As I said the bedtime Shema, I recited the familiar passage, “For you have acted truthfully, and it is we who have acted wickedly.”1

The resonance filled my chest with a deep sigh.

For a long time, I felt that I was an angel, while G‑d couldn’t be meaner. Around and around I went on the merry-go-round of making myself miserable in the name of G‑d. Eventually, I grew tired of playing the martyr and blaming Him. I started to wonder if the pain I blamed on heaven was coming from within.

It is time that I do teshuvah, the ultimate return to my true self, the ultimate healing.

Looking out at the silhouette of the mountains accompanied by the silence of a warm summer night, I searched for evidence of the moments when G‑d was kind to me and I was cruel.

Dear G‑d,

I apologize for all the good moments I clouded with expectations.

I apologize for all the compliments I have denied myself with a quick flick of rejection.

I apologize for all the sweet moments I didn’t breathe into and take into my body to enjoy later.

I apologize for the self-doubt you have watched me mercilessly plague myself with.

I apologize for all the times you had an amazing plan, and I worried myself sick.

I apologize for all the insults I called your creation while looking in the mirror.

I apologize for all the moments your warm loving embrace was here, and I just wasn’t ready to receive it.

I apologize for the self-inflicted pain that I blamed on you.

The following day, I was asked to speak for a tour group. I had been excited to have that time to work on my new book. “But I guess I have to do this,” I said to myself.

I felt annoyed at G‑d, resentful even. Why do you give me the inspiration to write and no time to use it? Why do you keep sending me situations I can’t say no to? Why can’t you just let me be? Why isn’t what I am already doing enough?

And then it clicked.

Reality is always kinder than I think it is. Who is pushing me into a corner, G‑d or me? It hit me, like a million pounds rolling off my shoulders.

G‑d is providing love, support, creativity, choice and everything I need to be happy at this moment. I am the one making myself do something I don’t want to. “For you have acted truthfully, and it is we who have acted wickedly.”

I snuggled back into the couch with my laptop and stared at the document, but disgust filled me. How can I say no to leading a group? How can I refuse to help?

I began to type.

This guilt. This martyrdom that leaves me with half-finished projects and feeling anxious; this is not the G‑dly soul. The G‑dly soul is a place of joy and confidence.2

This voice in many of our heads of the “ideal” woman has standards that are unattainable, contradictory, and relentlessly criticizing. This is otherwise known as every woman’s yetzer hara.

“You should spend more time with your kids,” she shames, while simultaneously saying “You should put more energy into your career.” “You should be more giving” and “Where are your boundaries?” “You shouldn’t need help!” and “Where is your self-care?”

Our version of the “ideal woman” is not based on real women. She is based on all possible ideals merged into a toxic mush of self-expectation.

This is the voice that won’t let me be. While G‑d is kind, that voice can be cruel.

We learn in Tanya,3 that there is a voice that can sound righteous and inspiring and yet its only merit is in ignoring it.

This voice is a tricky one. It pushes us to spiritual perfectionism in its every attempt to cause burnout.4 It leaves us dissatisfied when all G‑d asks is that we rejoice together with Him in each mitzvah.

As I said the bedtime Shema that night, I reflected on the harder moments of the day.

There was a rude comment, causing an embarrassing scenario. G‑d allowed it to happen for a moment, but I am the one who revisits the scene and binge-watches it.

G‑d, this year, help me to be kinder to Your creations, starting with this one.