“Developmentally Inappropriate”

“It’s like Chinese New Year every evening at dinner” reflected one of my Singaporean friends. The surprise gift of time with our young adults seems to be felt across the globe. They’ve returned to the nest during COVID-19, and those who were still living with us are suddenly spending all their time at home — rather than treating us like a free AirBnB.

Here in the US it’s rather similar to Thanksgiving. You know you can count on everyone showing up for a family meal together. There are no competing anythings to draw them away. We can check in with each other more deeply, catch up, and continue conversations from the night before. We even go for evening strolls after dinner and watch a TV show together occasionally. It’s a throw-back to earlier family life. It’s cozy. I’m getting used to this. I already know I going to really miss this on the other side of the pandemic.

“It’s developmentally inappropriate” is how my 25-year old positions this after prefacing her comment with “no offense or anything, but ….” I guess she does have a point. This would not have been my definition of a daily choice of fun when I was in my 20’s. I get it.

So many young people are locked up in isolation with their parents. It was tolerable — more or less — while everyone was going through the motions of online schooling and young professionals zooming into work, AND we thought it would all be over by the summer. But now, we’re into summer, there’s no end in sight and the troops are getting restless.

The generation that we thought subsisted on texting, Snapchat and Instagram turns out to have a greater appetite for face-to-face contact with their peers than we had thought. How re-assuring.

How will the youngsters on the stair steps to adulthood be changed by 2020? Are they going to miss some steps along they way and get tripped up in the future? Or worse yet, fail to make it to the next step?

A missed prom or walking the stage at graduation won’t change anyone’s life trajectory. But what are they missing by not being able to venture out into the world and cut their teeth on real life experiences without a parental blanket covering them?

They’re not taking those first self-organized and self-propelled adventures – either near or afar. They’re not figuring out their own plans for the fall season, be it school or new jobs. Many have lost employment opportunities to help fund next years tuition. And none are they off on last-chance carefree trips on shoe-string budgets.

They’re frozen in time and place.

They’re waiting to be told what the boundaries will be within which they can operate. Will they be sitting in classrooms together and if yes, when and how? Will they be able to take the necessary national tests required to move to the next step? Employers are moving the start date or withdrawing offers.

How can this generation get out the door and get launched?

If “adulting” was already a “thing” that was hard, won’t it get that much harder?

Generation “Z” will surely get some new nickname a few years down the road, just as I’ve been labelled a “Boomer”. The story has not yet been written – we’re still in the first chapters. Who knows what the impact will be. Will they be the locked-ups, the mollycoddleds, the zoomers, or simply the pandemics?

They’re not on the trajectory they had imagined for themselves. Their ideas about how the world would unfold for them have shifted. The old model has been discontinued, but the new one hasn’t yet evolved.

At a certain point they will stop waiting and begin to define the new reality for themselves, so they can live into their potential. We need to make sure that we are willing to let them leap and start taking the risks that will be needed for this to happen.

And it will not be risk-free for any of us.

For me this will be hitting very close to home in a couple of weeks when our medical student leaves the safety of online only classes and ventures into the heart of the Texas COVID epicenter. Our protected bubble will be compromised, our risk level goes up, and at the same time we need to support this next step forward.

Stuck in No Man’s Land

The grand re-opening continues unabated. The public has risen up and said “enough”. All the while virus cases are on the rise, letting us know that “it’s not over yet”.

I’ve had enough too.

Yet, I watch and wait for it to be “over”, though I have no clue what that might look like.

The initial glow of a welcome respite from routines, commitments and schedules has long lost it’s shine. Once we had mastered the new challenges of acquiring our basic needs and caught up on a few back-burner to-dos, we settled into a comfortable sameness. I’ts been rather dull some days, but tolerable nonetheless.

Tolerable for a while. That comfortable sameness is now old. My tolerance is wearing thin. I’m done with it.

I’m ready to move on, but not sure what makes sense.

I’m caught between friends who are out eating at restaurants again and others who haven’t even gone to a grocery store in three months.

I’d love to meet up at a noisy restaurant for fancy cocktails and tasty deliciousness served up in multiple complex dishes. My heart is ready — “you go for it girl!”, but my mind says “wait, what about all those droplets spewing into the air?” Feels too risky. I reconsider.

I’m stuck between joining in on group gatherings and life moving on without me. Are we creating even more divisions in our world? Those who meet up in person and those who remain virtual?

I’m conflicted about saying goodbye to family members moving out of state, for forever, without a hug goodbye. Should we take a leap of faith and do it anyway? We all feel healthy. Surely one big bear hug would be fine, but what if it’s not?

Time with our older loved ones is precious and yet we’re trying to limit our visits? There’s something not quite right about that. I’m questioning my efforts to protect my dad so he can stay healthy and yet more disconnected. What if I got tested before I visited? There are too many reasons why a negative test is no guarantee that I might not bring the virus to his door anyway.

What if this situation lasts the rest of the year – into next year? Beyond?

If it’s just a matter of time before we all get exposed, maybe I should just get it over with. But then again, the longer I can delay the inevitable, the more knowledge and research I will benefit from as an eventual patient.

Hang on a little longer.

It’s clear that at some point each one of us is going to take the next big step out into the open. Just like making the decision to get into my car and drive somewhere in Texas, where the rate of fatalities is tracking close to our current Coronavirus deaths.

I don’t stay at home because of car fatalities, so should I continue to stay at home because of the virus? I feel more comfortable with the risk on the freeways because I drive along under the illusion that I have more control over my safety. But I’m not so sure about this new virus.

We will eventually learn to cozy up to this new threat. We’ll integrate it into our daily micro-decisions about safety. A choice to not drive after midnight on New Year’s Eve might become similar to a choice not to go bar-hopping in the inner city. Some will still do it, but many others will choose not to.

STOP PRESS: I just learned that our local gym has reopened with strict safeguards. OH! This might be my moment of daring! I’m not rushing over there yet, but I am doing some serious investigations on their new COVID setup.

Stay tuned …

Sliding in and out of COVID ‘Lassitude’

Go ahead, look it up, nobody will know. You’re going to want to use this word again. I certainly did, when I confirmed its definition after it landed in an apology email in my in-box. It’s one of those almost-onomatopoeia words. Just the sound of it signals the meaning.

The luxurious ‘lassss’ at the beginning hints at lazy-ness with tones of languish. The hard certainty of the ‘itude’ at the end rings of attitude and a powerful hold. There are some notes of ‘laissez faire’ emanating from a sense of languorousness, rather than just letting things be.

Yes! I get it!

There are many overused attempts to express this phenomenon with something newer and catchier. TikToks and Memes are proliferating like never before. They’re all very clever and amusing, and delightfully visual.

But nothing is quite as elegant as ‘lassitude’.

It quietly sneaks into the day’s unfolding, though it can retreat into dark corners after caffeine shows up. It slinks around in my attempts to get things checked off my to-do list. You think it’s finally loosened its grip on you and then it pops up after lunch when you can’t seem to move on to the next thing. It vanishes entries from my mental calendar of appointments on Zoom, phone and FaceTime, making me an embarrassing no-show, on occasion.

Yes, it’s a signature word for 2020 and me.

My closet is atrophying

I got an email last week from a charity group that periodically drives by and picks up ‘gently used’ articles of clothing and household goods. I guess they’re also back in business, so I clicked YES. In January — another lifetime ago — I came up with a respectable load, but surely I can scrounge around and find a few more things for them.

It turns out maybe not.

There has been little action in my closet the past 3 months. Nothing new coming in. No Spring sales to tempt me when I’m out in the world. No new fun, fresh additions to push out some of the tired-looking dated fashions from earlier years. Most of my clothes are untouched, collecting dust and wondering what their purpose in life is.

There’s a small jumble of Athleta, lululemon, Under Armour, leggings, tops, etc. in one corner that experiences a daily turnover. If I ever change out of these before getting into bed at night, there’s a small collection of casual REI-Columbia-esque styled skirts, pants and blouses for that interim window that spans supper, evening Zoom calls and the nightly neighborhood stroll. All of the above could fit in a miniature carry-on.

I can’t give away any of those essentials — I don’t even consider whether these over-used items bring me ‘joy’ or not, they are my life right now. Sorry Marie Kondo.

What about all the other stuff? Will I ever surface from this endless recycling of the same old comfy, stretchy, sameness?

I touch the flowing dresses, high heels, swishy skirts, crisp blouses, smart dress pants and wonder when I will put them on again. Will it be this year, or will I skip this season entirely? Maybe I should just dump them all and start anew — after COVID? I’m definitely too cheap for that and besides don’t have the energy to rethink new clothes. I’d better keep them for now.

Clothing has become less and less interesting the longer I hang around the house. It’s rather like eating the same meal every day – after a while you lose your appetite.

Maybe I’ll dig around in the kitchen next for some household goods to donate. That probably won’t yield much either. The kitchen has been running on overdrive — we’ve been using e-v-e-r-y-thing in there these days.

The COVID Dessert Domino Effect

domino effect-2You’re at a fancy restaurant with a big group and the waiter comes to the table to ask if anyone saved room for dessert.

You know how it is … everyone claims they couldn’t possibly eat another bite. 

And then one person says, well, we should at least look at the dessert menu, even if we don’t order anything…

The waiter is at the ready with a stack of menus and distributes them with a knowing smile. They know what’s going to happen next.

One person may order a black coffee while everyone else oohs and yumms and aahs over the selection. Then another hands back the menu declaring they’ll just have a cappuccino, or some other coffee treat to deliver that sugary cap-off to the meal. It’s a tiny crack in the group resolve.

And … then … one person asks if someone wants to share a dessert. Two or three chime in with “sure” they could do that. It’s presented more like a favor to the requester, rather than something they really want to do for themselves. We all know better. The good intentions are starting to crumble.

AND THEN … a spontaneous devil-may-care attitude takes over. All the dominoes collapse. By the time the waiter returns, almost everyone at the table is ordering a dessert, or agreeing to receive an extra utensil to taste some shared deliciousness. We’ll worry about the consequences tomorrow. Today we’re going to have some fun.

There’s always that one original black coffee holdout, who everyone wishes would just leave and not lord over the rest of us with their pious pretensions.

Ever seen that happen?

I feel like we’re all poised at that moment when the waiter arrives with the dessert menu. There are open restaurants on offer, barber shops, hair and nail salons, unlocked malls, State Parks, beaches and more. Yummy! Irresistible! Let’s DO IT.

But wait, I’m still worried about effective social distancing. I’m that person ordering black coffee right now. How long will I be able to keep this up?

I see people around me starting to negotiate and bargain with themselves just like we do with the dessert menu. Just a little taste. I don’t want to miss out on this, or that. And let’s not forget our duty to help resurrect the economy by participating in it again. And OMG the state of my hair or nails!

How long will I remain that person ordering black coffee? The temptations are mounting. I can see a gradually crumbling of resolve. 

Living in an Emotional Pressure Cooker

Pressure CookerI don’t know much about pressure cookers, except that issues with the equipment can lead to super steam blowouts. They can explode, sending flying parts across the room and splattering their contents on anything and anyone within range. Dangerous stuff — so my mom always said, so that was gospel to me.

I feel like our whole house is an emotional pressure cooker these days. It’s pretty reliable and has rarely been known to blow out the top, but we have had a few ‘near misses’ over the past couple of months. Probably the biggest blowout was over where one is supposed to leave the tea towel for drying hands in the kitchen. Too ridiculous to even get into here.

I’ve also heard some blown fuses sparking across the neighborhood from otherwise very quiet and reserved households. And, of course, we’ve all been reading about much more fragile family dynamics that have lead to an increase in domestic violence of all kinds. Also dangerous. Sad.

This isolation isn’t necessarily causing new problems. It’s just pouring gasoline on existing problems that are simmering below the surface. Not to be too flip, but this tea towel issue has been going on for years!

We’re all locked down in this pot together right now. The pressure builds up every now and then. There are very few outlets that feel safe, restorative and nourishing that allow us to get away very far from each other. We’re stuck here with each other.

Our emotions are so commingled, that when our daughter finished her last final today, my husband and I felt as if we had finished too. Whew …

During her practical exam — a “tele-health” appointment with an actor — we were under strict orders to maintain absolute silence in the house for this one hour period. We didn’t think we needed such strong admonishing instructions. We get it that she’s being recorded and evaluated. Of course, I’m not going to knock on your door and shout at you to empty the dryer. Not sure why she was so worried about us – we’re just quiet retired people! Exactly! … she might reply.

Well, half-way through her sacred one hour of required silence, a piece of bread got stuck in the toaster, which sent clouds of smoke billowing through the downstairs. OMG … NOooo … not the smoke alarm! We scurried around frantically opening doors and waving smoke away from the detector within screeching distance of her door. It was like a slapstick routine from an old I Love Lucy show I could never tolerate. Disaster was averted — thank goodness! — or that pot would have blown up all over our happy little nest.  

We all survived. The exams are over. What a relief. I’m sure I’ll sleep much better tonight. She will claim that she was the only person doing all the studying and the only person taking these virtually monitored exams at the desk in her bedroom, but the whole household went through this emotional experience. 

The pressure valve has let off some steam again. We’re going to be ok for a while.