Solitude. Loneliness. Silence. Isolation.
The idea can be invigorating or terrifying. Calming or full of anxiety.
I am currently working through a book called The Artist's Way. It is a self-help of sorts, designed "to recover your creativity from a variety of blocks, including limiting beliefs, fear, self-sabotage, jealousy, guilt, addictions, and other inhibiting forces, replacing them with artistic confidence and productivity." Part of this program is to take yourself on artist dates. This is time specifically set aside to give into yourself - go on a long walk alone, go to the movies, take yourself out for a cup of coffee or meal. The key is that it must be solo. Some activities lend themselves better to this than others - long walk? Yea, no problem there. This city is full of people walking, running or biking alone.
What I have trouble with is taking myself out for a meal alone. And as a food writer, that shouldn't be quite as big of an issue it is. I'm working on it. Within the realm of meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - there is a spectrum of comfort. The first two meals of the day are the easiest to partake in alone. Dinner? Nope. No way. Say hello to awkward Tommy because that's exactly who'd you see.
Last month when I spent 10 days in New York City I found myself having to eat many meals alone. Breakfast would be at the nearest Starbucks - trenta unsweetened iced coffee with a roasted ham and Swiss cheese breakfast sandwich. Lunch would be whatever quick restaurants was closest to my office. And dinner more often than not ended up being a lonely Shack Shake in my hotel room. My last few days I forced myself to get out of my comfort zone. Tommy, man up! You are 28-years old. You are a food writer. You should not be uncomfortable going out for a meal alone!
No matter where I am - at home in Chicago, or traveling across the country - I have found that I am okay at going out to breakfast alone. In fact, it is strangely renewing and invigorating. Instagram is my domain and I find many restaurants across the country that end up on my "To Try" list. Jack's Wife Freda is one of those restaurants. A marble bar line the wall to the right as I walked in. A group of women sat at the front, sipping their coffee and gossiping about he-said-she-said. Other parties were scattered among the not-quite-full dinning area. It appears as though my timing had been spot on.
Ordering a black coffee I took a deep breath and allowed myself to be in the moment. To let go of any stress or anxiety that had built up during the week. I was in New York City. I had two more days to enjoy all that was around me. How the next few days would go was in my hands. And with that, I sat in solitude in Jack's Wife Freda on Carmine Street in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood. I ate an incredible Eggs Benny and drank far too many cups of coffee. I was content, no happy! I had allowed myself to take part in the amazing-ness that is dining alone.
So here is my advice to you - You Should Go and Date Yourself!
Be sure to check out Jack's Wife Freda's two locations on Open Table -
Jack's Wife Freda - Carmine Street
Jack's Wife Freda - Lafayette Street