When I was 25 years old, my life was falling apart. My marriage had imploded. I was a single mother with two kids — one of which had autism that wouldn’t be diagnosed for another ten years, who could not be left in daycare. I was living in deep poverty. My mother had died the year before.
That year I travelled from Las Vegas (where we lived) to Long Beach, CA (where I grew up) with my dad. I don’t remember why now. It might have been for my grandmother’s funeral.
Whatever the reason, we visited my favorite bookstore. It’s not there anymore, but Acres of Books was magical. When I was a little girl, I used to go to work with my dad and do his filing for a couple of hours in exchange for $20 and an afternoon down the street lost in this store.
Acres of Books - Wikipedia
In its long history Acres of Books has served clientele such as Jack Vance, Upton Sinclair, Stan Freberg, Gary Owens…
When I was a 25-year-old woman whose life was falling apart, I walked into the store with no money and found a book that changed everything. Wishcraft by Barbara Sher made me realize (and believe) that I had far more control over my life — even in deep poverty, even when my husband was expecting a baby with another woman, even when I couldn’t even see beyond the next five minutes without a total anxiety attack.
Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want
Cindy Fox was a waitress. Now she's a pilot. Peter Johnson was a truck driver. Now he's a dairy farmer. Tina Forbes was…
Barbara Sher taught me that A) I should know what a perfect day looks like for me and B) it’s okay that most days are not perfect. She taught me to ask for help and offer it freely. Please, do yourself a favor. If you’ve never read Wishcraft, pick up a copy. It’s probably in your local library.
I re-read Wishcraft every December. And I do what I think is the most powerful exercise in the book. I visualize a perfect day. I freewrite (in present tense, as if it’s happening right this minute) for as long as it takes about a day, from wake up to going back to bed.
Here are some questions I ask myself:
What is my morning routine?
What does my bedroom look like?
Where am I?
What do I wear for the day?
What are my plans? (Hint: If your perfect day doesn’t include work, that’s a good indication that you’re not doing work you love. Something to work on in the new year!)
Who is part of my day?
Who ISN’T part of my day?
What do I eat?
How do I feel?
What does a day where I’ve met all my major goals look like?
This is an exercise in daydreaming. It isn’t about actually achieving that particular day. Chances are that as you age and your priorities and circumstances change, your perfect day will change, too.
I try to make my perfect day something that’s within my control. So I wouldn’t include something like: I’ve won the lottery and money is no longer a worry. Instead, I’d write: I’ve written a book that’s sold for enough money to support my family for at least a year.
Once my perfect day exercise is written, I go back over it and think about it’s elements and make a list of them. And then I think about the gap between today and that day.
My perfect day has changed a lot over the last 22 years.
When I was 25 (and for a long time after), my perfect day included “I have an MFA.” The gap went, gradually from “I have a high school diploma” to “I finished my first semester of college” and so on, until this year. I graduated with an MFA in August 2018.
This year, I’ve moved across the country to a place where I don’t know very many people. My perfect day will include spending time with friends. It always does, but since I lived in Nevada from the age of 14 until November 2018, it means something different this time. I actually have to figure out how to put myself out there and make friends.
This exercise will help prepare you for tomorrow’s post.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids, and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes and is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming novel The Astonishing Maybe. She is the original Ninja Writer.