Friday, March 5, 2010

Is it better to know?

As a follow-up to the article I shared on constructive versus destructive worry, I ask the question, "is it better to know?"

I just found out that the creaking in the front end of my car is something that's expensive to fix, but not dangerous to drive on for a while until I can afford it.  The thing is, it's been creaking for a long while, which sets off a nagging worry in the back of my head every time I hear the "rusty bedsprings" effect after a bump.  was my axel going to fall off one of these days?  Was a strut going to come shooting through the engine?  In other words, was I going to have to find a way to pay the huge, upside-down loan that runs almost double the car's value?

So now I know.  It's expensive, but not immediately. 

So the happiness question is....was the intense stress today waiting for the estimate greater or lesser than the tiny moments of stress added up over months of squeaking?  Is the relief of knowing I don't have to put off some much needed repairs on the house worth the stress of figuring out how to scrimp a thousand dollars this summer?  Sure I'd have to do it anyway, but now that it's real, there's a lot more urgency to it. 

I'm a classic procrastinator on this type of stressful decision.  I understand the concept of catching something early making it easier to fix, but there's always something in my head that overrides that common-sense by telling me that if I ignore it long enough, it'll go away.  But is that any kind of way to live?  Is the weight of something on my "to do" pile worth the hassle of doing it?  I'm particularly guilty of this when it comes to medical issues.  I put off routine exams for fear that there'll be some kind of paradigm-destroying bad news as a result.  Sure, the news might be slightly less bad if it's something that can be treated with early detection, but it'll still be worse than not having the news in the first place. 

This is all about fear.  Fear of a doctor's potential fat-hate, fear of a bad diagnosis, fear of death, fear of loss.  At some point that fear of pain and stress takes on a self-fulfilling aspect and becomes painful and stressful on its own.  Even before the bad news.  While added up into a long term view that stress may be greater from procrastination than from disaster, but in any one particular moment, taken as a snapshot of time, it seems less. 

But wait, I thought living in the moment was a good thing? 

As human beings we're capable of something almost magical in the animal kingdom; we can tell the future.  Not always accurately, but we can draw conclusions from past experiences and project those patterns into the future to guess what will happen next.  This results in conscious long term planning and manipulation of our environment.  Unfortunately, in some people, it also results in a tendancy to live entirely in either the past or future.  Like all things (including excess), it is good in moderation.  We are capable, biologically, of amazing flexibility and adaptability to our circumstances.  We can learn to consider the future, remember the past, and live in the present.  We can even learn to do all of these at the same time.  How amazing is that? There's a lesson in there for me. 


JennyRose said...

I generally think it is better to know than to not know. There may be exceptions but as adults, we need to be able to take care of things and take bad news in stride.

There are so many things we don't know and life is full of surprises both good and bad.

TanteTerri said...

This comes back to the book I read by Keyes (my poor old brain won't cough up a title) - anyhow.

Step 1 - determine what is worrying you.

Step 2 - determine if you are willing to do anything about it.

Step 3 - determine what needs to be done.

If you are willing to do it -- do it and you don't have to worry about it anymore.

If you aren't willing to do it - stop worrying because if it isn't worth doing anything about, it isn't worth worrying about.

It's not easy. But I try to remember the foregoing and apply it when I am able.

Kate said...

The thing that tricks me is that I think it's Schroedinger's results. Since I don't know if the axle is going to fall off any minute, or if it just needs a new part, in my mind, it could be either. But that's not how the universe works, so it's actually one or the other the whole time. And if it's just a part needed, I've winced every time I've turned a corner in case the wheels fall off for no reason.

I'm still trying to convince myself that it works the logical way. But, especially when it comes to something that will be expensive (in money or time) to fix, I do the same thign and put it off until I know i have enough resources to deal with the worst case scenario, no matter how unlikely that is.

JoGeek said...


I think from now on out I'll refer to this as Schrodinger's lugnut :-)