Rituals are important, I don’t mean in the traditional or religious sense, or the traditionally religious sense. I mean it in terms of good practice or healthy habits. I am certainly not religious but I certainly have my rituals. I have my gym rituals, my Thursday night rituals and my rituals for writing, just to name a few. One of the more recent rituals I’ve added to my routine within the past year or so is going to restaurants alone. I love going out to eat but I was always afraid to do it alone because I thought it looked sad or desperate. However, the fact that I was afraid to do it bothered me more than my own assumptions about seeing a single person sitting alone in a restaurant.
Fear is something that ran my life up until my late teens. I was afraid of everything. All the time I was just terrified. Anxious, worried, nervous, all different forms of fear and I was wrapped in those chains until I decided not to be. I started depending on what God says rather than what I thought to see if the words of the Bible were true. Fear was my biggest battle at the time so I looked up a bunch of Bible verses on fear until I found one that was short enough to memorize. After that I consciously made the choice to think the scripture in place of my own trepidation. I chose to believe God’s truth and in choosing faith I found that fear had no choice but to lose its grip on my heart. On a particularly fearful day I had a ring engraved with an anti-fear verse that I still use today, Joshua 1:9 and it still works.
Do not be afraid or dismayed, the LORD your God is with you wherever you will go. – Joshua 1:9
Choosing faith over fear doesn’t mean you’ll no longer feel that emotion. Feelings are useful, they are there for a reason. Feelings make great servants and terrible masters. A good dose of fear is healthy. It reminds us to be careful, it helps us calculate risk, it protects us from harm. That gut instinct you always know you should follow, that’s fear confirming you’re right and if you don’t make a move you’re in trouble. It’s when fear grows in us like a weed that we keep watering with hesitation and anxiety that it becomes a problem. Fear is not meant to paralyze yet too often we let that happen don’t we? We skip opportunities, avoid confrontation and don’t push ourselves. Who will we become if we let doubt run the show? Take it from a writer, doubt gets you nowhere. Today I even doubted I had anything to write. I was hesitant, uninspired and tired. Maybe I was even mildly afraid I had nothing good to say but here I am, writing anyway. Not all fear is bad as long as you’re not all fear. By the grace of God and the things He wrote in those sixty-six books, I’ve conquered mine but it’s a conscious, continual victory. I still have fears, phobias even, which I will not list because I’m sure those I know will read this and then a barrage of what scares me most will greet me when I least expect it.
Feelings are useful, they are there for a reason. Feelings make great servants and terrible masters.
As I said, I used to be afraid of going out to eat alone. Ridiculous is what I think of it now that being alone in a restaurant is a goal I make for myself on the regular. I love flying solo when it comes to this activity. I also love meeting up with people for a meal but there’s a hot spark of happiness in me when the hostess asks how many and I get to say, “just me.” I’m alone these days, a sort of one man band if you will apart from my stellar parents and my baby brother who I now consider not just family but a really good friend. Given our history I’m both humbled and flattered he thinks well of me. It’s relatively new territory, this whole not managing a multi-threaded social life thing and I’m learning to like it because I’m doing it for the best of me. I’m figuring things out for my life and I cannot do it with the distraction of others and their issues because I’m someone who caters to people and wants to help them through. Being a voice of reason, advice giving, maternal type of friend is truly the kind of shit my heart beats for, but being a part-time counselor to clients and whoever else crosses my path means there’s less time for me to deal with me. Sometimes I put myself in place to help others with their problems so I can avoid mine but somewhere in the last few years I’ve managed to become an adult so I think it’s time I act like one and take care of myself. This is where the eating alone comes in. It’s my biweekly (sometimes weekly) meeting with myself to just sit and eat and think. I don’t have to do anything or be anything for anyone. All I need is a notebook or a book and my credit card so I can pay the bill. I put my phone on DND and simply enjoy the atmosphere without having to interact with any of it. Think about it, good food, table service, somewhere not silent but quiet enough to think. When people do come up to me it’s the waiter or waitress who bring me coffee and things I can eat so I have no objection there. It’s my little slice of paradise and it’s fucking perfect.
I take myself out. It’s my solo date which is fitting since I’m not seeing anyone right now if you’ve read Where Are All the Men? It’s clear that nearly all the men I know are too much like Larry, but more than that I want to learn how to deal with just me right now. That’s why I’m also not entertaining dozens of friendships. For once I’m not dependent on someone else’s company. I’m not trying to save anyone or be the hero. These days I have nothing to prove to anyone but myself. I eat alone. I won’t say where I go because I don’t want to give my spots away and end up seeing familiar faces. I do love random sighting of humans I adore but this, me alone in restaurants with my dog, great food, good coffee and remarkable customer service is my secret serenity.
My phone goes on do not disturb and my notebook or novel is in front of me. I sit alone, I eat alone, I think alone. I simply practice being alone and being okay with being alone because I’ve never really been literally, entirely alone. I’m still not, I have my family and if God forbid I didn’t I’d still have my dog. Being alone and being aware of it is not easy. I sort of understand why people can’t seem to settle with just themselves because it’s well, unsettling to just be me, myself and I. Who do I talk to? Who do I joke with? Who do I love? Myself, my blood and my God because that’s all I’ve got. I believe it was Bukowski who said; “madness is caused by not being often enough alone.” I have a meeting with myself and during these solo ventures is where I conquer my fears of being a single woman in a public place with no electronic distractions who is forced to be apart of real life for an hour or two. I write, I focus on my goals, I tell myself I need to get my shit together and then I figure out how. It’s good to date yourself. I highly recommend it.