So on Sunday (it's now Thursday), my husband and I decided to eliminate screen time for the whole family for a 90 day trial period. So basically around Thanksgiving we will reassess if we want to bring any back. So the rules are: computers stay at work (for Jason in his backpack bc he does zoom meetings twice a week), no cellphone use at home unless you hear a text or get a phone call, then you can respond, but no getting on apps or anything else while the kids are awake. Basically we don't want them to see us using them, but seeing as how we own a treatment center, some calls and texts are necessary to ensure the safety of clients and staff.
To say that this is hard is an understatement. We have relied on screens to get us through the days for a long time now. I'm going to switch to talking about myself here, because I don't want to try to relay Jason's experience. I try to do that in my real life, and it doesn't usually go over very well. Right around 3 years sober (10 years ago) I gave up TV for two years. I still used the internet daily, but I wasn't a Youtuber at that point and I got rid of all subscription services. I think I may have occasionally gone to the movies with friends or on dates but it was rare. And I was sooooooo productive and relatively more happy, or I guess I should say fulfilled. I was in my undergraduate term and I just had too much going on and so I canceled cable and the rest of it. I was loving my life and going to a lot of meetings (recovery) and had an active social life, was training for a marathon, working 30 hours a week, learning to play guitar, dating and was volunteering at several places. My life was really full. At that time, being young and single, giving up TV was easy.
Fast forward a couple of years. I met my future husband and he introduced me to GOT. I'll say this, if you are going to get back on the TV sauce, that is one wicked way to do it. That show is epic, and well worth the couch time really, and should something like that come again, I'd probably gladly watch it. When we started dating and he found out I didn't watch TV he was like, "wait, so you are telling me you haven't seen Game of Thrones?!?" This was his in, "Okay, you are coming over to my house tomorrow and we are starting it." And thus began our journey, chilling and making out to GOT. Good stuff. And those first couple of seasons were pretty steamy, so thank you GOT for helping a couple of intimacy-inept folks stoke the fires of love.
And really, it wasn't much of a problem for me until recently. When I had kids. Or at least the mirror of my problem wasn't revealed until then. All was well until I looked up and we are all on a device in bed. Me on my computer and my daughter on her Leap Pad, silent, face lit up by a screen, completely immersed in a digital world. I have had these pangs of guilt for letting her on the screens repeatedly. They just hit my heart ever so slightly every time I give one to her, and at this point to both the girls. I have read repeatedly that it harms their development, and yet I have used it to quell their outbursts and to "give myself time to do anything." Here's the deal though, in the past few days without it, I have still done all the same tasks, just without screens. I have cooked, cleaned, relaxed, read a book, gardened, and bathed. And here's the real kicker, it hasn't been any less or more chaotic. In fact, it has been downright peaceful at times. Without the sing-songs from multiple sources for each child and myself it has been eerily quiet. When I've been cooking in the past, the baby is watching Baby Einstein, the toddler is watching PJ Masks, I'm watching Youtube while I cook and my husband is checking fantasy football scores.
So my big questions over the last couple of years is Why? Why are we doing this? Why are we not okay without it? Why do I think I can't handle parenting without it? I mean I know that in Silicon Valley, those parents don't let their kids on devices until they are well into their teen years. The people that invent the devices, don't let their kids on them...re-read that if it hasn't sunk in yet...Why? Why don't they do it? Because they know it is addictive and changes your brain. They want their children to become creators like them, not just merely passive consumers, who will support people like them living their best life...
So yeah, we are giving it up at home for a while, and I have a suspicion it will be longer than 90 days, in fact, I'm praying hard that it will. I have a lot to work on in my relationships that I have been numbing away with screens for a long time. Maybe my whole life. I recently quit Facebook again. Last time, I almost made it to the 30 day mark. If you don't log back in for 30 days it will delete permanently, but they do this, because they know the pull to go back is strong. In a moment of, what if I miss out on a message, invite, or pictures of my family, I logged back in after 24 days...so close! But the thing is, for me, the really fulfilling relationships are the ones that take a little extra effort in real life. I once had an ex-boyfriend tell me "love is not a feeling...it's an action, it's stopping what you are doing to be of service to the person you love." And I heard that. I'm grateful to him, because I agree in many ways with what he said. My lower nature is to be selfish, and only think about what I want and "would you please stop bothering me with your being over there, I'm trying to be the center of my Universe thank-u-very-much." When I'm stuck in my addictive, self-centric thinking, I'm pretty sure your feelings aren't really that big a deal, and I don't have time for this, and feeling good and avoiding the uncomfortable is paramount. But it makes for a broken relationship, or at least not a very full one. It is disrespectful and lonely. But I couldn't see a way out. Until I started getting quiet again in the mornings. And it came to me that no matter how painful the process may be, I need to figure out a way to be closer and more present with my children. Especially because I've chosen to go back to work, so my time with them is in the evening and afternoon. I can feel the time slipping away from me. I have friends with older kids and I know that all the cuddles, tickles, and kisses have expirations on them. And I just know I can't live with myself knowing I am forsaking those things for Facebook or Youtube. I love my parents and I know they did the absolute best they could, but even to this day they have to have TV, the radio or some other noise coming in at all times (I mean it, even when they sleep) in order to get through the day. Their minds are so noisy and painful when its silent that they can't bear it and the reflex to fill the pain with chatter and someone else's, potentially healthier, or at least more entertaining for the moment, ideas is better than their own. God, do I know this pain. I have been trying to get silent and be okay by myself since I got sober, and 13 years later, it can still be a struggle, but this whole silence idea just will not let me go. Thank you, and please don't ever let me go! That is why I have gotten in about 10 billion arguments with my husband since Sunday. Because I am terrified of the silence, or really the lack of it from my own mind. But this time, I'm writing about it (hello there!), and I'm taking prayer and my Higher Power with me. And I'm apologizing and making amends to my husband and telling him the truth over and over again..."I'm so sorry, I know I'm projecting blame onto you, I'm just scared. I've never been without TV to distract me from my feelings for my entire life and all my feelings are just coming up and I want to get better, so I'm dedicated to this but it's hard and I'm afraid..."
Even at work, the computer has been a distraction from action. I have a list of things I want to accomplish in the day, and some of them involve writing or editing videos, but mostly they are tasks that involve figuring out and doing on the physical plane. And since our rules allow computers at work, I've been overindulging and entering "analysis paralysis" at work this week. "Just one more video on pest management for the garden, oh, and one more video on how to build a trellis, oh and I want to learn how to prune my tomato properly," etc, etc, ect... It's never ending, that's both the beauty and the beast of the internet. So much to learn about, but it can't replace good old fashioned trial and error. Balancing Creation and consumption is hard won for this lady (I use that term loosely).
I know I'm not the first person to struggle with this and I know I'm not the first person to make mistakes and changes in this area, but I hope I can be an example for someone. A light on the exit sign, that says "hey you, over there, lets go over here, out into the light!" The programing that happens as a result of an influx of information from others isn't all bad. Learning from others is great and has it's place, but influence isn't always good. Or at least I think it's not always good. What I'm saying is that, I want to learn to trust my inner guidance, myself along with Higher Power, more than I'm relying on others to tell me who to be, what I want, and where to spend my time. I want to be in control of those things again, or for the first time. I want to at least see what it looks and feels like for a while. I'll keep writing about the experience and see where it takes me. I have a feeling I'm not alone on this subject. I think a lot of people are waking up to their lives and selves in the wake of this forced isolation/distancing. So it's not all bad. Much love to those out there figuring it all out. Live long and prosper and do cool stuff.