I’ve been boasting that this Year is not about how to find or foster self-discipline.
Not watching television for this week’s Mini-Challenge took discipline.
Monday: I have drinks with a lady friend, get home, and realize I can’t watch television! Bummed, I text with a boy, start to read Allende’s House of Spirits… and fall asleep early.
Tuesday: Exhausted from another long day, I have dinner with a gentleman friend and get home to realize again, noooo! can’t watch television! I listen to StoryCorps while organizing pills and supplements for the week, tweet host Michael a 😭 because I ALWAYS CRY WHEN LISTENING TO STORYCORPS, and fall asleep earlier than I would otherwise again.
Wednesday: Out too late for a work dinner with a lady friend, get home and… drat. I scroll through Twitter and pass out with the phone on my stomach.
Thursday: Dead body and brain from three nights out in a row. Since 6 pm, I’ve been giving my bed and television the stink eye. I contemplate cheating. Who will know!? I research things about television instead.
Friday: A phone meeting ends at 6, and all I want to do is drug the pain outta my body and collapse in bed with endless hours of streaming. Instead, I make tea and by 7 pm am lost in Allende again, thankful that forced abstinence has me passing pages until I’m ready for sleep.
Saturday: Writer’s group! Some people find them worthless, but our group of 5 has supported each other through so many projects, and I look forward to it monthly. Janet and Paul leave, Erika and Meg settle in to watch a horror flick, I vacate the living room and four hours later have polished off one more Allende*. I never would have finished so fast were it not for this Challenge. Words!
Sunday: 90 minutes amongst good friends at a work-social shindig and I return home done for. Like, I draaaag myself to make food and then collapse in bed. Aching joints, headache, and overall exhaustion continually rise in extremity. I give in. It’s 7:30 pm — I’ve made it through almost the entire week. I listened to the radio while I cooked. I can’t read a book. I need a distraction from the pain. That’s what television does until I fall asleep.
I feel like a lot of this habit removal has been about comparing myself to the “average American”, and then feeling guilt or triumph comparatively. According to the most recent Nielsen report, adults my age spend an average of 5 hours a day watching television. Other than my sicker days, I don’t.
But that’s not the point.
Today, devices are designed to make us habitual watchers. Videos continually stream. There are so many ways to watch. I only watch via Hulu, Netflix, and HBOGo, because that’s what I have connected to the television in my room. Because of that, hours can easily get lost going from one video to the next, if I’m not aware of it.
Hours that could be better spent learning new things. Or reading novels.
Saturday night was my turning point. Usually, my exhausted routine after writer’s group is to fall into bed and restore from the concentrated socialization with unrestricted viewing, usually a movie or documentary or — cough — more Gilmore Girls. You know, things easy on the brain. But this week, I fell lost to Allende’s words instead. A better kind of distraction — focused, comfortable in my
This week, I fell lost to Allende’s world and words instead. It was a focused, comfortable distraction, as I’d set myself up in my armchair with cup after cup of tea, warm in the world of the Trueba family drama. I was aware that I had the mental capacity to read — a capacity I didn’t have the following evening — and at one point told myself, “Remember this.”
As a slightly-sicker-than-most person who has time, solitude, and several mediums at her disposal, this awareness helped my expand options already waiting for me. So I’ll start choosing them more specifically.