On the Couch: Don't Call it a Comeback...Yet.
It's been over a year since the last time that I was in the mood to purely spontaneously watch a movie I have not seen before. I don't watch movies for fun anymore.
At least I didn't for awhile.
Let me explain.
It was only last month that I made a concentrated effort to watch new films at all. When it came to spending free time, I chose reading, crafts, studying, playing music, old tv sitcoms, and documentaries over watching movies. The very idea felt sickening to me.
I had unknowingly started to tie strong emotions and memory to the act of watching film to people, and when those people were no longer a part of my life, it gave me immense grief instead of joy to watch movies. Think of it like how certain songs remind you of specific people or moments. Now imagine that person is gone and the song becomes a ghost leaving you haunted.
It's difficult to get people to understand. Everyone else I know can casually watch tv or movies whenever with whoever. Maybe as a kid I was that way, but at some point I recognized that this was an investment of my precious time, and it became so much more important. I don't have enough time to be bored. I don't turn on the tv because I am bored. I turn it on because I have a strong desire to see something specifically or use it as a means to bond with others. I don't channel surf. If that's what is happening, I just shut off the TV and do something else.
It's not meant to sound pretentious. I'm simply wired differently. I'm intense. My personality is grounded in being deliberate in all of my actions. There is very little about me that is casual. As a testament to this, I have notebooks across the house and in storage of notes I take on pretty much everything I watch, read, or do. I enjoy taking the time to debrief from my media and examine how it affected me as a person. I am an active participant when I interact in the world around me.
Most of the time, I am richer for that deep and thoughtful experience. But admittedly, it can be emotionally intensive and exhausting even if what I watched or read was a comedy.
The power of laughter as an emotion is criminally underrated. If you think about it, most of our emotional lives are spent in limbo between tasks, in anxiety, tension, fear, sadness, apathy, anticipation, etc. And for all these emotions, laughter is probably what we get the opportunity to feel the least. So of course laughter and things that feel good are one of the more powerful and exhausting of emotions.
But we're getting off track.
The point is, it is FUCKING EXHAUSTING for me to consume media. When I do it, it means everything to me. And that's the problem. What is a run of the mill daily life experience to you, was an emotional imprint on me. I can't separate the media from the memory or feeling. It's a blessing and a curse.
So grief happened and I stopped watching movies.
EXCEPT during October.
Halloween season to me is bigger than Christmas. I spend more money on it. I plan vacations for it. I plan festivities and traditions around it. It is the holiday that my soul becomes the most alive.
In the spirit of living is learning, and how I honor that is to explore new horror every October.
Last year for spooky season watching, I privately explored black horror. It was a profound experience that changed the way I approached cinema. My primary purpose was to learn, not to be entertained. In my usual manner, I researched what I should watch, and compared that to what was available to me. I approached it like an assignment. Which is not to say I didn't also enjoy it, but the purpose was calculated. I had set expectations and boundaries. The method IS my madness.
Between November of last year and October of this year, I watched no new movies. The few I watched were comfort films. I feel safe in knowing exactly how and where I will be tested emotionally. It's an emotional safety net that we all can trust.
For this year's special viewing season, I chose to explore classic Japanese horror. Currently in the midst of it, I can tell you that there are already patterns I am seeing in these films. That's exactly what I want out of it. But these patterns are emotionally weighty, and I am struggling to get through all the films I chose.
I needed a break from thinking so hard about movies.
I needed a break from having to have a purpose.
And for no reason at all last night and tonight, I watched two new to me movies.
The first was SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK.
Many people in my close circle love this movie. I was even gifted the book (which I never read.)
It was late, and I was moved by this person's emotional expression for it as they watched it again. Their excitement over their rewatch felt electric. It reminded me of me and how I take in media. Uninhibited and eager. So I turned on the movie at 3 AM and by 5 AM I was emotionally irrevocably shattered, but in a good way!
I felt seen.
The movie helped me sort out a lot of painful and confusing feelings I was drowning in. It gave me a sense of brief clarity about my direction and purpose. It made me hold myself accountable for my own healing and moving on. And when I woke up today, my heart weighed a little bit less. I could breathe.
I don't know how long it will last, but to finally feel some relief was extremely welcome.
It must have done me more good than I realize, because that first big step led to another tonight. I found myself wanting to laugh. I wanted to watch a movie the way I did when I was a kid.
I turned on Tubi and looked for something dumb, gross, schlocky, and funny.
What I chose was THE WORM EATERS (1977). The summary and cover reminded me of SQUIRM. I have strong and loving memories of SQUIRM. It made me laugh so hard that I can still hear it in my heart.
Yet there is more to this revelation.
This time I chose a movie that reminded me of the reason I quit watching in the first place. Was I trying to challenge that memory or remake it on my own terms? Is this finally letting go? Is this healing?
I don't know...
But it's a big step. And I'm happy I did it. I'm happy I chose to take a chance. I'm happy that I am starting to trust that I can handle new emotional movie experiences again.
Most of all, I'm happy I chose laughter again. I'm happy that I'm choosing myself as I am instead of who I thought I was.
For what it's worth, THE WORM EATERS gave me the exact experience I desired. It felt partly like a John Waters film and partly Troma. I love the way films from the 70's look. I even handled some of the questionable triggering content better than I would've a year ago.
It's weird to point to THE WORM EATERS and say, "because I chose this dumb thing, I know I'm going to be ok." But, I think, I hope, maybe I'm actually going to be ok? Maybe I can trust myself to feel things again and embrace the uncertainty of what new experiences have to offer.
Don't call it a comeback.. yet, but it is a victory.