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A Potpourri II

Potpourri: a mixture of dried petals of roses or other flowers with spices, kept in a jar for their fragrance; a musical medley; a collection of miscellaneous literary extracts; any mixture, especially of unrelated objects, subjects, etc.

This week hasn't seen any major revelations in my life, however, over the last several weeks there have been a collection of smaller lessons that I've learned--and relearned--and I thought I'd share them in this second installment of my "A Potpourri" series.

Socialization is a Good Thing

For a long time, I've not been terribly social. Self-isolating is a common behavior for people with schizo-spectrum disorders and depression and I've not been very good at fighting my natural tendencies in this regard. However, a few weeks ago I decided that the chair in my office was causing me some major problems. My posture and my positioning at my desk were not ergonomic. However, I didn't know what was the proper posture for sitting at a desk all day.

I know in America I could use Google and find an expert who could help fit a chair and workstation to my specific needs. I did not know whether such a person existed in Vietnam, however. Without any doubt in Google's abilities, though, I turned to Google search and found a company called ErgoVN. I looked through their website. It wasn't terribly clear and I wasn't sure that they did anything but offer the chairs. Regardless, I took a chance and contacted them. In a day or two they responded to my email and said they did, in fact, have more than just chairs.

I promptly visited their showroom and found the owners and co-founders very engaging, personable, and friendly. They had prepared several chairs for me to try and I found one that seemed to work. In the process, I got to know them a little and was very attracted to their personalities. Their payment methods were limited and I wasn't able to pay immediately using them. They were fine waiting the two weeks it would take before I could pay them according to the acceptable methods. They were more concerned that I was able to sit comfortably at work and not have issues with my shoulders, neck, and head.

I found myself really liking them. So I decided I would offer to do something for them and maybe develop a relationship of friendship with them. I have worked on a couple of websites before and I knew that the things they offered to customers weren't clearly stated on their website. I would create new content for their website and do it for free. I didn't need any money from them for the task and I was so impressed with them that I wanted to help them. So I set an appointment with them for coffee to discuss the possibility of my helping create new content and becoming friends with the pair of them.

Despite the fact that one of them broke her leg that morning, they showed up to coffee and I gave them my offer. I also told them I wanted to get to know both of them better. We talked, they accepted my offer--though they haven't sent me materials for preparing the content yet (hint, hint)--and we set an appointment for having drinks in a less business-like atmosphere.

Cultural Differences

During the week between our coffee meeting and drinks, my ex-boyfriend contacted me and scheduled our own coffee meeting. I hadn't thought much about him since the few days after we broke up but upon receiving his text I began to wonder. I did have feelings for him and I wouldn't mind being with him if we could resolve the issues that had been problematic (respect of my time and regular promptings to lose weight--see my post Self Respect for more details). But I wasn't sure whether I should risk getting back to him without understanding what he was thinking when he did those things.

I understood that in the past Vietnamese--and many non-Western cultures--have treated time differently. They don't pay much attention to the clock and it's not that they don't care about it, but that it's not important to them. I also understood that historically the Vietnamese had a different relationship to weight than Westerners, though a Google search revealed that East Asians have a large rate of anorexia, at least among young women. I didn't know. So I decided to ask my new friends from ErgoVN when I met them for drinks.

Because her leg prevented her from moving, the one wasn't able to make it but I met the other at a bar near Ben Thanh Market (the main wet market in the city). I drank diet Coke and she had red wine. We talked about several things, about my quandary over whether to stay in Vietnam and become an expert (see my post Expertise in the Wild) or to pursue graduate school, about their website, and about my ex. I explained why I had broken up with him and that I had understood that, stereotypically at least, it might be because of the culture rather than an issue with him specifically and that I may have broken up with him because of a cultural misunderstanding.

She told me that, first, it wasn't cultural. And then she said it was cultural. At least what she proceeded to explain was, in essence, that Vietnamese didn't place the same importance on either of these issues that Westerners did. She explained that she had friends who were always late, sometimes hours, and that it was just something you learned to live with, that Viets didn't dump their friends because they were late but got used to it. And then she explained that their treatment of weight was different as well. That my ex's stated reasons for wanting me to lose weight--so he could drive me on his motorcycle--were probably the actual reasons he wanted me to lose weight and not for some perceived failure to love me for who I was now. That such a reason was not selfish but actually for my sake and that Viets weren't, in general, sensitive to this issue.

This helped me understand that most of my issues about my relationship with my ex were based on cultural differences, that he wasn't being hurtful or disrespectful, but that he simply didn't place the same importance on these issues as I did. This made it easy for me to resolve my hesitation and when I met him this last Sunday we had a long conversation and decided to get back together.

Alcohol is Bad (at least for me)

During my drinks meeting with my new friend, I drank diet Coke. This was for a very specific reason. Ever since the Lunar New Year holiday I've been having a few drinks after work on Friday nights. Not a lot, but on Monday, and increasingly Tuesday, I've struggled with depression and despondency. On my birthday I had considerably more than three drinks and a week later had my brush with hallucination (see my post A Potpourri). I finally figured that my issues on Monday and Tuesday were not because my mental health was degenerating, but because of the two or three drinks I would have on Friday night.

I had previously established that it took me three days to recover from large quantities of alcohol, both physically and emotionally, but that was when I was only taking an anti-psychotic. Adding an antidepressant changed my brain chemistry and the, apparently, caused me now to struggle for four days. It was the extra day that caused me consternation at first, that I thought it might be a more serious issue with my mental health. But last week I decided it might be alcohol and abstained on Friday. As a result, Monday and Tuesday were not days filled with depression and anxiety and I was able to confirm that my problem was, in fact, alcohol.

I have now committed to complete abstinence from the substance despite my desire to dabble. It does not bring enough benefit for me to suffer the negative consequences from its use. I might imbibe the next time I have a full week off from work, but that would be the only occasion. Otherwise, I must refrain from fermented beverages in any form. A decision that I am comfortable with now--no longer stuck in a pattern of thinking that requires addiction for satisfaction.

Three things, then, I've learned in the last couple of weeks. That my life is better with friends, that cultures are different and I need to understand that if I am going to have a relationship with someone from a different culture than my own, and that alcohol is indeed bad for me in more ways than it is for most. Important lessons that will hopefully see me into a better future and a contented present. Until next week . . .

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