The Weekly Challenge is a column that tackles self-improvement seven days at a time.
Ever since I started doing weekly challenges, I knew this day would arrive – the day I would be asked to declare war on the most constant and comforting companion I have ever known. That inanimate rectangle that has asked so little and given so much, seen me through sickness and health, dried my tears and captured my imagination: my television.
It would be impossible to overstate how much I love TV. All of it – highbrow, lowbrow, current, classic, drama, comedy, reality. My schedule (we're talking one hour a day to seven) includes everything from the Goldon-Globe winning Kelsey Grammer in Boss to Kelsey Grammer's trashy E! True Hollywood Story to Kelsey Grammer in Frasier reruns, which play dozens of times a day if you know where to look. I do.
Thus, it was with a heavy heart that I read a recent article in the British Journal of Sports and Medicine claiming that frequent boob tubing is as hazardous to our life expectancies as smoking or obesity. (Why hasn't Dr. Oz told me about this?) The numbers looked grim: A person who watches four hours of television per day (the Canadian average) can expect to die about 3.2 years sooner than a person who doesn't. It was like learning that my beloved spouse had been slipping arsenic into my coffee for 20 years. I vowed to walk out on my potentially lethal lover. (Well, at least for a week.)
I watch, therefore I am
When I say this challenge was my Everest, I am not exaggerating. Usually, when I wake up, I flick on the TV. Without Kelly Ripa's self-celebratory prattle to occupy my thoughts, brushing my teeth became a monotonous experience. Presuming I have had a productive morning, I often tune in again at lunchtime to watch The View. This catches me up on the day's pop cultural happenings, so it basically counts as working. (See how easy it is to justify TV watching?)
Sometimes there are fringe benefits – I can spend an hour folding clothes in front of the TV. And sometimes, there is no excuse. Because honestly, is there any way to justify watching a Friends episode that you have seen so many times you could act it out in your living room? (Answer: Yes! See a recent study out of the University at Buffalo titled Energized by Television: Familiar Fictional Worlds Restore Self-Control.)
It's safe to say, however, that Donald Trump spends more time on TV than he does watching it, based on the two most frequently cited habits of highly successful people: They wake up early and they don't watch television. Good for them. While avoiding the idiot box (a term I highly object to), my days and nights exploded with time and possibility. By 2 p.m., I felt like I had done a full day's work, and I accomplished a lot more by quittin' time. I also made plans with friends (note the lowercase "f"), read about five times as much as I usually do and even found a few podcasts to play while I cleaned. I admit there were a lot of pros, but was it enough to outweigh the modern-day miracle that is Sunday-night TV? (Even President Barack Obama watches Homeland, so take that, highly successful people.)
How will I know what I think without Jon Stewart?
Speaking of Obama, among the biggest sacrifices of Operation: Flick Off was skipping the presidential debates last Monday. Waking up the next morning, I felt like everyone had been at the big dance while I was home with the flu. Reading the headlines just wasn't the same. Especially since I also skipped seeing Jon Stewart's Obama versus Mitt impressions. That night in bed, my boyfriend tuned into The Daily Show while I lay facing the other way, listening to classical music on a huge pair of soundproof headphones. It sucked.
I should confess that my PVR remained hard at work, taping the shows that I consider truly essential (The Good Wife, Sons of Anarchy, Nashville, Homeland, Revenge, Parks and Recreation and a few others). I can't wait to sit down and watch all of them, satisfied that I have effectively separated the wheat from the chaff. I am still in love with television (Would Christmas even be Christmas without the Chipmunks Christmas special?), but like many long-term love affairs, this one had started to become more about habit. Absence, along with some semblance of quality control, really does make the heart grow fonder.
The next challenge: Accomplish a goal that you've been putting off for weeks (or months, or years). What's taken you so long and how does it feel to have the monkey off your back? Let us know what the task is and why it's been on your back burner. Share your experience at fb.me/globelifestream