Tag Archives: Stories of Healing

Midnight Diner: Relearning 5 Life Lessons from Master

With all the noise strafing us from all sides of the world, a little hush could be quite refreshing. Netflix is a busy street and when I hauled myself into it during the quarantine period, I’d always end up flustered by all the choices. So, I spun the imaginary wheel and discovered Midnight Diner by chance.

I needed a break from my usual mix and (mis)match of British crime series, black comedies, sitcoms, psychological horrors and documentaries. Having no expectations whatsoever, I found myself slowly melting into melancholia — the good, nice, deep, warm and familiar kind.

Set in a rather typical Japanese izakaya, the Midnight Diner offers a totally different experience, a trap that will keep you wanting to sink deeper into the enthralling stories of the oft intertwined lives of the diners. It redefines binge watching because the stories are so well crafted you’d want to take them in slowly and savor every moment of it, like you would your cup of tea.

No, you can’t watch it all day even if you wanted to because you’d need to take breaks to contemplate between stories, and sometimes even between dialogues.

The Midnight Diner is run by Master, and all that we know about him is his name.

Every story begins with the Master opening his shop.

When people finish their day and hurry home, my day starts. My diner is open from midnight to seven in the morning. They call it Midnight Diner. Do I even have customers? More than you would expect.

5 Lessons I Relearned from Master in Midnight Diner for a Better Life

1. Never rush through life.

Master only has four items on his menu, but he would make anything that his customers would request for if he had the ingredients or if they’d bring them to him.

The first thing he asks is, “Are you in a hurry?”

At the diner, no one is ever in a hurry. You could come in hungry, but you’d have to wait for a freshly cooked meal, then you savor it like it’s the first time you’ve ever tasted it.

Oriental rice meal with vegetables and dragon fruit on the side
Every meal has a story. What’s yours?

It is a glaring comparison to what we normally do in life now. We breeze through the day and do everything in a hurry. People eat breakfast with one foot already out the door, spend less time with the people they love because work is always hovering, and even bring work to bed to beat a deadline. Everywhere you look there’s a traffic light going on.

We forget the value of slowing down. Ironically, the more we hurry to finish a kilometric to-do list, the more we lose valuable time. We don’t often realize it because it’s been part of the norm. We live in a “if you don’t hurry, you worry” mentality.

It won’t hurt to say, “No, I’m not in a hurry” once in every while and just enjoy life’s sweet time.

There is a reason why the term ‘mindfulness’ exists. It helps us hit the breaks so we can make those short stops and look into ourselves and assess our actions if they’re truly helping us reach our life goals.

2. Forgiveness is the key ingredient to a happy life.

People pick on our weaknesses because we let them, whether they’re aware of it or not. These people may not be physically present in our lives anymore, but we still afford them a good space inside our heads. These are the people who have done us wrong, but instead of letting go, we hang on to that feeling of hatred — which unfortunately hurts only us, not them.

Diners come to Meshiya with pockets full of both heartwrenching and funny stories, but some of my favorites would be the ones on forgiving. I realize that we are weighed down by experiences that no longer serve a purpose in our lives.

It’s easier said than done, but nothing else sets a person free than forgiving and letting go.

3. Everything in moderation.

Even if you are in the mood to get inebriated, Master will only serve you up to three drinks.

“This is a diner, not a bar,” he’d remind his customers.

Japanese people are generally known for their healthy diet. Their portion is a fourth of the size of what Filipinos normally eat during each meal. As a Filipino, there’s no escaping a lavish food culture where we eat until we’re too full to move, and we even talk about the next meal while we’re enjoying the current one.

I had to start making a conscious effort to eat until I’m about 80% full or what the Japanese call hara hachi bu. It has not only helped me maintain my ideal weight, it has also helped me gain control of everything else in my life. If you can control your food portions, then you can control everything else.

Automation and technological advances have pushed us to live excessively. We don’t need to leave the house to get everything we need and we don’t need. Shopping and dining in the comforts of our home have never been so convenient…and damaging.

The thing to keep in mind is, just because you can have something does not mean you have to. Living a minimalist life has proven to improve people’s mental state and overall well-being.

Sure, you can manage more than three drinks a night, but no, you don’t really need more than that.

Happiness is not defined by how much you have, but how you enjoy what you have.

4. You can’t overdose on kindness.

In life, no matter which crossroad we are at, there will always be people who will need us, as well as those we will need to get us through tough times. We may not realize it all the time, but there are challenges that we overcome with ease because families and friends are there to help us slide through.

If you have helped people, you know that the feeling is priceless. If you got help during your lowest point, it is proof that good souls exist and the world is not that all bad. So yes, gratitude counts. It’s scientifically proven to help with mental health, too.

5. Food is a universal language.

If there is one thing that binds us together beyond color, language, smell, race and origin, it’s food. Even during this time of pandemic, people disagree about so many things in so many levels, but never about food.

Food heals, food helps build relationships, food brings people to all sides of the world. Food sometimes even stops conflicts in its tracks.

Food is a language we all speak no matter at what point in our lives we’re in.

Is the Midnight Diner Real?

The set looks as real as it could be, but the diner is set in a studio.

A documentary called Japanology will take you through alleyways in parts of Japan frequented by those who love a more traditional approach to dining. I’ve had the impression that Japanese people mostly keep to themselves, but the documentary revealed otherwise when interviewees said they frequent diners similar to the Midnight Diner because it’s where they strike up random conversations with strangers. Well, apart from the fact, they say that these obscure diners have the best varieties of drinks and food. And, apparently, of people.

5 Ways to Help You Heal from a Difficult Mother-Daughter Relationship

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women reading this — whether you’re a mother or just about to become one.

While everyone is celebrating Mother’s Day today, there are those who were or are not blessed with a loving relationship with their mothers. If you’re one of them, I’m sending you love and good energy. If there is something that you need to know right now, it’s the fact that you are not alone. It may be odd talking about it on Mother’s Day, but it is on days like this (yes, when everyone is raising wine glasses to cheer their moms) that makes it a tad more difficult for some of us to think about our own mother-daughter relationships. Or the absence of it.

Yes, I know.

“Thank you for being the best mommy in the world!” My daughter hugged me while telling me this yesterday. I get my daily dose of this almost every day. I live and breathe I love yous and thank yous from my children. It still makes me wonder what I’ve done to deserve this. It is, without a doubt, too much credit for the aglio oglios I make for them.

I would have said the exact same words to my mother had there been a relationship that existed between us. Unfortunately for me, and I imagine for her, too, that there just was none. I will spare you the details, but I’ll tell you this much for perspective. Growing up, my mother was always distant and cold. And scary. It was that side of her that other people never would see because no matter how “close” she seemed to be to some people, they didn’t live in our house. No one sees what happens beyond walls.

Those cautious smiles that were few and far between were not meant for me.

Today, she’s the same. It took more than 40 years of  practice for me to finally get to this point of acceptance — that no, there will still be no hugs, no I love yous, no apologies, no thank yous. There will never be “you are worth my time”. Ever.

I grew up believing that for as long as your mother puts food on the table and gets the household chores done (either by her or the househelps), you have no reason to complain. I never did, until the years rolled by and I felt like I was missing out on something.

For most of my teenage and adult life, I had an incessant feeling of loss, of emptiness, of spaces within me that could neither be filled with the presence of friends nor alcohol. It was an incurable, invisible gash.

Then a cure came finally. Miraculously, I should say. It came in a small package called motherhood.

They say your relationship with your mother will define the kind of relationship you have with your children. That is why I live to defy that statement.

Here are 5 Ways to Help You Heal from Your Difficult Realtionship with Your Mother

1. Accept that your journey is different from others’.

One of the most difficult things I had to deal with growing up was envy. It was hard to look at other mothers hugging their children or to hear them asking how their kids’ day was without feeling that lump in my throat. I wanted to be asked, too. It was a long, winding journey for me to finally accept that the path I was treading was different.

I hoped and prayed for change, and, when I knew that it would never come, I tried so very hard to change my perspective. It was a long, hard road. I faked it until I made it. At the end of it all, I began to see the beauty of it all. My friends and relatives who have a beautiful relationship with their mothers are happy, successful and strong. How could I not be happy for them?

I realized that it’s not a one-way road. If I could not be at the recieving end of affection, nothing was stopping me from giving it. Others have their own journey, and I have mine.

I got myself busy paving my own road that any mother and daughter who passed by began lighting up my way until I have forgotten how envy felt.

2. Let go of the shame and blame game.

It is not your fault and it was not your choice. Everyone is raving about their mothers in social media while your own brushes you off in the hallway and eats dinners with you in silence. You can’t talk about how your mother is when people ask you because you simply have been coldly co-existing and not really sharing a life together for decades now.

Tell your story as it is. That is the only way to free yourself. If your mother can’t fix what’s broken in her, so can’t you. She has faults that should no longer matter now because no amount of force can help you change the choices she had made for herself.

3. Give motherhood a new definition.

A daughter will always seek the attention of her mother up to a certain point in her life. If you were not granted this as a young person, it’s time to move your focus to other beautiful relationships around you. Open up to friendships that will help you grow. Seek the guidance of other women in your family.

Despite my circumstances, I am grateful for having a sister who is six years my senior. She is kind, caring and loving. She has always been there for me. We did not only share the same experiences, she also enveloped me with love that protected me from irreversible damage. She has always been my guiding light and her selflessness has molded me to be the mother that I am right now.

4. Forgive, but don’t expect reconciliation.

The mistake I kept making was expecting a reconciliation or seeing a change in our relationship. I believed that’s the natural course of things, but whenever the verbal and psychological abuse would happen again, I knew I had to park the idea of reconciliation somewhere. Permanently.

Among so many things, forgiveness is probably the most challenging process. First, you have to forgive yourself before you can forgive her. I know it’s counterintuitive to forgive yourself when you are the victim, but being human, you are not infallible. To forgive, you have to be in that loving place within you.

Forgive and let go. This will not happen overnight, but the sooner you get into the process, the earlier things will get better for you.

5. Create your shield.

It would have been impossible to do this when you were still living in your parents’ house. As an adult, you are now free from the walls that kept you from expressing your innermost feelings. The physical freedom alone will help you protect yourself from any more abuses.

I can imagine (and I know) how challenging it is if your mother is under your care and is living with you and your family.

Remember that you can always close your boarders to toxicity. It is your home now, run it the way you want to. Fill it with love, so much love to cleanse away negative vibes. You are no longer that young person who can’t leave your room out of fear.

Honor the fact that she is your mother, but no longer subject yourself to her opinion. Fulfill financial obligations, but don’t let her make decisions for you, especially when she has refused to be part of your life growing up. Consider the silence between you and her a blessing.

Having a difficult mother is like being on a ship with the person who wants to sink the boat. However, we are all given choices in this life. If you can’t convince your mother to dock the boat so you can swim to shore on your own, jump ship. There will be an island somewhere or a passing boat. I know so because I’ve gotten this far alive and well, and with children who remind me every day that they’re glad I did it.