A few years back, a friend and I were discussing simplifying our lives and “getting off the grid.” At the time, the focus of our conversation was on gardening, becoming self-sufficient, and simplifying our lives. It was at that time that I decided to stop driving and ride my bicycle everywhere within a five mile radius (this plan didn’t last very long!). I also cleaned out my closet of clothes that had been hanging unworn for years, and of shoes that were growing their own garden of mildew and dust. It is odd to me that this conversation has bubbled to the surface of my mind, as I am experiencing another kind of “getting off the grid,” one that I hadn’t even thought of at that time.
Two months ago I unplugged my DirecTV box, and went off of the satellite television grid. Thinking that I would subscribe to a new service or try a digital antenna of some kind, I hardly considered what I was doing. I also had a DVD player, and several movies on my bookshelf, that I hadn’t seen, so I really didn’t feel as if I was making any kind of statement, or for that matter, sacrifice.
I quickly learned what silence was. I had become too accustomed to the background noise of the television, often programs that I didn’t pay a bit of attention to, but enjoyed having other voices in my room. At first, the silence was deafening. I could hear every little noise my house was making, and could hear the footsteps of my neighbors and the water running through the pipes from their apartments. The tinnitus in my ears also became more noticeable, as I listened to the quiet ringing that is with me all of the time. The refrigerator drove me crazy, as the motor cut on and off, and as the automatic defroster did whatever it had to do to keep my freezer free of frost.
Then, a funny thing happened. The little noises began to fade. I didn’t notice them the way I had. The silence became inviting, as I embraced listening to my own thoughts and having uninterrupted periods of time without audible distraction. My notebooks by my chair and my bed began to fill up with ideas of things I wanted to write about, and I began writing more. My mind began to open up and reveal ideas and thoughts that had been hiding under the covers for ages, not showing their faces. I felt as if a new world was opening up that I hadn’t ever seen.
On the flip side, I also experienced a period of the blues. I didn’t understand at the time why I was feeling the way I did, and blamed it on winter. While I believe that winter and the lack of sunshine played a part in my emotions, I also think I was adjusting to living with myself and my thoughts and not burying them under the noise of the television set. Instead of getting involved in the lives and adventures of television characters, I was faced with reacquainting myself with me and re-learning what I had known as a child when television wasn’t the focal point of my home.
I have to admit that I have a few favorites that I still watch on television, through the magic of the internet, my laptop, and an HDMI cable. But now I pick and choose what I am going to watch and when I am going to watch these programs. And it is amazing to me that I choose not to watch these shows the majority of the time that I am at home.
It is very quiet in my home at this moment. I can hear my little dog’s steady breathing as she naps beside me, and I listen to the sound of the occasional car traveling down the street outside. I also hear the sound of raindrops falling on my porch roof, just outside my window. These are the sounds that have meaning to me and remind me that life is real and is for experiencing, not observing. Television, in many ways, had made part of my life a spectator sport. I want to be actively involved!
Ah, the sounds of silence…..