Date #10 – A night out at the National Arts Centre

Because of a short vacation jaunt out to Alberta, it has been a couple of weeks since I took myself on a date. I had a busy week filled with long days and evening meetings prior to my time away, and I returned home to full week, of yet more long days and evening meetings.

One of the things that I have appreciated about this decision to date myself is that I am regularly looking for things to do that interest me. I scour the on-line blogs for ideas of things to do, scanning the event calendars of EventBrite and the various venues in Ottawa for things that inspire, intrigue and engage me as date-night possibilities. I am a planner by nature and having things booked in my schedule that might be a couple of days away, or a couple of weeks away provides me with a sense of anticipation of activities to look forward to.

This was the case as I returned to Ottawa on a late Tuesday afternoon. I had meetings booked late into the evening on the Wednesday and the early evening of the Thursday. However, several weeks earlier, I had purchased tickets to see a play entitled “Calpurnia” at the National Arts Centre. My Thursday evening meeting was something that had just been squeezed in prior to my vacation, but I was sure that I could still accommodate my date night plans. When Thursday night rolled around, I was tired and a part of me wanted to skip my plans for the theatre and head home. A part of me wanted a hot bath, cozy jammies and my bed. Another part of me had been in my head this morning encouraging me to put the effort into what I was going to wear for the day in anticipation of a date night with myself. I put on my favourite skirt – it is silky and mid-calf with a mix of neutral colours of black, beige and white. It goes with so many other colours, but I paired it with a simple black top and a colourful teal necklace made of shells. My favourite part of my outfit was my genuine Texas cowgirl boots that give me an extra spring in step.

The National Arts Centre (NAC) is about a 17 minute walk from my office downtown, so as my meeting was planned to run right up until the start of the play, I switched from participating on my computer to participating on my phone for the last twenty minutes as I walked to the NAC. Once I got moving towards the event, I felt really good about my decision to have planned for the theatre, and two that I had decided to leave my car at work and to walk for the evening.

The NAC has kept the restrictions in place for everyone to continue to wear masks, which continues to add a feeling of security for me. I had purchased tickets to a play entitled Calpurnia, by Audrey Dwyer. In short, it is a play that is named after the housekeeper Calpurnia in the book (and movie) To Kill A Mockingbird. The play has a small cast centring around an Afro-Caribbean family living in Toronto. Julie is a twenty-something woman living with her father (Lawrence),a judge, and her brother, Mark, a lawyer. Mark is struggling to live up to his father’s expectations and the play concerns an evening where Lawrence has invited one of his friends/colleagues (James) over to dinner in a plan to see Mark receive a partnership offer in James’s law firm. Also invited for dinner is Mark’s white girlfriend – and Julie’s friend – Christine. The family has a Filipina housekeeper Precy. Julie is a screen writer attempting to write a play focussing on Calpurnia, the maid in To Kill A Mockingbird and her brother accuses her of not being black enough, of not being able to relate enough to the reality of Calpurnia to write an effective play.

I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but it was an interesting exploration of the dynamics of race, economic class, white privilege, and the expectations that we have of our children. It was a thought provovoking and engaging play that kept me completely focussed on the events even as I was tired after a long day at work.

Stage of Calpurnia

After the play ended, I made my way out to the street and spent some time walking around the edges of Confederation park beside the NAC, enjoying the night air. It was a cool and crisp evening and I felt relaxed and content with the evening. I made my way across the city streets, slowly walking back to me car. I felt this desire to stretch my evening out and not rush my return to my car. As I strolled the streets, I focussed on taking relaxed deep breaths and feeling fully present in the moment. By the time I reached my work building there was a feeling of deep relaxation.

The evening was uneventful as I arrived at my car and made my way home. I reflected that had I not bought these tickets weeks in advance, I would have likely left work that evening and headed home for a quite evening curled up in my bed or on my couch. That would have been fine, but I really want to challenge myself to use at least some of my time with more engaging activities. I enjoyed the evening and my time out at the theatre.

Cost of the date – $72

I rate this date – 9/10

Micro-date #9 – Sunset at Remic Rapids

I am enjoying this idea of what I have been calling “micro-dates”. Micro-dates are those dates that are shorter, smaller, and often more impulsive dates that I decide to do in the moment. My recent dates include the ones where I made my favourite tea and hung out on my back porch looking at the stars, and on another night, making myself a fancy dinner. In this instance of a micro-date, I had the craving to watch another sunset.

I love sunsets and sunrises and when I am on vacation I will often get up early in the morning to watch the sunrise. A favourite memory from a couple of summers was being at a friend’s cottage and I would wake at sunrise to head out for an early morning swim. Their cottage is in the middle of a fairly large island and there were not any other cottages located on, or near this small island. I would quietly slip out of bed and grab my towel as I headed down the stairs and out the door, around the outside of the cottage, and down to the edge of the water. There were always two options – one to dive into the water off the diving board, or the other to slide into the cool and yet warm water off the ladder. I almost always chose the ladder and after stripping down to my birthday suit, I would slide quietly into the still smooth water and begin moving through the water with a steady breast strong. I loved the stillness of the morning, the soft light of the sun rising over the hills at the edge of the lake. For the first half of the swim, I would be swimming into the gently rising sun, and on the second half returning to the ladder with the sun rising behind me.

For this micro-date, I had just made dinner on Easter Sunday and after enjoying the meal I was feeling the desire for some quiet time on my own. I wanted to see if I could catch the sunset on this spring evening. The weather was just slightly on the edge of being warm enough not to wear a jacket, but with the breeze that is often along the edge of the river, I brought a coat just in case. I thought that I would pick up a tea latte on my way down to watch the sunset, and I pulled up to the first Starbucks on my way. Sadly, the store was already closed for the day, or perhaps it had been closed all day since it was Easter Sunday. Feeling disappointed I carried on my way still hopeful of finding a coffee or tea shop open along the way. The next one was closed as well and even though I was beginning to believe that I wouldn’t find anything open, I spent another 20 minutes driving around looking for a drink to bring with me to enjoy by the river. I was feeling a bit thwarted in my efforts to get a drink treat and realized that I had an image in my head that I was chasing for my date. It felt funny to acknowledge that a date I had only decided to go on less than an hour ago had a whole story attached to it, as to what I imagined it “should” be.

I carried on down to the parking lot at Remic Rapids. I had chosen to go to the rapids because I had read a review somewhere that this was a lovely place to watch sunsets and when I pulled into the parking lot, there were a number of vehicles parked along the edge of the parking lot facing the river’s edge. About half of the cars had one to two people sitting in their cars, perhaps they were waiting for the sunsets themselves. I parked my car and spent some time walking along the river while I waited for the sun to set.

I enjoyed strolling along the shore of the Ottawa River watching the light play against the early spring grass, still brown after a long winter covered with snow. We had not yet had enough warmth during our days for the green shoots to make their way through. I came upon a tree full of leaves brown, dried, and curled tight clinging to the tips of its branches. I find trees like this intriguing because trees lose their leaves in order to conserve their energy to survive the winter and grow new leaves in the spring. I know these leaves will eventually give way to the new growth in a few weeks, but I wonder what happened for this tree to be clinging to its leaves. Did it think it still had time before the cold hit to release its burden and then ran out of time before the cold winds moved in?

The light started to shift and I stopped occasionally to admire the shadows of the changing and fading sun along with the trees. The early evening light cast an amber shadow and long grey shadows along the shore. I could feel my breath slow and the tensions of the past week finally fade away. The early evening was quiet with the few people who were out along the pathway content to wander in silence. The faint sounds of cars passing on the parkway a backdrop to the occasional honking of the geese nearby. and the slight roar of the rapids a little further up the river.

After about 20 minutes of wandering along the shores of the river, I wandered back closer to my car and the spot that I hoped would have the best views of a sunset. I watched the setting sun from different angles, across the mountains on the other side of the river and through the branches of different trees. At one point my camera captured the sun and its refracting rays splitting in two.

I think I prefer the sunsets along Britannia Park/Beach, but this is a lovely alternative and allowed me the opportunity to capture a different personality of the sunset along the Ottawa River.

As the sun dipped beyond the slight hills on the other side of the Ottawa River, I made my way back to my car to drive back home. I missed having the latte that I planned of buying on my way down to the park, but I enjoyed my wandering time along the shores and watching the sunset on my own. I enjoy these nature dates with myself.

Cost for this date – free

I rated this date 7/10

Micro-date #8 – Butter Tuscan Shrimp

I love to cook. I love looking at recipes and finding new things to try. Making food for the people in my life is absolutely one of my love languages. With my daughter, I am prone to make her favourites because she has certain textures and flavours that she loves. I will put the effort into making meals for other people, but for myself, I will often do what I call functional cooking or batch cooking. Functional cooking is the slapping something together at the end of the day and it could be anything from a peanut butter and jam sandwich to cooking a salmon filet and microwaving some broccoli. It gets me fed, but it does not have the love and care of when I am cooking for someone else. When I am dating someone, and well into the depths of the relationship, I love to cook for them. It relaxes me and helps me also feel loved to nurture someone else in this way. But I rarely put that extra effort into something special for myself.

Two days ago I was scrolling through Facebook in the middle of the afternoon while I was procrastinating on finalizing a report I was working on. In the midst of my feed popped up a recipe for Tuscan Butter Chicken. It was from one of those sites that has a whole story about the meal, how to cook it and the entertaining tidbits of minutia that the author thinks is important to set the ambiance for the dish. I didn’t care – I loved the picture of perfectly cooked pink shrimp nestled in a creamy sauce with pops of green and red (spinach and tomatoes) woven throughout. The story told me that there was nothing really Tuscan about the meal except that the flavour combination reminded them of time spent in Tuscany.

Middle of the workweek. Check. Time for a micro-date to spend some time making something a little more special looking and feeling. Double-check.

I wrapped up work half an hour early and headed a block down from my office to the grocery store with the recipe – and therefore my shopping list in hand – shrimp, garlic, fresh basil, baby spinach, grape tomatoes, fresh pasta. I added in some fresh spring asparagus as well because it looked so yummy and I love pasta brimming with veggies. Once home I put on my favourite dance tunes mix and started prepping my meal by sauteeing the shrimp and while those were cooking cleaning and chopping up the rest of the ingredients. I put a larger pot of water on the rear cooking element to get it boiling while I worked on the sauce.

Once the shrimp was cooked I was ready to transfer them to another bowl while I cooked the rest of the ingredients. Now, this is important, because the bowl was right beside me, on the front element of the stove. The pot with water on the rear element waiting to boil water. As I started to put the cooked shrimp into the waiting bowl, I realized that I had accidentally turned on the front element instead of the rear element and as the shrimp and some of their juices hit the very hot glass bowl, the whole thing exploded, covering my kitchen floor and counters with shards of glass. The lid that I had miraculously been holding over the sautee pan protected the rest of my shrimp, but the stove, my counters, my floor was covered in fragments of varying sizes of glass bits.

This did not feel very date-like!!! I turned the shrimp off, turned the other front element off, and actually turned on the proper element to get the water boiling. Then I found a pair of sandals and my broom and started the clean-up. I cleaned up as much as I could on the stovetop, but had to wait for the element to cool before I could clean up all the glass. With that taken care of, I went back to preparing my meal. Soon my kitchen began to smell the fragrant scents of melted butter and sauteed garlic. I added grape tomatoes, basil, asparagus bits, and heaps of baby spinach and after all, that sauteed down, I added freshly grated parmesan cheese and some heavy cream. It smelled so good!

Beautiful Tuscan Shrimp before I added the pasta

By this time my pasta was cooked and I tossed it in with the shrimp, vegetables, and rich creamy sauce. I poured myself a glass of homemade sweet tea in a fancy wine glass and sat down to enjoy the dinner that was super simple, but definitely more effort than I had been putting into my meals lately.

Plated meal with fresh pasta and grated parmesan cheese

I have decided that one of the criteria for me to consider something a date with myself was that I put a little extra effort into doing something for myself because this is not just about spending time with myself but finding ways to nurture myself a little bit more. At the end of my meal, I felt complete and indulged. I packed up my leftovers for other meals and finished cleaning up the stove from the earlier glass explosion.

Cost of my micro date – meal supplies, approximately $20

I rated this date an 10/10 (even with the bowl explosion)

Date #7 – Death of a Ladies Man and the music of Leonard Cohen

Another source of ideas for dates with myself has come from the arts and entertainment section of the Ottawa Citizen and from a blog on Ottawa Road Trips. I am pretty sure one of them was the source for my discovery of the Irish Film Festival. Although I learned that the Irish Film Festival has been running for several years, this was the first year I knew of it.

There are a number of interesting films, but only one really fit into my schedule with the in-person viewings. That was “Death of a Ladies Man” and I was drawn to it because of the lead actor – Gabriel Byrne – and it features the music of Leonard Cohen. It was hosted at the Arts Court and the Arts Court is co-located with one of my earlier dates, the Ottawa Art Gallery. I booked a ticket for this event several weeks ago, and as noted in my earlier post it was lovely to have this to look forward to after a busy and stressful week.

Even with looking forward to the film, I was feeling the heaviness of the past week. After I arrived home after my two-hour walk along the Ottawa River and enjoying my croissant and London Fog Latte on the couch, I headed to bed and took an afternoon nap. I felt lazy and drowsy. I was feeling vulnerable and did not want to interact with anyone, or see anyone. There was a feeling of languishment and just wanting to curl up in a ball for the evening. I considered abandoning my plans for the evening and not heading out to the film. In the end, I decided to keep my commitment to myself and headed out the door in fairly casual attire of jeans, a black t-shirt, rose-coloured wrap, and because I was feeling vulnerable, I put on my Texas original cowgirl boots and headed downtown.

Because of my self-debate about attending or not attending, I was running a little behind my self-imposed schedule of an arrival time. I had planned on finding street parking and normally have had a lot of luck in finding parking whenever when I look for it. This evening I was not lucky in finding parking and I ended up heading into a paid parking lot in one of the hotels that were across the street from the Arts Court. This would result in my biggest expense of the evening – parking at a downtown hotel means you are automatically paying for a one-day rate.

The film itself was a delightful bittersweet independent film that had so many interesting moments within it. Gabriel Byrne portrays the protagonist of the film, Sam O’Shea, an Irish man living in Montreal, teaching poetry at the university, divorced and unhappily remarried and struggling in his relationship with his children. He is a functional alcoholic who comes home unexpectedly to find his younger wife in bed with a much younger man. He is clearly struggling and then finds himself seeing a range of hallucinations, including conversations with the ghost of his dead father, his father who also had been left by his wife. The film features the music of Leonard Cohen, and his lyrics are woven throughout the film, including in the title of the film, and in the title cards introducing each of the “chapters” of the film.

The film is gorgeous, and the acting powerful. It is a richly complex film that is at once intellectual with references to English poetry, sweetly tender and funny, bizarre in the hallucination scenes, and layered with the complex relationships between fathers and their adult (and emerging adult) children, the strains of being a divorced parent and facing our own mortality. There were moments that I laughed out loud – along with the rest of the audience – and these were not just during some of the outrageous hallucinations of Sam. The dialogue was witty and sharp and entirely delightful. At other moments I could feel the tears forming at the rims of my eyes. The title of the film is “Death” of ladies man and there is tragedy throughout the film. I enjoyed this independent film and in watching it, I was reminded how much I enjoy films that leave me thinking and films that are complex and richly layered. I do love a blockbuster movie too, but some of my most enjoyable outings to the movies have been at independent film theatres showing non-mainstream films that attract a smaller audience.

Because this was a film festival, both the director and the producer were in attendance and there was a question and answer after the film had been screened. It has been a very long time since I had attended a film festival and even longer since I had the opportunity to listen to a filmmaker discuss their film, the process, or the intentions behind the film. The director was also the writer of the film and he shared that he had been a fairly recently divorced dad struggling with the impact of the divorce on his children, and his relationship with his kids. He was also the child of divorced parents and wanted to explore the impact of this multi-generational divorce and its complexity throughout the film.

I headed out before the Q&A was completed because I was feeling restless and wanted to leave before there was an outflux of people leaving the theatre at the same time. It was still light out when I was finished with the film and although I was restless to leave the film, I was not yet ready to head back home. I made my way to the underground parking lot and put my ticket into the pay meter to pay for parking. I had to double-check the screen when I saw that the total for my 2.5-hour parking was a whopping $26!!! The price of paying for parking at a downtown hotel.

I headed out of the parking lot and headed west for home. As I mentioned, I was still feeling like I was not quite ready to head home. I could see the dusky pinks and purples in the sky ahead of me showing the promise of a beautiful sunset. One of my favourite places to watch the sunset in Ottawa is Brittannia Beach and I have avoided it for the past three months because it is near my ex’s house and we would often watch the sunset along the beach. I wanted to watch the sunset and was also feeling that I wanted to reclaim this space. I knew that I could watch the sunset and find a place to enjoy the sunset away from where I would not accidentally run into my ex.

Heading down the highway, I worked through my anxious feelings of worrying about how I would feel if I saw my ex anywhere down near the water. I reminded myself that by parking in the further parking lot, I would be able to see the sunset along the Ottawa River through a spot that I knew had a break in the trees along the multi-use path. I was fairly confident that I would not run into him and I was determined that I was not going to let my worry drive me away from a view that I loved. I parked my car and made my way over the mushy muddy grass to get closer to the river. I had missed the peak moments of the sunset but had managed to catch about 20 minutes of the fading colours. The sky was filled initially with slivers of golden yellow and burnt orange in between the pillows of smoky grey and white clouds and the shadows of the river filled with ice fragments. As I stood at the edge of the water I watched as the colour slowly started to shift to reveal soft smudgy pinks and mauve purples. The clouds were reflected in the water that had thawed in between the remaining floating chunks of ice. The early evening was still and quiet all around me. In the distance, I could hear the faint sounds of doors opening and closing from cars in the parking lot. I remained the only person in my little viewing spot by the river and I reveled in the quiet of the evening, the still moments of the Ottawa river in front of me, and the time-lapsed view of the fading sunset.

Sunset collage

There is an expression that was used at the end of a training session when I was learning about neurotransformational coaching. As we sat around the circle expressing our gratitude and learnings from the day when we were done saying our piece, we would close with, “I am complete.”. I reached a point with my date with myself that I realized that I was complete. And with that, I walked towards my car, trying to avoid the soggy parts on the ground. I got into my car and headed home.

I was glad that I pushed myself through my malaise and headed out to the movie. In truth, this is one of the reasons that I wanted to embark on this self-dating venture. Being on my own is easy in lots of ways and with the demands of my job and my kid, at the end of the day, I am prone to curling up and just chilling. But chilling and not doing anything also make me feel depleted if that is all I am doing and I find myself falling into a rut. Setting myself up with dates in advance – and leaving room for those spontaneous moments – is a great way to ensure that I am doing the things that engage me. The Irish Film festival and heading down to the river to watch the sunset allowed for an evening that was intellectually stimulating and deeply connected to nature.

Cost for the date – Irish Film Festival ticket $13.75 + parking $26 = $39.76

I rate this date a 9/10

Date # 6 – A little TLC required

There are times when being on my own is more challenging than at other times. These past two weeks have been one of those times when I was longing for a partner to hold me and tell me that everything was going to be okay. It is my busy time at work and my daughter has been working through her end of semester stress. In addition to that, my car was severely vandalized while in a parking lot near work. I came out to my car one night, late into the evening to discover that someone had stomped on the hood of my car and slammed something large, heavy and round into the windshield of my car. My windshield was shattered and based on the damage and the way that the damage happened, it was clear that it was pure vandalism and less likely to be about trying to break into my car.

I went into survival and adrenaline mode, focussing on getting home and contacting my insurance company. I excel at being able to compartmentalize in order to manage my life and I excelled that night, getting myself home, filing a claim with my insurance company, and an online police report. An appointment with an auto repair shop was booked, as was a rental car and I had a plan to have everything ready to go first thing in the morning so that I could get to work on time for an all-staff meeting. I reached out and told my closest friends and my family and got some support. It all felt very under control.

It had been close to 8:30 by the time I got home and by the time I did all the business to take care of my car, it was well after 10 pm. I climbed into bed and then I began to feel the impact of what had happened. I had a flash remembering that I had in fact encountered someone at the top of the stairs of the car park coming out from the level where there was only my car. Quite likely, it was the individual who had vandalized my car. I felt the waves of vulnerability wash over me. I felt vulnerable, exposed, and alone. My friends and family had been wonderfully supportive, but as I was laying in bed alone, I wanted to be held by someone. I wanted to be held by my ex. It was a hard night.

One of the things that I have enjoyed about dating myself is planning my dates in advance for the most part. What was lovely this past weekend, is that I had booked a hotel room for the Friday evening and something else for Saturday night (but that is a topic for another post!). I found a deal for a hotel room that included the room, plus a $35 credit towards food, or spa time, plus a bottle of wine. I planned to leave directly from work on the Friday to help it feel like a weekend get-away even though the hotel was at the west end of Ottawa. My suitcase was packed and in the trunk of my car and away I went.

I checked into the hotel and was pleased with the upscale feel of the hotel. I was exhausted from the events of my week, so I quickly got through my check in and headed up to my hotel room. The hotel boasts a spa on site, as well as a golf course and several lovely restaurants and caters to the business traveller who wants to combine business and leisure together. Entering my room, the scent of that fresh lemon clean smell pleasantly reached my nose, and I felt a deep sigh in my chest knowing that I would have an evening all to myself without anyone knocking on my door or asking me for anything.

The room had a massive king size bed with four large pillows of varying degrees of firmness. The huge windows ran the length of the width of the room and were the full range of the floor to the ceiling. Looking out the window, I could see the office buildings beside us, but also had a beautiful view of the out of season pool, still covered for the winter and the tender greens of the golf course, muddy with the green of the snow freshly melted. Later in the evening as the sun was setting, it was a relaxing view to watch from the comfort of my bed.

I treated myself to room service for two reasons. I remain a little hesitant about eating in restaurants with the high rates of COVID in our community. The bigger reason was that I honestly just wanted to have some quiet time on my own and be with my own company and not have the distraction of others eating around me. My entree was a veal and bison Bolognese ragout on top of fresh pasta sitting on a creamy grana Padano sauce. It was divine! Because this was date night, I splurged on desert with decadent strawberry chocolate truffles. The truffles arrived on a chocolate mouse, dollops of strawberry coulis and crumbled fragments of honeycomb. It was a silky sensuous bite with every taste, the crunch of the truffle outer crust tickling my senses and allowing me to savour every bite. I deliberately took my time with both of my entree, pausing between bites to allow the flavours of my meal to touch each of the taste buds. I savoured and I paused. I felt truly spoiled.

My delicious meal – I felt spoiled

At the end of my meal, I placed my tray outside my door for someone to pick up and carried on to the second part of my indulgence for myself. I unpacked the tealight candles from my suitcase and set them up along the edge of bathroom counter beside the bathtub and lit each one. I poured myself a glass of sparkling non-alcoholic grape juice in a full wine glass and let the bath fill with hot water. Just before stepping into the hot bath, I turned the lights off in the bathroom and let the candlelight be the only illumination in the room. I put some relaxing piano music on my phone and allowed the music to wash over me as I stepped into the hot water. I sank into the warmth of the water and closed my eyes to let the relaxation settle in.

Setting the stage for my hot bath…

By the time I was ready to head to bed, I was feeling relaxed, and the tensions of the week were melting away. I crawled into the massive bed and tucked the pillows around me so that I felt cuddled by them and gradually drifted off to sleep. In the morning I had a relaxed morning with coffee in bed and some overnight oats that I had packed to bring with me.

I checked out of the hotel and wanted to continue my date with myself, so I drove to a park along the Ottawa River and parked my car. It was warmer than I thought it was going to be, so I tied my jacket around my waist and headed out for a walk along the pathway. It felt so good to be outside with the cool fresh spring air brushing against my skin. I kept a leisurely pace, enjoying the emerging green grass starting to come to life after the snow had melted away. I appreciate the changing of the seasons and how different the same space looks in the different seasons. On this spring day there remains remnants of ice and snow on the river and along the creeks leading away from the river. I can see the tiniest of buds beginning on some of the trees, the slightest of green poking out from the brown tips of trees. After walking for some time, I came across a tree that captured my attention.

Throughout the park area, most of the trees were growing with straight trunks and branches reaching out fairly uniformly. Then there was this tree that had half of its body growing bent over and almost at right angle to the trunk. What event created this growth? This tree clearly continued to thrive after this event. I walked over closer to the tree and spent some time touching its rough, uneven bark, taking several moments to pause and breathe in time with the slight breeze that was passing through this part of the park. As I moved around the tree, I noticed that the tree trunk had actually split in two and from this new angle it appeared as if two trees either grew together and then split apart, or one tree began to divide itself. I reflected on the book that I had read last month, “The Mother Tree” and wondered what story this tree was sharing with its environment around it. And then as I looked up in this space between the two trunks, it appeared to me as if the branches coming above took on the shape of a heart between the trunks and branches of the tree. It felt like a gentle message to me from nature that love was here, was with me even as my tender heart was continuing to heal.

From here, I headed back to my car and decided to treat myself with a pastry and a fancy cup of tea. I drove into Britannia Village and treated myself to an almond croissant from the bakeshop and a London Fog latte from the coffee shop across the street and headed for home. As I arrived home, I settled myself onto my couch and curled up under the quilt sewn by a distant cousin, made up of patches designed by extended family members at a family reunion over twenty years ago. Much like my dinner the night before, I savoured each bit of the flaky, buttery and sweet-filled croissant. I lingered and savoured every bite, and every sip of my latte.

As the date completed, I reflected on where I started this weekend, or rather how my week had ended. I had been longing for a partner to provide me with some extra TLC and found that – not really surprisingly – I was able to nurture myself and give myself a sense of comfort and, well, loving care. It did help take the edge off the stress that I had been feeling throughout the week.

Cost of the date – hotel booking + dinner (above the $35 credit) – $243.09; walk in the park – free; London Fog Latte and almond croissant – $9.67

I rated my date an 8/10

Date night # 5 Movie Night – Licorice Pizza

It has been a little over two years since I have been out in a movie theatre because of COVID. Even when theatres opened up, I was hesitant to head out. However, an independent theatre in Ottawa – Ottawa Bytowne Cinema – has decided to continue with requiring proof of vaccination and the requirement to wear a mask while in the theatre. Those precautions helped me feel comfortable moving out into a larger gathering. One movie appealed to me – a coming of age story set in the San Fernando Valley in 1973, entitled Licorice Pizza. It sounded like a sweet story, plus it had the added benefit of a 4 pm start time. It felt like I was sneaking out of work early to meet someone special – who could be more special than myself.

I debated whether heading to the movies on my own counted as a date. I find it interesting when I bump into my own assumptions and “rules” about what can and cannot count as a date and the self-judgment I have about it all. When I notice myself doing that, I take a pause and just look at that behaviour or thought and try and figure out why that is floating around in my consciousness at all. No one is making the rules except myself, I can declare anything I do a date if I want!

With a movie, I know what catches me in this thinking about date or not a date mindset. Pre-pandemic I went to the movies on my own all the time. I also went fairly regularly with other friends and occasionally it was the focus of a date night activity. I would often go on my own to the movies because I would decide that I wanted to see a particular movie at a particular time and I didn’t want to negotiate with anybody about it. I didn’t want to take the chance that I would call up a friend and invite them to join me for the movie, and they would say that they would love to go to the movies, but they would prefer to see something else. I am also an accommodator extraordinaire in my life and if that happened, I would more often than not, accommodate to their interests and see that movie instead. As a result, if I really wanted to see something, I often went on my own.

So, going to the movies on my own is not necessarily a self-date guarantee. What I realized is that I would go to the movies sometimes with friends (or on my own), or with a date. What would make it a date, instead of it being a movie with a friend? Well, the feeling that I had for the “date” person is what made it a date. Therefore, if I decided with the intention that this was a date, then I could make going to the movies on my own a date night experience, rather than an evening of heading out on my own to see a movie.

I left work early in order to make the 4 pm movie showing and treated myself to paid parking rather than driving around the streets looking for free street parking. A date night is worth the splurge on paid parking. The movie itself was enjoyable and I enjoyed the acting performances and the seventies vibe captured in the cinematography. I reflected on the fact that the movie involved a 15 year old boy’s infatuation and friendship with a 25 year old woman and were the genders reversed, I think critics would have found this a particularly troubling dynamic. That perspective troubled me all through the film and honestly distracted me from the overall enjoyment of the movie and I am not sure I would have chosen to see it had I know the age dynamic. There is nothing sexual in the film, but the boy is clearly pursuing the young woman and at the end of the film she tells him that she loves him and they kiss. The age dynamic is more than uncomfortable.

I enjoyed my time out seeing a movie in public for the first time in over two years. Coming to the end of the evening, I realized that I appreciated the opportunity to be watching movies on the big screen – which I really enjoy – and realized that contrary to my comments at the beginning of this blog, going to the movies is really not one of my favourite date nights to do with someone else. I enjoy going to the movies with friends and definitely enjoy going to the movies on my own. My most recent partner was not really interested in going to the movies, so I don’t think we went to a single movie together. I think I have enjoyed going to the movies with a date, but it is so long since that actually happened, that I think my mindset has slotted going to the movies as a solo activity. But does that mean it counts or doesn’t count as a date for myself?

I think I land on that it does count as a date night with myself because it is about doing something that I chose completely for myself without consideration of anyone else. However, I don’t see the movie date as something that really “woos” or “romances” myself, and not every date needs to achieve that goal. What I have enjoyed in these first 5 dates that I have had with myself is the focus and attention to ME. Beyond going on the actual dates themselves, I have really appreciated the time and space that I have created for myself to look for events, experiences, activities that engage and interest me. Some of this energy comes with activities opening up at this stage of our COVID19 pandemic management, but more of it is about creating with intentionality time on my own that is doing things that are not related to my work, not related to volunteer commitments and not related to family obligations.

I started this adventure in dating myself because I wanted to reclaim aspects of my life from my work and my family obligations that felt like they were taking up all the space in my life. I was feeling the weight and the pressure of all those demands and I was not sure how to lighten that load. It felt overwhelming and I wanted to shift that energy. Taking myself on these dates and planning activities that are completely removed from my day to day work and family obligations is creating a different energy for me. I am also being reminded, as well as learning new things about what is engaging for me, so that when I am ready to begin that process of being open to a new partner, I will have so much more clarity around what I hope to share with them as interests, what I really want to continue to enjoy (mostly) on my own and where there is curiosity for learning and trying new things together.

Overall, the date itself I would rate a 6/10. Learnings and reflections about what is important to me, 10/10. Money spent on this date was a total of $15 for the movie, $15 on snacks and $10 on parking ($40 total).

Finding the Mother Tree – Date #4

This weekend’s dating adventure took me out to a talk sponsored by Nature Canada by Suzanne Simard, the author of Finding the Mother Tree. One of the ways that I have found to discover what might be happening in my community that would be good “date” material is by scrolling through the Eventbrite listings and seeing what is out there. This talk intrigued me because one of my book clubs had just finished reading “Finding the Mother Tree” and I had been listening to Suzanne Simard defend the book “Life in the City of Dirty Water” by Clayton Thomas-Muller on CBC Canada Reads. I partnered this event with another event that I found on Event Brite which was a fundraiser for the Ottawa Food Bank, with the Ottawa Guild of Potters – Great Bowls of Fire. The Great Bowls of Fire ticket allowed me to pick out a handcrafted and BEAUTIFUL bowl, as well as a multitude of choices of take-out soups and bread from so many different local restaurants.

This date allowed me to tap into a couple of things important to me. One, opportunities that are fundraisers for causes that are important to me are events that I am interested in. Being in a relationship often allowed me the opportunity to extend the invitation to my partner as an activity to do together. Two, opportunities to explore ideas that let me think about things differently stimulate my intellectual curiosity which is also an important part of my identity and something I look for in potential partners.

One of the things that I really appreciate about myself is that I do like a plan, and I particularly like when a plan comes together. Tonight was not that night. I had planned to attend the Great Bowls of Fire fundraiser, and then there was theoretically enough time to take my beautiful handcrafted bowl and fresh soup down to a park and sit and have my soup for my dinner before heading out to the evening talk. What I had not counted on is how long it would take at the Great Bowls of Fire – even though I arrived early – and that the takeaway soup would be cold. In hindsight, it makes sense that the soup would be available cold, I just had not planned for it. And due to COVID protocols, they were only allowing small numbers into each of the rooms at a time. It meant that things moved slowly. Since I had arrived early, I did have my pick of all the styles that were available.

I chose a beautiful blue bowl that had this light blue spiral on the inside of the bowl. It reminds me both of a shell and of the logo for community health centres. It also fits beautifully in my hands. After spending time perusing the handcrafted bowls, my bowl was carefully wrapped in plain newsprint paper to protect it for transport home and placed in a sturdy brown paper bag with handles. I was handed four tickets for soup sampling and headed up the flight of stairs to the second floor of the community centre for the soup options.

Now, I have to say that this event is a lovely event for a date night, or a get-together with friends. I greatly appreciated having four tickets for soup samples because there were so many to choose from, so I didn’t feel deprived that I wouldn’t be able to share soup with someone else, had there been someone else with me who might have been inclined to share. It took me a couple of circles around the room to finally land on my four samples – mushroom veloute, cheddar and broccoli, curried vegetable and roasted carrot and brie soup. There were several bread choices, but I wasn’t all that interested in the bread options having realized that the soup was in fact, not going to be my dinner tonight.

I was distracted for a bit by additional bowls that were for sale in the middle of the soup room and I allowed myself some time to wander around the table and pick up a second hand-crafted bowl for the evening. This bowl was also shades of blue, with a blue-flecked creamy interior. What I most loved about this bowl was its shape – it was quite deep for a soup bowl, with slight ridges alongside the outside of the bowl, plus a small little dimple on each side, about halfway up. It was the only one like it on the table, so I nabbed it.

What I thought might take me half an hour ended up taking me close to an hour and now I only had about an hour of time before the talk this evening. I was hungry and my cold soup was not going to cut it this evening. I headed back to my car and started driving in the direction of the church where the talk was going to be held. Parking was a challenge and so I ended up further down the street than I had planned. I ended up stopping at a little Thai restaurant and ordering pad thai as take-out and eating my dinner in my car, parked on the street about three blocks away from the church where the talk was being held.

I prefer to arrive early for things, and the talk was no exception. My daughter told me once that I think that I am on time when I am early, when I am on time, I am late and if I am actually late, I rather lose my shit. There is lots of truth in her observation. The flyer for the event suggested that people arrive starting at 6:15 pm so that there would be sufficient time to check everyone’s COVID vaccination status. I arrived shortly after 6:30 pm and found the first three rows of the church already filled with participants, masked, and chatting amongst themselves.

The even started right at 7 pm and Dr. Suzanne Simard was an engaging speaker. What I really enjoyed reading in Simard’s book was the revelation that trees are not solely a source of timber or pulp, but they have a complex and interdependent circle of life that not only connects tress to one another but also are social, cooperative creatures that are connected through their underground network and share a method of communicating and connecting communally in ways not all that different from our own. This level of connection happens across species and is essential for the bio-diversity of the forest. What is really amazing from her research is the discovery that the oldest trees in the forest are connected to over 80% of the vegetation in the forest area around them.

I describe myself as spiritual and not religious. For most of my life, I have believed that there is an energy that connects us all together and Simard’s book and talk reinforced some of that thinking. Somewhere along the line, I recall reading that Simard’s work formed the basis of the mythology of the Hometree and the sacred Tree of Souls in the movie Avatar. I can’t find the reference for it, but I can see the threads throughout the book.

After the talk there was an opportunity for people to ask questions, but I was done for the evening. After sitting for 90 minutes on church benches, my back and my butt were sore and uncomfortable. The beautiful thing about dating myself, is that there is no one else to negotiate with on my dates. I discretely and quietly stood up and walked to the back of the church and made my way out and into the quiet night. I walked back to my car, the sound of my cowgirl boots hitting the sidewalk as I strode back to the car.

What I appreciated about this date night was my willingness to adapt to changes in my dinner plans and to give myself full permission to be able to leave an event early when I just did not want to be there any more. It wasn’t that it was bad, I had just gotten what I wanted out of the evening.

This morning I woke up and felt a leap of joy and delight at finding my new handcrafted bowls sitting on the counter. I chose the deeper of the blue bowls – the one with all the ridges, speckled cream interior, and two little dimples on each side of the bowl. While I would only rate the date a 6/10, I really enjoyed taking the time to get ready to go out for the evening, to take delight in selecting a bowl for the evening, and listening to a conversation about a topic that I wanted to learn more about.

This was date number 4 and it was the date that I spent the most money on. My other dates were either free, or by donation, and at most I spent money on a latte. Tonight’s date cost me $55 for the Great Bowls of Fire and $25 for the Dr. Suzanne Simard talk. Spending money doesn’t necessarily make for a great date – it is honestly all about the intention and the energy that I bring to the events.

Jukas Jumps – what’s in a name

I knew that my marriage was ending long before it ended. It is hard to believe that it is a little over twenty years since I separated from my ex. Once it ended I was uncertain whether or not another relationship was really what I wanted. I had a lot of amazing single mothers in my extended family and friends – some from divorce, some because of widowhood, and some out of another kind of choice. At one point I read a delightful book by Jane Juska entitled “A Round-heeled Woman: My Late-Life Adventures in Sex and Romance.” She was long divorced and feeling lonely and placed an advertisement in the personals section of the New York Times Review. This advertisement read: “Before I turn 67 — next March — I would like a lot of sex with a man I like. If you want to talk first, Trollope works for me.”

I was in my mid-thirties after my divorce and I knew that I did not want to wait for my sixties to put myself out there and find love, romance, and intellectual stimulation. Reading this book inspired me to venture out into dating once more and for the longest time I was dating explicitly without looking for a relationship. I would almost exclusively date people who lived in a different city than I did. To protect my personal information somewhat, I had a separate email address that listed my last name as “Jukas” in tribute to Jane Juska.

It has been close to twenty years since my marriage ended and for a wide variety of reasons, I have spent most of my adult life explicitly not in an intimate relationship. I often wanted to keep my distance between my dating life and the rest of my personal and professional life. I have a personality trait of being more than a little stubbornly independent and was not sure that I wanted to let someone into my life as a partner. There are times when I certainly was someone who has an “avoidant” attachment style.

Much like Jane Juska, I often said that what I was looking for was a focus on the sexual connection, and in reality, there was a part of me that I was protecting deep, deep inside of my heart that also wanted to be in a loving relationship. It took time before I could open myself to the possibility of something more of a relationship and started looking for “something more than casual”, on Tuesdays and alternate weekends when my child was with their father. To my surprise, a relationship ended up taking hold from those Tuesdays and alternate weekends. To my disappointment, that relationship ended – that was almost 12 years ago – and for years afterward, I declared that I “didn’t date”. I didn’t date and I got really good at doing things on my own and with my friends. The demands of my work and the demands of being a single parent rather took over the crevices of my life.

Six years I moved back to Ottawa and decided it was time to create some space in my life for the potential of a relationship. I dated and I met someone who sparked my interest. We kept dating until I realized that I did, in fact, want a deeper relationship with this person. After three and half years together, they clearly stated that they did not feel the same level of commitment to me. With that, I was single again, and working on healing my heart once again.

Jane Juska kept exploring and looking for love, sexual connection, intellectual engagement, and a relationship. Some connections lasted a couple of dates, and others many months long. So, I am jumping back into dating, by starting with dating myself.

Micro-date – Date #3

Last night as I was taking out the recyling and green compost bin to the curb, I happened to look up at the night sky because the moon was looking so bright. And there it was, an almost full moon, waning in its size, illuminating the whole yard on a clear starry night. I paused a moment in the driveway and reminisced of times spent with my ex, walking down near the Ottawa River, looking up at a clear night sky just like this one.

Clear night skies, with the stars twinkling, shimmering in a shifting state of being against the dark night, are magical for me. Being with a partner who appreciates their mystery and their wonder has often been important to me and I felt a pang of longing. What a great time to lean into the concept of romancing myself right then and there! I finished putting out the recycling and headed inside to put the kettle on. While I waited for the water to boil, I filled my tea bag with my favourite David’s Tea, Cinnamon Hearts, and breathed in its brisk cinnamon scent. I feel decadent when I drink this tea and it always feels like a treat.

I poured the boiled water into my favourite cup. My daughter painted this for me and it is huge, big enough for the equivalent of two cups of tea. It has an ombré fade of colours with dark shades of vibrant purple at its base fading up to light purple at the rim of the cup. One side of the cup it reads ” throw salt over your shoulder, rosemary by your garden gate, plant lavender for luck” and on the other side “Fall in love whenever you can”. She painted it for me as a Solstice gift and so it was in the works before I broke up with my ex. When I opened it on the morning of the 25th, my heart wound was still so tender and raw and I burst into tears. My grief overwhelmed me.

Three months after the break-up, my grief is softening. If it was a physical wound, the scab is thickening and when you brush against it, it merely stings a little. The right catch on a corner can pull the scab off and leave it bleeding freely once more, but the wound underneath is slowly getting smaller. Tonight, my grief feels more like a memory – I know that it is there, but it is not in the forefront of my thoughts.

My self-date on the back deck of my house is quiet. I am aware of the lights from the basement where my daughter and her room-mate (I guess they are my roommate too!) are chatting away over something that twenty-somethings will get engrossed in. There is a silence in the air, broken faintly by the sounds of cars and buses passing on a slightly larger street a couple of streets over. I sip on my tea, the sweet cinnamon rolling around on my tongue, savouring it before I swallow. I have my hands cupped around the heat of the cup soothing myself.

While I love to look at the stars and the moon, I only know how to identify a couple of them. The big dipper and the little dipper. I usually can find Orion the Hunter. And with those, I can locate the North Star. The beautiful thing about the North Star is that you can find it at any time of the year, and at any hour of the night in the northern hemisphere. The metaphor of “the North Star” is often used to describe finding your life’s purpose and passion and having that as a guide for you in life or at work.

Tonight I spent a lot of time gazing at the North Star, drifting off to see what other patterns I imagined seeing beyond the 3 that I knew I could identify. I imagined people that I cared about across the country looking up at the night sky with me. I felt both how big the world was and how small it was all at the same time. I lingered with my tea, sinking into “the pause” at the moment. Along with this idea of romancing myself, I have also been trying to create more “pause” in my life.

I stood there on my deck watching the stars and the moon for close to twenty minutes. Mostly I felt content and in the end a little sad. One of the points that signaled to me that my relationship had not been headed in the direction I wanted over last summer was my partner’s reluctance to meet me at the beach and watch the sunsets together, or to step outside in the evening after I arrived at their house and look at the stars together.

My micro-date came to its own close, in just the same way that a date with someone else will sometimes come to its own end. The person sitting across from you says “the thing” that shifts the energy and you know it is time to wrap it up. Memories – happy and sad – floating across my consciousness was the same kind of signal to me that my date had come to completion.

I took a final sip of my tea, said a small blessing of thanks to the night sky and headed inside to get ready for bed. I rated this date an 8/10

An exploration of Landscape and Identity at the Ottawa Art Gallery – Date #2

Any good date is more about the connection than the location, or time of day. I woke up this morning and was having a really lazy feeling and was struggling to get moving. However, I had made a date with myself for this morning at 10 am at the Ottawa Art Gallery and I needed to get going. I debated continuing to lounge in bed and skipping out on going to the gallery because it was a rainy, miserable day and my bed was super cozy. There was no one who was waiting for me like a “real” date and then I realized what I was doing in my head.

I was making myself less important than the value that I would have offered to someone else if I was meeting them for a date somewhere. Part of the journey of dating myself, of romancing myself, of making time spent doing activities more than just an opportunity to do something on my own. I wanted to shift my energy to ensure that I was making myself a priority and not an option in my own life. It is what I want from a partner at some point, and for that to happen, I also need to make myself a priority.

I got myself going and dressed for a daytime date in jeans, a nice casual flowing black top with my favourite red and black coverup over it. I took the time to pick out my mala bead necklace to wear along with it. The beads soothe me when I am not feeling my best and it was helpful when I was nursing a bit of a headache, but still wanted to head out on my date with myself.

Today’s date and connection with myself was to the Ottawa Art Gallery and I had planned for a Saturday morning date since the OAG is not open in the evenings. Originally I had planned to ride my bike, but with the grey rainy weather, and a faint headache persisting in the background, I chose to take my car downtown.

Entrance to the Ottawa Art Gallery

I was interested in this date with myself because of an exhibit by Don Kwan, a Chinese-Canadian artist whose work looked compelling as it grappled with the issues of identity, place, representation, and family memories. At the centre of his work was a Chinese lantern that he hung outdoors and photographed throughout the changing seasons over two years. He had removed the glass inserts that contained the images of his family members and these were on display in one part of the exhibit. What remained of the lantern after the documentation was presented, as photographed throughout the seasons.

Landscape and Loss, Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall
Remnants of a palace lantern, hung in tribute to the artist’s mother and father who died in 2019.

Another exhibit that moved me was entitled “To play in the face of certain defeat” by Esmaa Mohamoud. The artist uses representative art to explore sports as a covert form of neo-slavery. The athletic equipment and symbols illustrate the pervasive discriminatory behaviours and attitudes based on race, class, gender, and sexuality. The art had me reflecting on the fetishizing of sports figures, and the dynamic of often white sports club owners making money from racialized athletes.

Art by Esmaa Mohamoud

There was other art that I felt drawn to, including these two beautiful pieces.

Mushrooms is by S. Maria Brandt and the other is “Evergreen” by Kazuo Nakamura

After leaving the art gallery, I was not quite ready to end the date with myself and wandered looking for an independent coffee shop to grab a treat and a drink. Unfortunately, as I explored a couple of my favourites, they were either closed or were fuller than I felt comfortable with as we move into this stage of the pandemic where it is no longer required to be fully vaccinated in restaurants and no capacity limits. Along the way, I admired how the theme of today’s date remained present as I admired some street art along the way. I fondly remembered all the street art I have admired over the years as I traveled to other countries and places. One of my favourite things to do in a new city is to wander looking at public art. It builds a sense of connection to the culture of a community, and it is one of the most accessible ways to explore a city when I am traveling.

A sampling of some street art along Somerset Street West, Ottawa

Disappointed that my first choice for a tea and a treat was not open, I wandered back to my car. Along the way, I saw someone weaving back and forth across the sidewalk headed towards me. He had no shirt or socks on and appeared to be wearing a grey towel wrapped around his waist and a black t-shirt wrapped around his head. He was muttering to himself and waving his hands in my direction. I had seen this gentleman earlier, as I was driving my car as they had been standing on a street corner taking off his clothes and shouting at the top of his lungs in a mumbled jumble of words that I could not decipher. I felt somewhat anxious as the person was potentially high, or in the midst of a mental health crisis and I was uncertain as to his intention. He was clearly headed directly for me even as I tried to discreetly move out of his path. As he got really close, he appeared to be handing me something in his hand and although the potentially safer response would have been to avoid him, I felt compelled to reach out to him in the spirit of connection. He opened his hand to reveal a somewhat crumpled and tired-looking orange tulip bud. I accepted it, said thank you, and paused to offer him something in return, but he waved me off, took a bow and kept on moving. I was touched – a gift of a flower on my date with myself. It felt manifested because all this week I was trying to figure out how to send myself flowers in a way that they would be delivered at a time when I was least expecting it, just like an impromptu gift from a partner. And here was a flower, presented to me by someone that I initially felt fear and concern for.

As I wrapped up my date with myself, I reflected on the fact that I had once again chosen a date that was easy to access from a solo date perspective. There were several people wandering the gallery on their own, and occasionally a group of two or three people would wander by. The date is genuinely something that interests me – a variety of artist perspectives – and stimulated my interest in visual art, as well as gave me a great deal to contemplate from an intellectual perspective. I realized I was judging myself for not being more outside of my comfort zone, for not challenging myself to someplace that was less comfortable as a singleton and I wondered why that was.

I reflected on a conversation that I had recently with a friend when I told them I was embarking on a project to date myself and had planned to tackle 50 dates in the remaining weeks of the year. She laughed at me a bit and told me that most people might have challenged themselves to maybe ten dates and wondered out loud why I needed to make it such a big goal. In my reflection, I realized that I had not only set myself this challenge, but I also felt that there was a need to push myself to do things that were always outside my comfort zone. That is indeed a part of my personality, but I also want the process of dating myself to be a process of my own self-discovery as well. What are the activities that I want to spend time on because they are of passionate interest to me? If I make myself a priority, how can I tap into my needs, wants, desires and explore who I am at my core? As I continue to reflect on who I want in my ideal partner, I want to also use this time to ensure that I explore who I want to be, now and into the future. I want to spend time investing in the person that I want to be and continue to develop myself into the kind of partner that the partner I hope to attract, will also find attractive. I am certainly enough as I am. but in making myself a priority in my own life, I know that I will have a clearer sense of who I am outside of the contributions that I make in my professional and volunteer life, or how I have defined myself as a parent.

And that is someone worth spending time with. I rated this date a 10/10.