I have a technique for staying calm. I breathe. Yes, don’t laugh. It really works. I practice it throughout the day so that when I am in a moment of stress I automatically breathe right through it. How does it work? I inhale through my nose and exhale slowly through my mouth blowing out my cheeks as though I am blowing a balloon.

My children see me doing it and ask me, “Mommy, what are you doing?”

“I’mI tried all my techniques. Nothing worked. breathing,” I explain to them. “Self-regulation. I’m trying to stay calm.”

Mornings I breathe a lot. Just trying to get everyone out to school dressed and with breakfast and lunches in tow after being up and bouncing off the walls for hours is enough for any woman to breathe or not to breathe. One morning in particular I felt spent and even my deep breathing wasn’t calming me down.

It was a dark moment of despair. I felt like I was hitting my head against a wall trying to make peace between fighting siblings, dress the ones who needed my help, and motivate the others to dress themselves. I tried all my learned, tested (and, I guess, failed) co-operative techniques. Nothing worked. I felt like “I just can’t anymore. It’s too much.”

One child especially gave me lots of reasons to breathe, and I was on the verge of screaming, “This child is going to break me!” (Which is honestly how I felt.) A light bulb went off. I stopped myself in the middle of a balloon-filled exhalation and realized this “child” is not going to “break me.” No, this child will “make me” and be my catalyst for growth if I so choose.

Wow, what a thought! It’s difficult, but it calmed me down. I looked at this child with eyes no longer marked by despair and bitterness, but hope and sweetness.

There are so many moments throughout the year when I feel like all I have to do is just make it through the moment and I’ll be fine. Like the moment of starting off something new—a job or a school year. The moments of moving homes or transitions when you can expect it to be normally stressful. You (in theory) know that this is going to pass, and the thought keeps you calm.

You tell yourself, “I just need to get through this, and it will be fine.” And most times, it is.

But what about all those times that are more trying and challenging? Tests that don’t feel like they are mere moments when you are living through them day after day after day.

Many people spend their lives feeling like, “This is going to break me. I just can’t anymore. I can’t take this stress and suffering.”

We have just finished a full month of holidays and festive preparations. Then comes the month “Cheshvan” referred to as “Marcheshvan” (“Bitter Cheshvan”). Bitter because it has “nothing”—no holiday, no excitement. Just your plain normal routine. Your daily life with its normal and not-so-normal trials, tests and challenges.

It’s the month when the weather is changing, and it’s getting cold. The month smack in the middle of past festivals and the light of Chanukah to come. This is the month of no vacations or breaks.

But within this month exists the potential for bountiful blessings, because in the Land of Israel on the seventh of Cheshvan we begin adding the daily prayer for rain: “Give dew and rain.”

Our sages explain that three keys are in G‑d’s hand and were not given to any messengers: the key of rain, the key of birth and the key to reviving the dead.1 They continue attesting to the enormity of the gift of rain by stating that a day when rain falls is as great as the day on which heaven and earth were created.

So we see that the gift of sweet rain, with its bountiful blessings in the proper time, begins its descent in the month known as “bitter.”

Cheshvan is also the month when Rachel died, and we commemorate her passing.

I frequently go to the site where Rachel is buried to pray. When I go, I am always surrounded by weeping women. What each one is crying for I can only guess ... health, to find their spouse, children, an easy birth, salvation. I look around and I say a prayer that each woman’s wishes should be answered.

“Oh,What a tough life she had! Mother Rachel, look at all these tears. The tears of tests and challenges. The tests of daily life. Pray on our behalf that the bitterness turns to sweetness and the crying turns to those of joy, laughter with tears.”

I think about all that Rachel went through. What a tough life she had! Her father, acting with such slyness, gave her sister to her beloved in marriage. Instead of what would be the normal reaction of bitterness, resentment and jealousy towards her sister, Rachel reacted with the highest level of compassion and selflessness. She saved her sister from experiencing tremendous embarrassment. She drew upon strength to keep quiet when others would have screamed and cried.

I think about how amazing she was and how after thousands of years, we still see how she took all the things that one would say, “This is going to break me,” and instead she turned it around, found incredible strength, and made herself great.

I look once again at these beautiful women around me coming to pray at this holy woman’s gravesite and I say a prayer, not from despair, but from hope—that I, too, can tap into Rachel’s greatness, with G‑d’s help, to take the “bitter” moments and make them “sweet,” to convert salty tears into fresh raindrops of blessing.