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An old boyfriend once begged me to have sex with him in a dressing room “for the story.” I refused, disgusted by his reasoning, and told him to try on his dress pants so we could get the hell out of there. I’d eventually grow accustomed to those kinds of requests, which were central to his cliché grab-life-by-the-ball ethos: run around in a rainstorm for the story, snowboard naked for the story, climb a fucking mountain for the story. I never understood it and it would eventually end us.

If you told me that 10 years later, I’d be living by a similar mantra, I’d have told you to go run around in a rainstorm yourself. But when I watched the Nora Ephron documentary early last year, the expression “everything is copy” latched onto the part of my brain that fuels my thoughts and never let go. It was something Nora’s mother, also a writer, used to say. The mentality defined Nora’s career. Her willingness to observe all of life and make it copy is precisely what made her writing so memorable.

There is one crucial difference between “do it for the story” and “everything is copy:” One is having sex in a dressing room for the sake of it, the other is recognizing the request as good material. Taken less literally, the latter is so much more than both.

This day sucks, but everything is copy. This is so hard, but everything is copy. Slowly it became a new step in my mental processing. Occasionally it was realized in a very real way. I’ve written about my breakups, my low self-esteem, my unhappiness, my crooked career path. Eventually though, “everything is copy” did more than transform a reactive outlet (cry-journaling) into a proactive way of sharing (personal essays). It changed the way I experience emotions.

For so long, all my “bad” feelings were disfigured and multiplied by an illogical fear that they’d never go away and were gravely serious. If I was disappointed in myself for an hour, I was a disappointment. If my life felt unfulfilling for a day, my whole life was unfulfilling. If I doubted my relationship for a week, my entire relationship was a sham. I’d suffer every emotion like it was a blanket diagnosis, as though I’d unlocked a door to a room I’d probably hang out in forever. If I didn’t hurry up and escape through grit and revision and hard work, I was doing it wrong.

Uncomfortable emotions were problems I had to solve.

Imagine if, every time you went to the gym and felt the pain of physical exertion, you worried that pain was wrong, permanent, a symptom of something bad. Suddenly the ache would feel much more harrowing and difficult and tragic because, holy shit, what if you felt like that forever? What was wrong with you that your body felt that way? But exercise is nothing like that. Knowing the pain is short-lived, necessary and productive makes it radically more bearable. It doesn’t make it go away, but it allows you to breathe through it and feel it and not panic.

I soon noticed that welcoming and accepting bad feelings in the same way made them much easier to sit with. Maybe everything was just copy. Maybe copy was the story of my life and my life wasn’t a shadowy house to properly navigate but a crazy rollercoaster I wanted to ride. Maybe sadness and uncertainty and frustration weren’t just the shitty parts to make the good parts feel better, but just parts — the logical means through which I got to the next one.

Bad feelings are exercise. They’re not problems, symptoms, wrong turns. They’re a productive part of the process. They’re the interesting part of the book; they’re the thing that’s going to lead the character somewhere else, somewhere new. They’re not a diagnosis or a trap.

I hate to use the words of my old boyfriend, but next time you feel like shit, try whispering to your own brain to do it for the story. Try to not run like hell toward a solution, to not panic, to let it hang out in your head for a while. You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels. What if you let yourself ride it out? What if you appreciated it as a small chapter in a long book worth reading? It may sound backwards but, expecting and accepting the hard parts makes them so much easier to live with.

Photos by Louisiana Mei Gelpi. Label design by Ana Tellez. 

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  • Caro A

    oh.my.god. clapping all the way through this. That feeling of being disappointed in yourself for an hour and then thinking your whole life is a disappointment resonates so deeply. Your writing is so great and relevant. My mantra that floats in and out is “Stop writing a story” (or don’t write the story yet) which is kind of freaking me out that your mantra is “everything is copy”. So funny/amazing. Stop writing the story, for me is in essence, stop trying to figure out why you’re feeling sad. YOU’RE FINE! FEELING SAD/CONFUSED/ETC. is fine. Stop trying to write the story that you annoyed at that one person in class and that means you can’t handle anyone who is remotely similar to that person so you should probably just not interact with people. And isn’t it funny when you just go with your feelings and realize how temporary they are?? And how often they change, how often we’re changing. I apply this thought to how I’m feeling about my body-we’re always changing, getting older, changing, adapting, moving forward (hopefully). Anyway, thank you, Haley. Once again, you capture life and thought so exactly.

    • Kiks

      The term for this in therapy is “catastrophic thinking” — when your mind always leads you to the worst possible outcome and convinces you it will be so. I’ve spent the last ten years trying to re-train my anxious brain not to do it! Catching myself before I go spiralling down is still hard sometimes. I love your mantra and am going to start using it.

    • alansa

      “Stop writing the story” is so so helpful to an over thinker like me! Thank you for sharing

    • Haley Nahman

      Love “stop writing your story.” Reminds me of “let it unfold” — another good mantra to live be!

    • Laura

      your point is interesting, though I’ve had kind of the opposite happen to me – once I had a small existential crisis because I thought about how all my feelings were temporary and in a way, that made them insignificant. And though at the time I was feeling down and mortified, it made me sad that in the grand scheme of things, this (or anything else I’d felt or will feel) didn’t matter. Does that make sense? Yes, in a way it’s a freeing realization but also made me think my feelings didn’t have value.

  • Gracie

    This is such a good piece. Your writing is so beautiful and brave. The funny thing about “bad” feelings is that lately I have been feeling pretty numb, as in everything has felt pretty average. I don’t get excited by things, but things aren’t hitting me that hard either. I crave the lows just as much as the highs, because I want to be feeling something. I know what I’m going through right now is temporary, but I hope when I hit a low I can try to be a little grateful for it…if that makes any sense.

  • iloveyouegg

    “You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels.” Thank you for this! I definitely should know that by now, but a gentle reminder is always nice.

    • it’s beyond “knowing” .. it comes down to the act of remembering within your moments – living/embracing the experience of your remembrance during all your turmoils
      (and during all your happy – for the one brings the other, invariably)!

      • Roos .

        Ya, it’s very physical, the times I re-realize this truth, like something melts inside of me, shifts and just relaxes.

  • Amelia Diamond

    i can’t wait to read this over and over and also i cannot get over the peanut butter image

    • EmilyWilson

      I’m allergic to peanuts, but I’d buy a jar of peanut butter that invited me to “Feel.”

  • Imaiya Ravichandran

    😭😭 I love ur personal essays. I feel like I’m peeking into the mind of a v wise grandma (who wears cool clothes and doesn’t look like a grandma in the slightest!!)

    • Haley Nahman

      Wouldn’t even mind if I looked like a gma!!

  • Blerb

    Very powerful essay, Haley. Thank you for sharing. I’ve bookmarked this page and intend to refer to it during my own ongoing struggles with emotional demons. A great reminder that even the darkest, most painful feelings are only temporary, and one need not define one’s worth based on the present moment.

  • ivd

    you literally write things that my heart feels so thank you thank you thank you!

  • Anne Dyer

    Beautiful piece. And seriously. I appreciate the cute instagram quotes about turning a bad day around with a donut, coffee, yoga, walk. But really it’s okay to have a shit 5 hours. It doesn’t mean a shit 5 years.

  • Katie

    I can’t begin to tell you how helpful this piece is to me right now. Once again, Haley knocks it out of the park. Thanks for writing. Also, I’ll be watching the Nora Ephron documentary tonight.

    • Haley Nahman

      HOPE YOU LIKED IT

  • Jessica

    YAS. Was just thinking about this today on the train.

    I used to say “This week is going to be great,” holding on to the idea (with white knuckles) that i could will EVERY.DAMN.THING. to go perfectly.

    Now I say, “This week is going to be great, because of my response to the moments when all things are shite.”

    Pay attention to the good, boring, bad, excellent and it all serves you.

    Thanks for your words.

    • Haley Nahman

      I love that

  • Alessia

    *slow claps*

  • …expecting and accepting it all, the hard and easy
    and failing to bug yourself out in regards to either.

    yaaaay!!

    as women, that has got to be the Message we have
    to bring for this poor, tore up world of ours…

    ((and to reflect the truth of this in our actions
    by our very presence, that of a sensuous and uplifted Being))

    beautiful ponderings here.

  • This is one of the best articles I’ve read – ever. Thank you so much Haley for your honesty. I agree with everything, and you’re reminding me to see the dark parts as “tunnels”, not as dead ends. This is amazing.

    Meg @ its.meg-ramsay.com

  • Danielle Cardona Graff

    I loved reading this! “Dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels.”

  • Lizlemon

    This website is magic it’s always so apropos to our lives. My brain’s been a hornet’s nest of anxiety about work and love and this is so reassuring. Waiting patiently for your book Haley.

    • Haley Nahman

      comment hug

  • lp

    Haley – thank you for this. I so resonate with all of this since going through extreme highs and extreme lows since my move from east to west. It has been so easy to make myself feel wrong or silly for experiencing sadness and negative emotions, but accepting them as just what they are is truly liberating. it is ok to feel lost, sad, down, whatever it is! I have learned to just go along with the roller coaster because I am a human (not a robot) and to just accept the highs and lows. It is so good to read this though and know I’m not alone (especially with a crooked career path). Thanks for sharing.

    • Haley Nahman

      You’re so good

  • Holy shit, Haley. I’ve long loved that Nora ( / Phoebe) Ephron quote and I’ve long tried to live my life by it but the way YOU just broke it down? The analogy between exercise and shitty feelings? I don’t know, something clicked reading what you wrote. This is one of those pieces I’m going to read over and over again, I can tell. Ty for writing it.

    • Haley Nahman

      I’m so glad Jackie seriously!

  • Abimbola-Kofoworola Oladeji

    How is Haley so wise ?. I don’t think I could have thought about negativity in this way . Sometimes I get into my feelings and wallow for so long . I like this way of processing everything . Thank you so much for the opportunity to experience your mind Haley

    • Harling Ross

      she is so wise.

  • Eliza

    I’ve been feeling this same way for a long time. “Uncomfortable emotions were problems I had to solve” is a situation I relate to on a daily basis. The past few years, I guess since entering my mid-20’s, I’ve experienced so much paralyzing nervousness, anxiety and deep seated depression that I’ve tried so hard to “solve,” if you will: therapy, exercise, eating healthy, talking to friends and family, starting different hobbies – the list goes on and on. But you are right, where you don’t need to solve these bad feelings, but embrace them wholeheartedly, because they are going to help you become the person you are meant to be. As much as I hate going through these bad periods of time, I’ve learned to accept them and appreciate them because they have made me stronger as time has gone on.

    I just broke up with my boyfriend of three years, so this article really hit home for me because I’ve been feeling so much of what was outlined in this essay. I’ve been throwing myself into different situations that I normally wouldn’t have done while in a relationship because I feel like the more I get outside of my own head and do things “for the story,” that I’ll learn more about myself in the process and begin to heal in good time.

    Thank you Haley!

    • Haley Nahman

      Breakups are the ultimate stories, lean in!!!

  • S

    Do you ever think about the implication on the other person when writing about relationships or breakups? Genuinely interested.

    • Haley Nahman

      I do! But try to strike the honest-but-respectful balance.

      • Honesty IS respect. Truth IS empathy. Anything less is cruelty. Would like to ban the phrase, “brutally honest”. Although? Indeed, the balance you reference is just as crucial because the success of sincerity might be in how compassionately we manage the delivery. That is the challenge and rising to it well reveals our beauty.

  • Harling Ross

    i love this hales. also sorry we never did goat yoga

    • Haley Nahman

      I will forgive you one day

    • alansa

      My friend got peed on in goat yoga beware

      • Haley Nahman

        everything is copy

  • Micah Lpez

    Everything is copy = Yolo 2017 ?!? (am I the only one who thought that ?)

    • Haley Nahman

      hahaha

  • yes! ✊

  • Emily A. Blasik

    Great writing!

  • Patrizia Chiarenza

    “You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels. What if you let yourself ride it out? What if you appreciated it as a small chapter in a long book worth reading?”
    This is so precious to me, espececially right now. Thanks for writing it.

    • Haley Nahman

      <3

  • Elizabeth

    Sometimes I feel like your writing takes the thoughts I can’t quite grasp or don’t know how to eloquently express and lays them out in a beautiful, comprehensive way! So thanks for posting this. I tend toward anxiety, and it took me a long time to realize that much of it was stemming from the sense that a negative emotion I was experiencing would last forever. I have started to endure the darker times by repeating to myself that “this is temporary”. Just like your “everything is copy” mantra, it sounds simple but has made such a big difference in allowing me to experience my emotions and let them pass rather than having them spiral into a clusterf*ck of anxiety. Have you read the Rumi poem “The Guest House”? Also a lovely expression of this concept.

  • Jessica

    This is fucking incredible.

  • Fiona

    Sounds like Mark Manson! “… Paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience”

    • Haley Nahman

      Need to read!

  • Natalie L Howlett

    So I’m in college, which means approximately 10,000 times a semester I am asked to come up with a fun fact or an interesting story or whatever to share with the class/club/res hall and every single time I think to myself “My life is so boring. Why am I not interesting?” But my life isn’t boring- I just choose to block out everything that doesn’t go perfectly. This “everything is copy” outlook is something that I think I’ve been getting at, but reading this really hit home for me. Like I’m probably not going to share out about my bad moods and insecurities to my 8am class, but maybe I can be more comfortable talking about some of the imperfect stuff.

    Also, the peanut butter motif just makes so much sense.

    • Haley Nahman

      Everyone loves imperfect, don’t know when we all decided otherwise

  • YES. It’s so important to experience and sit through the full range of emotions that we humans are capable of…. not just the enjoyable ones. Like you said, it’s what brings progress in both cardio and life but also, having the ability to experience those things is what differentiates us from the monkeys (along with opposable thumbs or whatever). So, next time you’re waist deep in heartbreak or stress, take a bit of solace in just how EVOLVED you are for enduring it.

    • Opposing thumb up.

    • Haley Nahman

      love this

  • AbiTX

    I finally had the realization a few months ago that I have all the coping skills I need in life, and that sometimes I might feel a little blue and depressed because that’s how my brain is, and that’s okay. It’ll pass. I think constantly being told that depression is always BAD AND MAKE IT GO AWAY FOREVER is not realistic and was stressing me out more than I needed

  • Charlsey

    This piece and all the comments below are so refreshing to read! I really struggle with “letting things go” because of anxiety + depression and my friends get so annoyed and frustrated with me when I still get hurt over break ups or things that happened years ago. Thinking it’s wrong to be feeling a certain way only makes things spiral and makes the pain worse. If you’re not over it you’re not over it, and that is okay.

    • “This piece and all the comments below are so refreshing to read!”

      Nahman seems adept at spurring such healing responses – creating a nourishing dialogue in the internet sphere where a toxic discourse too oft takes the lead. Such a demonstration of true leadership.

      • Haley Nahman

        THANK YOU

        These comments are just as healing for me to read, too.

  • Flavia Lozano

    You’ve put into words everything I’ve been feeling lately. It’s so easy to panic because you’ve had a bad day, because today you’re doubting yourself or your relationship or your plans.. thank you so much for this! It helps a lot to read my feelings into words that make sense.

  • Ashley Kilback

    “I’d suffer every emotion like it was a blanket diagnosis, as though I’d unlocked a door to a room I’d probably hang out in forever.”

    This sentence made me feel like you crawled right into that room with me and said, “hey you, you’re not alone in this.”

    Thanks so much for sharing this Haley. I’m a hardcore empath and have learned to realize just how much my emotions consume me. It’s a daily battle but I feel like I’m slowly making progress!

    • Haley Nahman

      Honored to crawl into your dark room w you

  • Kel Domina

    This is exactly the message that I needed in my life today. Haley – thank you for sharing.

  • alansa

    Thank you so much for this, Haley. I had always felt the same reluctance and fear towards negative emotions that you expressed, and it led to many unhealthy coping mechanisms. The part about doubting your relationship for a second not making it entirely invalid–this is exactly how I think about everything, it made me feel like I was always a terrible person who needed to repent.

    Seriously, thank you. I haven’t read something so impactful in a long time. You’ve really helped me on my journey to changing my mindset.

    • Haley Nahman

      You’re the opposite of a terrible person

  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates (though could be Nahman).

    Can’t begin to fathom self-examination outside the pregnant pause. And that pause is neither a thrill nor torment. It is the purgatory before an epiphany. As you have astutely phrased: “You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels.” Melancholy is too misunderstood. It need not be corrected as much as delved into deeply. Brings out the big questions. May have been Oedipal issues or just your basic fate of a tragic protagonist, but Hamlet’s demise was not the noted melancholy. Musing THRU his mood remains the play’s best material…or what Nahman and Ephron term, “copy”.

    As much as one applauds this entire article – equally heralding the idea as much as execution – one stands, most respectfully, in opposition to Nahman’s esteem being anywhere near “low”. Only one of high esteem can voice such vulnerability in a compelling piece that bodes the reader’s eager revisitation. This is an article of the kind of confidence that society fails itself not to recognize. That very failure is starkly visible right now with the choice of current occupant in the executive branch of government. Bombast ‘for the story’ can neither govern a nation nor individual conscience. The level of introspection expressed so well here is willing to embrace ambivalence as a guide to not be “great again”, but instead, invite the inspiration for a greatness yet imagined. That kind of greatness requires immense confidence to sink into the void because you trust yourself enough to emerge awakened. And lucky us to get read the results.

  • DA

    This is so necessary! I am such an all or nothing person too! Its a constant race towards unattainable perfection that counterintuitively feeds feelings of inadequacy. And like you said one day of feeling worthless compounds. The more I told myself I wasn’t good enough in a moment of despair, the more I believed it on a daily basis. I spent too much time waiting for life to happen while I forced myself through severe anxiety and insomnia hoping they’d disappear and be less debilitating. We can never become our best selves without struggling and learning from it. Embracing my anxiety is giving me fortitude. If I can deal with myself, I can deal with anyone or anything. Thanks for being so open and speaking about this, there is less guilt when we take away the shame.

    • Haley Nahman

      You’re right that “waiting for life to happen” is an adjacent sentiment to escaping feelings. Good comparison!

  • “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates (though could be Nahman).

    Can’t begin to fathom self-examination outside the pregnant pause. And that pause is neither pregnant with thrill nor torment. It is the purgatory before an epiphany. As you have astutely phrased: “You’ve been around long enough to know that dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels.” Melancholy is too misunderstood. It need not be corrected as much as delved into deeply. Brings out the big questions. May have been those tired Oedipal issues or just your basic fate of a tragic protagonist, but Hamlet’s demise was not the noted melancholy. Hamlet’s musing THRU his mood remains the play’s best material…or what Nahman and Ephron term, “copy”.

    As much as one applauds this entire article – equally heralding the idea as much as execution – one stands, most respectfully, in opposition to Nahman’s esteem being anywhere near “low”. Only one of high esteem can voice such vulnerability in a compelling piece that bodes the reader’s eager revisitation. This is an article of the kind of confidence that society fails itself not to recognize. That very failure is starkly visible right now with the choice of current occupant in the executive branch of government. Bombast ‘for the story’ can neither govern a nation nor individual conscience. The level of introspection expressed so well here is willing to embrace ambivalence as a guide to not be “great again”, but instead, invite the inspiration for a greatness yet imagined. Possible leadership of any other begins and ends with awareness of Self – in all of our contradictions and perhaps even FOR those contradictions. That kind of greatness requires immense confidence to sink into the void because you trust yourself enough to emerge awakened. And lucky us that you share so we can read the results.

    • Haley Nahman

      Wow thank you for this!

  • Ciccollina

    This is a common sentiment in cognitive behavioural therapy; to be comfortable in your discomfort. Very important for anyone suffering from depression, anxiety and addiction.

    • Haley Nahman

      Interesting, been meaning to read about CBT

      • Ciccollina

        You’re already on the right track! 😉 I learnt so many great tools and skills in therapy, including recognising negative thought patterns. It makes you so much more self-aware (in a good way).

  • Soph T

    You are such a good writer Haley! “Bad feelings are exercise. They’re not problems, symptoms, wrong turns. They’re a productive part of the process. They’re the interesting part of the book; they’re the thing that’s going to lead the character somewhere else, somewhere new. They’re not a diagnosis or a trap.” This is so true.

    • Haley Nahman

      Go forth and exercise

  • EmilyWilson

    I loved every word of this post. I see a crucial difference between “do it for the story” and “everything is copy”: one is about trying to force your life to be interesting and the other is seeing your life for as interesting as it actually is. One is about trying to step outside the norm, and the other is about finding amazing stuff within the norm. It’s MAKING the story as opposed to NOTICING the story. Making the story is exhausting. Noticing the story is invigorating.

    • Haley Nahman

      You put this better than I did!

      • EmilyWilson

        Aw…thank you. I thought your post was brilliant and beautiful.

    • “one is about trying to force your life to be interesting and the other is seeing your life for as interesting as it actually is” – Yes!

    • weez

      True. But it also lends itself to trying things outside of your usual box when the opportunity arises, or staying inside your box, and being okay with it.

  • Aylin

    This article could not have come at a better time, it’s such a comforting feeling to know that I’m not the only one who feels like this.

    • Charlie

      ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ Never

    • Haley Nahman

      *elbow squeeze*

  • Bo

    “dark places aren’t locked rooms, but tunnels” – Haley I don’t want to alarm you but I think you might be the Goethe of our time

    • Haley Nahman

      You’ve alarmed me!!

  • Paola Iljazi

    The feeling of getting the writer right just by reading the title, love all your articles Haley!

  • I’ve held the following v v tight in every difficult moment: “No feeling is final.” (Rilke)

    Haley, you are the v v best.

    • Haley Nahman

      love that and will also hold it tight

  • Jillian

    Love this! reminding me of subtle art of not giving a f*** audiobook I’m listening to. Really appreciate this Haley!

    • Haley Nahman

      Youre the second person to mention Mark Manson, I need to read it!

  • Samara E Jones
    • Haley Nahman

      Ah I love this!

    • Jo

      So cool!!

  • Thank you so much for this, I seriously needed to hear this!! I have been so frustrated with feelings recently, between having just graduated and not knowing what the future looks like, I feel like I have been cycling through 20 different emotions a day with each seeming more existential than the last. But where you talk about how we shouldn’t look at feelings as a diagnosis and how dark places aren’t locked rooms both just really struck a chord with me.

  • Marine Pierson

    Thank you so much for this article. I feels so good to read so simple worlds and I know I will remembre them anytime I feel bad. Understanding that these bad moments are often not THAT serious is the key. The same way, I realized lately that I could deal with them almost as physical pain too. For example, Thinking about this or doing this action makes me feel bad, then let’s just not do it. The other way around, doing more of the things that feel good. You naturally everyday avoid to make things that physically hurt you, let’s do the same with what hurts you emotionally 🙂 Not sure this is the best advice but why not

  • Fabiana Copelli

    Watching Everything is Copy as soon as I get home. Does anyone know if it’s still available on HBO on demand?

  • Sian

    I’ve been feeling the same way for the longest time, thanks so much for writing this Haley

  • Angela

    Although this might not seem very insightful, I believe this all gets better as you age. I’ve been reading MR for a few months now and while I enjoyed this piece I can safely say that I can’t completely identify with it. I believe this is because I am quite a bit older than most of you (I’m 44). Truth is, when you hit your 40’s you just stop giving a shit about what everyone thinks. It’s not that you’re careless or more selfish – you’re just slightly tired and distracted by all the other aspects of your life. I see this as a good thing. I don’t feel the need to “solve” my own feelings nor to analyze why other people do and say the things they do. It’s actually freeing. I just don’t feel compelled to entangle myself in all the confusion and conduct an ongoing analysis thereof. I’m hoping the same happens for you all. Trust me, it’s wonderful!

    • Haley Nahman

      This IS insightful, thank you!

  • Carlee Gomes

    To echo the sentiments of Caro A: Clapping all the way through this. You managed to unpack some really sticky-tangly mental and emotional tendencies that often obscure acknowledgment and understanding (let alone articulation) in a way that is so completely relatable and intelligible. And in just a few paragraphs no less! You’re a truly talented writer, and I so appreciate your words, and your willingness to expose and discuss your own vulnerability via a myriad of platforms (Instagram stories, hi!). I absolutely needed to read this today (actually probably many todays for a long time), and I so thank you for this piece.

    • Haley Nahman

      ty ty ty for this

  • courtforce

    I love this! When times get tough I always *try* to remind myself, it will make a good story later. I think I’m going to adapt the mantra and adopt Nora Ephron’s phrase. “Everything is copy.” Like last night when I got home from a week away and found out a heroin addict had turned my garage into his home while I was gone. Currently still mildly freaking out but someday… someday it will be a good story!

  • Meganh007

    WOW! I’ve been feeling a bit sad lately and wish I could snap out of it and just be happy, but there is a reason for everything and ‘bad feelings are just exercise’. I love that. I am going to pin, quote and tweet the sh** out of this! 🙂

  • Jamie

    This was really useful to me. Thank you

  • Amanda M F Guimarães

    Haley you just said everything to me! So simple and yet so big, thank you!

  • nina corissa ortiz

    you are a goddess

  • Laura

    I came across a Hugh MacKay quote on the Cup of Jo blog that shifted my perspective on needing to always feel happy and okay –

    “I actually attack the concept of happiness. The idea that—I don’t mind people being happy—but the idea that everything we do is part of the pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.”

    • Haley Nahman

      LOVE THIS

  • Haley, you’ve done it again. This resonates with me so very much. Lately life’s been a bit tough and I completely agree this can be the best way to cope: taking a step back and looking at my life, appreciating it for what it is – an interesting story that I get to live.

  • Valerie Adrianne Barahona

    <3 :')

  • Jay

    This hit me right in my gut – as I was just in this very situation: Found myself facing the (way to early and way to fast) death of a person who had made quite an impression to me and was kind of family for some part of my life.
    There was shock, there was tears, there was anger, even, yelling and cursing, why it is all so unfair… there was all that… and it was a process – like a tunnel – where I had to go through. Reread this piece a bunch of times… And knew there would be the day where I’m not crying anytime I think about him or see his son.
    And I also knew that – from experience in the past, where I did not do it and things went terrible later… – I need to feel the grief, the anger, the “knowicantdoanythingbutwanttosobadly” feelings – that I need to yell and curse.
    The comparison you do with training is pretty cool – it’s not the workout I don’t wanna do though, but it’s the recovery from injury workout. The one you do with a physiotherapist. The one that hurts and that sucks. But the one that gets you back on track. And – experience tells me… – use a good recovery – the one that makes you stronger.
    So yes. Today I didn’t cry. Rather, I put flowers on the table, and had a glass of champagne. It’s his birthday after all. And birthdays need to be celebrated. So does life.

    To a great man.

    And to appreciating the good things in life (which he was so good in) and working through the bad things (which makes us appreciate the good even more…)

  • Silvia H. Maresca

    I wish I could print this and take it out of my pocket every time I need a reminder.
    I’m probably gonna be yet just another person to tell you this, but thank you for writing it, and for sharing your personal essays with us. Your words often make me understand my feelings and emotions better than I could do on my own.

    • Haley Nahman

      Nothing makes me feel more whole than doing so, so thank you for reading them

  • weez

    Wow. I’ve been going through a rollercoaster of emotions over the past few weeks for a number of reasons, and I’ve been struggling to cope. You just completely reframed them for me. Thank you.

  • Rachel

    The analogy of exercise to your feelings is soso good…! I’ve never thought about it that way, but i’m going to from now on. I love your articles, Haley! V comforting to know that you’re not alone in those thoughts.
    Also…the idea that a certain fear is multiplied and is a blanket diagnosis is “all or none thinking”…I was reminded of this by my therapist because I catch myself in those thought patterns way too often. It’s part of the ANT or Automatic Negative Thoughts (Therapy? I assume). Worth a google search to figure out what categories you fall into. I fall into more of those than i’d like to admit.
    I found that viewing those AN thoughts (as intrusive as they can feel at the time) as a defined element that most people go through, instead of some ambiguous feeling only I could experience, helped me recognize that this feeling is commonplace enough to be defined. Also, identifying those feelings when they happen in real-time actually interrupts those thought patterns and has helped me figure out which thoughts are actually helpful or harmful. It’s kind of a way to reverse your thought patterns and retrain your thinking…similar to retraining your body to move differently if you get injured from an “overuse injury” (sorry, tying in the exercise analogies now!)
    It’s a good reminder to be gentle with yourself, and that you won’t figure out how to navigate those feelings overnight. 🙂

    • Haley Nahman

      Love this approach, thanks for sharing!

  • This is so great, thanks Haley. I have more feelings but all the lovely commenters have already pretty much hit all the points. So many of us identify with you, I think, because the constant struggle to be happy and successful and also interesting and exceptional is really exhausting and maybe we’re all getting to that place where we can actually let ourselves breathe a bit and just chill tf out, or almost getting there or realising it’s a Thing. I ended up here from your essay about Heather Havrilesky and the idea that maybe we’re already our Best Selves; if anyone hasn’t found it yet, do! It’s a top notch companion piece.