“Why are you so angry?”
My daughter practically spit the words. I looked around the room. Was she talking to me? Indeed. I had become the mother who yells.
My retort: “Because from the minute I walked in the door, you left me a mess and yelled at me when I asked you to clean it up!”
I laced up my sneakers, zipped my down coat, pulled a hat over my hair and blasted out into the 22-degree gloaming for a quick run. Let the endorphins flow, I thought, and it will all come into focus.
Did I really have to yell? Of course not. Did I even need to respond? No. But somehow the back-and-forth rat-tat-tat gunfire of overflowing moods, exhausted emotions, and long days combine for a quick start argument that neither party wants.
Just before that exchange, I’d responded to a Facebook post, asking for input about a senseless column published by a small-time writer who was given ink in a smaller-town paper. It was stupid and misguided, blasting a nearby town for giving him a parking ticket when he failed to put money in the meter.
So the guy was using his newspaper column to roast that town and advise people to avoid it at all costs. Don’t shop there, don’t go out for dinner, don’t patronize any of the businesses. All because he declined to pay the parking meter and was pissed at the punishment.
Stupidly myself, I posted that I thought the column was immature and not true journalism. But tons of people congratulated him on the piece.
I deleted my comment, the easiest way to eject myself from ever having stepped foot into the argument in the first place. It was no place for me. It had no reason for existence.
Just like the argument with my daughter. Was this really how I wanted to spend the precious hours we have together after school and after work?
And so I took to the fresh air and the cold winter day descending into night. I looked up at the sky. The clouds were paint strokes of promise. Spring is only a few weeks away. Spring always comes, the freeze always melts, the grass eventually turns green.
On the walk home, I waited for a car to pass on the road. The sidewalks are too icy for me to keep my balance in sneakers, and so I stick to the roadsides and hope not to fall.
A car waited at the stop sign. The driver, a huge smiled painted across his face, waved me onward. I shook my head and smiled back. You go first, my wave indicated, and I pointed to the side of the road where I would walk.
He nodded in recognition, waved, and drove on.
I didn’t know that driver. He didn’t know me. But his smiled melted all the ill will I’d felt for a fleeting moment earlier in the house.
The fresh air was my medicine, my remedy for when things get off-kilter.
I walked into the house, tipped my shoes off at the heel. I was pleasantly sweaty, warmed from the effort. The pedometer showed I’d gone a quick mile. Better than nothing.
Sometimes, we have to walk away in order to see the path clearly.