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Turning off the TV

November 14, 2012

I lived without a television for four years, first in university residence, then with my first roommates.This doesn’t mean we didn’t watch anything – we all had laptops with DVD drives, and the capacity to *ahem* share files.  When Mister and I  got married, he brought his TV with him.  We chose not to connect the TV to anything except the PS3, both because of finance and as a lifestyle choice.  Other changes came with marriage too, like spending more nights at home and changes in my social circles.

My TV habit grew as I transitioned into my MA and job as a TA, both of which were much more isolated for me, involved a type of work and focus that I struggle with most, and came with environments in which I found little support. TV was a retreat from the stress, a mental break after a rough class or difficult readings.  Later, when we were both working 6 days/week on opposite schedules, TV became a transition for us in getting home, a way to make home feel less empty when the other wasn’t there.  Beyond the habit of it, the external images and noise allowed me to tune out my internal noise, giving me a break. But that just put the voices off until later. They always came back, often when I was trying to get to sleep or to do intellectual work (the only intentionally quiet time I really had).

The idea of taking TV out of my life has come and gone over the past year. I went in stages, but no real change resulted. His active support has always been available, but it was my self-discipline that was the problem.  Moving here, knowing I would be home most of the time, we talked about getting rid of the TV, or hiding it in the closet, but this living room is bigger room so the TV doesn’t feel so dominant, and ultimately, this place came with cable included.  I love having access to channels like Discovery and Geographic ….  which almost acted like a gateway drug to the others. So initially, I had decent habits. I went through a stage where when the TV was only on if I was working on something with my hands (prepping veggies, crocheting, etc).  But I still wasted time (and developed a serious hatred for commercials after having lived without them for seven years).

Real change happened when I realization that I like myself better without TV in my life.  And I think the difficulty in the transition this time was eased this time by the amount of time I have been away from home, working in Toronto for the internship or being at various conferences. It has been much easier to keep the TV off after having weeks without one than to turn it off after weeks with it. It certainly was, and sometimes still is, a struggle to accept to the quiet around me.  Living in quiet has been a huge change for me!  I have music on when I work in the kitchen, and some evenings, we will watch one of the shows we have kept (seriously, who feels the need to give up Sheldon?), but most of the day, and most days, the TV is off.

The biggest struggle in all of this was facing myself. Having to hear my own mind, work through my emotions, deal with the levels of distraction/self-criticizing/actual issues/various voices/desires/plans/duties….. Its been a process of learning to appreciate silence, or my mind’s version of silence.  I still procrastinate and take breaks with ipad games, social media, and the like, but these take up so much less space in my life. I have found other ways of having down-time after being out and about or busy that allow me to stay more connected to the world while still feeling refreshed.  I am more comfortable with myself, my choices and my plans, likely because I spend time working through my head. I feel closer to my husband when we read together than when we watch TV together. I get more done, even on days when I don’t “do” anything.  I appreciate the refocus onto the people around me, onto the space around me, onto myself.




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