OK, so I know it’s January 4th and most of you are probably thinking that New Years was so last week, but this is the first time I’ve hit the keyboard in 2011 so I’m going to start at the beginning and tell you how we celebrated the turn of the year over here in Laos.
On New Year’s Eve we headed for one of our new favourite haunts, Dyen Sabai. To get there you walk down to the Khan River and then cross it on a rickety bamboo bridge that’s only in place because it’s the dry season and the river is so low – the brown torrent that pushed the boats along on Dragon Boat Racing day has fallen precipitously in the last couple of months and the newly exposed river banks of are crammed with temporary vegetable gardens. After you cross the river you climb up a row of steps hacked between the small veggie plots, and walk underneath a tunnel of vines, then turn left and there you are. Dyen Sabai is a restaurant of wooden platforms tucked into tall stands of bamboo. The tables are low, wooden, and flanked by silk lounging pillows laid on the floor. The ambiance is great and so is their smoky eggplant dip.
Mike and I settled down on the cushions and devoured eggplant dip, and fish steamed in banana leaf, and hosien chicken stir-fried with crispy mint, and big bamboo containers of warm sticky rice. There were cocktails and two sinfully rich deserts made with imported chocolate. There was laughing at the chicken that flapped up to explore then table next to us. There was reminiscing.
Sparked by the blog I wrote about returning to Laos, we talked that night about uncomplicated emotions. Mike asked me what “happy-uncomplicated” moments came to mind from 2010 and took it in turn to offer up these incandescent snippets. Some were exotic – sunrise in Death Valley for Mike, motorcycling along the Thames in London for me. Many were prosaic – tiny stitches in time that fashioned our “normal life” this past year. Grocery shopping together after church in California. Sitting on the deck of our small apartment in Alhambra enjoying brie and dates as the sun set. Reunions in airports.
We talked about these happy moments all night. Then we walked home, full and tired, through the cool darkness and went to bed at the luxuriously geriatric hour of 9pm.
The next night we settled down to the serious business of contemplating 2011. This time we chose an outdoor restaurant overlooking the Mekong and watched kids play soccer out on a sandbar in the middle of the river as we talked.
Mike had a few New Year’s Resolutions to list off but I didn’t set any this year. I already have a pretty clear idea of what I’d like to get done and none of my goals related to writing or diet or exercise seemed worthy of being slapped with the lofty title of resolution. So instead of a resolution this year I named an aspiration that is more of a theme – an attitude and an outlook that I aspire to embrace more fully this year… finding the positive in change.
So much changed for us last year and so much will change again for us this year. I do love change on some level, this I know, but even as changes bring new and wonderful things into my life I also lose old things that were also wonderful. Sometimes I can find myself mourning too much things I used to have and enjoy (wine and cheese on the deck in Alhambra, and hot showers that work) and neglecting to pay enough attention to new and wonderful things (smoky eggplant dip and sticky rice overlooking a river, and chickens that parade around on tables).
After we were done talking resolutions and aspirations we looked at each other and grinned.
“So,” I said to Mike. “What is it this year?”
Last year Mike introduced a concept that initially horrified me – that each year we might also name one thing we’d like each other to work on in the upcoming year. When he first suggested it I stared at him across the dinner table looking, I’m sure, like a wallaby in the headlights. What awful, embarrassing, character flaw was he going to spotlight and ask me to work on?
“I would like you,” he said carefully last year, “to please pay more attention to not dropping your stuff wherever you feel like it the minute you walk in the door of the house.”
This year’s request was pretty much on the same level (read: basic habits that 70% of people seem to acquire in third grade) – that I pay more attention to turning of lights and air conditioners when I leave a room. My request of Mike was similarly non-epic – focused on something small that he sometimes does that can annoy me.
It’s made me think about marriage and the years to come. Will we have years when the things we name are epic, or are these early patterns indicative of the fact that when you’re in good relationship space the things that usually bug you most over time are the little carelessnesses and habits that just happen to grate?
What do you think? And for those of you in a relationship, what would you ask of your partner if you could pick one thing you’d like to see them work on this year? What do you think they’d ask of you?