December is a challenging month. We’ve just come out of AIDS Awareness Week, and moved on to other deadlines without missing a beat. But, you know, AIDS Awareness Week is tough. It gets you thinking about certain realities, realities about the numbers of people infected, unable to access treatment, threats of criminalization and fears about the future. And then there is the remembrance of loss, and supporting people through that loss.
I watched We Were Here twice. That film was/is tragic, and what is also tragic is how hard we have to work to try and get our own community to remember and also recognize HIV & AIDS and its ongoing impact, sometimes with limited success. It gets discouraging. Meanwhile, we’ve had two recent tragedies in our community, hitting those whose lives have already been impacted with trauma where it really hurts. Did I mention this work gets tough at times?
I write a lot about self-care on PositiveLite.com. It’s good to find distractions to have a break from thinking about this kind of heavy stuff. I just realized, though, that the movies I watch in my “down time” usually have content related to HIV & AIDS, grief and loss. I’ve probably re-watched one of my favourite movies, RENT, about 5 times in the last several months and in the last couple of days found myself re-watching, yet again, my Queer as Folk DVDs. Yesterday at my lunch break, my colleagues and I watched Angel in RENT pass away from AIDS, and last night I watched the QAF episode where Ben discloses his HIV status to Michael.
I frequently borrow DVDs from my local public library. Upon returning from my most recent visit, I looked down at the stack of DVDs I’d selected and realized that almost all of them were about death and loss. I borrowed Ordinary People as well as 21 Grams (which also deals with death, loss and grief, and addictions/recovery) and…Angels in America. The last movie I saw in the theatres was 50/50, consistent with the theme of disease & dying.
Maybe I naturally gravitate to media that deals with HIV & AIDS, grief and loss to help me process stuff and get some feeling of connectedness. It’s difficult to find ways of processing this stuff otherwise.And it’s particularly tough around the holidays because you’re expected to show up at a party and be full of holiday cheer. But it’s challenging to go to a party the day after you learn about a tragedy in your community and pretend like you feel fine. Yet, you don’t want to alienate your friends by depressing people. When something stressful happens and people at parties ask a question like, “how are you” or “how’s work going” I hear a little voice inside remind me to self-censor: “don’t be Debbie Downer!”
It seems kind of morbid, but I think there is some cathartic benefit to my movie selections. Then again, it’s good to have a break, too. So my HIV-free media “to-watch” list for the holidays will include some of my favourite Christmas classics: The Ref, Bad Santa, and Love Actually. And, this weekend, I’m going to watch Sherlock Holmes, only because Robert Downey Jr. is smoking hot, and sometimes we need a little hotness to melt away the stress.