I sat there on that park bench, empty, lost, hopeless. I thought, how do I navigate this without the person that means the most to me? How could I have lost my job and my marriage in the same week? I put my hand back in my pocket where I had put the court summons and retrieved it. I carefully opened the folded page and looked at the words again, and as I read them, I felt the lump creep back into my throat as a well of tears began to fill my eyes.
With my cheeks wet from despair, I closed my eyes to escape my reality when I heard the words, “What’s the matter, dear?”
During my distress, I had been oblivious to a woman sitting next to me on the bench. She was much my senior, and with a kind smile, so I answered her.
“I lost my job earlier this week, and today I was served divorce papers from my husband. I thought I was moving out for us to work on things, giving him space to think, not for him to have grounds for divorce. My mom will be happy about the divorce, but will just tell me I told you so about my job. She always said, don’t get an art degree; you will end up either working at a coffee shop or unemployed.”
“I am so sorry to hear that, dear. Where did you work?” She asked.
Reluctantly, I replied, “A coffee shop. That would be enough, but to get this paper in the same week. It just all seems so hopeless.” I motioned to the paper I held in my hand, shaking my head as another tear crossed my trembling lip.
“Nothing in this world is ever hopeless, dear. I have something to give you.” The woman then reached into a bag sitting by her feet and retrieved a small black book. She embraced it softly in her hands on her lap before bringing it to her chest and held it near as she continued to speak. “This book helped me. Possibly it will help you.”
My bench companion then took the tattered edged book down from her chest and laid it upon her lap again, where she opened it to reveal just three pages left inside as she began to speak. “I want you to take this book. I want you to write on each of these three pages goals, steps that will get you back where you want to be. After you have written down your first goal, tear the page that holds it out. Read it aloud, and then keep it in your pocket until it comes true. Soon you will be where you want to be.” And with that statement, the woman stood, tapped me on the shoulder gently, took her bag, and left.
I sat there for a moment before walking back home. The weight of the day was heavy on my mind. When I reached my apartment, I went straight to my bedroom and laid down to escape, resting the little black book on my bedside table.
Hours later, I awoke to a thunk on the floor, followed by my purring cat rubbing my face. I sat up, noticing the now opened book lying on the floor. I picked it up and figured what could be the harm in just writing down a goal and seeing what happened.
I looked at the first page. What should I write, I thought. Oh, the most obvious, of course. I opened the drawer to my bedside table and retrieved a pen. I carefully wrote on that first page. Get a job. After all, without a job, I had no way to support myself.
I put the pen down, tore the page out of the book, folded it, and placed it in my pocket. Strangely my phone began to ring. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, so I just let it go to voicemail.
After the message was ready, I decided to go ahead and listen out of curiosity. It was my childhood friend, Steph.
“Hey, Zoey. How are you hanging in there? I talked to your mom today. I just had a feeling something was up with you since I have not been able to get you on the phone for a few weeks now, so I decided to call your mom. She told me about the luck you have been having. I am so sorry you are going through a rough time like that. Anyway, I know it’s not your dream job or anything, but my boss has really been thinking of hiring some more help and well… I told him what was going on with you and if you want a job at the art gallery, he said we could use another guide. I know it is not likely what you want to do, but it pays the bills. Anyway, give me a call; he said you could start this week.”
Did that just happen, I thought? I took the piece of paper from my pocket and studied it. Does this little book actually work? I went back into my room and picked it up. Two pages left. I decided to be a bit more daring with my second entry. I wrote. Paint the best artwork of my life. I always wanted to be a painter but never was that skilled and was not even sure how it could be possible at all, given I was broke and did not even have any paint or canvases. How would I get the money for the things I needed?
I was so relieved to start work the next day. It was so lovely to be working with my childhood friend. Our first task was to clean out the studio from the last resident artist at the gallery.
“So what are we supposed to do with all of this stuff?“ I asked Steph.
“The boss said just throw it out. Seems like a waste, though.” Steph replied.
“You think he would care if I took it home with me?” I asked.
“I don’t think so, and how would he even know? Do you think he is going to check the dumpsters? Nope.” Steph grinned.
I packed up the leftover paints and partially painted canvases and took them home. Once there, I checked to make sure my little piece of paper that said “Paint the best artwork of my life” was in my pocket, and I went to work. I worked during the days at the gallery, and in all of my spare time, I painted, and what I created, for the first time, I was genuinely proud of.
After work, one day, Steph and I got take out and some wine and decided to watch some classic movies and talk about old times at my apartment. When she came in, she saw my work.
“Zoey did you do these?” she exclaimed, walking across the room admiring the work I had done.
“Yeah. I didn’t think I had it in me. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with them, though.” I stated.
Steph continued to look at my collection of paintings, and without hesitation, said. “You know, there is an art festival in the park this weekend. I bet you can still get a spot. You should take them. I bet they will sell.”
“You know what? I cannot believe I'm saying this, but I may just do that.” I replied.
“I think this is your best work ever, Zoey. Pretty amazing.” Steph continued. I put my hand in my pocket and clutched the small paper that held the words: Paint the best artwork of my life.
When it came time for the art show in the park, I felt strangely nervous. Would anyone like or even consider buying my work. I decided to leave nothing to chance. I took out the book and began to write on the last page, pausing for a moment to reconsider my decision before finally deciding to go for it. I wrote: sell every piece of my artwork at the festival. I tore that last page and put it in my pocket.
I sat up my stand at the art festival and waited for the magic to happen. The day went on and on, and nothing sold. I became worried that I left my paper at home, so I checked my pocket, retrieving the piece of paper it held. I opened and looked at it and then returned it to my pocket just as a gentleman came up and began examining my artwork collection. He studied all of the pieces intensely before coming over to me and stating. “I would like to give you $20,000 for everything you have here plus offer you a spot next month at our gallery as our residing artist. I am Austin Zimmerman, owner of Zimmerman’s gallery. Have you heard of it?”
“Yes. I answered. I actually just began working there, Mr. Zimmerman. I am the friend Steph told you about.”
“Oh, Really? I have been out of town until today. Well, she was right about you. You do have a lot of potential and just do not know it. So what about the offer?” He inquired.
“Oh my goodness! Yes! Thank you so much.” I exclaimed.
I helped Mr. Zimmerman pack up all of my artwork, not believing the change in my fortune. Finally, I will be a real artist, and then I thought. I don’t have any more paper in the little book. I have to find the woman in the park and get another one. So the next day, Sunday, the last day I had off before returning to work, I went to the park early in the morning to look for her.
I sat there all day, and I felt a sense of panic begin to wash over me as the day went on. My breath felt heavy as I began to doubt myself. How could I do this new position? How could I continue to paint without the help of my book? Is she even going to show up today? Just as I was about to give up, she came to the bench where I sat and joined me.
“How have you been doing, dear?” She greeted me.
"Really well. Your book worked, and now I don’t just have a job. I have my dream job, and I need another book because, without one, I will surely fail. "
“Why do you need me to give you another book. How will it keep you from failing?” She said.
“It is magic. Isn’t it?” I answered
“ The book I gave you was not magic. What was magic was that for the first time, you believed in yourself. You believed you had the power to do whatever you wanted. You just needed to focus. You did it on your own. The book had nothing to do with it. When my husband died, I used that little book to overcome the loss. I started by just writing the words get out of bed. Then I started writing things that my husband I did together, which were too painful to do since I lost him. The day you met me, I had finally gotten to this bench. This bench is where he proposed to me, and to come here was so painful, and now it is not, for I do not feel the pain. I only feel his presence. Now that you have learned to believe in a piece of paper from a little black book, learn to believe in the power you hold within yourself. You can always use a little book to write down your goals but know the power is not in the book or its pages but in your power to make the things written there come true.”