I admit it. I am a self-professed TV junkie. I can name all the shows (in order) that were my obsession at one time in life until they were taken off the air:
Sesame Street; The Snorks; The Wide Awake Club (that was a BBC production while I was living in Scotland); The Love Boat; Punky Brewster; Full House; Saved by the Bell; 90210; Melrose Place; Dawson’s Creek; Days of Our Lives; The OC; Grey’s Anatomy; Private Practice; Desperate Housewives (ok, Sesame Street I grew out of and Days . . . well, I grew out of that one too). Grey’s I am a loyal fan and will stick with it until it is over!
(This doesn’t even count any of my Netflix Binges) . . .
Wow. Just sitting down to type this post, it is eye-opening that I can sit down and easily spit this out. In seconds. My fingers can’t type fast enough. And you know what? Remembering each of those shows, I remember the emotional response anticipating them, how I felt about the characters, how I cheered for Zack and Kelly, how over the moon I was when Summer and Seth finally got together, how I went to bed and cried like a baby when McDreamy died. What love story did I love the most? The Pacey and Joey story. Hands down. That one will win every time. Even as I type this, I feel a weird sense of euphoria. What the hell Wendy? You don’t even KNOW these people – they are fictional. They aren’t real. Tell that to the 10 year old little girl who crawled into her mother’s lap bawling my eyes out when they took Punky Brewster off the air.
I didn’t feel shame about my connectivity with television characters until my 20’s. During my fall semester of my 2L year, Dawson’s Creek was playing reruns and I had invested money in a TiVo and every day when class was over, I would hightail it back to my basement apartment and get sucked in to an hour or two of Dawson’s Creek. I would satiate myself in teenage melodrama and feel “whole.” As I explained to my boyfriend at the time, “I feel like they are my friends.” He instantly scoffed at me. While I don’t remember his exact words, I think he told me “that’s just sad Wendy, they aren’t real”. I remember the overwhelming feeling of shame and that something was wrong with me that I felt this connected with television characters.
That didn’t stop my love affair with TV though . . . or how I used it as a pacifier to suck away the hard feelings of the times and lose myself in something else.
I can tell you, with particularity, what each of those shows got me through and allowed me to escape. Being the new kid, being the bored kid, my parent’s divorce, middle school friend drama, strict parents with strict rules, blowing off steam from hard classes and exams, toxic relationships, bad breakups, feeling lonely . . .
Then I discovered Amazon Prime and Netflix. Wow-ee-wow. I could watch ALL the shows and fast. My first ever “binge” series? Lost. I remember waking up early, making a latte (this was before kids) and hunkering down to a morning of nothing but television. From there? Vampire Diaries, Orange is the New Black, and goodness knows what else. I watched them so fast, the emotional commitment wasn’t the same as waiting with anticipation for weeks (and years) on end, but man it felt good while I was immersed in it.
Ok. But Wendy, so what? Why are you telling us this?
Remember the law school boyfriend’s comment about Dawson’s Creek? I carried that little piece of shame for a long time. But I didn’t examine it. I just sat with it and ignored it. But it ate at me. While he was an a$$, I knew that some of my behavior wasn’t so healthy.
Then . . . when my daughter was about 8 months old, I discovered the Good Wife. I also discovered that the ANSWER (ha!) to cope with life, being touched all day by a toddler and a baby, feeling gross in my skin, not fitting into my clothes, feeling exhausted, wrung out was: half a bottle of red wine, Trader Joe’s Crispy Chocolate Chip Cookies, goldfish, all consumed in my bed and watching this show.
I lied to myself and said I needed the oatmeal in the cookies for breast milk production.
I lied to myself and said I needed the wine to unwind.
I lied to myself and said watching the Good Wife made me a better lawyer and more excited to practice the law.
I lied to myself and said that this was good for my marriage, because my husband and I needed time alone (not together) because of all the stress of a 2 year old, baby, and demanding jobs.
So I got sucked into another show, I gained about 10 pounds, my husband and I barely talked, I woke up foggy, I hated getting dressed in the morning . . . and the cycle continued until that show was over!
Ok, Wendy still, where are we going here?
Here is the thing. I still LOVE television. I do. Hubs and I are currently in love with A Million Little Things and This is Us. We fell in love with Schitt’s Creek in 2020 and admittedly used that show to get through the 2020 portion of the pandemic. We still LOVE TV. I am also LOYAL as all get out and still watch Grey’s 16 years later. I think Shonda Rhimes is absolutely BRILLIANT.
Ok, whew! I thought you were going to tell me no more TV and I needed to give it up.
Well . . .
What, Wendy, No!!!!!!!!
Hear me out. I am not telling you to give it up completely. BUT!! I am asking you to ask yourself these questions and get intentional with your time. In NO way am I shaming you . . . I still consider some of those characters I have met along the way “friends” and mentors (once you read the Year of Yes, you might too), but I had to get real with myself:
- Are you watching ______________, because you are escaping something else?
- If you are in love with ______________ show because of the friendships you see portrayed, are you ignoring your actual friends because you rather watch the show?
- If you are in love with the romance story from _________________, how, if at all, is that taking away from your marriage with your spouse? Or, on the other hand, is it helping in a different way? (Shout out to all the 50 Shades of Gray babies, I know not TV, but you get my drift) If the latter, keep watching sister! I am glad it is working for you!
- How much time are you spending on TV? How many hours a night?
- How late are you staying up?
- Are you even liking what you are watching?
- What are you DO-ing while you are watching? Are you drinking? Snacking? Is watching a show for you a whole event like it was for me with the Good Wife? Wine, cookies, goldfish, repeat?
I want you to really ask yourself these questions. I want you to spend the next week taking inventory.
Truth is, I have known for a few years now, that some of my TV habits weren’t serving me. While I have moved from my bedroom to my couch to watch TV with my husband (and not alone), I can tell you the couch + TV = snacking and staying up late = weight gain + less energy. TV every night was not serving me in any way!
This week, I am reading Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo. And BAM the way she put it, the obvious CLICKED for me and helped me to formulate an action plan:
“90 minutes a day watching TV = 54.7 hours a year or 68 full 8-hour workdays
when you could have instead . . .
learned to speak conversational Italian, finished your degree, launched a profitable side business”
That means . . . the time I am giving to the boob tube at night directly TAKES AWAY from my time in the morning to write, read, create, pray, and work on WENDY. You know, the real, living and breathing, non-fictional character with a husband and children to love and be her best for, now a puppy mommy to Bingo, and a family she needs to financially and emotionally contribute to. When I looked at it that way, I decided then and there to cement a change that I have been wishy washy working on for about a year.
I knew I needed less television. I knew I needed to break up with the snacking on my couch. I knew I needed to wash my darn face at night. Silly, I know, but it all goes together.
So, what is the plan?
Look peeps, I still LOVE television. I just have decided to be intentional about watching it and check myself that I am not allowing it to let me “escape” night in and night out. Instead of flopping down on the couch every night, I have declared Thursday night TV night. That night we can catch up on our shows (just 2 right now!). Meaning, on all non-TV nights, when the kids go to bed, I stay upstairs, no TV, wash my face as the kids are brushing their teeth, and go to bed too. (This means no snacking, going to bed early, washing my face = win win win!). Weekends I cut myself some slack, but I usually fall asleep by 9 then too, unless Kirk and I have a “date night in.”
What this means? I am gaining at least 4 mornings per week of clarity, extra time, a good night’s rest, and waking up with no bloat and regret. Those Thursdays I DO watch TV? I am making myself fall in love with the habit of hot tea. All wine does is add a layer to the numb. Why do I want to be double numbed? How is that going to help me meet my goals?
What am I gaining? At least 2 hours x 4 days per week = 8 hours a week = 416 hours per year = a whole work day a week = 17.33 DAYS!!!!!!!! FULL DAYS.
When I look at the choice that way. When YOU look at the choice that way. What is the THING you always wished you had time for? Looking at it this way, can you figure out how to shift your mornings too? Can you figure out how to go to bed earlier, sleep better, wake up earlier, and use that MAGICAL time in the morning when the house is dead quiet?
You can use it to . . .
Just sip your coffee in silence and BE . . . without the hubbub of the world . . . isn’t that worth it?
Talk to me – in what ways have you left TV behind? Where do you struggle? What are you fearful of giving up?