Day 42 | $31,450 paid | $59,267 till freedom
I met Lindsay for bagels this afternoon and I have mixed feelings about how it went. On the one hand, I initially enjoyed the low-speed, chilled-out approach, and I felt I got to know her really well. On the other hand, she didn’t seem to be as big a fan of the situation as I.
Nancy gave me some solid advice on this whole dating thing today. Her comment to my recent post is worth re-posting, as she made a powerful connection:
Thank you for such an insightful post. I think you should apply the mind of the beginner to your ideas about dating. In your thinking about dating, you are an expert: you have certain ideas about what a woman wants from you or how to show her a good time. Erase those ideas. I think that when you date someone you should be yourself: the person you will be when she is your girlfriend. That way you can truly see if you are compatible and will be happy in the long-term. My husband and I are fundamentally best friends. I think that’s the key. A lot of my friends are dating ideas of people they want to be with (not really seeing their partner beyond the persona) and are, in turn, acting like the person they want people to think they are. This is not sustainable. It is more difficult to be vulnerable and be yourself and not hide behind the formula of fancy dates and shallow experiences. You are clearly a strong and creative person. Find your likeness and grow together.
She gave me a lot to chew on with her comments, and I’m still marinating on it and letting it soak in; I haven’t fully internalized it yet. Thank you, Nancy.
Nancy reminded me of a lecture in another Zen booked titled Not Always So by Shunryu Suzuki. It’s a compilation of his lecture series that he gave at a temple in California. In a lecture he gave on 7/20/69, the same day as our country’s first manned mission to the moon, he talks about how this historical event relates to Zen. Excerpts below:
The first one to arrive on the moon may be very proud of his achievement, but I do not think he is a great hero. Instead of seeking for some success in the objective world, we try to experience the everyday moments of our life more deeply. That is the purpose of zazen.
One time Marian [Derby] showed me some sand. When she gave it to me, she said, “These are very interesting stones.” It just looked like sand, but she asked me to look through a magnifying glass. Then those small stones were as interesting as the stones I have in my office. The stones in my office are bigger, but under the glass the sand was quite similar.
If you say, “This is a rock from the moon,” you will be very much interested in it. Actually, I don’t think there is a great difference between rocks we have on earth and those on the moon. So if you want to find something interesting, instead of hopping around the universe like this, enjoy your life in every moment, observe what you have now, and truly live in your surroundings.
Yesterday I went to visit an island owned by the Nature Conservancy where there are many kinds of animals, birds, and fish. It was a very interesting place. If you live in an area like that and really start to see things, to see the plants and animals in that area, you may want to stay there your whole life. It is such an interesting place. But we human beings go hopping around, ignoring many interesting things. We may even travel to the moon or beyond. It is rather foolish. If you stay in one place, you can enjoy your life completely. That is a more human life.
When we go to the moon I am not sure we are following the best direction for human beings. I don’t know what we are doing.
In meditation, we sometimes practice counting our breath. To count each breath is to breathe with our whole mind and body. We count each number with the power of the whole universe. So when you really experience counting your breath, you will have deep gratitude, more than if you arrived on the moon. You will not be so interested in something just because it is considered great, or uninterested in something usually considered to be small.
Still you may be very interested in having new experiences the way a baby is. A baby has the same basic attitude of interest toward all things. If you watch her, she will always be enjoying her life. We adults mostly are caught by our preconceived ideas. We are not completely free from the objective world, because we are not one with the objective world.
It’s easy to say that Shunryu’s negative view of space travel is ignorant and narrow-minded. After all, beating Russia to the moon gave our country a huge morale boost, and space exploration has contributed many valuable technological advances to society. But considering his opinion from another point of view, through the lens of a Buddhist, it’s clear that patriotism and technology don’t play significant roles whatsoever in the life of a Buddhist, and that he couldn’t care less about something that boosts a nation’s pride or advances technology.
I’m not a Buddhist, so it’s difficult for me to routinely look through this lens, but it’s easy to see one thing that his philosophy can apply to: dates. They don’t have to be huge affairs. Today, Lindsay and I got bagels and coffee. Actually, she got a coffee, I got some OJ, water, and a bagel. She offered to pay for her coffee, and even put a few dollars on the counter when I refused to accept them in my hand, but I picked them up and put them in her purse. We parked ourselves at a table outside to enjoy the relatively cool weather and talked for two solid hours. We laughed a lot, we got to know each other, and it definitely didn’t feel like two hours.
A typical first date for me used to be drinks and dinner then bar-hopping and dancing. It was expensive. Comparing that to today’s date is a little like comparing a trip to the moon to a trip to the Nature Conservancy–the two are completely different speeds and price points. Regardless of which type of date it is, a date ultimately serves two purposes: first, to have fun, and second, to get to know the girl. In terms of the second goal, I would say that I probably got to know Lindsay better than I would have had we done a “moon” date. With dinner and drinks and bar-hopping, there are a lot of distractions. Today, there were considerably fewer. As Nancy put it, “<On a cheap date>, it is more difficult to be vulnerable and be yourself and not hide behind the formula of fancy dates and shallow experiences.”
As far as the “having fun” objective goes, I was actually enjoying myself until Lindsay started dropping bombs about three quarters of the way through the date. We had started talking about the subject of dating, and she told me that she was looking for somebody between 34 to 38 years old. I’m 28, and so is she. That was super awkward, and her remark just sort of hung in the air for a few seconds. She also admitted she was dating a doctor, but she qualified it by saying that things probably wouldn’t work out with him.
I guess this lands me squarely in the friend category? Maybe this wasn’t even a date to begin with? Maybe I need to revert to fancy dates and shallow experiences? I’m completely confused.
Either way, I’m not sure if I’m feeling her either, so I’m not exactly going to cry my eyes out over it. She’s a cool chick, but I don’t know…she told me that she eats out for every meal since she doesn’t cook, so that shot up some huge, bright red flags blowing in the strong breezes of caution. Not because I want a girlfriend who can cook, but because she’s practicing a flipping expensive little habit, and believe it or not, I’m actually looking for the value of frugality in a woman I date.
Oh, well. It was a good trial run, anyway. We’ll see if I ever work up the courage to ask somebody I don’t know out on a super-cheap date. I think the challenge will be making something out of nothing–finding the sand that looks beautiful under a magnifying glass. Finding the sand and finding the girl to appreciate that sand will take considerably more effort than dropping $150 on dinner and drinks.
Maybe that’s the point.