At the time I begged to differ, "Oh no," I said, refusing to sign up to a sentiment so bleak, "I have Husband, he is always there for me, I can always rely on him," and so far this has been true. I have always been able to rely on him and he has always been there, since I was 19 anyway.
But I thought about what she had said afterwards and I have to admit that I do, rather reluctantly, take her point. Look at how many seemingly perfect relationships end in disaster. Look at how many people cheat or betray one another, even those who remain married and close. Look at how many elderly people find themselves ill-equipped for bereavement at the close of their lives because they have never really learned to rely on themselves.
We can't take anything for granted. We need to be able to like ourselves, to rely on ourselves when necessary, because YOU are the person you will definitely be spending all of your time with until the end of your days, whether you like it or not.
And then a few days after that conversation, another friend told me about her Mindfulness Day. Oh no! I hear you say, not that obsession du jour, 'Mindfulness', what a load of old pretentious, self-indulgent claptrap. But hear me out, or rather her out, because she told me that on this Mindfulness Day she was not allowed to speak, at all, not once, to anyone, or even make eye contact, because this is a form of communication too, and once she got used to it it was great.
I don't really understand what the point of this not speaking thing is, except that it's meant to be good for you in some way, but for a rather chatty person like me (okay, substitute rather for very) this had a certain appeal. I talk too much, sometimes I exhaust even myself with my inane chatter. So I imagined it must be rather nice to be released from all that, to be MADE to be quiet. How refreshing. How freeing. How weird.
And so when I saw there was an exhibition on in town that I'd quite like to go to, instead of trying to drag Husband along, or the boys, or a friend, I went by myself. Just me. Essentially it was a date with myself, and I recommend it (that's a date with yourself, not with me).
Maybe you are accustomed to doing things by yourself anyway and so it's no big deal but for a woman my age, in her 40s, who is married, with three kids, and parents who are still around, and plenty of female friends, this doesn't happen very often. Indeed my knee-jerk reaction is to find someone to go with to all things, be it cinema or the shops, or even a walk. It doesn't usually occur to me to do things alone. But this combination of friend A. telling me we are essentially all alone in life, and friend B. saying she spent a whole day surrounded by people while not uttering a single word, made me decide to have a date with me.
I got the Tube to Victoria, I walked past Buckingham Palace, I crossed Green Park in the early spring sunshine, sought out an exhibition in Mayfair I had read about in The Guardian and then went to the RA, where I signed up to become a member (I must have been the youngest person in the members' cafe by about 20 years) and then I looked at the exhibition (Rubens), did a spot of shopping and came home. And all while the boys were safely ensconced at school and Husband and Eldest were at work and so no one was any the wiser (except that I will, of course, tell them).
And what of it? Well, it was relaxing, much more relaxing than chatting the whole time to somebody else, and I think I took more in. I noticed things that I wouldn't have noticed otherwise and I relished just pleasing myself, going where the whim took me. I enjoyed the peace of it. I wasn't really alone anyway since I had my phone with me and was receiving texts and emails about work (possible work) the whole time. Have you noticed how many people are glued to their phones in the street and don't look up? It's incredible. This is partly why I've given Facebook a bit of a rest lately, not posting, not even reading it, just spending more time BEING. After all, your true friendships will always be there, social media or no social media.
So that's what I did yesterday. Okay I did post a teeny tiny thing about it on Twitter, but mostly I drank in the weather and the scenery and the paintings and listened in to the conversations around me in the cafe, and as I browsed the paintings, and I recommend it. Have a date with yourself sometime, you'll only have yourself to annoy. You might even find you have a friend you are happy to spend time with for the rest of your life: you.
Love E x
Alex Katz: Black Painting at the Timothy Taylor Gallery in Mayfair
Rubens and His Legacy at The Royal Academy of Art
Good article in The Guardian about social media