What To Do When It All Goes To Hell

Sometimes life feels a little like Montparnasse.
Sometimes life feels a little like Montparnasse.

It happens to all of us who aren’t yet enlightened: There comes a moment when all of our good intentions fly out the window and something harsh comes crashing down. Maybe the harshness is actually quite minor, a temporary setback that you can laugh at later. Maybe it’s not. I had one of those last Friday. Good realizations about myself and my functioning came eventually because of it, but in the meantime I can admit that I didn’t handle my small crisis with as much grace as normal.

So, what do you do when it all goes to hell?

Rely on your friends.

You have friends for a reason, and it’s not just because you both like onion rings with hot mustard. The deepest part of friendship is when you are there for each other when the shit hits the fan, or just slightly afterwards. The strength of your friends will hold you up when you can’t stand on your own. And don’t worry – you’ll return the favor soon enough, and be strong for them, when they can’t take it, either.

Don’t stuff your emotions.

One of my old favorites for stuffing my emotions was to eat a single serving of Thin Mints. (Which I always understood to be one of the two sleeves in the box.) I’d stuff my emotions down by eating them, thus providing me with another layer of protection/armor/fat, except of course… it doesn’t work. My ‘suit of armor’ is quite impressive now, but it still doesn’t protect me from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Likewise, I’d put a movie on, or watch a show I like and just tune out. …but of course that doesn’t work, because when I tune back in, nothing has changed and I’m no calmer.

Any of the ways that we stuff emotions is never ideal, long term. Perhaps the coping mechanism was really useful at one point. That is often the case. If so, honor that. The question remains: is it useful now? And if it isn’t, then it’s okay to gently, carefully and with dignity thank it and put it on a shelf. It can be scary to actually feel our emotions, because the negative ones always seem to boil down to fear and guilt, even when they start out as rage. And that fear cuts to our core. The guilt can be overwhelming. But when we see it for what it is, it has less power over us. And that is progress.

Embrace whims.

When we’re in our right minds (relatively speaking), it’s a whole lot easier for us to hear the Voice of God. When we’re swamped with fear and guilt, it can be almost impossible. So embrace the whims you feel – providing they’re not actively negative or violent, it’s likely that they are the Voice of God trying to get through to you in the only way you’ll allow.

Do something different.

Whenever you need to change your energy, clear your head, or change your mind… do something different. In the midst of an angry and sleepless night this past week, I got up and went into the other room. And I did push ups. Those who know me well, know that my push up days were at least a decade ago. And yet at 2:30 am, going for a walk or even a run wasn’t a good idea. I don’t have a punching bag anymore, and while I could feel my anger, I couldn’t let go of it. Knowing how well really strenuous exercise has helped with that in the past, I embraced a whim and went and did some push ups.

Face your life situation head on.

Sometimes the things that make us crack in the moment are relatively small. Sometimes they’re not. Whatever it is, small, medium or horribly large, this is where we’re supposed to be, and this is what we’re supposed to learn. Now, by that I don’t mean, ‘God hates you and sends you frogs, earthquakes and cancer.’ I mean that whatever we experience in life, God can guide us through and show us how we can use it to learn from.

Learn what, you may ask? Learn how to love and forgive one another, for certainly they go hand in hand. These are two of the few things in life – love and forgiveness – that the more we give away, the more we have for ourselves. We will know just how loved we are and just how forgiven we are when we love and forgive those around us.

Make sure you’ve got someone who will kick your ass for you.

This is invaluable, and for me, it’s my husband. He’s the one person in this world who understands me completely and shares my exact theology and cosmology. Though we have very different viewpoints on the world – even if I could read his mind, I’m not sure it would help some days – he’s my primary source for the world’s most gentle reality check.

Whoever it is, this is the person who knows when you need a platitude (no really, Sare, it’s going to be alright), when you need to stop bullshitting (no really, Sare, what’s actually going on?), and when you need to admit that you’re not alone (Sare, have you asked the Holy Spirit for help, yet?)

And if you’re incredibly lucky, you’re surrounded by such trusted friends.



  1. This is such a great post. I love each part and especially need the last. With forgiveness we also have to remember to forgive ourselves and not be too hard when we don’t do something the way we think we should. Writers can be the worst critics of themselves. I entirely agree with changing coping habits when you find them no longer working, or impacting you negatively.

    • Thank you! I think that forgiveness is really at the root of everything I do – or it is when I remember it. Half the time these days it’s a new coping strategy to get me to the place where I can remember that I actually want to forgive…

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