My cat Sable has a habit of yelling at me whenever I’m wound too tight. On days when my stress is high, he makes me even crazier. He paces, never settles, emits loud ceaseless meows while he stares at me. “Don’t you dare,” I tell him when it threatens to send me over the edge I’m already skirting. “Not today, Boo.” I shake my head. “I can’t handle it today.” When he doesn’t give up, I often end up screaming at him. “Enough,” I yell. “Enough.” It isn’t something I’m proud of. Last Friday when he started his endless howling, I told him he was just going to have to deal with my anxiety. “I am already too tense,” I say in a hard, brittle voice. “The last thing I need today is you yelling at me.” Of course, he keeps it up. He’s a cat. He stalks from kitchen to front stoop and back again, his cat roars punctuating the winter air, poking me in the eyeballs, the back of my head. It is worse than nails on chalkboard, worse than the old scratchy LP stuck on the turntable, the endless jarring repetitive noise. I want to scream at him, but I sit down instead. “You want kisses?” I ask him. I pat the bed beside me. He leaps up, still howling away, but quiets when I pet him. I’ve always known he’s my barometer, but I finally get how he can guide me. I let everything else fall away for a few moments while I stroke him, his whole soft little self vibrating with his big purrs. Is it really that simple? I wonder. Is it really just a choice for each moment, to drop back down to calm, to stop the frenzied pace and the racing mind and just be, warm black fur beneath my fingers?