Sunday, March 27, 2011

Afterglow: Life With No-TV

by tatiana de la tierra

It’s a big gray lump in the living room, a has-been that now attracts dust and random clutter—CDs, pens, cinnamon gum, a magnifying lens, a red dragon, notebooks, DVDs, coins, colorful glass figurines, a purse, a salt lamp, a silver bracelet. My very own eyesore. Gone are the days that I worshipped its light into the night. How midnight quickly became three in the morning. How my pulse raced with suspense. How I yelled, outraged. How I got hooked on predictable stories, sappy sentiments, and bimbos. How I attempted to multi-task, working and watching, eventually dropping the “working” part.

How I swore, every time I got the cable bill, This is the last time! No longer will I pay an insane amount of money to submit my subconscious to psychic and mental pollution! How I fantasized giving Charter the finger. How I would chop, chop, cut, cut.

I thought about it seriously for three years, replaying the chop-chop-cut-cut fantasy every month. I thought about all the money I’d save. All the time I’d have to write. All those hikes I was going to do. How I’d make up for all the lost time. How I would sleep a good eight hours each night. How I’d be cooking soups and baking cakes from scratch. How I’d hang out with friends. How I’d go out to poetry readings, live performances, art movies. How I’d read all those novels on my bookshelves. Maybe I’d take up water coloring or spin clay bowls with my hands. Go horseback riding. Who knows. Anything is possible, right?

A writer I know ditched TV. I wrote to her on Facebook and asked her the big question: Is there life after no-TV? Yes! She raved about the 600-page novel she edited and whittled down to 470 pages with no-TV. The article she wrote for publication. The talk she gave at a conference, the workshop she did at a library, on and on. All of this during one month of no-TV.

The TV was her surrogate soul mate. She had several sets on at the same time, so she wouldn’t miss anything as she went from room to room. She sped home to catch her shows. She fell asleep under its glow. And now that she was healed with no-TV, she was rediscovering her soul. Words were pouring out of her. She became attentive to bird song and sunshine. She joined humankind again and became a social butterfly. She even got a little TV in with friends, for special occasions—the Super Bowl, the Oscars, some great flick.

Clearly, her TV grip was even stronger than mine. If she could do it, I could do it. She recommended a 21-day TV fast, to start.

I thought about it for another year. In that time, my no-TV fantasy grew. I would write a novel! Learn how to play the harmonica! I would compost and become an urban farmer! I’d write songs and record a CD! I’d volunteer for hospice care, take in a few foster kids, become a shaman, help save Mother Earth!

Two months ago, I called Charter and did the chop-chop-cut-cut.

Television, my perverse meditation, how I miss you.

Forgive me the cliché, but life hasn’t been the same without you. None of my grandiose ideas have taken root in your absence. I’ve gone to one poetry reading in two months. Hung out twice with friends. I haven’t hiked, baked cakes, started a novel, learned how to paint or play anything, or read a book from my own collection.

I’ve eaten frozen pizzas, taken care of laundry on Thursdays, washed and rearranged all my rocks, kept my apartment free of dust bunnies by sweeping every day. I have fantasized. A lot. About all those things I was going to do without you, yet haven’t.

I have sat in my red rocking chair, staring at you, pining for you. How perfect you were. Everything in one place, in one big box. How that leather couch from Ikea was like a favorite sweater. How you transformed the living room into the dining room. How much more I enjoyed meals in your company. Even the cats adored you, got entranced with you. How I was so almighty with that control in my hands, cruising for the perfect flick of the moment, sometimes even toggling between two movies. How I felt superior to most other TV people, because I only watched movies. No junk shows, no commercials, no reality TV. Premium cable for premium people like myself.

Now I am empty and alone.

Now you must go.

I was so faithful, I didn’t even get one of those snazzy flat screens. It was you, only you.

Now you must go. Because the fact that you are physically here makes it difficult to find other ways to live. It’s like a bad lesbian breakup. The kind where you break up, yet continue to live with each other. There is no sex, only memories of when there was sex.

You have become a big gray useless blob. I can’t go forward in your presence. You must leave now.

The door is just to your left. I will roll you out, straight to the back of the building, and set you by the dumpster. I will dust your body, kiss you on the cheek, honor our time together, and turn my back. You will make someone else very happy.

Me, I’m going to stare at my bookshelves. Hernando Téllez, Laura Restrepo, Mario Mendoza, Mutis and Silvana Paternostro are calling out my name. I’m going to take them into my hands, get to know them, and make new friends.


Diane said...

You just need some time to detox. Then all your creative fantasies will become realities!

Anonymous said...

Will you get rid of it permanently? We gave it up for 1 to 2 years. I hope it fuels your creative spirit.

Anonymous said...

Good job Tatiana, good for you! I've been living without TV for four years this summer. Definitely better. I haven't tackled a lot of projects but I have done some reading. I've read some books, it's been great! :) I'm sending your post to my BF who's been try to cut and chop as well. I hope you inspire him! :)

sonora y matancera said...

mamita, pero lo tuyo es un affair fatal con el cajón iluminado... pero conociéndote... sabes, yo nunca he pagado por cable-tv... me mantengo viendo los canales de public tv y las noticias, de vez en cuando... saludos, colombiana.