Discovering the secret to a happy New Year; new traditions, old agreements and Chinese food

At the end of last year I discovered a long standing secret: the non-denominational Christmas dinner. Apparently, it is a well-known fact among non-Christians that December 25th is the night to go out for Chinese food. We joined some good friends (old and new) for dinner at Ming’s on Christmas night and had a great time. With the waiters wearing holiday-ugly sweater-vests, and the unfiltered sake flowing like a waterfall coming down the mountain, we definitely felt the spirit of the season. Having spent most of my life among Episcopalians, each year I assumed everyone else was at home too that night wandering through the dregs of cardboard boxes, ribbons and crumpled wrapping paper. But no— there is a choice! I feel like I’ve discovered another secret as well-kept as Santa— Mazel tov!

And now, as we head into the new year, I’m looking for ways to hold on to this fresh feeling of discovery… I have a good feeling about 2016. A nice even number, half way through the teens; I think we’re going to see a lot of positive changes. And I’ve resolved to do my best to create said change. I’m for anything that brings genuine joy, kindness and knowledge to the table. What I really want to avoid is turning into a curmudgeon. As we age, staying open and positive doesn’t always come as naturally as it once did; it seems easier to shut down and let the neural pathways grow over like an unkempt garden. But this year I’m focused on staying in the light and keeping the magic around as long as possible.

After all, it’s never been about life being easy. In my experience, the people who have never faced adversity are the boring ones at cocktail parties. Show me an old bankrupt billionaire in cowboy boots who is learning to play pinochle and I’ll show you someone with good stories. I figure as long as I follow the Four Agreements (don Miguel Ruiz) and keep my eyes peeled for new people and new experiences, I’m sure to discover joy and learn a thing or two in the upcoming year.

Agreement number 1 – Be impeccable with your word. Now that’s not to say you can’t embellish a story now and then, or sardonically compliment a waiter on his gingerbread man vest, but when you’re honest with yourself and others the conversation is much more interesting.

Agreement number 2 – Don’t assume. This one is difficult because we are taught from a young age to assess the situation and act accordingly. For example, a couple of days before Christmas I followed a Chevy-chassis Hummer driver into the Whole Foods parking lot and into the parking spot behind him as he pulled all the way through. As I got out of my car and admired his faux fur vest (hopefully) I said loudly, “Thank you for pulling through so I could park here!” He didn’t even turn to acknowledge I had spoken, so I yelled it again, louder. By now his significant other had walked around the vehicle in her matching vest to join him on the sidewalk, and they both walked into the store as though I was not even standing there. I suppressed the urge to tackle them and wish them a Merry Christmas because for all I know they didn’t even speak English. Or maybe they had just landed at the airport from New York and were still in that don’t-make-eye-contact-with-the-locals state of mind.

Agreement number 3 – Don’t take it personally. I didn’t. Because I’m lucky enough to live here, in the Roaring Fork Valley, where we live like they vacation.

Agreement number 4 – Always do your best. In whatever context, this agreement really drives it home. I mean, what else are we here for than to go out and do whatever it is that we do with authenticity and purpose? If we don’t give it our all, it shows in our faces and our stories, and it completely defeats the purpose of putting the fortune in the cookie.

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