law & order is ruining my life (and other confessions of a woman who hides behind her remote control)

at the end of 2007 i was sick and tired of how much time i was wasting in front of the tv. it is embarrassing to admit how much time i was spending. that was part of what was making me sick and tired. let's just say that i only started watching law & order about two years ago, and i was beginning to see repeats! do you know how many different versions there are of law & order? three. there are three different versions of law & order. when combined, there have been 31 seasons of the show. that is more years of law and order than there are years in my life! all i am saying is, that is a lot of law & order. good for them. they have found something that works. but if i am seeing reruns, well, that is a major indication to me that it might be time to reevaluate the tv situation.

i started wondering what i would think, hear, see if i wasn't watching tv. how would i fill my time? what would i think about if i didn't have this source of input to inform my opinions, thoughts, feelings, and desires? how might my creativity be impacted? how about my marriage? what would happen if herb came home and i was reading on the couch with jazz playing? and how would that be different than the times he came home to find me wrapped up in my red fuzzy blanket, watching my 5th back-to-back episode of america's next top model on bravo?

so, i just stopped. altogether. i stopped. with the exception of one or two shows in the evening here and there, i didn't watch tv. the few times i did watch felt fine. i still felt like i was within the spirit of the "rules", and to tell you the truth, i really enjoyed those times in front of the tv. i paid attention to the show. i looked forward to that time. it was intentional. i relaxed.

since i wasn't watching tv, i found other ways to fill my time. i read. in three weeks, i read "the pillars of the earth" by ken follett. have you seen this book? it is over 1,000 pages long. 1,000 about the building of a church in england during the 11th century. and i enjoyed every minute of it! i made a little art journal, and i used it. i took baths. lots of hot baths. when herb came home, i had set up a paradigm in which, instead of him sitting on the couch with me to watch tv, or retreating to the office to "play computers" while i finished my show, we had time to play games together and talk and enjoy the evening.

it worked. for six weeks, it worked.

then, i got sick. for two or three days, i laid on the couch. and watched tv. all day long.

after that, i quickly moved back into my old patterns.
always in the back of my mind was my promise to myself.
it was not just about NOT watching tv; it was about doing other things. using my time and my energy and my life for other things. it was more about embracing my life - taking out the tv was just a great way to help me do more of that.

last night i was reading a chapter in a wonderful marriage book ("the new rules of marriage: what you need to know to make love work" by terrance real). to be honest, i nearly skipped the chapter altogether because it was about the importance of removing addictive behaviors from our lives in order to be able to engage in a truly intimate marriage. it didn't feel applicable to herb and i. but as a therapist, i decided to go ahead and read it. i was sort of stunned to realize how much my mindless, intentionless tv (and computer) time fit right into his description of "misery stabilizers" - things we do that keep us stuck in our discontentment; things we do to avoid dealing with painful things in our lives. things that keep us from being totally available for true intimacy because we are blocking out things we need to deal with internally.

now, you may be thinking, "it is just tv. she is being way to hard on herself and taking this so seriously!" but i can assure you that this struck me at the core. tv doesn't just keep me from being intimate with herb; more so, it keeps me from myself. it keeps me from facing some realities that i don't want to face. like, for instance, if i am not watching tv, i am more aware of the fact that i have really low energy and that i am a 30 year old woman, without kids who works only part time. and then i have to do something with all of the questions of identity and value that come up. but if i can face those questions, i will become a fuller person. and i will have more to bring to my marriage with herb.

to think that my tv habits are keeping me from personal health and marital closeness makes me sad.

so i decided that instead of trying to go back to that time where i was magically able to discard tv altogether without feeling ashamed or punished, that i will just give myself some parameters. five hours a week. used up however i wish! we'll see how it goes.

next stop, check to see if the novels i have on hold at the library are available yet. let's be honest, even if i am getting more real with myself, everyone needs a little escape from time to time!


Blogger Melanie said...

i totally hear what you are saying.

i have caught myself, in the middle of an argument, running to the computer where i talk to my invisible lady friends.

it ain't pretty. BUT we have to be real w/ ourselves. i think 5 hours is a great goal. xo

4:35 PM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger Cara said...

mel, i feel the same way about my fictional cop & lawyer friends.
the same way.

7:41 PM, April 21, 2008  
Blogger Rhi said...

i think internet to me, is tv to you.
my brain isn't working and i can't think of what else i was going to say.
maybe that says it all.

7:04 AM, April 22, 2008  
Blogger julochka said...

it's a huge step just to be aware and to write this thoughtful post about cutting back on t.v. what i fear is that the time i spend in front of the internet is just as bad...i think i need an internet diet.

9:30 AM, April 24, 2008  
Anonymous misti said...

You know, the writers strike was awesome for me. I stopped watching so much tv. I still watch my Grey's and House, but I am no longer just sitting there for hours on end. I love that feeling of accomplishement!

10:51 AM, April 29, 2008  

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