Last week, I ventured out. It felt a bit surreal to go beyond the carefully-masked and gloved forays to the supermarket. It almost felt, well, frivolous. I got my hair cut and colored. The always-bustling salon was half-staffed. Women smiled with their eyes behind their masks, greeting one another like giddy girls enjoying a self-indulgent treat. The absence of magazines and close chatter hardly mattered. We were here, we were out, we were relishing the moment, creating our own light.

The next day, I had my nails done. Weeks before I had chipped away at the remaining gel polish in an act of letting go and acceptance. It didn’t matter. But symbolically, returning to this small ritual of self care did matter. I couldn’t go to yoga yet, but I could get my nails done. The owner apologized for asking customers to sign a waiver and it was no big deal. We accommodated one another. Everyone was upbeat…happy to be back at work, happy to, at least in some small way, pick up where we had left off, happy to reclaim a small piece of normal.

Feeling light-hearted and uplifted, I decided to extend the experience. One store I had hoped to venture into was shuttered, gone for good. I believe it was independently-owned, and my heart dipped in sadness for the owner, the employees, all of us. Next I stopped in a chain store where everything was COVID-prepared and at the same time, beautiful.

“Looking for anything special today?”

“Oh no…just looking to look. It’s been so long.”

“I know, and it’s really great to see people coming back in, even with limited hours and all of the other things we have to do.”

“Please don’t apologize. Just about everyone understands. If we can all be a little more patient with one another, and a little more kind, it works, and it’s better.”

“You know, that’s it. You just said it. I’m going to share that with my team today.”

My eyes smiled. I drove home with a peaceful and hopeful heart. The profound resilience and positive spirit of people working in service industries told me everything I need to know about how we will come through this.

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