Mastodon Michael Perry

Moving toward my own identity

Recently I wrote a blog post that Ray commented on regarding feeling between two distinct and distinctive cultures. One is the western expat or whatever culture. The other is Khmer culture. I’ve found myself between the two more and more and moving in a direction away from western ideology. Tonight my Alin told me two revealing things which I am gonna share.

  1. In Cambodian culture happiness is most often a physical sensation. A smile, ready laugh, positive attitude. Khmer people will judge someone by what they see in the face. This is a problem for me because almost all my happiness and joy comes from inside and rarely shows up on my face. So people see a neutral reflection or perhaps worse. I don’t try to hide away things with cheerful smiles and happy looks. If I am happy it will be something I have done, finished, started, felt, loved. Walking brings me boundless happiness. Doing mindfulness lets me feel the gates of my happiness draw near. Reading and writing give me so many shivers of joy. The fact I can write here and send to Dropbox. If someone reads it, great. I don’t do this for that though. All of the things are within me. Locked away in my soul, spirit, brain, heart. Perhaps I let them be seen but often I am a private person and they are not shown. I think Alin understands now I will not take on any other characteristics and be jovial, amiable, etc. I’ve told her today that all the feelings inside of love and sexuality and joy is because of her but they rarely show themselves in public besides my love of holding her hand or putting my arm around her shoulders. What this does though is cause dissonance with the Khmer family I have. Not my Khmer mum. She has been around almost 80 years so she gets and has seen it all. Younger people will ask Alin what troubles me. Alin will ask what they mean and tell them I am just different than they are. Sometimes it works. But read 2 below and see.
  2. In Cambodia, people love to socialize and drink beer. Sometimes larger quantities of beer at wedding parties, gatherings of family, friends, dinner parties. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with beer so I decided months ago to put it down a bit. When I will not accept a beer at an event, people will ask Alin what is the matter. She tells them I am different and if I want a beer, I will ask for one. If I don’t, I will not take one. This causes some head scratching by Khmer folk. But by and large people accept it except those that don’t and ask why over and again. The beer thing has been both large and small for me. I make a decision on the spot whether I wish to drink or not. Often I don’t. I will not even take a sip of beer to placate or make someone else happy. The only person I wish to make happy is Alin. Other people are just that. I hate to sound this way but the beer drinking ethos here is something I steer away from. I see too many old expats staggering down the street on a Monday morning here. I don’t want that for Alin or myself.

Finally if you glue the two things together, I think you reach this identity thing I wondered about before. I don’t do two of the things which Khmer people love to do. Be happy and drink beer. It took a few discussions with my wife for her to see that I am not unhappy unless I say I am and I will not drink beer unless I want the beer. These two things seem small on the surface but they are mountains and chasms I cannot ever cross. Ray’s comment on my blog was particularly helpful when I heard the things today.

One day I realized it is who I am, it is my nature to walk between worlds and it is where I thrive.Sounds the same for you, fellow wanderer.

Source: Ray’s comment on my blog post here.

Thanks Ray. I think I found two little things which are not so little. Cornerstones of Cambodian culture I think and it means I will forever be different and walk between the two worlds. Not leaving one or joining the other. And I realized with Alin’s help it is okay. She just tells people she loves me, that she understands my differences, and will help them see.

A fine woman and wife I would think.

May 7, 2023