This week, a friend and I were talking about several new activities keeping her busy this year. While all of the new developments are incredibly positive — a new kickboxing hobby, more time with friends, a meditation course she’s hosting — she’s overwhelmed with managing her time.
She started recounting her typical schedule and after a pause, said in a dark tone, “I’m addicted to TV.” I asked what she meant; I’ve known her my entire life and was surprised to hear this confession. She said that she watches one show every morning — it’s her guilty pleasure — and she can’t give it up. She said “I know tv is bad for me. I know what you’re thinking. How can I complain about being busy if I’m watching TV for 45 minutes every morning?”
I asked her how she feels after watching her show. If it’s a part of her morning routine that helps her feel relaxed, ready to take on the day and even a little indulgent, then how could it be unhealthy for her?
This thinking is such a common trap. We get so caught up in busyness, productivity and what’s “good” and “bad” for us, that we often avoid day-to-day pleasures that could make a substantial difference in our overall happiness. It’s all about the energy with which we approach these small indulgences…with appreciation, joy and mindfulness as opposed to feelings of insecurity, lack or guilt.
Admittedly, this distinction isn’t always straightforward. Almost two years ago, I had my first child. She was born in the midst of COVID, and the pandemic combined with my new stay-at-home mom status left me feeling pretty isolated. A friend of mine started a virtual moms’ group and invited me to join. The group’s charter was to have meaningful conversations about parenting mindfully. It sounded like exactly what I was looking for, so I was baffled that after only joining a couple of times, I found excuses to not attend week after week.
It took me two years to understand why. I knew at the time that I always hung up the phone feeling so much worse than before, and I assumed that was because I’m an empathetic person, and listening to a dozen women share their deepest feelings of anguish, anxiety, sadness and fear was difficult. But the calls also made me question, very fundamentally, whether I was fit to be a mother at all. On one call, I remember a very judgmental discussion about watching Netflix in the evenings and the diagnosis that if we’re watching TV, then we’re “numbing out” to escape unaddressed issues and unhappiness in our lives. At the time, I had been watching “The Crown” in the evenings with my husband, and I broke down weeping on the call and told the group, between sobs, that I didn’t want to be that kind of parent.
In hindsight I see that sweeping accusations like the Netflix finger pointing that I endured are completely ridiculous. After giving 23 hours a day to my child, I chose to watch “The Crown” because it made me happy and because my husband and I enjoyed talking about British history, historical events, set design, living in Europe, etc. together. It brought us closer together. In our reality as new parents in a pandemic — too cautious to do much outside of the house — these were our dates, and they gave us so much joy.
It saddens me that even in the more enlightened wellness/metaphysical community, we can’t help but diagnose behaviors and try to fix people. When you’re looking for a problem, you will always find one. That’s not to say that TV and other addictions aren’t real and very serious…they are. But every action should be viewed in context.
I urge you to look for ways to inject some joy into your life. Try doing something normal at an unexpected time — like watching a show in the morning. In 2018, while I was living in London for work, I found a way to incorporate Nutella into my breakfast every Friday; having it for breakfast felt absolutely decadent and so celebratory.
Eat your Nutella. Watch your show. Use your wedding China. Burn the nice candle. What better way to honor the beauty in life than to make time every day to enjoy it?