Blank Black Canvas

I’m staring at my blank TV screen this evening as I write this reflection. The black rectangular wall-hanging sits there increasingly intrusive in my living room with every click of my keys, but I don’t mind. It has been three weeks since no TV and things are going well! I’ve been able to use this time in the evenings in a variety of ways. There have been some observations of my own behavior during these first three weeks of 2022, in which I’ll share now. 

Some nights, I feel super productive. Examples of productive activities have included but aren’t limited to: going through my kids’ art and also re-categorizing our books.

Other nights, I am not so productive in the organizing or decluttering realm, but at least I am being unproductive while not watching TV. 

I downloaded an Audiobook app and have yet to start listening to any books. What do I do while I listen?

My husband and I have had some great discussions in the evenings. We’ve even traded back rubs and listened to a podcast for a couple nights in a row. 

My daughter created a homework packet for me to complete, which I am very much looking forward to. 

News Flash!!!! Avoidance of hard tasks still exists even without TV. Ugh, I was really hoping this wasn’t the case.  I have progress letters for work due in a little over a week that I have yet to start and I’ve only worked on my personal writing a couple nights this month. I’m finding it’s easy to replace one bad habit with another. 

For example, I find myself scrolling my phone and checking Instagram a lot more often. There have been some nights where I have just spent time on my phone instead of doing anything. But, at least I’m not watching TV, right?

Even in spite of avoidance tactics getting the best of me many nights, I have been Inspired by books I’ve been reading and podcasts I’ve listened to. I’ve listened to some writers, creatives, and entrepreneurs on podcasts who all started out in their journey by doing something consistently.  For many, it was writing. 

Ruth Chou Simons shared on her new podcast that before establishing GraceLaced, she had started out writing in her blog every single night. She said she missed shows like, The Office and Parenthood completely because she was writing. This of course reminded me of the TV shows I might be missing, but this also reminded me of what a gift this time in the evening is to write or create content. Being consistent with writing can lead to more opportunities for creative growth and work.  

These first several weeks are all about feeling out this evening time. I have created this space in my life by taking out TV, which is wonderful! However, I need to be careful. I need to be careful to not let new bad habits replace the old. I need to be careful to not let so-called productive tasks, such as organizing my spice cabinet, turn out to be another avoidance “activity,” keeping me from difficult, creative work. 

I am going to continue looking for what inspires, ignites, and fills me with joy in these forgotten evening hours. Some nights probably will be wasted. Some nights that I might think were a waste, could turn out to be a stepping stone for something greater. 

My husband mentioned to me the other night with the sweetest of intentions, “You can watch TV, you know. You don’t have to do this.” This was a night where I didn’t quite know what to do with myself and was in bed scrolling absentmindedly on my phone. I’m pretty sure I kept interrupting his reading with small talk and sighs of bored discontent. 

“I want to.” I replied assuredly. “I really do.”  I know there’s more. More out there waiting to fill this gift of space and time. I’m trying to figure it out. I’m working on it. 

In the meantime, the TV screen stays off. This blank black canvas hanging on my wall craves to be filled or covered with something meaningful. This new, empty space craves to be used with purpose. 

The question is, what?

2022: The Year of No TV?

I settled on the couch with my favorite blanket and fresh cup of tea, exhaling a sigh of relief knowing the kids were in bed (for the moment at least). After searching for a good minute, I found the remote in it’s failed attempt to hide behind the back cushion. I clicked on the TV and stretched my legs, resting my feet up on the ottoman. 

“Where do I start?” I thought to myself. Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, regular TV (Ha! Yeah right). There were so many choices, almost too many. I settled upon Netflix. Scroll down, down, down. Scroll across, across, across. Seen it, nope, seen it, nope, kid show, kid show, nope, seen it…and on it went. 

“What if we watch no TV in 2022?”

“Huh?!” I stopped my incessant scrolling, and looked bewildered at my husband who was laying with his back up against the corner of our L-shaped couch. “No TV?” I restated bleakly. “You mean like limit the number of days a week or maybe only watch it when something really good is on?”

“No. No TV, period. For the whole year.”

As my mind processed the meaning of this, I quickly jumped to putting a stop to the madness by any means necessary. “What about movies? Sports? Seahawks? Sounders? You know you love the Sounders!” I took a sip of my tea triumphantly. I knew I had him there.

“I’ll listen to them on the radio.” He continued on, “think about how much time we waste every single night. We hardly ever find anything good. I feel dumber just sitting here.” He gestured his hands out and gave a shrug, his shoulders slouching as a representation of how he felt. 

“I’ll think about it.” I responded casually, lifting my blanket higher to cover my shoulders and reconvened the mindless scrolling for something to watch. 

My husband and I love New Year’s goals. We sit down at the end of each year and write a list of goals and what we want to accomplish for the next. “Read 10 books, run 400 miles, eat leftovers instead of throwing them out…” to name a few. Most of them don’t happen or fully come to fruition. But some do. Sometimes they alter throughout the year as our perspective or situation changes. We have a lot of conversations about these goals and why we want to do them. 

Admittedly at first, I was not fully on board with this no TV in 2022 proposal,  but I was very intrigued by the suggestion. I liked the idea of us having a goal together. 

The more I’ve thought about this, no TV goal, the more exhilarated I’ve become. This is a goal in itself that will lead to more likely success of other goals.

I guess it really just comes down to the fact that at the end of the day, most of the time, both Jordan and I feel we have so much more to give. At thirty-seven years old, we don’t feel like calling it in, sitting like a stump in front of the television every night. Most of the time, we can’t find anything to watch anyway, and we end up watching reruns of our favorite shows. 

It used to be that we were so exhausted by the end of the day, it was all we could do to just sit there. It was a different time, the kids were younger, work was harder. But now, honestly most nights I feel I could do more. My mind is still going and my body still has a little steam, but it sometimes feels wasted on the couch. I try to multitask in front of the TV but then I just suck at both things and am not really present in either one.

 If there are nights when we are super exhausted and I know there is and will be, then it’s probably a good night to just go to bed instead of checking out in front of the TV anyway.  

Something you might be wondering, will our kids also have no TV in 2022? The answer is, no. We will not make them participate in this goal with us. We try to limit their TV anyway and we don’t feel it’s right to make them do a goal with us when it’s us who really want to change. This seems like one of those times where leading by example might be more effective than making them give up something because we said so. We will still enjoy our family movie night on Fridays together too! 

Every night though, our kids see us watching TV and I think they’ve grown up thinking that this is what adults do. I really want them to see that this doesn’t have to be the case. There are better ways to spend time in the evenings. If they see us reading, writing, working in the yard (as the summer months lend us more evening light) taking a walk, doing a puzzle, etc., they will realize there is more to life than watching TV each night. I hope they see as human beings, we were created for more. We are meant for more. 

It’s not about what we need to add to our plates this year. It’s about cutting out what is not important. Cutting out what is holding us back from becoming the best version of ourselves. One of my favorite quotes from this past year has been by James Clear, “In many cases, improvement is not about doing more things right, but about doing less things wrong. Don’t look for things to add. Look for things to eliminate.”

I’m so proud of my husband. He has gone a full year without a single drink of alcohol. He did not slip once in 2021.  He did not do it because he had a problem with alcohol, but he did it for many reasons. He wanted to be healthier, more present, more aware, and more engaged. He eliminated something that was a hindrance in his ability to improve and be the best version of himself. 

We are eliminating TV in 2022. We are taking advantage of the time we’ve been given and using it to create something beautiful and find better versions of ourselves. 

I’ll still have my softest blanket and cup of tea with me at the end of the night, but instead of searching for that remote, I’ll have spent my time reading something or learning something. I’ll have moved or done something, I’ll have created something. I’ll have discovered something else that was hiding behind the cushion begging to be found. 

Happy New Year!!!~May you find what lights you up and eliminate what tries to snuff you out.~