It’s wonderful. We are talking, meeting, eating with friends and families once again. We are striking up conversations with total strangers – at least I don’t think I am the only one doing that. As we are trying to return to “normal” I am increasingly aware of not being my normal self. Two years of isolation, restrictions, separations have weighed heavily on me. I’m not sure I know what my normal self is any more.
I am from New Orleans and for years after Hurricane Katrina we needed to share our Katrina stories. Standing in the newly opened grocery we would turn and ask: How much.. (water in your house); Where… (did you evacuate to); When … (did you come back). Family members or total strangers would act as our in situ therapist, listening to us just long enough to give them the social permission to jump in with their own stories for us to hear.
I am confident this reaction is the same following any natural disaster: people need to talk. People need to share their horror stories about danger, rescue, and death. And they need to share them over and over. Having lived through the same natural disaster we feel assured of a certain degree of commonality, of innate understanding between us and other disaster survivors. They will believe us.
So here we are now. Covid-19 is not just a shared city or state experience, or even a national one. This is a WORLD. WIDE. EXPERIENCE. As a human community we have never had an experience like this, maybe since the Flu pandemic of 1918 that caused 60 million deaths. For two years all over the world people have been sharing their horror stories of multiple deaths in the same small community, sometimes in the same family. Of being cut off from the dying, unable to say goodbye. This has been a worldwide shared trauma. And it’s been too much. We don’t want to talk about it anymore. At least I don’t. And I think the feeling is common – in New Orleans anyway.
It’s 2023 and here in New Orleans we’re done. Covid might not be but we are. We’ll just add another inoculation to our yearly booster for flu. We are out and about. Breathing freely. Meeting and greeting. We’ve stopped reading Covid updates. We’ve stopped telling our lockdown stories and tragic death stories. We are in Mardi Gras season now, and then we’ll gear back up for French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest. We don’t want to hear about stats anymore unless it’s where the best King Cakes are, or how many new brew pubs have opened. lol Just let us have our Fest season in peace. Our hospitality based economy has suffered and we are all ready to eat out and support them. No meat on Fridays? No problem! There are Fish Fries in every parish and Lenten specials at all the restaurants.
After Mardi Gras comes the season of Lent for Christians where we start in ashes and end up with a resurrection. I think we’re all tired of the “ashes” of burnt dreams, burnt relationships, burnt hope. So let’s not linger in the ashes, let’s look to the future and new dreams, new hopes, and new restaurants. Can I have an Amen?