Today, would have been my father's 90th birthday. Sadly, we lost him right before Thanksgiving, just six months shy of a nine-decade milestone. In place of throwing a BIG gala as Dad had requested (Harry always loved a party - especially one in his honor), my siblings, our mother, his grandchildren AND great grandchildren had made plans to meet at the AIDS Grove in San Francisco this weekend to celebrate his life, along with the many friends he'd made during his last two decades volunteering there . . . . Clearly, in the time of Coronavirus, that's not happening.
Instead, we'll likely set up a Zoom meeting and reminisce online until such time as we can meet in "The Circle of Friends," and hold hands once more as we give thanks and say a small prayer in honor of all that's been sacrificed. Granted, those hands may be gloved, but I've no doubt that family and friends will eventually (and physically) reach out to one another in times of sorrow, pain, joy, or uncertainty once the fear of further contamination and spread begin to recede in earnest.
"Hello," came the phone call early Monday morning, "My husband and I are standing out in front of the house on Echo, and wondering if you can show it to us now?"
Uhhh . . . no, I cannot. (Have you been social-distancing on Mars?)
Instead I said, "I'm so sorry but Shelter-in-Place mandates have made showing homes very difficult, and certainly, impossible on such short notice. Do you happen to be working with an Agent?"
Okay, so we're 50+ days into SIP and many of us are feeling rather humbled. With news that it's still too soon to let our guard down, it's finally starting to sink in that how we live, work, and play is going to look very different from here on out - at least in the short term. (What happens long term is still anybody's guess.) As states begin to open up and businesses resume, we could find ourselves three or four weeks down the road having to retreat into our respective homes once more, and wouldn't that be a total bummer? (Yes, it would.)
When I consider the overwhelming challenges we are facing, it brings to mind "The Five Stages of Grief." In her book, On Death & Dying, published in 1969, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identified the five stages of grief in the following order: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and Acceptance. While she later suggested that people's emotions weren't quite so linear when dealing with loss, I can't help but think how closely these five stages parallel my own personal journey these past few months . . . (I'm sure I'm not alone.)
"Don't come into work," I warned my sister, Jill, earlier this week. "You really don't want to be around me today.
That wasn't Coronavirus speaking, it was just a blue mood. Gratefully, everyone in my family is healthy, which is more than I can say for many others who have paid the ultimate price. For everyone on the front lines and for those who have unexpectedly lost cherished loved ones, theirs is a heartbreaking sacrifice I can't begin to fathom. So where do I get off with being out-of-sorts just because I'm forced to work with both hands tied behind my back? As Cliff often reminds me, "Suck-it up buttercup!"
While working in my garden the other day, wondering what to write . . . and feeling rather CRABBY about the entire state of affairs, this lovely note popped into my inbox and was just the tonic I needed to elevate my mood. I'm sharing it here (unedited) because it captures the moment so much better than another real-estate pep talk from me ever could.
This note is TRAGICALLY overdue and frankly should be handwritten . . . but in the interest of time, I've decided to use this medium in order to ensure a swift delivery.
We cannot thank you enough for the help, hand holding, and dedication you showed us last year in helping us find our home. This has turned out to be the best decision we have ever made and we could not be happier. . .
Years ago when we were young and courting, Cliff would ask, "You're on a small desert island and there's only one person you can share it with; who would that be?" (What's this? A test?) He'd then give me a group of outrageous candidates from which to choose: "the Reverend Al Sharpton, Idi Amin, Genghis Khan, or Don King?" At which point we'd have an emphatic, but hilarious exchange about why I wouldn't/couldn't choose ANY of them, with Cliff ultimately declaring, "If you don't pick one, it means you want Idi Amin." (Why I agreed to marry Cliff, I'll never know.)
Now comes the 2020 inverted version of that name game, by way of my good friend and colleague, Mavis Delacroix, which is "If you have to 'Shelter in Place,' which four people would you choose to shelter with?"
Happy Passover. Like many families, Cliff, the boys and I had a "virtual Seder" sharing the holiday online with family in Marin, Petaluma, Santa Rosa, Oakland, and Santa Monica. Having spent the last four weeks "sheltering in place," it was great to see everyone's face, even if remotely (although it's tough to share macaroons virtually. Their loss.)
And while giving thanks around our respective tables, one of the big takeaways was how fortunate we are to be in a position where we CAN still share the holiday, due primarily to advanced technology. (Thank you Zoom.) So if we, as a society, are now forced to add Covid-19 to the list of "plagues" humanity has endured, how fortunate that, despite the Coronavirus, many of us can still stay fairly well connected to our family and friends and share what's truly important, both culturally and personally (but please don't put me on your chain-letter list; that's oversharing!)
So another week of mostly bad news and admittedly, it's tough to process . . . I've been reaching out when and where I can, catching up on a few phone calls with friends and clients, continuing to bake and deliver cookies, taking meetings on Zoom, hopping onto Facebook chats when available (Thank you Kelly Corrigan) and hitting the Peloton in the mornings just to keep my sanity and my weight in check. One friend called it "the Covid-30. Ha Ha. (Too soon?) But when the BIG accomplishment for the day is getting out of your sweats, that can be rather discouraging, to say the least. "Social distancing" (a misnomer if there ever was one) is putting a cramp in all of our styles and a few pounds on our thighs. (Or is that just me?)
"What's happening with the market?" Is the inquiry from many friends, followed by, "So how are you doing?" I'm grateful, thank you. My family, so far, is safe, and Cliff and I are both relatively healthy. (And I mean it, we're better off than most and we have a lovely home in which to shelter. My garden has never looked better.)
Still, it's tricky navigating the emerging facts and increasing hysteria around Covid-19, both professionally and personally, when our immediate world has essentially come to a screeching halt, when everyone looks at each other as a potential vector, and when a sneeze or a cough gives way to irrational fear.
I just read an essay from our own fabulous neighborhood college admissions counselor, Dane Copeland, entitled "Life Interruptus" that struck a chord. (If you're not on her list, she's worth the read.) To be clear, my boys have both graduated from college, but good writing is good writing so I enjoy her blogs even though that segment of my life is now blessedly over (thank goodness). Her optimistic message is worth passing along, given the sea of negativity that continues to mount day after day after day . . . . For those of us who choose to stay positive, we can feel as if we are swimming upstream. On the other hand, bad news tends to cling, and let's face it, there's no shortage of bad news.
Which makes Dane's message all the more profound. In essence; life is not linear and a life interrupted does not translate to a dead end. Let me repeat that last part because it's incredibly on point right now: "A life interrupted does not translate to a dead end!"
Let's just start with a collective sigh . . . and then take a deep breath. (I think we've earned it.)
With news that the vast majority of us are "non-essential" (that hurts) and consequently, are mandated to "Shelter in Place," it's clear that every segment of society is going to be affected by Covid-19, no matter who we are OR how we pay our bills. While fear of contracting the virus has been rampant among many (my 94-year-old mother-in-law isn't leaving her recliner), the resulting stock market losses will take much longer to resolve, and potentially, cut much deeper. In short, we all need to get back to work before industries (and people) can begin to heal, and there is a LOT of healing to do! (Were it only that simple.)
It's not hyperbole to suggest that we are in unprecedented territory, but as for how "Shelter in Place" applies to Real Estate . . . is it tough to sell a house remotely? (Yes, it is.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.