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May 2019
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2003-01-13 Life is too short for worrying

I once calculated that in an average concert I would sing somewhere in the region of 6000 words over the course of those couple of hours or so.


So far, I have managed to sing most of them in the right order, apart from once announcing a sublime Puccini aria as being better known as "The stars were shitely brining!". However if I was to focus too much on memorising those 6000 words, and worry about it, I might as well not set foot on that stage in the first place.


In a previous column, I have made references to stress, and shared with you some of the ways in which I find my stress levels reduced, but I thought the whole notion of "Worry" deserved a more in depth analysis. In so doing, I hope I don't transform myself into a jibbering wreck. In my dictionary of etymology, I discovered that `worry', `choke' and `strangle' were one and the same word in Old and Middle English. Some people still refer to a `dog worrying a rabbit', as in shaking it to death by the throat.


So if I am to `worry' about things, the tension from that worry basically grabs me by the throat (as it has on many occasions), and that is far from ideal for a guy making a living from that throat! I used to worry all the time (it sort of ran in our family a little), but that worry often made me forget words, sometimes music (a mortifying moment in a Dublin Feis haunts me), and on rare occasions I would lose my voice, or I would at least `crack' under the self-imposed pressure.

Any personal tensions, whatever they may be, simply end up getting in the way of a good performance. At this juncture I will remind you of "The Inner Game" series of books. Another thing to bear in mind is that any tensions transmitted from the stage into the audience make that audience feel very ill at ease. If I see a singer reaching for a note, or with a distorted posture or tension in the hands, I start to feel most uncomfortable for that performer.


I have watched many very talented colleagues of mine fall by the wayside on the way to a singing career, and more often than not it is all down to `stress' and `worry'.


But of course, it is not only in show business that `worry' abounds on such a dangerous level. Nervous flyers, nervous drivers, people in financial trouble, smokers (Sorry guys), dieters, politicians, priests, air-traffic controllers - every walk of life is a potential haven for the serial-worrier.


But life's hard enough without trying to control our own destiny. As a person who actually finds air turbulence exciting, I also am a firm believer that "if you're gonna go, you're gonna go". Life's short enough without worrying yourself into an early grave. Worry and stress have been proven to cause extreme tension and knots in the body, wrinkles, arthritis, ulcers, bad skin conditions, and even some forms of cancer. Think about the expression "having a knot in your stomach" (ie. very worried) - it can't be good for you.


I have never made a secret of my intolerance of all extremism, from the `single issue fanatics' who stress themselves beyond extreme by `playing their symphony on one string' (the emphasis must be on the word `fanatic' - I am not referring to those people who passionately believe in a single cause, as I fall into that category myself!), to the extremists in our own land fighting their corner without any hint of compromise, to what has to be the ultimate negative `vocation' of the suicide-bomber. With all this negativity around us, is it any wonder we are a world of `worriers'.


Some people of course thrive on stress, but I cannot see how that can be good for anyone. If I am over-worried about something I turn to my close friends for counselling, or I take a long walk (preferably with a dog), or I take a break or even a holiday, depending on the level of my worries, and I would not be too proud to seek professional help should the need arise.


Thankfully I don't actually suffer from stress - I am merely a `carrier'!