Years ago, when I was still in college getting my B.A., I was in my apartment one afternoon between classes and caught a terrific interview with Julie Andrews on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She was there with her daughter Emma promoting a series of children’s books they had begun writing together. At the time of the interview, it had only been a few years since the infamous attempt to surgically remove nodules from Andrews’ vocal cords left her beautiful singing voice damaged beyond repair. Even today, you can still detect a slight raspiness to her speech. What I recall specifically from the interview was the way in which Andrews spoke of her new writing venture with such glowing delight and excitement. She was so proud of the work she was doing, and you could tell that she loved it very much. It was inevitable, of course, that Oprah would eventually come to ask her if she missed singing, because God knows that we, the fans of that angelic, four-octave range of magic missed hearing it. When the question was finally asked, Ms. Andrews became very quiet indeed, but I don’t remember her becoming somber. After a brief, reflective pause, what she finally replied was ‘of course’ she missed singing, but that she also recognized that without that loss, she would never have discovered the joy of writing the children’s books with her daughter, or how good she turned out to be at it. As you may or may not know, Andrews went on to continue acting in film and animated roles, and even became a Dame for her contributions to the performing arts. But she also continued to write her children’s books, and just this past April she and her daughter launched a story podcast to keep children entertained during the pandemic. I confess that even I, with so much uncertainty and pain in the world right now, have found some comfort and solace listening to the voice of Mary Poppins tell me a story or two. You can check out Julie’s Library here. (I’m not crying, you’re crying!)
While the TV and film industry in the United States is taking steps to start up production again, none of us were prepared for work to stop as abruptly as it did, or for so long a period of time. I also have a deep ache in my heart for live theatre and music venues, many of which operate hand-to-mouth pandemic or not, who don’t foresee normal operation resuming before next year. My agency sent out an email a couple of weeks ago which basically said to all of their clients ‘Have hope. Everything will come back so be ready for it!’ (Thank you, About Artists – I’m grateful for you every day.) There have been moments these last few months where I’ve felt lost in an abyss of wondering if that’s true. But I’m happy to report that those moments are slowly becoming fewer and far between. And something that has helped is remembering that little cue from Dame Julie, encouraging me to try as best as I can to be open to new experiences and embrace what this hiatus has taught me about myself: Among other things, I’m quite good at growing plants, cooking banana bread, and making Bloody Mary’s (I mean really reeeally good Bloody Mary’s). I’ve developed a deep need to be outside as often as I can, and I’m not only looking more closely at my surroundings but appreciating how beautiful and charming they are (perhaps because I’m not whizzing by them at lightning speed). And I’ve also learned that acknowledging one’s vulnerability does not mean a lack of strength or resilience – it more often than not is strength and resilience. And it can make you more appreciative of the beautiful souls you have in your life who show up, via Zoom or 6 feet away, and say “Girl, me too!.”
We’re all in this together, and we will “get back to it.” But it will undoubtedly look quite different for a while. Personally, I will continue to take comfort recalling the resilience and adaptability of Ms. Andrews to carry me through, and how she seemed to maintain her glow through it all. Or if she did lose it for a while, she eventually found it again. And if the bulb or filter for any of us is a bit different than before, how much does that matter? Isn’t the important thing that we find our own way(s) to be happy and shine?