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Archive for August, 2007

The First Four Weeks

Four weeks ago today I called and cancelled the satellite hook up.  No more TV.  I remember that on the last day I felt like I needed to watch a lot of TV because I knew it wouldn’t be available thereafter.  Sort of like when you binge on food the day before starting a diet.  As I reflect back on the last month, however,  I can honestly say that it has been the best month I have had in years. I feel more connected to myself, my kids, my husband and to God.  I’m spending more time praying, writing, reading, walking, cooking, playing with my kids, talking to my husband and enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.  As a family we are playing more together, walking the dogs, going to the library, reading and meeting folks in our neighborhood.  I really thought I would miss some of my favorite shows but I can’t say that I’ve missed TV other than occasionally in the mornings when I want to get a cup of coffee and watch the morning news.  I’m not getting that much more sleep but I do feel more rested.  The icing on the cake is that I’ve lost ten pounds because I am eating healthier and exercising more.

I have a quote from Carl Jung posted on the sidebar…”Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart.  Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakens.”  The prophet Jeremiah says that you will find God only “when you look with all your heart.”  Putting TV aside has allowed more time and space to look inside myself, to be quiet, and to listen for that “still small voice”.  I know fasting from TV is not for everyone, but for myself and our family it has been a blessing.   I look forward to the next eleven months.

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Before we gave up television, one of my favorite things to do after getting the kids to bed was to get a big bowl of ice cream, plop down in the recliner, turn on the TV, and watch some mind numbing comedy that would make me laugh.  I think one reason some sitcoms are so popular is that they help us laugh – not at ourselves, of course – but at the ignorance, stupidity and clumsiness of others.  This process helped me escape into other peoples’ worlds so that I could avoid my own. 

Since the television has been  shut down, silence has been a welcomed friend – at least as much silence as one can get living right off a state highway that is used by many large trucks and farm equipment even late into the night.  The more silence I experience, the more relaxed I feel.  I feel more peace, more able to dream, to consider, to envision my life and where it might be going.  However, there’s another side to this silence as I plop down in the recliner with my big bowl of ice cream – still in front of the TV.  I don’t see other characters, other people’s lives.  I only see my reflection in the dark screen of the TV.  That’s an eerie feeling – watching the reflection of yourself sitting, eating, and not doing much of anything else.  When I take note of this, the silence that I so enjoyed becomes suddenly unwelcomed. I begin to have other thoughts and feelings.  I sense in myself concerns, inadequacies, failures, and questions all invading my mind at once.  I begin feeling uncomfortable. 

Often we talk about television as something we do to relax and just zone after a long day of work or dealing with the kids.  But what I have noticed about myself is that this is really a smoke screen.  I think maybe TV is something we do more to avoid other, uncomfortable things.  Maybe it’s not just avoiding physical activity, although that may be true.  I think it may be more about avoiding dealing with our own emotions, our own fears, our own inadequacies.  Without TV, I can’t avoid these things in myself anymore.  I guess I could if I stuffed down more and more ice cream.  If I do try to avoid them now, it comes out in other ways – like grumpiness, anger, or sadness.

A really funny book I have is called, Vicarious Living:  How to Live Your Life Without Ever Leaving Your Home.  It is a book of a series of comic images and advice on how to never leave your home, but still live your life through other people.  As I have looked over the book in the past I just kept laughing, but then after reading it while, you get the sense that you are reading about yourself.  You start saying to yourself, “Wait a minute.  I do that!”  Then it’s not funny anymore and you wonder where your own life is spinning off to.

Living life without television is providing me with an uncomfortable silence that at this point in my life I very much welcome.  It is, without a doubt, helping me face my own “dark side(s)” that Betsy wrote about in her post.  It provides opportunity to think more clearly about who I am in reality, as opposed to who the culture thinks I ought to be.  It helps me spend more time with God in prayer, in connection, and personal worship.  In doing this, it helps me see myself through the eyes of God, not the reflection or advice of my television.  I miss it though.  I miss comedy shows.  I miss staring at a flickering screen.  But then I think about how weird that is.  Miss a flickering screen?  I mean, how odd is that. 

In the end, I’m not really losing anything not watching TV.  But I am gaining back myself, my time, my energy, and my focus.  As uncomfortable as that can be sometimes, it’s worth it.

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I yelled at my children this morning.  I confess this neither because it is such a rare occurence that the room immediately fell into a shocked silence nor because I feel like a terrible and abusive mother that doesn’t deserve to live.  I am telling you this because as I reflected on my behavior, I was struck with just how quickly I can go from being the “good” mother who practices positive discipline techniques and remains calm in the face of early morning gumpiness to the “bad” mother who feels like a junkie jacked up on crank after a 48 hour binge.   I, like all mothers (and fathers) am vulnerable to the pull of my “dark side.”  Some might call it satan, others, unresolved childhood trauma, unmet dependency needs or simply human frailty.  Whatever you want to call it we all have it.  It’s that room inside of us where we keep the feelings of ugliness, frustration, inadequecy, hurt and anger. 

Most of the time, if I am self-aware, and tending to myself spiritually, emotionally and physically, I can keep the door to that room shut (though never locked).  But when I am tired or anxious or feeling overwhelmed I feel the door open, sometimes just a crack, sometimes wide and I see the ugliness creep or leap or burst out.  I don’t like myself very much in those moments and I always feel sorry and ashamed of my behavior.   In those moments I defintely feel the presences of the “dark side” that Luke Skywalker contended with in Star Wars.  I think the apostle Paul referred to it in Romans 7:15 when he said “What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise.” (The Message)

It’s hard to be the people God is calling us to be.  I know that this morning will not mark the last time I raise my voice to my children in anger.  I wish I could say that it would but I know myself well.  What I can say is that I am willing to confess to myself, to God and to my children when I am wrong and ask forgiveness.   That does not make it all better, but it does let me acknowledge to myself and others that I know this is something I am working to change.  I pray for the Fruit of the Spirit a lot:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)  I think I can honestly say that I’m seeing more of that fruit in my life as I am spending more time in prayer and self-reflection (therapy doesn’t hurt either).  I know I will always feel the pull of the dark side but with God’s help, I will continue to move toward the light.

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We spent the evening sitting on pins and needles with our eight year old son, Ben, as he tested to try to move from yellow to blue belt in his martial arts class: Taijutsu.  Taijutsu is a traditional Japanese martial art which emphasizes self-discipline, respect and self-defense. We love the program because the instructor, Peter Ellery, models self-discipline and respect and is very encouraging to the kids.  Ben has taken Ninjitsu for a year now and was ready to move up into the next class, the blue belts.  Unfortunately, because of travel schedules, church camp, etc., Ben missed a lot of training this summer so it was questionable whether or not he would be allowed to move up with his training group.  (more…)

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Quote for today

“It’s hard to remember you are a cherished spiritual being when you are burping up apple fritters and Cheetos.”  from Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

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As I conduct this interview we are sitting at the dining room table.  I’m working on the laptop, Ben is drawing race cars and Julia is coloring.  They’ve been at this for a few hours now.  They have been singing songs from church camp the whole time.  This is really what they said.  Hard to believe, I know(more…)

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Reflection on Blogging

I’ve been reflecting on the purpose of blogging. On the one hand, it seems very egotistical and self-aggrandizing .  Who am I to think that what I have to say is significant enough that other folks might want to spend their valuable time reading my blog?  On the other hand it is a simply a way of reflecting publicly on my personal journey.  (more…)

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