Following on from sharing my story with you last week, I am writing to you today, as promised, from Vietnam!
I thought I'd write to you each week, sharing my stories as I go along!
I have a funny story for you about a mouse, a bathtub and Tom Cruise. But first I want to give you a bit of history about why I travel.
Growing up in Australia, we were always lead to believe that Australia had a very big drinking culture. Like the biggest in the world.
I'm pretty sure that if they had a popular vote between having a kangaroo or a beer can on our national emblem, the beer can might win out. You definitely see more beer cans in Australia than you do kangaroos.
However, once I started traveling a few years ago I realized that Australia was by no means the biggest drinking country in the world.
I've seen everything from women prostituting themselves to feed their alcohol addiction, to men who will buy alcohol whilst their children remain hungry. I've seen whole cultures who make their own alcohol so they don't have to pay for it, I've been in countries where water is so scarce that water is actually more expensive than alcohol. I don't judge anyone for any of that, I'm just here to learn.
I've been in plenty of countries where you would not expect alcohol to be an issue, like India, Egypt and many countries with a strong buddhist faith. But it is.
Part of the reason I travel is so that I can continue to learn about how alcohol affects women around the world, and help where I can. I'll keep you posted on that as I go from country to country.
Anyway, I admit I've been doing a lot of work while I've been here in Vietnam. I've been making sure I am getting all the resources out to the ladies who've bought them, and to keep trying to provide better and better information and services to all the ladies who are gracious enough to listen to my message.
So, long days sitting in front of my laptop (and you need the aircon in these SE Asian temperatures!), have made for peaceful nights sleep!
Anyway, on my second night here in this little guesthouse I'm staying in I was awoken by that little scratching noise that is my worst fear!!!
Yep, you guessed it, ever since I was a kid I have a fully irrational fear of mice! I'm talking irrational!!
I mean they can't even hurt you! I am absolutely not afraid of spiders (which in my home country they can totally hurt you so I should be afraid!) and I'm not even that afraid of snakes (which in Australia they can absolutely hurt and kill you!!) so as you can see my fear of mice is totally, totally irrational. I detest the fact that I am afraid of them.
I remember once when my twins where young (like toddlers) a mouse ran through our dining room once during the day and I was up standing on the table quicker than you could blink an eye, leaving the twins on the floor laughing at me I think. Mmmmm, great mothering, Sharon. :|
Anyway back to the night this week in my guesthouse. I've only been in bed for an hour when I hear the mouse. I turn on the light. I wait.
I scan the room. Maybe I imagined it.
I turn off the light.
Then I hear scratch, boom! as the mouse scrambles under the bed and slides with a boom as he hits the wall.
"Right," I think as I turn on the light again "that's definitely a mouse".
I sit silently on my bed, light on. Only noise is the hum of the air-conditioner.
And then out from under the curtain the rodent appears and runs fully head first towards my bed. He doesn't stop, he runs to the bed and right up the side! He scuttles along the end of the bed!
I am up on my tiptoes squealing like a banshee by now. My arms are flailing like an Italian fishwife.
Now, bearing in mind that I'm staying in a little guesthouse, not a big hotel with 24 hour reception or anything, it was well past any time I could get any help for this situation. Not tonight.
I am going to give you the short version of the rest of my night.
I did not sleep one wink.
Sat in that bed, on full alert like a meerkat on duty, head spinning one way and the other as my eyes scanned for my nemesis.
He climbed the bed, the curtains and up onto the little bar fridge.
At one stage, thinking he was looking for food, I thought I would out-wit him.
I saw him head towards one side of the room, so I scuttled towards the bathroom on the opposite side of the room. As I ran towards the bathroom, I grabbed a granola bar that was wrapped up tight inside the fridge. I ripped it open and threw it into the deep bath in my bathroom and then ran faster than Usain Bolt back to my bed (not that my bed was any 'safer' than anywhere else!)
You see, my plan had been that the mouse would smell the granola bar, fall into the bath and then not be able to get out. I'd get someone to collect him in the morning.
Good plan, right? Couldn't fail!
I sat, in my bed and waited. There was lots of noise in the bathroom. I could hear the scratch of his nails on the bath, I could hear the rattle of the granola bar.
I was absolutely stoked with myself for my brilliance. Now I could go to sleep. I'd just check out the scene of my crime first.
I tiptoed to the bathroom and gazed over into the bath.
And no granola bar.
That mouse had got into the bath, and pulled the granola bar all the way out with him! Just the crumbs remained as if to taunt me with my failure.
This was crazy.
I went back to my bed, turned on the television to see the late night Vietnamese shopping channel in full swing. I was not going to go to sleep (no way!) but at least I'd try to take my mind off what the mouse was going to do once he'd had his fill of that bar.
As I sat in bed, the chitter-chatter of Vietnamese selling going on in front of me, I thought about this irrational fear of mine.
It reminded me back to when I was still drinking. In the past I had been afraid of everything! No exaggeration. Everything.
I was afraid of everything that could physically hurt me - you know traffic, riding a bike, fast cars, heights. Everything.
I was also afraid of everything I could feel. I was afraid of my feelings as I had been numbing them so long I didn't remember how not to be.
So, in early sobriety when I had been about a year without alcohol I decided that I really needed to deal with my fears.
I decided that if I could deal with my physical fears then perhaps, just perhaps, I would not be quite so afraid of my emotions.
So, since at that time one of my biggest fears was heights and therefore flying, I decided that I would deal with this very big fear, in the hope that I might get a little less fearful in general.
So, being the kind of women who jumps into everything with both feet, I decided I would learn how to fly a plane. Yes, I know most normal (or rational!) people would do a "fear of flying' course but no, I went the whole 9 yards.
I started lessons on how to become a pilot. Yep, every week I would turn up and drag myself into that little Cesna, each lesson I was as fearful as I had been in the last.
Now, I don't want you thinking I was in anyway good at this. Most people who are learning to fly need about 20 hours of in-flight training before they can make their first solo flight.
Not me. It took me twice that, almost 40 hours, before the trainer decided I should fly the plane on my own.
However, the interesting thing is that before I was allowed to fly solo I had to do numerous crash landing practises and also practise spinning out of control towards the ground, proving that you can get the plane 'right' again.
Somewhere in these maneuvers, I lost my fear.
By the time I went solo, my irrational fear of heights and flying had disappeared and I was only left with the rational thought that a commercial Qantas pilot would be much more suited to be doing this than me!
Not long after that time I remember seeing the Will Smith movie with the quote in it "Danger is real, fear is optional", and from then on I have tried to make that my motto. So far that has worked with every part of my life since that time, and I have definitely done things since that time that I would not have dreamed of years ago.
Except (you know where I'm heading with this), for the mouse.
That one is fully irrational, and seems to be fully here to stay.
However, even in situations like this when I am confronted with things that scare me, I now know that I actually don't have to get rid of the feeling of fear.
You see, that's the thing. Fear itself wont kill me, and it wont kill you.
It's actually good to feel fear sometimes. It's actually good to feel everything sometimes. It's actually good to remind ourselves that even the things we fear the most will not kill us. We can, in fact, live through any feeling and don't need to pick up a drink to numb it.
So, reminding myself of this thought, I settled in for the night.
No, don't think that I slept or anything. That was just not going to happen now that I knew that the mouse could actually climb up here on to the bed. But I would make the most of it. I would feel the fear. Yes, I would just feel the fear.
I flicked the channels on the TV, since I was not sure that being sold a set of steak knives in Vietnamese was going to cut it as entertainment for the rest of the night.
Finally, I hit pay-dirt! I found the movie channel in English.
And guess what? I was just in time for a Tom Cruise all-night marathon!
So, for the rest of the night I sat up there, just me, Tom Cruise, the mouse, and my fears, alone in the Hoi An guesthouse until the sun finally crept up over the river outside.
This story finishes the next day as they found the vent that the mouse had been using as his entrance to my room. It's now securely taped and I have not seen or heard from him since.
So, this week has been another great reminder for me that danger is real, fear is optional; and that fear itself wont kill me. No matter how much I hate the feeling (or the small, gray reason for my fear) and I don't have to numb my feelings, I can just feel my feelings and enjoy a night with Tom Cruise.
Bye for now, S x