Date Yourself

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Being alone requires contemplation, observation, meditation, and reflection. Being lonely is often a selfish act of feeling sorry for oneself.  "I can’t go out to dinner/movie/theater by myself. What if people think I’m a loser?" The difference between alone and lonely is in your heart. Find your heart and you will never be lonely. Date yourself and days are filled with wonder and joy. You will never be lonely when you truly love the act of being alone.

Now is my time for rediscovering that inner alone. Back when I was single, I used to go to movies and out to lunch or dinner by myself all of the time. I had no qualms sitting in a big movie theater with just my popcorn and soda to keep me company. I loved grabbing a book and heading out to lunch at some quaint restaurant I had just discovered. Some of my bravery came from living in big cities. There was little chance of running into someone who might judge me. I also just wanted to see what was out there, and I couldn’t wait around for others to join me. I drove to get lost and then found my way again, and this was before smart phones and GPS. I kept a crumpled map (that I never could fold up correctly) in the glove compartment of my car so if I did get turned around, I could find my way back. I ended up in neighborhoods I probably shouldn’t have been in as a young, naive girl in my cute little car, but cruising those streets gave me a sense of other lives. When I went out on my own without the chatter of others in my head, I really began to see...really see....because I chose to look.

Once I married and had children, the trips alone to movies and restaurants abruptly ended. I no longer took aimless day trips discovering the city. I now had these beings to nurture.  Dinners out were now spent wiping faces, and movies were full of constant chatter and little voices begging for candy. My car was full of car seats, Hot Wheels, snack crumbs, and the persistent smell of boy “funk". I was never alone, but sometimes I was lonely. I had forgotten how to joyfully spend alone time. After my divorce, I tentatively began to find myself again on those weekends the boys spent with their dad. I ventured out, but not too far. I was scared. Once again, I didn’t want to be judged as that loser single mom who haunted movie theaters and had no friends. I couldn’t keep the negative voices out of my head.

Now that I am retired, I am embracing my alone again. I no longer care about those voices. Who are they? What do they know? They don’t own me! It is one of the joys of getting older. You just don’t give a shit anymore about what people think. And you also begin to realize that others aren’t spending that much time thinking about you. Don Miguel Ruiz said it perfectly in his book The Four Agreements. He stated, “ Don’t take anything personally. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” If you can truly believe this agreement, you will be free.

So I have begun a journey of discovery. I made a pledge to go on at least one adventure a week sans husband, sans friends, sans family. I want to reacquaint myself with who I really am. Also, when I take these little trips by myself, I will find the time to reflect on what I see and hear and smell and feel. It’s a marvelous thing.

Last Friday after I filled up my tank I just took off driving west. Five hours and a quarter of a tank of gas later (with the help of Google Maps) I had seen a statue of Paul Bunyan, a smiling water tower, a small section of Route 66, a maple syrup farm, the traveling Vietnam Wall, a beautiful county park, and rows and rows of corn and soybeans. I felt invigorated and refreshed. I even stopped at a local pub for a grilled tuna sandwich with sweet potato favorite! 

I am not sure what is on my agenda this week. It could be a movie or another road trip. Who knows? I may even travel on my own one of these weekends on a mini solo vacation. The benefits are limitless! Here’s to me and my alone time, and not being afraid to date myself.