I Don't Know What To Do

My wife’s car needs work. The engine light’s on; catalytic converter. It costs more than we have saved. How will we get the kids to and from School? How will we get to work? I don’t know what to do.

There’s never enough money. Emergency fund? What a joke. I spend like I eat. I can’t seem to find the conviction, machismo, or whatever it is I need to make the right decisions with my finances. I don’t know what to do.

Speaking of eating….It’s a battle. I can’t eat my way out of this problem…in fact, and kind of ironically, I’ve eaten my way into it. I want to want to eat healthy, but to be honest, I’m not even sure what healthy is anymore. I know I’m setting a bad example for my children. I don’t know what to do.

And then there are my kids. They have good days. They have some bad ones too. They don’t always make the choices my wife and I “are certain” will lead to a better life. Them? They’re just trying to find their way through the complicated “right now.” I don’t know what to do.

Everyone seems to be so excited when they get married. It’s a great celebration. But love takes a lot of work. It’s a great idea to start with a party because community, even between two people, should be celebrated. But sometimes, we don’t get along. Even when we do, I still don’t know what to do.

My friends struggle. I know they don’t have it all together. And still, I don’t understand why they put up with me. I’m sure they get tired of my constant ups and downs. I do. Why is it so hard to have fun? I don’t know what to do.


Right now, in my life, I’m facing a lot of things I just don’t know how to deal with. How about you? It’s overwhelming, right?

So, what do you and I do when we don’t know what to do?

(Yea, I understand that’s a lot of dos…sorry bout that.)

Life IS overwhelming. Problems will come and problems will go. Sure, what we do when we face them matters. But I think there is something that matters more: Who you and I are in the midst of the problems. Who we are, a least some of the time, may be defined by the actions we take. But what about the times you and I don’t know what to do and just find ourselves hoping and praying for a better outcome, for a final solution that seems out of our control? Those times, when we didn’t know what to do…they’ve come and they’ve went. Some problems persist, like the examples from my life above. More of those times are yet to come. What can any of us do?

Me? I pray. I journal. I pray some more. I get scared. I muster courage. I curl up into a ball and try to hide. My wife finds me, worries that I’m not ok, and tries to encourage me. I move forward. I move forward. I fall down. I wrestle. I fight. I trust God. I doubt God. I thank God and then curse him in the next breath. I call friends. They bring me chocolate milk. All the while, during all the struggles, what am I left with?


We have very little control of all the things that happen to us. Take it from a guy who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp for his heritage, whose family was murdered, and day by day was not certain whether or not he would survive: “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” Viktor Frankl

We can’t change how we initially feel about the circumstances that are occurring to and all around us. How we feel is instinctive. No one gets to DECIDE to change their feelings or what they believe about a situation. No, instead we ARE capable of making decisions about what we will DO with every circumstance we are presented. I suggest to you that the only way to change how we feel or what we believe is by changing what we do. And then, as circumstances in the future occur, our instincts change. We begin to form our future selves by deciding how we want to feel and believe in the future. And we begin to do that in the here and now.

One tool I refer to in my book Broken Like Me is coping ahead. I didn’t create this tool. It’s one I heard a therapist use one time and really caught my fancy. Here is how it looks in practical terms:

Car work: I can avoid the problem. Pretend like it isn’t there. Or, I can think about all of the things I’ve been able to do with this car and appreciate that, while talking to my wife about the cost of replacing it versus the cost of fixing it.

Money problems: I can avoid the problem. Pretend like it isn’t there. Or, I can think about and appreciate some of life’s comforts that the money I do have has afforded me. Then, I can sit down and think through one or two changes I could make in my life to improve my situation.

Eating: I can avoid the problem. Pretend like it isn’t there. Or, I can think about the food I have and how blessed I am to have access to so many choices. Then, I can sit down and journal about my biggest concerns and tell a friend or schedule an appointment with a professional to talk about them.

My kids: I can avoid the problems. Pretend like they aren’t there. Or, I can think about the unique talents, interests, personalities my children have and the times when they’ve made my heart melt. Then, I could let them know that I see these unique areas of their lives and that I love them unconditionally.

My wife: I can avoid the problems. Pretend like they aren’t there. Or, I can think about the blessing of having a partner for life. I can celebrate our wins with the person I love. I can listen to her heart and then consider my frustrations privately. Then find a way to deal with them one by one via professional help, mentor, or a conversation with my partner.

Friends: I can avoid the problem. Pretend it isn’t there. Or, I can think about the good times we’ve had together, what I enjoy about each of them. Then, I can spend some time being honest with myself and deciding who I might need to spend more or less time with for the season of life I am in.


The interesting thing about setting goals, I’ve found, is that you are much more likely to finish them when they are written down. One of my mentors, Chandler Bolt, constantly reminds me, “If it ain’t on the calendar, it ain’t happenin’.” I thing something similar could be said about dealing with problems. I’ve found that I am much more likely to deal with a problem in a healthy and thorough way when it’s been written down.

So, do I really not know what to do? Sure…sometimes. Especially when crushing waves of panic and depression have me gasping for breath. But then, somewhere along the line, an idea of what I can do pops into my head and I have to decide between courage and crumbling. Not an easy decision to make. Moving forward requires the uncomfortable act of uncurling from the emotional and oftentimes physical fetal position. Leaving the warmth and familiarity of that haven and deciding “Not this time.”

When we don’t know what to do, it’s ok not to be ok. But then, when we have some idea of what we can do, it’s not ok to not be ok. Act. Decide. Find help. Love YOU!

By Joseph E. Reid. Found and Executive Director of Broken People. Best selling author of Broken Like Me, An Insider's Toolkit for Mending Broken People.

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