When I was in San Francisco, I took myself out to dinner. It almost didn't happen.
It's not that I have a problem dining out alone. It's more than the allure of the television screen and pajama bottoms in my hotel room almost outweighed the allure of a solo meal at a sushi counter. But in that brief moment after the waitress offered me water, I didn't give myself a chance to say, "Could I actually place a take out order?" and instead took the plunge into the world of solitary dining that I hadn't seen for awhile.
I sat at that sushi counter and read Water for Elephants on my iPhone. After awhile, I glanced up and watched my chef, skillfully skinning fish and wrapping rolls with nimble fingers. And as a group of young women began gathering for dinner behind me, I vicariously enjoyed their friendship, smiling at their laughter and the comparisons they were making between San Francisco and Boston.
My sushi was amazing. I noticed that the spicy tuna roll didn't have the pinkish mayonnaise sauce I'm used to seeing. So I shouldn't have been surprised that after dipping it in my wasabi-laced soy sauce, I was hit behind my sinuses with a little sledgehammer in my head, and my eyes spilled over with tears in the middle of that quiet restaurant. Turns out, my roll was laced with red pepper flakes, the likes of which I have never experienced before. But let me tell you...once you've cried in a restaurant alone, you will always feel comfortable on a date with yourself.
At the end of the night, I realized that this evening had been one of the happiest moments I had in that city. I was so fully present with my food and my thoughts and my surroundings. I enjoyed the company of others and the company of myself at the same time. And when it came time to walk home, I felt full of possibility...coffee shops, dessert, an evening walk?
My friend Julie recently wrote about the experience of travelling alone when you're used to spending so much time with your other. And while I experienced some of that on this trip, that night of sushi was about more than just being away from others...it was about being with myself. I guess I thought I was with myself all the time...on my train ride into work or when I'm alone in the apartment. But in those same-old same-old places, I just run into my self that I already know. "Hey there...you again." When I took myself out to dinner, it was more like a first date. "Hey there...you like sushi? Ha ha...didn't think it would be that spicy? Oh also...you look really cute tonight." It's a happy place, that one where you sort of get to fall in love with yourself and the world all over again.
Nice to meet you, self. Let's do it again soon.