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The Last 5 Years, An Off-Broadway Musical

I had the great challenging call of co-producing The Last Five Years in this pandemic. During the process of filming this musical, the cast and crew engaged ourselves in a game of sides. Are we Team Jamie? Or are we Team Cathy? And why? Let’s dig a bit deeper into their relationship.


Cathy


She gives herself completely to Jamie in the relationship and is left “Still Hurting” (according to the title of the first song) after he cheats on various women and leaves her. It’s easy to sympathize with Cathy because she got burned! She got cheated on! Plus she is not as successful in her career, so we feel a certain pity for her.

Her insecurities as an actress affected her sense of self; eventually taking a toll on their relationship.


Jamie


He tastes success quite early on in his career, soon after they began their relationship. He was smitten with Cathy and “all of the ten thousand women” that she was. However, when his writing career continues to bloom, his ego gets inflated. He starts being unsatisfied with their relationship which leads to infidelity with various women.

We can see that in both situations, the relationship deteriorated in accordance with their sense of self. Where Cathy feels smaller and smaller, Jamie feels bigger and bigger. Neither is healthy. Both contribute to the end of the relationship, and both feel they are in the right.

How often do we deal with this in our daily lives! Sometimes we are Cathy, feeling worthless and demanding our loved ones to continuously take care of us. Sometimes we are Jamie, feeling ourselves better than the people around us, thinking we don’t need them anymore.

Ouch.

I think if there is anything I learned from The Last 5 Years process, it is to reflect upon my own sense of self and the relationships I have with the closest ones around me. I am imperfect, and so are them. We are all just doing what we can. Perhaps the question here is, what will happen in the next five years? Will we have learned, will we evolve or change? Or will we be stuck in our same old mindsets and make the same mistakes even if our partner is someone different?

The Last 5 Years is streaming now on kiostix, featuring Andrea Miranda as Cathy and Taufan Purbo as Jamie. Directed by Fonnyta Amran, you can purchase the streaming tickets on Kiostix.

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Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

A dear friend all the way back from my college years recommended this one to me. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is book number 21 on my Goodreads challenge to read 60 books this year. Not bad eh? I’m quite on schedule! This reading challenge is expanding my knowledge and my network, and it’s even resulted in the wonderfully nerdy Mad Tea Book Club.

Don’t worry, no spoilers in this review. I haven’t mastered the art of reviewing books without spoiling the plot or ending (it’s like reviewing food without actually saying the ingredients…tips anyone??). But I won’t give it away for this book because the plot twist is so important. It would be horrible to give it away. Wait till the end, and let the twist wash over your whole realization…

Synopsis

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the debut novel of Scottish author Gail Honeyman, who wrote it when she was working as an administrator at Glasgow University. This situation mirrors her character Eleanor who works as a back office finance clerk to a graphic design company. She issues invoices. Exciting isn’t it?

Okay, anyone who does admin work will testify it’s not exciting. It’s tedious and boring and absolutely incredibly necessary. A great admin knows he or she makes or breaks the project, especially if it’s a FINANCE admin. Money is the life and blood of the company, and when Eleanor takes a break from her office to sort out her clinical depression then everyone realizes this.

Yes, Eleanor Oliphant has clinical depression. And she is very lonely. Her antisocial behaviors do not help her loneliness. Add on to this a past incident due to a very toxic mother and you have a woman who is completely fine on the outside, but crumbling inside.

Loneliness

To keep her loneliness at bay, Eleanor stocks herself up on vodka every weekend. As Eleanor finds out throughout this book though, just one sincere person can make a big difference in life. That person is Raymond, the unhygienic, new IT guy at the office.

If you have just one friend that you can count on, that’s enough. You’re rich beyond measure if you have two or three.

Indeed we don’t need to have too many friends. If you have just one friend that you can count on, that’s enough. You’re rich beyond measure if you have two or three. But to build lifelong friendships, you must first open yourself up and be completely vulnerable. Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine is a story of a brilliant, independent girl, who finds the courage to be real, to be vulnerable, and ultimately, to be herself.

It is a powerful debut novel indeed.

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Book Review: Where’d you go, Bernadette?

The first time I read Where’d You Go, Bernadette was several months before I met my first husband: Oky Kusprianto. Why, do you ask, is this important? BECAUSE BERNADETTE IS AN ARCHITECT! Many things happened in my life (like Oky suddenly dying), and I forgot about how much I loved this book until the Mad Tea Book Club was born. Several weeks ago I was doing some content planning with fellow co-founders Sherry from The Cozy Library and Krisandryka Wijaya. Our theme for March is women-themed books, so I remembered Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple.

I re-read the book and it was every bit as hilarious and touching as the first time around. This time, the significance of Bernadette being an architect was highlighted because I also watched the film with Cung, my second husband. Cung is also an architect, by the way. The film version stars Cate Blanchett who was amazing as the genius and reclusive Bernadette Fox.

Synopsis

Two days before Christmas Break, Bernadette Fox disappears. She leaves behind Elgin Branch, a top officer at Microsoft, Balakrishna “Bee” Branch, their bright teenage daughter, and Ice Cream, the beloved family dog. The whole family was supposed to go on a holiday to Antarctica as a treat to Bee for her stellar grades in school.

The story is told mainly from Bee’s perspective, with heavy use of emails, texting, recorded phone communication, and also written letters. Bee shifts through all this material to try to find out exactly what happened to her mother.

I love this book because…

Me copying Bernadette Fox.

Maria Semple’s satiric style is absolutely a kick. Even the plot is satirical, although in an all too possible way in this digital age and time. Bee is a lovely girl, and it is her relationship with her mother that this whole book lies upon. At the heart of it is not a detective story, but a story of the incredible bond between a daughter and her mother, and how that relationship can look like in this modern era.

There is nothing I don’t like about this book. That should tell you something because I’m very, very picky with the books I read. I love Bernadette so much, I even started copying her fashion style!

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Signs of Emotionally Abusive Relationships

Emotional abuse can occur in dating, family, or even work relationships. If you are not aware of the signs, sometimes it is hard to tell when you are being emotionally abused by a lover, parent/sibling, friend, or colleague. It happens more often than you might think, and its very likely that you will come across emotionally abusive people several times in your life.

Emotionally abusive people are usually after dominance and control-of you, of the group, or of the project. Often abusers are active substance addicts or have disorders such as psychopath, pathological narcissist, or borderline personality disorder. First impressions of them can be great, as they are able to be very sweet and accommodative at the beginning. In fact, they can come across as too charming or too good to be true.

I have experienced being in emotionally abusive relationships, so this is a sign I have learned to look out for.

In fact, they can come across as too charming or too good to be true.

What are some other signs?

  1. I was constantly unsure of myself. Did I say the right thing, do the right thing? Would he/she be angry at this text and ignore me, or would he/she forgive me and carry on?
  2. I was always so exhausted. I felt drained emotionally, mentally, and physically. Sleeping held no relief, instead it made me more tired because there were constant nightmares.
  3. I took no joy in my accomplishments. On the contrary, I felt guilty for outshining the partner/colleague/friend.
  4. I felt so powerless. As if there was nothing I could do to change the situation, and I had to either accept it, or leave.
  5. I spent more money than I should have, because I wanted to make the other person happy.
  6. My world got smaller and smaller and smaller. All other relationships were considered a threat to the current one.
  7. The consequences of my mistakes were amplified and used as a tool to punish me. It was my fault things went awry. I was the one who messed things up.
  8. I did not feel comfortable being near them. In fact, I was afraid that at any moment they could blow up and physically hurt me, or someone else around them.

What should I do if I am in an emotionally abusive relationship?

If you think you are in an abusive relationship, I heavily suggest seeing a therapist or talking about it with a trusted adult. Neutral third party observations can help you see things from a different perspective. Create boundaries, build a support network for yourself, make an exit plan, and get the heck out. Don’t hang in there because you think you can fix the person, or because you love the person, or because you owe them your successes. Don’t try to understand or justify their actions.

This is easy to say, and I know from experience these actions can be incredibly difficult to do. Try to be brave for yourself, and take the first step: talk about it. As Fred Rogers said: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

Fred Rogers

Remember that you deserve an amazing relationship, and an amazing life!

Featured image photographed by Chameera Laknath during Southeast Asia Leadership Academy January 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam.

To read more on emotionally abusive relationships, visit this article from Health Line. If you need a reminder of your worth, visit our core beliefs.