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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Screen Time: Why I (Finally) Got Rid of My Television

Anti-anxiety Tool of the Week: Get outside.

Remember sunshine? Remember vitamin D? Remember the healing power of nature when our souls are disturbed? Check out this wonderful poem by Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things." Then take a walk with a friend. Or climb a tree. Or just sit on a bench in a garden.

Screen Time

Back in August, in my post entitled Easily Amused, I talked about what Lawrence and I do instead of watching TV.

What I did not talk about was why I, at least, made the choice to be TV-free. Here's that story.

The first (conscious) beginnings came during my nursing school days. I lived alone, so usually as I fixed supper I would bring my little portable TV into the kitchen and put it up on the bar-like counter so I could watch. Which wasn't unreasonable. But did I admit to myself that while I was eating I was going to watch another show, and therefore bring the TV out to the living room where I could sit comfortably? Nooooh, not me. Instead I sat down on the cold, hard floor of my tiny kitchen and craned my neck to look up at the screen while I ate.

With the typical bass-ackward logic of an addict, somehow not taking the TV into the living room meant I could deny that I needed to watch it. (Wait...what?) And I stayed there, not needing to watch at least one more program, and usually several. On the cold hard floor.

TV became one of my main modes of procrastination during my time in nursing school. You should know that for years, getting good grades had been a high priority for me. But in nursing school I procrastinated so much that I missed the due date for several papers, which dropped my grade for the papers by a full letter for each day they were late, which dropped my grades for those classes a few points. And therefore dropped my grade point average. I just missed getting highest honors when I graduated. I made a few calculations and realized that while my actual work had been good enough in and of itself to get top grades, my procrastination, much of it due watching TV, had kept me from getting highest honors in the end. That embarrassed me. And made me grumpy. But did I cut back on TV? Heck no!

The capstone came one afternoon after I had graduated and was a "real nurse." I was out on the maternity floor just after my shift started, checking up on my patients, taking vital signs, etc. I loved supporting and honoring and teaching those new moms and dads, loved caring for them and for their babies. I was honored to be a part of the holiness of those new relationships.

I greeted one young mom who was lying in bed watching the small TV suspended over her bed on a flexible arm. I wrapped the blood pressure cuff around her upper arm, put my stethoscope in the proper place and began to pump up the cuff. My eyes strayed to the screen in front of me--and uh-oh! Whatever it was she had on that afternoon pulled me right in. I completely lost touch with the present moment. But my right hand kept up the normal routine for that kind of situation. Which was to pump. So it kept pumping. And pumping. And pumping.

Suddenly I woke up to what I was doing and looked down, horrified. I had pumped that cuff all the way up to 240 psi. You've had your blood pressure taken. You know it can get pretty uncomfortable sometimes before the nurse releases the valve. Around 150 it begins to feel rather disagreeable, though tolerable. At 200 it hurts! And at 240? I blanch to think what that felt like!

In a panic I fumbled to release the valve, gasping apologies to the woman, who had not said a word.

"I'm so sorry! I'm so sorry!" I stammered, turning bright red. "That must have really hurt!"

She nodded, a very slight smile on her face. I was mortified. But I couldn't help asking: "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Oh, I was getting ready to," she said calmly.

That's all she said. In some ways I think I might have felt better if she had yelled at me. I was grateful I had made the slip with a healthy young woman and not someone who was more fragile or already hurting. But still, a mom who has very recently come through labor and birth does not need any more pain! And it's true, no long term harm was done. But I was pretty ashamed.

Some part of me had known I was in denial when I sat on that cold kitchen floor. But I denied my denial. And I knew that my TV-watching brand of procrastination had kept me from an honor I deserved. And then this little episode--getting lost in TV-land and potentially harming a patient.

I had to face it, I was an addict. Half measures would avail me nothing. And that, folks, is why I don't have a TV.

Sometimes I miss it--when I am really tired and really bored, or sick, I'll self-mockingly whine to Lawrence, "where's my TV?" As he will to me sometimes in similar circumstances. But really, we're so much better off without it. Sure there are some good programs on, but so much of it is...well, what polite word can I use for it? Better that I take a walk or swim or sew or cook or read or garden or talk to my husband or work on a collage or email a friend. Or write one of these blog posts.

I know that during the pandemic it's been hard not to watch TV or spend tons of time in front of other kinds of screens, especially for people who live alone. I confess to reading way too many of the (often very interesting) articles that come up on our "Pocket" feed on Firefox. I can also lose a lot of time reading all the posts and comments on my favorite weather blog, or watching silly YouTube videos. It's not easy to cut back, but our brains and our sense of centeredness and ease in the world will thank us (not to mention our butts!). And yes, I get the irony that I am writing this, and you are reading it, on a screen!

Wise maven of mindfulness Jon Kabat-Zinn has the following to say about television:

"We submit ourselves to constant bombardment by sounds and images that come from minds other than our own, that fill our heads with information and trivia, other people's adventures and excitement and desires. Watching television leaves...less room in the day for experiencing stillness. It soaks up time, space and silence, a soporific, lulling us into mindless passivity....we frequently conspire to use [media] to rob ourselves of many precious moment in which we might be living more fully."

Wherever You Go There You Are

I'll leave you with a beautiful image to focus on instead of TV.

Until next time,


Photo credits:

Field and trees, Simon Wilkes, unSplash

Cartoons, Randy Glasbergen

Young boy, Milan Manoj, unSplash


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