Recently I was at a conference and as I was heading back to my hotel room, a dear friend and colleague asked me if I had running shoes with me. A weird question, but I said yes, and she asked me if I wanted to head out with her to the batting cage for 30 minutes of swinging at balls. Oh, yes, please!
I ran to my hotel room and stripped out of my skirt, dress shoes, dress jacket and dug out a pair of leggings and a tank top, grabbed a pair of socks and my running shoes. I was so excited to do something even a little bit physical
I have not played baseball in over ten years. I don’t think I have even picked up a bat and glove at any point in the last ten years.
There were a couple of options for pitching speeds and balls. We chose a softball pitching at 40 km/hour. I spent my first 20 balls swinging at air. And I still felt a lot of joy just swinging the bat around. My friend was doing better, but was still only hitting about a third of the balls. After a couple of rounds, we decided to move down to the softball pitches at 20 km/hour. At this speed, we each were able to hit 75-85% of the balls.
It was such a joy to feel the power of my bat connecting with the ball and watching it fly away into the air. Several of my hits saw my ball fly over the top of the pitching area and across the batting cage area. I was mesmerized by watching the balls that were missed or hit, or fouled roll down the slightly sloped ball area and spin towards the automated pitching machine.
Equally entertaining were the failed pitches from the pitching machine. Sometimes the ball would spin around through the pitching machine and slam up against the roof of the pitching hut due to a pre-mature release of the ball. Other times the ball would be released a little too late and the ball would go slamming towards the ground halfway in between the pitching machine and the batting area.
For thirty minutes, it was a taste of childhood and a mouthful of stress released with each contact between the bat and the ball. Coming back to Ottawa, I was determined to find a batting cage and make this a date with myself. It took me a bit to find a place that had a pitching machine, where I didn’t need to go with anyone else to pitch to me. I finally found one in Carleton Place and headed out for 30 minutes of unlimited balls. Swing batter batter!
On a weekend morning, I headed out to my car and drove the 20 minutes from my home to the batting cages. On the day that I was there, there were not that many people there on a Sunday morning. I had pre-booked an appointment because I wanted to make sure that I would have the space available for me. The batting cage provides a batting helmet (or you could bring your own), and bats (also, you could bring your own). As with the day out with my friend, it took me a while to get my rhythm together of hitting the balls, but once I started connecting, I had a lot of fun swinging and hitting, swinging and missing. You could adjust the speed and angle of the balls being pitched and that made it easier for me, keeping the pitches at a 20 km/hour pitch and a gentle angle. This was not practice for a return to playing regular baseball – it’s been such a long time – but it felt joyous to play at baseball for a little while. Choose joy wherever possible.
I certainly could have played around with the bats and the balls for more than 30 minutes, but at the end of 30 minutes, I had enough of swinging the bat around. It felt a bit indulgent to have spent more time driving in my car to get to the batting cage, but there aren’t that many self-pitching batting cages around, which kind of surprised me. Although I could have ridden my bike out to Carleton Place – and I have before – but I wasn’t feeling that all that ambitious. In the end, 30 minutes was the right amount of time to spend with myself on this morning.
After hitting my fair share of balls into pop-ups, foul balls, swings and misses, balls that might have been home runs, and balls that would have gotten me on base, I was reading to wrap up my date with myself.
Cost – $39.55 (including taxes) for 30 minutes of unlimited balls, a helmet and a bat; cost of the gas to drive 40 minutes (wasn’t tracking)
Rate: 10/10 – this was a fun and joyful date with myself
Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow– John Lennon
Early on when I started this self-dating adventure, I decided at one point that I wanted to send myself flowers, and in dreaming big, I wanted to be surprised to some extent when I received them. I hoped that in ordering them in advance, I would forget not only what I had ordered and possibly even when they would be delivered. At some point, I did order myself flowers to be delivered and I was delighted that when they were delivered, I had completely forgotten what I had ordered.
Flowers delight me, but I don’t often indulge in buying them for myself. As I write this post this evening, I am taken back to times in my life when flowers have been such a source of joy, and surprise. One of my past partners loved giving me flowers and loved it so much that he committed himself to providing flowers to me every month, and he did that from the beginning of our story until about 4 months before the end. Sometimes the flowers were fulsome bouquets filled with vibrant pinks and purples and leafy greens. Once the flower was a stained glass iris, with shades of rich purple glass and muted greens and it hung on the wall of our bedroom until after he moved out and then I took it down and smashed it against the patio stones in my backyard. That was a bad decision because I spent months finding shards of glass with my bare feet every time I walked outside and onto the patio.
I remembered the time that my biggest crush sent me flowers. She is married to the most lovely woman, and I still crush on her knowing that we will never cross that boundary with each other. She is a dear friend and a trusted colleague. One year when I learned that I had been successful in being offered a significant job that I really wanted, she sent me a bouquet of flowers, of roses pink and white and something else of a delicate shade of mauve. They arrived at my office with no note on them. For days I had no idea who had sent them to me, but I kept them on my office desk and they greeted me every morning with a silent acknowledgment that somebody had been thinking of me. One day she called to wish me congratulations on my new gig and asked me if I liked the flowers. She told me that she had sent them because I was someone who deserved to have flowers sent to me. Funny, I had forgotten all about that until I started writing tonight.
So, flowers are a date of sorts and are a kind of gift that has come to mean a whole variety of things in the gift giving realm. I wanted the surprise of flowers… I had not totally forgotten when they would be delivered, but in a fluke of not really paying attention to dates, I had ordered them to be delivered on the Friday before Mother’s Day. This ended up being a lovely treat for me, because while I am a mother, as a single mother I regularly downplayed any attention on Mother’s Day while my daughter was growing up. Her father did not assist her with planning anything for me for mother’s day when my daughter was younger and she would feel upset on the day of Mother’s day that she did not have a gift or anything special for me. I would tell her that the only thing I needed from her was a big hug and anything else was not required because her hugs were the only thing that mattered. As a result, celebrating Mother’s Day has always been low key and I just made myself okay with that.
Perhaps on a subconscious level, I knew that the weekend was Mother’s Day, but it was not front of mind when I ordered the flowers. I was delighted with the flowers when they arrived and even more so when I saw the note that I had included for myself – “I love you more and more each day. Me” What was really interesting to me is that the order somehow was doubled and I received a duplicate order of flowers. I was only charged once, so I am not sure how it got into the system twice. So, a double bouquet of rich vibrant spring flowers!
I am on this journey of deepening this love for myself and exploring what my needs and interests are, and how I want to spend my time. I am learning what activities really engage and inspire me. What things I might have ignored doing because they weren’t of interest to my past partners and now I am reminding myself of things that I enjoy doing, like art galleries and theatre.
And, so, I am sending myself flowers because I want flowers in my life. Perhaps this time I will order them a little further out or maybe ask my daughter to order them and pick a date so that I can be well and truly surprised.
It’s been a while since I have been able to take myself on a date. I think it has been well over a month. A few things happened along the way. I went to Calgary to visit a friend for a week and that was a lovely distraction. We splurged on a weekend away in Banff at the Rimrock Resort Hotel, with not only a room with a mountain view, but a mountain view with a balcony. While it felt luxurious and decadent, it was most definitely a get-away with a friend and nothing like a date for myself. We wandered around Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore and along river fronts for two full days.
I came home to a very full work schedule and I learned that when I don’t plan ahead for dates for myself, I find it harder to make happen. I get caught up in the hurley burley of my days and I put myself and my relationship with myself on the back burner. I thought it didn’t matter so much, because 10 days after coming back from Alberta, I was headed away for a weekend with my mom and sister.
Again, I loved the time with my sister and my mother. We met in Cobourg which is somewhat in the middle between London (where my sister lives) and Ottawa (where I live). My mom lives in Sault Ste. Marie and she headed to London and traveled with my sister to Cobourg for the weekend. We had a wonderful time together, including some pampering time with a day long spa visit together, but again, it wasn’t date time.
Then, I took a day and went to pick up my daughter’s new service-dog-to-be puppy from the breeder and drive her home. I spent a full day driving and picking up puppy and taking her home. Her name is Dolly Parton (again, my daughter’s dog, and her name choice for an adorable yellow labrador puppy) and she is a beautiful but busy and active labrador puppy. Between supporting my daughter with puppy care – including waking up every two hours to let the puppy out – and doing my day job, I felt exhausted. I knew it would be for just a couple of weeks and it would start to balance itself out.
And then a huge part of Ontario and parts of Quebec were hit with a storm, a kind of storm I never knew existed before. A derecho storm that was 1,100 km in length whipped through the region and Ottawa was very badly hit. At one point, there were over 160,000 customers without power in the Ottawa area. The whole Ottawa Hydro outage mapped was red with a few white spaces indicating those who had power.
My neighbourhood was particularly badly hit and we were without power for 7 days. We were without internet and cell service for 9 days. With a new puppy. It was exhausting and it was survival mode. I emptied fridges and freezers and tossed out hundreds of dollars worth of food. My daughter and I juggled the puppy, her other dog and ourselves to get showers and food and moments of electrical connection.
Well, with the good and the challenging times over the past month, time for myself got rather crowded out and I have missed that intentional time. And, as is my pattern, I found my schedule packed with work, family and friendship obligations and interests and not enough time for me to date myself. The reason for starting these adventures in dating myself remains the same – I will allow the demands of everything else in my life to fill in the crevices without realizing that I am not taking the time to pay attention to my needs, interests or time.
While I don’t have a juicy, or mild date planned for myself in the next little while, I do have a plan to make some dates for myself. I now have the daunting task to fit 39 more dates into 30 weeks! Although only 10 dates are posted, I do have an 11th date waiting in my draft posts to finalize and post. So, a few more weeks with a couple of dates extra per week.
It remains my commitment to be in relationship with myself and I will get back there. I miss me.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.