My personal celebration
Christmas Eve is a very tough night to be alone and far from family and close friends, one of the toughest on the calendar. It one of the cardinal Very Big Occasions (VBO) of the year, and our culture reminds everyone a thousand times each season that it is for sharing with someone you love. So if there is no such someone in your life at the time, you lose. You out of it. You don belong. You an odd duck, you loser, you.
Or so it would seem.
Having been through the drill before, I know the emotional potholes well. It hopeless to try to just ignore the occasion, the cultural mass around it is simply too huge. But joining an anonymous celebration at some bar or club is not an answer either, as I learned the hard way in years past. I found that being alone in a VBO situation like that can actually be worse than being alone all by yourself, no matter how many eggnogs you have and no matter how rowdy the party gets. It ultimately just serves to underline the fact that you are actually ALONE, on this Very Big Occasion, you loser, you.
Not having anyone special to share this particular Christmas Eve with, to keep the blues at bay I made preparations for a personal celebration. I made a reservation for dinner at Roy Hawai Fusion, a restaurant I long wanted to try. I made a circuit of last minute shopping, buying a few small gifts for people I care about that I give to them later, because they were themselves all going to spend the evening with family and loved ones. I even surprised the frazzled salespeople at my favorite shop by bringing them some fantastic ice cream to revive their flagging energies. I found a gift for myself there. And the bonus was, even though I bought it for myself, it would be a surprise.
of Happiness, the little sign read. A traditional Chinese gift, a small red silk pouch with six small metal tokens inside, it called to me as something I would enjoy very much. So deliberately not examining it closely, I added it to my purchase. After all, I wanted it to be a surprise for Christmas.
Wearing my favorite shirt, with the gift bag in my pocket, chilled from the uncharacteristically cold weather that night in Austin, I arrived at the warm, inviting re Ray Ban Sunglasses staurant to the sound of Hawai music, a welcome relief from the traditional Christmas music I been hearing everywhere as I made my rounds. The hostess cheerfully welcomed me, but her reflexive glance behind me for the rest of my party, and then back to her reservation list in slight confusion was the tell tale reminder that I wasn really supposed to be alone on a VBO, not TONIGHT! But it turned out to be the only false note in an otherwise perfect evening, and a small one at that. Everything which followed was pitch perfect.
I indulged myself fully in the exotic menu, ordering only things I had never tried before. Seated at the Chef bar, sipping a sublime cocktail named after a local Austin landmark, I had the added pleasure of being able to watch my dinner being prepared. The kitchen was slammed, with all the cooks busily assembling the orders for two large parties that had been seated just before me, so there was a lot to see. In the course of the evening I watched almost everything on the menu being made, and the kitchen crew turned out to be true artisans who performed superbly under pressure, turning out plate after plate of gorgeous, delicious food.
In the crush, I watched the sushi chef carefully and artfully prepare my appetizer of poke, the traditional Hawai soul food of marinated raw fish and vegetables. Mine was made with ahi tuna and hearts of palm and avocado and wakame, topped with a mound of tobiko, and it was both generous and sublime, overflowing the iced caviar bowl with sumptuous goodness. It was so delicious and satisfying that I ate it very, very slowly, savoring each bit, making it last as long as I could.
During this leisurely graze, I continued Ray Ban Sunglasses watching the fascinating circus before me, learning a few pieces of their kitchen lore along the way. For example, a waiter cry of Sunrise all day! meant that two of their signature Sunrise at Haleakata appetizers a crunchy tempura roll of tuna, hamachi, avocado and asparagus, served with Dynamite Butter were seriously overdue to the table. seconds, Boss! was the immediate and accurate reply, and all was soon well again in the kingdom. I also learned that a cry of I on fire! would not get a cook the rest of the night off. At least, not on Christmas Eve!
My entr was Roy signature trio of blackened ahi tuna, hibachi grilled salmon, and misoyaki butterfish, with a well chosen Dijon mustard in place of the traditional wasabi, spicy pickled ginger, grilled baby bok choy, and a large mound of well made rice, sprinkled with black sesame seeds and spices. It was all I could have hoped for, a feast for the eyes and for the palate. The butterfish, in particular, was off the chart, redefining for me what the phrase in your mouth can actually mean.
I originally intended to order the Melting Hot Chocolate Souffle, since it rarely disappoints, and has to be ordered in advance due to the prep time. But I succumbed to my waiter suggestion to have the night special instead, a pineapple grapefruit upside down cake, served with house made toasted coconut ice cream. The choice was wise indeed it was spectacular!
And then, having filled my senses, already complete with the evening success, I turned at last to my gift to myself, the Bag of Happiness. Opening the little silk bag, spreading the tokens before me on the polished granite counter, I read the piece of paper which was enclosed.
Red is the traditional Chinese color of good luck, it said, and the six tokens within represent the Five fold Happiness. I was slightly confused by the math, but I read on, and here what I found:
The Coin Wealth. The circle signifies heaven, and the internal square represents earth. Earlier in the day I had completed a plan I really liked for the new house I building, with a square base and a hemispherical dome for the second floor, so this had special resonance for me. I learned over the years that you need not have a lot of money to be happy, but on reflection this night, I realized that I am also wealthy beyond measure. The cup of my future is full, and overflowing with possibility,
The Monkey Prosperity. No one in my life today would guess that I missed more than my share of meals over the years. At present, I can fill a Santa suit with ease. But stark memories of much leaner times remind me that having enough to eat is not a given for far too many people on the planet. So in absolute terms, I am indeed prosperous.
The Gourd Good Luck. Believed to ward off evil. I had some extraordinarily bad luck at certain times, life changing times, but yet, I have to admit I mostly avoided Evil so far. With all the bad breaks accounted for, I still lived a pretty charmed life compared to many other people I known. Yes, I do have good luck. Nice.
The Pine Tree Long Life. Symbol of hardiness. I can quite claim the title of actually being Old yet, although I do seem to me moving in that direction at an alarming pace. As my best friend frequently reminds me, although it may be annoying getting older, it better than the alternative. So the pine tree token had me reflecting on the fact that I had already outlived many loved ones, including my sister, and my closest cousin, whose funeral I attended only a week before. Yes, I can claim that one too. Four out of five, hey, I doing great.
The Pair of Mandarin Ducks Double Happiness. Symbolic because they mate for life. Well, crap, this was unexpected, a reminder that I was celebrating a VBO alone, again, when my heart so loudly calls for a loving partner to share it with. Why did they have to put that in there, anyway? I was doing just fine with the f Ray Ban Sunglasses irst four. And yet yet, it not over. Along my wandering path in life, I had the benefit of some truly extraordinary relationships with amazing women. Phenomenal human beings, each with profound lesson to teach about love and life and everything. They just didn happen to be my Mand Ray Ban Sunglasses arin Duck. At least not then. But maybe I was just in training during those years, getting prepared for Her eventual arrival. Perhaps She couldn find me before. It couldn have been easy, as much as I moved around. Or maybe they were just there long enough to learn something from me, on their way to meeting their own true Beloved. But I think I finally ready. At least I hope I finally ready, and I haven given up. So the two little ducks in the Bag of Happiness were a welcome reminder, on this solo VBO, not to toss in the chips on my dreams to have it all. But in the end, whether She ever finds me or not, I reflected that four out of five is better than many people have, and that ultimately I am responsible for whatever happiness I have found, or will ever find in the future. So I OK as I am, alone, and I have been blessed in so many other ways.
The Bag of Happiness what a perfect Christmas gift. So full of surprises.
Commentary: A Christmas story may seem an odd choice to open a blog about living an extraordinary life, so allow me to explain. I chose this piece for my opener because it speaks to the central theme I intend to explore here love, in all of its many facets. The core of living an extraordinary life, indeed the core of living at all, is loving and receiving love.
So to me, this isn’t a Christmas story, it’s a love story, and it plays the same any time of the year, for any VBO at all, like a birthday, or a former anniversay. VBOs are Very Big Opportunities to fill your own heart with love, no matter what your circumstances, and to acknowledge that you are loved and that you are never really alone.
Simple enough to say, not easy for most of us to do reliably. So in the posts that follow, I intend to lead a tour through the many twists and turns that I’ve experienced, and that I’ve witnessed through other’s experiences. In the process perhaps we, you and I, can add some needed detail to the map we each carry in our heart, leading us, we earnestly hope, toward happiness.