Due to extreme fluctuations in both my private life and my laundry habits, I have become more of a dryer sheet kind of girl.

The dryer sheet, both a plan and a substitute for a plan, provides that last-minute hope for slightly soft and somewhat wrinkle-free laundry which, in the end, is better than a wad of crunchy clothes with more wrinkles than Cher’s surgeon’s floor.

Though only marginally satisfied with my half-hearted effort, I have always been a little suspect of those Liquid Fabric Softener Girls. I envision them standing by the washer, watching and listening for the cycle change, Downy bottle dangling from one hand, pre-measured cap clasped in the other, pinky poised and pointing.

I confess: I once envied – even coveted – the ways of the Liquid Fabric Softener Girls. I, too, could swoop from room to room, tinkering away on The Great American Novel, feeding the children – mine and the world’s – achieving a new plateau of soft, smooth and fresh smelling laundry. I would be the New Millennium Martha Stewart, minus the drab wardrobe and legal woes.

But it simply wasn’t meant to be. I’d rather be at the bookstore, chasing the perfect cappuccino or walking my dog – anything except worrying about the rinse cycle. Sure, I long for a softer laundry and a softer life. But I can’t seem to stop my own spinning long enough to stop the spin cycle.

Enter: The Downy Ball.

Yes, I’d seen the commercials. I’d heard the giddy testimonials. Yet, I remained skeptical. How could I trust that the half-inch of blue liquid trapped inside that giant pacifier will be magically released during the rinse cycle? How can I be sure it won’t pop open in the washer as soon as I walk away, leaving me with baby-blue tie-dyed everything? I just wasn’t willing to risk that level of trust.

Until recently.

I’ve been so singular in my focus that I’ve lost all vision. My laundry has  been stacking up in direct proportion to my personal challenges. Both reached such a critical mass that new and drastic measures seemed my only hope – for fresher, softer laundry and for a kinder, gentler life.

The Downy Ball made its way into my shopping cart and, after a week-long purgatory on the kitchen counter, finally found its way to the laundry room. After several loads during which I periodically lifted the lid to spy on the state of the mysterious blue ball, I was free to tinker away on The Great American Novel and catch up on my reading with the simultaneous promise of softer, less wrinkly clothes infused with an April Fresh scent.

As it happens, the Downy Ball bounces happily about during the wash cycle, stubbornly holding hostage its magical contents until it takes such a beating that the rubber cap finally pops off and the softener is purged into the rinse water.

Because I often lack perspective on my own life and doubt my ability to make things softer and more appealing, I, too, had to take a beating recently before my solution was released. I’d been spinning around in my own cycles, a whirl of worries and doubts that threatened to consume me, just as piles of dirty laundry threatened to envelop me.

In the end, I discovered that my own fears and worries were fueled by a lack of trust. In myself. So, in a pathetic attempt to make my pity party a bit less pitiful, I plunked the Downy Ball into the wash with blind faith. Crying into an exceedingly fresh and soft pillow, I reasoned, is better than crying into a stale, stiff pillow.

So, I put my trust in the Downy Ball and in myself. I closed the washer lid and I opened my mouth. I confessed my pain and my fear and my needs (ugh, that one is tough, April scent or no), and I let myself beat against reality until the solutions began spilling out.

Nothing is magically solved. I have a long way to go. But at least I’ve stopped spinning.

I am a strong woman with ridiculously soft sheets, and I intend to conquer the world. One load at a time.