I’m in emotional limbo like a lot of other Americans this Thanksgiving.

I want to enjoy the holiday as I might have pre-COVID, but I don’t want to be worried about being safe or about putting myself in a potentially risky situation. The delta variant made me even more nervous about being inside. But with the end of summer and the end of outside gatherings and patio dining, I’ve been forced to grapple with if and when I might choose to be inside with other people. Of course, the Thanksgiving holiday is all about being inside, breaking bread. Last year, I admired the stamina of those who masked and moved their meal outside, layered up to weather the chilly temperatures. I created a new tradition complete with gourmet meal delivery and a lot of binge-watching, and gave thanks I had that option.

So, after much back and forth these past few weeks, I decided to rejoin friends for a meal hosted by my friend Lorita. She celebrates Thanksgiving to the fullest; it is her favorite holiday. Hers has never been a large gathering, and it may be even smaller this year so that everybody who attends feels comfortable. We’re all vaccinated and many have had their booster shots, but we’ll still be careful.

Apparently, our caution is more typical than I would have thought given the loud rallies and individual pushback against getting the vaccine. However, an October survey by Ohio University demonstrates that a lot of Americans are approaching the holiday cautiously. The University’s Wexner Medical Center surveyed a little more than 2,000 people, and half of them said they planned to ask potential guests about their vaccination status. And three quarters of all respondents said they will likely limit their group to family members. Researchers said they were “pleasantly surprised” by the vigilance, given that Americans are anxious to reconnect and to return to normal.

COVID may not prevent the 2021 gatherings of friends and families, but the specter of the disease is ever-present. This time last year, there were 250,000 deaths — which seems like a huge number, except now the number stands at more than 750,000. And while even the nation’s top infectious disease expert has given his blessing to small-group reunions with mask and safe distance protocols, Dr. Anthony Fauci also predicts there will be a nationwide uptick in COVID cases after the holiday. Anticipating that surge, several states moved to open booster shots to all adults ahead of the anticipated approval from the CDC. Last week, Massachusetts became the 13th state to make it possible for all residents 18 and older to get the booster shots now.

How is it possible that we’ve weathered two pandemic Thanksgivings? And it’s still unknown how this virus will impact us next year? Given that, I’m reminding myself of the power of living in the moment. In the words of Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thích Nhất Hạnh, “Nothing is more precious than being in the present. Fully alive. Fully aware.”

And on this holiday of giving thanks, I’m giving thanks for the opportunity to simply be together with friends.