Last week I was at Hearth, devouring an excellent wood fired pizza (‘The Meat’) while debriefing with my fellow planning committee members after ‘Notes: An Evening of Musical Storytelling and Casual Conversation,’ the annual benefit for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Northern Beaufort County.

The party/concert was two weeks behind us now, and by all measures, it had been a great success. Big fun was had, and big funds were raised.

The only downer? One of our committee members was fairly certain he’d picked up Covid at the party. He was fine now – though he’d had a few bad days – and wasn’t particularly fazed.

“I had already made an appointment to test five days after the event,” he told us. When he woke up feeling like hell on day five, he wasn’t surprised. He’d already factored in the possibility. He was committed to going to Notes – it was his event, and he wanted to go – so he’d accepted the risk. We all had.

Far be it from me to tell anybody how to live their Best Pandemic Life, but I think this seems like a reasonable approach as we head into year three.

And we all take this approach, all the time now, right? Omicron is in the air, everywhere. It’s highly contagious, and vaccination will not protect you from getting it or spreading it. Seems to me you either stay home 24/7 – along with everybody else in your household – or you accept the risk.

As of this writing, the country’s Covid case numbers are falling, along with South Carolina’s, and I’m beginning to feel cautiously optimistic. Again. I’ve learned not to get my hopes up that things will return to normal. But I’ve also learned that even if they don’t, life will go on. We can handle it.

We’ve all become pretty decent at rolling with the pandemic punches, haven’t we? We’re learning to play it by ear.

Those of us who are not healthcare workers, teachers, or parents of young children have had it way easier than those who are – God bless you people – but we’ve all been on a learning curve, and it seems like we’re collectively becoming more Covid-savvy, less Covid-panicky.

We’ve learned which masks work and which masks don’t. (I have a whole wardrobe of super-cute cloth masks from Etsy that will never be worn again.) And we have mostly stopped indulging in the silly display – “Covid Theatre” I call it – of wearing masks into a restaurant, then taking them off when we sit down. If we decide to go to a restaurant – and most of us do, regularly – we ditch the masks and accept the risk.

We’ve learned that vaccines and boosters make most of us sick the next day, so we plan accordingly. We have also learned that while vaccines make us much less likely to be severely ill or hospitalized, we vaxxed folk can still be infected with Covid, and some of us will feel cruddy. Knowing all this, we do what we can . . . then accept the risk.

Our local organizations have become more confident and flexible. They’re less likely to cancel events now – though many opt to postpone, relocate, or move things online as circumstances change.

The BMH Valentine Ball was originally scheduled for February 5th. Thanks to Omicron, it’s now been rescheduled for March 5th, and has been relocated to Kate Gleason Park, under a tent.

After keeping their events private all fall, the Fripp Island Friends of Music excitedly re-invited the public to their next concert, which was scheduled for January 30th. A few days after we published that article in this paper, I was informed that the concert had been postponed – “Covid, of course,” they told me – until May 15th.

On January 10th, Friends of the Beaufort Library enthusiastically returned with an in-person ‘Books Sandwiched In’ season at USCB Center for the Arts, only to revert to Zoom after that first presentation.

On the other hand, last month I attended the aforementioned “Notes” event, the FLE’s Lowcountry Lifetime Achievement Awards, and the Beaufort International Film Festival’s Wine Dinner fundraiser – not to mention several smaller get-togethers – all in person. Slowly but surely, it seems people are becoming more comfortable mixing, mingling, and accepting the risk.

My church, First Presbyterian downtown, has been dancing a nimble jig with Covid for two years now, moving from online-only worship to outdoor worship to indoor (with masks) worship to indoor (without masks) worship and back to online worship, as circumstances change. In December, our choir made a grand return to the choir loft, first time in almost two years, wearing brand new robes and ready for a season of music . . . then January rolled around and we haven’t sung a note since.

We hear a lot about our beleaguered teachers and besieged healthcare workers, but nobody’s talking much about the forlorn choral singers in our midst. The struggle is real.

(I kid. No letters to the editor, please. I am not seriously comparing choral singers to nurses.)

And now we have the new BA.2 variant upon us. (“Omicron 2.0,” you might call it.) From what I’ve read, it’s very similar to Omicron Classic, though possibly a bit more infectious. The good news is that many, many people have now had the original Omicron, and they’ve probably got some immunity to the new one. Throw them together with all us vaxxed and boosted people, and Spring 2022 could be looking pretty darn good.

Unless a new, more serious variant arises. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

And let’s hope we never get to it.

Here at our house, we’re cautiously-optimistically planning the European family vacation we had to nix two years ago. We’re making sure everything’s cancelable and refundable, of course – and just putting it in writing here makes me nervous, like maybe I’ll jinx it – but we are moving forward with hopeful hearts and crossed fingers.

Much like a virus adapts to survive, so, too, do we human creatures. We learn new ways of doing. New ways of being. Two years ago, we all imagined we would swiftly defeat the cursed coronavirus. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, so we’re adapting. Becoming new variants.

Instead of keeping our lives on hold indefinitely, we are learning to live with this virus. ­Carefully, but no longer fearfully.

I think we should give ourselves a big round of applause.