Saturday, February 26, 2011

Table for One?

Overall, I think I'm a pretty decent person to befriend.  I can be fun and silly and laugh like a four-year-old, or I can be serious and caring and provide a shoulder to cry on.  I can offer advice or just listen quietly, and I almost never judge, even if I disagree.  I have always gotten along with a wide variety of people (many who do not get along with each other), and generally I look to see the best in people.  I do what I can to spread the positive energy, and to make all those around me smile.  If I were to stop here, you'd probably think I was rather full of myself.  Actually, it's quite the opposite.

The other day, I was talking with my husband about his plans for this weekend.  He was getting ready to meet up with some friends/family out of town, but he was arriving earlier than everyone else and wanted to make the most of his time.  He did some research, and found a few highlights: great places to eat, sights to see, etc.  It sounded like he was going to have a lot of fun ... and that's before he even met up with anyone else!

I was excited for him and all the great things he was going to do, but honestly I was also a bit jealous.  Part of me was just bummed because I couldn't go with him (even after all these years, I still hate it when we're apart).  But part of me was thinking I could never do that.  I have never been comfortable sitting at a restaurant by myself.  I've only ever done it once or twice, and even then it was only because I had to kill time between appointments, and I brought work in with me to do at the table.  If I'm meeting friends somewhere, I wait outside for them to arrive rather than sitting alone at the bar.  And I would never dream of going to a museum, show, park, or other attraction alone.

I bought him that shirt!
This wasn't the first time he'd done that, though, and surely it won't be the last. As we talked about the places he'd mapped out (mostly taken from his favorite Food Network shows), I asked him what it was like to go it alone.  Did he feel like something (or someone) was missing, or was he able to enjoy the experience for what it was? (Before he answered, I assured him that this wasn't some twisted way of suggesting that he shouldn't enjoy anything without me.)  He said that though he'd definitely prefer to share the experience with me (or another friend who would enjoy it), he had been left alone too many times to let someone else not being there stop him from doing what he wants to do.  All I could say was wow.  I was in awe.

When I told him I could never do that, he asked why.  I had to think about the reason why I'd never gone anywhere fun by myself, and the answer that came out actually made me sad.  "I guess I just needed better company," I said.  That idea really sunk in as I said it out loud.  I admired my husband for being such a strong, confident, determined person who could go anywhere and do anything he wanted.  At the same time, I pitied myself for being just the opposite.

Since then, I've been thinking about it a lot. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I've got a lot of qualities that make me a good friend to anyone else.  So why is it that I can't even imagine the idea of enjoying my own company? There is no good reason, really, and it's time to change that line of thinking.  

SNL's Stuart Smalley
I am creative, intelligent, caring, bubbly, and adorkable.  I enjoy food, sports, books, movies, and nature.  Oy vey ... as I type that, I feel like I'm creating a profile for a dating website.  In a way, I guess I am.  Not that I'm looking for a date per se, but I am looking to attract someone: myself.  I guess I'm trying to convince myself that I am worth spending time with. Sure, there are some things (most things) that I want to experience with my husband, my mom, my friends. But if they're not around, I want to be able to still do things, rather than just waiting until someone else can go with me.

I've decided it's my new challenge, my new goal, my new growth opportunity. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to find things that I want to do, places I want to go, things I want to see.  And then I'm going to do them, go there, see them.  

I actually tried to start this yesterday, but it didn't work out as well as I hoped. I had heard great things about a new restaurant that opened up in my neighborhood.  I checked the menu online while I was on the train, and decided to stop there on my way home.  I thought about sitting by myself enjoying a glass of wine with a pear, walnut, and gorgonzola salad and a whole wheat brick oven pizza.  I walked into the restaurant, looked around, and when the host came up to me, I said ... "I'd like to order something to go."  I chickened out.  I couldn't bring myself to say "table for one."  After I placed my order, I sat there (alone, waiting) beating myself up over it.  I should have just gotten the table.  All the people sitting at tables seemed to be enjoying themselves.  Then again, they all had company.

Corner booth by the window
It was too late to change things at the restaurant, but as I walked home I decided it wasn't too late to make the most of dinner for one.  When I got home, rather than setting up the snack table and eating out of the container in front of the television, I set the table.  I used the good dishes, poured myself a glass of wine, and served myself one course at a time.  I didn't bring the laptop to the table, and I took the time to enjoy the experience of the meal.  We're often told that we need to do that if we're going to achieve weight loss (when we don't pay attention to the meal, we tend to overeat).  But despite my lifelong battles with weight and food, there was something more important about this meal.  It wasn't about the food itself (though the food was delicious!), but about the experience of being by myself.  No distractions, just me.

I'll admit it, it was ... weird. But it wasn't that bad. I know it will be a while before I can actually be comfortable enjoying my own company, but it just might be worth taking the time to make that happen. After all, some of the best things in life only happen once we step out of our comfort zones and do something we never thought we'd do, or never thought we'd even want to do. So I set the table again today, and will enjoy last night's leftovers for lunch after I post this.  And then ... we'll see.  

** If you like what you read, tell a friend!  Actually, tell me too - post a comment below!!  If you don't ... well ... I'm all for honesty, but please be gentle!