Must See TV?

“Without TV, time to spare” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (June 10, 2005).

I’m willing to bet you’ve said it in the last week. Perhaps even this morning. I know I have. And together we’ll say it again next week, telling others – and ourselves – the same sad excuse: “There’s just not enough time.”

The refrain seems to be life’s answer to everything from why we haven’t started that exercise program to why we lost touch with a friend to why we can’t possibly accomplish that dream goal. There’s just not enough time.

Like me, though, you’ve probably discovered a bit more time in your life in the last few weeks. Now that Desperate Housewives, the various renditions of Law & Order, and the rest of the television jetsam have gone on their summer sabbaticals, hours have been put back into our lives. For some, that may be only an hour a week. For others, an hour a night. Sadly, for most, probably much more.

Now that network finale time has come and gone, a void enters the day. It brings with it that feeling deep in all of us that there is something missing – something that needs to be fed, filled, nourished. As reruns begin to enter our living rooms, that void creeps into our lives because so many of us have chosen to fill it in front of the television. We begin to realize that television’s nourishment is only fast food for the soul, and the only living our living rooms have seen has come from reality programming.

Prodded by this respite from “Must See TV,” perhaps now is the time to do some real living. Most of those New Year’s resolutions fell by the wayside months ago. Now is the time to pick them back up and affect some behavioral changes.

Call that distant friend and bring the relationship back to life.

Trade in the e-mail for a pen and drop a loved one a letter.

Contact your elected officials and let them know what’s on your mind.

Learn Spanish.

Pick up that dusty guitar.

Research something that’s always interested you.

Read to your kids. Better yet, write to your kids!

Get involved in the local community.

Learn about different faiths.

Take time to pray or reflect on your life.

Go for a run. Or take a stroll.

These activities open up our hearts and minds, broaden our horizons, and force us to connect with people on a more intimate level. Suddenly there is time to listen, learn and live!

On that evening stroll, perhaps you’ll stumble upon a neighbor doing the very same thing and a friendship will develop. Perhaps that letter to a spouse or parent will remind them how much they mean to you. And so on.

We need to seize the opportunity to make the most of this perceived “bonus” time in our lives. Begin to live by creating new habits. Through repetition, those habits can become rituals, changing our lives and the lives of others in ways immeasurable.

Then again, it is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks. Once that dog is comfortable in front of the television, he doesn’t want to leave. He finds it much easier to follow the drama created on the screen, going outside to do his business only when there is a commercial break.

A challenge, then. Add up the number of shows that you watched faithfully this season and total the hours you spent improving their Neilsen ratings. On the lower average, perhaps that included three dramas, two sitcoms, and one reality show – five hours a week. For most, the number will be much higher. Now that you’ve tabulated how much time you’ve just opened up in your life, do something with it. And whatever that something is, do it consistently. Moreover, do it as if your life depended on it – because it does!

Then, when Bree, Edie, Lynette, Gabrielle and Susan come back on the scene this fall, maybe we’ll be less interested in their desperate lives and more interested in our own.

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