Anxiety.

I was born anxious. Or at least as far back at anyone can remember I’d been anxious. My mother often recounted to me a story of when I was in first grade wherein we had a homework assignment to make a diorama over the course of a week. In this tale, I picked over each piece of it for days on end, barely sleeping. I became unsatisfied in my unsteady hands and less than stellar creativity and would move pieces around inside the small box for hours. Finally when the end of the week came and it was time to take the creation to school I promptly burst into tears fearing that my handiwork would somehow be crushed on the bus ride to school. All the while insisting the project was not good enough to even be brought to school and that somehow, on top of all these things, I was faulty.

And the truth is, I was faulty. I was short circuiting. I was a blinking warning light with no calamity. I was a blaring fire alarm without smoke.

There’s nothing to indicate that before that age I was somehow better or carefree or without anxiety either so I have to conclude I was born that way. Simply born anxious. And that was all. I’m sure what came after didn’t help but I don’t think it made me, I think I always was. Sprang full formed out of the box going off like a siren.

A few years later was the first time anyone clued me in that there might be some letters attached to what I would have just called “an internally swirling mass of anxiety and existential dread” that I felt on a daily basis. I assumed most of my feelings were teenage angst or hormones or maybe a combination of good old fashion awkwardness coupled with moving away from everything you know one too many times but it turned out that almost no one else was experiencing what I was. That I was alone in the center of noisy panic that was my mind.

Not to be dramatic (because I rarely think of myself in a dire way) but the realization that other people don’t wake up completely full of dread and wondering if they will even see the next day is still a strange concept to me. I wake up every day experiencing feelings of failure and emptiness and anxiety before anything has even happened to invoke them. There is no routine that really stops them. There are no magic words to be said and no actions to be taken. Being alive invokes the anxiety and because of that, I make my weird compromises with it.

I would say in a way I’ve made a kind of peace with it, and that’s true to some extent, but in reality it’s not as nice and neat as it sounds. Life is just a series of compromises I am constantly making, all of them a russian roulette where I eventually draw the short straw. Anxiety is. It looms and waits. Even when I’m happy or in the middle of something I enjoy anxiety is slowly wearing me down in the background, underneath it all. It robs me of joy and sometimes of feeling anything at all. I do things despite it because we live in a symbiotic relationship together and always have and probably always will. It gets in the way of my marriage, my friendships, my jobs, my shopping, my writing, my workouts, and even in the way of my binge TV watching. I know many people have written about anxiety before and even about my flavor(s) of anxiety but I think it bears repeating. Because in the hilarity of all this, my anxiety specifically likes repeating. More than anything else repeating lives inside me with the anxiety. It lives in the rituals and routines I find myself looped into. It lives in the same thought played out thousands of times a day, the same note hummed under my breath, the same movement, the same word, the same numbers tapped on the end of my fingers. And it to let it repeat only staves off the anxiety for mere minutes or sometimes only seconds before it swallows up the rest of my brain. And then it repeats. And then it repeats.

But I have spent a lifetime managing the repeating, a lifetime managing the anxiety. CBT works sometimes, yoga works sometimes, finding a quiet place alone and screaming works sometimes, but nothing really works. Things work for an hour, for a day and then at the end of whatever ticking clock I managed to pause: it resumes as if it had never stopped at all and the anxiety returns. The anxiety returned on medicine. The anxiety returned when I did nothing. It returned when I did something. It returned so hard when I did all the somethings that I curled in to a ball and waited to starve. It didn’t wax and wane with the moon or the sun or the stars or other people or the things I could hold and the things I could not hold. Instead I live with my anxiety in the same way so many people cease to make peace with the thing that kills them. I voice my vulnerability. I cry. Sometimes I lay in bed and hope to get hit by lightning but I go on after that.

I do what needs to be done. Because my anxiety is a bargain. It’s a burden to hold but it’s just the load that I carry in exchange for being alive. Not because of deserving it or not deserving it, but simply because things are. And we do the best what we’re given.

Minds are funny though because looking back I can erase my anxiety from the memories. I can just remember how it felt to be loved or to be kissed. To hold hands, to laugh out loud. The anxiety was there in the picture with me, ruining the moment, but looking backwards it’s as if some strange entity could have erased it all along, leaving just the pure emotion. As all the creases could be simply smudged out of the picture. Like there is a me inside who could be reset and restored.

I can imagine a life without anxiety but it’s more like a creative fantasy where nothing is different except your insides don’t feel like someone is squeezing them. Nothing is different but when you smile you’re not trying to convince yourself of anything. You’re not playing a part. You’re not “faking it til you make” to the sound of yourself tick tick tick-ing down every year and counting. You’re just making it. You’re just there.

But I’m here. And it’s here with me.

Eurovision 2019: Serbia

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Serbia.

Country: Serbia
Singer: Nevena Božović
Song: Kruna
Personal Score: 37 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

I was actually pretty disappointed in the Serbian National Finals as a whole even though I can’t say they choose the wrong song. Kruna is a perfectly serviceable ballad and Nevena is doing a great job making it look effortless but I haven’t looked up the lyrics of thing song and I never find myself in a rush to remember it. It’s a little too close to things we’ve gotten in the past and all of it delivered in a very standard and straight forward manner. I think the reason people are often so “down” on ballads is that Eurovision ballads have mainly not evolved alongside music for the past two decade. This song wouldn’t be shocking at 1999 Eurovision. Even if we talk about how all Eurovision upbeat songs sound the same it’s hard to throw them back into other years (for the most part) the same way that a ballad is a ballad is a ballad. That’s an unkind read to this particularly ballad but it just doesn’t give me anything to work with. There’s no hook, there was no staging, there were no (metaphorical) fireworks. You might note I put this as qualifying anyway because I know people love the ballads – there is a contingency of ballad fans out there and Serbia is the most likely to pass muster for them but at the end of the day this is going to end up low in the ranking even if it passes to the final. I hope its a wake up call too all ballad writers.

Eurovision 2019: San Marino

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: San Marino.

Country: San Marino
Singer: Serhat
Song: Say “Na Na Na”
Personal Score: 13 out of 41
My Prediction: NQ

In the running order, San Marino is in a great place but I still worry this won’t qualify because it’s San Marino and this is…a special type of cheese. Don’t get me wrong, this song does EXACTLY what it sets out to do and it does it well but you have to love cheese in a way I don’t think a wide audience is ready to embrace. If anyone proved me wrong it’s Moldova for the past two years who have been getting cheese into the final (and then doing well with it!) but I feel like the time might have run out for something like this.

Serhat is back again proving that he can join Queen Valentina from the happiest micro state on Earth and at the end of the day I’ll just be happy to see him at Eurovision no matter the outcome. The song is simple enough. It’s much better than Spirit of the Night but that doesn’t seem to actually matter in the big picture. The song is probably not going to win over the jury and there would need to be a substantial fan vote on top of a great stage show for this to get to the final but I think in a time when the world is a dark and scary place in so many ways and where we don’t have Turkey in Eurovision any more this is a sorely needed anthem for resolving a few of our troubles, if only for three minutes.

Eurovision 2019: Russia

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Russia.

Country: Russia
Singer: Sergey Lazarev
Song: Scream
Personal Score: 29 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

This song confuses me. Sergey isn’t the worlds strongest singer and this song is basically a vocal showcase song. I don’t know what they’re angling at but I do know this will qualify probably no matter what. I’m very interested to hear this live and I wouldn’t be shocked if there’s some elements on the stage which move around him so that he can stand perfectly still and do his best belting. I’m a big fan of Sergey, he just has one of those friendly puppy attitudes that makes him get along with nearly everyone and this song, is fairly good as far as songs go. However, this is nothing to write home about and the literal only part of the song I recall is “they screeeeeeaaaammmmm” which bodes badly for cracking the top 10. All that being said, this is Russia and like Sweden before them, they will likely easily crack the top 10. This song could be a jury bait song with the right vocal precision and staging and it will vacuum up plenty of extra votes since Ukraine pulled itself out of the running but like “A Million Voices” (Russia 2015) I don’t think its high placement is really going to be all that deserved. I wish Russia could deliver more modern sounding songs alongside their big personalities and stage shows instead of something as middling and forgettable as this.

Eurovision 2019: Romania

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Romnia.

Country: Portugal
Singer: Ester Peony
Song: On A Sunday
Personal Score: 5 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

This song was not even in the running for me going into the Romania National final but Ester completely blew me away with her slightly revamped southern Gothic inspired folk scorn vocals that night and I think this is a fantastic addition to Eurovision this year.

There is something so magical and memorable about this simple little song that makes it more than just your average song. Something is Ester’s strong commitment to the vibe of the song, or the twang, or just the simple and effective lyrics it all comes together to form something that is both over the top dramatic but also so easily relatable. Anyone who has come out of a bad relationship can find themselves in this song where it feels like its equal parts lament and anger at something just not working out. There’s plenty of places where vocals get played with but easily the stand out line is “loving you is a hard price to pay” and Ester nails it with a nice tinge of regret in her voice. If she preforms anywhere near as well as she did at the national final I see this as a crowd favorite and it should win some moderate love from the jury as well, enough for maybe a top 10 if the staging is just right. Romania is back baby!

Eurovision 2019: Portugal

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Portugal.

Country: Portugal
Singer: Conan Ósiris
Song: Telemóveis
Personal Score: 28 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

I don’t get this. I vaguely don’t hate it but that’s about all the emotion I can muster for what feels like an art piece that I need explained to me. I think this might qualify just on the basis that what its doing is so outside of what anyone else is going to do. I do hope that the performance at Eurovision is more refined than the one at Portgugal’s national final but I guess at the end of the day, in my heart of hearts, I’m just happy that Portugal isn’t sending fado. This is a really interesting song that I don’t quite like but when I talk about evolving and changing trends in music coming to Eurovision this is something I would certainly like to see more of. I feel like this is well executed and interesting even if its not to my taste and its great to see an artist bring their vision to the stage. I’m excited for this in the final because I’m unsure how a wider audience might respond to something as experimental and off-kilter as this.

Eurovision 2019: Poland

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Poland.

Country: Poland
Singer: Tulia
Song: Pali się
Personal Score: 19 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

Despite being ranked in the middle of the pack for me this song is a grower and every listen it draws me in a little closer. There is something really interesting and dare I say, arresting about this song. I haven’t looked up the lyrics yet (I thought I heard a little English at the end of the song but I can’t really be sure) but I don’t feel like I need to ever understand what they’re saying because the song has such a good melody that I find myself rolling it over and over in my mind all day anyway. The rhythm and strength of their harmonic voices is actually quite mesmerizing and I hope that they can bring that alive at Eurovision. This song has the potential to be see as “boring” or “static” so the key to drawing in the audience will probably be (contrary to the video) colors and movement but I think that this has the ability to really draw people in. I kind of wonder if whatever I see in this song is what many other people are seeing in Slovenia’s song as both have this trance-like quality to them that can be, in the wrong light, a complete turn off. I’m unsure if the appeal will get them higher than 20th in the final but it’s always nice to see folk music that has a more modern evolution to it at Eurovision and I wish Poland well.

Eurovision 2019: Norway

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: Norway.

Country: Norway
Singer: KEiiNO
Song: Spirit in the Sky
Personal Score: 2 out of 41
My Prediction: Q

This is the total package. It reminds me of Euphoria because no matter who I play it for, they seem to get into the spirit of it right away (pun probably intended but I’ll leave it for you to decide how cheesy I am). This might not be a winner in the space future of 2019 in our post “1944” as Eurovision winner world but it certainly isn’t JUST a piece of plastic produced cynically which makes it absolutely worthy of the attention its getting from betting and fans alike. This song is a bop and its more Swedish-style dance music than your average song but bringing in nice touches of that Norwegian flare and an honest to go joiker blends modern and traditional in a way that is sure to win people over.

I don’t have a lot to say about this song despite how much I absolutely adore it, I think it will simply speak for itself as it combines a lot of good elements into something better than its parts. The upbeat and pleasant sound, the positive message, and the ties with Sami people are all big pluses and I see it easily passing into the top 10, possibly the top 5 with the right staging. Really happy to see Norway bringing their A game this year.

Eurovision 2019: North Macedonia

Hello welcome to my series of quick takes designed to get you ready for Eurovision 2019. Just some quick thoughts / my take on each of the 41 songs this year. The countries are in alphabetical order so without further ado: North Macedonia.

Country: North Macedonia
Singer: Tamara Todevska
Song: Proud
Personal Score: 36 out of 41
My Prediction: NQ

This song hits a bunch of my pet peeves. It’s the token lip service “girl you’re so strong don’t let people tell you know” ballad. A lot of countries looked at the top five of last year for inspiration of what to send this year and while so many countries leaned into the “Fuego” route, people at least recognized that trying to copy “Toy” was a much more monumental task. North Macedonia looked at them and then immediately mushed together Israel and Germany’s songs and got…this thing. The message is on point but the execution is so sloppy that it comes off as even worse than pandering, insincere and forced. I don’t have a lot to say about this song because it feels very minimal. Minimal music, minimal vocals, and what I assume will be minimal staging. There’s very little to disagree with because I like the message and Tamara has beautiful vocals but there’s absolutely nothing about this song that makes me want to return to it.