Sometimes you have moments where you just need a little reassurance that someone’s life is worse than yours or, at the very least, there is someone who has something as equally crappy happening to them. If you are looking for a little bit of both, “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” may be exactly what you have been waiting for. But don’t download it without access to a box of Kleenex.
The host, Nora McInerny, has definitely had her fair share of crappy things. Her dad died of cancer, her husband died of a brain tumor and she had a miscarriage all within weeks of each other. But she doesn’t try and hide her sadness from her listeners. She is open with it, expressing what she was feeling and how she currently deals with it. Apart from hosting this podcast, she is also an author and a public speaker, sharing her story with the world.
“Terrible, Thanks for Asking” is named based on the concept that, when someone asks how you are, you don’t have to be OK. Although people expect you to say good, it’s also completely alright to say terrible, thanks for asking. This idea is not a popular social belief and it is reassuring to have an open dialogue about grief and suffering.
The podcast description describes “Terrible, Thanks for Asking,” as “a funny/sad/uncomfortable podcast about talking honestly about our pain, our awkwardness, and our humanness, which is not an actual word.” This describes the podcast to a T. There are episodes where I am laughing, crying and somewhere in between. She brings on guests who have also had sad things happen to them share their stories, but she has also had comedians come on and do the same with a comedic spin. Most importantly though, she talks to survivors — people who have been to hell and back and lived through it to tell their stories.
In first episode I listened to, McInerny told the story of the Thanksgiving her family celebrated just days after her husband and and her father had died. I ended up bawling on the bus as she took us through her history. I debated continuing listening because why would I want to listen to a podcast that is just going to make me sad, when I could turn on the news and see sadness if I want to? But the podcast is addicting, and for good reason. It’s not just a bunch of sad people telling their story to make people cry. It’s people telling their story so that others can learn from it and connect to it and so that their suffering could help someone else who is going through the same thing.
The best part of it is that experiencing suffering is not a prerequisite of listening to the podcast. Chances are you or someone you know have shared experiences with one of the guests, but even if not, it doesn’t matter. You can learn from the suffering of others without having experienced that type of suffering yourself.
The only bad thing about this podcast is that you have to be careful about where you listen to it. You don’t want to be sitting in the Memorial Union or on your way to class when the podcast moves you to tears. I usually listen to it when I’m driving home from work or just in a terrible mood and need some reassurance, but I don’t listen to it if I’m on my way to somewhere important.
I’ve listened to about half of the episodes that have been released and there is just something reassuring about listening to them. They remind you that you aren’t alone; that everyone has crappy days and really bad things happen to them sometimes, but most importantly that it’s ok to be sad. When you think that things will never get better, they start to get better. If McInerny can survive the loss of her father, husband and unborn baby within such a short time and live to tell the story, we are capable of anything. My friend who recommended it to me said she liked it because it makes her cry and reminds her that sometimes life sucks and that’s part of the appeal. For me it’s not hearing these awful things that have happened, but about these amazing people who haven’t let it stop them.
If you don’t mind crying and want to have a productive dialogue about sadness, then “Terrible, Thanks for Asking” might be a podcast for you. Don’t let the sad nature of the show turn you away because it certainly is worth the listen.