Things have been feeling a little dim in my life lately.
It’s hard to really put my finger on. It’s not one single thing. My work is, for the most part, fun and productive. No major fights in my marriage. No one is sick or struggling or dying. Summer is coming so the near future is filed with BBQ’s (or cookouts, as they call them here in the south), vacations, and long lingering nights walking to get ice cream.
It actually sounds pretty dreamy when I put it here on paper. Which is why this feeling doesn’t make sense, this feeling that things are a little dull, a little dry.
The worst part is, I think I know what the problem is.
It’s so stupid. There’s this habit I started a long time ago (I think most of us did) without really thinking about it. It’s a habit so routine and absolutely benign, few people would ever accuse me of taking it too far. In fact, I’ve never had anyone even begin to suggest I should perhaps cut this habit out of my life.
This habit is so ubiquitous, everyone is doing it. It’s completely normal. It’s fine. It’s harmless. It’s easy. It’s even celebrated.
I’m watching too much TV.
It feels weird to even say that because I’ve never been much of a “TV” girl. I’m the girl who went for years without a TV in my house, the girl who would for the most part rather pick up a book than watch TV (also, is it still called “TV” when you watch it on your computer?).
But lately, when I have felt overwhelmed or stressed or sad or even bored, it has felt so easy, and even right, to turn on a machine that relaxes me, dulls me, entertains me, and numbs it all away.
It feels so good in the moment—following the story lines, getting into the thrill of the plot, relating with the characters.
It feels half like an escape, and half like reality–like friends, and an exciting life of my own.
The other day I was hanging out in a “hip” area of Nashville (where I live) and I saw a girl I recognized. I couldn’t quite place her name, but I had that vague sense of recognition—the way you would if you went to church with someone or they were your barista or grocery checker or the sibling of a friend.
So I did what anyone would do when they have this sense of recognition—I moved toward her to say hello… until I realized the reason I recognized her: she is a main character on a show I have been watching regularly.
Suddenly, I got this feeling (it was not a pleasant one) like television had secretly blurred the lines between my real life and the fake one I escape to sometimes.
But is escaping a bad thing, necessarily?
I mean, this is why I love to read, right? To learn, obviously. To be entertained. But also to escape to a world that is not my own, to imagine realities which couldn’t necessarily exist off of the treasured space of the page.
The difference, I suppose, is that books quietly and subtly add something to me that was not there before. TV is doing the opposite.
TV is stealing from me what I never wanted to give.
TV has taken my creativity. It’s just numbed it right away. I used to wake up in the morning swimming in my own thoughts, desperate to find a piece of paper just to write down everything that had occurred to me as I slept. These days I wake up reaching for the remote, so I can turn on something mindless, to numb myself to a state of awake again.
TV has stolen my hunger for reading. When I was bored, or tired, or just having a bad day, I used to reach for a great book, praying I could catch a private moment with any of my favorite authors and the worlds they spun. These days, I turn on the TV. I watch something I’ve seen a million times, so I won’t have to anticipate or think or wonder or calculate or dream.
TV has stolen time with my husband. It’s really weird and subtle because so often we watch TV together, so it feels like quality time. But at the end of it all we don’t feel any closer to each other than we did in the beginning. There’s no meaningful conversation. No vulnerability. No connection. Just mutual numbing.
TV has stolen my peace. Lately, I haven’t been able to fall asleep without the TV. It’s a habit I began accidentally, several months ago, when I couldn’t fall asleep because my thoughts were churning so violently. Laying in bed, I turned on Netflix and voila—I silently and peacefully drifted off to sleep. Ever since then, I haven’t been able to fall asleep without it.
The hard part is: I’m not anti-TV.
I’m really not. I don’t think TV is evil or bad or that it’s turning all of us into robots. But I do feel like TV and I need a break from each other. We need better boundaries. I do feel like TV, at the rate I’m watching it now, is cluttering my life.
As we move into summer, I’m going to take more time outside, more time moving my body, more time interacting with real people. I’m reading more books, taking more walks, spending more time lingering in and relishing the silence.
Slowly, I feel myself coming back to life. Slowly, I feel like life is getting bright again.