How to Be a Human When Things Go to Shit

Life has a fantastic way of knocking the shit out of you without any fair warning. And along with that cruelty comes only a certain amount of sick days, limiting the amount of time you can stay in bed moping, watching The Crown, and wishing you were born into an inherited life. That reality punch to the gut can knock you out for a while.

Besides begging the world to open up and swallow you whole, how do you come back from that? How do you get out of bed and be a member of the world again? The rug was pulled out from under me recently and (spoiler) I survived. I’m starting to pick things up again. I can’t be the only person who has ever felt like this, so I wanted to share some things that were specifically healing for me. Maybe you’ll find them useful, too.

  • Rally Your People. Really, this should be the first step in all things you do. Tell them what’s going on. Tell them how you’re feeling. And then let it sit. They will take it from there. You have a tribe for a reason. I call them my Life Committee and we try to move in this messy world together. That’s the magic word. Together. I can’t count the number of times they’ve told me Truth in ways that has soothed my often cynical soul. That while it’s painful to bring things into the light, holding hands and walking into it together is the best way to move forward. This vulnerability will steel your friendship and you’ll fall in love with them all over again.
  • Take Care. The last thing you want to do is to get up and do something productive. You want to lay and marinate in what you believe is the Great Fatality of your life. But I promise you, it’s not. The idea of Going To Work (capitalized bc sweet baby jesus that sounds impossible) can be big and daunting and you don’t want to do it. So don’t focus on that first. Just focus on doing the next right thing and award yourself gold stars along the way. You got up! Gold Star. You took a shower! Gold star. You put clothes on that weren’t pajamas! Gold star. Soon, you’ll be to work. Yeah, it’ll still suck, but you’re getting back into the swing of things. And let’s be real, burning all those PTO days isn’t going to be fun when you have none left. So take care of yourself, one right thing after the other.
  • Do Something For Someone Else. On my Odysseus quest to get my ass out of bed and to work, I fulfilled my basic Millennial duty of giving Starbucks my money. Because let’s be real. On days like this, making breakfast is a whole thing. I grabbed an iced tea and a bagel. But before I finished my order I noticed a lemon loaf that I remembered one of my dear coworker/friends absolutely loves. So I picked it up as a surprise to make her happy. Seeing her surprise at the small token of someone thinking about her made my day. She felt loved and it reminded me that the world exists outside of whatever bullshit is happening in my space. It felt good to be loving to someone else, most especially if it takes the form of a lemon loaf.
  • Move. No, not in the way that you move to Madagascar and start over (although DREAMS). I mean in the way of moving your body. And I know, you guys. This can be the hardest. I get to this part of the Becoming Human Process and perform a Michael Phelps Olympic gold medal performance eye roll. MOVE MY BODY?! This vessel that I’m stuck in?? This thing can’t fix me or make me feel better! Ok so listen for a half a second. Your body is what holds all of these emotions you’re feeling. It holds your brain and your blood and your heart and a bunch of other shit that you’ll need to ask Tamara about. The body knows when something is wrong and knows how to fix it. But you have to do your part. I’m not asking you to run a marathon, just do something intentional with your body. Sit and meditate, stretch, do yoga, walk, swim, hike, whatever. Feeling better requires the biggest natural healing mechanism that we have - our bodies. I encourage you to summon every morsel of effort and to move your body. The next right things will become so obvious and hurdling over them will not seem like Everest anymore.
  • Appreciate. I don’t want to say “Count Your Blessings”, because (vomit) cliché. But I do want to say that shifting your focus from whatever you’ve built up as a catastrophe to the things that you already have is helpful. It will humble you and put a smile on your face and help you (again) do the next right thing. Get a piece of paper and a pen. Set the timer on your phone for 5 minutes and start writing a list of the things that you’re glad are in your life. Put. Everything. Down. From your spouse to a piece of chocolate, whatever makes you happy, write it down. If nothing else, you’ve spent 5 minutes of your day soaking in all of the things that bring you joy. It’s magic, I promise, and will make you look at your situation with some more perspective.

A word about this list: I know that some Life Things are bigger than others. Health, relationships, jobs, money, the list goes on. It’s unpredictable and can be scary. In no way do I want to compare my scars to yours (but if you want to share, that would be brave and helpful to others). What I do want to do is to make sure you know you're not alone. Going back and fixing things isn’t always possible. You only have now and what will become now soon. Do what is good for you and do what you can to get yourself to the next right thing. I promise you’ll be part of of the world again.


Nancy's convinced that powerful change for good happens when you rally your most trusted lady friends and make a few dozen Google Docs. When she's not training for a triathlon or marathon, she enjoys a night at home with the world's largest bowl of popcorn, a bottle of wine, and Season 2 of the West Wing.