, tidying up one thing, washing grapes and preparing refreshments for us. When it was time to change the baby’s diaper, he quickly picked the baby up and said he’d take care of it while my colleague sat and socialized with us. “We tag team!” my colleague said, when her friend made a comment about how they split up baby and house responsibilities post giving birth. Before having the baby, she told us, she’d never changed a single diaper in her entire life. Neither had he. But they both learned, sucked it up, and they deal with it together.

It’s funny timing that I observed this today because I just read an article that Chris’s friend posted on Facebook earlier this morning about “Five Reasons I’m Not Lucky to Have My Husband.” Her point is not so much that she’s not lucky to have him. They have a great bond, they love each other and the family they’ve created. He is good to her, and she is good to him. These are “lucky” things to have. But she is more speaking to the fact that she gets so many comments about how “lucky” she is that her husband is willing to do things like change nappies, rock the baby to sleep, and give her free time outside of the house, away from the baby, so she can recharge. Why are these “lucky” things? she asks. This is the egalitarian way in the current era we live in. This is the way it “should” be in a partnership and a marriage. Why do the men get so much credit for doing seemingly normal parenting tasks when women do not?
I’ll be honest. When I observed my colleague’s husband today, I thought in my head, wow, she’s so lucky to have him! I felt a little bad for thinking it. But I can’t help that thought because even in today’s day and age, working women are known to still do more house work and child-rearing than men. Whether it’s self-chosen or not, it’s still a fact. But it’s comforting to know that my colleague and her husband are a couple that will be part of the change I’d like to see.

Black shirt

Last night, I dreamt that I was back home in San Francisco, sitting on my bed facing my parents’ room. I looked to my right, and there was Ed, kneeling beside his bed with his hands touching each other as though in prayer. He was wearing a black crew-neck, long-sleeved shirt. I can’t remember a time when I’ve dreamt of anyone and the color of their clothing stood out so much. He eventually looked up at me, and I said hi to him. And he said, “It’s time to leave,” as we locked eyes. Puzzled, I responded, “Leaving? Where are you going?” He looks at me solemnly. “It’s time to leave. I’m leaving,” he repeats again.

“I know that, but where are you going?” I plead with him. “Where are you going? Tell me where you are going?!” He doesn’t respond. He just stares at me and says nothing. And I know in the back of my mind that he is trying to tell me that it’s time to go to the bridge. It’s time to end his life. It’s time to leave this world and me and everything else and live in the house of the Lord forever.

I hate dreams like this. They are upsetting, and they only remind me, as though I really needed a reminder, that he’s gone, and that he died by jumping off a bridge.

They are also upsetting because I already never see him in this life, and when I see him in dreams, it’s as though he appears and then needs to leave me yet again, and again, and again.

Sweet lunch

Today, I met a friend for lunch at Sweet Green. She’s here on a short trip from Seattle, where she and her boyfriend are currently living. Since she left New York in 2012, I see her only about once a year when she is back in the city to visit family and friends, and her schedule is always so tight. I rarely have more than an hour or so with her because there are too many people to see in too short of a time.

It made me think about how as we get older, it’s almost like we feel we have less and less time. Some things are more real, like a woman’s actual internal clock for having a baby, but other things are more around social things, like how much time do we have to spend with friends and family, especially those who don’t live near us when we are all together? We always think about maximizing time with people we love because without love and friendship and relationships in general, we have nothing. But it gets harder and harder when there are people you have to split time up for, and what if you say you will meet ‘next time,’ but next time never comes?

It’s like that time in September 2013 when I came home shortly after Ed passed away, and I was insistent that my parents and I eat dinner with my dad’s good friend Bob. They were arguing over who was going to pay the bill — in other words, over stupid, petty things, and I said to both sides, what if we never have the chance to do this ever again? My parents didn’t care. Typical them. They said, forget it. Bob caved in and said, okay, I thought about what you said. I’ll come and your parents can pay. Well, we never had the opportunity to have a meal together again after that one meal in September because that following November, Bob died suddenly. It was all over. And now, we have that last meal as our last memory all together.

Butter chicken

I spent the later afternoon and early evening making butter chicken, or murgh makhani, from scratch. It involved trimming excess fat and skin off the bone-in chicken thighs, marinating the meat in a yogurt-lemon juice-spice mixture, chopping up tomatoes, onions, garlic, and ginger, and assembling even more spices for the actual cooking. Even though the marinating time was not as long as I wanted it, the chicken curry came out really well.

I get antsy when I don’t cook for a while. I certainly can’t complain about not cooking because it’s not like I’ve been leading on a miserable life the last several weeks. We’ve been traveling through Japan, socializing with friends, and last Sunday, went to a free U2 concert. That’s when you know that you really love cooking — when even when you are enjoying great things and activities and moments in your life, in the back of your head, you still want to be cooking, even if just for a few hours. And even when those few hours are in the tiniest Manhattan kitchen, it still makes you really happy.

Choices we make

I spent this afternoon catching up for over five hours with a good friend of mine, who is facing one of those adult dilemmas that really make you realize that you are an adult. Her boyfriend, who she has lived with for over three years, has now pretty much become incapacitated because of shoulder injuries he’s sustained to both shoulders, and they are waiting for his surgery, which because he has VA insurance, has a wait of at least six weeks. After that, his recovery period is estimated to be about six to nine months until he is 100 percent. So because of this, she’s been doing everything for him – his cooking, his cleaning, all his errands. He can’t really work, so they’re not sure what they will do money-wise because even if he gets any type of disability, it’s not going to be like his regular income.

It made me sad to see how stressed out and overworked she is feeling. But then part of me thought, well, maybe if he hadn’t been as careless while bike-riding through a city like New York, perhaps he wouldn’t have such ridiculous injuries now. Maybe if he chose not to make such risky moves on his bike as he did repeatedly, he would be fine now. Maybe, if he got his old shoulder injuries addressed when they happened in the past at each point, there would not be such a necessity to have this major surgery done now and have it affect my friend. It’s sad how the choices we make yesterday can have such a negative impact on our lives today. But again, I suppose that’s just part of being an adult and living with the consequences of our actions.



In New York, there are constantly restaurants and bars opening and closing every single day, and that’s not an exaggeration at all. There are restaurants claiming to be authentic Cantonese or Korean fusion or Japanese-Mexican fusion with a twist. You can find all kinds of things here if you look and are willing to explore enough different neighborhoods.

Tonight, we went to a Korean fusion “gastropub” and had dinner, and then moved downstairs to their hidden jazz bar, where we had drinks and a fusion carrot cake served with a matcha green tea ice cream. The ice cream was notably sweeter than the matcha green tea ice cream we had a few times in Japan, and oddly, the texture ended with a powdery finish. I wasn’t certain if I was a fan of this until the last bite, when I decided I didn’t really want it anymore.

And so the withdrawal continues as the search for green tea matcha flavored things continue, even though we still have bags and boxes of green tea flavored things in our own apartment.

No visit

He didn’t come for a visit last night.

That is just so typical of siblings. They never readily do what you ask them to do.

I did sleep quite soundly last night, though. I guess sometimes, when you are lamenting the past and cursing those who have wronged you, it exhausts you to a point where you just fall asleep right away.

Sometimes when I am walking, especially when I am by myself, I look up at the sky and the shining light, and I wonder if he’s actually watching me. He could be hanging out with God or some other higher power, chilling in the clouds, looking down on me and my self-pity for having lost him, and wondering when that part of my mind will move on.

“I’m not sure if losing a parent to death is the same as the lost that you have experienced with your brother. It’s hard to say, isn’t it?” A friend said to me last year around the anniversary of Ed’s passing. All loss to death is painful, whether it’s to old age, cancer, murder, or suicide. But there are some pains that leave more loose ends, and those loose ends can have different damaging effects on people. With old age, I think eventually it’s healthy to accept the cycle of life, that when you are old, you must die, and then be replaced by babies who will eventually become adults, grow old, and die, as well. You never lose the sentiments, but it’s more an acceptance that life must go on, and in order for it to truly go on, the elderly must die.

Murders and suicides are hard, though. They are untimely deaths, deaths caused by events and feelings that are out of our control. In my head, I group them together because I think that these are things that legitimately, people can never fully move on from. The pain just stings too hard because there’s a lack of understanding of why or how and why these particular individuals? What drives someone to kill someone else? What drives a person to want to end his own life? However, it is sad to me that while the rate of homicide has significantly decreased over the last 50 years in the U.S., the rate of suicide has remained the same, and little is being done about it.

I’m so saddened thinking about it. I have nothing left to say.

Two years.

Dear Ed,

$%&#. It’s been two freaking years. It’s so trite, but I can’t believe it. I really cannot. Somehow, I managed to get by the last two years knowing that you were not breathing in the same world as me. I spent the last few days reading different parts of the Bible. I also spent some time reading articles on grieving, or what they call the “grieving process.” One quote I read summed it up pretty well: Step 1: Grieve. Step 2: Remake yourself. What that quote does not reveal is how much energy and effort it took to get from Step 1 to Step 2. It really should look like this:

Step 1: Grieve.











Step 2: Remake yourself.

I wouldn’t say I’ve completely done a 180 and “remade” myself, per se, but I do think that I’ve made some hard choices about people, life, and my perspective that now, life feels much different, and not just because of your absence.

I get self-conscious about it, though, and I think that maybe in some way, because of how much I’ve pushed myself in terms of accomplishment and thought process, that along the way it’s almost made me even more judgmental than I was before. It’s like that quote that Steve Jobs loved: “If you aren’t busy being reborn, you are busy dying.” It really stayed with me since I read his book in 2012. If I am not accomplishing anything now and trying to achieve something, then what the hell am I even doing here? What is my purpose? I’m still searching, but maybe I am a little optimistic when I say now that I feel better about life now than I did this time last year.

I guess that’s something you struggled with: purpose. For a good 12 years, you were a devout Christian. You felt your purpose was to serve God, study the Bible, do good work, volunteer to help those less fortunate than you. Then in the 13th year of the 2000s, you broke. You were already breaking in late 2011, but you hid it from me that Christmas. You didn’t tell me you were hallucinating. You hid it so well that I had no idea until you told me in March 2012 when you quit your Macy’s job that anything was really wrong. And even then, you described everything so vividly that I believed what you told me. How could I not believe you? I believed what you said was real and really was happening to you. It took me a full year to realize it was all hallucination. And at that point, it was too late. Your purpose was lost, and your will to live was gone. And then you left us. It escalated way too fast for me to digest it and figure out how to help. But I was too slow and too late. This is what happens when you have a little sister who is slow to process things.

You did a lot of good things with your final years, Ed. I’m sure not many people have said that to you, but I thought you tried really hard, even when I was pushing you to try harder. I only said it because I loved you. I wanted to help you, to make you realize that you were capable of doing more. I hated everyone who tried to make you think otherwise, whether it was explicitly said to you (and we both know it was) or implied. Some of that hate is still in me and will continue to live on in me as long as I breathe.

It’s hard to have faith in life sometimes, though, when I know you are gone, and when insane acts of violence and racism happen like in Charleston and Ferguson and now Hempstead, Texas. I can’t wrap my head around it sometimes, and all the violence and racism and apathy and laziness of the world starts getting to me, and I feel flushed and angry that I am just this one, single, powerless person who can do absolutely nothing to help. I couldn’t even help you. Our mom reminds me indirectly that no one has reached out to ask me how I am doing today in light of your two-year-passing mark. It’s another reminder that I try not to take too personally — that no one really cares — or cares enough. But it’s comforting and brings tears to my eyes to know that Chris’s parents and brother reach out to me to say something. No one else does. But they do. They do because they are my family now. They’re your family, even if you’re not here anymore, and even they think of you. See? There is some hope in the world. I have to take what I can get. I guess having low expectations isn’t so bad after all, is it? Our own blood family — our cousins, our aunts, our uncle — they don’t even reach out to say or ask anything to me. I can’t stand our family. But you already know that, and you gave up on them a long time ago and realized how screwed up they all are.

I really wanted you to come by and surprise me today, in some way. It’s what I anticipate this time of the year, that you will pop out and say hello. I’d throw my arms around you the way I do in pretty much all the dreams I have when you appear, and I’d squeeze you until you get mad at me for cutting off your circulation. Today, as last year, my senses are heightened because I know you suffered immensely and ended your life so tragically two years ago. I felt my whole body go numb this morning thinking about it. But I forced myself to wake up in time for gym class so that I’d have no choice but to push myself in group fitness or look like a complete idiot. And you know how competitive I can get in these classes. I have to have better stamina than all those others in the class. This is how I deal with losing you — I guess I just push myself even harder. At least my muscles are benefiting from it.

I miss you a lot, Ed. I don’t know if you realize how much. Before you died, I worried about you and thought about you every single day. I even watched as you slept when I was in San Francisco sometimes, especially that last time I saw you for two weeks in March 2013. What am I going to do, Ed? I wondered. What are we going to do to get you better? I failed. I don’t think I will ever get over this failure. I literally lost a life — your life. It makes me feel sick literally to the bone. I can seriously feel it right this second.

I’ll be selfish when I say this. I don’t care if no one else thinks about you, if no one else misses you, if no one else ever visits your niche at the Columbarium. All I want to say is that all that matters is that I care and love you, and I’m never going to forget you or the importance you still have in my life. Everyone else can burn in hell. You’ll always have me even if you left me. I can’t wait to see you again — in my dreams hopefully very soon (tonight maybe? Please?), and when I’m ready to join you wherever you are. You’ll be waiting, right? Right at the door for me?

I love you. Don’t forget to stop by in my dreams. It’s the only place I’ll ever fully be at peace with you. Since you left this world, I’ve never looked forward to sleep more because it means I have a chance at seeing you again. So, consider coming tonight?