Two days ago my household’s satellite cable was cut off. Since then I’ve felt completely liberated.

The thing with me and TV is that when it’s around I watch it. I remember a few times when I accidentally had free cable, like one time in high school when for a period of time I watched Star Trek: The Next Generation practically every night. Other times I haven’t had a TV at all, and when it’s not there it generally doesn’t occur to me to miss it. Typically, it seems that the amount of TV available to me directly corresponds to the amount I consume and the attachment I experience. It’s that simple.

I like to think that I’m in control of my television consumption, but the reality is that I’m not. As I become more conscious of my consumption habits, I notice that I will sit down in front of the TV even when I don’t want to. Sometimes I’ll even flip it on hoping to disconnect from whatever I’m feeling: the stress of a tough day at work, the loneliness of living in a new city, or a lack of inspiration to write or draw.

I’ve been aware of how bad TV is for me for a while, so much so that when I was planning my move to my new city I intended to have no TV at all. But then I found a shared house that was already furnished with everything, including a totally outrageous satellite cable package.

At the time there didn’t seem to be much I could do about it. I loved the house, so I wasn’t not going to move in. And I didn’t want to waltz in to my new communal living situation making a big fuss about the way things were already set up. Besides, at that point I was feeling pretty righteous about the whole thing. Big deal, I thought. My roommates can watch the boob tube if they want, but I’ll be too busy with my vibrant social and creative life to even notice!

Righteous or not, as usual I ended up watching the TV because it was there. Though it turns out that having 250 channels doesn’t necessarily (or even regularly) ensure there is anything worthwhile on, I enjoyed that CSI or What Not to Wear were pretty much guaranteed to be on at any hour, and that if I missed The Hour or Survivor at 7pm or 8pm, I could catch it at 9 or 10. Oh, the freedom!

What I didn’t figure out until we received the first bill was that I was actually buying cable for the first time in my life. The painful irony was that my first-ever paid cable experience occurred in conjunction with the very first month of my project to Subvert Overconsumption by buying nothing new for a year.

Yuck. Now, at the beginning of this project I wrote into my Guidelines for Subverting Overconsumption a caveat about consuming culture, so technically I’m off the hook. In fact, TV wasn’t even mentioned in the Guidelines at all, and it certainly didn’t occur to me that paying for cable was going to be problematic. But interestingly, taking cultural consumption off the hook has actually had the effect of making me hypersensitive to the culture I do consume.

Happily, the roommates agreed that $50 a month for satellite cable was a little over the top, so as a first step we decided to downsize to a more basic cable package. It took a few weeks, but when I got home Friday night, there it was: no satellite signal. I have to admit that after a long week at work I felt a little dismayed at the prospect of filling an exhausted Friday night with anything other than cable.

But something in the universe must want to support a cable-free me, because reluctant though I felt I was swept into a most excellent weekend involving improv theatre, looking at, making and trading art, meeting new people, writing, a movie, brunch, working out, visiting the library, taking pictures of the crisp winter day, and smiling at nothing and everything.

And so there it is. Just like that, I have a lighter heart. Is my weekend of renewed connectedness and possibility the result of not watching the boob tube for two days? I guess it would be a little simplistic to think so, but whatever the cause, something’s shifted and I’m glad. When I got home this afternoon I asked my roommate what she thought about not having any cable at all, and she said she’d been feeling great and more productive too, and that she thought it was a good idea.

All this reinforces something I already knew about myself, which is that my health requires good habits that have to be supported by my environment. Feeling empowered to design my own healthy environment is crucial, and it obviously doesn’t include cable. Pretty straightforward.

On that note, let me leave you with a great posting I found about someone else who is experiencing the delights of not having cable:

Why you too should cancel cable

Til next time, consume subversively,

xo n