Everyday Orinda – June 2020

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Redefining Everything

    Sheltering in place does not help my innate tendency to procrastinate. Every day it gets easier to stamp a TBD label on just about anything. Timelines have been replaced by rabbit holes.
    If I have One Errand on my calendar, it’s a Big Day. I won’t sleep well the night before, concerned that I could easily forget. When a deadline approaches, I don my imaginary blinders and laser focus like a NASA engineer, if only to tackle laundry or craft a grocery list. I have no problem leaving jobs half-done. The day I finally got around to making the required photo collage for my Miramonte senior, you’d think I’d just earned a PhD.
    Seriously. What a sneaky transition. How can the bar be so low and so high at the same time?
    When did it become adventuresome just to leave the house? As I back out of the driveway for my weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, I feel the same heady rush from years ago once the babysitter arrived and Home Sweet Home grew smaller in the rearview. Days are spent waiting for that irresistible urge to organize my closets and cabinets to visit me, and for the equally compelling urge to trim my own hair to go away.
    The experts claim our inability to live efficient and productive lives right now can be attributed to parts of our brains literally shutting down, PG&E style, from trauma. Of course, the part of my brain that enjoys forwarding snarky quarantine funnies to every friend in my contact list, or trots out my Worst Faux Pas collection at 3 a.m. is thriving. The executive branch appears to have gone AWOL.
    Understandable. Widespread unpredictability and loss of control is traumatic. I didn’t live in New York during 9-11, so up until the quarantine, the most egregious hardship I endured was the cancellation of kid-friendly, afternoon television programming during the summer-long Nixon Impeachment Hearings of 1974.
    “This is so unfair!” I wailed in frustration as White House counsel John Dean and Chairman Sam Ervin’s boring seriousness filled the television screen, superseding the familiar faces of Gilligan, Captain James T. Kirk and Lurch.
    What we all wouldn’t give for those simpler “problems,” from the standpoint of both a 9-year-old and the U.S. government. With the shuttering of schools across the nation and the cancellation of all events that typically attract large crowds, which currently includes commencement ceremonies, year-end parties and sports, parents sure could use a playbook for what to say.
    Here’s what not to say: “One day you’ll laugh about this.”
    Unless you enjoy watching your pleasant family dinner suddenly disintegrate into a Smudge the Cat meme. (That’s the one where an outraged Taylor Armstrong from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills accusingly points a furious finger at a disdainful white cat, smugly eating salad.) This comment is especially offensive proclaimed by anyone who enjoyed both high school and college graduation festivities.
    When discussing any aspect of 2020s evaporated senior year, it’s best to stick to the proper format of how to address the bereaved. A heartfelt “I’m so sorry” is often the most palatable option. While it’s true that death, food shortages, exhausted healthcare providers and financial ruin are heartbreaking byproducts of this strange pandemic, our young people worldwide are grieving a very real loss.
    They quickly blew past the denial stage, the very first nightmarish Friday spent playing Parcheesi with their parents. They’ll probably remain in the anger stage for a long time, until that glorious day they bond with a hot kindred spirit in a corner coffeeshop, sharing how their high school graduation season went straight into the toilet. And they all felt exactly the same emotions. I feel the goosebumps already.
    Our seniors are admirably weathering this cosmic tablecloth being yanked out from under them. They miss their friends. The overused and trite phrase “taken for granted” suddenly acquired a piercing new significance. They grew up a little bit faster than planned.
    My husband and I both had parents who were raised during The Great Depression. We ribbed my mother posthumously for her sticky note on a list of her magazine subscriptions, reminding us to cancel and obtain a refund for the unused portion if she died before they came up for renewal.
    My father-in-law was similarly roasted for rushing out to purchase 10 pounds of sugar when Fidel Castro overthrew the Cuban government.
    Recalling this, my high school senior and I actually laughed together, at what her future children might think of her, coming of age with the “Quaranteen” Generation, frantically bolting out to buy more toilet paper at the first sign of trouble.

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