Sunday, August 22, 2010

Let the fasting continue

It's been a week since my first fast. A week with no fasting. A fast from fasting, if you will.

It was lovely.

However, my week-long fast from television made such an impact on me (I'm watching Extreme Home Makeover as I type this post) that I decided another fast was in order.

I'm going to up the ante a bit this time and fast from something I like even more than television: sweets. I'm going to give up all dessert/candy/snack/cake/sugary goodness type foods. No more cookies, no more donuts, no more chocolate, no more happiness.

For some of you, this may not seem so difficult. That's because you don't work in a church.

Let me explain something to you about working in a church. People are always dropping by the office and about 87% of the time they leave something sweet behind. I mean, I would tell them that donuts and cookies don't count as a tithe but I can't because my mouth is full of sugary perfection.

Also let me tell you that I was raised on dessert. Don't get me wrong, my mom was a great cook and always had well-balanced meals for us, but I could also always count on dessert. I'm used to eating something sweet after meals, especially dinner.

I have so many opportunities to eat sweets. As I write this, I am realizing how bad of an idea this fast is.

The fast begins tomorrow. My first day back to sweets will be Monday, August 30th.

Expectations:
-I'm going to really want sweets the entire week
-I'm going to find some sort of healthy replacement for sweets (smoothies come to mind)
-Someone is going to randomly make puppy chow (perhaps my favorite sweet) and I won't be able to eat it

Wish me luck. I dare you to join me.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Life begins again

Well, tonight is the last night of the fast and let me tell you, I am a completely changed person!




Okay, so maybe not.


But I will say I am glad I fasted and there will be some changes in my television viewing habits.

First off, as far as my predictions go, I was pretty much spot on. I wrote more (this is the third blog post in a week--that's gotta be a record), I read more (including getting a jump on my reading for school starting in dos weeks), I spent more time with Julie, I did get bored and had momentary lapses of thinking the fast was a stupid idea. I will say that I never forgot about the fast and slipped up. The closest I came to watching TV this week was seeing the screens inside a BW3's as we drove by and walking through a room with a TV on several times (I did laugh at a joke I heard, please don't judge me).

I had written that my goal was simply to create space and see what I filled it with. For the most part, this was the most disappointing part of the fast. Although it's true that I did read more, I did write more, yada yada, I also wasted time in other ways. I didn't even waste time in novel ways. Just bumming around the interwebs, checking out CNN.com and ESPN.com and fastgames.com and blah blah blah. If I could do the week over again, I would be more intentional about spending the freed-up time in more intentional pursuits.

The highlight of the week was opting out of watching Friends on TV with a group of people to share a great conversation with two real friends. I'd like to think I would have chosen this even without the fast, but the fast gave me no choice, and it was great to connect for a good half hour at least with two good friends.

As far as what impact this week will have looking forward, there are a few.

1. Julie and I have decided to stop watching TV during dinner. We still want to, but I think we both feel like we shouldn't. We'll see if over time, the desire to watch TV during this time lessens.

2. I think I will at least really think about how I'm spending my free time more. I might still watch TV with no real purpose, but I think it will be more difficult for me to do so. My hope is that I really only watch shows that I really like, and get rid of the "let's see what's on" mentality.

3. I'm thinking about doing another fast with a different element. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 13, 2010

These are my confessions...

Habits are hard to break.

Coming into this TV fast I didn't anticipate any problems. I mean, it's only TV and it's only a week. And for the most part it has been easy so far.

The hardest thing has been fasting from the time when I almost always watch TV: dinner.

I was too ashamed to include in my previous post that my wife and I are one of the 66% of Americans who watch television during dinner. I never really did this growing up, nor did Julie, but it has become an evening tradition. I'd like to blame it on our first apartment when we moved to Columbus. We didn't have a lot of kitchen space and our table wasn't really big enough even for the two of us to eat on comfortably, so we spent most meals on the couch.

However, now that we've moved into a house and have a bigger table, we still eat in front of the TV. I guess now I blame Chandler, Monica, Ross, Rachel, Joey, and Phoebe for being so funny.

I must admit that on the first day of the fast I was surprised at how much I really wanted to watch TV during dinner and the amount of disappointment in not being able to. I am so used to watching TV during dinner that I actually sensed a craving to watch TV I can only compare to hunger. Not to over-dramatize the feeling, it really wasn't a big deal, but there was some sort of physical or emotional response in my body. I could sense the disappointment.

Honestly, it's a little scary. I'm not sure how I feel about being that used to something, especially something so trivial. It makes me wonder what other habits I may overlook that could have some sort of minor grasp on me, my brain, my body, my heart.

I invite you to consider what habits you have. Not necessarily to attach some negative value to habits and eliminate them, but maybe just to be aware of influences we may be taking for granted.

I also invite you to comment and own up to whether or not you eat in front of the television. Do you think I should feel as much shame as I do?

Monday, August 9, 2010

No more happiness

I'm never watching television again.

Seriously. Only I'm actually never watching it again for a week...maybe a month.

I like television. I mean, I really like it. I like it enough to watch the Bachelorette with my wife...or by myself. I will turn on the TV and just pick the least boring show on and watch that (unless it's Dancing with the Stars, because c'mon). If we had cable, I'd probably be unemployed with bedsores.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a bit. But over the past few months/26 years I've wondered what life would be like without television. There are many goals I have in life, both short-term and long-term and believe it or not, none of them involve watching television. And yet, I probably spend more time watching TV than working towards achieving those goals. I can't imagine lying on my death bed wishing I would have watched more television.

It's not that I think television is evil (although if you saw any commercials for ABC's new show "The Bachelor Pad" you may disagree), in fact, I think there can be some great things about television. But I'm ready to admit that I probably watch more than I need to. According to some random stats I found online (okay, it was from Nielsen, so these people know their TV), the average American watched 153 hours of TV every month in 2009. That's almost 5 hours per day. PER DAY! That's more than 20% of your day. How is that possible? So I'm not as bad as the average American, but I still want to watch less.

So I decided to make a little experiment of it. I'm going to fast from watching television. I originally wanted to try it for a month, but my wife (who knows how many ideas I have like this that start out with gusto but last only a few days) suggested I start with a week. So, starting tomorrow (August 10th) I will not watch any television for a week (August 17th being the first day back to television). On the 17th I will decide whether or not to go the whole month. I realize for some of you this feat is not impressive but I'm not doing it to impress you so relax. Blogging about it does have two big advantages though:

1. I have the accountability of everyone who reads this (all three of you)
2. It gives me a reason to write blog posts.

A lot of times fasting isn't just about what you give up, it's about what you replace it with. This fast isn't necessarily like that. I'm not intentionally taking the two hours I might normally watch television on Tuesday night and replacing it with saving puppies (at least I'm not planning on it). Really I'm just creating space. I want to see what I will fill my time with when I don't have the default of television.

Here are some expectations for the week:

-I expect to read more than normal.
-I expect to write more than normal.
-I expect to spend more time with my wife.
-I expect to forget I ever decided to do this and accidentally watch three minutes of something.
-I expect to get bored at some point and really think this was a stupid idea.

One exception I have to allow for:

-If something BIG happens (like they finally find Bigfoot and he's got a lot to say) I will allow myself to watch news coverage.

Stay tuned.