There is a genre of music my brother has dubbed “college music.” In his mind, college music encompasses some combination of sappy lyrics, acoustic guitars, hipsters, or whining lyrically. College music to him involves the likes of Damien Rice, the National, Bon Iver, and Cat Power — in other words, every artist whose music strikes a chord with me. One summer, he and I were sitting on his balcony in Greece and I was listening to Ray LaMontagne.
Worry… worry, worry, worry, worry. Worry just will not seem to leave my mind alone, LaMontagne sang.
“College music,” my brother retorted.
My life’s music, I thought. I am a professional worrier. I worry frequently, and I worry often. It seems dissonant that someone whose whole day can be uplifted by a perfect blue sky will crash with dark thoughts. I am an equal opportunity worrier: I worry about hurting someone’s feelings, about sufficiency and enoughness, about safety, about the world, about my loved ones, about my health, about the future, I worry about what all this worry will do to me in twenty years, about everything that can be a cause of worry under the sun and that perfect blue sky that will fill me with joy.
“Well, duh, you worry. You work in freaking war zones,” I am often told.
Yet, I am less afraid when I am fully immersed. When I am delivering a workshop in a conflict zone, or conducting interviews in a post-conflict setting, or doing something that makes me come alive, fear fades into the background. It is in the quiet moments of the night that the worry gets back into bed with me, holding me in a suffocating embrace, tainting my dreams.
It is not journeys I long for this year. It is not novelty or fireworks I crave, though I welcome all of this into my life and am open to it if it comes. In 2012, I am willing a quiet mind. In 2012, I want to banish Ray LaMontagne for Damien Rice and his belief that I can “look into my eyes and see that noone will harm me.” Some former smokers say that months after quitting smoking, an exhale comes and they breathe deeply, making it all worth it. In 2012, I am living for the exhale.