I watched The X Files for the first time in 2015 at age 28. It's not entirely clear to me why I didn't watch it as a kid because it was exactly the kind of show my parents would have been into but I think there was a sense that it might be too scary for me. Did they also let me watch Poltergeist (1982) when I was 6? Yeah, my parents contain multitudes. My mom died in August 2015 and my sense of self was destroyed. I had spent a lifetime as a moon orbiting my mother the sun, sometimes closer or further, but always somewhere tethered to her no matter the distance between us. Sometimes her sun scorched me and sometimes it warmed and held me; what was a moon without its light source to reflect?
The weeks and months that followed her death saw me operating my body and going through the motions of my life, watching myself from outside. Less than two months after her death, Ian and I were on our way out of town for Thanksgiving when we got into a car accident on the Gardner. I remember the feeling of being in my body quite suddenly just before impact and opening my eyes to smoke from the air bag and feeling in my body for the first time in months. The car was totaled and I walked away seemingly fine; a few days later, hard black and purple bruises appeared on my belly, delayed just like the rest of my experience—something would happen and it wouldn't fully sink in until later.
I can't remember whether it was my idea or Ian's, but somehow in fall 2015 we started watching our way through The X Files. Ian had seen it when it originally aired and I went in blind. I hadn't been able to focus on anything for over six months, since my mom went into hospice, but this held me somehow. Maybe it was the generous variety of pacing between dips into the overarching plot and monster of the week episodes that helped. This was a show from when shows were 22+ episodes per season, when there was so much time to explore things. I had gotten used to shorter seasons and limited series where everything was so packed into just a handful of episodes. I felt the show's age especially in early seasons but I was comforted by it; the filming ratio, the lighting, the fashions I remembered around me when I was a kid. I didn't watch the show as a kid but it felt familiar in the way things from childhood do. I was quickly hooked.
It was easy to see the ways in which Ian and I were each Scully and Mulder in various parts of ourselves, to see these parts on screen and feel seen and called out all at once. It was easy to become invested in this world that was so unlike my own. It was easy to put all of my feelings into the hope that Scully and Mulder would finally fucking kiss, please just give us what we want (I say this now decades after the show aired and years after I even watched it because this show encapsulates this bottled sense of Desire that comes from such a deep place of yearning)! It was easy to be in this world because mine wasn't at all what I had expected. The X Files held me when I couldn't hold anything, let alone myself; it gave me a world to live in while I put my own back together.
There are many ways in which I'm Scully and not just because whenever I walk somewhere with Ian, he'll say "come on Scully get those little legs moving!". I am skeptical and questioning but I'm Mulder at the core of me; haunted and shaped by my past but also fully open to the parts of my life that seem predestined or out of my control. The second episode of the seventh season, "The Sixth Extinction II: Amor Fati", pulls that idea directly into focus. Thanks to the interference of the Smoking Man, Mulder experiences an alternate version of what his life could have been like: his long lost sister Samantha returns, and Mulder marries his former partner Diana Fowley and has a family. In this completely different life, Mulder is presented as a Christlike figure who is willing to have his cranial tissue extracted to be implanted into the Smoking Man's brain to prevent him from dying. In the real timeline, Scully is able to get Mulder out of the facility where he's being held in this dream state, bringing him back to reality. There's a sadness for Mulder at not being able to be reunited with his sister again but he sits with Scully, his touchstone even in the alternate dream reality, and finally absorbs and accepts how everything in his life have led him to this exact moment.
Amor fati, an idea most commonly connected to Nietzsche, translates literally from the Latin as "love of one's fate". Here's how Nietzsche put it in Ecce Homo:
My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely bear what is necessary, still less conceal it—all idealism is mendacity in the face of what is necessary—but love it.
Nietzsche, and Mulder by extension, doesn't promote suffering as a beneficial good in and of itself but rather as a precondition to good. There's a sense in which suffering doesn't make you better necessarily but it makes you more profound if you let it. The good doesn't mean as much without the bad; Scully and all the good in Mulder's life doesn't mean as much without the huge losses he's already suffered. Love of one's fate: the good and the very bad.
Other moments in my X Files watch affected me deeply but none like Mulder and the idea of amor fati. I wasn't a shell of a person or a dark moon because of this loss; I was all the people and experiences I'd ever lived and known. If I was going to love, I had to love all of my fate—the suffering made the love deeper, the joy brighter. I have to accept, I have to love, all of it. I'm not always good at it and I don't always want to be but it's the way I am trying to move through the world. Like the moon I am all the light and warmth I absorbed from the sun, reflecting it back and warming those around me, but also now realizing I am my own source of light and warmth. I don't love my mom's death but I love how aware I am of what that love and that loss meant. I love my fate, whatever it is, but I don't always like it. That's ok.
I ended up watching all of The X Files and by the time I finished, around the one year anniversary of my mom's death, I was a completely different person. Because of the show, because of the huge loss I went through initially, because I moved through something I wasn't really sure how to move through. I haven't gone back to the show and I'm not sure if I will; it's so connected to this specific time in my life and I don't know if I need to see it again from a very different place in my life, as a completely different person. I love who it helped me become. I love being able to hold everything that's been and everything that will be, good and bad.