THE SILVER LINING
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Sara starts her day frustrated when a forgotten dentist appointment interrupts her plan to sleep in late. But after a quick cleaning, she emerges from the dentist’s office with a new sunny perspective. Meeting a friend for a leisurely lunch lifts her spirits even more. As Sara goes through mundane errands, she begins to appreciate the little moments. The bright blue sky, a relaxing meal with a friend, and an upbeat song on the radio all stand out to her now. Though the day holds nothing special, Sara realizes how much her viewpoint shapes her reality. Her outlook transformed from gloomy to cheerful, she sees beauty and goodness in the ordinary. With a lightness in her step, Sara embraces the gifts the day has to offer. She discovers that appreciating life’s simple pleasures can make any day a sunny one.
Sara's day began like most others, with the jarring blare of her alarm clock piercing the quiet bedroom air. She groaned and rolled over, slapping loosely at the clock until hitting the snooze button. As the room returned to silence, she snuggled back under the warm covers, catching a few more precious minutes of sleep.
This had been her routine for longer than she cared to admit. Hit snooze at least twice, drag herself out of bed bleary-eyed, then rush through getting ready before dashing out the door just in time to make the morning commute. But maybe today could be different, she mused drowsily. Maybe she could take it slow, enjoy the start of the day instead of just surviving it.
As these thoughts drifted lazily through her mind, the alarm suddenly blared again, jolting Sara fully awake. She silenced it quickly this time and rubbed her eyes, willing herself to get out of bed. A subtle but persistent ache in her back and shoulders reminded her that she wasn't as young as she used to be. Groaning, she hauled herself upright and planted her feet on the cool hardwood floor.
She sat still for a minute, adjusting to being awake. Early morning light filtered softly through the curtains. She could hear the muted sounds of the neighborhood coming to life - idling car engines, distant voices, a dog barking. Sara took a deep breath and stood up, trying to channel the calm serenity of the morning. She would take it slow today.
In the kitchen, she turned on the coffee maker then glanced out the window above the sink. The sky was just turning a misty periwinkle blue. A few birds fluttered from tree to tree, trilling lively morning songs. The freshness of the new day hung tangibly in the air. Sara breathed deeply again, feeling gratitude for having made it to this moment.
She gazed around her kitchen as she waited for the coffee. It was small but tidy, with cheerful yellow walls that matched the patterned curtains framing the window. Photographs of friends and family covered the fridge. Plants lined the windowsill, soaking up the early sunlight. Though she lived alone, Sara had crafted a home filled with love and comfort. Another thing to appreciate, she reminded herself.
The rich aroma of fresh brewed coffee soon permeated the kitchen. Sara poured herself a generous mug, adding a splash of cream and sugar. That first sip was hot and invigorating. She could already feel her grogginess fading.
Taking her coffee with her, she walked down the short hall to the bathroom. She turned on the shower then stood in front of the mirror gazing at her reflection while the water heated up. Shoulder length chestnut brown hair framed her oval face. Her brown eyes still looked sleepy but she knew they'd be bright and shining in no time.
Sara disrobed and stepped under the steaming shower spray, letting out a contented sigh. Showers were her favorite way to fully wake up in the morning. She lingered longer than normal, letting the hot water relax the knots in her shoulders. The floral scents of shampoo and soap filled the steamy air as she leisurely washed. By the time she finally turned the water off she felt refreshed and ready to start her day.
After toweling off, Sara tied her hair up and smoothed moisturizer on her face. She brushed her teeth while studying her reflection again. She was in her late thirties but still looked youthful, she mused. Her skin was smooth and clear, and she seemed to have fewer wrinkles than some of her similarly aged coworkers and friends.
"Thirty is the new twenty," she said to herself with a smile. She could still pass for being in her twenties if she really wanted to. But she also liked the maturity and confidence that came with getting older. Sara gave herself an approving nod in the mirror. "Not bad," she thought.
Walking back to the kitchen she glanced at the clock. She had spent more time than usual on her morning routine but still had time for a leisurely breakfast. Sara toasted a cinnamon raisin bagel, spread on some cream cheese, and sat down to slowly savor it with the remainder of her coffee. The warm cinnamon and rich coffee blended perfectly. She scrolled absently through her phone as she ate, skimming the headlines but feeling detached from the nonstop stream of news.
After clearing her dishes she went to get dressed for work. She stood in front of her closet considering her options. Sara did HR for a tech company with a casual dress code. Most days she wore nice dark jeans paired with a blouse or sweater. But sometimes it was nice to wear a dress or skirt instead.
She shuffled through the clothes, running her hands over the various fabrics. Her fingers stopped on a floral print cotton wrap dress. It looked cheerful and comfortable. She pulled it out and held it up. The blues and yellows reminded her of the dawn sky she had admired earlier. Sara decided the dress would be perfect for a relaxed day at the office. She slipped it on and added a pair of brown sandals.
Checking her reflection in the full length mirror, she was pleased with her outfit choice. The dress flattered her petite frame. She played around with her hair for a minute, pulling half of it back from her face and securing it with a barrette. There - polished but casual. Sara had always taken pride in looking put together. She may not spend as much time on makeup and clothes as some of her coworkers did, but she knew how to look stylish with minimal effort.
Glancing at the time again, Sara was relieved she wouldn't have to rush around this morning. She unplugged her phone from its charger and dropped it into her favorite brown leather tote along with a notebook, sunglasses, and small purse. After a quick scan to make sure she had everything, she headed out the door.
Outside the air was mild and clear. Sara's silver sedan sat waiting at the curb. She unlocked it with a push of a button and slid inside. After adjusting the mirrors she fastened her seatbelt and pulled smoothly away from the curb. Sara had never been one for fancy cars. She kept her sedan immaculately clean and well maintained, and it served her perfectly well.
The radio automatically came on and she left it tuned to the upbeat pop station she always listened to during her commutes. Humming along, Sara drove leisurely through the tree-lined neighborhood streets towards the freeway entrance. She loved this part of her morning drives. Everything felt so calm and quiet, not yet filled with the noise and exhaust fumes from endless traffic.
Her phone chimed as an incoming text from her friend Emily arrived. At the next stop sign, Sara checked it quickly. Emily was suggesting they meet up for lunch later in the week to catch up. Sara smiled and responded with an enthusiastic yes. She could really use a long, relaxing lunch after too many workdays lately spent scarfing a quick meal at her desk. Plans made with Emily, she was now looking forward even more to the rest of the week.
The freeway was just beginning to pick up with traffic as Sara entered. Still not too crowded yet. She settled into the flow, keeping pace with the cars around her. Her mind wandered as she drove on autopilot. Bits of todo lists mixed with random song lyrics and idle thoughts. The miles disappeared beneath her wheels as the city skyline came into view ahead.
Thirty minutes after leaving home, Sara was arriving at the modern highrise that housed her company's headquarters. She turned in to the parking garage and swiped her keycard to enter, taking one of the few remaining spaces on the third floor. As she walked across the garage to the elevators, her shoes echoed on the concrete. The building seemed so empty and cavernous this early.
Riding up to the tenth floor, Sara recalled how foreign this corporate environment had felt when she had first started this job. Straight out of college, she had been used to dorms and student apartments. The idea of showing up each day to an office tower in business casual attire seemed strange. But over the years it had come to feel familiar and even comforting. Though she sometimes missed the campus life, she was mostly content now in her professional role.
Stepping off the elevator into the bright reception area, Sara exchanged good mornings with the security guard. She stopped to fill her water bottle at the fountain before heading down the long hallway towards HR. The phones were already ringing and keyboards clacking when she entered. It would be a busy Tuesday.
"Morning Sara!" her coworker Amanda greeted from the next cubicle over. "Nice dress! How was your weekend?"
"Good morning!" Sara replied, settling into her desk chair and booting up her computer. "And thank you! My weekend was good - very relaxing. How about you?"
The two chatted about their weekends as they got ready to start the day. Amanda was like a work sister to Sara. They had become fast friends when Amanda started at the company a few years ago. It was nice to have someone upbeat to share the workday with.
Sara sipped her water and looked over her to-do list. Meetings with a few new hires today, some paperwork to process, and what looked like a mountain of emails. She took a deep breath and dove in, reminded herself to appreciate the satisfying feeling of checking tasks off her list.
The first part of the morning flew by in a blur. Before she knew it, it was noon. Sara stood, stretching her neck and arms overhead. She was supposed to meet Amanda for lunch but her friend had texted saying she had to work through it to finish a project. Looks like Sara would be having a solo lunch today.
She stopped by Amanda's desk on her way to the elevators. “Skipping lunch?” she asked.
“Unfortunately, yes,” Amanda sighed. “The life of a project manager. This proposal has to get out today so I’m chained to my desk.”
“I'll bring you back something tasty then,” said Sara. “We'll celebrate getting through this busy week with a nice long lunch tomorrow, okay?”
Amanda smiled. “That sounds perfect. You're the best!”
Sara stepped outside into the noonday sun. The nearby square was filled with people picnicking in the grass, queued up at food trucks, and rushing about on their lunch breaks. Sara wandered slowly through the square contemplating her options.
The dentist’s office was quiet when Sara arrived. She checked in at the front desk and was told Dr. Fields was running about 15 minutes behind schedule. Sara sat down in one of the cushioned chairs in the small waiting room. A few other patients were seated around her, silently looking at their phones. Calming instrumental music played softly in the background.
Sara picked up a magazine from the stacked table in the center of the room and flipped through it aimlessly, not particularly interested in the content but wanting something to occupy her hands and gaze. As she skimmed an article featuring ideas for backyard landscaping, her phone chimed with an incoming text message. She dug it out of her purse and saw it was from her good friend Emily.
Emily was asking if Sara wanted to meet up for lunch later that day. Sara felt her mood brighten at the prospect of catching up with Emily over a long lunch. She texted back that she'd love to meet, with a smiling emoji. The two friends made plans to try the new vegan café downtown that had just opened up last week.
Sara hadn't seen Emily in a couple weeks since her friend had been away on a work trip. She was really looking forward to hearing all about the trip. Sara cherished her friendship with Emily. The two had met freshman year of college when they were randomly assigned to be roommates in the dorms. Even though their majors and interests diverged over the years, they had remained close through the ups and downs of classes, boys, jobs, and adult life.
A decade after meeting as nervous eighteen-year-olds trying to adapt to college life, their bond was stronger than ever. Emily was the friend Sara could always be herself with, who knew her on a soul-deep level. Lately they only managed to get together once or twice a month, but they kept their friendship alive through frequent texts, phone calls, and a shared passion for photography and scenic hikes. Sara felt beyond grateful to have a lifelong best friend in Emily.
Just then, a dental hygienist stepped out from the back and called Sara's name, jolting her from her reverie. Sara gathered up her purse and followed the friendly looking blonde woman down the hall to the exam rooms. The faint antiseptic smell of the officemixed with mint and cloves blended together in a way that always evoked a visceral memory for Sara of childhood dentist visits. She shuddered involuntarily.
The hygienist, who introduced herself as Amy, had Sara sit in the reclined exam chair and took a few x-rays. Sara focused on breathing slowly and deeply, using mindfulness techniques she had learned in yoga class recently. She had never loved having dental x-rays taken. The plastic holder always irritated her gums no matter how gently Amy positioned it. But the buzzing sound as the machine rotated around her and the awful taste of the small tabs were the worst parts. She was relieved when Amy announced brightly they were all done.
After reviewing the x-rays, Amy cleaned Sara's teeth thoroughly but gently. She asked Sara questions about her oral hygiene routine as she worked, then offered a few tips for how Sara could optimize her brushing and flossing at home. Sara made mental notes, vowing to pick up a new soft bristled toothbrush and some fluoride rinse on her way home. Despite the uncomfortable nature of having someone pick and prod inside her mouth, Sara appreciated Amy's friendly professionalism.
Soon there was a brisk knock at the exam room door as Dr. Fields entered. "Hi Sara, how have you been?" he asked cheerfully, glancing over the x-rays. Dr. Fields had been Sara's dentist since she moved to the city after college. He was a middle-aged man with a tidy salt-and-pepper beard and kind eyes that crinkled at the corners when he smiled. Sara had always found him warm and gentle during her biannual cleanings.
"Good, how are you Dr. Fields?" Sara replied after Amy removed the tools from her mouth.
"Doing well, thanks," he responded, sitting on the stool and scooting up to Sara's chair. "No concerns to report?"
Sara shook her head. "Nope, no real problems."
"Great, let's take a look then." He examined Sara thoroughly, commenting on the health of her gums and lack of anything worrisome. Aside from a few areas needing extra polishing by Amy, her teeth looked great overall.
"You've been doing an excellent job with your home care," Dr. Fields said as he wrapped up the exam. He entered a few notes into the digital chart on his tablet. "Just be sure to keep up with regular flossing, I know it's tedious but it makes a big impact."
"Will do," Sara promised, giving him a thumbs up. She had always appreciated how Dr. Fields took time to explain things and answered her questions in a way she could understand. He seemed to genuinely care about his patients' oral health, not just churning through as many appointments as possible each day.
After farewells and scheduling her next 6-month cleaning, Sara headed up the front to take care of her bill. She chatted with the office manager, Sheila, while they processed her payment. She and Sheila had developed a friendly rapport over the years. Sara admired the effortless way Sheila perfectly remembered tiny details about patients' lives while somehow keeping the entire dental practice running like a well-oiled machine.
Stepping outside into the warm spring sunshine, Sara paused to take a deep breath. The dental visit had gone smoothly overall. She was glad to have the cleaning over with for another six months. Dental care had always been emphasized in her family growing up. Her parents ingrained in her the importance of regular cleanings and checkups, a habit she worked to maintain even if she would never learn to enjoy the experience.
Sara put on her sunglasses and started walking down the tree-lined street to where she had parked. The sidewalks were bustling with people grabbing lunch and taking mid-day strolls. Sara observed the mix of business people, families, tourists, and teens walking dogs and snapping photos. She watched a pair of young girls giggling over ice cream cones - they couldn't have been older than 10 or 11. Sara smiled as their brown ponytails bobbed away down the block.
Arriving at her silver sedan, Sara slid gratefully into the driver's seat. She took a long drink from her water bottle, swishing the cool liquid around her mouth. The sting of antiseptic lingered on her gums and tongue. Starting the car, she turned the music up loud to drown out any residual dental office sounds echoing in her head. Sara pulled into the street, happy to be heading off to see her friend.
The downtown streets were busier than usual with tourists and people wanting to enjoy the sunshine. Sara drove slowly, taking in the sights. She passed shops and cafes with colorful awnings shading their entrances. Vendors were setting up sidewalk carts selling flowers and fresh fruit. The city seemed vibrant and cheerful.
Though it often brought congestion, Sara didn't mind the summertime tourist influx too much. She enjoyed eavesdropping on the various accents and languages spoken around downtown. It added an air of levity and excitement to her familiar city. She watched a large tour group gathered around their guide, holding up phones and cameras as they admired a historical building. Sara wondered what it would feel like to visit this city as a tourist and experience it with fresh eyes.
After circling a few blocks, Sara finally found an open parallel parking spot halfway down the block from the new vegan café. She carefully maneuvered her sedan into the tight space, needing only two tries to perfectly align between the two other vehicles. Parallel parking had been the bane of her existence learning to drive as a teenager. But after years of city street living, she could now park even the tightest spots with ease.
Locking her car, Sara dropped some coins in the meter. She left her light sweater draped around her shoulders in case the sunny afternoon chilled later on. Weaving her way along the crowded sidewalks, she scanned the shops' displays as she walked. Sara had about fifteen minutes before meeting Emily and wasn't in a rush. She took her time strolling, enjoying the street scenes and peering into boutique windows.
Coming around a corner, Sara spotted the café's bright red storefront. Emily was already seated at one of the small bistro tables out front. Sara waved and her friend's face lit up when she saw her. Emily jumped up to give Sara a long overdue hug. Sara sank gratefully onto the chair across from Emily, so happy to see her friend after what felt like ages.
"I'm so glad we could meet up today," Sara said. "I want to hear all about the conference and your trip!"
"Me too!" Emily agreed. "Let's order some food first though, I'm starving." She handed Sara a menu.
After studying the appetizing lunch options, they placed their orders with the waitress - avocado toast, vegan noodle bowls, and sparkling waters all around. Settling back into her seat, Sara sighed contentedly. She stretched her legs out, basking in the sunshine. Being here with Emily already felt restorative after her dental appointment.
"So tell me, how was everything at the New York conference?" Sara asked after they had caught each other up on work and family happenings.
Emily launched animatedly into a detailed account of her trip - the speakers she'd heard, the contacts she'd made, the amazing food she'd tried. Sara listened intently, living vicariously through Emily's descriptions of the glamorous Manhattan hotel, hectic conference, and musical she had seen on Broadway. Emily definitely knew how to make the most of a work trip.
The waitress returned with their food orders, the aromatic dishes looking as delicious as promised. The two friends continued chatting effortlessly as they ate. Sara was content to listen to Emily's stories, interjecting an occasional thought or question. She had missed this easy rapport with her longtime friend. Video calls and texts were great for quick check-ins but nothing compared to leisurely chatting over a shared meal.
"Oh, enough about me," Emily finally said, taking a sip of water. "How have you been? I feel like I've just monopolized the conversation."
Sara smiled, swallowing a bite of her salad. "I don't mind at all, your trip sounds amazing. I've just been doing the usual work and yoga routine. Oh and I finally finished that book I was telling you about last time."
They talked books for a bit before Sara asked, "What's new and exciting with James?" James was the guy Emily had started dating a few months ago and their relationship seemed to be getting more serious.
Emily grinned. "Things with James are really great. It's fun having someone to try new restaurants and explore the city with. And he's just so easy to talk to, you know? We can discuss anything and everything for hours." A dreamy look passed over Emily's face that Sara recognized well from their college days gossiping about crushes.
"He sounds wonderful Em," Sara said sincerely. “I can’t wait for you two to join Aaron and I on a double date one of these weekends.” She and her boyfriend Aaron had been wanting to meet James for awhile now. Emily nodded enthusiastically at the suggestion.
The conversation flowed comfortably between the two friends as they lingered over lunch. Too soon the daylight shadows began to grow long and Sara realized with surprise a couple hours had passed. As much as she was enjoying their time together, responsibilities awaited them both. Reluctantly, they gathered their belongings and hugged goodbye on the sidewalk.
“This was so nice, let’s make sure we do it again really soon,” Sara said earnestly, holding onto Emily’s hands.
“Absolutely!” Emily agreed. “I’ll call you in a few days to work out a plan. Love you Sara!”
“Love you too Em. Travel safely.” With a final squeeze, they dropped hands and walked in opposite directions down the busy sidewalk.
Sara strolled contentedly back to her car. She strategized what grocery store to hit on her way home. The warm sunshine and visiting with Emily had energized her. She was looking forward to preparing a healthy dinner and getting some household chores done this evening.
As she drove home, Sara reflected on her day. The dental appointment had interrupted her morning as usual but seeing Emily had more than made up for it. She cherished their rare long catch-up sessions. Sara made a mental note to not let so much time pass before their next visit.
She considered joining a yoga class after work tomorrow as a treat. Maybe she could try that new Thai restaurant near the studio that she'd been wanting to check out too. Sara realized she had been eating takeout and frozen meals more often than she'd like lately.
Yes, she decided, tomorrow would be a day of nourishing herself - yoga, cooking a nice dinner, and getting to bed early with a good book. The thought filled her with contentment. Today had turned out quite nicely, and she looked forward to more of the same tomorrow.
The next morning, Sara awoke slowly, allowing herself to drift leisurely into consciousness. Bright sunlight streamed around the edges of the window curtains. She could hear the trills of birds chirping enthusiastically outside as the neighborhood came to life.
Instead of jarring to the blare of her alarm, Sara had intentionally set it to a soft chime. She wanted today to start peacefully and gently. Reaching to silence her phone, she rolled onto her back and stretched her arms overhead, feeling her body waking up.
She breathed deeply and steadily, centering her mind in the present moment. Sara had recently taken up a daily mindfulness meditation practice and the effects had been profound. It grounded her, decreased anxiety and overwhelm, and cultivated an attitude of openness that carried through her entire day.
After five minutes of stillness, Sara slowly rotated her wrists and ankles, encouraging circulation. She stood and pulled back the curtains, fl
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