Thoughts, Ideas and Inspiration by Melissa Earley

Tag: TV

Taking the TV to the Basement

I’ve put my tv in the basement. I’m giving it up for the summer. Like Lent, but with better weather. Summer seems a good time to me to make a fresh start. When everything’s green and the days are long and the thick warm air reaches out with its long humid fingers and grabs hold of the tail of your shirt and begs you to just slow down a little.

When my friend came over to help me move my tv to the dank, dark basement where I wouldn’t be tempted to plug it in and just watch one show, I told her that I wasn’t deciding to give it up for all time, just for the summe, for a summer sabbath. It’s not that tv’s bad. It’s just bad for me. I come home from an evening of meetings and watch a show to unwind before bed. And then I watch another. And another. I fall asleep in front of the tv only to wake up at 1:30 in the morning and have to let my dog out and then I go up to bed and am unable to sleep. I watch tv when I’m blue or bored or angry. It’s my drug of choice. 

Instead of starting a load of laundry or emptying the dishwasher or writing thank you notes, I’ll sit down in front of the tv. But when I’ve thought of tv as something that gets in the way of my productivity I haven’t been motivated to change. We all need ways to unwind. 

Sabbath is God’s gift to affirm that life is about more than we get done. Sabbath is about renewal not numbing. It’s about unplugging not disengaging. Letting down, not numbing out. 

It’s been a week without tv – so far so good. It hasn’t been terrible. The other night I came home after a long day of meetings. I looked toward the empty corner where my tv used to be. Instead of turning it on and losing myself in the flashing scenes, I sat with my arm around my dog and breathed.

Josh and Toby Are My Friends

I sat with three girl friends at a table with a white cloth in a casual bistro in Chicago. We mopped spiced olive oil with our French bread and sipped cabernet sauvignon. Our conversation sparkled as much as the glassware. We had been too busy to see each other in months. We talked about new boyfriends, ending of marriages, career aspirations and concerns for a child with such severe learning disabilities. Our conversation was peppered with silence as we all stared slack jawed at the TV’s flickering around the room.

“I’m working on Orange is the New Black,” one friend said, refilling her wine glass.

“I’m behind on Mad Men,” said another.

“I’ve finally finished that,” said the third.

“Don’t you dare tell me what happens. I’m really going to buckle down and get it done on Saturday.”

“I thought you and Ben were going to go away for the weekend?” I asked.

She waved a hand. “Can’t. We just have too much to do.”

We compared notes on Downton Abbey – Is it at all possible will Mr. Carson throw off Mrs. Hughes to run off with Mary, we know he loves her? Or will Lady Edith finally stab Lady Mary with one of the dozen pieces of flatware on the table? Will they get a new dog? Please let them get a new dog. The couple at the table next to us joined in on the conversation. TV creates community.

We may sit alone in homes to watch our favorite show, but what would we talk about with co-workers if it wasn’t for Dancing With the Stars? When a parishioner learned that I had tried to watch Breaking Bad but just couldn’t get into it, I though she was going to leave the church. But then we found common ground on House of Cards. Now, when I want to connect her with during a finance meeting all I have to do is say, “tap, tap.”

Television critics would say that there are novels that haven’t been written, orchestras not composed, paintings not painted, and inventions not invented because we are all sitting in front of the “boob tube,” as my parents called it. I don’t know what they are talking about. I get a lot done watching TV. I flip homes, rehabilitate dogs, negotiate peace treaties and cook beef bourguignon to rival Julie Child’s — all from the comfort of my big yellow chair while sipping hot buttered rum.

Two years ago I cancelled cable to save money and to curb my addiction to the small screen. Now instead of being tied to the TV in my den, I carry my Ipad from room to room and watch whatever is streaming on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon. Actually I don’t watch “whatever is streaming.” I watch West Wing over and over. CJ and Josh are among my best friends, and I turn to Leo for my therapy. I occasionally switch to MASH, which brings back memories of sitting in the red chair in our living room. My mother was in her corner of the couch, my father asleep on the other end. And our dog lay between them. Her farts were so potent we would banish her to the outside, but by then the damage was done.

I try to give up TV periodically. I make deals with myself. I can only watch when the sun goes down. Or I can only watch on my day off. I can watch one hour a day during the week, but only if I work out. Instead of spending time with people on the small screen, I imagine spending time with friends.

This year’s Lenten TV fast lasted all of 2 minutes. I missed Josh and Toby.

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