1 Weird Trick
Last night, a grand jury decided that the NYPD police officer who killed Eric Garner, an African-American man accused of selling untaxed cigarettes and whose last words were “I can’t breathe,” will face no charges in Garner’s death. This comes not even two weeks after police officers approached 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and shot him two seconds later, and barely a week and a half after Darren Wilson, the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown, walked away sans an indictment. People are screaming the obvious — -#blacklivesmatter — -into the void, because we have found that we don’t live in a world where that concept is necessarily a given.
We’re four days into December, the prime time of forced reflection. Just because there’s snow on the ground and new calendars on the shelves and Mariah Carey on the radio, we’re forced to look back on our year. This is why I hate the artificial sentimentality of the holidays, especially contrived contemplation, especially in a time as ugly as this one. Here’s a reflection: It’s been a shitty year, marred with despair, and disappointment, and frustration, and fear, and sadness, and exhaustion. It’s been hard on us all.
Earlier today, Jodie Layne and Kara Haupt talked about their methods of self-care, so here’s my own, my 1 Weird Trick to bring myself up when I am hopelessly down, a place I have been so many times this year: I watch award show acceptance speeches.
I don’t remember when I started doing it, but I can remember why: when you’re at your lowest point, it helps just to witness someone else be happy, to be brimming with joy, to remind you that that’s still a feeling. When you’re at your worst, look up to someone at their best, and hopefully they will bring you up with them. The immediate reaction, the uninhibited shock or excitement or joy, gets me every time. (God bless the closeup cam.) I like to think that I’m watching one of the happiest moments in a person’s life, and it’s weird, but I feel honored to share that with them. Here is where I find my joy.
Here’s Lupita N’yongo after winning her Oscar last year. Remember all the tension we wrought, pitting Jennifer Lawrence and Lupita against each other? Everyone at my Oscar party held hands until the winner was announced, and we erupted, as did the room of Oscar attendees, in pride and praise. Rarely do I feel such delight for a person I’ve never even met. Her speech was golden, just as she is: When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.
Shit, if you won an Oscar, you’d probably travel by stepping on seatbacks and armrests, too. Show me a better depiction of total and unbridled joy. Even Sophia Loren wanted this to happen.
“I know I only have a little bit of time so I’m gonna rush and say everybody. You can cut away — -I won’t be mad at you.” He keeps his promise — -the band tries to play him off, but Cuba’s glee and jubliation and jumps-for-joy overpower the music, and the crowd rouses with a standing ovation. Bonus: look how proud Will Smith is. May we all make Will Smith that proud some day.
Eleven-year-old Anna Paquin spends the majority of her acceptance speech gasping for air, near ready to burst. I’d probably do the same thing, if we’re being honest.
* praise hands emoji * It makes me laugh every time.
This is the video I return to time and time again. Halle is the first and only African-American actress to win the best actress Oscar, a fact that she is deeply aware of and makes everyone else aware of too, with her dueling pride and pain. She’s earned the moment, and she is going to use every minute of it: “Okay, wait a minute. I got to take… seventy-four years here!! Ok. I got to take this time!” The seventy-four year exclusion, the supposed five minute fix. Halle earned this moment, but she is not on her own.
“This moment is so much bigger than me. This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It’s for the women that stand beside me, Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox. And it’s for every nameless, faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened.” And I start to cry.
It’s silly, but it’s what I do — -and it works for me, and I hope it does for you, too. I hope they bring you some joy on a day, in a season, in this year, where there seems like there’s almost none.