An overdue post and thought on dealing with uncertainty

A pic of sewer line work

It’s been too long since I last posted.  

I could give you excuses like I’ve been writing a novel or a commercial property we own had some serious sewer line issues (raw sewage was seeping into the basement, and our tenants were texting me every other day), or that I’ve been busy with this, that, or the other. 

But I won’t do that to you. Instead, I’ll share a thought. 

It’s about dealing with uncertainty. You know, the thing that often causes you stress and worry and all of that.

The world we live in feels like it won’t let up. We are still in a pandemic that won’t die, and now there’s a war in Ukraine that is killing thousands and displacing millions. Inflation is going crazy, and the stock market is diving. 

All of that makes us feel uneasy. There’s a reason: there is so much uncertainty.

But, really, the things that cause us the most worry are the things closest to us that impact us the most, like losing our job, investments going south, our children struggling, our health, etc. 

I’ve learned how to deal with not knowing where my paycheck will come from for more than a decade. That’s what working for yourself in a small business is like. There’s a lot of uncertainty. My income is lumpy. Sometimes I get paid a lot; sometimes, I don’t get paid at all. And there are many nights when I worry, staring up at my ceiling, praying to God to help us. I’m not saying all of that to brag; I’m just saying I’ve lived with uncertainty. 

Now, I don’t know if I have the best solution for this, but I do have a thought that has helped me through the years. It’s this. 

You’re not in control. 

Yes, yes, you have some control. You can do things, make plans, save money, build a bunker, tweet. Everyone has a certain amount of control. You can control some things. 

But—you can’t control everything. 

There’s the rub. We want to, and wish we did, and try to, but, in the end, we can’t. But that’s not the real problem. 

It’s that we keep trying to.

I mean, isn’t that what we are doing when we worry. We are trying to find a way to solve some unsolvable problem or create certainty in something that we know is by nature uncertain. 

It’s lunacy. But we all do it.  

Worst of all, that’s a waste of time.

When the sewer line I mentioned above started having issues, it stressed me out. Like, I lost too much sleep. It affected my thinking, my judgment. I was becoming stupider. Ask my wife; she’ll tell you.

That’s what worrying does to all of us.

Maybe it’s not a sewer line for you. But it’s something. It’s haunting you. Maybe it’s not happening right now, but you’ve been there. You’ll be there again. And we all know we can handle those situations better. 

Here’s the secret. 

You need to know the problem isn’t the uncertainty; it’s how we deal with it. The issue is us.  

And we need to accept that we can’t control as much as we want to. We need to surrender to that truth. I know that’s hard. It might even sound impossible to you, but it’s the only way to get better, to become more resilient when uncertainty and worry strike. 

Ironically, by letting go, we somehow gain more control of our minds and are able to focus better and think more clearly. Instead of seeing the issue as some kind of monster we can’t slay, we can begin to see it as a problem to solve. Or, if it’s one that you can’t solve, you can begin to see it in perspective and live your life with less worry eating away at you.

For me, reminding myself that there is a God that does control all things and is good and loves His creation is also very helpful. In fact, when life feels like a sewer line, I believe He’s often letting those things happen to you to draw you to Himself and grow you to be more like Him: good, patient, loving, compassionate, true, holy, kind. 

I mean, after you go through a hellish experience, and you’re willing to learn from it, aren’t you better? Don’t you grow? 

The sewer line did get resolved. And you know what? Afterward, I felt like I could get through any real estate problem. And, through the years of dealing with a lumpy income, now, when my business is going through a hard time, it doesn’t take over my life like it used to. I take it in stride (usually). 

Knowing that you aren’t in control is one of the best ways to gain control over yourself and your primal emotions of fear and worry.

If you do, in the end, you’ll be stronger. 

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4 Comments

  1. Michael Dulick says:

    Dear John,
    Oh, how I missed you–and your “thoughts”! Thank you for this, and it is
    very helpful, especially coming from you, so good a friend.
    Does this mean we’ll get more posts, just so? Am I “subscribed” like before?
    And any chance the podcast will return, too?

    Meanwhile, I’m a grandfather! And I might make it to the States for a visit
    in September, after 2 years of absence.

    Love to you and your family,
    Miguel

    Like

    1. John Pa says:

      Hi Miguel, congrats! So happy for you. Love to see you if possible. Lots of love to you and yours!

      Like

      1. Michael Dulick says:

        Wow! There you are!

        Like

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