I loved school recess when I was a child, but only certain activities. Since I wasn’t very coordinated, I tended to stick to jumping rope.
Two friends would hold each end of a long jumprope and we’d all take turns lining up in the middle. The rope turners would count to three, tapping the jumper’s feet with the rope with each count and then they’d start swinging the rope in a big arc. They’d chant, “Cinderella, dressed in yella, went upstair to kiss a fella,” so that we’d all keep the same rhythm.
Every single day, though, some crazy kid would just jump in once the rope was already swinging. They’d stand on the side and follow the cadence and then just barrel in and start jumping.
This seemed like an unnecessary risk to me. They were just asking to get knocked upside the head with the swinging rope. No thank you… I loved the predictable start.
When 2021 began, I had so much hope. It felt like a fresh start; I could sense normalcy just around the corner. I bought a new calendar and was ready to fill it with school activities, kids sports and visits with family and friends. We’d survived 2020 and I just knew the next year was going to be lively and wonderful. I could practically feel the rope tap-tap-tapping against my shoe. 1-2-3 go. We all knew what to do.
Pretty quickly, it became clear that we weren’t all in the same rhythm. I was sure that vaccines were going to change everything, but then so many people refused to get vaccinated. I thought new leadership in government would bring some stability, but then insurrectionists stormed the Capitol building on January 6th. Why weren’t people in America following the rules? Why were things still so chaotic?
Then by early summer, we were able to travel and masks weren’t constantly part of our everyday routines. I was so thankful, but then the Delta variant hit, which made for an unpredictable fall semester for my kids. By early December, I’d decided that since any of the younger children I was around were fully vaccinated, I wasn’t ethically bound to wear a mask all the time in public. This lasted for like four days and then the Omicron variant hit.
So, here we are, in the year of our Lord 2022 and still in a pandemic. I am not going into this year the same way I did last year: I’m less hopeful, but I’m also wiser and stronger.
It took me most of the year to figure this out, but I finally realized that I was going to have to learn to jump in. I couldn’t wait for my preferred way to start. The tap-tap-tapping wasn’t a realistic option.
What was viable was learning how to go for it when I see a window to jump in.
Because the alternative is to stand on the sidelines forever and watch.
Maybe someday there will be the 1-2-3 count to let me know that we are beginning again, but for now, I need to practice jumping in. Sure there are risks, like getting whacked on the head, but I’ve learned from experience that it won’t kill us. If we make plans to spend the holidays with family and have to cancel (again), we’ll just keep trying. If our kids end up being masked for their entire middle school experience, we celebrate that they get to go to school at all. If we make plans to travel and the world shuts down (again), we imagine how glorious it will be once we finally get to go. If we don’t think we can keep doing this, we can.
If we are still in a pandemic in 2023, we hopefully will be experts at looking for opportunities to jump in. We’ll have so much practice at counting cadence and knowing when to go for it. We’ll learn new ways to keep starting over. We can’t afford to waste any more precious time waiting for the predictable start. It’s now or never.
You and I are in the same place. I like structure, routine, and yes, control. This pandemic has shattered all that and I am having to learn to be okay with jumping in. Thanks for a wonderful essay.