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How to be happy when it feels like everything is going wrong

How to be happy

As I swung the door open to my apartment, the heat hit me like a wall. A steamy, dank, wall. I had been gone for eleven days and in my absence the air-conditioning had broken transforming my apartment into a tropical rainforest. 

I tried not to think about the fact that this was the hottest and most humid it’s been in Austin all year. What an inconvenient time this was to have my air-con flake on me.

After a long day of work, and then 8 hours of travel back to Austin this was the last thing I wanted to deal with. My bed was calling. My dog needed cuddling. (Read: I needed cuddling). She looked up at me like, “you abandoned me for long enough, and now this?" Her fur coat surely would keep her awake all night in 89 degrees. 

Even with all the windows open, the temperature would only drop by a few degrees, and the issue would have to wait until the next day to be fixed. 

I woke the following morning after an inevitably restless sleep, to find my internet had been shut off. Some issue with an expired credit card that I was never notified about. I swallowed back the tears as I sat on my couch sweating. “Everything is figureoutable, Kim. Everything is figureoutable."

As you read this article from your computer or phone, it should come as no surprise that the internet is pretty integral to the success of my career. Without it, there is no blog, no podcast, no clients. This would not do...

After a few minutes on the phone with the Internet provider, I was back up and running. I heaved a sigh of relief and immediately began stalking the property manager via email about getting the air condition fixed. I had two podcast episodes slated that day and I’d been waiting months for these interviews (one of them, years) and I didn’t want to have to cancel. 

In the end, they both had to be pushed out. 

“Not the end of the world.” I told myself. 

Instead I chose to look forward to a long catch up dinner with a close friend. But when I went to hop in my car to drive to her house, it wouldn’t start. 

You’ve got to be effing kidding me. 

I JUST purchased this car a couple months ago. And in that time, I’ve had it jumped on more than six occasions, and had it in the shop twice. I swore these issues were now behind me...

With Uber and Lyft now gone from Austin, transportation is much more limited for those without wheels of their own. 

After two failed attempts to jump my car with the help of some neighbors I reserved a Car2go, and started my walk in the 90 degree heat. 

Objectively none of the issues above are world-ending, life-shattering things. But the compounding effect of lingering stresses from the previous week, coupled with my expectations of coming home to my house as I left it, can render anyone a bit frustrated. 

So how do we deal when it feels like “nothing is going our way?” 

To say “stay positive” would feel a bit trite, so I’ll break down for you exactly how I coped. 

When I climbed in the tiny smart car, drenched in sweat,  the first thing I did was not check the mirrors, or even log into the dashboard system to start the car, and kick on the AC.

Instead, I let myself cry. I sat there, shoulders hunched, too big for this micro-car and just sobbed. Because the truth is that my body needed it. To be able to get past the stress, and frustration and choose happiness, I had to let myself release all of it first. 

So I sat there in this joke of a car and wept. 

Then I wiped my eyes, drove to my friends house, and spent the evening being as present as possible.

And here’s where I really became proactive about my emotional state...

When I got home, I wrote down all the things I had to be grateful for. Below are a few from the list:

  • Kind neighbors to let me work from their house while my air conditioning was getting fixed. 
  • Those same neighbors who helped me jump my car with not one, but TWO different cars. 
  • Who then offered for me to just take their car! 
  • A generous girlfriend to make me dinner, feed me wine, and gab with for 5 hours about all that we’d missed in each other’s lives in the past 11 days. 
  • Having my air-conditioning and my internet both back up and running within 24 hours! 
  • The amazing weekend I’d just had celebrating my friend’s wedding and getting to meet her gorgeous growing family. 

The following day, I did it again.

Again, I wrote down everything I have to be grateful for. 

  • Landing an interview with one of the writers I admire most, Chris Guillebeau
  • Knowing that I made that interview possible because I chose to put myself out there and trust that good things would come from it! 
  • Getting to work from home and spend time with my dog. 
  • On and on. 

The goal is to stay in a state of appreciation, because when you’re in this state it’s hard to feel frustrated or disappointed. 

I’ve written about the power of a gratitude practice before, and chances are I will write about it again. 

I think the trick to really getting the most from your active appreciation is to remember to give yourself space ahead of time to let yourself feel things that might not be so enjoyable or positive. 

It’s OKAY to not feel good all the time. The tricky part that so many people don’t employ is the steps to get back to good once we’ve let ourself grieve or thrash a bit.

At the time of writing this, my father hasn’t spoken to me in 5 months. We all have our shit to deal with, and sometimes that shit is overwhelming and it’s painful. But the trick is to rely on the tools in your toolbox that allow you to get back up and continue being intentional about your life and your happiness. 

It doesn’t feel good to share personal information about my family with the public, but I know that by showing that I’m human too, and my happiness is also a choice I make-- despite my circumstances-- it will better empower you to make the same choice when shit hits the fan.


  • It’s okay to let yourself experience negative emotions. 
  • When you feel the world beginning to “happen to you” instead of “happen for you” recognize that, honor your body’s reaction, then put a time limit on it. 
  • Give yourself a few moments to grieve and thrash and release the energy. 
  • Then practice gratitude as if your happiness depends on it. (Because it does).