It might be the Southern summer heat, or the way it’s kept me cooped up inside, but I’ve been a bit of an anger ball lately. “Anger ball” is a wonderful term from a wonderful movie, “Playing by Heart,” and it perfectly describes the way I’ve been feeling for the past week or so. My general irritability reaches a boiling point quickly, at which point my blood pressure hits the roof.

I’m generally content with the path I’m on in life. But recently I’ve had minimal patience for life’s little hassles, which can instantly trigger some very black moods. Today it happened when I was writing an email to a client of Darren’s and mine and asked for his editing help. This turned out like it did when I used to ask my mom to edit my high school essays, and they came back marked up with red ink. Much scowling ensued.

Me to Darren: Will you take a look at this email before I send it?

Darren: Yeah! (Reading the email) I think that you could emphasize X here instead of Y….

Me: (Giving him the evil eye) Well, why don’t you send it yourself, then? I’m late for yoga. (Storms off)

Of course when one irritation happens, there are only more to come. My car, which has had trouble starting in the intense afternoon heat, didn’t care that I was already late for yoga and decided not to start for me. I refuse to drive Darren’s flagging Ford Escort, with its cracked windshield and skewed alignment that forces you to turn the wheel to 2:00 just to drive straight. (Yes, we be classy.)

So I stomped back into the house, announced that I would be missing yoga because the damn car wouldn’t start, and I would be going to the gym instead. I closed the door loudly for emphasis. It wasn’t quite a slam. I mean, I’m not juvenile or anything.

I knew that I needed to unravel the anger ball before I went back home, for Darren’s benefit and my own health. So here are the five things I did.

1. Spent some time alone.

When I get into a mood like that, woe to anyone within a mile radius of the dark cloud over my head. As an introvert, I like to spend some time by myself each day, and it’s nice to give Darren a break, too. We spend most of every day sitting six feet away from each other in our home office, after all.

2. Sprinted for 10 minutes to dance music.

Fortunately, there’s an air-conditioned indoor track at my gym, or else I might have fainted in the Mississippi heat, which wouldn’t have done much to improve my mood. When I feel anxious or angry, running at maximum speed satisfies the fight-or-flight instinct and takes my mind off my troubles. (Plus, I am in love with the Chris Brown song “I Can Transform Ya.”)

3. Grabbed an Oprah magazine that someone had generously left at the gym and found something inspiring to read.

I hit the stationary bike and turned to a personal narrative series called “The Breast Cancer Monologues.” I read a piece by Kelly Corrigan, wife to Edward and mother to two young girls, who is trying to throw one of them a birthday party despite coping with her illness. She wrote the piece in second person, which put me easily in her shoes.

Then, between calls to medical centers, long sessions on breastcancer.org, and emails to work colleagues, Edward says, “We’re not gonna do the party, right? It’s too much.” But you say, “No! She has to have it!” because you are feeling magnanimous and like you can’t possibly let cancer have its way with your daughter’s first real birthday party. He says, “She’ll never even remember it.”

“I will,” you say.

Cue humbled tears and counted blessings.

4. Back at home, ate a good meal and watched some comedy.

Darren, being the good man that he is, had recorded Seinfeld for us. “I thought you’d like to watch something funny,” he said. He made a butternut squash ravioli dish with garlic alfredo sauce, veggies, and sausage, and he gave me a big hug despite my quite uncalled-for heinous wenchiness. The episode of Seinfeld was the one in which Elaine, Jerry, and George all botch their volunteer jobs with senior citizens, and of course it cracked me up.

5. Caught up with a dear friend.

One of my oldest friends, Miss Katherine Rose McGuire, called unexpectedly just to exchange life updates. We became friends on November 19th, 1993, at a youth leadership retreat in Sonoma County, and we not only finished middle school together, but attended the same small high school and college as well. It’s comforting to talk with someone who has seen me at my best and my worst and has stuck with me through all of it. We can still laugh together as if we’re 13 years old, and to me that is priceless.

With all of these efforts, I am pleased to report that I unraveled the anger ball tonight. Tomorrow there may be another, or the next day. But I will be ready for it. I’ve found that time alone, music and exercise, inspirational reading, good food, comedy, and dear friends are remedies for anything that ails me. And if all else fails, I’ll find myself an episode of Sex & the City to watch. That’s a cure-all that works every time.


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