On the first day I danced while doing the dishes.
I approached the week of media deprivation with only mild curiosity. I didn’t have high expectations, but I also didn’t have much else to do. In the end I figured, why not?
I don’t even know if it really counted, the week of media deprivation. I was texting with people and I read The BFG aloud to my daughter. In the end I only had a few emails to read and respond to. Really, I was abstaining from blogs, audiobooks and podcasts. To be fair, I do spend quite a bit of every day listening to and reading stuff, so even with the texts and read-aloud with my daughter, it felt like I was attempting media deprivation of some sort.
Music was allowed, which was a relief because running with nothing would have been wretched. The thing is I don’t listen to music anymore, like hardly ever. It used to be such a tremendously important part of my life, but as the years have passed I stopped listening to melodies and started listening to stories.
On the first day I stared at Spotify for fifteen minutes; I had no idea what I should listen to.
Then I pulled up a Spanish song one of my students shared last year that I remembered liking and listened to that. It was great. I listened to it again. I listened to more songs by that artist. Before I knew it I was dancing around my kitchen.
I never dance. It’s just not something I like doing, but that first day I couldn’t help myself. It was fun.
I had to admit that I never would have danced in my kitchen if I weren’t trying to avoid reading, and I decided that maybe there really was something to this media deprivation idea.
On the second day I noticed houses I’d never seen before on the walk to the train station. Houses I’ve passed a hundred times in the past four years, that somehow I never really saw. I noticed other things too. Beautiful things. Magical things. Ordinary things that upon greater inspection were actually extraordinary.
I heard birds, smelled flowers, caught glimpses of conversations that piqued my interest. I looked into the faces of the people that passed me on the sidewalk. I actually experienced the world around me. What a concept!
On the third day I invented games with my kids at the playground. I talked to them while I pushed them on the swings and chased after them instead of looking down at my phone.
On the fourth day I finished a puzzle in silence. I was really itching to read or watch something that night, but I knew I shouldn’t. I had done all the dishes for my husband, hoping we could hang out, but he was busy with other stuff so I had him make me a cocktail and I pulled out a 200 piece puzzle of the solar system that we had never attempted. Then I slowly, methodically, finished it (and the cocktail) without saying a word. It was an extremely meditative experience.
On the fifth day I went out to dinner with my husband and had really great sex. I realized it was easier to be present and engaged in a conversation when I didn’t have so much random information bouncing around in my head. We also had a lot to talk about because I was totally ignorant of all the interesting things that had been happening in the world that week. It was one of the more genuinely enjoyable conversations we’ve had in a long while. Then we went home, put our kids to bed, and had some fantastic sex–which I attribute to the feelings of affection and connection inspired by the great conversation at dinner.
On the sixth day I chatted with friends at the park for three hours. All week I was much more inclined to reach out to people and make plans knowing that I couldn’t fall back on “interacting with others” by reading and commenting on blogs. I ended up having lunch with one friend, coffee with another, taking a walk with a third and meeting up for playdate with some more. I don’t know if I would have prompted any of those meet-ups if I’d had blogs and audiobooks to distract me and help stave off the loneliness.
On the seventh day I ran my fastest tempo splits of my half-marathon training. I had been perfecting a mix of great songs to run to and I noticed that I run faster to music that pushes me than I do when I’m listening to audiobooks or podcasts. Running with music is much more meditative (I don’t really think about anything except my body in that moment) and I feel more invigorated after I run with music than I do if I’m listening to talking of some kind.
Yesterday morning I woke up excited to be able to read again, but quickly felt overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of words and ideas bouncing around in my head. I really do think that all the reading I do makes me significantly more distracted and less aware of my actual life. Knowing so much about everyone else’s experiences makes it hard for me to unravel how I feel about my own. That is not to say that I get nothing positive from writing here and reading blogs and listening to audiobooks, but I know now that I have to drastically overhaul the ways in which I consume other people’s words to take advantage of the good while avoiding the bad. I’m not quite sure what changes I’m going to make, but I am sure that I don’t want to go back to consuming media in the ways I used to. I’ve felt more settled and less anxious in the past week than I have in a long time, and I hope to find a way to protect this feeling, while still enjoying the connective power of the written word. There has to be a way to balance the good and the bad. I will keep you informed of my attempts.
Would you consider a week of media deprivation? What do you think you’d learn?