Welcome. It was halfway through Thanksgiving dinner when my phone buzzed with The Times push alert about the new variant. I didn’t consider sharing the news with the table—better to let them enjoy the meal in peace—but I remembered these were the people the virus had kept me apart for two years. Here we were, vaccinated and cautiously optimistic, toasting our good fortune to reunite. Here we were, forgetting for a moment that getting together for future vacations wasn’t guaranteed at all.
I told the table about the news alert and the response was one that many of us have become familiar with, if not quite used to, over the past year and a half: the conversation stopped briefly and we sat in silence for a few seconds, each trying new ones, taking in confusing information is trying to process in real time what it would mean.
Every update on the virus — booster recommendations, travel restrictions, a new variant — seems to require a mental inventory of plans: plans to go to the movies or eat out, to visit friends or family in another state or country, to return to work in the office. Does this mean that we will continue to wear masks in certain social situations? Will this affect my decision to enroll my child in an extracurricular activity? Our minds are like GPS apps, constantly recalculating the route as new traffic data becomes available.
And so uncertainty is now normal. Plans are created and then easily undone. We know to expect the curveball, to be careful not to get attached to specific results. Does this mean it gets easier? Familiarity is not mastery, but experience is a good teacher. It is still difficult to synthesize destabilizing information on the fly, but we may be getting better at it push alert by push alert.
Keep sending us your cathartic songs and we’ll put them together into a Spotify playlist. Send them to [email protected] Be sure to include your full name and location so we can include your response in a future newsletter. We are home and away. We read every letter sent. Below are more ideas to pass the time. I’ll see you friday.