Friday, February 11, 2011

Media Fast

Is simplicity something you can add to your life?  I think, like happiness, it's more of a by-product of action taken or action not taken.  In any event, my media fast did simplify my life, and I am still in the process of trying to integrate what I learned into our lifestyle.  It has been hard, because I am good at cutting something out altogether, but moderation is more difficult. 

NO INTERNET:  There is an awful dissonance between how I want to act and how I do act when I am attending to some online matter.  This can be blog reading, blog writing, research for shopping, looking up a recipe, checking the news, whatever.  I wanted more patience and time with my children and spouse.  I wanted to be less distracted.  I wanted to feel less bombarded with information.  For these reasons, I decided to fast from the internet.

NO MAGAZINES OR CATALOGS:   I wanted time to read the important books piled beside my bed.  Interior Castle.  The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.  Boyhood and Beyond.  Unplanned.  Three to Get Married.  I could go on, for there are 40 on my list! What was preventing my reading these books?   I knew I always made time for the newest Pottery Barn catalog, or the latest copy of my subscriptions to Family Fun or Life Beautiful, so there was reading time available, it just needed to be better directed. 

NO TELEVISION:   I did not watch anything at all besides the DVD I exercised to each morning.  Also, while the children were not bound by the rules of the fast, I would not use television as a way of keeping the children occupied while I was busy.

As I began the fast, I was surprised  by a sense of restlessness and anxiety for the first couple of days.  I must have become accustomed to numbing a disquieted mind or shutting out anxious thoughts with the very practices I was now trying to avoid.  This did seem to greatly diminish after the first two-and-a-half days, but I ws surprised to notice that I did snack much more frequently.  I suppose I was looking for something to replace my distraction impulses, and food was fair game.  Unfortunately, the increased frequency of unplanned eating caused me to gain a few pounds which, over a month later, are still with me.  I usually use Weight Watchers online to track my points, but, having reached my goal, thought that I could do without that for a week as it was technically internet use.  Apparently, that was a flaw in my plan.

I did notice appreciably more time to work on projects with my children, lengthy things like 100-piece puzzles and baking, that I believe I would otherwise have thought I did not have the sustained time for.  I realize I had allowed the time to be eaten by other pursuits, although previously, I would just have told you I was busy.  This seemed linked to an diminishing of the "in the rush" feeling I lived with almost constantly, and as the rushing was eliminated, a serenity emerged.  This was what I was hoping for.  How often do we blame our children's rambunctiousness for a lack of peace in the home when in reality, it is our impatience and rush-rush that steals the peace?  Culling the unimportant creates not only more time and space for the important, it creates a greater tolerance within us for things like childish energy and noise that are not necessarily negative things in a household. 

Homework time can be a trying period of the day around our house.  Without the computer available to me, I was able to give my full attention to the children and their work, and became aware of some notable
study habits that my children possess, both negative and positive.   Also, as I did not suggest television to the young ones as they finished their work before my eldest child, the noise was not a distraction to him. 

Also, by the third day, the children were not watching a bit of television, and, moreover, didn't seem to notice.  Day 1, my youngest watched 1 hour, middle watched 15 minutes, and eldest watched none.  Day 2, youngest watched none, middle watched 1/2 hour, and eldest watched none.  As for me, I was tempted very infrequently, once when I was folding laundry and once on the final evening of the fast when I truly longed to join my husband on the sofa and laugh at a funny show and end our day together rather than apart.  Although I do believe I got much more adequate sleep during this period, as television does tend to make me quite alert, my own television viewing does not seem to be a huge issue.

I realized I did not have to temper my enjoyment of magazines and catalogs with my awareness that they could fuel materialism and covetousness.  Eliminating them eliminated the need for a heightened conscience, and that was an unexpected relief.  While a properly formed conscience is essential and frequent judgment and caution are so very necessary to live a moral life, when one removes certain things from that life, those tools of discernment are simply needed less. We must be ever so careful, as seemingly harmless things can indeed be occasions of sin. 

 - I had more patience and paid more attention to my family.  What could be more important?  I have fed the computer HUGE amounts of precious time, time that I had stolen from my children.  And I'm feeding it right now.  I am not unaware of this conflict. I believe the easiest and simplest rule is:  Children must be asleep or out of the house.  Husbands, too, must be otherwise engaged.  People come first.  If they are around, the computer is shut.  I have told them my rule and I allow them to keep me accountable. 
- My own watching of television is not a huge problem, and watching a show or two while sitting with my husband is good bonding time and provides us with common references for "inside" jokes and such.  I missed this the most.  Having DVR service means we can sit down to watch exactly the show we want at exactly the time we have, so there is no browsing.  I was SHOCKED, however, at how much less TV my children watched.  They must watch it because I suggest it, for one reason or another.  In just one week, the three of them had gotten so much better at playing imaginatively with each other.  I had never intended to use the television to babysit my children, and I realized that is just what I had been doing.  It was a painful discovery, and I have changed that habit.
-As for magazines and catalogs, I just decided to recognize the urge to reach for one of these things as the availability of reading time, and reach for one of the books I have going instead.  This was quite simple.  Previously, I thought I needed a stretch of time for a book, but I found I can get lots read in snippets.

I have misgivings even as I write this, because I know it will be shared online, and that seems like such a contradictory thing to do, since my fast seemed to highlight for me that while there is so very much good on the internet, I do not have time for it all.  In fact, I don't know if I have time for any of it, and perhaps by posting this,  I am siphoning other mothers' attention away from their families and homes and God. May it be an encouragment and reminder to all of us to laser-focus our attention on faith, husband, and family.

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