A long time ago, in a more innocent time (the late 90’s) I was struggling to figure out what to do with my life. I’d earned a degree that had given me a broad spectrum of creative technological skills, but there was nothing directly transferable into a “career”.
Worse, I was an creative (sorry, Mom). I didn’t call myself that back then, but the fact was that I wanted to make art, interesting works involving dance and projections and such. And I did some of that, but like anyone just out of college (even if that’s when you’re 30) I was floundering.
I came across the books of Barbara Sher, with fun titles like Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want and I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was. Spoiler: I not only absorbed her books and used them, I had the privilege of working with her on a few projects and she even loaned my then-wife and me her Central Park West apartment for our honeymoon. She is truly a remarkable woman.
The Perfect Day
One of the exercises she suggested was to come up with your “Perfect Day”. It’s where the sky is the limit, and you have accomplished everything you wanted. At the time I had my eye on becoming a successful freelancer while keeping my creative projects in mind, and dreamed of having a stable polyamorous relationship, good relationships with my kids, and keeping physically fit as well as mentally stimulated.
At the time, with struggles in money, strife with my teenage daughters, and more, it seemed a pretty tall order. It seemed magical. My “Perfect Day” started with exercise and meditation, coffee and introspective writing. It had both time for personal work and also interesting, meaningful work with clients. It had time for relaxing with friends and also romantic time with lovers. It had healthy food and even ice cream.
The mere idea of it was so far out of my experience then that I almost laughed and cried simultaneously when I went through the exercise. Barbara seemed something like some cruel self-help demon sent to highlight just how far away – or even impossible – what I wanted was from where I was.
A few years later – not too many, in fact – I reached the end of a day, and realized: I’d just had my perfect day.
The Fatigue of Joy
Yep, I’d had a morning of t’ai chi in the park, journaling on my front porch with coffee, client work in the morning, lunch with a good friend, time with my daughters in the afternoon as well as some writing on my novel, a relaxing, healthy dinner, followed by a rehearsal with a performing group and finally an evening rendezvous with my lover.
And you know what I thought, at the end of that Perfect Day?
Damn. This is tiring.
Yep. I was exhausted. I was relieved the the next day was going to be much. More. Relaxing. Because it wasn’t a perfect day, it was a day with several tedious and boring moments.
It was an interesting lesson to learn – there is the idea of “Perfect”, sure, but what would a sustainable day look like? How could I nourish my passions and joys and loves without burning myself out.
I had forgotten one of the key rules coined by sci-fi writer Ray Cummings: time is what keeps everything from happening at once. To put it bluntly, I was cramming everything that I wanted in a week, a month, a year into that Perfect Day.
It was a useful lesson to learn. I calmed down, started being more reasonable and forgiving in the projects I took on, and found a balance to my —
OK. No. Not really. It was an interesting lesson to learn, but I certainly can’t say I applied it. Every time I said “I’m going to get this done, and then things will calm down…” they never did.
Stumbling into Perfect
Fast forward to today. To this morning, in fact. Let me share my schedule with you:
- Yoga, meditation, journaling (with coffee)
- Writing this blog post
- Personal Coaching appointment via Skype
- Hand-lettering signs for a small business here in Madison
- Mastermind meeting with my friend who just moved to Florida
- Editing the “Open Space Events” video course I’ve created for Skillshare.com
- Lunch with a brilliant photographer friend who has worked on many projects with me
- Weightlifting at the gym.
- Working on videos for a clients in L.A. and San Francisco
- Doing my End-of-Week planning
- Relaxing and eating a healthy dinner with my partner
- Going out to a local club to socialize with friends before an early bedtime at around 10pm.
I was putting this schedule together this morning, slotting in the meetings and the work and the workouts and such, and internally I was wincing at some of the constraints. I wanted more time to spend learning new lettering, and I’m not looking forward to the weightlifting (but Doctor’s orders, so…). I looked at the schedule and thought “wow. I’m gonna be tired by the end of this day…
And then it hit me: it was another Perfect Day.
But it’s not an unusual day, by any means (yesterday was very similar, but it was time with my daughter instead of a friend and an intimate evening at home rather than going out). In fact, it was a pretty normal day.
This is not me trying to humblebrag about attaining perfection by any means. It’s the Gray, you idiot, you got exactly what you always wanted…and you didn’t even notice.
And that’s not to make myself feel guilty about being ungrateful, either. Past-Me had no clue what Present-Me would want or be able to do. I’ve got to remember that, as well.
No, this is just a blog post about remembering, in the stress and tedium of everyday life, that there may be things around you that Past-You thought would never happen, but theydid – and you just were too busy to notice.
It’s also about another lesson: be careful what you wish for in life. The things you love take a lot of energy, and if you get them, you’re gonna be tired.