Afternoon InquisitionSkepticism

AI: How do you just keep going?

I mostly try to keep my AI’s light-hearted. There’s enough ohmygoodnessareyoukiddingmewiththis? moments in my life (and I imagine everyone’s lives) that I prefer to cultivate a little bit of fun in my week by choosing questions that are, frankly, easy to answer. No research, no morality searching, no need for a deconstruction of one’s formative years. It’s a very good life, and I like to celebrate it.

But sometimes life barges in and breaks things, as life is wont to do. (In my head I kinda picture “life” as a globe colored version of the Kool Aid dude.)

My mom used to tell me to “keep my head down against the storm.” She also taught me that I can do just about anything for ten minutes.  As an adult, these tips respectively got me through dealing with my Dad’s death last summer and the one spin class I will ever take. Ever. (Ever.)

Just recently I’ve seen it in my fellow Skepchicks Surly Amy, Maria and Donna continuing to do good with grace even while they should, not for nothing, curl up and mope in a ball of fuzzy pj’s, ice cream and scotch is an example. How on Earth Rebecca does not explode from the impolitic hate that lands on her every single day is inexplicable, but that she does it while still being able to rationally discuss, learn and enjoy is simply transcendent. And all that’s just here at Skepchick HQ.  There are countless more examples of “living through this” all over the webernets and in each of our lives.

So much strength all around me, and even so, sometimes I’m overwhelmed.  I want to “go back” to a fictitious time that never happened in anyone’s life or mine, when everything was easy and worked just the way I’d pictured it in my head. Since I can’t do that, I come to you:

How do you just keep going when things are not life threatening and yet are trying? How do you manage to live on?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.


A B Kovacs is the Director of Døøm at Empty Set Entertainment, a publishing company she co-founded with critical thinker and fiction author Scott Sigler. She considers herself a “Creative Adjacent” — helping creative people be more productive and prolific by managing the logistics of Making for the masses. She's a science nerd, a rabid movie geek, and an unrepentantly voracious reader. She doesn't like chocolate all that much.

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  1. I keep going because I know that people like you exist. Friends make it worthwhile. And the knowledge that there are people I don’t even know that may be inspired to do good that are silently watching. Friends and those ‘yet unknown’ people make it worth while. Good inspires good. And happy can inspire happy. It’s perfectly fine to feel bad time and again, in fact it is expected. It’s part of being human after all. Just know that there is something good waiting for you just around the corner and it always comes ’round.

  2. I read this as I’m trying to psych myself up to go to work. I HATE my job, but they pay me satisfactorily well, and I do have a mortgage. I go in because I have no other good alternative.

    I am able to go ON only by reminding myself that there are multitudes of people who are far worse off than I am. For instance people who work in sweat shops and forced labor situations. At least I’m paid a decent wage.

    Life-wise it’s the same thing. I am able to find increasingly less light in this darkening world, but I go on because I guess I’m not strong enough to just quit, if that makes any sense.

    And I’m a privileged white male. I am very impressed at you Skepchicks’ fortitude, seemingly tilting at the windmills of sexism and misogyny. Maybe it’s this focus of a clear battle in front of you that keeps you women so strong?

  3. I look for the funny.

    But if I’m in the moment and the funny seems far away I try to force myself to move, walk, exercise which helps to get my mind off things and soon I’ll notice I’m sweating or I need to pee; both of which are funny. Thinking about my own bodily functions is immensely grounding-ly funny…at least to me.

  4. For the past couple of years, I’ve lived by a simple guide: Put one foot in front of the other. Repeat.

    I know it sounds cliche but honestly, there have been times where that was all I could do. You have to keep moving forward or you’ll stay where you are and if where you are sucks, you can’t stay there.

    I’m also incredibly lucky to have friends like you and a support structure that has been… tested recently. There are people in my life who have helped me through it and for that, I will never stop being grateful.


  5. Well, I’m gonna get out of bed every morning… breathe in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won’t have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breathe in and out… and, then after a while, I won’t have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while.

    Other times I will pull up a sappy movie and cry, or a crappy movie and laugh, or great movie and become uplifted.

    Or else I will consult with your business partner and kill some mutant scum, smash mean-assed aliens together, or outlast intergalactic plagues.

    Or else I will play the Sims and kill simulacrums of my tormentors.

    All while channeling Sam Baldwin, of course.

  6. World suck is my motivator. I want to eliminate it. When the world suck starts to bog me down, I look for some awesome that the world happens to be full of.

    Yes, it’s a crappy world, but I keep going because I know that I can change a tiny bit of it, even if it is only in making my family and friends better people.

  7. I quit. I quit everything. I quit blogging. I quit caring. I quit wanting to change the world.

    Then 10 minutes later, I realize my life is so fucking empty without these things… and that it would be so much harder to give them up than stick it out.

    Plus, I have this amazing group of Skepchicks that I’m lucky enough to have as friends… and that makes a world of a difference.

    Also? What else am I going to do?

  8. There’s a song by Within Temptation that use as my personal theme song. It’s off their latest album and it’s called Iron. The Chorus:

    “You can’t live without the fire
    It’s the heat that makes you strong
    ‘Cause you’re born to live and fight it all away
    You can’t hide what lies inside you
    It’s the only thing you’ve known
    You’ll embrace it and never walk away
    Don’t walk away”

    If that’s not a credo for an activist, I don’t know what is. I use it constantly.

  9. I just created an account so I could respond to this, because I know what it’s like to be overwhelmed, and I think it’s great to have a list of possible tactics to try.

    I know a lot of people take solace from remembering how lucky they are, as Briarking suggested. That even works for me when it’s just an ordinary bad day. Having said that, I find that there are some really bad times when I can’t bear to think about how awful things are for other people, and if I go there I spiral down pretty quickly. Not a great tactic at those times.

    I’ve found that being outside if possible is incredibly useful. Exercise helps. I’ll also go on a news blackout, or even briefly incommunicado if I feel bombarded by crap. On the flip side, I call someone, either to tell them what’s wrong, or to get distracted. I have playlists ready to go for just about any mood. Being around animals or children tends to help (and I’m very lucky to work with teens – they’re the best. No sarcasm!). If all else fails, I cry until I’m physically exhausted – it’s weirdly centering for me.

  10. Choice: Some things truly suck. Some things suck because of the way one looks at them. For example, in one week, my 20 year old daughter is due to deliver the child of a married man 26 years her senior. It has been difficult to accept. There are so many negatives in this situation, but I CHOOSE to look forward to the birth of my grand daughter and not dwell on what I can’ t change.

    Perspective: I am kind of old now. I have been through so many hard times over the years and I have survived. I know that I can and that gives me strength. Practice makes perfect!

    Loved Ones: My husband and i support one another through the rough patches. We try to laugh as much as possible.

  11. You people are beautiful. All of you. Knowing that there are people in the world who care so much and try so hard to make things better is immensely inspiring and helps when things get dark.

    That said, there are other tactics that help me when the suck gets too bad. Turn off the inter webs. Read a book in the park. Write an old fashioned letter on paper to a friend and make their day. Listen quietly to beautiful music while doing nothing else. Help someone hurting more than you. Turn your vision outward.

    I love this community and I want to help. If anybody would like a card or letter, I’ll be your penpal. My email is kmlawrence at I’ll give you my address if you want to write.

    Take care of yourselves.

  12. One thing motivates me — the (perhaps foolishly stubborn) conviction that people who have freed themselves from one kind of dogma might, eventually, free themselves of other kinds of equally pervasive and harmful beliefs.

    Translation: There’s no point in engaging with the Muslims of my past on most topics of mutual interest, but I see some hope when it comes to the skeptics and atheists in my present and future.

  13. On the so-so days, I go on through sheer bloody minded stubbornness. On the really bad days, I go on because I can’t bear the thought of hurting the people I care about. On the in between days, I go on because I stumble on something like this and am reminded that I’m not alone.

    Thank you.

  14. “This too shall pass.”
    I have important things to do and I cannot afford to waste any time.
    I do not put much stock in relationships but I do trust myself to weather the storms life throws at me. I’ve lived through a few already (my fathers 6-month agony with terminal cancer, my two cancer scares, 2 miscarriages, being jobless).
    It’s not that things will get better, it’s that I refuse to give up and try to make them better.

  15. What a timely post! Two days ago I was depressed as hell, largely due to being hit in the ass with the Global Climate Change paddle discussed in the “Terrifying New Math” link from Wednesday’s Quickies. Plus some other things were bothering me. That night I made a pitcher of sangria and watched The Princess Bride with my sweetie. I was so depressed I didn’t even knit. Crying helped.

    Yesterday was better–the Quickies were more uplifting, and BugGirl’s Spiderman post made me lol a lot.

    I do a lot of volunteer stuff, and it can get exhausting. But sometimes it’s really, really rewarding. I got an e-mail today from the volunteer coordinator at the DV shelter where I teach knitting, and she passed on some really sweet comments from some of the residents. So, yay!

    What makes me feel better? I’m on a news blackout, so I’ve been listening to music instead of NPR. (Right now it’s The Be Good Tanyas, which played right after Tim Minchin. Next CD in changer: the Sunday in the Park with George soundtrack.) Cuddling cats. Oh, Wednesday evening, while I was mixing up the sangria, my partner came into the kitchen with one of our kitten fosters. Kitten fix! Yeah, that helped.

    Laika’s right–don’t forget the medication! I <3 my Celexa.

    I use the "This too shall pass" line, but I always follow it up with "…like a kidney stone."

    So, keep on keeping on. I love this community.

  16. When I get really low I only keep going because the alternative is too horrible to consider.

  17. Several years ago, when my fiance was killed, I read a book about grief and how to deal with it. There was a story in it about someone who lost their wife and didn’t want to live on without her. He decided that tomorrow if he couldn’t think of one thing to live for, he’d end his life. I don’t remember every detail of the story, but I remember that the next day he found one reason to wait until the next day. For a very long time, I told myself, “Well, I won’t quit today. Maybe tomorrow.” Then I got a dog. And she loved me. So I couldn’t quit. Then I met someone and fell in love, so I couldn’t quit. Then I had a child, so I can’t quit. I just have to keep going. So I do.

    I don’t know if I could do it without my husband and son and my sister Skepchicks. Some days I can’t handle it all and I retreat into a corner and cry. But then I come out and do something. I see what the rest of you do and you seem like heroes to me. I’m not a hero, but sometimes I play one on TV and that’s prolly good enough.

  18. I have a toddler. No matter how much I feel like hiding under the covers, he wakes me up in the morning, pulling OFF the covers if necessary.
    It doesn’t matter how I feel – he still needs breakfast, clean clothes and cuddles. And by the time that’s all taken care of, well, my day has started and it just seems more sensible to keep going :)
    I guess you don’t need a big reason to get through your day – just enough.
    Oh yeah, I keep a gratitude journal periodically, as well. Just three things I’m grateful for each day. It doesn’t seem like much, but flicking through the pages keeps me in touch with what’s really important.

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