A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman
Would you consider starting your morning with toast, tea, and a microdose of LSD?
Throughout her decades-long battle with neuroses, irritability, and chronic pain, author Ayelet Waldman tried a variety of medications including Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac, and more than a dozen other treatments. When no combination of these substances reliably achieved the mindful equilibrium she sought, she took it upon herself to experiment with lysergic acid diethylamide: yes, a month-long dance with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.
Waldman doesn’t stumble through this experiment with visual hallucinatory treats, nor do spiritual revelations confront her head-on. Instead, she follows a regimen in which every three days she consumes one tenth of the dose typically required for a hallucinatory trip. The walls don’t breathe and flowers don’t sing, but Waldman certainly discovers a refreshed perspective on the topics that ail her.
A Really Good Day is presented in the format of a daily “journal.” The top of each day features a rating of that day’s mood, productivity, combativeness, and pain levels. The entry that follows chronicles that day’s endeavors. Waldman shows deep bravery as she so openly describes her struggles with marriage, career, parenthood, and aging. As you gather more insight into her plight through such honest, level-headed presentation, you’ll be compelled to cheer once the effects of the LSD nudge her toward mindful equanimity.
The drug’s positive effects are many: she dives into hours-long stretches of writing productivity. She rejoices at a noticeable reduction in her chronic shoulder pain. She greets her children in the morning and presents their cereal with glee, doing away with the standard-fare grunt of minimal acknowledgement. She applies a constructive, empathetic approach to her marriage squabbles, which eventually make for some joyful, even tear-jerking moments. You won’t need to take LSD yourself to take away some healthy lessons you can apply to your own life.
To its credit, the journal-log format never descends into a tedious account of daily banalities. Waldman peppers the narrative with anachronistic anecdotes that provide background context to the goals of this thirty day experiment. She also includes sections that could stand alone as mini-essays on other currently-illegal drugs. She debunks common myths about danger levels and highlights the positive benefits of each. Substances like ecstasy, methamphetimines and psilocybin mushrooms are commonly demonized as life-destroying poisons, but readers may walk away from A Really Good Day with a alternate, fair perspective built on acceptable dosage levels and mindful harm-reduction.
As a former lawyer and law school lecturer on the topic of American drug policy, Waldman writes with deserved authority. She outlines the careful research she conducted in preparation for this self-directed experiment, and her logical arguments in favor of selective drug legalization are hard to argue with. While they are by no means new or revolutionary, they are presented in the form of a concise, accessible, and personally meaningful account.
And with intermittent doses of clever humor, to boot. Waldman’s tone is reminiscent of the non-fiction of George Orwell; funny not as the result of deliberate comedy, but rather achieved by adroitly presenting the pure facts of this bizarre world we live in. To be sure, there are also some laugh-out-loud accentuations in the form of footnotes, though it is baffling why bibliographical citations are also intermixed within the footnote real estate. Each time you come across an in-text asterisk, your eyes wander to the bottom of the page hoping for a bonus zinger, but half the time it’s just an source citation. Those should have been segregated to the endnotes, sequestered for the <5% of readers who’d actually have cause to review them.
Among the most enviable benefits of LSD is the facilitation of effortless productivity. Waldman loses herself in her work, then looks up at the clock hours later, marveling at how much she accomplished without distraction or self-doubt. Reading A Really Good Day sometimes mirrors this experience. Since each day is presented in a short, digestible chapter, you may often find yourself tackling more sections in a single session than you intended. This book has a singular mission, but accomplishes it through its varied methods of journal reflections, contextual anecdotes, brief histories of selected substances, and a meaningful examination of data that definitely supports a more tolerant, harm-prevention approach toward substance policy in modern government. LSD is not presented here as the end-all miracle drug, but Waldman’s successes imply promising potential in further official research. This book would work well as required reading for a college course in the field, yet also as a concise, accessible and funny account suitable for anyone looking for extra perspective on this polarizing topic.