How We Live When the World Goes Mad

LUCY BURDETTE: Gosh this has been a hard week in our country. It's hard to stay positive when the bad news and bad behavior keeps piling up from all directions. Rather than sink lower with our collective despair and worry this morning, I decided to try a different direction.

Several things have happened lately that have made me wonder about whether there’s anything positive to learn from this downtime during the pandemic. I’ve heard rumors that some people are using this enforced down time to figure out whether life has meaning as it stands, or whether the activities and priorities we used to have need reevaluation. While we were still in Key West I noticed this beautiful Volkswagen. It reminded me of how I had planned to travel everywhere in a VW van after high school. I spent a lot of time designing the inside of the van with built-ins, including a bed and a miniature kitchen. I never did own a VW van, and I really don’t want one now. But I am eager to get back to traveling. We had a wonderful trip to Paris and Ireland planned, and I’m just as excited as ever to reschedule (sometime!) I still want to see New Zealand (maybe more than ever) and some other places. And we will desperately miss our time with kids and grandkids, though we are doing a yeoman’s job of staying in close touch over Facetime.

Last week, our Key West minister (also my dear friend and character Steve Torrence) asked this question in his message a week ago: Is this crisis an opportunity to see what we’re really made of? And another similar thought, that might be either jarring or reassuring: “Look around, this is how you live when the world falls apart.“

And finally, Ali Beale, the yoga teacher whom I love and have been following online since the world’s been shut down, asked a similar question: Are there things you’ve learned you are happy to do without during the pandemic? Or maybe other activities or dedications to take up?

There you have it, questions for the day: Is this horrible crisis causing you to rethink your life? Appreciate exactly what you have? Plan major changes? Simply carry on? (IMHO, this has been a horribly difficult time so there are no wrong answers!)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I think my brain has been working on this question subconsciously, Lucy. I had a half-awake dream a while back where I was given the chance to go back in time and re-do things. I woke up with four ideas of what I would have done: be more proactive about health (there was a lot in the dream about me yelling at Ross to wear sunscreen…) have better and more consistent writing habits, tackle the small needs-to-be-repaired issues in my old house before they became big issues, and save for retirement (Ross took care of that while he was alive, but now I have to carry on.) 

Then, of course, I realized these were all goals I can and should focus on right here and now. I knew that, but having them float up into my head from the bottom of my brain made it feel like a revelation. I suspect this pandemic is giving a lot of us time to work on our issues, whether we realize it or not.

RHYS BOWEN: Definitely appreciate my life and my husband. We hug each other and he says “I’m so glad I have you.”  He would never say things like that in a normal world! He’s British and not a great expresser of emotion. I also find that I can appreciate my situation, with enough space around me so we are not on top of each other, lovely views, enough to eat, not to have to worry about money… and realize how many people are desperate. I try to help where I can--food bank etc.

The thing I’m finding hardest is not being able to plan. Usually by this time we have our summer trip to Europe all lined up, a couple of conventions for the fall, my book tour in August...and now an empty calendar. I’m supposed to be co-guest of honor at Malice next year with Julia and who knows if that will happen? I am being very good at social distancing now but can I keep it up for six months? A year? Five years? These are things that haunt me at night. When will I crack and go into Macy’s? (if Macy’s still exists?)

Actually one thing I find I can do without is shopping. I open emails from Chicos and all the other places I have shopped in the past and I think “why bother. I have enough.”  Will that continue, I wonder, or will I go on an insane buying spree at the end of this--throwing out all my old clothes and buying an entirely new wardrobe. 

HALLIE EPHRON: So funny because the one thing I find I truly miss is shopping! We have a Marshall’s nearby and my escape when wit’s end is in sight, is to go see what’s new there. They have new merchandise daily. I rarely buy, but the diversion is welcome.

Like Rhys, I am so appreciating my husband and grateful that I’m home-bound with someone whose company I truly enjoy and who adores my cooking. It helps that he’s good at jigsaw puzzles. We’re on our 6th. 

At the end of the day, I’m surprised at how contented I am NOT to be traveling. My husband and I have traveled since we were first married, all through having babies and on to teenagers and after. I’ve been to the places I felt I *needed* to go, and being home is o-kay… for now. 

As I say, most of all I feel fortunate and grateful. It helps that I can look forward to my daughter Molly living in a rental nearby for the month of July. Plus a ton of ‘virtual’ events. And though I don’t think it will be soon, there’s a glimmer of an end in sight with treatment (first) and eventually a vaccine. In the meanwhile I look forward to becoming an expert ZOOMer.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: I'm definitely appreciating my life and my husband. I'm appreciating the fact that I can see my daughter and granddaughter over the fence--but I really really miss being able to hug them. That's the hardest thing for me. Otherwise, I have to admit I kind of like the peacefulness of not rushing around all the time. I've always had a hard time sticking to a schedule, so the fewer interruptions, the better, as far as my writing goes. And as I have a book due in a few months, I'm really seeing this lockdown as a blessing in disguise.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Debs, I am so envious.  I was truly off my game for about a month...staying up really late, and then waking up early. I kept thinking--save food, save food. I couldn’t read, and certainly couldn’t write. I was doing my reporter work from home, which is hurray, safer, but extremely complicated.  I’m better now, or on the way to being.  I have never worked this much, ever--with zooms and everything else, and I love love love that we can do it, but I have not had a day “off” for 78 days.

SO differences: I look at my clothes and shoes, suitable for a lifetime of on-air and in-person appearances, and have two thoughts. One--What did I need all those for? And two--I miss the fun of wearing them. Shopping? No. I don’t need one more thing, ever.  I wonder whether that change will stick. I hope I get the chance to find out. I looked at my book tour suitcases this morning, all in a closet. Don’t need those, either. And, I realize, I’m truly okay with that. 

Jonathan and I are in a fine place, with a back and front yard, and a lot of room, and we have a tiny herb and vegetable garden, now, besides all the flowers, and we take walks. We have always been very careful and respectful and caring of each other, but that, for both of us, is greatly increased. It’s very sweet, and we are both aware of it, but really don’t discuss it. He’s incredible about things like emptying the dishwasher, and vacuuming. Without a complaint or any martyrdom. He says he’s happy to be in “our safety bubble.”  (Which, like Rhys’s John, is not a typical Jonathan thing to say.) 

We have not set foot out of our yard. 

So I am trying to write now, and trust the future. I pretend my deadline is still my deadline. I pretend everything will get better. I do a lot of pretending. 

LUCY: Your turn now Reds...What have you learned while the world goes mad?