A full month has passed since I made the promise to myself to stave off the television shows and the Netflix movie marathons, the documentaries and the infomercials. A full month later and I find that everything has changed. I’m employed, working for the company I’ve dreamed of working with for years, I’ve nearly written 20,000 words of the book that I feel has been living inside of me my entire adult life and I’m completely disconnected from the mindless shows that I used to find myself watching on a daily basis.
Let me be clear. I have nothing against television. I don’t own an actual television, but I watch my share of moving pictures on my computer to compensate for the lack of picture tube in my living room. I have nothing against settling down for the night and watching whatever it is that you watch. Perhaps, for me, giving up television was a control issue. I felt that I was starting to feel bogged down by the things that I wasn’t doing: the writing that I wanted to accomplish, the books that I wanted to read and the guitar that I wanted to play.
I’m the biggest sucker for brain numbing reality television; where I once had taste in more “cultural” or educational forms of television programming, I now find myself absorbed in the strange cultural phenomenon that is the elimination reality show. I’m stimulated by the silly challenges, the pettiness and the fights. I’m fascinated by what humans get worked up about and I’m a sucker for the underdog. And there’s really nothing wrong with this. But when you find yourself in your 30’s eating healthy and living sober, exercising very regularly and meditating daily, you turn to your other bad habits when you want to make a change, and all this time spent watching television was the vice that I wanted to help curb, if even for a month.
The difficulty of this undergoing was staggering actually. It came as a shock to me almost immediately. For someone who has fasted, restricted and restrained almost every substance imaginable, I assumed it would be a breeze to cut our the handful of hours of television that I watched every week. I thought that I wouldn’t miss Netflix and I wouldn’t think twice about the state of the characters and the contestants. I was utterly and completly wrong. I found myself grasping onto conversations on public transit, I found myself living vicariously through others and I found my peripheral vision creeping toward the televisions screens at the gym. I started to feel like I was missing out on somehing. But as the month went on, the overwhelm from the number of episodes piling up of Bob’s Burgers, Girls, The Real World, Project Runway, Face Off and Top Chef soon changed into a kind of freedom. I started to realize that I didn’t care so much about the fate of the narratives or the results of the finales. I started to get things done. I started to read the books that had piled up on my bedside table, I started to pick up my guitar on a daily basis and I started to write more than I have ever written before.
We are tied to the characters in our lives, the archetypes can become fantasy versions of ourselves acting out the lives we wish we were living. Today, I may sit down and start to catch up on all the silly fiction that I find myself so absorbed with, but I feel a little lighter. I thought that a month away may free me completely, but I realize that it’s like anything we give up when we have the intention to return to it. We are faced with the dilemma of attempting to wean ourselves back onto something without binging completely. For those who have ever detoxed, you’ll know how easy it is to retox and indulge in everything that we’ve denied ourselves when the cleanse is finished.
As creatures of habit, we can only hope that we continue to pursue a life more free of addiction and reliance on the things that we feel pull us down and take us out of our happiness, whatever they are. We can only hope that we approach life with a smile on our face and the freedom to choose the path that will ultimately lead us to a more loving and considerate life. I can only hope that the next time I feel bogged down by the buzz of the computer or the vibrating of my smart phone, that I will know enough to just step away and take a few breaths.
Trevor Ellestad is a writer, an herbalist, and an ex-yoga teacher who spends his days creating plant-based magic at Vega. Trevor keeps a tidy home with his partner and their as of yet un-named spider monkey of a kitty cat in Vancouver, BC. At night, Trevor likes to surround himself with plants and obsess over the seemingly simple lives of cats and robots.