When Every Plan Is Subject to Change

Welcome. In a meeting of the At Home and Away team on Monday, we discussed the tentative way we’re making plans now.

Minju just received an email informing her that her daughter’s gymnastics class begins in four weeks, time to sign up. With news of the Delta variant changing our perceptions of what’s safe by the hour, how could she commit to something four weeks from now? I have a dinner out on the calendar for Thursday, but my date and I agreed to decide on Thursday afternoon if we’ll go ahead with it. We’re changing our minds and our plans on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis, keeping an eye on the case counts, weighing risk and reward.

My inbox brims with reader emails telling of plans postponed: the birthday dinner out traded for steaks at home on the grill, the road trip from Oregon to South Dakota to visit Mom called off, the bucket-list cruise to Malta canceled. (“We upgraded the flights and booked a veranda room and the LIQUOR PACKAGE. Absolutely crushed,” one reader wrote.)

If you’re working on living in the present, this moment might prove to be an effective teacher.

I asked last week how you were doing, and Linda Adams in Montreal made a smart edit to my query: “When my husband died, people would often ask, ‘How are you?,’ and I found it such a big question that I couldn’t even begin to answer all the different and often contradictory ways I was feeling and experiencing my new solo life,” she wrote. “In grief counseling they would ask, ‘How are you today?’ Adding ‘today’ suddenly made it a question I could answer. Today, I am feeling a little worn out but also extremely grateful for the small kindness that I experienced from a stranger this afternoon.”

How you are today is not how you’ll be tomorrow. How you’re doing in this moment will shift in the next. Your long-awaited August vacation might be canceled, the plans you made for tonight might be altered this afternoon. As Rilke wrote: “Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror./Just keep going. No feeling is final.”

Sometimes it feels like the virus is the only thing we can think or talk about. The next time I get together with friends, either in person or virtually, I’ll also be talking about this:

A mere four seconds of all-out exercise, repeated two or three dozen times, could be all many of us need to build and maintain our fitness, strength and physical power, according to an inspiring new study of the potency of super-quick workouts.

—From “Exercise Vigorously for 4 Seconds. Repeat. Your Muscles May Thank You.,” by Gretchen Reynolds.

How are you today? Tell us: athome@nytimes.com. Include your full name and location and we might feature your response in a future newsletter. We’re At Home and Away. We’ll read every letter sent.

We’ve received some questions about the artwork at the top of the At Home and Away newsletters. Each month, we’re filling that “gallery space” with the work of a different artist-in-residence. This month’s artist is the Brooklyn painter and illustrator Jackson Joyce. You can check out his illustrations from earlier in the month here and here.

As always, more ideas for leading a full and cultured life, whether you’re at home or away, appear below.

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