While on medical leave to battle breast cancer, I was fortunate enough to have long-term disability coverage, which meant I was still pulling in a monthly paycheck. It was skin and bones compared to my previous income levels, but manageable. We certainly weren’t going on vacations, an excursion was only as far as the pharmacy, but the bills were paid (when I remembered). As a single mother, I support my family day to day on my own.
The first luxury that went was cable TV. To prepare myself to cut the cable – literally – I stopped turning on the TV for background noise. Chemobrain made me more squirrely than usual, so I had little interest in the usual shows. And the news … Why? Why?! WHY?! Why do we need to know Every. Speck. Of. Bad. News? There is a difference between being informed of current events and reading too many soul-sucking articles on just how low humans can go. We fight, take flight or freeze.
Around the same time, social media was taking a hit for dumbing us down with fake news, cute little quizzes which were really designed to steal your identity (think of the questions your bank asks online) or to gain access to your private photos and information. You really have no idea how much meta data is collected about you every day. To fight the tide of fake news and uphold net neutrality, the web browser I use – Firefox – added a feature called Pocket to recommend high quality, real content.
My reading time went up dramatically. Daily, I was reading articles from the Washington Post, Wired, Arstechnica, the New Yorker, Harvard Business Review, the Economist, Medium etc. I was reading so much that I was hitting the paywall on my allotted free articles (there is a way around that). I was consuming TED Talks, Quantum Physics, productivity hacks and anything else that would make me a better me.
Sure, there are times when I miss knowing the local news, but I have found alternate sources for the important stuff. The local neighbourhood Facebook Group rivals any news station or Neighbourhood Watch for speed and accuracy. Within seconds of a power failure I knew how far it extended long before it was reported on any outage map. And knew when power was being restored. Police activity at the local Pub? Somebody knows the unpublished details.
I also subscribed to Netflix so my son and I could get small doses of tuned-out brainwaves, if needed. We can binge watch some of the best movies and shows, commercial free. I am hooked on Stranger Things, the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, House of Cards, to name a few. I can even indulge my cooking show fetish with quality ingredients like Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I don’t miss the game shows or the golf (however I did snag an invite to watch the Masters), not the talk shows nor the “reality” TV. Some of them are so dumb, I never watched them on principle. One has to wonder if there is an ulterior motive to numb our intellect.
But my passive screen time was quickly replaced with active screen time. While I am aware that immersing myself in electronics isn’t ideal, at least I was using my brain.
My writing lead to reading more, which lead to writing better, which made me want to jump in for a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Toronto.
My creativity sparked. My stress lowered. My IQ crept back up to pre-chemo levels … then surpassed that standing. While I won’t give all the credit to kicking the television to the curb, it was a positive influence. It was one step after another which allowed me to rebuild myself.
I’ve even read some interesting conspiracy theories putting our television sets in the hands of governments, hackers … and the Dark Lord. Mind control with harmful frequencies. Big Brother may have a sister station.
I have a very active imagination … thanks, in part, to no TV sponsors! I will use it to feed my fiction.
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