Monday, March 16, 2009

Life Without TV

We love TV. Like, a lot. Sometimes too much. Over the years we’ve talked about cutting back on our TV diet. We’ve fought about it from time to time. To the constant presence of television in the background. Hopes of romantic evenings spent with candlelight and good music, killed by TV. The constant hum. The third entity in our marriage. At times it's felt that way, at least. A convenient distraction.

How easy it is to just turn it on and get lost in the comforting formula of a "Law & Order" episode or to just forget all about our impending foreclosure and laugh so easily at a “30 Rock.” TV is easy. And it’s always there. I have a love/hate relationship with TV. I hate how much I love it. I justified my television habit by the idea that I needed to watch as much as possible in order to be able to write a “spec” to land a TV writing job to finally make some money.

TV has been our mutual guilty pleasure. We know that it gets in the way of our productivity. We know it's 'bad' for us to watch so much. To disconnect so easily. To zone out and just escape. We are very much aware that it has interfered with our commitments. Such as reading more. Writing more. Meditating every once in a while. Just sitting out by the fire pit and talking. Playing Scrabble. Perhaps. Why not. Going to a museum. Taking in a movie. Playing with the dogs. Exercise. Exercise. Exercise. And of course, ahem, sex. Yes, we let TV get in the way. More times than we really want to admit. Even to ourselves.

We talked about moving the TV to downstairs so that it wouldn’t dominate our living space. We've agreed to have at least one day a week without TV. But we never followed through with any of these ideas. Change is hard. You don't change unless you are forced to change. As we are now.

TV (satellite) costs money. And we are cutting costs. So finally… we cut the TV. Like a smoker who can’t afford cigarettes anymore, we gave it up. Have we been digging through ashtrays to find partially smoked butts? Heck yeah. They’re called Hulu, Netflix and You Tube.

The signal vanished two weeks ago just after finishing an episode of "Big Love." The episode ended and the screen went black. There was a message that said "signal not available" or something to that effect. We turned the satellite off and tried regular TV. But since we don't have an antenna, there was nothing. Not even public access. Just silence. We took a moment. An inhale. Breath held. I checked to see if we could access any of the saved shows we had on the DVR. Nothing happened when I pressed “List.” They were gone. It was all gone. It was the end. I put the remote down. We turned and looked at each other and said, “What do we do now?”

I told a friend this story and he said, “You better be careful. You’re gonna get pregnant.” I laughed and said, “Well, now maybe I finally WILL get pregnant.” And he said, “Perfect time to get pregnant… when you’re deep in debt.” And I said, “Is there ever a perfect time…” and it went on from there and perhaps that’s a topic for another post. (I am baby crazy!) This is about what shows up in the space of no TV.

At first, the machinery was still there. I’d come home from work and go to turn it on before remembering that it wasn’t an option. Oh. Okay. Well, how about a walk then? And we walk. We walk and talk and connect. It’s nice. We listen to music. I won’t lie and say we don’t miss it. Because we do. And it isn’t completely out of our lives. Like I said, we still have a lifeline to our habit thanks to Hulu, Netflix, Youtube and a handy little adaptor that hooks my laptop up to our TV.

So we have that. But it’s still not like it was before. For one thing, there are a lot of shows we can’t watch… the main one for me being “American Idol.” Letting go of Idol has opened up a lot of time and headspace. The truth is, I don’t want to care so much about these people I’ve never met and what songs they choose to sing. I just don’t. It occupies too much headspace. Valuable headspace. The other thing is that actually choosing to hook up Hulu takes many more steps than simply turning on the TV. It’s more of an active choice.

The other night we chose not to hook up the Hulu. I didn't want to "do" anything. And the pull to watch whatever was 'on' wasn't there. So I wandered into the guest room and just collapsed on the bed. I never lie on that bed. It's very comfortable, actually. As I lay there I looked up and noticed that I had a perfect view of the full moon out the window. I called Bob in. He curled up next to me and we just watched the moon together. It was gorgeous. "Look how BRIGHT it is!" We exclaimed like we'd never seen a full moon before. Then the clouds would cover it and we'd say, "Ohhhh... it's not bright anymore." Then the clouds would move along and it would glow so bright and we were again exclaiming, "Seriously, look how BRIGHT it is!" We were completely entranced by something that happens every night. Something we'd seen so many times before, but somehow felt new. We were like two teenagers in love under an open sky watching cloud formations holding hands for the first time. It felt good to be fascinated by something so simple. So natural. So calming. So quiet.

What do we do now that we got rid of TV? We oooh and aaaah at the moon.

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