Monday, February 6, 2017

Anxiety

There's no doubt, I worry too much. I have problems with migraines and high blood pressure, anxiety aggravates these. And then there's the part where anxiety makes me unhappy.

Today, not unusually, I worried all morning and into the afternoon about whether I would be able to perform certain errands. Then around 2:30 PM I suddenly realized with a start: nothing more to worry about there. I was done. I had performed all of those errands, and for the rest of the day I was free either to worry about other things, or not to worry at all.

And that, sadly, has made it a pretty typical day for me.

Naturally, we all have to be concerned about a number of things in order to lead more or less normal lives. But anxiety is concern which has become exaggerated and counter-productive. It doesn't help get anything done. It offers hinders me to a great extent. Besides feeling horrible, it is inefficient.

I don't know what most of the lyrics to "It Keeps You Runnin'" mean, or, for that matter, most of the lyrics to many other songs Michael McDonald has written or co-written: "What a Fool Believes," "Minute by Minute," "Takin' it to the Streets." ... I got no clue what the man is trying to say to us. I love all of the above-mentioned Doobie Brothers recordings with McDonald singing lead, but I don't really know what the man is talkin'. Well, gradually, over the course of decades, and over the course of thousands of re-listenings, I think I've picked up a few things. For example, I think that "Takin' it to the Streets" may have something to do with protesting in the streets for social justice. Something like that. I don't know.

Anyway, one line in "It Keeps You Runnin'" has always really stood out for me:

"Are you gonna worry for the rest of your life?"

I don't feel that the song in general really speaks to me. I think -- I'm not sure -- but I think it's about a relationship between a man and a woman, and the man, the singer, is trying to help the woman work through some of her stuff. I wonder whether maybe a big problem in this man/woman relationship is that most of the time the woman, although she realizes that the man means well, has no idea what he's talking about, and the man doesn't understand that she doesn't understand him.

Anyway, when I hear McDonald sing that one line about worrying, I ask myself whether I might benefit from relaxing more than just a bit. When I first heard the song, when I was 15 or 16 years old, being worried all the time was sort of my default position. And although the song and some other things made me aware that I was worried all the time and that I should change that, 39 or 40 years later, although I've made some improvement, I still worry too much.

Some time during the 1980's, I was listening to John Peel's BBC programme on US public radio, and quite abruptly, with no warning whatsoever, Peel said that the record he was going to play next was the best of the year, and as quickly as that he played it: a reggae record I'd never heard before and have never heard since, with a refrain where some backup vocalists harmonized with the lead singer in a request for the listener to "Lay your worries down the riverside."

Only heard it once in my life, but it helped as well. Googled "lay your worries down the riverside" just now, in quotes. No diresct hits. Which may well mean that I'm quoting it wrong.

Still helped. It's still helping now.

Relax.

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