So long TV, you’ve been a good friend to me…
I love TV. I really do. A little too much. That’s why we have to break up.
It was a snowy Saturday afternoon last winter when I had an epiphany. There I was, stretched out on the couch watching Mayday, The Millionaire Matchmaker and back-to-back episodes of Dateline Mystery when I realized something. TV and I were spending waaaaay too much time together.
In the blink of an eye, four hours had passed, and going on five. I still had several errands to tackle that Saturday, but my “to do” list remained undone. Ahead of me lay two episodes of 48 Hours, then a Fifth Estate, followed by a biography about a mafia family, and a documentary about the Bermuda Triangle. After that, Saturday Night Live would come on. I just had to watch that.
When I tallied it all up, something occurred to me. That’s a whole lot of TV for one Saturday. Suddenly the cold hard truth was staring me in the face. In that moment, I knew what I had to do. I would have to end our relationship. I also knew in that moment that I wasn’t quite ready to let go. I had to wait for the right time. I also had some reminiscing to do, about our longstanding love affair…
TV has been a trusted companion for my entire life. Sesame Street, Mr. Dressup and The Friendly Giant kept me company on weekdays while waiting for the school bus to kindergarten. On Saturday mornings, Bugs Bunny and Yogi Bear kept us out of mom’s hair, while Saturday night’s Chiller Thriller was alluring only because it was forbidden. We kids weren’t allowed to watch, but we did anyway, sneaking peeks from behind curtained bedroom doors. On Sunday evenings, Walt Disney World brought most of my large family together in one room to share wheat-puff cake and sappy movies.
When cable came to our small town, oh how the choices multiplied! Just like that, our viewing options went from a mere handful of channels to dozens, and a barrage of sitcoms, movies, comedy specials, drama series, world news, you name it, were at our fingertips. It was unbelievable! As years passed and even more networks were added, my affinity for TV increased exponentially. And then, sometime around junior high, the holy grail of technologies happened…
They were called VCRs, and they offered ultimate viewing freedom. Now, I could actually tape a show and watch it anytime. ANYTIME!! Who would have thought?? I could watch anything I wanted, whenever I wanted, without having to wait for it to come on. Even after a day’s broadcasting would end, and there was nothing on TV except bars and tone, I could simply pull out a VHS tape, pop in a pre-recorded program, and voila! I instantly had something else to watch!
Fast forward to today… current TV viewers now have hundreds if not thousands of channels to choose from depending on the digitally-cabled-satellite system a household subscribes to. Which means you can watch TV all day and all night, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It never ends. On top of this, quality no longer seems to matter. TV viewing has become more about quantity. There’s always something on that I can watch, even if it’s something I have no interest in watching.
Funny, but I never realized the full lure of TV – and just how easily it can suck me in – until that snowy Saturday on my couch. It dawned on me that day. I was doing more watching then living.
Around that same time I had come across a story (probably on TV) about an elderly man looking back on his life. When asked if he had regrets, he said one thing he’d do differently was watch less TV, and take in more of life. After all, he explained, life is about making memories, not watching somebody else’s unfold on a screen. So it got me thinking… if I watched two hours of TV each weekday, plus six (or more) hours on the weekend, that added up to 16 (or more) hours each week. Sixteen hours! I started to think about all the things I could do with 16 (or more) hours each week, like painting my bathroom, organizing old boxes of photos, or cleaning out my closets.
I could learn the tarot cards given to me one birthday, lose myself in that book I’ve been meaning to read, take an acrylic painting class, learn to knit or sew, or start studying French again. I could get to work on that first screenplay, finish that first novel that only needs another 50,000 more words to fill its pages, or pick up my dusty acoustic and remind my fingers how to play chords. I could call a colleague, have lunch with a friend, or visit some family. I can take my dog for a walk, or take my body for a run.
When I stop and think about it, life’s “to do” list is virtually endless. But time is not. Time ticks away at the same speed whether you’re living it up on the town, or lying down on the couch. Whether you’re out playing sports, or watching life play out on the screen.
We are each given 24 – and only 24 – hours in a day. How we spend our 24 hours is up to each of us. And, after many months of contemplation since this epiphany, I’ve decided I don’t want to waste anymore of my 24 hours watching the extremes that cheapskates go to, seeing pageant moms put tiaras on toddlers, and witnessing preppers get ready for doomsday. I’m done with all that. And awesome Seinfeld and Family Guy reruns? Well, okay, I suppose I’m (reluctantly) done with those, too.
Starting this week – as of today, in fact – my TV service is CANCELLED. KAPUT. GONE. And I know for sure it’s gone because I tried turning it on just a few hours ago, and all I got was a fuzzy black screen. Black! Not even tone and bars. Just black. There is absolutely nothing there. Nothing. At. All. Yuuup. Shit’s getting real in here…
As I venture forth into the TV-less frontier, which is fuzzy and black, and vast and dark and scary, and completely unknown to me, I’m really not sure what I’m going to do. After all, there are still shows I want to watch, and can’t imagine living without. Quality shows, you know, like The Bachelor, Survivor, Amazing Race, Dragon’s Den, and Shark Tank, to name a few. I also like football games, and PGA golf matches. Come winter time, curling is my absolute favourite thing to take in. So I haven’t quite figured out how I’m going to watch the really important stuff.
What I have already figured out, though, is that I’ll no longer be able to simply flick a switch from the comfort of my couch. From now on, TV viewing is going to take planning. I’ll have to make an effort to watch my shows. I might even have to visit people. People with TVs, of course.
Who knows?? Maybe through this experience I’ll learn to appreciate watching TV again. Back in the good ol’ days, when I was a kid, watching TV was a privilege, not a way of life. It was something to do on occasion, not in place of something else. It was a way to spend some time, not become a huge waster of it. The older I get, the more I realize that time is much too precious to waste. And that’s one of those things you seem to find out when it’s too late.
So, today is my first official day without TV, and I’m trying not to let it freak me out. Because, I’ll be honest, IT IS. Quite a bit.
Instead, I’m choosing to look at the bright side and think about what I’m gaining – not what I’m losing. I’m trying to see today as the first day of the rest of my life, and focus on the fact there is still so much “to do” on my list. And you know what? I’m excited to get started. I really am.
But first… do you mind if I come over for a little while??? I just remembered there’s a show on TV that I really wanted to watch…