From her upcoming new book of poems and essays, "I
Remembered in the Night Your Name"
"Deliver me, Hashem
for the waters have reached until my soul.
I am sunk in muddy depths without foothold;
I have come into deep waters
and a whirlpool has swept me away" (Tehillim 69:2-3)
How to Combat the Blackness and the Bleakness of the
It appears like a black wisp far away on the horizon. You
hardly register it in your field of vision. But then it can
only be seconds before it puffs up into an enormous black
cloud that races over to you and completely fills your
A black cloud is not simply a variety of cloud that
indicates impending storm. A whole other creation, it is a
force field of concentrated negativity. A person in a black
cloud cannot see over, under or around it, cannot see before
it or beyond it. In practical terms, a black cloud can make
you want to run away from the dishes, the house, the family,
and the whole life. There's no rationalizing it away or
negotiating with it. Inside a black cloud, a person can
believe that life is one long litany of sorrow, compulsive
behavior, failure and defeat.
If a husband happens to come home in the middle of a black
cloud attack, he can suffer a torrent of complaints,
miserable dramas, and threats made out of desperate thin
air. And if he or his black-clouded-over wife fall into the
trap of believing any of it, then the black cloud can
quickly turn into a black hole big enough for two. A black
hole is more treacherous than a black cloud, because, as its
name suggests, the black hole is such that the whole arena
of one's life can be moved into it for long periods of
The point is not succumbing to the black cloud and its
sponge of lies in the first place.
Although black clouds appear to materialize out of nowhere,
their formation can usually be traced to a stray thought
where you either passed judgment on yourself or someone in
your vicinity. Perhaps you walked past a mirror and caught a
glimpse of your reflection. Instead of finding something to
like, you winced. Instead of befriending yourself and taking
note of all your endearing qualities, you were repulsed.
Instead of seeing yourself with compassion and love, you
chose to be unforgiving. The black cloud was now firmly
entrenched. But even at that point, the slightest loving
thought or gesture of forgiveness would have caused it to
(The next time you see yourself in the mirror, at least you
can smile, even if you can't think of anything nice to say.
And even if the smile seems forced, keep on smiling and
forgiving until the crisis passes, and you realize that this
is someone you would like to get to know.)
If you feel constantly bombarded by negative thoughts that
seem random and unconnected to your own inner dialogue, you
may be attracting general negativity. As soon as you become
conscious of the existence of black clouds, it is likely
that the new understanding will naturally repel much of the
The most effective strategy against black clouds is early
detection. First, you need to firmly believe that the
negativity is based in illusion and lies. Once you can
reject those stray thoughts immediately, then your aim is
steady, and you can shoot those black clouds down ever
before they can touch you.
But once a black cloud has puffed up in all its black fury,
then another, a more subtle strategy is required to remove
it. The first step is the self- realization that anything
you do or say from the midst of the black cloud is suspect.
Don't forget for a moment that you are no longer acting as a
free agent. The blackness and bleakness of the black cloud
has gained a foothold in your consciousness and so,
everything is tinted black.
What works better than a frontal assault to uproot the
invader is to create an environment that is unfriendly to
black clouds. Try to sing, or at least put on some of your
favorite music. Try to dance to the music, and if that seems
impossible in your black state, then just move your arms,
hands, fingers, eyes. Movement of any kind is unsettling to
a black cloud.
If you feel totally immobilized, it may help to take a nap
or go to bed early for the night. Black clouds need to be
constantly fed by negativity and nurtured by belief. If they
aren't fed, they begin to weaken. You can't feed them while
you're sleeping, and so, even that totally passive activity
can succeed in removing even a substantial black cloud.
"Stay still and let the destruction pass."
Tehillim, formal prayer, and our own personal prayers are
foremost in our arsenal of weapons against black clouds.
Reciting Tehillim creates light, and these noxious heavy
black clouds just slink away in the presence of light.
However, a person may feel so defeated and depleted by the
black cloud that there isn't enough motivation to pick up a
siddur or Tehillim. Then, a cry to Hashem out of the
depths of pain, even from the very bottom of a black hole,
can turn everything around so that the ensuing light and joy
is in direct proportion to the experience of despair. [Tears
While in a black cloud, a person may turn to food or
acquiring things as an attempt to drown out the black cloud
blues. The black cloud remains in force, and an additional
cloud of compulsive eating or shopping descends. However,
there are no formulas. To consciously prepare and eat a good
meal or buy something on a shopping outing that fulfills a
real need doesn't feed the clouds. Taking the time to [like
and] nurture yourself can effectively frighten away a black
When you face yourself with honesty and compassion, then any
physical action can chip away at the black cloud. Hanging up
the laundry, for example. Feel the positive effects of
moving, the fresh air in your lungs, and the smell of clean
clothes stretched out in the sun. That might lead to your
wanting to stretch out your limbs in the sun, breathe
deeply, and remember how good it is to be alive.
You will recognize the strategies and words of affirmation
that work for you. This happens once it becomes crystal
clear that you and the black cloud are separate entities,
and it is simply illusion that positions you as one and the
same. You will develop a resistance to black clouds and a
distinct aversion to their presence, also a sixth sense that
helps you to recognize when they have enveloped others in
When you look at the words of Tehillim, you can see how
Dovid Hamelech pointed to his enemies and implored Hashem to
destroy them. You will identify with the exaltation and
exhiliration he expresses when Hashem rescues him and
delivers him to a place of safety. The words of Tehillim
begin to resonate in your heart with your own truth of
battling the black clouds and hoping for deliverance.
[Ed. Sometimes a brief bus ride and/or an invigorating walk
home can shake off the black-widow cobwebs entangling you.
And, as Varda suggests, you can say your Tehillim -- right
on the bus, or by heart, walking!
There is an excellent support group for women who find
depression coming on. NITZA is a postpartum group of mothers
that meets once a week and also has counselors to help,
guide, support, listen and advise. Call Ahava Winston at 02-
533-2811 - just to talk it out.]