Once upon a time, several years ago, my valium was going to the movies.
Like a retreat to the safety of the womb, the comforting darkness afforded me a sense of protective insulation. I could review the circumstances of my life, past and present, and try to achieve some form of serenity apart from the daily stress which accompanies fulfilling responsibilities and staying on course. No phones to answer, no meetings to take, the standard of "leave me alone for a while" hangs on the door of the cubbyhole you build for yourself. Early show, sparse crowd, stadium seats impervious to blocking, it was my America. Bucket of delicious popcorn, buttered and salted to perfection. Just hand the usher my change of address card. The number of crucial crossroads in your life are easy enough to remember and review: did I screw up or do the right thing? Sometimes, you can never be sure. You can only accept the consequences and move on. You are your harshest critic and if feel you've done your best, with an absence of malice, that warrants a damn high score and enables you to push the "stop" button on the beat-yourself-up machine.
If you're unlucky, some of the faces on the screen remind you of people in your past with whom you wish you hadn't f---ed up. Scabs torn off wounds thought healed, but maybe the revolving door will give you a second chance to see if you would do things differentially. Tomorrow's sun will rise and you never know what the new tide will bring in. Analyzing with yourself can be quite therapeutic.
And then, almost by accident, you realize that what you are doing comes pretty close to praying. You're discussing the pros and cons of your life in a searching-for-an-answer way, and hoping to achieve some resolve. The results must come down on the positive side of the ledger and you are energized by an endorphin rush which blows away anxiety and your attitude is morphed into one of confidence.
The picture ends, up go the lights and you file out to the blinding sun of reality. You're relaxed, with a spring to your step, not with you, coming in. You notice that the people walking out with you are silent, heads bowed and seemingly directionless. They hadn't done anything more than intently watch the film. Their brows more furrowed than ever. They hadn't made an experience of their experience. To them, a movie house could never bear any resemblance to a place of worship. They lost out on all the fun.
And you got more than your ticket's moneys worth. A serious talk with yourself is worth ten times the price. You never know when you're entering an episode of self intervention.
A two hour escape. Won't do you any harm.