Today I am taking care of a very sick puppy. Some kind of stomach bug. You really don’t want any more details than that, I promise.
Because of poor sick puppy, as well as a busy week at work coming up with no time for a TV day during the week, I’m making today my “TV day” for next week. (As you may remember, I gave up TV for 40 days of Lent, choosing one day per week as my “TV day.”) When I sit still, Pal lays down. When I get up, he gets up and follows me. When I am not here, or when I go into my bedroom and shut the door, he doesn’t drink much water or eat anything, and he doesn’t rest very well when I shut him out of my room at night, which I have been doing while he is sick. He desperately needs to rest and drink water, and watching some movies will make me more able to sit still today, and stay in the same room as Pal without going too stir-crazy. Result=I sit still, happily engrossed in movies I enjoy, and Pal will rest and drink water. I hope. So far, so good, anyway.
So, I thought it was about time to talk about how this is going. In the beginning, I was really enjoying the peaceful feelings brought about by weeknights without TV. For the past two weeks or so, I have occasionally experienced some serious temptation to break my goal. The novelty of the peaceful TV-free zone has worn off, and my temptation moments have clarified why I like watching TV, and that clarity has allowed me to evaluate for what reasons I should enjoy watching TV, and for what reasons I should find a better solution to the desire.
There are two different reasons that generally draw me to watch TV. The first reason is that I’m interested in the story. I like the movie, or I like the TV show, and I want to know what happens. Or I’m inspired by the characters in some way. It could be something I’ve never seen before, or it could be watching something again. I’m watching because of the story and the characters. When I watch TV or movies with people, this is the only way I watch. Honestly, it’s the strangest thing, but if other people are in the room and I’ve lost interest in the story, I will start talking, find something to do with my hands like knitting, get my phone and dink around on Facebook, get up and go do the dishes, something. I don’t “zone out” when I’m watching TV or movies with other people.
Which brings me to the second reason that draws me to the TV. Zoning out. Escape. “Calgon, take me away.” If only a bubble bath had this power. 🙂 I’m tired, or overwhelmed, or stressed, or hurting. Or sick. Whatever I’m feeling, I don’t want to feel it right now. Or, whatever I have to do, I don’t want to do it. I just want time to pass quickly and painlessly. I want to escape being present in my life for awhile. When other people are around, I never desire to escape in this way, probably because even if I am overwhelmed/sad/stressed, I am a little bit distracted from those feelings by the others. When I’m home alone, I have nothing to distract me from myself. When I watch episode after episode of something I’m not interested in, when I stay up too late watching TV, when I am “in the mood to watch TV” in general, as opposed to desiring to watch a particular movie or show, I’m watching TV as an escape.
And let me tell you, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that when I am sick. When you’re seriously sick you should be either sleeping or resting comfortably, and laying miserably in silence with nothing to pay attention to except your symptoms is NOT resting comfortably. When you’re seriously sick, you should do whatever you can to make yourself feel better. Many a stomach virus, as well as a few bouts of influenza, have been endured by episodes of Friends, Dharma & Greg, and Disney channel sitcoms! 🙂
But, I am in the habit of watching TV or movies simply to zone out from feeling bored or overwhelmed. Two ends of the spectrum of life that both need to be dealt with. During this TV fast, I have, perhaps for the first time, experienced being fully present in moments of solitude, both when everything is great and when it’s not so great. And I have experienced something which I cognitively knew already: Nothing good comes from escaping those feelings of when things aren’t going so well. They come back again. However, if you sit with those feelings, ride their course, feel their rise and fall…like a fire, they will burn out.
Also, just as I had hoped, I have experienced what happens when I run to God instead of to an escape. He doesn’t take the feelings away. He gives me a new strength to endure them, a new hope for their temporary presence, and a new vision for the purpose of the experience, unknown though it may be.
Right now, I am speaking of the day-to-day trials that come with life in general. When I don’t get enough sleep. When several unexpected problems arise at work. When it feels that there is too much to do and too little time. When the laundry is piling up. When the budget is tight. When the schedule is tight.
When the dog is sick. 🙂
But life being what it is, I know more serious trials will come. And if, when those times come, I use them as an excuse to escape into something, nothing good will come of them. If I pick them up and run to God, endure them, ride them out, let them fulfill their unknown purpose in my life, EVERYTHING good will come of them.