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Reality TV versus Reality Living

kids_imagination_explore_dressup_fields_grass_picHow much life are we losing by watching others live theirs? Turn off the reality TV and pull your focus into the reality of your life!

The reality about TV is that television has changed the way people view life. It influences our beliefs, our politics, the way we raise our children, the kinds of foods we consume, even the way we view our own self-worth. We want to dress like our favorite characters, eat the same kinds of foods as our favorite sit-com families, and believe that all of life’s troubles can be resolved in twenty-two minutes of show time and eight minutes of commercials.

But what if the characters we view on the screen aren’t like us? What if they are prettier, smarter, a different ethnic background, a different gender?

Does that make what we are wrong?

Comparing our own lives to what we see on TV is a time bomb for dissatisfaction. When we don’t have a team of make-up artists, wardrobe consultants, and script writers to make sure everything turns out perfect, how can we measure up?

Reality TV is something different altogether. It stages loosely-scripted, pseudo-true experiences under the glare of camera lights and passes itself off as reality. The danger of reality TV is that it’s easier to insert ourselves into the lives we view, easier to imagine our house getting made-over, easier to believe we are certainly more talented than those off-key pretenders and half-baked chefs. We are certainly more fearless than the man crying over being placed in a tub of spiders and rats. friends_stairs_relax_sit_view_picWhere we once admired the actors of TV past, becoming dissatisfied with our own lot in life, we now ridicule the fails of TV present. We become arm-chair hecklers, shading attitudes with cynicism and ridicule.

And neither extreme is healthy.

I confess that my childhood was scheduled around television. I loved Sundays because the TV Guide would arrive on my doorstep and dictate the next week to me. But as I moved into the busy lifestyle of a socially-involved high school student, I found my time more enjoyably spent with my real friends and my real boyfriend than with my TV friends and TV boyfriend. But I still managed to sneak a much-loved sit-com in whenever the chance arose. As I grew older and entrenched in college and then in marriage and children and a career as an author, TV became less and less of a priority.

It was during a period of high stress, when it seemed everyone needed something from me, that I realized something had to give or I was going to break. My editor wanted my current novel done. My children needed help with a variety of projects for school. My husband needed help with our business.

The television went up on the sacrificial altar of my real life. And I found out something important:

I was happier.

So how can you cut this little time-taking box out of your life?

It’s All About the Baby Steps, Baby

If you’re an avid watcher of prime time, kicking your TV to the curb tomorrow might be too much, too fast. When breaking up is hard to do, do it incrementally. Choose an amount of television-watching-time you’re willing to give up, like thirty minutes or an hour, and turn the TV off early.

couple_bikes_ride_relax_city_exercise_picChange Your Habit Flow

Some people have a work flow, but others have a flow of habit. Instead of coming home from work and immediately going to your favorite armchair to surf channels, wait an hour—or longer, if you can. Stay out of that room altogether if you find the pull of habit to be too hard to break.

Be Social

Spend time with people you like, and if you’ve spent so much time with TV that you don’t have any real people you like, go outside and make some friends. Talk to your neighbor, call a sibling you haven’t seen in a while. Play games with your kids and spouse. Play ball with your dog.

Create something new

Write in a journal, take up gardening, clean your closets and dejunk your cupboards, finish a project, or start a project you’ve been putting off. I’m a creative person and found that when I turned off the TV and cleaned my personal space, I was able to think with a clarity I didn’t have before. Meeting deadlines was easier because I didn’t spend days staring at the blinking cursor on an empty page. With my physical space cleared, my mental space felt open and active and ready to create.

Learn something you’ve never known before

I have one of those fancy cameras—the kind that has lots of lens options and way too many buttons. I didn’t know how to use it. Last week I started a new photography class so I could learn something I’ve always wanted to know.friends_hike_mountain_forest_trees_log_stream_balance_pic

Go outside

There is a world outside the one you’ve only been experiencing through a box. The world outside is a tactile experience with sounds and smells and things to touch. Take a walk, go on a hike, have your own adventure—you can even make it last longer than the predetermined thirty minutes to one hour of television!

Move the TV to a different room

If your TV is in the main hang-out room of the house, the temptation to turn it on might be too great. Maybe move it to a less convenient room in the basement or in the back of the house. Make it somewhere that requires a little more effort to get to.

Cancel your satellite subscription

Cancelling my satellite subscription was the best thing I have ever done for my family. The kids got off the couches and out into the world where they built forts and twine huts and went on imaginary quests and voyages. By cancelling the subscription, we started eating dinner at the table as a family because we didn’t have that favorite program that we all loved coming on to distract us from the things that were really important: each other.

Because in the end, your relationships are the only reality worth your time.

Clear your space and clear your mind!

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