Like a Prayer

I’m feeling overwhelmed at the moment, b-rollers. I’ve been blogging less than usual, as you may or may not have noticed. It’s been a busy month, between travel (hey, did I mention that I went to the Tribeca Film Festival?); a work event that is utilizing about 98% of my available energy; and a potential move that has made me simultaneously reevaluate my finances (fun fact: non-profits aren’t always lucrative) and the unreal amount of possessions that will need to be boxed and hauled at some point in the near-ish future. Needless to say, I’m currently fighting off thrice-daily panic attacks. Wow, this is kinda personal and not at all about movies or television, you say. Indeed it is. Ellen DeGeneres once had a great line in her standup routine about therapy: Why should she pay a stranger to listen to her talk when she can go on tour and get strangers to pay to listen to her talk? I can’t afford therapy but WordPress is free, and so here we are.

Anyway, last night I flashed back to a time when I felt similarly overwhelmed. I was in my second semester of college, and I was completely swamped with a hellacious schedule and a demanding workload. I woke up one morning and I didn’t want to get out of bed. I couldn’t face the day; I felt like I was drowning. But I got up, opened my laptop, put on iTunes and hit “shuffle” so that some song – any song – would drown out the chaos in my head. And out of the thousands of random tracks in my library, up came Billy Joel’s “Vienna” – a song I’d never really paid attention to, and owned mostly out of a sense of obligation (I love Billy Joel and should thus own as many of his songs as possible, even the obscure ones). But that day I stopped and actually listened.

Slow down, you crazy child,
You’re so ambitious for a juvenile.
But then, if you’re so smart, tell me
Why are you still so afraid?

Where’s the fire? What’s the hurry about?
You’d better cool it off before you burn it out.
You’ve got so much to do
And only so many hours in a day.

But you know, that when the truth is told,
That you can get what you want
Or you can just get old.
You’re gonna kick off
Before you even get halfway through.
When will you realize
Vienna waits for you?

Now, I’m not a huge believer in Direct Intervention from Above (my spiritual box could most appropriately be checked as “lapsed Catholic: intensely dislikes church hierarchy but strongly believes in a Higher Power and experiences residual Catholic guilt”). But in that moment, I felt that God was telling me, Calm down. Take a breath. It’ll be okay. And as irrational as it may seem, I’ll always believe that song selection wasn’t a random coincidence.

I find that music has that soothing, spiritual effect, more than any other form of entertainment. As much as I love to escape into movies and TV shows in my off-hours – and happily describe them ad nauseum to you fine people – I spend most of my day wearing headphones, and I can’t walk more than ten feet at a time without my iPod. Sure, I’ll be deaf by 30, but I can’t help it; music is just so damn user-friendly. I can tune out, keep it on as background to my thoughts; or I can dive in and lose myself, not for two hours but just a few moments. I’m not announcing the conversion of b-roll to a music blog; I’m just saying that, like in the movies or on television, life needs a soundtrack.

And while I know that God is a bit too busy to be my full-time DJ, catering to each mood with a whimsical song selection, it’s okay, because I’ve got it covered. I know that in times like this, when I’m mentally exhausted, that if I need a friend, Simon & Garfunkel are sailing right behind; that Bono thinks that even if daylight seems a long way off, I should just walk on; that I can’t always get what I want, but if I try sometimes, I’ll get what I need; and that Mother Mary, speaking words of wisdom, will whisper let it be. It’s therapy and church, in handy playlist form.

But last night, as I mentally catalogued my world and headed once more into a death spiral of panic, I decided to let Jesus take the wheel again. Apparently He needed a moment to adjust the tuner – I wasn’t terribly in the mood for a-ha or Evita, thanks for trying – but a few tracks in we hit pay dirt. Dobie Gray’s “Drift Away.” Perfect.

Gimme the beat boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll
And drift away…


  1. This is not only a beautifully written, very personalized blog; but it is also the most beautiful tribute to music and its affect on us that I have ever read. This is fantastic. I hope things get better or easier soon.

  2. Don’t know what you think of “classical” music, but I’ve found Mozart and Schubert are good at calming and that Beethovan and Wagner are good for pumping up. Don’t mix them. 🙂

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