Anger Management

Last week was a doozy.  The pressure was on, as black clouds rolled in and a shit storm of things I’d rather not deal with started raining down. Drenched in my own anger, I found myself struggling to keep my head above it all as I dove in to do the deeds of everyday life: dog walking, working, carpooling, homework helping, cooking, shopping, cleaning, bill paying, and washing laundry. The endless stream felt more like a tidal wave, knocking me on my ass each time I tried to get myself up.

I was drowning in aggravation.

And then the powers that be sent me a sign.

In the midst of picking up dirty socks from under our living room couch and fuming because the kids left the television on when I clearly asked for it to be shut off, I heard a familiar voice.

It was an unmistakable, cigarette soaked, drug scorched, gravelly rumble from the god of rage.

Good ol’ Charlie Sheen.

I dropped the socks and plopped on the couch, mesmerized by what his rant-laden, vitriol-fueled March 2011 flameout had left in its wake: a decimated live wire with a gaunt face, clenched jaw, and darting eyes. Although Charlie clearly wants to play nice and win us over with his “24th chance” in his upcoming sitcom, Anger Management (going off the rails a month from now on FX), the dude’s still mad as hell and sure we’re all gonna take it…. and like it, damn it.

I for one really don’t want to dip to a Sheen low point, so I decided then and there that I better do something about my rage.

First I unleashed it on unsuspecting people, hoping that quick outbursts would do the trick. Despite a lack of protection similar to what Charlie’s goddesses employed (mind-erasing drugs, cushiony implants), my family proved equally impervious. My son uttered something about me “being on my period.” (Who the hell taught him that one? And for the record, I wasn’t.) My daughter locked herself in her room. My husband turned on the television. Even my bitch gave me a disinterested stare as I yelled at her for chewing on my favorite pillow. Satisfaction denied.

Next I turned to my new age training, which has been so good for me in recent years. I tried to muster compassion for the asshole in the sporty BMW who cut me off and then flipped me off, as if his road rage was my problem; the foot-in-mouth idiot who blurted a bombshell and then did a pretend oops I’m sorry even though she clearly felt superior in her bombshell dropping; and the douchebag in front of me in line at Trader Joe’s who took ten hours to check-out thanks to inane small talk and a highly inappropriate debate over the merits of various $2.99 wines. HULLO, THE ONLY REASON THEY ARE GOOD IS THEY ARE CHEAP, PERIOD.

Clearly that wasn’t a workable solution – I can’t even recant the Trader Joe’s tale without resorting to an all-caps rant, I’m still keeping an eye out for the Beamer, and as for the bombshell dropper, well, she better hope I don’t have a baseball bat in my hand the next time I see her.

Gratitude is always a great diffuser, so I sat down to write a list of people, places, and things I am blessed to have in my life. Halfway through, my pen ran out of ink, and I ended up throwing it across the room before banging my head on the table. Not the most gracious display, and I’m glad nobody was there to see it, save my bitch who fetched the pen and proceeded to chew it until it was thoroughly destroyed. If I only had fangs, I’d have joined her in the implement destruction frenzy.

At a loss, I reached out to a friend who is the queen of sage advice and great ideas.

“You need batting practice,” she told me.

Ah yes, something totally counterintuitive, considering that part of what was fueling my frustration was the endless shuttling of kids to practices, games, and tournaments as spring play-offs collided with summer travel team ramp-ups.

But before I could laugh, I found myself at the local batting cage. That first night, I only got a couple of shots off, but there was definitely something about the reverberation of the bat in my hand once it finally made contact with the ball.

The second night at the cages, I got all but about a dozen of the sixty rounds fired at me. And by night three, I was batting just about all of them, each with a satisfying crack. And so it goes – my shoulders ache, my hands are sore, but I’ve calmed down. I feel like I did back in the day when I was on my old softball team, the Falcons, sporting a polyester green shirt with gold felt lettering. I may not have been Tatum O’Neal in The Bad News Bears, but I sure felt cool back then. And being cool is always the best way to dispel red-hot rage.

Batting cages are a metaphor, I think, as I watch little kids learn to hit balls. They don’t worry about what’s coming at them, they just swing at the ball when it gets there with glee and wild abandon. The older kids are making connections, but it all works best when they give in to muscle memory and relax. You don’t really have time to dwell on emotion when you only have a split second to reset yourself. And picturing whatever or whoever’s bugging you while you pummel away is incredibly satisfying.

Batter up — there is joy in Mudville when you give yourself a minute to let it rip.  And I’ll look forward to having you on our team, Anger Management, sponsored by Chico’s Bail Bonds and Such is Life, Ltd.

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