hard to say: I am not alone

I sat in a horrified fury as the pastor spoke some of my greatest questions and deepest beliefs in a mocking tone in order to stress his point. Everybody laughed.

In one hour, the environment I had grown to love, where I felt spiritual freedom to think and believe and love exactly as I was made to, was demolished. In one hour, the kind, intelligent, and supportive people I had grown to respect transformed into enthusiastic bobble heads, shouting out their agreements and Amens before a point was even made.

My heart was broken, my spirit crushed. I cried hot tears of grief and mourning as I drove home from the young adult’s group that Monday evening. Once again, I do not belong.

In the days that followed, I felt achingly lonely. I tried to talk about it with the people I trusted most, who had previously been so open to growing together in our differences. But anytime I started to bring it up, the subject was immediately changed. It was clear they didn’t want to hear it.

I asked God to please help me understand what everyone else was in agreement with. What is wrong with me that I cannot find truth in this? The deafening silence that responded emptied my soul; I felt completely alone.

This is the exact spiritual abuse I was brought up in. The practice of: “if you are not with us, you are against us.” It is the reason I do not trust the church, the reason my spirit is uniquely sensitive. I did not belong then and I certainly do not belong now. But as much as I long for belonging, perhaps I was not made to belongPerhaps I was made to stand out. 

As I meditated on this thought, I began to feel a loving presence wrap its arms around my soul, filling me with peace and healing my heart. There is nothing wrong with me.

The subtle attempt to control God, or “the theology of more” as my therapist calls it, is simply not something I can ever come into any kind of agreement with. The command to always do more – pray more, worship more, give more, sacrifice more – in order to get closer to God. The idea that we must live a certain way and follow a set of laws in order to please God and receive His blessings – I choose to live outside of this idea, to turn away.

If God created each of us with different purposes and unique gifts, why would he want us to live exactly the same way? Can we not just trust God to tell each of us individually what he wants for us, without becoming so fearful of the unknown we must create laws in an attempt to control the outcome?

My turning away from the church feels strongly like turning every ounce of my being directly towards God. It is lonely and painful, losing the comforting sense of community I thought I’d acquired. But in letting go of this, I am stepping out of God’s way and allowing Him to love me and to do with me what He wants. Whatever that may be, I am on board. I trust His plan and His timing. I may be lonely, but I am certainly not alone.

-EC

hard to say: God loves me… apparently

I’ve been trying to write this story for weeks. In those weeks, I’ve learned two things. One: much as I’ve tried, there is no way to tell this story without sounding fucking crazy. And two: I experience it all over again anytime I so much as think about it.

Despite my distaste for religion and distrust of the church – the very organization that’s so wronged my family – I’ve been attending a Monday evening young adult’s service for months. I originally agreed to go with a friend so she wouldn’t have to go alone (heaven forbid) but when she bailed, I still went. This service is held at the church my sister attends – a church I think very little of – and she and her husband often lead worship.

I thought I knew my sister well up until that first night; but as I finally saw her in all her glory, I realized I’d been a fool.

This was not typical worship, where wannabe musicians fuel their egos and a congregation competes for the best Christian performance, no. This was something else. To witness my sister worshiping is to know, with absolute certainty, that something good and real is happening within her. She is generous enough to let it pour out of her mouth and into our desperately hungry hearts. And so I kept returning by myself.

One day, after spending Christmas with a good friend and engaging in a surprisingly honest conversation about God, our struggles and hope, I found myself praying. What I’d been doing before then can hardly be called prayer; I’d been yelling (and cursing) at God. But this time, armed with my friend’s encouragement, I asked God for a message. Nothing vague or confusing, but rather something undeniable to show me He was real and He loved me. Then, as was advised, I gave Him a deadline. I asked for His reply no later than the following evening, which was (conveniently) Monday night.

I went into service that Monday believing this was going to be it; I was going to get a message from God. Instead, I received a big, giant, God-sized middle finger in the face.

First of all, some other people lead worship that night and it sucked; I felt nothing. Then, after the speaker gave a few prophetic words, which were most definitely not meant for me, she went on to speak about walking in faith through disappointment. HA! I left that night in a dark cloud. “Fine! Fuck you, too!” I shouted on my drive home.

The following week I did not want to go. I felt tired and irritated and it seemed pointless. My friend (the same one who originally bailed on me) once again convinced me to accompany her. There was a brief moment, sitting in my car, where I took a breath and thought aloud, I still choose you… you dick.

Worship began and in all my irritation, I could not focus. It didn’t help that my friend was putting on the most perfect performance I’d ever seen. But instead of writing her off as a total phony (because I really have no way to know one way or the other) I decided to sit my ass down and try to ignore her. I took off my boots and sat cross-legged in my seat. I closed my eyes, controlled my breathing, put all other people out of my mind, and just listened. And in my meditative state, weird shit started to happen.

It started with a very strong tingling traveling up my spine, causing me to gasp upon reaching my neck. Then I was bombarded with thoughts of my niece. I had not naturally reached for these thoughts; they were put there quite forcefully.

I saw her running toward me, smiling, arms open wide. I saw her laughing and jumping on the couch. I saw us dancing together with Taylor Swift’s Shake it off on repeat. I remembered dancing with her in my arms when she became tired but insisted on continuing. I saw her throwing a tantrum, scrunching up her face and stomping around. I remembered the effort it took not to laugh.

Then I began to feel it – a love I didn’t know existed, let alone that I was capable of. I thought of how when my niece misbehaves or rebels, I somehow love her even more. And in that moment, as I became completely overwhelmed by love, I felt an undeniable THIS IS HOW I LOVE YOU. Then my sister started to sing Taylor Swift’s Shake it off and I dissolved into tears.

My tears quickly turned to laughter as I realized I was crying to a Taylor Swift song. Then I opened my eyes, remembered where I was and wiped away the evidence. All around me people were flailing about, completely unaware I’d just had a breakthrough.

Since then, I’ve been walking around on shaky legs, trying to adapt to a reality that obliterates much of what I thought to be true. I’ve only been able to tell portions of this story to two people: my sister and my therapist. Both times I kept it short because I started crying all over again. Hell, I’m crying again right now. Apparently God loves me. Holy shit.

-EC

resolution pollution

It’s resolution time again! Time to look back on all the mistakes and regrets of the passing year. Time to look forward with unrealistic expectations for how everything is somehow going to be completely different this time.

When I look back on 2015, my honest thought is: well done, me. I did a lot of good, hard work this year. My honest thought when I look forward to 2016 is simply this: I am onto something good. Don’t stop.

I haven’t shared any of my writing for a few months. Like most of what I do in life, I didn’t worry about why – I didn’t put much thought into it at all – I just stopped because I felt like it. Only much later did I think about my decision. It had become time for me to dig deeper, somewhere uncomfortable and frightening; and to do that, I needed a break from sharing myself.

When I left off, I was purposefully going on dates by myself (in public) for the purpose of getting to know/falling in love with myself (as you would with another person). It was going well. Actually, the last date I’d written about went poorly but still did its job. I went on a couple more solo dates I never bothered to write about before stopping altogether. They weren’t bad; they just didn’t feel meaningful anymore. I had outgrown my simple plan.

This is the part of my story where I would normally begin to roll my eyes at myself, but my eyes are steady. This is all very real for me. It would have to be or I would never do it.

It irritated the shit out of me – how, without thought or intention, the quest to know and love myself unexpectedly yet naturally evolved into the necessity to seek God. My eyes remain steady.

I am searching and I am battling and the struggle is constant. But somewhere within all the noise and horseshit, I am finding glimpses of hope and love, and I am holding onto this truth with everything I have. Even if that means tattooing “God is love” on my forearm. I definitely tattooed “God is love” on my forearm last week.

And so I head into the New Year without a typical unrealistic resolution. Instead, two very powerful words urge me forward: Keep Going. Just thought I’d share. 🙂

EC

by myself at a football game (NFL)

The first football game I ever watched was Super Bowl 27: Buffalo Bills vs. Dallas Cowboys, on January 31, 1993. Buffalo got slaughtered. I was eight years old and didn’t know anything about football; but when it offered me the opportunity to skip a church service, I became an instant fan. Twenty-two years later and I am still obsessed. Oddly enough, Buffalo is my team of choice.

Of the many games I have been to (usually two per season) Sunday’s was the only one I’ve attended alone. The Bills’ home opener against Indianapolis was the setting for my sixth date by myself.

A pregame stop at the duty-free (a tradition for all Canadian Bills fans) revealed an unexpected concern: alcohol.

Tailgating is an essential part of football. People camp out for days in anticipation of the big game and I have seen some impressive set ups. There is no denying it’s a religion. In past years, I have been an exceptionally enthusiastic participant of all things tailgating. I threw a mean spiral, I could chug like no other, and I drank many a large man under the table. A shoulder injury has since retired my throwing arm; but what’s more crippling, I no longer drink.

This was not my first sober football game; it was my fourth. The difference, of course, is that I was accompanied to the other games. This time, as I admired the beautiful crowd of jersey-clad fans pushing shopping carts full of bottles up to the register, I felt the full weight and seclusion of my sobriety. This is going to be weird.

I proceeded to the border – where I seemed to scramble the brain of the officer who asked who I’d be watching the game with – then chuckled to myself the rest of the way to Orchard Park. After parking my car on a kind resident’s front lawn for $10 (this is normal) I began my poor attempt at tailgating.

All around me music was pumping, meat was grilling, drinks were flowing, and people were cheering. I felt very much an outsider standing alone by my trunk, eating my sandwich. But as I watched the hilarious drunken spectacle, I felt no desire to join in, only an odd sadness. I am no longer a part of this. I mourned briefly, chugged a bottle of water, then headed in to the Ralph Wilson Stadium. Well, at least my chugging skills are still on point.

Here are some photos I took before the game. Note: I quite liked getting to my seat early and watching the players warm up.

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The seats filled quickly and I became giddy with adrenaline. I could never adequately articulate the intensity of a sold-out Ralph at full volume on the first game of the regular season. After kickoff, I lost all sense of my surroundings (I may have even stopped blinking) and gave in to the hypnosis of the game, erratically shouting broken sentences littered with expletives. It wasn’t until half way through the second quarter that I sat down for the first time to take a breather. Only then did I notice: oh, shit. I can’t feel my toes.

It was fucking freezing and, for some unfathomable reason, I hadn’t worn socks. Mittens? Yes. Earmuffs? Of course! Socks? Nope. I am a genius. I held out until halftime before fleeing to the bathroom to figure out a solution. Behold… my solution:

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Oh, I am a genius! I returned to my seat, confidence renewed, right on time for the second half.

It was a hell of a game. Despite several terrible calls by the consistently lopsided referees (c’mon, stripes!) we won 14-27. What’s more, once the guys sitting next to me consumed enough liquid courage, they became super chatty. Evidently they are season-ticket holders and the horribly overpriced last-minute ticket I purchased online belongs to their buddy, who couldn’t make it because he’s a marine. We exchanged numbers before parting ways so I may purchase his ticket for a more reasonable price the next time he has to miss a game. The chances of them remembering the outcome of the game, much less conversing with a lone Canadian, are pretty slim. Nevertheless, I regret nothing. Go Bills!

EC

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hard to say: maybe I’m the problem

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It’s that time of the year again. Summer’s over and the kiddies are back to school. Parents regain some freedom while the rest of us pay the ultimate price: traffic. The arteries of the city are once again clogged with school buses and soccer moms.

Typically I am a calm and courteous driver. I maintain a safe speed and I respect the space of other cars. Not this morning, nope! Stuck in the jam of cars slowly shuffling in and out of a secondary school lot, my middle fingers began to itch.

Outta my way! my brain was screaming as I contemplated upgrading my vehicle… to a snowplow. The precious seconds ticked away and my rage built. Eventually I was able to get around the chaos and speed away seething, “idiots!”

Later in the day, working away happily and far removed from the morning’s frustration, I felt the annoying twinge of guilt that happens when I’m wrong about something. I reluctantly reconsidered the scenario.

What exactly had me so furious? People taking their kids to school? No, that can’t be right. Idiot drivers compromising all the space on the road? Well, they weren’t exactly being idiotic, were they. They were just patiently awaiting their turn. Damn kids ruining my morning routine!

Hang on a second. I’ve driven with kids in the car before – my niece and nephew – and I remember feeling hyper aware of all the “idiot” drivers on the road. People sped around me as I called out, “your time is not more valuable than mine!”

So let’s be real. I was made to wait all of four minutes this morning. Then, not wanting to be late, I drove like an asshole the rest of the way to work. The possibility of being four minutes late for work… THAT’S what I was so angry about?! My time is not more valuable than theirs.

This simple annoyance, which was created by me, can be solved by leaving my house four minutes earlier. I am my own problem; I am also my solution. Goddammit. I hate when that happens.

EC

by myself at a bowling alley

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Truth be told: I didn’t feel much like going out this weekend. I’d have been happy to spend it parked in my hammock with a good book. Realizing this was perhaps the best opportunity to experience being out by myself – when I wasn’t feeling into it – I decided to go out anyway. Saturday night at 9pm, I arrived at Parkway Lanes, in St. Catharines, for my fifth date by myself.

It wasn’t busy; fewer than half of the lanes were occupied. I purchased two games from a young man, his voice cracking with fresh puberty, and headed to lane 14. As I laced up my rented shoes, the group of people three lanes down whispered to each other and laughed in my direction. As I got myself set up, the young man and his manager (who’d come out of his back office) stood silently staring at me. To be fair, I showed up for bowling packing a giant tripod.

I giggled to myself as I took some pre-game photos. Please excuse the poor quality. It was all dark and glowy in there and I am shyte with the settings on my super professional camera – it is utterly wasted in my unskilled hands. Hopefully you are still able to appreciate the amazing pants I chose to bowl in.

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My first ten frames took all of 20 minutes. Bowling does not take long when you are alone. Also, I am terrible at it. I took a little breather, bought a 5-dollar bottle of “Great Value” water from the bar and started my second game. I expected I’d be a lot better after loosening up and shaking off the cobwebs. Nope. Still terrible. In an unexpected turn of events, I learned something quite unfortunate that evening: bowling is not fun.

I’ve done a lot of bowling in my day. Whether on dates or with large groups of friends, bowling has always been a go-to guaranteed fun time. Now, by myself and stripped of conversation, competition, or (especially) alcohol, I saw bowling with new eyes. The darkness, the loud music, the dancing strobe lights, the disco ball, the novelty of my glowing clothing – all of it speaking to me subliminally. You are having a wonderful time. Sure you are just trying to knock down some pins by hurling a ball down a long lane, but this is the best night ever. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

What a bummer. I did manage to get one strike, which I celebrated halfheartedly. I stretched out the time by playing in the air that blows out of the bowling ball retrieving machine thingy. But eventually I admitted I was bored and gave up. I packed my things and went to the bar to hang out and finish drinking my over-priced water. At the bar, a small crowd of what appeared to be regulars watched me as if I were about to grow another head.

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The entirety of my bowling experience was met with stares, whispers, or laughter. And yet, I was unperturbed. I didn’t feel the typical animosity, defensive anger, or urge to explain myself. I felt comfortable allowing everybody to think and conclude whatever they wanted about me. For this I am pleased.

Still, I did feel a hint of something I couldn’t identify over all the strategic distractions. More than just disappointment for having discovered that bowling sucks, this was something else, something I needed to attend to.

I headed to a spot where I’d long ago been taken by a date who’d tried to salvage a terrible evening by feeling me up: a small bench atop a grassy hill. In the daytime, you can see that this bench overlooks a private beach on Lake Ontario. You can see clear across to Toronto on a sunny day. I couldn’t see a thing that night. It was so dark I could not even distinguish the sky from the water. With no visible horizon, I could have easily been convinced that the world dropped off at the bottom of the hill. I sat and stared into the darkness.

There had been a couple just arriving as I ended my last game at the alley. They took the lane beside me and flirted playfully. The girl worried aloud about the balls being too heavy for her so the guy set out to find her a lighter one. I could have told them the purple ball I’d been using was pretty light, but I didn’t. Instead I watched as he tested eight balls before returning with one that suited her. I turned away when they kissed.

As the sound of the gentle waves breaking slowed my breathing and eased my searching mind, one thought came to me simple and clear: I want that. There it was, the exact feeling I have been seeking to make peace with: loneliness.

When it came there was no fear or anger. There was no lump in my throat because there was no resistance. I let it wash over me and I began to cry. I sat in the loneliness for a long time, crying and breathing and feeling it. Then just as easily as it came, it passed. When it was all done, I wiped my face and smiled to myself. That wasn’t so bad.

I’m really glad I decided to go out anyway.

-EC

by myself at a comedy show

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After skipping a weekend of dating myself to hang out with my niece and nephew, I was surprised to find that I missed it. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with the kids. But I have begun to look forward to taking myself out.

This past Friday night, pumped up with two weeks of anticipation, I headed back out to Niagara Falls for my fourth date by myself. My all-time favourite place to go on a date (and the one I was most dreading doing alone) is located in the lower level of Casino Rama: Yuk Yuk’s comedy club.

These photos were taken moments before a security guard yelled at me for taking photos in a casino:

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As was my plan all along, I positioned myself at a small round table directly in front of the stage. I ordered myself a ginger ale and a water and got cozy while the club began to fill. Soon Anthony Mlekuz, the host for the evening, burst on stage and I felt myself stiffen slightly. I had been remarkably calm leading up to the show, sipping my drinks and taking in my surroundings, but the stage was small, I was sitting directly in front of it, and my natural line of view fell neatly on his crotch. Things had just gotten a little awkward.

I consciously pulled my eyes up to his face just in time to catch the punch line of his first joke about elderly women finding him sexy. He got a big laugh, reached out and high-fived me four times, then settled back on stage and proclaimed: “she’s got two drinks and nobody’s sitting with her, ladies and gentlemen!” Another big laugh.

He started to get in to his second joke but got side tracked instead. “Seriously, why are you still sitting alone? Did you come here by yourself?”

“Yep.”

“And you sat in the front row?”

“Yep.”

“Can I just get a clap for the weirdest fucking thing ever!” Laughter and applause were followed by a moment of pause as he looked me over curiously. “I don’t even know what to do with this, it has literally never happened before.” Then he moved on. It was the gentlest razzing I’d ever experienced from a comedian. It was funny and easy and I was left to enjoy the rest of the show untouched. Brilliant!

The first act was mediocre but the headlining comic, Chris Quigley, was outstanding. I was so relaxed toward the end of the show I began using the laugh I reserve for when nobody is around. There was snorting, knee-slapping, dribble may or may not have run down my chin at one point. I was having so much fun I did not give a single shit.

I left the club feeling so light and happy I didn’t want the evening to be over yet. Oh, hello SkyWheel!

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After a lovely ride in pod number 22 of this luxurious wheel – where I forgot people outside the glass could see me and accidentally flashed my green panties to the kids in the neighbouring pod by putting my feet up – I decided I still wasn’t ready to call it a night.

Someone had recently told me about a bar in the Fallsview Casino, the R5 Lounge. They described it as sexy and classy and the perfect place to bring a really good date. I could think of no one else I would rather take.

Fun fact about me: I will walk great distances to avoid paying for parking. In this scenario, the long and scenic walk added to the overall magic of the evening.

Very happy I had chosen to wear a dress, I sidled up to the bar of easily the sexiest establishment I had ever entered. I ordered a virgin cocktail. The bartender whipped me up a delightful concoction of mango, strawberry, and unicorn kisses (I’m assuming). By this time I felt so wonderful I decided I deserved a reward. Oh, hello late-night dessert menu!

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I’m pretty sure I was just floating around on a cloud of hearts and butterflies; it was without a doubt the best date I’ve ever been on. But something completely bizarre happened after I left the bar and began walking back to my car. Amid a crowd of drunken tourists, I noticed a little old man waiting at the crosswalk. I linked my arm in his and said hello. He smiled and we walked across the road together. At the other side, we said good evening and parted ways.

I have never done anything like this before in my life. I’m not entirely sure where the hell that came from.

The only explanation I could come up with for this spontaneous act is that I was so completely full of love for myself some of it actually overflowed and splashed onto a random stranger. Come to think of it, ever since that night I have been more patient and kind and compassionate to everyone I’ve encountered. I’ve even been driving better.

Huh. I may have stumbled on to something.

-EC

…To All the Nice Guys (& Girls)

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Photo: “We are Scientists” by Stuart1000

Great news! I’ve just had a second article published by Elephant Journal! Please click here to read it. Then share it with the world and let me know what you think in the comments. Also, don’t forget to like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading, friends. Lots of love! 🙂

-EC

by myself at a festival

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After plans to meet a friend fell through Saturday afternoon, I began my third date by myself at the Midsummer’s Dream festival of colour, in Hamilton.

According to its website, the festival was inspired by the principles of an ancient Hindu festival called “Holi,” intended to celebrate the triumph of good over evil and the renewal of spring. From where I was standing, it seemed like an excellent excuse for a lot of people to get extraordinarily dirty. Sign me up.

I quickly got my bearings and wasted no time jumping into the mess. Armed with six small bags of coloured powder, I pushed to the middle of the large crowd. As the first musical guests chanted in Sanskrit, we pressed together and waited for the countdown. When it happened, it didn’t matter that I was wearing sunglasses or that I’d pulled my scarf over my face, that shit got everywhere. It was in my eyes, ears, mouth, and up my nose. It found every crevice. Eventually, of course, I had to use the ladies’ room and then the powder got… everywhere else.

This colour-throwing ritual, which represents how different cultural backgrounds can come together as one, repeated every half hour. Here are some photos of me gradually acclimating to my surroundings:

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Aside from music and colour, there was plenty more to see and do. I contentedly explored the tea lounge, the craft vendor market, the do-it-yourself creativity tent, and the large yogafest.

In the creativity tent, I sat and made myself a brightly-coloured ankle bracelet while chatting with a woman and her daughter. “What do you think this festival represents?” I asked her. “I think it’s just a celebration of love and friendship and equality,” she replied. Yeah, I can get behind that.

I somehow managed to score a free coconut by flashing my brightest smile and asking the man how much it was for pretty girls. Wow. I’m embarrassed how easily that worked.

I don’t particularly like yoga, but I did enjoy the soft music and the soothing voice of the instructor, so I laid next to them under a tree and drank my coconut. Life is good.

I wandered around aimlessly, occasionally engaging in playful colour fights with strangers, spontaneously plopping my ass on the grass to chug water, and randomly contributing to passing conversations. “Am I pink, orange, or blue right now?” A young girl asked her friend. “All of the above!” I shouted.

Overall, my experience was very positive. I was alone and yet felt very much an accepted part of the large faceless group of awesomeness.

There was just one thing that troubled me. I didn’t dance. Not even when a great DJ put together a series of tracks I’d normally shake my ass to. I love dancing. Whether I’m any good or not has never concerned me; I’m an uninhibited dancer. But I still didn’t dance. I couldn’t.

Come to think of it, I’ve never danced by myself in public. I’ve always been among friends. What’s more: it was always with the underlying agenda to either entice or impress someone else. I did not like this revelation at all.

I began looking closer at the moving crowd of brightly coloured people, young and old, and I began to see it for the smaller groups it comprised. Everyone danced with someone else. Sure they were dancing freely, but only with the familiarity of someone they knew. Dancing is about the music not the people; isn’t it? Or maybe it’s both?

I may not have joined in the dancing, but I also didn’t run from my discomfort. While these questions tumbled around unwelcome in my brain, I stood amid the dancers and felt it.

It is now my goal upon completing this project to be able to dance by myself and feel great about it.

EC

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by myself at miniature golf

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Saturday evening, around 8:30 pm, I went out on my first official date by myself. Please take a moment to skim through my previous post: by myself if you have no idea what I am talking about.

A first date is typically riddled with nerves, awkward pauses in conversation, and restrained farts. These are non-issues on a solo operation, so I already felt ahead of the game. I left the house looking cute and feeling well. This is going to be a breeze!

I pulled into the parking lot and my confidence deflated. Wow, there are a lot of people working on their short game this evening. I got out of the car and began setting up my tripod. In order to provide photo evidence without compromising the integrity of the challenge by bringing someone, I got a remote for my camera.

“Why don’t you just take a selfie with your phone?” my sister had asked, flabbergasted. “Because that would be too easy.”

Indeed, I intend to do this the hard way. Correction: “the more meaningful way,” says my therapist. “I think you’re just torturing yourself,” commented my sister. There may be some truth in that.

Here I am at Super Putt, in Niagara Falls, looking exactly as awkward as I felt in the moment.

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I returned my equipment to my trunk and got in line behind a group of four, a middle-aged couple, and a family of three – all of whom had just watched me take that photo and were now eyeing me curiously. The family of three approached me. “Are you here by yourself?” “I am, yes.” “Would you like to join us?”

Even though this life raft was probably well-intended, I hated being directly confronted about being alone. I had to stuff the urge to launch into a full explanation about my intentions and this new project I am writing about. Instead I smiled and replied simply: “no, thank you.”

The next 45 minutes were somewhat painless. Mini-golf is boring without conversation or flirting or competition. And it would seem I am not very good unless I have somebody to beat. Interesting.

There were several uncomfortable moments backed up behind slower people and waiting around with the other groups. The couples embraced, the families joked around with each other, and then there was me.

I wish I could tell you I stood tall and faced the discomfort with my head up, smiled at the strangers and felt as if I belonged. That would be a lie. I felt like a weirdo. I got out my phone and took photos, posted them online, and cowered behind the warm glow of the social media security blanket. (A “no distractions” rule will be observed going forward.) Clearly I’ve got some work to do.

Not wanting to go home disappointed, I finished the evening with a romantic moonlit stroll by the falls. I had forgotten how captivating it looks lit up against the night sky.

At one point a man standing beside me got up on the ledge to take a picture and I jokingly yelled, “Don’t jump!” We laughed innocently for about two seconds before his wife swooped in and dragged him away. Oh, for Christ’s sake! I rolled my eyes and headed home.

Glow-in-the-dark bowling this weekend.

-EC

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