So, over a month ago, I went without television for eight days (first world problems, anyone?). My husband was out of town for business for a week, and the idea of nights filled with movies that I wanted to watch—not movies I compromised with my husband to watch—made me dizzy. Visions of nights filled with Pride and Prejudice, Funny Face, and Dirty Dancing filled my head. I couldn’t believe what the nights all by myself promised to hold for me, as I would alternate nights of watching beloved movies and favorite television shows.
But then the first night, I picked up a book that I love—The Cuckoo’s Calling (The Casual Vacancy is terrible, but the Cormoran Strike books are actually quite good) and decided to read it. Not sure why, as I had already read it several times, and it was fast approaching 8 p.m. and I was ready to begin my movie-watching—but it felt like I needed to read it, and who am I to disregard the wishes of the literature goddesses?
So I read. I read all through that first night alone. I even lit candles, and made tea to go with my book. I read well past my usual bedtime—that’s right, I stayed up until 11:00(!). The next night turned out to be more or less the same. Candles, tea, but I stayed up extra late—midnight. And this time I ran my nightly phone call with my husband short, so as to keep on reading.
By the third night, I felt like I had been away from TV long enough to justify going back to it, and I was also thinking of the two nights of planned movie watching I had lost. But then I was back at my book, and when the fourth night of no television came round, I decided to make a thing of it—to see if I could finish the whole week with no movies, no TV shows, and no clips of John Oliver to keep me going. I even finished the Cuckoo’s Calling and decided to move on to the next book in the series, to keep the theme rolling.
Really, it’s all due to a book that I just couldn’t put down. When I later reflected that the last time I had gone eight days without watching television, I realized that it had been nearly eight months since, when I was out of the country and unable to watch anything. So that wasn’t even an active decision. Now don’t get the wrong idea that I watch TV every single night, because I don’t (not judging you if you; it’s a good way to relax after work.) Sometimes I read, sometimes my husband and I just talk, or I have a social event going on. But at least three nights of the week (and usually four or five) see me spending an hour or two watching Parks and Recreation, Downton Abbey, or a movie.
And those eight nights without my favorite shows and movies turned out way better than I could have anticipated, even if I had planned it. Nighttime was a quieter affair, as no television was on, and it set the mood for a more meditative, and calming atmosphere. The night is always more subdued than the day anyways, but by just reading, and not listening or watching anything, I allowed that silence to creep in. After days of teaching, caring for my dog, and yoga classes, coming home to curl up with a book was the perfect ending. My body could relax, and my mind could go to a happy place.
If I ever think about people who choose not to watch television (choose being an important word here), scenes of pseudo-intellectual debates dazzle before my eyes, or intense games of chess, or concerned, hushed conversations revolving around politics, gender, and racial issues arise. I mean, I partake in those things too, but not every night. We all need to space out in front of the screen every now and then—and it’s not like there aren’t brilliant movies anyways. Even Michelle Obama must spend an evening binging on Netflix, right?
Not watching television isn’t revolutionary. There are millions of people in the world who don’t even have one, but it is a favorite pastime of this country, with the average American watching five hours per day. Perhaps this is why I felt like my eight days without watching something was noteworthy for me. And no, I certainly don’t feel like I’m better than anyone for having spent a few nights without my TV. It’s simple, I enjoyed my nights reading, and all in all, I felt much more peaceful at night. Reading was a nice prelude to sleep.
I wish I could say that I’ve greatly cut back on how much I watch now. Maybe I have, by a night a week—I still probably spend three or four nights, on average, watching something. It’s a habit that is hard to break, and both my husband and I love good movies. But I do know that I will add in an extra night or two with my books. I’ll let the quiet softness of the evening slowly seep in, setting the stage for a night of literature and contentment.