Sometimes, I just need a date night…

A reflection by Lindsey

I call after Sarah, “Please don’t change into your being-at-home clothes quite yet!” After raising one eyebrow, “Well, why not?” she makes eye contact before I say, “Because I want to take you out on a date.”

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at my wit’s end. I have been on the job market for about a month. Unexpected job loss can take quite a toll on a person… and on a family team. My temperament has been off, fluctuating through the range of distressed to desperate to oddly hopeful to plain annoyed to…. you get the idea. The Big Financial Squeeze has its way of zapping energy out of me. Earlier in that day, I had a job interview. I drove the long-ish drive to the office building, had a reasonable-length interview, and was home before lunch. I made sure to drive all the way home because the cheapest food is food you already have. As I sat in the quiet eating my pasta, I couldn’t help but hear the voices that said, “HA! You just had a ‘day’s work’ and you were home by lunch!” and “Do you realize you spent more time traveling to the interview than you spent time interviewing? You’re a loser!”

These accusations are par for the course when navigating something like chronic depression. You know they aren’t true, you know they aren’t even coming from your own thoughts, and you know there is precious little you can do under your own power to make them shut up and give you a moment’s peace. I have gained some practice in overcoming the inertia of my own tapes. I started by looking at any objective evidence that the tapes might be uttering truths. Taking stock forward from that week, I realized I had secured some freelance work, likely had some additional temporary work on the way, and just finished an interview for a full-time position. Not surprisingly, the tapes were complete and utter hogwash, and I could consider an alternative. There was cause for cutting myself a break, for finding some space to be myself, and for celebrating. There was space for date night.

I began the practice of “Date Night” many years ago by taking myself out on dates whenever I felt so inclined. Panera, a walkable neighborhood, Noodles and Co., the local park, neighborhood coffee shops, and Pizza Hut offered me sanctuary at key moments when I needed to show myself an extra special dose of kindness. Although I was a cheap date (and very much relish in the skills associated with practicing Date Night on a budget), I began learning how to extend radical hospitality to others by first offering it to myself. I learned how to check in with myself and ask, “Lindsey, what do you really want to do right now?” I came to see myself as a worthwhile person and practiced simply being alone. The video below has some great pointers if you’re looking for a way to start.

As Sarah and I have gotten to know each other, I’ve brought my “Date Night” practice with me. It is something that we look forward to doing together. We never know when the other one will pull on the cord that opens the Date Night parachute, so we do our best always to have a few possibilities. We love cupcakes, certificates, walks to various free things to do, outings to some of our favorite places if the day and time permits, and getting dinner together. We keep options open for every Date Night budget. I do my best to watch for when Sarah needs the time in addition to monitoring how I am feeling. We figure out what we are going to do, always knowing that a “plan” amounts to little more than figuring out travel directions. I think the only “rule” we have is that we must definitely get out of the house when enjoying a date.

A couple of weeks ago, we decided it was high time to use a certificate that we had been sitting on for several months. It felt like a day where it was best to break completely from the routine. We tend to purchase certificates in bulk on different promotional days, and we bantered back and forth before deciding on a German restaurant. Truth be told, I don’t know much about German food, but I was feeling up for a culinary experience. We found ourselves in a small restaurant we wouldn’t have even known existed. As we looked over the menu, we listened to a live pianist and breathed a bit. We laughed as we realized that we could meet our certificate’s minimum spending guideline just choosing the two entrees and desserts we wanted to try. I always try to pick my meal so that it has components Sarah and I can share. Culinary adventures are more fun with multiple people; and, I thought the bread dumplings sounded interesting as I looked to pick the side dishes that would go with my dinner. Time seemed to stand still as we sat together, broke bread, shared a meal in a delightful venue, refreshed our spirits, and enjoyed one another’s company. We left the restaurant revitalized, and promised to return again and continue sampling from the dessert menu.

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