What We Learn When We “Date” Ourselves
By: Stephane Pankewicz
Once a week, typically on Thursday, I put on one of my favorite shirts, some mascara, and I go out on a date. As I open the door to leave, my husband shouts, “Bye honey, have a good time!” I say goodbye as the door shuts behind me, and I begin the trek into the typically rainy and cold weather expected in Amsterdam this time of year.
There are some rules for this weekly date with myself: No one else can tag along, I do not use this time to talk on the phone, and there is zero room for negative self-talk. Outside of these strict rules, everything is fair game. I might spend my time walking through the park with a croissant or admiring the architecture in the city center.
This practice entered my life via a gifted copy of The Artist’s Way, which I recommend to everyone, whether you consider yourself an artist or not. In short, this beautiful guide walks you through the discovery, or rediscovery, of your best creative self and encourages many tactics to do so, one of which is a required weekly date with yourself, a.k.a ‘The Artist’s Date.” I adopted this practice at the start of this year and can now agree that the case for dating yourself is a strong one.
Stagnation is natural, and it works like quicksand
Who doesn’t sometimes feel the monotonous beat of life? You wake up, walk the dog, make coffee, work, maybe you exercise, make dinner, and go to sleep. You might be joyful during those activities, you might even love many of them, but that doesn’t mean you are immune to the hypnotizing rhythm of life’s daily grind. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you sit in that feeling, if you continue to let it all roll by without a pause, it becomes difficult to get out. I think of my weekly date as a lifeline, a rope that I can grip onto and use to pull myself out of it all.
Space creates perspective
We are all guilty of sweating the small stuff from time to time. A dish left unwashed by your partner, a tough encounter at work, accidentally saying, “you too” when the barista says to enjoy your drink. Challenges are a natural part of life and how you cope with them in large part determines the kind of person you are. In the few hours that I spend with myself, no social media, no friends, no responsibilities, I find that I can hear myself think. Sometimes I am subconsciously working through a challenge and I suddenly realize I’ve worked it out while peddling my bike down a new street. The magic is that by creating physical space, I am also creating mental space, and this newly found mental space allows me to entertain new perspectives. I find that I am much more amenable and cope better throughout the week, thanks to this time.
Sometimes your cup can feel empty
The spark of creativity is inconsistent for many of us, with its ebb and flow tied to our emotions. During the lulls—where you experience writer’s block, an inability to touch the blank canvas or think up new meals for dinner, there can be a gnawing sense of creative atrophy. Fortunately, I’ve discovered that this cycle can be interrupted and even regulated with my weekly date. Because I don’t typically pursue any singular objective during my dates, I find that new material comes from the most unsuspecting things. On my last walk, I felt enamored with the myriad of bikes throughout the city. Although overly documented, the Amsterdam bike scene is something to behold and once I noticed it, I felt lit up. I spent the entirety of the evening snapping photos of wheels, handlebars, torn seats, and baby carriers. This feeling carried into the next week as I edited photos and wrote about that experience. It isn’t that I care about bikes per se, but you don’t have to be a pianist to feel excited upon hearing your first keystrokes.
It seems that each time I step outside and into myself, I discover something simultaneously mundane and powerful. Realizing it is necessary to spend time with yourself feels like the emotional equivalent of “vegetables are good for you.” Yet, I find myself blown away by the power in this simple idea and magnified by each new experience. Don’t just take my word for it though, take yourself out and see what you discover.