I haven’t told W, but I’ve sworn off television for the month of July.
Actually, we don’t have TV, per se. We have high speed internet and Netflix and all the free shows that affords a person, which turns out to be enough access to waste a good deal of time and destroy a vast quantity of gray matter.
I turned off the cable a couple years ago because I decided I had a problem. It’s embarrassing to admit that as writer, reader, and outdoors-woman, I use television to try to escape my anxiety. I stay away from the screen happily if I am outside or with friends, but back in our house, as evening approaches, I can’t resist the thrill of crime drama sucking me in. Inevitably, when the show is over, I feel worse than before. Everything I am worried about and every task I have to get done is still nagging at me, but I have an hour less to do something about it. So I watch another episode and don’t think about it for another hour.
Finally I admitted I couldn’t be trusted to watch a “reasonable amount” of television any more than an alcoholic could be expected to drink moderately. I called the cable company and told them to pull the plug.
I was doing well for six months or maybe a year when I found TV on the internet and my resolve crumbled. I credit W for helping me out in many important ways, but when it comes to boob tube, he’s no help at all. He found the connecting cord online, RCA to Mac, that makes my laptop play episodes of CSI, Burn Notice, and Psych on our television set. When it’s time to eat dinner, he wants to know what we’re going to watch.
Maybe there’s something wrong with our relationship that we can’t sit down and talk over dinner like my parents and I always did when I was growing up. On the other hand, we’re both home together all day.
But this isn’t why I haven’t told W about my secret resolution. The reason is that I’ve told him I was going to stop watching TV too many times. Even saying it aloud would sound hollow. Plus, I am aware that since I got back from my MFA residency, I’ve been spouting plans and schemes in such a frenzy that yesterday, mid-sentence I stopped because I noticed W was staring at me open-mouthed. “What?” I said.
“Take a breath,” he said. Apparently I was speaking in run-on sentences with no pauses for air. When I’m in a mood like this, I feel the need to start new projects and make resolutions the way normal people feel the need to pee after drinking a gallon of liquid.
My therapist says if she wanted to “pathologize,” she’d call this a manic state but maybe I’m just “up” and that’s okay. It’s an observation that’s also a question. “Hypo-manic,” I’m quick to amend, since we both agree this is not full-blown excessive spending, grandiose thinking, up all night mania. If this is mania, it’s the mild cousin of the sometimes dangerous upswing in the more severe bipolar disorder, which I don’t have.
Whatever you want to call it, it feels kind of good. And in this frame of mind I decided that to try to go a whole month without watching television. So far, I’ve made it one day. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tell W.