A few weeks ago, a friend of mine gave me a copy of the book, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It is a self-help/self-discovery guide for anyone interested in pursuing a creative passion, or just anyone who needs to unlock their creative potential. Cameron gives readers weekly tasks to complete, and one of those tasks is to take your “inner artist” on a date. Up to this point in the book, I hadn’t had any trouble with the other assignments, like writing daily pages of stream of consciousness, or recalling hurtful moments from my past and reliving them. I understood how these things could help me, not just as a writer, but with my emotional well being in general. But the artist date threw me. First of all, it sounded cheesy. Secondly, I thought I was on a date with myself every night as it were - I live alone, so dinners and movies with just myself are the usual. Still, I had determined I would give this book a chance, and that meant the artist date. According to the author, the point of the artist date is to bring out your more playful side, because play unlocks creativity. It should be something fun, but simple. And if it lies outside the parameters of your typical interests, all the better. But I couldn’t think of anything to do. And I really did not look forward to a date with myself. For some reason I had a feeling I was going to be expensive, and boring.
The weekend I was supposed to go on my inner artist “date” I had also scheduled an actual date with another person. So, I had two scary tasks ahead of me. I hadn’t dated anyone since my divorce, and now I was going on a first date and a self-date on the same day. I am a little bit of a masochist, I think. All week I dreaded the arrival of Saturday. At least it would be better than sitting at home, wondering who my ex might be dating now, and feeling sorry for myself. Well, maybe.
A Real Date and a Self-Date: Which is Really More Fun?
Saturday arrived, bright, sunny, and 92 degrees. I met my first date at the head of a hiking trail and together, we climbed a mountain. We talked, we laughed, and overall it went well. I walked her to her car, and after she drove out of sight, I found myself alone with the rest of the afternoon and evening. My instinct was to go home and start the article I had to write for work. The artist date seemed irresponsible, and trivial. I was a single woman with one income. I should go home and work. The hike should have been enough play for me for one day. Yet, another voice begged me to fulfill my artist date obligation, if only to remain outdoors on a beautiful day. I spend six days a week mostly chained to a desk inside, hunched over a computer screen, and the seventh is usually spent doing manual labor. My inner child, the artist, demanded her date.
I hadn’t planned anything, thinking I would just allow the day to unfold with no direction. This is not something I would usually do, so I figured it fell in line with Cameron’s suggestion of spontaneity. I drove down the mountain, and turned right at the stop sign, in the direction leading away from my house. I suddenly knew exactly where I wanted to go.
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When I was married, my husband and I used to visit antique shops on the weekends, and afterward we would always stop at a small farm stand on the side of the road, known for its blueberries and concord grapes. Some of my favorite memories are from the days we drove home over the mountain with our farm stand bounty, listening to old music on the radio, and devouring all of the berries before making it home. I hadn’t been back without him, for fear it would make me too sad. But today, I followed an unusual urge to drive in that direction. When I found the farm stand, it was exactly as it had been the previous summer. Fresh strawberries and sweet and sour cherries nestled inside wooden crates. The screen door still creaked its familiar welcome when I went in, where the owner, always smiling, sat reading her paper beside jars of homemade cookies and salted caramels. And there on the counter, freshly picked and spilling from their green paper baskets, were those wonderful blueberries. I tasted one, and it was just as delicious as I remembered. I guess the only thing that had changed was me.
If I had been with my ex instead of on a date with myself, the day would have ended there. We would have eaten the berries in the car and gone home to make dinner. A part of me wished that could still be true. But another part of me remembered that back then, I had always wanted to find a lake or a river to swim in. My ex didn’t like to swim much, and he always said he didn’t have swimming shorts, or the right footwear, or the water would be too cold. I hadn’t gone swimming at all that summer. But on this day, I was on a date with a girl who wanted to go find a body of water and jump in. So, with my blueberries safe in the passenger seat beside me, I ventured back onto the open road.
I found the falls, like the farm stand, unchanged from last summer. I followed the trail that led to the deep, blue swimming hole under the waterfall, and peered down at the rush of water from the rocks above. It was the same spot my ex and I had viewed the fall from on an outing together long ago. I could still see us, delighted at our discovery. We had vowed to come back on another day, with proper swimming attire, and then I could go in the water. We never went back. I had since forgotten about the falls, or so I thought. But there I was, my tummy full of blueberries and no one to stop me from taking the plunge. Timidly, I dipped a toe into the water. It was frigid. Despite the cold, and the fact that I was fully clothed, I jumped in on an impulse. And that’s where I discovered that I’m not such a boring, or expensive date after all. There is still a playful child inside, and sometimes all she wants to do is jump into a swimming hole and eat blueberries all day.
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Why You Should Ask Yourself Out
Since that day at the falls, I have continued to take myself on artist dates. To be honest, I actually enjoy them even more than real dates. There is no pressure, and I get to be as silly, childish, and spontaneous as I want. I can do all the things that seemed too impractical before, and on each adventure I learn something about myself. It’s too early to say whether the book or the artist dates have helped me unblock my creative powers, but by getting to know myself better, I can reaffirm who and what I want in my life. By knowing who you are and what makes you smile, you’ll find that those real dates with other people are a lot easier. No one can really get to know you unless you know yourself first. And you may find that you like yourself more than you thought. So, go ahead, ask yourself out.