We ran out of milk again this morning. I had asked my spouse before I came home yesterday if we needed anything from the grocery, and we still ended up without. Why does that happen so often? I shouted and slammed the door when I left for work; that’s a normal reaction, right?

Once again I couldn’t sleep at night. My neighbor plays piano in the evening. True, it’s not so late that it’s illegal; he stops precisely at 10:30. But I need to go to sleep early to get up on time for the first shift at work. He knows that; I’ve told him many times. He says it’s the only time he has to practice, and why don’t I close the windows. Makes my blood boil! He can’t find another time to practice? I shouted at my neighbor and said things I’d rather not repeat. He deserved every word, I thought to myself.

In the morning, I realize I may have overreacted. But when I fall into bed again after another long day, I’m so tired, I can’t help myself. I call him again, shouting and yelling. I’m also a little embarrassed to say that when he asked to borrow my lawnmower, I refused.

My co-worker bumped into me in the hallway, spilling my coffee. I barked at him and instead of feeling bad, I thought, “Hey, he said even worse to me the other day.”

Lately, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how badly another person acts (that’s between him and G‑d); it still doesn’t give me an excuse for any unseemly behavior. I’ve also learned that G‑d is in charge of even my cup of coffee. And I’ve learned how even seemingly harmless talk can cause damage to others.

I’m slowly becoming more aware of how big a deal every act really is; yes, it is terrible that I allow myself to react so badly to my spouse, co-worker, or neighbor.

I’ve gone down the same road countless times since I was a kid. I mess up badly; I goof and feel terrible remorse. But then, once again, I act shamefully, regret it and resolve never to do it again. Over and over, since childhood, I have fallen into the exact same pit.

Now I want very much to remove this awful stain from my persona. I sincerely want to change. I’m told there’s a way to do just that: teshuvah. Yes, gladly! Just where do I sign up?

Teshuvah is generally translated as repentance; literally, the word means “return.” But what exactly am I returning to? How can it possibly be called return if I’m trying to become the kind of person I never was, at least not in this lifetime?

But you see, every morning we say a prayer thanking G‑d for returning a pure soul to our bodies, one that existed before the world itself was created—a piece of G‑d Himself. This soul is inserted into our bodies every day anew as if into a prison cell, fenced in by our temptations and human frailties, unable to reveal G‑d’s glory as its nature would dictate.

This G‑dly soul is our true nature; deep down inside, we would truly prefer to always “be good,” to act constantly according to G‑dly dictates. This G‑dly soul inside each of us struggles to express itself in our lowly world.

It is to this G‑dly soul’s nature that we strive to return—to become the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.

How does that translate into my daily life? It doesn’t mean wallowing in remorse and regret. I can see from my own experiences that the initial burst of regret quickly falls away, leaving no permanent mark or change. But it does mean apologizing to my neighbor and admitting to G‑d, in my own words exactly, what I did wrong.

However, sustaining teshuvah means so much beyond that. It means adding more positive actions (mitzvahs) to my routine, each of them strengthening my direct connection with the G‑dly source of holiness. It also means adding more words of holiness in Torah and prayer both from Jewish traditional texts, as well as beseeching G‑d in my own words for help along my path of achieving true teshuvah.

It means being happy with my lot in life and happy with your good fortune. And it means seeking to become one who merits the high level of a baal teshuva, literally one who “owns” their return to the pristine state of the G‑dly soul, which is even higher than the level of one who is completely righteous and never sinned.