| Calligraphy |

Day to Day

Ugh, that was not a nice thing to think about a person who gave you a generous gift. What was wrong with me?

Of all the gifts in the world, a planner?

What was I supposed to do with a planner? This was 2019. People had phones. Phones had calendars. I got automatic reminders for everything. Why did Shuli go and buy me a planner?

I stared at the notebook in my hand. It had cupcakes on the cover. And it came along with a super mega-value pack of accessories. Stickers and Washi tape and 24 colored felt-tipped pens.

“It’s a huge trend, there’s an entire community of planner addicts,” Shuli babbled in my ear. “You’re a 3-D modeler, you enjoy art. So this community is flooded with hobby crafters, like you. I don’t do these things, duh, but Penina is a BUJO junkie, and she’s part of a journaling group. They follow a scientific planning and journaling system, and report their progress on this online group platform. And they turn their planners into works of art, then post pictures of their pages. I’ll tell Penina to send you an invite.”

Oh, so this wasn’t only a unique moving gift, it was a thoughtful and personal one as well. Bullet journaling, adorable. I wanted to tell her, hello, Shuli, I’m not a hobby crafter. My work was creative, sure, I had a BA in fine arts, but everything I did was strictly digital. I did industrial design, product development — at least I used to do that, up until the move — using computer software. I didn’t touch glue.

I shook my head when I hung up the phone and wended my way around boxes toward the kids’ room. Linens first, Penina had warned me. “Nothing happens if you don’t unpack the silverware the first day, but everyone needs a bed to sleep in at night.”

Fair enough.

I opened the new bedding package, unfolded a crisp sham and held it up to the light. Pretty. White background with a gray and fuchsia floral print. I loved this set. It was a moving gift from my siblings. A nice, sensible gift, unlike… a cupcake notebook.

And Shuli was my best friend.

When the kids’ beds were done, I took a break from unpacking to check in at work. Flebotte had agreed to give me a chance to work from home, and I had to show him I was serious about my job, that working remotely wouldn’t impact my output.

I flicked on the light in the dining room — a plain lightbulb for now, until we found time to shop for fixtures. My brother Yirmi had gone and given us a $2,000 gift certificate at Royal Lighting, in addition to chipping in for the linen set with my other siblings. Another opportunity to flaunt his wealth. Because it wasn’t enough that he lived in a brand-new house on a 40’ x 100’ lot in the heart of the city.

Ugh, that was not a nice thing to think about a person who gave you a generous gift. What was wrong with me?

 

I found my laptop in the box marked Office, in the room that would eventually be my office, after Shaya would pick up a desk from IKEA and assemble it, hopefully before our silver anniversary. For now, I cleared a spot on the dining room table and kicked boxes aside to reach the outlet on the wall. I booted my MiFi card, praying Verizon would show up fast to install FiOS.

Before logging on to work, I took a quick peek at my personal e-mails. Sixty-five new promos, which I promptly deleted. A few updates — great, the hampers from Amazon shipped, we can do laundry in this place, yay. A joke e-mail from my cousin Mindy — I frowned. Twenty-eight and single, the girl had too much free time. And another e-mail I didn’t recognize. The sender was Growth Group, subject: You’re invited to join. I was about to hit Report Spam when I saw the words, Penina Elbinger invites you to become a member.

Ah, the planner cult, for my cupcake notebook. So much fun. Sure, let’s sign up and spend time with a loonie group of “growth-oriented” people, focused on positivity and productivity and reflectivity and whatever other waste-of-time activity.

For the kicks of it, I clicked on the e-mail. I was directed to a website that looked like a typical bored-people forum. I clicked on a thread entitled, Morning Routine: from frenzy to… FREEDOM?!

I skimmed the conversation, rolling my eyes at the members’ screennames. @goalie, @onedayatatime, @Mrs_Productive, @ReachingGreatHeights, @planner_addict.

@goalie, the OP, wrote:

K, guys, confession. I’m a bad mother in the morning. Must be something about the combined smells of dew in the grass and sunny-side up. (lol, ok, let’s not discuss what time I go to sleep every night). So the problem is that by the time I wake up, the house looks like WWIII broke out, which makes me lose my temper before I’ve brushed my teeth. What do you think, guys? I know the answer — get out of bed half an hour earlier so I wake my kids up instead of the other way around. Should I make this my October habit?

@systematized 2:43 PM

If you want to wake up half an hour earlier, you have to — say it with me — go to sl—

A window popped up on my screen. SIGN UP NOW TO VIEW THE REST OF THIS THREAD.

Oh, bummer. I just loved these things.

I hovered my mouse over the X button and was about to click out of the window when I heard the doorbell ring.

Who was that? Definitely nobody I knew, for the simple reason that I didn’t know anyone within a forty-mile range. Verizon, a day early? I headed to the door cautiously.

“Who is it?” I called.

“Reina Baum,” a squeaky voice replied. “From the next block.”

Okay, sooo cute. Storybook gingerbread rustic adorable. New neighbor, bringing over cake, smiling and saying welcome to the neighborhood, I live over on Maple Lane — all storybooks had Maple Lanes — if you need anything, give me a holler.

Disgust rose in my throat. I hated this woman. Before I’d set eyes on her, I already hated her too-wide smile, her dab of makeup and casual hoodie. Hated how comfortable she felt in her skin, and the way she expected me to glide into her cozy little community circle and become family.

Biting back a snort, I pulled the door open.

“Hiii, hello!” chirped a short woman with a dab of makeup and a casual hoodie.

“Hi,” I said tersely.

The woman extended a tray. “Just thought I’d pop over to say hello. Here, grab a bite, you’re probably starved. I know what moving day is like, we moved six months ago. Although it feels like forever. This place became home in no time. You’ll love it, you’ll see! The people here are incredible. Only 45 families, but that’s the beauty, everyone knows each other, we’re all here for each other. Your name is Gottlieb, right? What’s your first name?”

“Toby.”

“Toby. So anyway, hi and welcome to Comdale! I don’t want to keep you, but if you need anything, I live over on the next block, I wrote my number on that card, don’t hesitate to call.”

Whoa.

I stared at the tray of cake after she left. Was it my imagination, or did I catch a whiff of ginger?

Shaking my head, I deposited the tray on top of a box on the table and returned to my laptop.

Where was I? Oh, right, Growth Group. Sign up to continue reading.

I cast a glance at the cake on my table, clutched my mouse and clicked on the New User field.

Select a username.

I bit my thumb. Then I typed, Ginger.

 

“Flebotte called me this morning.”

Shaya yawned and shifted on the couch. “Yeah?”

“He asked if I’d consider returning to the office.”

“And?”

“And I said yes.”

“You what?” He sat up, gaping.

I smirked. “I said yes, I would consider it.”

Shaya groaned. “Very funny. You’re not going back. He agreed that you could work remotely, what changed?”

“Because working remotely is not the same. There’s so much team discussion, it’s going to be very hard to stay on top of my act. And also…”

“What?”

“He offered a fifteen percent raise if I return.”

“You’re not going back.”

“Why not?”

“Why not? Toby, it’s an hour drive without traffic, and there is traffic, always. How in the world will you swing it? Benny finishes playgroup two thirty, forgot?”

I slid a blade through the tape on a carton, opened the flaps and started removing tablecloths. “I’ll figure it out. I can hire a babysitter.”

“A babysitter? Toby, look at me.”

I looked at him. “You need a haircut.”

“I’m commuting to work for less than a week. It’s not a life. You think I don’t want to help you unpack some boxes, start organizing my seforim? By the time I come home, I’m finished. Imagine both parents having zero energy for the kids at the end of the day.”

I imagined. I did not see myself collapsing on the couch with heating pads after work. “I want to do it,” I said.

“Why?”

I plunked a pile of tablecloths onto the table. “Why? Because I want to go back to the city. I want my old life back. What am I supposed to do out here in the boondocks all day?”

Shaya sighed and kicked the footrest shut. “Toby, we’re living here for a grand total of three days. You didn’t even step out of the house once. How could you hate it so much already? You’re not giving it a chance.”

“I didn’t step out because there’s nowhere to go. Unless you expect me to go to the weekly Comdale Coffee Clan. I mean, seriously, why does everything in this town have to be an alliteration?”

“Everything?”

I bit my lip. The Growth Group wasn’t a Comdale thing per se, but then again, it had come about because of the cupcake notebook, a gift for moving to Comdale, so it was all the same thing, and suddenly I was choking up, and oh my goodness, I wanted to go home.

Shaya stood up and came to sit next to me. “It’s okay, Toby. I know it’s hard. We expected it to be hard in the beginning. It’s normal.”

I sniffled. “Why did we have to come here?”

Shaya smiled sadly. I didn’t need him to answer. It wasn’t his fault. Our lease had run out and our landlord needed the apartment. Moving to a rental in the city made no sense; we’d be paying through our noses for two windows somewhere up in the polluted air. And buying was certainly out of the question. In Comdale, we got a beautiful, spacious house we were able to afford.

“I want to go back to the office,” I said quietly. “Can we try it?”

He rubbed his forehead and sighed. “Okay,” he said slowly. “Okay.”

When he left for Maariv, I reached for the phone to call Shuli. But then I changed my mind and instead sat down at the table and powered up my laptop.

Another email from the Growth Group. Ginger, post your day’s affirmation and start growing!

Ugh, why would someone want to share her growth journey with a group of faceless idiots?

Then, probably because I couldn’t face another taped carton, I decided to have fun. I started filling out fields. Monthly habit: Reduce screen time. Today’s affirmation: Hmm… I fished in my brain for the corniest clich?, and in bold caps, I typed, I MATTER.

Within seconds, comments rolled in.

@planner_addict: you do!!!!

@goalie: Hey, u new here? Welcome — and of course you matter! You’re awesome. You rock!!

Wow, tickled pink.

I shut the laptop. Idiots.

Behind the computer, Shuli’s cupcake planner sat forlornly. I picked it up and opened the cover. Seriously, a glorified notebook. I wrote my grocery lists on the back of receipts, thank you. What got into Shuli?

I flipped through the pages. On second thought, maybe writing formal to-do lists was a good idea. Judging from the way my house looked, it wouldn’t hurt to get more organized.

I chose a purple felt-tipped pen and hovered it over the first blank daily page. Here goes — what?

No, not again. On top of the sheet, in a cute script font, was the word Affirmation.

I stared at the blank space. I clicked my pen open-and-shut. Then I slammed the planner onto the table.

 

I started using Shuli’s planner the morning of my return to the office. I figured hey, it’s good writing paper, and lined, unlike receipt backs, so why not? My schedule for the day was airtight, and it looked kind of neat in writing, organized in cool time blocks. And the to-do checklist was a handy thing. So what if the areas on top and on bottom of the page, where all the fluffy gratitude-mission-reflection-affirmation stuff went, were dead space?

I matter, I hummed as I eased onto the thruway.

The team was ecstatic to see me. “We hit a roadblock with the new Kikit idea yesterday, and Flebotte went nuts,” Maggie reported. “He was like, this needs Toby, she’s a whiz at these things.”

I grinned. It was so nice to hear such feedback. It was so nice to wear a sheitel and shoes and a pretty sweater and sit around adults and work. It was so normal, so comfortable.

After three hours of intense and productive work — yay for Kikit troubleshooting — I called up my sister Chevy. “Lunch?” I asked her.

“Hmm, not gonna work. Menachem has 103, I’m taking him to the doctor.”

Oh, all right. I tried my sister Miriam. The call went to voicemail, and a minute later she texted me, will call u soon.

Hmm. Baila and Tzipi were teaching at this hour, which left my sister-in-law Yitty. I wasn’t in the mood of Yitty’s company. Okay, I was never in the mood of her company. No offense to her or to my brother Yirmi, but there was something so grating about that couple’s chilled attitudes — like, oh, by the way we struck it rich, but that doesn’t change anything, we’re still friends — that drove me batty. Or maybe it was all those Zillow links Yirmi had been sending me over the past two years when we were house hunting. Very helpful. Like I didn’t know where to find houses for two million dollars.

Oh well. I would’ve loved to get together with one of my sisters, but if that didn’t work, meeting a friend would be nice, too.

“Toby!” Shuli squealed when I walked into White Mug. She stretched out her arms and hugged me like we hadn’t seen each other in years.

I waved my cupcake planner before her eyes. “You’re here,” I said, pointing to the hour I’d designated for lunch.

She laughed. “Knew you’d love it.”

I smirked.

We ordered Greek salad, fettucine Alfredo, and milkshakes. “Tell me everything about Comdale,” Shuli said.

“Why, you’re thinking of following me?”

“I didn’t say that.”

I sighed. “I wish you’d move. Not because it’s the greatest place on earth, I can’t lie like that. I need you to come so we can be miserable together.”

She frowned. “That bad?”

“Worse.”

“I guess you don’t want me to tell you how amazing it is that you’re saving so much money?”

Our food arrived. I twirled pasta on my fork. “So you want to hear something funny? Maybe I shouldn’t be telling this to you, because I know it’s no fun for a family with three kids to live in a one-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor, but it’s not like, wow, Comdale is financial fairyland. It’s true that housing in that hick town is cheap, and you get a huge house with a double driveway, but the cost of living is so much higher than in the city. Two cars is a must. Commuting costs a fortune. Taxes are through the roof. And you don’t want to know how much we spend on groceries.”

Shuli folded a napkin down the center. “Ridiculous.”

I pushed my chair back. “I sound like such an ingrate, I know. Gotta focus on the positive.” I winked, tapping the planner at my side. “Maybe journaling will help.”

When I returned to the office, I had a hard time snapping back into work mode. Afternoons were always less productive than mornings, but somehow this afternoon I felt more restless than usual. It was probably fatigue. The move had definitely worn me down.

I called on the power of coffee to get me through the rest of the day until it was finally time to leave.

The thruway on the way home was a parking lot. I called my mother and chatted for a few minutes. I called Shaya but he couldn’t talk. I called each one of my sisters, but none of them answered. Of course not, what was I thinking? Which mother is available to chat at four p.m.? Only Comdale residents, apparently.

Two hours and twenty minutes after clocking out of work, I walked up the steps to Gingerbread House on Maple Lane.

Reina Baum looked like she’d just woken up from a beauty nap. “Don’t apologize, I know exactly what traffic is like on the thruway. And the arrangement worked out amazing. It’s so cute that your Benny is in the same playgroup as my Tuli.”

As though there was a variety of playgroups to choose from for the forty-five families in Comdale.

I hated her smile.

I hated her hoodie.

I hated the way Benny was standing at the Baum’s toy kitchen center, contentedly playing with the Baum kids and completely oblivious to my presence.

The moment we left — after thanking Reina, promising to pay overtime and apologizing yet again — his contentedness vanished. He threw himself on the ground, kicking and screaming. What? What did I say? What did I do?

“Benny!” I fished in my bag and found a Ricola candy. I stuffed it into his hand. He hurled it in my face.

“What? What do you want?”

He howled.

Right, that’s what I thought you said.

I dragged him to the car, strapped him into his car seat.

Next, Tziporah and Shiffy. They’d gone straight to classmates after school. What was their name again? Berkowitz?

I unstrapped Benny. He was still screaming. Mental note, in the future, pick up the girls before Benny, so I don’t have to get him in and out of the car seat twice.

By the time I walked through the front door, I had no voice, no brains, and no semblance of supper to serve my whining kids. I gave them free rein of the pantry and collapsed into a chair.

Slouching in my seat, I closed my eyes, tuning out the ruckus a few feet away and allowing the weight of my head to settle. The noise in the kitchen, the traffic jam, Reina Baum — everything blurred in a cloud, then evaporated, as the first wisps of sleep enveloped me.

I’d barely dozed off when my cellphone burst into song.

I jumped, rubbing my eyes, and groped for the phone. It was my cousin, Mindy.

“Tooooby…” she sang. Her voice was low and mysterious. “I’m engaged!”

My heart thudded. I gripped the table. “Whaaaat? Oh my goodness, Mindy! You’re engaged?”

We laughed and babbled and shrieked. I couldn’t believe it. Mindy was twenty-eight years old. Our birthdays were a day apart. We were literally friends from birth.

“All right then, Toby,” Mindy sang. “I’m going to hang up, gotta make more calls here. The l’chayim’s in an hour, can’t wait to see you!”

I hung up the phone, my head spinning. Mindy was engaged. After all these years. She’d danced at my wedding, celebrated the births of my three children, all while waiting and waiting for her turn to come.

And it had come. She was engaged.

I cuddled my phone, thinking whom to call first to share this wonderful news.

And then her words came crashing in my head. The l’chayim’s in an hour.

I glanced at my kids. I glanced at my car keys. I glanced at the time on my cell phone screen.

And then I burst into tears.

 

Thursday, November 7, 9:00 p.m.

Habit: Down 5%

It took me a full three weeks to realize I could opt out of receiving Growth Group notifications. By that time, I’d gotten into the habit of logging on every day and reading the group’s discussion with amusement. And of course, I diligently recorded the progress of my “reduce screen time” habit every day. Up ten percent, down five percent. Yay me, I didn’t check my emails before the last bus was off to school. I get a sticker. I earned “me time.” Let’s go to the gym. See? I do self-care!

After three weeks, I’d reduced my overall screen time by 25%. Nice, although it held no significance. I’d never been screen-addicted in the first place. Most of my time spent at the computer was actual work. And to be perfectly honest, Growth Group activity was screen time, so I was sort of defeating the purpose with this new routine.

Still, there was something that drew me to the computer every night when Shaya left to daven Maariv. Ridiculous, yes, an entire group of weirdos sharing sappy feelings and pictures of planner arts-and-crafts, but their conversations entertained me. It was a great way of shutting my brain off at the end of a grueling day.

A PM popped up on my screen.

@goalie: Like your new avatar

Oh, my, she’d noticed! When Reina Baum had called me the night before to report how adorable Benny had been in the afternoon, I’d googled gingerbread man, grabbed the first picture off Google Images, and uploaded it to my profile.

Me: Lol

I saw the words @goalie is typing… Uh, are we starting a conversation here? I had no interest in chatting with a random quirky stranger. Quickly, I placed my fingers on the keyboard and typed: Logging off. Habit tracking, ya know…

 

It felt like Shaya was a Shabbos guest in our house. “I don’t think we spoke for five consecutive minutes this week,” I grumbled before he left for shul.

He slipped his shoes on. “I’m here now. We can talk all Shabbos.”

“Right,” I muttered as he walked out the door.

I sat down on the couch and started flipping through a magazine. Before I made it through the first paragraph, Tziporah plopped down on the couch next to me and declared, “I’m bored.”

“Why don’t you play a game with Shiffy?”

“ ’Cuz she’s a baby! She doesn’t understand instructions, it’s not fun to play with her.”

I bit my lip because she was right.

A second later, Shiffy bounded into the room, screaming. “Nuh-uh! I’m not a baby! Tziporah’s a cheater! She looked at my cards!”

Benny started howling, for good measure.

I tossed my magazine into the magazine rack and took a deep breath. “Kids, why don’t you play something that’s fun for all ages? Like, um, Lego?”

They didn’t want to play Lego. They didn’t want to play anything I suggested. They wanted company, friends their own ages, like we’d had on our block in the city.

And so did I. Back home — and no, Comdale wasn’t home, don’t try telling me it was — I would sit outside with neighbors every Friday night, schmoozing while the kids played. My sister Baila lived on my block, and we had kids the same ages. It had been amazing.

How was I supposed to entertain three whiny kids all Shabbos?

“Can we go over to the Baums?” Shiffy asked.

“No!” I yelled.

She blinked, confused.

I felt so bad for her. It wasn’t her fault. None of this was her fault. Why did we move to this backwoods town?

The rest of Shabbos passed in a similar manner. Shaya spent most of the time sleeping, davening, or catching up on his learning. I spent most of the time alternately resolving fights and moping. By the time Shaya made Havdalah, my scowl was a regular feature on my face.

I was putting the Havdalah candle into a cabinet when a gold envelope caught my eye. It was the invitation from Yirmi that had arrived a few weeks earlier. I’d stashed it in the mail cabinet and forgotten about it.

I pulled the card out of the envelope now and sat down at the table.

Mr. and Mrs. Yirmiyahu & Yitty Mintz request the honor of your presence at the bar mitzvah of their son, Yehuda.

A return card fluttered onto the table.

Mr. & Mrs. ______________ — I scribbled Gottlieb — will ______ attend.

Aware of Shaya’s gaze following my every move, I pressed the pen down on the card and in large, bold letters, filled in the word not.

 

Shaya spent the next three days reasoning with me.

“You’ll stay in the city after work, you’ll go to your mother’s house to get ready. What’s the big deal?”

“I need to come home to the kids. It’s enough that I’m not home for them after school every day.”

“It’s only one day! Come on, Toby, who are you trying to get even with?”

“I’m not getting even with anyone. One day now, one day next week. There will always be weddings and sheva brachos and Chanukah parties. I can’t.”

“Toby, you’re being ridiculous. Fine, you don’t have to go in for every birthday party, but who are you punishing by staying home? This is your nephew’s bar mitzvah.”

Fine, so I was being ridiculous, I didn’t care. My mind was made up. Let all my sisters have fun at the bar mitzvah, which would be on the scale of a wedding, like the previous bar mitzvah Yirmi had made. I’d bet the cost of these two bar mitzvahs combined was equivalent to the cost of a down payment in the city.

So what if I was being a brat and acting as mature as Benny? It wasn’t fair.

The day of the bar mitzvah, Shaya texted me ten times every hour. At one point I stopped replying. I wanted to stew in peace and he had no business ruining my sour mood.

Lunchtime, I went out with Shuli again and spilled the whole story.

“You can’t not go!” she cried.

Great, another person on my case.

“Watch me,” I retorted.

I had no trouble blocking out my thoughts throughout the afternoon crush. Zombies haven’t got much headspace, and I tumbled through pickup-supper-bath-bedtime on autopilot. Shaya played his last card at 6:00. “If I pick you up, will you come?”

“No,” I said flatly.

It was only when the kids were asleep and the house was quiet that I started flipping out. Oh my goodness, what was wrong with me? How could I not attend my nephew’s bar mitzvah? What would I tell everyone? What would they think?

I replayed my thousand justifications — I was on the road three and half hours today, I don’t have a babysitter, I can’t breathe from exhaustion, the kids need me, I live out of town, everyone’s in the city, I’m all alone, all alone, all alone.

My throat burned. My brother was making a bar mitzvah and I wasn’t there.

The texts from my sisters started rolling in at 8:00. Where are you? Are you stuck in traffic?

I put my phone on silent, then stumbled to the dining room and powered up my laptop. Chrome asked if I wanted to restore all tabs. Absently, I agreed. A moment later, Growth Group’s home page appeared on my screen and a window popped up.

Ginger, list three things you are grateful for today!

Gugh. I wanted to slam the computer closed. But then a green light blinked — a PM.

@goalie: Hey, you there?

My brain advised me to ignore, but my fingers typed, Yes.

@goalie: Don’t laugh, but I was just wondering, does ginger mean anything to you? I’m always curious about the stories behind ppl’s screen names.

For real?

I started typing, backspaced, typed again, then deleted everything and wrote: I’m supposed to be at a family affair right now.

@goalie: Okay, and?

Me: I’m home.

@goalie: Why?

Why?

Me: I really don’t know.

@goalie: Hmm. You in a fight with someone?

Me: NO!!!

@goalie: So?

I tapped my fingers lightly on the keyboard. So? So?

Before I could answer, @goalie continued writing. Look, whatever the story is, I think you should try to find the strength/courage/energy/whatever it takes, and do what you believe is the right thing to do. Tomorrow morning, you’ll record this victory in your planner and love yourself for doing the right thing.

Me: I can’t.

@goalie: Let me ask you this. What will you accomplish by not going?

What I’d accomplish? Probably nothing, but that wasn’t the point. It wasn’t the bar mitzvah, per se. It was — everything. My whole life had tumbled out of control. It was as though I’d been plucked out of my little comfortable spot in this world and replanted in a strange new environment and expected to start a new life. While everyone from my old life continued right along without me. Like… like traitors.

@goalie: My theory is, a person wants to be happy. So whenever you face a challenge, ask yourself, will doing XYZ make me happy? Because happiness is the goal. I mean, for most people, right?

I rolled my eyes, swallowing bitterly. What could I expect from a diehard Growth Group member if not a profound philosophical mussar shmuess?

I drummed my fingers on the keyboard. Will staying home make me happy? Is it going to change my reality?

It was embarrassing to internalize what this faceless person was telling me, but the truth glared in its obviousness.

It didn’t matter that Comdale didn’t feel like home.

It didn’t matter that I missed my family, my community, my comfortable, familiar surroundings.

The fact was, I wasn’t happy.

And only I could change that reality.

My fingers were clammy as I reached for my phone. Reina Baum had given me the number of a girl who babysat. It wasn’t too late.

Three minutes later, before bounding up the stairs to get ready, I texted Shaya, Save me dessert.

 

Affirmation: My surroundings do not influence my happiness.

I should do a jig. Or better, I should log on to Growth Group and post my brilliant discovery. #foundhappiness

Smirking, I opened my laptop. I could just picture the comments. Oooh, @ginger, luv it! Go, go, go!

Ha. Not quite. It was enough that I’d written these tacky words on paper, in my cupcake planner. Sorry, folks, find another sensation.

But yeah, my habit. Tracking time.

I logged on and clicked on my calculation report. I was about to record my progress when I noticed — this was Day #30.

I’d worked on a habit for thirty days. If I spent time recording the progress, that would increase my screen time and I’d essentially be regressing.

Chuckling to myself, I flipped through the notebook, all the way to the back where there were several sheets of dot grid paper. Out came the felt-tipped pens and the adorable pack of stickers.

Hobby crafter, I thought as I started sketching. Sometimes I hated Shuli for being so blunt with me. I mean, that’s what I liked about her, really, that was the value of our friendship. She knew how to help me adjust my perspective, and she also knew how to give me my space when I needed it.

And I guess did need that space now. I needed the time to give Comdale a chance, to stop mourning what I viewed as a tragic loss, to stop blaming people and circumstances when nobody had wronged me, and it was me who was irrationally clinging to the hope of returning to my old life.

Ten minutes later, I sat back to admire my work. I had drawn a cupcake, icing dripping down the sides, and on the center, I’d pasted a sticker with the words sweet things in life in a scrawl font.

Aw.

I scribbled Ginger on the bottom corner of the page.

My phone chirped. I closed the planner and glanced at the screen. It was a text from Shuli.

Hey, @ginger. Working on a new habit?

I stared at my phone and blinked. And then, tiny green lights blinking before my vision, I burst out laughing and hit reply.

Yes, I am, @goalie

(Originally featured in Calligraphy, Issue 781)

 

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