Friday, January 7, 2011

Wee-Hour Energy: New Habits for a Very Old Case of Insomnia

It runs in the family, and I’ve got it. Usually the “early morning awakening” variety, not the “can’t fall asleep” type of insomnia. This time I can blame it specifically on the cat. She got into some noisy mischief and after that I just lay awake.

Laying there rubbing my face (cat dander) became intolerable, so I landed on the couch. And I eschewed the habit I normally turn to—a good crime drama (there is always one on), or, and I hate to admit this, some rerun of Real Housewives or that Millionaire matchmaking show or TMZ. For a while I kept finding Sandra Bullock movies on at 2:30 AM, then I’d get into them, feel I had to finish them, and end up crying with sympathy for Bullock into the couch pillow instead of being lulled to sleep.

It’s hard to be very motivated when your mind and body haven’t completely refueled, but I’ve always wished I could harvest that wee-hour energy, however misplaced, and apply it to my writing life. How refreshing it feels to sit in the quiet, hearing only the purr of the furnace and my fingers on the keyboard. I've been wanting to work on a poetry chapbook. Working a poem against the hushed backdrop of a sleepy house sounds like an ideal pastime that will far surpass TMZ.  

Have you heard about David Katzmaier’s Diary of a Cable Cord Cutter blog? Maybe not, because he lasted a month, according to his recent interview with NPR. While he recognized economic benefits to abstaining from cable, the Mrs. wasn’t thrilled, and David missed his ready access to sports TV.

My sister’s household on a rural road in Vermont became cable and satellite TV-less by default. No cable access, and no technician, despite several house calls, was ever able to fix the problems with (expensive!) satellite transmission. The Smiths now download shows through the Internet, and Linda says it was a happy accident that the quality of what they watch has gone way up.They're much more selective than if they were just channel surfing. Lots of fascinating lectures and forums, for example the ones on PBS, and of course now so many shows and movies can be downloaded to the laptop. So no TV doesn’t have to mean no entertainment. Of course, is watching Internet shows any better than watching TV, in terms of my month of saying no to TV? Well, no, because I'm trying to find time for nobler pursuits. Perhaps in the future online PBS will be one of my lower-tier nobler pursuits, but for now what I chase is primarily a richer creative life in which I choose not to be sedated.

A good compromise I’ve read about more than once: move your TV so it isn’t at the center of your living room. For example, it could be housed in a guest bedroom. That way, if there’s something you find really compelling, maybe the presidential inauguration or a family member adding their 2 cents on a local news channel, you still have access. But it's not the main event, not the focus of our living space.

Hey, check out these 18 reasons to keep the TV out of the bedroom! Better sleep and sex? Great incentives for my month of saying no to TV.

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