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.)
"Can you imagine trying to contain the flu?" I'd said, early on. "This is insane." (It isn't.)
"We've suffered worse crises." (Debatable)
"The response seems out of proportion." (It wasn't .)
"Sheltering-in-place? Really?" (Really. And yes, I regret every misplaced, careless word.)
Stage 1 - denial, denial, denial, DENIAL! While I wasn't entirely dismissive (I knew it wasn't "business as usual."), I grossly underestimated how profoundly the Coronavirus would affect ALL aspects of our lives. Apart from the pathogen and its devastating toll (75,000 deaths in the U.S. and still counting), the fact is that the majority of us will likely escape the virus altogether, or fully recover should we happen to contract Covid-19. What is far less clear is whether the same can be said for the subsequent financial fallout. Unfortunately, there's no vaccine on the horizon for the loss of jobs and historically-high unemployment rolls, which point to a rather slow recovery, according to leading economists.
Stage 2 - Anger. I'm upset at a political system with too few safety nets for our most vulnerable populations. I'm wondering if states are opening up prematurely and putting people at risk. I'm worried that "sheltering in place" will be reinstated come the fall. I'm concerned for our children's future and the debt they'll need to bear, and so it goes . . . these are the unknowns that make for sleepless nights. If there was ever a time for leadership, for a plan of action, for unity, for universal healthcare, or just plain old-fashioned empathy, this is it. So yes, I am angry.
Stage 3 - Depression. Luckily, I haven't gone there - yet - but have there been a days when I've skipped the shower and given into the blues? You betcha. You'd have to be completely void of any human feelings to remain unaffected. So on Tuesday evening, Jill, Cliff and I grabbed the dogs and went for a long "social-distancing" walk at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline to reset the brain, shift the mood, and reconnect with nature. (I highly recommend it and thank you Jennifer for introducing me to this incredible spot. Who knew?) If you are feeling blue, go find the green.
Which brings me to Stage Four - Bargaining. Yes, I'm jumping on the opportunities and the openings legally afforded Realtors to bring homes to market that have been stuck in limbo. (Until May 3, we couldn't get workers inside, this week we gratefully can.) I'm weighing the needs of vendors who depend entirely on our trade for a paycheck to feed their families, against the needs of Sellers to sell and Buyers to buy, and against the needs of the public at large. And no, I'm certainly not threading this needle perfectly, but I AM doing my best to follow the prescribed protocols now in place. (I too, have family members that depend on my ability to make a living.) It's a delicate dance to be sure.
On a real estate note (because this is a real estate blog after all), it's inspiring in some small way, that despite Covid-19, or perhaps because of it (take your pick), properties are selling rather briskly and demand remains steady. Draw your own conclusions, but buying a home in the midst of a pandemic is the ultimate display of hope and faith. Perhaps it's because homes have never been more emotionally relevant than they are at this moment in time. Perhaps it's because we're spending a great deal of time in our homes and discovering they are either too small, too large, or that they no longer serve our needs. Consequently, there seems to be a mass exodus of families escaping the City and heading across the Bay Bridge AND that's good news for Sellers here in the East Bay.
"I want to simplify my life," is a recurring refrain. (We can help with that.)
Stage 5 - Acceptance. The world is undeniably different. The way we conduct business will be decidedly different, and how we move forward post-Covid, will be EXTREMELY DIFFERENT(!) but I believe we will figure it out. I believe science and common sense will prevail. I believe in humankind's ability to persevere, to work together, to rebound, and to come out stronger in the end. When or how quickly that all happens is well beyond my abilities or influence, but I'm betting on resolution just the same. To me, acceptance isn't rolling over; it's going with the flow . . . and maybe, just maybe, adapting to the flow is our best weapon moving forward. . . . What other choice do we have? (None really.)
I don't know what Stage Six is, but it's gotta be hope, right? I'm hoping for a brighter tomorrow and a light at the end of the tunnel. In the meantime, stay safe and be well and let me know if you need me. (I'm stuck at home.)
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.