I’ve just been on a date. </blush>
Now, don’t get too excited if you know me (or if it’s you reading, Mum) — I don’t mean the that kind of date, although to be fair one of those has been a long time coming. Today was my first Artist’s Date. A properly blocked off period of time in my diary where I took myself out and treated myself, spent some quality time on my own. I did something we often forget to do these days in our busy lives: I switched off my phone and shut out the rest of the world for a whole three hours.
I hadn’t planned anything in advance. I should have, but was convinced I would cancel on myself so hadn’t bothered. I publicly promise I won’t let that happen again. As a result, I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go or what I was going to do when I left home, but after spending all day yesterday cooped up in the flat I was ready to do something. I could easily have been talked into meeting friends, but faithfully stuck to the window of time I’d allocated and spent it on my own. And I kind of enjoyed it. I caught the bus to town, listened to a new album on the way, walked among the late afternoon shoppers and then headed to the cinema to see if anything took my fancy; a few things did, but rather than think it out I bravely ventured straight into the first thing that was starting. I ate popcorn. I drank fizzy juice. The movie was a teen comedy that part of me found hilarious and part of me loathed. It didn’t matter. I just let myself enjoy the simple pleasure of being on my own for a while.
When the movie finished, I took another walk through the city which still had a fair bit of bustle for early evening on a Sunday, and soon found myself enjoying a tasty smoked chicken salad for dinner with a refreshing iced water on the side, followed by an affogato (espresso with ice-cream to the uninitiated) for dessert. It was a decadent treat.
Now this part of The Artist’s Way is one I never really got into the first time I attempted the programme. I am persistently busy, so rarely have time to catch up with simple home chores or get the chance to see friends, never mind force myself to go out and spend time doing something just for the sake of it. I do go to the cinema or the theatre on my own if I get the chance, but usually on a whim or if I happen to find myself between jobs, rehearsals or events rather than something planned in advance. Today was a bit of an unusual experience, in that regard. I felt like I was meant to be with someone, or be somewhere else. I felt guilt creeping in for the second time this week and had to reassure myself that whilst I could have been tackling my to-do list, this me time is a compulsory and necessary part of the programme.
Just as I finished eating, I checked my watch and realised I only had 20 seconds to go until my three-hour window closed. I made it. I enjoyed it. When it finished (and not one second before), I fired up my MacBook and have been writing this blog entry since; offline, I might add, I haven’t checked Twitter or Facebook or emails — I’m still disconnected from the world right now and feel reluctant to plug back in. I haven’t switched my phone back on either. So when you read this it will be a few hours later when I’m home and back online.
What was the point of all this? The interesting thing is I’ve re-read the section on Artist’s Dates around six times over the past eight years. I like to think I’m a smart guy, but I’ve never 100% got it. Obviously it’s about forced down time, forced me time. Part of me feels a little less guilty about the fact I fill my waking hours with ‘stuff to do’ if I’m allowed to take a compulsory break from it all — maybe that’s the point? Maybe Julia Cameron recognises that artists fill their lives to the brim with stuff, leaving little room to just enjoy themselves without commitment to others or their art. After all, time spent with others can be quite draining at times rather than leisurely.
So the Artist’s Date must be about me, and me alone. I like that idea. I like the idea that I have permission to pause my hectic life one a week to just enjoy myself. Can I keep it up every week once I start to get snowed under with stuff and things to-do? Well, I’m going to have to. The dates are in my diary now for the next 11 weeks; and when they come close to running out, I’ll be scheduling them in for the next 3 months.
This is the end of Week 1 for me; I started a day behind Debbie, so had to work the tasks around a 6-day week. We have our first check in tonight by email which will give us a chance to talk a bit more personally about how our week has gone (we’ve both been keeping blogs so we already have a rough idea of how we’ve been progressing). Week 1 has been about recovery. It encouraged me to re-dredge thoughts and emotions that I had in many respects worked through already, so I’m conscious of the fact that I’ve perhaps covered some of the ground superficially this week; I need to keep working on those affirmations, but for now, I’m happy with how Week 1 has ended.
Bring on Week 2…
(Someone please remind me I said that with gusto when my alarm goes off at 5:30am tomorrow.)