I promise: this post turns out happier than it starts…

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and it’s taking all the energy I have to keep myself from diving in head first. I wrote this to a friend last week, hit send, and immediately wanted to take it back. I’d like to take back the pandemic, too, but, of course, that’s not possible.

This is not what you want to read. Your life is laced with enough fear right now, as is mine, which is why I don’t want to write about it. But the world is going to hell in a handbasket, and the best thing to do— other than follow the guidelines for health and safety— is figure out how not to follow. And I promise to get there— cross my heart and hope to…

Yesterday, a writer on Instagram spoke about her emotional unrest, frustration and guilt over spending time editing her manuscript. She said the task feels unimportant when people are dying, and healthcare workers are exposed to the virus daily in order to care for those who’ve already contracted it, while working with inadequate supplies. I get it. Making up stories feels frivolous in comparison. Each day, my own guilt swells around this same issue, but I can’t afford to go there.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket, and it would be oh, so, easy to fall right in and kill myself. It’s a horrible thing to admit. But the urge is real; it’s part of my history— the notion of suicide. It’s not cocktail conversation, so I normally keep the topic closed. But since life has turned into something out of a Kurt Vonnegut novel, it’s time to come out of the closet.

I do my best to ignore the fact that the world is going to hell in handbasket— really, I do, but it’s important to keep up on the latest rules for safety; so, I switch on the news, get the essential facts, then switch it off lickety-split, before the escalating case numbers, the rising death toll, the growing number of unemployed, and the ineffective way our government is handling the situation becomes too much.

Between you and me— what frightens me most isn’t the fear of the virus or government mismanagement; it’s the way some people aren’t taking the situation seriously. I can’t comprehend how some people refuse to respect social distancing, or why so many feel the need to hoard supplies. It makes me afraid people aren’t as good as Anne Frank believed them to be. That’s the kind of hopelessness that makes me want to surrender to depression and take a knife and stab it into my heart. But I won’t.

The world may be going to hell in a handbasket, but I have no intention of heaping that kind of suffering onto the people I love. Not now. Not ever. Because in spite of the lack of empathy from some people, good things are happening, like seven-year-old Madelyn Lytle and others making masks for healthcare workers, and the wealth of neighbors leaving food for high-risk individuals and seniors on their doorsteps. I can’t ignore the hopelessness I feel, but I also refuse to ignore how hope continues to rise and shine.

In surreal times, hope must be held close.

You can grab a big dose of hope by listening to Miranda Lambert’s newest hit, Bluebird. I’ve been listening to it multiple times a day because I can’t get enough of the chorus.

And if the house just keeps on winning
I got a wildcard up my sleeve
And if love keeps giving me lemons
I’ll just mix ’em in my drink
And if the whole wide world stops singing
And all the stars go dark
I’ll keep a light on in my soul
Keep a bluebird in my heart

The pandemic was well underway by the time Lambert’s song hit the airwaves, but as soon as I heard it my worries washed away. I couldn’t stop thinking about how lucky I am to be a writer. Writing allows me to escape the horrors of the world on a daily basis. Is there guilt attached because others don’t have that luxury? Yes, but not enough for me to forget my good fortune, and not enough to stop me from writing.

Jump to my desire to be an actress. I loved becoming someone else. But I loved giving the audience an opportunity to escape from their dreary and fear-riddled lives more. The desire to escape is at the bottom of why I wrote my first novel. I set out to rewrite the story of my life, so only the good parts would glow. It didn’t lead to a publishable work, but it did help me get through an enormous rough patch in my life.

Bluebird reminds me about the importance of escapism— especially since I misheard some of the words. Lambert sings: And if love keeps giving me lemons I’ll just mix ’em in my drink. But I heard: And if love keeps giving me lemons, I’ll fix ’em in my dreams. (This is what happens when you suffer from hearing loss.) Of course, I laughed when I realized my mistake. But truth is, I like my version better because it underscores the power I possess to lift myself up. And that notion got me thinking about the gift of daydreaming— an ability everyone on the planet is born with— and I thought, good golly this is our way out of the handbasket.

If everyone took a few minutes each day to close their eyes, or gaze out the window, or space out at the ceiling and imagine someplace they’d rather be, or think about something they’d rather do, and if everyone let their daydream sink in until their breath deepened, the rest of the day would be more manageable.

Too simplistic, you say. Perhaps. But I believe the Universe gave me the power to escape for a reason— to keep the light on in my soul; keep the bluebird in my heart.