What – me worry?

Baby I see this world has made you sad
Some people can be bad
The things they do, the things they say.
But baby I’ll wipe away those bitter tears
I’ll chase away those restless fears
That turn your blue skies into grey.

Why worry? There should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now? Why worry now?

When I was growing up I loved an American comic called MAD. Its strapline was What – me worry? It poked gentle fun at all sorts of shibboleths, bringing aspects of that country, which finds it so hard to laugh at itself, well and truly down to earth. I’d find it hard to quote anything from it now, but its basic message passes through my mind most days: What – me worry?

The great EM Forster is supposed to have said “One has two duties: to be worried and not to be worried”. I’m with him. Like you I have my demons, which usually lie down obediently but occasionally leap up and bite – typically when I’m imagining scenarios that haven’t happened – and lead to conversations with myself that I don’t need to have. This brings on real anxiety which changes nothing – simply feeds fears and keeps them going. Why worry? You can give yourself permission to stop.

I wonder what put all this in my mind right now? I guess more than a few people are feeling a bit theatrical about even switching on the news – there’s been a  bit too much news around, to put it mildly. The best tweet was posted earlier this month:

Time to go home, 2016. You’re drunk.

Too right there. What – me worry? Well, I grew up in days where the threat of a catastrophic nuclear exchange was (believe me) even more real than it is now. A vivid memory is the day in 1962 when our primary school headmaster, Mr Callery, came into our classroom, hung a world map over the blackboard, pointed to Cuba, explained solemnly why there might be a world war before the day was out, and moved on to the next class, leaving us impressionable ten year olds with our hair standing on end.

Why worry? Well, that was a day for worrying, though I remember thinking even then that there wasn’t actually much I could do about it. It turned out to be the day when President John Kennedy faced down the threat of Russian missiles, ably advised by his brother Bobby, who as Attorney General delivered what might have been the most important political advice of the 20th century: When the signals are ambiguous, put on them the interpretation you want. Nepotism may have something going for it after all, though whether or not Trump’s family are endowed with similar wisdom remains to be seen.

Moving up a gear or two, Jesus had a few words of advice:

Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? … Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Words of wisdom, and you don’t have to believe in anything supernatural to see their value. Whatever he intended, his words lead me to the Stoicism that underpins the way I now see the world: life’s complicated, stuff happens, and the only thing that makes any difference is how we respond to it. Or, as I read somewhere recently, Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s learning to dance in the rain.

Why worry? Worry when there’s something to worry about, not before. That’s what I say anyway. These days.

Where did I start? With a song from Dire Straits’ mighty album Brothers in Arms, which swings between tracks (Walk of Life) which have you up and dancing, to a soulful freedom song (Brothers in Arms), to this one – called, funnily enough, Why worry? – the gentle vocal line supported by a guitar solo as calming, reassuring, tender, consoling and, well, right as any modern song I know. It’s one to hum gently to yourself, every day if you like, but certainly whenever you need to.

 Why worry? There should be laughter after pain
There should be sunshine after rain
These things have always been the same
So why worry now? Why worry now?

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