Friendship Circle of Trust

Recently I’ve been talking to my therapist about my circle of friends. One of the first things I said to her was that I was frustrated that my friends did not seem interested in my life. In my last appointment, we finally discussed that my definition of friendship and my expectations for my friends can and will vary during my life.

First, the question was did I have realistic expectations. I believe I do, but what I define as a close friend probably needs to be limited to a small few. I sometimes apply that status to people that are not in the closest circle of trust in my life. Then when they do not live up to my expectations, I am disappointed and mad at them for not doing so. In reality, I cannot be close to everyone even though I sometimes want that.

Since I have friends that have come and gone, my therapist helped me see the closer circle includes a select few: my husband, one really great friend, one coworker and one other that lives out of town that I’ve met in life travels.

The next circle in the bullseye contains a few more people and a select few family members that I’m very close to, but they are not my “go to” friends for various reasons: inconsistent, unavailability, distracted by life, etc. They are well meaning, but I cannot rely on them the way I can the inner circle.

My therapist and I discussed that people move naturally in and out of these circles as we go through life. Oftentimes, when I feel frustrated, angry, sad or confused, a friend has moved into another circle without my full awareness or support. And sometimes, there is nothing I can do about that.

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So does this blog have anything to do with anything? I guess my point is to share that friendships are not always easy. Social media has made the definitions a little more blurry than they used to. If I had one piece of advice, it would be: be careful who you let into your inner most circle and recognize the ones that are there.

Ego

Last night, amidst my rum and diet coke, my husband and I talked about my ego. I need to check my attitude and watch my tongue when I’m frustrated. Whether it’s work, gym, church (my previous life), family, friends or my husband, sometimes I run my mouth more than I should and honestly, more than I want to worry about later. So I’m on a quest to figure out how to tame mine.

So how does one tackle the unreasonable devil on your shoulder?
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Maybe first I need to describe what that devil on the shoulder actually looks like. For me, it is laced a lot with codependency. Here are a few examples:

*It’s when I overreact emotionally and get overwhelmed by the anxiety in my head when my boss sends an email that feels like he’s questioning my ability.
*I don’t trust motives of people and concoct in my head what they are really saying.  My therapist calls it mind-reading (and I’m terrible at it.)
*My good friends aren’t talking much to me and it feels they aren’t there for me, so I push them back in my head emotionally and make myself unavailable. 
*I want to control everything – including your reaction to whatever I need to say.
*There are sooooo many more….

Back to my before question: how does one tackle the unreasonable thought logic at the time of the thought? Through time, my husband and therapists have given me some tips. Here are 4 tips that work most of the time for me, but I have to be constantly self aware and that is not always easy.

1) Rescue Cards

My husband taught me these. They are little notes to myself to remind me of logical thought patterns. Sometimes they are note cards placed in strategic locations that I will see at the right time and other times, they are notifications on my calendar. Do what you think makes sense for you. What to put on them is also specific to you. For me, I write stuff like: “We didn’t get into debt over night, so we won’t get out of debt over night either.” or on my calendar when I know my hormones are going to be flared up, “Treat yourself today.” or “You are enough.” It varies by circumstances, but it’s good to have the reminders whatever the format.

2) Relaxation Techniques

These are techniques to calm the central nervous system: deep breaths, meditation, prayer, yoga, rest, progressive muscle relaxation, calming music, peaceful scenery and noises, etc. There are so many things you can do. I tend to do a variety of things, but what seems to work the best for me is yin yoga and to set intentions. I often focus on a personal behavior that I need to keep in check and try to balance that chakra if it’s related to a specific area of my body. Recently I downloaded the app called “happify” and they have a relaxing beach scene that plays a rolling video of waves crashing into a private beach. I can hear that in my imagination without even opening the app.

3) Focus On Positives

This is the latest assignment that my therapist gave me. It is really helping me focus more on positives things that happen throughout my work week instead of just negatives. My husband and I are now making a habit of asking what positives happened in the day, so we can both do this together. I blame my codependency on this, but I often struggle taking on other people’s negative opinions of others and then struggle knowing what I believe. Some of it might be normal though because people have a natural tendency to vent about things and paint negative pictures. By having my husband tell me the positives in his day, I see our life and situation less grim and that is good.

4) “Frothy Fran” Accountability

My husband introduced me to this term. I don’t think it’s caught on as a new catch phrase, but he’s trying. Maybe this blog will help. A “Frothy Fran” is someone who can turn bitchy at the drop off a hat and tear down the character of another person while complaining about them. We all have a natural tendency to do this when we gossip, and no one is really above it. For me, it is very related to trying to be positive about things, except it’s specific to my opinion of people and running my mouth. I tend to adopt other peoples’ negative points of view of someone and compile to the negative feelings I have of that person. I’m just now receptive enough mentally to ask my husband and a couple of other friends to hold me accountable and call me out when I’m negative. It’s hard to hear that type of confrontation. But it is very needed!

Again, these things work for me most of the time. On the occasion that they don’t, I typically make my husband crazy. ūüėĚ

In Love with Asia

I have fallen in love with Asia, Vietnamese women and the Spirit of adventurous Americans. My love for all of these started in 2011, and I added Vietnamese women this year. Let me preface this blog that I have not seen that much of Asia, but I feel drawn to visit as many times as possible; it draws me as much spiritually as it does intellectually. I have been to the continent twice, and I have been to three countries: South Korea, China, and Vietnam. And I absolutely love the culture, the people, the cost of living and so many other things about the countries! When I first went to Asia in 2011, I went to visit my ex-patriot (expat) friend, Angie. She had lived in South Korea for a year and I decided on a whim to visit her. It was the first time that I left North America and I went completely by myself! Three flights later, 2 buses and a night with her friend because I missed my second bus, I found my friend in Pohang. I discovered a few things in that first 36 hours:

  • I am more adventurous than I realized.
  • The Korean people are the sweetest people I had ever met up until that point.
  • The expat community is a very generous, loving, caring community that will not let a stranger in a foreign land be a stranger very long.

So, this is what a foreigner feels like in America….

And with that visit, I learned that culturally I loved a few things about being an American in Asia. I loved that the expat community felt like they were on vacation all the time. I loved the traditions around food like sharing a bunch of main dishes and never letting your companion’s drink go empty.¬†And I loved that it almost felt like I stepped back in time to the Leave it to Beaver Days.

My second trip to Asia (for business) was just a few weeks ago.¬†Even though it was a¬†very different context,¬†this trip¬†actually gave me some major insight into 2 other Asian countries: China and Vietnam. First stop was Shanghai to visit the expat community again with my cousins who have lived there for 2 years. After a weekend of fun, we headed to Central China to visit a juice manufacturer and a fruit cup manufacturer (and their fields) and back to Shanghai for a trade show. Then we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to visit the farmers, collectors and manufacturers of both black pepper and cashews. I won’t bore you with all of those details, but here are a few travel tips if you are in the areas.

SHANGHAI:  If you are looking for ideas, here are the places we visited.

  • Stayed at the Westin Bund Center and it had a lot of great eateries inside.
  • Tian zi fang (a market you do not have to bargain in)
  • Yu Yuan Gardens (gardens with a market before the entrance that¬†you can bargain like crazy)
  • The Bund (at night is the best time to visit)
  • We went on a motorcycle sidecar tour (Back of the Bike Tours) and it was so very worth the $120 for a 2 hour tour.
  • Go to the French District if you can – that’s where a lot of expats hang out
  • Find out where the expats go for foot massages and pedicures. Get a foot massage if you can – a shoulder massage comes with it.
  • We walked past Yu Yuan Gardens a few blocks and went into the Tesco to observe a grocery store in China – worth it.

HO CHI MINH CITY: If you are looking for ideas, here are places we visited.

  • Stayed at the Sheraton which housed the Aqua Day Spa – a full spa that has incredible services for decently cheap prices compared to American equivalent¬†services. We probably spent half of what we normally would have.
  • The Sheraton also housed a great breakfast buffet that had great flavors of Vietnam and the best Pho I had in the entire area
  • Chu Chi Tunnels are¬†about 2-3 hours from the Sheraton and are far out, but interesting, none the less. The cafe that is nearby was incredible to watch lily pads floating up and down the river while enjoying a cold beer and great foods.
  • The Bitexco Building is the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh City and there is a bar that is on top called Bitexco52.
  • We visited another grocery store, Big C, in Ho Chi Minh City and that was interesting as well.
  • If you can go to the black pepper fields or cashew fields, it is worth it!

Because of this trip, I have a new love in¬†Asia and that is for the women of Vietnam. I told my father-in-law, soon after I returned, how much I appreciated and understood why American men married¬†Vietnamese women after the Vietnam War. They have such a sweet demeanor and I have much to learn from them on how to be a better lady and a better person in general. They have a humble, servant attitude and are attentive to the needs of everyone around them. They are soft-spoken and gentle in their approach to others. They put their needs last, which is not necessarily something that I want learn, but I do appreciate that they did. I loved the women so much that I have decided my next tattoo piece will include a Vietnamese woman in traditional dress somewhere nestled around Lily pads and a river – perhaps on a boat. I’m still working on funding for this project and deciding the location, but that is how deeply Vietnamese women moved me.

Overall, Asia is a wonderful place for an American to visit. It humbles you and helps you understand that the American culture is not the only culture out there, nor “the best” country; it¬†blurs¬†the lines between religions and politics and the human spirit and the American dream. And at the bottom of this blog, there are some more of my personal cultural observations from this particular trip (see EXTRA OBSERVATIONS). They may or may not be accurate, so please take them with a grain of salt.

If you have visited Asia and gained anything out of this blog, I am happy that you stumbled on it. If you have not been there yet, I hope that you have a chance to go to gain your own insights and create your own observations. Please share any of your experiences in the comments section of this blog if you would like.

Until next time, I’ll continue down my journey out of the rat race and continue to enjoy¬†my job sending me on global adventures.

EXTRA OBSERVATIONS:

  • Farmers in Asia carry the exact same pride as US farmers. They are proud of their products and their gardens and everything else. We tasted peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums, tomatoes, cucumbers, black pepper that is still green on the vine, lime tree leaves, mangosteens, and rambutans. It was all fabulous and the farmers hung on our facial expressions to make sure we enjoyed it all.
  • Just like any small business owner in America, the people genuinely seem to want to the right thing. They want to have success and move up in life; but they do not know what they do not know in regards to food safety and occupational health and regulations and anything else. It sounds easy, but as an expert in the food industry, I can tell you it is not.
  • A funny note – while walking to the train station, I caught a Chinese man looking in my shirt just the same as any other culture. Hahaha!!!!
  • The Chinese society is¬†developing so quickly, they do not realize what they historically have.¬†On the way to a factory, the retailer we were working with stopped to visit the Shanghai Ancient Town, which was the capital city of China in 1511 AD, during the 6th year of the Ming Dynasty. The factory owner did not know it existed and many people seemed to be walking the streets not realizing that the ancient city was a part of their every day lives with a huge wall and river surrounding the city.
  • Food wise: usually the host in China orders for everyone and orders a variety of colors, textures and flavors. Without that, the mean is not a success. Vietnam is similar culturally, but the host seemed to ask more the opinions of their guests.
  • A discussion about the smog in inland China brought on a deeper discussion about depression rates and health issues. We were told that the Chinese government doesn’t share statistics like depression or suicide, but it is thought to be a generally healthy population and many accept the current status and trust the government will work out the environmental and sustainability issues. Thirty years ago, they had 4 generations in the same household because they couldn’t afford otherwise. Now they are down to two again in the household.
  • Chinese love to travel internationally, so they are aware of the conditions in other countries. They believe the condition of China is the sacrifice for getting wealthier in the last thirty years after the recession.
  • Math is drilled into kids’ heads early on and they are given incentive for speed and accuracy. This is why they are so quick and good at math.
  • Because the humble nature of the Chinese people, they want to please and follow direction, but sometimes they need things spelled out on how to do what you need them to. This will become important in business relationships where they might do exactly what you ask and not necessarily think how to get from A to D if steps B and C are not shared.
  • Vietnamese people seem to be slightly different in that they are being proactive to make sure they understand their regulations and reach out to the government for aid on all safety related items for food safety and occupational health, as well as financial assistance.
  • A note about Westerners – we have no immunity because we’re so clean. Clean is not always good because now that our system is exposed to something, we’re weak and can get sick easily overseas.
  • Driving is so different here. Even though they are highly unsafe without helmets and not following the rules of the road as strictly,¬† they are very cautious in their approach to driving because they know to protect the life of those in/on their vehicle and around them. We saw very few accidents in China, but several near misses in Vietnam between cars and scooters. Honking is common to help others know you are there and everyone expects everyone to not know they are there. 3-pt turns in the middle of the street are no big deal in front of everyone.
  • In China, the farmers write their own rules in many ways and the rest of the population abides by their rules (i.e. dry their grains in the middle of the street).
  • In China, the farmer’s markets are typically near the apartment rises, so they buy fresh food nearly daily. Grocery stores have a very diverse selections of meat and fresh fruits, but they still prefer to buy local.
  • An interesting share about their perspective of large US cities is often they often think it is quiet compared to China (i.e. Chicago) – people talk quieter than China, car horns are not blaring all of the time as a warning system, and there are not that many screaming sales people, etc.These are common noises in the Chinese culture.
  • China taxed companies based on turnover instead of profit, so the government isn’t helping them if they have high expenses year to year.
  • Sometimes as an American, the money feels like monopoly money.
  • Also a TIP: Get legitimate taxis because drivers that do not go through companies will drop you off in the wrong place because they are not allowed to drive you into certain districts because of the “unofficial” cast system. If you speak Chinese, you possibly can withhold pay until they get you a legitimate taxi and deduct the amount to your destination that the other driver says it will cost. But overall, it will cost you more and is not worth it.