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Tales From the Quarter: Yes We Can

09:00 December 29, 2021
By: Debbie Lindsey

How do you ring in a new year when your bell is still tethered to the past? Didn't we all think that 2021 would move beyond the political craziness and that the pandemic would soon be beaten into submission? I mean, come on, don't we get a "do over" or a fresh start with a new year? But then some things just don't let go, as witnessed by the January 6 insurrection and two more major spikes by the COVID Cootie monster.

So let's not forget that we are going to enter 2022 with some baggage, just as we have done every year past. Just like that New Year's Day hangover that began the night (year) before. A calendar date does not make or break a trend or situation. And some things should never be relegated to "the rear-view mirror." What is behind us sometimes doesn't slow down and pull over or speed up and pass us by. And frankly for all my stated gloom and doom of previous years, there were, and always are, fabulous events and moments that we want to carry forward. With due respect for the horrors and tragedies that our world has endured during the last two years in particular, I personally have been blessed with an abundance of good fortune that might never have occurred during more peaceful times.

I think I am the only human being that was never bored during the lock-down of COVID. Perhaps having the most time off ever in my life from punching a clock or running a business made me feel the need to be productive. I am profoundly grateful for the things that allowed me to luxuriate rather than languish during this unprecedented limbo of time/routine/pace stalled. First thing is we (husband and I) are so lucky to live where we do—in a New Orleans neighborhood filled with neighbors who walk and talk and know the art of porch and stoop sitting. We were never at a loss for folks to chat (at a safe distance) with and socialize among outdoors. Sure we measured the distance from our porch to the sidewalk and even then wore masks. I also credit the dogs of our city as they kept us out on the sidewalks and not sequestered in our homes. Oh, we did the dart and dodge when passing folks on our sidewalks but, hey, no problem.

The past year and a half-plus have given me better relationships with my neighbors and introduced me to many more. Two hurricanes and the seems-like-forever pandemic have united many folks with post storm clean-ups, shared food, ice, water, and cell phone charging. Again, I am blessed with a neighborhood that attracts lots of sidewalk strolling—this little hamlet has grocery stores, a laundry mat, bars, and cafes that neighbors are constantly on foot to support. And most of our neighbors are tethered to a dog, and nothing is more socializing than our critters. We may forget each other's name but never each other's dogs and cats. Husband and I were already immersed in this community, but the past two years really enhanced our relationships here.

As I have already mentioned in my columns, the disasters we have encountered lead us into the wonderful world of volunteerism. The friendships formed while bagging produce for food drives have given me far more than the meals I may have helped provide. I feel that the fun and social pleasures I received volunteering were over-payments—there is some guilt in having such a rewarding time on the heels of someone else's suffering. I guess I should just be grateful—and I am.

Yes, I am reflecting on 2020, as well as the 2021 we are leaving behind. So, tell me, do you also feel that the past two years have merged, somehow braided together, in your memory? I have to actually look at a calendar to see how many Jazz Fests we have all missed. And did we file taxes for 2019 in 2020 or 2021? When was my last teeth cleaning appointment—was that before the shut down or after? Oh yeah, after; I remember now—front desk in masks taking temperatures. Forgot what my dentist looks like without a mask—did he have a beard before? For years, Katrina was a point of reference to time and place. "Yeah, that was before Katrina that we didn't have a car. Now ya gotta have evacuation wheels." "Hurricane Ida was a breeze since we had running water and didn't have to run from water." "Was that job before The Flood or after?" Also, time kinda stands still during disasters. For example: when a disaster is a shared event and you are out of work as a result, the bills and responsibilities freeze somewhat; sure you'll have to play frantic make-up after wards, but, in the meantime, your calendar is suspended. Everything feels like a "senior moment" as you try to remember what day of the week it is.

I get that everyone wants to move on; however that rear-view mirror provides a reminder of what to avoid as we move forward and also what to never forget. We have been to hell and back but, luckily, many of us have learned that we are stronger than we could have ever imagined. Hopefully empathy has grown within all of us and that emotion is certainly one that we are going to need in abundance. 2022 is going to require us to be fully present and engaged. To quote the late, great, Allen Toussaint: "We got to make this land a better land than the world in which we live…I know we can work it out. Oh yes we can, I know we can can…if we wanna, yes we can can."

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