When I was five years old, in 1956, our family got our first television. I have no memory of my parents ever reading books to me, or of me reading books that weren’t required for school. It was just too easy to sit in front of that screen. But at least it was only available until midnight, when the screen went all fuzzy, remember?
“In the past, television, like bars, had a closing time.”—Petula Dvorak, in “Online TV addiction: Man, it’s hard to shake” in The Washington Post (August 29, 2013).
Dvorak goes on to explain how easy it is to stay up all night watching an entire season online. Or with Netflix. Or, in my case, simply by recording all the old re-runs and movies on cable. Even with prime time shows, we record them and watch when we want, sans commercials.
Before my accident, I NEVER watched TV during the day. It just wasn’t something I even considered. I know people who are retired or work from home who talk about watching “Oprah” or “Dr. Phil” or “The Today Show” like these are friends who keep them company while they are alone all day. And some people keep CCN on “in the background” while they are doing other things. I’ve never done that. Since I’ve been writing seriously—for about seven years now—I consider writing my “day job,” and I never even thought about watching TV “at work.” I don’t write at night, when my husband is home, so after dinner, when he gets his laptop out to do more work, I watch my shows. I’m so excited that they are just starting back this week! (Nashville, Parenthood, Scandal, The Good Wife, Law and Order SVU, Grey’s Anatomy….)
But since my accident, I’ve been watching TV during the day, because I haven’t had the physical or mental energy to read, much less write. When my husband leaves for work in the morning and the house is quiet and lonely, I turn on “The Today Show” and listen to my “friends” talk about the news. I eagerly watch to see what Savannah and Natalie are wearing. I fast forward to the 8:30 slot where the Toyota Concert Series artist will be performing. Keith Urban! Yes!
Later I scroll down for old movies and reruns of Law & Order SVU or Criminal Intent and watch for hours. In the comfort of my hospital bed, I can raise and lower the feet and the head when my back, neck or leg is hurting. I can relax my arms on pillows all around me, so I don’t have to strain to hold up a book to read. After spending even an hour sitting up with my laptop, trying to write, I give up and give back into the TV. This has been going on for almost three months, and I think it’s time to make a change.
Last week I got out my novel and re-read the editor’s notes and the chapters I had finished revising just before my accident. I’m anxious to get back to work on the revisions, but I need to spread out the pages on our breakfast room table and move my lap top in there so I can work on hard copy and the computer at the same time. It’s going to be a huge mental and physical feat, and I’m worried about whether or not I’m ready for it. I used to write for 3-4 hours at a time with hardly a break. Now I need to take breaks every 45 minutes or so. It’s going to be hard. And it’s going to take a lot of discipline to turn off the TV and get out of the bed.
Our gorgeous fall weather this past weekend helped. I got out to a couple of fun events, which lifted my spirits. And at home, I can wheel my chair to the door and sit with the breeze blowing on my face while I sip on a cup of coffee. This morning a friend called and came by with a cappuccino from the little coffee shop around the corner. She brought in our paper, put out my mail, and visited with me. I continue to be surprised and blessed by these gifts of friendship, but I can’t wait until I can walk out that door and down to the river to watch the sunset! And drive a car again!
Meanwhile, I know it’s going to take old-fashioned self-control to turn that TV off and get back to work. Maybe an hour today. And two hours tomorrow. Baby steps. Here goes….