During the pandemic, when I didn’t dare venture very far from home, I took to visiting a small gift shop in my neighborhood. Whenever I friend or family member had an occasion that needed celebrating, I would purchase a small item to mail to them so they would know I was thinking of them. As a sign of the times, I also purchased a couple of fashionable masks and a lanyard to secure a mask around my neck, much like people over 40 do with their reading glasses. It won’t do to misplace them or not have them to put on when you need them.

As a country we are venturing out more these days. Since becoming vaccinated I’ve worn a mask during an airline trip across the country, but mostly, especially outside, we’ve been going without masks. The future was beginning to look a bit hopeful towards this newfound freedom until we learned that COVID has not been standing still, or going away, especially in parts of the country where most people have not been vaccinated. And we learn that the more chance it has to spread among different communities, the more chance it has to mutate and eventually threaten the effectiveness of current vaccines.

It seems impossible to predict where this is all going as we try to reinvent our work and our lives. Which of the software programs that I’m paying for monthly will I continue to need? Should I use last year’s flight credit for another trip to see my granddaughter? Though I long for some of the certainty of my pre-pandemic life, I’m especially grateful these days that I practice improvisation. Many decisions seem to be coming down to maintaining the flexibility of “yes, and,” and the agility to zig and zag.

We only need to look to this year’s Olympics to see the effect of all this uncertainty – the not knowing what to expect and where things are headed. Masking and not masking are constantly happening, as are COVID threats and outbreaks, and competitors being unable to compete because of them. Seeing US gymnastic superstar Simone Biles withdraw from competition for her own safety after stumbling and falling, and tennis star Naomi Osaka, after her moment of glory lighting the Olympic torch, defeated in the third round of competition, we can be grateful that these athletes have escaped serious injury.

Though disappointment is great, when recovered, they will have the option to compete another day.
Many swimmers haven’t performed as well as expected, though some competitors felt that the 2020 Olympics’ year delay has been favorable to their development. I like to focus on those athletes, like Biles’s teammates who met the unexpected challenge and carried on, with their captain’s encouragement but without her skills, to earn the team a Silver medal.

As I move towards the end of summer, I’m gonna make sure that a mask stays connected to that lanyard around my neck so I can respond in the moment and on the spot with what’s needed for me to remain a good citizen, a good neighbor and a healthy grandmother.