Once calendars were made of pebbles, but we carry these recent years like boulders. We bear their weight in unseen backpacks that slump shoulders and break backs. Their heft demands the work of every muscle, including our tongues. We’re too heavy to say, “Thank you.” We’re too afraid of what’s next to show reverence to what (or who) has passed. We’re too tired to count blessings. We’re too busy screaming because there’s too much to be loud about.
Gratitude, however quiet, is always, always, always worth the work.
I am so thankful for movies. The silent focus they demand is the only meditation that I have mastered. They are scheduled solitude, compartmentalized escapism. They are so necessary to my sanity that I found a way to require myself to see at least one weekly. This isn’t a job, it’s a self-treatment plan. I can’t explain how many times cinema has pulled me back. How often my anxiety quieted when the theater lights dimmed. How analyzing plot contrivances does more than just distract.
This year, I am so grateful for “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” At a time when the very concept of finding a “purpose” in life feels more cruel than quixotic, along came a movie that turned nihilism into a bear hug. Containing literal multitudes, the film demands we appreciate immediacy; that we celebrate stupid, fleeting, silly love; that we see the absence of divine agenda as liberating agency to be and love whoever we want.
This year, I am so grateful to every local theater still open and to those that shut their doors. Many married couples had their first date at the Alamo Drafthouse Midtown. Somebody in town went with the family to see something at the Westwood Cinema 8, and it was the first time they laughed together in years. Long after those bricks and mortars are home to another restaurant or store, those memories will be carried.
This year, I am so grateful for The Reader. More now than ever. Our relationship turned 20 in March, within months of our leader, John Heaston, fighting cancer. Just as he has made our community better, stronger over these past decades, he has challenged me to grow as a critic, writer, and citizen. “Thank you” feels like Hallmark inadequacy. Just having a space to think on paper, a reason to do so each week, has fundamentally shaped me. Soon, the scales will tip, and I will have worked for The Reader for a longer portion of my life than I didn’t. I didn’t get an emerald for my 20th anniversary, just the first award nominations and first win for my criticism. They mean so embarrassingly, impossibly much to me.
These things don’t make the year any lighter. They don’t make the dark any brighter. They don’t make the future any clearer. But they will be what I keep. They will be what I choose to zip up and protect in that invisible backpack. They will be treasured long after the weight lifts.