When I was a young girl, knee socks and Easter dress young, confessing my grade school sins to Father Gilmartin was a regular part of my religious education. As an eight-year-old, my sins were pretty tame–more lying to my mother than coveting my neighbor’s cattle. Later I would wonder if worshiping at the false altar of Duran Duran qualified as breaking a commandment, but nevertheless, I always left the church with a helium kind of lightness. Spending five minutes in the quiet darkness of the confessional left me feeling clean, fresh; like a blank slate.
New Year’s has always held the same element of pine-fresh cleanliness for me. As a writer, there’s nothing more exciting to me than a blank page and New Year’s is nothing if not a whole book worth of clean, white pages. An unblemished chalkboard, a fresh start.
Tried last year and failed? No worries! Fallen off the wagon and under the wheels again? Here’s a hand, come on up and give it another try! It’s a New Year! Second, third and fourth chances welcome here!
I love New Year resolutions, all the pretty, little promises we make to ourselves. Bad habits we’ve been trying unsuccessfully to break, unwanted pounds to be shed, treadmills thick with cobwebs to be dusted off and used. We promise to quit this and start that. Change this and revamp that. Some people stick with them. Most don’t. I never fault anyone for trying. I get it. I do the same.
Back in November I took part in the NaNoWriMo challenge: 50,000 words in a month. I finished three days ahead of schedule: 50,206 words. I sat my ass on the chair, the couch, the floor, in bed and I wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. Four hours a day. The only reason I was able to do that all that writing was because I shut down every other program on my computer except the word processing one. No checking FB, no reading blogs, no reading about the latest Kardashian escapade on People.com. No Windows shopping, no Dlisted, no searching for Jaime Oliver recipes. It was amazing how much I got done without the distraction of the internet.
It’s been a long time since I prayed on a velveteen kneeler and confessed my sins to a priest. But between us, I have a parenting confession to make: our collective screen time as a family has gotten out of control.
The time we spend in front of our respective screens individually and as a family has gone from highly regulated to whenever, wherever. There are cables and chargers and adapters trailing like spaghetti from every outlet in my house. Screen time has gone from something to do occasionally to the go-to form of entertainment. Left to their own devices, they probably would…. and do…choose the iPad over a board game with me, choose the Wii over a trip to the park with Dad, choose a TV show over a museum outing. And we let them. Because they’re not fighting or moping or asking or demanding or fidgeting. And it gives us time to lounge and do the same.
I am not apportioning blame. I accept full responsibility. I’m smart enough to know that the buck stops with me and that I am just as guilty as the next son; checking Facebook, checking blog stats, cringing at Kardashians.
New Year’s is the perfect time to make some wholesale changes. To rock the boat. To regain control.
Sometimes though, a mere resolution isn’t enough. Sometimes you need revolution instead.
So my New Year’s revolution is this: more seen time, less screen time. That is, more time spent in the present and less in front of the computer. For me as well as the kids.
No more sleeping with the phone by the bed and checking blog stats if I happen to wake up in the middle of the night. No more leaving the laptop open and just checking FB as I’m walking by my desk and then getting sucked in for thirty minutes. Those are thirty minutes I’m never going to get back. Ever. And at my age, those thirty minute chunks of time start to add up. They start to count.
It’s going to suck. There will be ranting from the kids. There will be raving from me. We’ll be bored. We won’t know what to do with ourselves. Until we do. Because that’s what a revolution is. Upending the current status quo and turning it on its head, figuring out what to do while the smoke clears, and then rebuilding.
Maybe you have your own set of resolutions. Take a look at your list. Pick one. And then turn it into a revolution. A complete and utter upheaval of some system in your life that’s not working. You know what I’m talking about. That thing which deep down in your heart you know is broken, that makes your gut feel wrong. The thing you kid yourself about or make excuses for or the thing that has run so far away from you that the very idea of chasing down after it makes you tired.
I haven’t spent five minutes in a dark, quiet confessional in years, but I’ve spent a lot of hours contemplating. I stopped making a laundry list of transgressions but I can still relish that feeling of possibility that comes from starting afresh.
And I can tell you this: in my house, the revolution won’t be televised.
What will your New Year’s revolution be?