Give Me Back My Ball!

I go to an exercise class most days of the week. It’s part of my routine, and it makes me feel good. It’s a little island of quiet in my day where I respectfully tell my mind to take a hike so my body can get to work.
Recently, I walked into class right before it started and was stuck in the last space available. This spot happened to be next to a person who irritates me. I don’t know this person, have never even spoken to her, but she irritates me. It’s petty and immature. I’m not proud of it, but it’s the truth. She’s been coming to class for at least a year and she still can’t ever seem to find the beat. Why do I care? I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t. But I do. It’s distracting, her being up when we’re all down, or her being left when we’re all right. It upsets my island of quiet.
I did not want to be next to her for the next 55 minutes of class. I felt agitated but determined to make the best of it. But then, during a quick stretch after one of the first sections of class, one in which we use a ball, I noticed she had taken my ball. MY BALL. Did she not notice that her ball was still sitting exactly where she had left it fifteen seconds earlier? Where did she think this other ball had come from? My agitation was turning to anger.
The music is loud, class moves rapidly, and if anyone needed to hear the instructions for the next set of choreography, well, it would certainly need to be her, not me. I carried on and completed the exercise. But that was not going to be enough for me. I needed her to acknowledge that she had taken my ball and give it back to me. So as we quickly moved to the next section of class, I said, “Is that my ball?” pointing to my ball that she had placed down next to her ball, the one she seemed to think was now just an extra. She said, “No, I think your ball is over there,” and pointed to a basket.
Rage. Approaching blackout rage.
Things going through my mind: Why would my ball be over there in that faraway basket? When would I have gone over there and put my ball away in the middle of class when we were still using it only to come back over to you empty handed and ask if you had my ball? GIVE ME BACK MY BALL! I NEED MY BALL! MY BALL! NOT SOME OTHER BALL, THIS BALL. I WANT MY BALL!!!
I debated walking out of class. This woman was planted here to make me lose my mind.
I want so badly to tell you that in that moment the clouds broke in my mind and I could see the situation for what it was—silly and inconsequential. I want so badly to tell you that I was able to look around the room and think to myself how grateful I am to be alive and healthy and able to work out and afford exercise classes. I want so badly to tell you that I was able to shift my perspective, walk out of that class a better person, and pay a kindness forward.
But you know what happened? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I just let myself be angry—angry that she can’t keep the beat, angry that she took my ball, angry for being angry. I let her have my ball, MY BALL, and I silently prayed that she would pull every muscle in her body.
I put ridiculous expectations on myself to like everyone, be likable to everyone, be kind and loving and generous as much as possible, to be the best representation of humanity that I can be, and to hide myself away when I can’t. But that’s a lot of work. And sometimes, some days, I just can’t stand people, myself included. Sometimes I look at people who aren’t even talking and think to myself Shut up.
We all have days where, for no other reason than we just don’t feel like it, we don’t feel kind or loving or generous. And that’s OKAY. Bad moods happen. Good moods happen. Neither last forever.
That night, I was one of the last ones to leave class. Everyone had put their things away and there in the corner of the room sat one lonely ball
my ball, the ball she had taken and then abandoned. I thought to myself, Be helpful, pick it up, put it in the basket. And in that final moment, with one last chance to shift my perspective, to turn towards an attitude of kindness and service, I looked at that ball, my ball, left it right where it was and walked out of the building.