When Netflix Nurtures and When It Numbs

I cancelled dinner with friends on Saturday. I spent the morning feeling gross in a way that I’m pretty sure had to do with a combo of sinus pressure and nasal drip and then finally decided to send the text early afternoon with my apologies.

I asked Theresa to join me on the couch where we cued up one of my favorite movies and spent the remainder of our day doing very little and feeling pretty good about it.

There was a time in my life, a sizeable chunk of time, when spending several hours, even a whole afternoon, on the couch zoning out to whatever shows was not a notable deviation from my norm but the norm itself. I recently shocked my friend (and Chomp & Chat regular) Charlie when I mentioned having watched every single episode of the early 2000s VH1 dating show Flavor of Love which featured the clock-wearing ultimate hype man Flavor Fav. Truth is, I also watched every single episode of the two spin-off shows, I Love New York (featuring a Flavor of Love contestant nicknamed New York) and Real Chance at Love (featuring two brothers vying for New York who were nicknamed, you got it, Real and Chance). I watched a lot of mind-numbing stuff back then.

And numbing was exactly what I was doing. Those hours upon hours of television consumed daily with clockwork regularity were my way of avoiding life while pretending that I was simply indulging in an activity that gave me a chance to cuddle with the person and pups then in my life. And sure, that was happening, but I wasn’t recharging during those hours. I wasn’t building energy; I was leeching it.

I was subconsciously tamping down my drive because I was so terrified of the idea of trying – and failing – to have the life and career I secretly wanted. I was loyally obeying the gremlins who said that the way to have a satisfying life was to stay quiet, stay small, change as little of myself and my life as possible, and the status quo would see me through.

A photo of Saturday, when Theresa and our dog and I spent a couple of hours piled onto the couch, might have looked nearly indistinguishable of those years of numbing but that’s because a photo can’t capture intentionality.

Before cancelling that dinner, before deciding on the movie, there was a pause, a conversation, an inward check in which I posed the question, “What do I need tonight? What would feel nurturing?”

A movie, a little homecooking, an early bedtime.

During my numbing days, there were no questions about a night’s needs or person’s sense of nurturing but rather a subconscious question of, “What shows will help us avoid life tonight?”

Which is to say: A Netflix binge can be numbing or nurturing depending on the intentionality.

Same with an extra-long stretch at your desk, exercise, eating, staying at home, going out – pretty much any activity or lack thereof can fit into either category depending on whether your decisions are coming from a reactive, subconscious space or a thoughtful, intentional one.

Sunday, I was still dragging and noticed a desire to hit the couch. I checked in, “What do I need tonight? What would feel nurturing?” More television felt like avoidance in that moment and so I made us cocoa to sip while we decorated the Christmas tree and wrapped presents.

Theresa’s collection of retro ornaments lit by all the tiny lights and the pile of colorful bags and tissue paper sure felt satisfying at the end of the evening.

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