Health, Life, Spiritual Walk

Why I Gave Up Television

(But only for a week!)

Earlier this year, I was preparing for the Lenten season and I had an clear conviction of what I was supposed to give up for 40 days: television. Now, I’m not talking about just live TV–I’m talking network television, Hulu, Netflix, Optimum online, AMC.

I was beginning to notice a trend in myself: get home from work at 4:15PM, turn on Channel 2 and watch Judge Judy until 5. Keep the news on and listen/peek at the TV while I made dinner. Watch TV through dinner, then depending on whether or not my husband was home would determine which shows were next. We watch Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune on weeknights, so the news stays on until they start at 7. If he isn’t home, at 6:30 or so I usually lay down on the couch, with my big fluffy blanket, and watch Hulu.

Rarely would I concentrate on my writing, blogging, or just read a book. Even rarer would I want to get up to clean the kitchen, or go to the gym to work out, nevermind try to workout at home. Once I was on the couch, comfy and happy, I only had the energy for that, and maybe some Facebook or Pinterest while I watched.

Well, at Lent I chickened out. What was I supposed to do for 40 DAYS without being able to watch anything? Instead of doing what I knew I needed to, what GOD WAS ASKING ME TO GIVE UP (always a dumb idea when we don’t do what he asks), I waited. And nothing changed…until I finally decided I needed some time off.

Two weeks ago, I told my husband I was going to take a week off from TV. I asked him if he would support me. His immediate question? “What does that mean?” No, I didn’t expect him to also abstain from TV, just be respectful of my decision and refrain from watching in front of me. I was asking for fair warning: I could plan to go into another room, or ask him to go into another room (we have two TV’s, so that is a simple request).

I thought I would be ready for the shift. How hard could it be when the majority of my day is spent at work, and I’d finally spend time on my “to-do” list. But when Monday rolled around…so did the flu. For days I was in and out of being sick and feeling miserable. But even through that, I stayed firm. Even as I was in and out of sleep and not sure what to do with myself when I felt miserable, I knew I couldn’t give up on my plan. I went the entire week without TV.

What did I learn from that?

1. It’s so easy to let yourself be distracted

I want to do more with each day: my daily schedule includes bible study, reading, writing, meal prep and cooking, and going to the gym. When I actually do all of these things like I planned, I feel accomplished and productive. When I sit down for that initial show, my list never makes it out of my pocket.

It doesn’t matter what is holding you back: if you allow youself to be distracted by Youtube, or Pinterest, or Netflix, or anything, you aren’t going to accomplish what really means something to you. I’m tired of not accomplishing the things that actually mean something to me.

2. I don’t need noise

I’m so used to drowning things out: drowning out my neighbors, my thoughts, the fear of comitting to something and not succeeding. That’s what TV was for me. One week isn’t going to “cure” me of that, but it did help me realize I can break the addiction. There were a few times during my week off that I went over to the TV and turned it on, simply out of habit!

God calls us to moments of silence. I was actually re-reading the column I wrote for this month’s Young Salvationist, and it was as if past me knew what future me would need to hear. In our world, so crammed with media and “stuff” at the push of a button, sometimes we need to slow down, reconnect, and allow ourselves to linger in the silent moments.

3. Podcasts are our friends

There is a large world of information called podcasts, and I explored only a small corner of my favorites on NPR. It’s not that I hadn’t listened to podcasts before, but why turn on a podcast when I could stare blankly at a screen? I listened to stories on The Moth, TED sessions through TED Talks, and found a fun one titled “Stuff You Should Know.” Honestly, I had some truly introspective and inspired moments this week, and they were all connected to the podcasts I was listening to.

4. Just do things when God tells you to the first time

I know exactly what I would have gotten out of a lent spent not watching TV: time. I would probably be on track with my “Read the Bible in a Year” plan instead of reading three days worth each day to catch up. I would probably have done a better job updating this blog and have a bit better following. I COULD HAVE FINISHED THE HAMILTON BIOGRAPHY. But I didn’t do any of that, and this is where I am. Looking back, I know that if I had gone through lent, I would have accomplished a lot more of what I wanted to this year. I wouldn’t be staring down my 26th birthday, wondering what the heck I’m doing with my life. But that is for another day.

(Side note: Hamilton by Ron Chernow–what an awesome book! So interesting! But that thing is LONG and I have not dedicated the necessary time to it. I started re-reading in August and I’m still only 400 pages in, sigh)

It took a lot of self-reflection to realize the addiction level I had come to. I’d like to encourage you to be self-reflective for a moment and ask yourself what is holding you back from the things you truly want to do. What can you do to change it? What can you do to help yourself?

I spent a lot of time in prayer about this and I felt God saying the right move was go cold turkey for a week. Honestly, I feel like something else may be brewing on this subject that He wants from me, but for now I’ll wait and see what the next step is from removing these distractions from my life.

Was I “cured?” Absolutely not. I spent two hours on Monday watching Big Bang, Young Sheldon, Kevin Can Wait, and Me, Myself, & I. Do I regret those two hours? A little bit, but they were hilarious! Have I watch any TV this evening? I turned it on in the half hour I was home between work and the gym, but besides that, it has stayed off.

Baby steps.