At the beginning of last week, for no obvious reason, I was in a really bad mood.
I don’t think I was the only one. Increasingly, I’m seeing how so much of our moods are the function of a ruach, or spiritual ‘wind’ that Hashem floods into the world that’s designed to press all our stress response buttons. When that happens, we come out fighting, flighting, freezing, going into hyper ‘people-pleasing’ mode – and the only way to get a grip on this is a lot of hitbodedut and self-awareness.
Which of course, 99.9% of the world aren’t doing, and don’t have.
So I think the violence and madness is only going to increase in the meantime… but let’s get on with the story.
I’ve started teaching a class again in Jerusalem, on Deeper Needs, and before the ladies showed up for Monday’s class I rushed out to the local supermarket to get some biscuits and water. The supermarket never has enough change. Like, never.
And I’ve made a practice of paying with cash wherever possible ever since we ran out of money a few years ago, and my cards stopped working in the most embarrassing of ways.
There are few things more excrutiating than ringing up a huge amount of shopping – and then your card doesn’t work. To be honest, it’s also excrutiating when it’s only a little bit of shopping, but at least that’s easier to forget about.
So, I have a credit card, but I try to avoid using it whenever possible.
And the supermarket has no change.
So, last Monday, I was there with my water and my biscuits, when the always grumpy woman on the till started haranguing me for not getting my shopping out of the basket and on to the conveyor belt fast enough.
I felt ‘fight’ well up in my chest, but God helped me to squash it. Phew!
10 seconds later, she’d rang up the total – 23 shekels – and I gave her the 100 shekel note I had in my purse to pay for it. She started humphing, asked me if I had anything smaller, I said I didn’t. And then she started haranguing me again, and told me I should pay with a credit card instead.
I felt ‘fight’ well up in my chest again – and this time, I couldn’t contain it. I grabbed the 100 shekels out of her hand, and shoved a credit card into it with such bad grace, and with such a malevolent look on my face that even the grouchy old supermarket bag got a shock.
“Why are you cross with me?!” she asked, incredulous.
“Because you got cross with me!” I answered back.
The rest of the transaction passed in silence, and I left the shop fuming.
Of course, ten minutes later I sat down to give a class on fixing bad middot, and dealing with things like anger and fear.
God always plans it like that, so I give over these classes from a place of maximum humiliation and shaflut. “Listen, gals, this is what we’re meant to be doing, but in the meantime you should know my fight reaction just kicked in at the super, and it’s a miracle I didn’t punch the old bad on the till in the chops.”
So all week, I’ve been thinking about how to fix this. How can I fix this?
The answer that came back in hitbodedut was this: chocolate.
So today, I returned back to the supermarket that has no change, I carefully picked the grumpy till lady’s line, and I bought some chocolate – for her.
I gave it to her, and it was the first (and probably last…) time I ever saw her smile.
HaKol beseder, geveret, she grunted out.
Peace had returned to Gotham City.
Until the next time they run out of change.