Once in a while (okay, once a day), I feel irritable. For no reason, really. Oh, maybe it is due to a lack of sleep (for the past many decades), or possibly the overwhelming demands of life, or maybe the accumulation of genes from extremely irritable ancestors—I don’t really know. All I know for sure is that when I’m in my irritable mood, I don’t want to listen to a single complaint from anyone in my household.No one except me does anything around here

Now, don’t get me wrong: I know how important it is to listen empathically to loved ones. There’s a critical voice inside my head reprimanding me the whole time: “You should be nice. You should listen sympathetically and acknowledge feelings. Validate, for goodness’ sake! Make a helpful comment, at least!” Simultaneously, my mouth is independently running the show: “YOU KNOW, I REALLY DON’T HAVE PATIENCE FOR THIS. IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE FOOD AROUND HERE, MAKE YOUR OWN DINNER!” Hmmm. Don’t know what happened there. A sad loved one turns around and skulks off, head hanging down, heart obviously broken.

I reflect on it later. At first, I make excuses for myself. No one understands me. No one appreciates me. No one except me does anything around here. But the inner critic doesn’t go for it. “Don’t give me that ‘poor me’ stuff. There’s no excuse. Pull yourself together.” Hmmm. Now I join the critic. You’re right. I’m a horrible wife/mother/person. I can’t do anything right. I hate myself. Oddly, the inner critic doesn’t go for that either. “Stop whining, and go do what you need to do. Go apologize for your rude behavior. And tell G‑d that you’re sorry, too. Then sit down and figure out what you’re so mad about. Address what you have to address, and make a commitment and a serious plan to avoid this sort of thing in the future. That’s the only way you’re gonna repair this. It’s called teshuvah. Go for it.” Sometimes, the critic has some really good advice. I take it.

I find a quiet moment (albeit at 1 AM), sit upright in my recliner (don’t want to be horizontal right now—I might fall asleep) and close my eyes (all the better to introspect). I breathe slowly for two minutes, just enough to enter a deeper level of consciousness and still stay awake. Then I invite my irritation to “talk” to me. “What’s wrong, Baby?” I ask it gently. And then, to my surprise, I hear sobbing. Oh. That’s me sobbing. Whatever for? I let the tears come, and then ask again, “What’s wrong?” Boy, am I shocked! I expected to hear the usual list—too much to do, too little time, too many setbacks, no one cares, and so on. But no. From deep inside, someone or something announces loudly and clearly, “I want to knit!” Oh, boy. It’s true. I have neglected my creative side for quite a while now. And this is what happens.I invite my irritation to “talk” to me

I’ve been here before, actually—many times. Little parts of me that want some fun or some creative activity or some old-fashioned “downtime” wait and wait and wait until they can’t wait any more, and then they eat through my skull. Well, not exactly. But what happens is that they show up first as an irritable mood, and then, if I continue to ignore them, as something far more sinister. In fact, when left unattended, they clearly become food for the yetzer hara (evil inclination)—a source of energy that fuels its destructive force, harming me and everyone within my radius. And it’s funny—unless I go “inside” and give my Self the attention she needs, I am clueless, not even aware of what is driving my mood. When I find out and address the situation (it’s essential that after I ask and listen to my Self, I act on what she says), I repair the hole in my internal world, healing my soul.

So, I bring out the needles, carve out some time to put them to use, and sit back and enjoy the benefits of a whole and well-nurtured soul. In other words, my patience returns. Anyway, I really can’t talk about this anymore because I’ve got to go knit now. What’s that you say? You don’t like tonight’s dinner? I understand, honey. It’s disappointing to have soup when you were hoping for pizza. How can I help you with this? Knit one, purl one, knit one, purl one, knit . . .