“She entered her house and turned back to me for one last kiss, and to say, ‘I can’t imagine a better way to spend a Sunday than with you. Thank you for today.’” That’s the way my client, Nathaniel, ended his “perfect day” narrative. His story, written as “homework” between one of our sessions and the next, had been simple. They usually are. His version of perfect was a relaxed day with a loving, receptive, funny woman, doing not much at all. Breakfast on the deck. Errands. Lunch at an outdoor café. Lovemaking. Dinner.
Why do I ask my clients to write the “perfect day?” This simple exercise restores a sense of balance to us when we are feeling lost, guilty, anxious, hopeless, or just uncertain. Nathaniel had been spinning his wheels for a long time about whether to pursue a relationship with a woman he’d met online. Ida lived almost an hour away and had a busy professional life. Would she want to make the effort? Would she have time for him?
The story he told made it very clear to me—and most importantly to him—that he is worth her effort and has much to offer in a relationship. The confidence he was able to reconnect with (after a divorce very damaging to his equilibrium and self-esteem) enabled him to ask Ida out and, eventually, make a life with her based on straightforward values and a joyful appreciation for what life has to offer.
Tandy had been dragged around by love and was ready to retreat to a safe place and avoid men for the foreseeable future. Then she met an amazing person—her son’s 6th grade homeroom teacher, Bart. She was entirely delighted by this guy and thrilled her son had such a smart, strong, sensitive man as a role model at a formative time in his life. More than that, she was deeply attracted to Bart and though it seemed mutual, she didn’t believe it. “He’s just being nice. He’s a good teacher and thinks highly of Matt, that’s all.” Whenever they ran into each other at the soccer field or parking lot they ended up talking for a long time. Tandy was so tangled up by the conflict of interest inherent in such a relationship and the impossibility that he was actually interested in her, that she was blind to the possibility of any positive outcome. The first week of summer break, Bart called to ask her out, “now that he’s not in my class anymore.” She put him off and called me in a panic.
I asked her to take a step back from the situation and simply write her perfect day. She wrote about a day spent with a man, educated, funny, who adored her son. The day ended with family dinner and, in the story, Tandy felt not only happy but also fulfilled and worthy of what seemed a fully sustainable love-match.
She called Bart and said yes to a first of many dates.
Tandy’s ability to see and then accept her own worth allowed her to realize that there is no rule that said she can’t find love with her child’s former teacher and that, in fact, a fabulous man like that would naturally want a lovely, warm, and bright woman like Tandy in his life.
Your life is your narrative. Whether or not you actually write down your perfect day, you can live consciously and visualize the very thing you hope for, and fear you won’t get—whatever that is. Love, happiness, or security, to name a few possibilities. Writing—or living—that narrative will help you understand what author Zora Neale Hurston knew when she said, “It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”