SansLux » Week 1: Giving Up Cable Television An Experiment in Living Without Mon, 05 Apr 2010 07:08:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Week 1, Epilogue: Cutting the Cord Mon, 21 Sep 2009 17:22:21 +0000 It’s been an interesting week.  Removing the television as a constant media backdrop to my time at home has meant the following:

  1. Because I’m far less likely to ignore a film I’ve paid money to view, I’ve had to actually relax when I relax and genuinely engage with it.
  2. Because I am far more selective with my choices when I am paying for a film, the quality of my media intake has improved greatly.  In the last week I have watched only three things:  A documentary on Sudanese refugees, an animated short about a young girl growing up in Iran and the global warming documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
  3. Having removed a constant distraction, my brain has been more fully able to engage with my tasks at hand – as a result, I have been more productive, more creative and had more time to truly rest as I’ve been able to get through my work faster.
  4. I’ve also read a book and a half — a thing I’ve not done in a week in as long as I can remember!

So, the verdict is, while there are downsides to not having immediate access to television news, and while I will miss the whitenoise on some level, I am giving up Cable Television permanently.  The benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

I’m holding off for one week on starting my next challenge, as I have been struck down by the CRUD and won’t be able to give it the concerted effort it deserves.  Next week: Cosmetics.  Which I suspect will be more challenging than it appears.

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Week 1, Day 5: Mind-Candy Detox Fri, 18 Sep 2009 04:15:52 +0000 Today was a busy day. It was go-go-go from dawn to dark; phone calls, emails, meetings, a swing by the printer to pick up new business cards, an exceptionally hard gym workout, a second shower, stuffing something with nutrients in my face, and then off to attend a conference my new business was sponsoring.  Two full-time jobs is exhilirating, but not all that restful and as the day drew to a close I found that all I wanted in the world was to watch my usual two back-to-back episodes of the Family Guy and pass out.

I eyeballed my Netflix envelope and realized that I’d ordered a documentary on Charles Bukowski — That wasn’t gonna cut it. Let’s be honest, nothing about Bukowski is restful.

I seriously considered flubbing it and grabbing the remote, but then I remembered that my commitment to this isn’t for other people. It’s for me. My motto of late is: “Moment, or Lifetime?”  I like this motto because it doesn’t imply judgment, per se.  It simply asks a question — and it’s perfectly acceptable, of course, to have a moment-moment.  But at least remembering to ask the question makes me cognizant of the fact that there is a bigger picture to be considered — a fact which is genuinely easy to forget. As my fingers twitched in my lap, I asked myself again:  Moment, or Lifetime?  Zone out, or sally forth? And sally, I did.

Tonight, I think, is early to bed with book in hand.  No glow-boxes of any variety.

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Week 1, Day 3: White Noise Wed, 16 Sep 2009 04:56:23 +0000 Truth is, I’m not missing TV all that much this week.  In fact, I struggled a bit to think of something to write about tonight.  Save for the fact that I’m mourning my unholy addiction to Family Guy and  yesterday’s brief run-in with pop-culture isolation, it’s really not all that different.  I don’t really watch TV when I’m watching TV. I mentioned I’d had that disc of Persepolis for nearly two months, but I also had three other discs right along with it.  It wasn’t just that Persepolis was subtitled, it was that I don’t really see the point in putting in a DVD I paid for when I won’t truly be watching it. And that tells you how often I actually stop to give my full attention to, well, anything.

I have a full-time day job, a new business that’s just as much work (if not more), a girlfriend in another country with an eight hour time difference, a loving social circle that I want to make time for, and about 438 things on my To-Do list in any given moment.  This all adds up to a near-moral imperative to consistently be DOING SOMETHING – preferably multiple somethings.  So if I’m watching TV, I’m also folding laundry, or paying bills, or typing away on my computer.  And if I’m listening to music, I’m also limping along on the treadmill, or washing dishes, or typing away on my computer. And if I’m reading a book, well — I don’t really read many books because you can’t do that and also type away at your computer.

So here’s what made me decide that I actually had something to blog about tonight:  Quiet.

Also, focus.  And relaxation.

This week, given my only real options for visual media are DVDs or streaming video online, multi-tasking in the way that I’m used to is not possible.  I can’t watch Southpark episodes on my computer and answer emails at the same time, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to virtually ignore a movie I, essentially, paid $14 to rent (by not sending it back to Netflix for two months.)  This means I have to actually make a conscious choice between working and relaxing. There’s no more unproductive mishmash of the two — where there’s just enough relaxation to keep you from working effectively, and just enough work to keep you from benefiting from the relaxation.  This week, I’m either working, or I’m not.

And I tell you what — I’m not getting a whole lot done this week.   Turns out I’m tired.  Who knew?  I have been quite literally exhausted since I popped Persepolis into the DVD player on Sunday evening and laid down on my couch.  With the white noise silenced and the focus narrowed, the realization that I’ve not stopped to grant myself true relaxation on anywhere near a regular level for, well, as long as I can remember — has crash-landed me right on my ass.

I watched the DVD of “An Inconvenient Truth” tonight, which I’ve been meaning to watch since, oh, 2005.  It kind of made me want to stab myself in the face — but it also reminded me that I’m not paying attention. In trying to catch everything, I’m missing most of it.

It’s time to slow down. I can still do everything I need to get done — in fact, I can do it better, more effectively and with more focus — if I also grant myself permission to fully relax.  No more white noise.

I really do like this week.

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Week 1, Day 2: The Last to Know Tue, 15 Sep 2009 05:58:17 +0000 At 6:30, I was just wrapping up my workday and heading out for dinner with a friend when the following IM exchange began:

Friend: “Did you hear about the murder over here at Yale? I think it’s been all over the news.”
Me: “No! I’m not watching TV this week. What happened?”
Friend: “My friend in Austria heard about it…”

It was a bit disconcerting to have the person that was impacted by the bad thing be the one telling me that it happened.  Any other week, I’d likely have heard about it already and had been on the phone to her making sure that she was OK.  Being taken out of the loop of friendship/support by virtue of not watching the news was a bit of a shocker.  Also, apparently Patrick Swayze kicked the bucket. Who knew? (Well, everyone but me – it seemed.)

This made me think about another friend of mine who had surgery and was barely conscious for about two weeks after 9/11.  Her lack of involvement in the media frenzy to follow has provided for a fairly fascinating outsider experience.  She missed the shock of the moment of impact, the confusing hours of not knowing what was happening, the terror and the panic — and she missed the wide-eyed societal bonding that came to pass over the weeks that followed as we all sat glued to our respective TV Sets, soaking in the graphic images and the endless hours of repetitive journalism.  Of course, she’s seen the images now, and heard others’ experiences, but not having been present in the actual moment means she’ll never really know that sort of connection with the folks who did. It also gives her a different viewpoint, and an innate objectivity about the political ramifications that were to follow.

Granted, my missing a celebrity death and a campus murder are not even remotely to scale with the enormous shared experience that was 9/11 — but it’s interesting to think about what a life without instant access to developing news actually means for a person in terms of relatability on a daily basis.  This continues to be an interesting week.

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Week 1, Day 1: Multi-Task Fail Mon, 14 Sep 2009 05:49:10 +0000 I’m not one to do things the way they’re supposed to be done, which is why my Spring Cleaning frenzy usually hits mid-September.  This weekend was THE WEEKEND, and after two full days of hauling, organizing, mincing away from spiders, and stifling my gag reflex at the Metro Dump, my body and brain were crying out for some mindless distraction (and a very long shower.)

After any projects or social plans of the day are over, my average Sunday evening looks like this:

Step 1: Turn on TV for background noise.
Step 2:
Microwave something effortless, vaguely edible, and of questionable nutritional value.
Step 3:
Plop down in front of computer with plate and remote control and attempt to enjoy all three, save for the fact that each distracts me from the other to such a degree that I go to bed wondering where the last few hours of my weekend went and why I feel like I missed something.

Case in point, I have had the DVD of Persepolis (a subtitled, animated exploration of the life of an Iranian woman) from Netflix for over two months, simply because I can’t read a movie and update my Twitter status at the same time. Thinking about that today made it obvious that I have been leading a quantity-not-quality media lifestyle.  I decided to challenge all three usual steps outlined above by leaving my computer on my desk, making a meal that took some effort and watching a movie that made me work for it.

As I diced vegetables, picked spices and started cooking – all absent the comfortable background noise of an unwatched TV – I noticed a strange and unusual feeling creeping over me: Calm.  I was focusing on what I was doing, and not straining with one ear to make out who killed Kenny (the bastards!) The hum of the fan in the window and the sizzling of the food on the grill and even the barking of that goddamn dog across the street were oddly relaxing.  As I sat down with my delicious meal and started the movie without eyeballing my computer to see if I needed to respond to a client email, I noticed that the food tasted better, and my brain was more engaged on a creative level.  It was a slight change, but a radical one nonetheless.

I stopped the movie to clean up the dinner dishes, and I took some time to write an email or two and then I flopped down on the couch and did the un-thinkable:  I watched a movie, by myself, and did NOTHING ELSE.  And you know what? It was a great movie, and I was completely relaxed. Full of good food I remember eating, full of memories of the beautifully animated details of this well-crafted film and ready to spend the remainder of my evening quietly focused on work, writing this blog and readying myself for my Monday.

I think I’m going to like this week.

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Week 1, Prologue: Cable Television Sun, 13 Sep 2009 07:15:31 +0000 As I begin this post, I am 20 minutes away from the first day of the SansLux challenge.  Initially, I decided to give up Cable Television because it seemed like a gentle way to launch what I can only assume will become a progressively more irksome and challenging experiment.  But as the minutes tick down, I’m realizing how comforting it is to let “Saturday Night Live” be typically unfunny and how, even with the television muted for reprieve, I am somehow comforted by its hum and glow.

As a typical Latchkey Kid, cable was my babysitter and melodramatic best friend.  Every afternoon after school, Cable was there to fill the disconcerting quiet of an empty home, or to drown the voices of shouting adults, or to distract from the loneliness of a nomadic childhood.  It didn’t argue, it didn’t tease – it just showed up like I knew it would when I flicked on that button – safe, predictable and sedating.

Through the years I have watched cable with decreasing frequency, limiting myself to a few specific shows and avoiding getting caught up in the latest series.  I’ve become less and less invested in pop culture and more involved in activism and self-exploration. But through it all, I have never given up cable and I have never challenged myself to stop using TV as a way to fill the silence in my life.  For years, I even slept with the TV on each night that I slept alone.  I stopped that habit a few months ago, and now it’s time to see what life is like without cable at all.

CHALLENGE: 1 Week without cable television.

EXCEPTIONS: DVDs/Streaming Episodes are OK.  I can watch cable if invited to friends’ homes, or if it’s on screens in public places. The objective is not to be anti-social or punitive, but to remove immediate access and instant gratification.

*click*  Off it goes.

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