Sunday, June 24, 2012

4 Weeks Down! Accomplishments & Annoyances

Four Sundays ago, I began the challenge to get my buns off the couch and become a more interesting person. If you've read previous entries, you know I intend to continue for another 11 months!

Let's celebrate and recap the top 10 (in no particular order) of what I've accomplished to date without TV:

  1. Planted a garden
  2. Started a lasagna garden
  3. Cleared the backyard of weeds (more hubby than me, but I helped.)
  4. Began taking Rosetta Stone French Courses
  5. Started my training for Couch Potato to 5k (I'll be running my first 5k ever in September!)
  6. Published a book & Edited half a book
  7. Read 13 books & Reviewed most of them on Goodreads
  8. Volunteered at the Arts Festival
  9. Volunteered weekly at the Farmer's Market
  10. Re-potted all my houseplants

This in addition to things I was doing before, like writing blogs for pay, doing yoga, visiting with friends/family, our annual garage sale, etc.

Overall, I feel like I'm respecting and keeping to the goal. I don't know that I'm a more interesting person, but I'm opening myself up to more interesting experiences! Case in point:

I practice yoga with my friend Kate. We both have packages at a local studio, and we enjoy doing evening yoga once a week on Wednesdays together. Some weeks, we slack - especially lately because I've been devoting a lot of time to yard work and she's been doing a lot of running/training. When we do our yoga like good girls, we sometimes follow it with a drink or two at the nearby bar, catching up in loud voices over the sounds of bad karaoke. It's known to us as detox/retox. We don't always "retox", and admittedly, I don't usually like to stay out too late when we do. My routine used to be to come home and watch my DVR'd shows before bed because Wednesdays was "good TV night" - i.e., Survivor, Idol and Harry's Law nights.

This past Wednesday was a little different. After yoga, as we packed up our things and slipped on our shoes, Kate asked if we were retoxing. I was tired and tempted to go home and veg. Then I remembered - there is no vegging anymore. Without a TV to run home to, there was really no hurry. And I could really stay out as late as I wanted and not think once, even for a second, about what I might be missing. As a side note, I've been trying to think of my TV Free challenge as a sort of "Yes Man" challenge. If you've seen the movie "Yes Man" with Jim Carrey, the theme of the movie is that the main character has to say yes to every opportunity, which is problematic sometimes, but in general, leads to a series of hijinks that take him to a much more interesting, varied life. So, when I thought about retoxing that night, I thought about my goal to embrace life more. To stop being a couch potato and be more social. It would be against everything I'm trying to do to go home and read a book when I could enjoy the company of my best friend. In this situation, that would have been just as bad as going home and clicking on the TV. It went against the spirit of this adventure.

As our yoga instructors were on their way out, I spontaneously asked if they wanted to join us for a drink. They told us they were in fact planning to get a drink at a different place than where we were intending to go, but were happy to enjoy together. We shrugged and said SURE, wherever they were going, we were game!

We ended up at a brewery around the corner that we'd been to before but never knew had outdoor seating off the back alley. There was an outside grotto hidden from the general sports bar atmosphere, lit with white strings of lights and filled with little tables for couples and foursomes. Lucky for us, our instructors knew about the hidden seating and led us back there right away. It was 97 degrees that day, but now it was cooling off with the sun down, and it was a lovely evening for a drink outdoors. As an added bonus, when we got to the patio, there was a fun, blues/jazz band playing. Next thing we knew, we were grooving to great music at the front table, toasting with the band members, listening to the sax players, trumpeters and cello dudes shouting and encouraging each other in their solos, tipping back some beers with people we never hang out with...I even got a little serenade from the band's singer, and we enjoyed the music so much, we bought CDs. We didn't care that we were messy from yoga and the four of us were still in our yoga attire. Or that it was late on a weeknight. This was the place to be.

It's possible I would have had the same experience, even if I hadn't given up TV. But somehow, it didn't feel like it at the time, nor does it now. It feels like I was where I was supposed to be at that moment, and it was a result of the decision to change my life. I pledge to myself and to whomever might be reading to continue to try new things. This experiment isn't just about not watching the television, it's about doing new things that I haven't tried because my spare time was going to that one activity.

Included in the above benefits, the retox being one example, I notice that there are things I'm NOT missing at all about TV:
  • Any commercials
  • Political Ads
  • Things that make me worry about my self-image (sexy ads, sexy people, etc)
  • Things that make me worry I'm not active enough (like Nike commercials)
  • Things that make me eat more (food commercials, TV shows about making food)

There are a few things I DO miss:
  • The news. I feel out of the loop a bit, even with reading Internet and print news.
  • Crafty shows (on occasion, these shows actually inspired me to get up and do something)
  • Knowing what people are talking about in pop culture. Already, I'm starting to feel left out of a few conversations. Nightly shows like TMZ or Jimmy Fallon kept me up on the latest entertainment news!
  • Humor (listening to music/radio or reading a book doesn't tend to make me laugh out loud like a funny sitcom could do!)
  • The zone out factor - you can't zone out with many things like you can with TV.

A few final notes regarding reactions of friends and family. Though no one comments much on this blog here on blogspot, I usually post my entries on Facebook, and friends do tend to respond there. I have to say that I'm sometimes disappointed/annoyed at how some people sort of passively burst my bubble. I'll post an achievement, and they'll post something about how long it's been since they've watched TV or how rarely they watch TV. I know in reality that these people are my friends and they are trying to be supportive, like, "hey, I know what you're going through. I did it too." What it comes off as sometimes is what I'm doing isn't that big of a deal. The comment is usually accompanied by something like "I didn't miss it a bit." Perhaps it wasn't a big deal TO THEM. But I feel like they don't understand how critical it is to me. I'm fairly certain some of them haven't even read this blog, just seen my posts that I've stopped watching TV. Do they know where I started?

If you met an alcoholic who said she was 30 days sober, would your first reply be "Oh I never drink" or "Oh, I haven't had a drink in YEARS" or "Oh, you were an alcoholic for 20 years and gave it up cold turkey? Nice! I gave it up for Lent once. So I know exactly how you feel!"

One person in particular told me that they gave up TV for a period of time when they were a kid and didn't have a TV and didn't miss it at all after a month. I think they said when they were 7 years old. My first thought was seriously? At seven years old, how much of TV was a life-long, ingrained routine for you?? I'm sure it's much harder for an adult who's come to use it as an emotional crutch for stress-relief! My second thought was Hmm, how much time did I spend watching TV when I was 7? The answer that came was that I didn't watch a fraction of the TV I watched as an adult - I would have been outside playing until the streetlights came on at seven years old. Maybe a little TV after dinner and after my bath and cartoons on Saturday mornings, but I didn't grow up in a home with the TV on 24/7. My third thought was I could give up TV real easy too if my parents took it away. Much harder to exercise your own self control! So basically, when I really thought about the comment, I was annoyed. I probably shouldn't have been. Folks are just posting a quick comment. Little do they know I'm sitting there analyzing it and taking it personally.

The other thing I notice is that people haven't read my RULES for this challenge, so without any information, they want to call me out on stuff. I posted that today my hubby and I celebrated 4 weeks TV-free with a trip to the movies. I received 5 inbox messages from friends calling me a cheater in one form or another. Isn't that TV, they ask? I know I can't expect everyone to be up to date on this challenge, but I'm very proud of the fact that I'm not cheating. I'm not bending the rules. I've made a huge change in my life (and my husband has by extension as well). I'm NOT eliminating every bit of entertainment in my life. I'm simply not watching the television set. I can only wonder why anyone feels compelled to try to "catch me" cheating. Give me a little credit to know the difference between a date night at the movies and watching 8 hours straight of Law & Order.

I suppose the only way to avoid these little annoyances is to simply do the challenge and stop talking about it. But that seems unfair to me - as I should be able to celebrate the fun I'm having - and to anyone who is actually following this blog and is somehow inspired by it. So I will endeavor to see the positive and try to remember that if anyone is taking the time to respond at all, it is because he or she is making an effort to show interest. I should be happy anyone reads my damn posts at all!


  1. I was going to say '1 down, 11 more to go', but I really do think this will be the start of a lifelong change for us - not the complete elimination of watching television, but an effort to 'live' more life, instead of 'watching' it. Glad I can share it with you, including getting your perspective from these blogs.

  2. I agree! Maybe after a year we'll get the HD antenna going just for news and PBS, but I think we're doing good without TV in general. At this moment, I agree that it will be a lifelong thing. And I'm so glad we're doing this together. I couldn't do it without you. If you hadn't been willing to give it up, even though YOU didn't have a problem with too much TV, I'd be where I was a month ago - like you said, watching life.

  3. I don't know how you're getting through, but keep on it, Jenn! Summertime seems like a perfect time to start, though (although missing Big Brother would be tough). If you're in need for some "Social Time" with some friends, I know a friendly couple who would love to meet you and sloddo for some brews/wine at a local spot one evening. Keep it up, and good luck with the Couch-to-5K program!

  4. Thanks for the support, Chris! The Couch-to-5k is slow going, but I guess slow and steady wins the race, right? :)

    Would love to get together for some brews and wine with that friendly couple! (I could use some advice from runners, too!)