Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Friday, April 24, 2009

Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In: A New Wednesday Tradition

I am appropriating (and altering) the original Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out “mantra” of the 60s counterculture to suit my own counterculture purposes.

Deep River Land Trust sent home a reminder via Gavin’s first grade assignment folder: this week is National TV Turnoff Week. We were reminded of the many local parks and other unplugged entertainments awaiting us. So our family is making inroads into tuning out from the seductive, sedating hum that is our TV and “dropping” back in to that somewhat foreign experience known as “real life”.

Our first foray ended up in a rewarding natural high. Gavin chose a CD (Abbey Road) to wake us from our opiate (of the masses) slumber. He doodled and played for a while. I found small things for Gavin to help with: he refilled our hand soaps, washed dishes very meticulously, fed the dog and enjoyed it. We made dinner together.

Later, we all sat down for what turned out to be a killer game of Monopoly. I discovered that Gavin has the makings of a railroad tycoon. I also discovered:

  • TV doesn’t necessarily relax me; it often just helps me avoid and escape the business (and even the pleasure) of life
  • The seduction of TV is the ease. It takes a bit of an effort to figure out what else to do, especially at the end of a long workday. But once you reawaken those dormant creative muscles, some good surprises await you
  • TV can limit your child's experience of contributing to the household. It may feel easier to have Gavin “entertained”, but it feels infinitely better to see him take ownership of some more mature tasks
  • There’s no substitute in a family for sitting around a table or taking a walk together, for the increasingly rare gifts of undivided attention and real conversation

Tom had Gavin watch a video last night while I went out. He didn’t feel well, and hadn’t the stamina to make the effort. But today we will be back to a TV-free house.

I know if we kept at this ad infinitum that not every night would be as joyful as that first one, which of course carried with it a sense of novelty and adventure. And I imagine it would be harder to pull off in the dark and chill of winter. But the experiment, which I highly recommend, is a wake up to experiences that offer more mental, spiritual, physical, and emotional bang per buck. Once we “survive” Turnoff week, we are instituting a No TV Wednesday policy. I have a feeling it may lead to even more TV-free days.

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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Habit Forming


• Patricia Wagner at Life writes about 21 days to a positive attitude. What better habit to form?
• There’s a balance to strike—have a routine, but avoid getting in rut. Here’s some advice from Shape magazine on breaking out of a routine that is threatening to suffocate.
• Here are 7 creative habits to acquire, from Creative Something.
• This could have been written for me - 7 (health-related) habits to break.


I wonder how it was determined that it takes 21 days to break a habit? And is it an equal amount of time if you want to acquire one?

I’m hoping a month will do it for acquisition. This month, National Poetry Month, I’m participating in a Poem a Day challenge at the Poetic Asides blog. Already I’ve missed a day (the first one--April sneaked in).

Thinking about the quest for keeping things simple, there is something to be said for routines. Good routines are a way to harness time, to set the clock for the day. Twenty minutes of straightening up prevents an overwhelm of chores on Saturday; the morning walk lends new perspective. Both of these simple tasks seem, at times, impossible for me to achieve with real regularity.

It may actually take a break in routine to get back into the routine you want. I’d been craving a breather from my heavy workload and took a few days off last week. Finally, I had time to think. I had time to realize that I’d been neglecting myself. Overeating, upping the caffeine, foregoing my treasured walks--neglecting the very habits that would have helped me cope with my crazy deadlines!

It’s hard to make the choice to adopt or maintain a good habit when you feel you’ve barely got time to breathe. But it is a choice, an investment in a better existence. One way that we are all surely creatures of habit—-we want to know what’s in it for us! Find a way to reward yourself for the good choices you make. In my case, a little dark chocolate goes a long way.

What are the habits that have helped you simplify your life? Please send me a comment.

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