Watching Life Instead of Living It

Now that the COVID-mania of 2020 and 2021 seems to have lifted, I want to live life instead of watching it happen. Doing, instead of being in the audience, is my thing. That’s why I joined the choir in my church – I didn’t want to just watch other people sing; I want to be in on it too! Why be a spectator?

I’ve made strides toward more living, less watching before. When I first moved into my house in December of 2016, I moved my circa-2000 television with me. That thing was an old bulky set – definitely not a flat screen. The remote control stopped working sometime in the late 2010s.

My TV looked a LOT like this one. Heck, it could have been this model.

I worked around it by actually getting up to change the channel, like in the 1970s. I started watching less and less television over the years, and I decided once I moved, I was going to put that old wreck on the curb and run an experiment: how long can I go without a TV in the house?

Reader, it is May 14, 2022, over five years later, and I still haven’t bought a tv. There are three cable outlets in this house; I could buy one and get cable. Or just install a smart tv flatscreen on a wall and get Roku. But knowing me, I’ll probably buy one the month before I sell this house, to demo to new buyers where a TV would go.

BRIEF TANGENT: Funny story: I got the circa-2000 TV back in 2009, when the Federal Communications Commission mandated that all US television signals must be transmitted digitally. I had to get rid of my earlier television: a 1988 Panasonic model which weighed a ton. Best Buy was collecting old TV sets and gave people who dropped them off a $10 gift card. I rolled up with my 21-year-old TV and maneuvered it out of the back seat to tote inside. A sweet fraternity guy (probably just 21 himself) saw me struggling with this dinosaur and rushed over to carry it for me. He plopped it on the service desk and said to the girls there “We bought this TV here last week and it doesn’t get those new digital signals. We want our money back.” Everyone fell out laughing. (End of brief tangent)

Alas…

Don’t think my lack of an actual TV means I’m screenless. In fact, I think it’s worsened my addiction to screens, what with my iPhone, iPad, two laptops and a desktop computer. I used to have Netflix and I’d binge entire seasons in a weekend on my laptop. I’ve fallen in love with podcasts and listen to so many on my iPhone – and not just while doing chores, kitchen stuff, or walking the dog. I’ve built up the dangerous habit of playing games on my phone while listening to podcasts. Plus, I have to use my smartphone for some things: the SecureID for getting into my work remotely; my Noom weight loss app, and of course Match.com. I’m face down in my devices too much.

Turning Watching into Doing

Becoming a VIP

In late December 2020 I took the week off work. I decided to watch a “Live Chat” on one of my favorite websites: PJMedia.com. The VIP member-only Live Chat featured their top columnists, including Stephen “VodkaPundit” Green and Stephen Kruiser. In addition to watching these guys talk about anything under the sun, from news to liquor cooking to sports to culture to books – truly, they have eclectic and wide-ranging interests – I could interact with the folks watching in the “Chat” section of the Live Chat. It started off as questions for the hosts; soon, we in the chat just started having our own conversations. I’ll never forget the time Stephen Green looked at the chat and said, “They’re talking amongst themselves – they’re ignoring us!” We all got to know each other’s nicknames on the chat, came up with a clever name for the Live Chat – “Five O’clock Somewhere”, and even started a MeWe group for the rest of the week, a place for everyone to post comments, pictures, and recipes. ButcherBox got a ton of new business from our group.

Watching the Live Chat was addictive – I changed my work schedule to accommodate logging into the chat. It never mattered if you logged in late; the chat was so much fun it started running longer and longer, up to three and even four hours sometimes. People would leave and come back! Have to walk your dog or fix dinner for the kids? No problem, go, take care of it – we’ll still be here in 30 minutes.

But…

… it was watching, not living. While that was fine during COVID-manic 2021, it began to pale. I even started to feel like a voyeur. When the two Stephens announced they were going to CPAC (the annual conservative pow-wow/conference which always makes the news) I and several others said – we’re going too! Time to be a part, not just watch.

Three of my fellow VIPs joined me in buying tickets to CPAC and heading to Orlando in February 2022. As I was driving down there, I was thinking – am I really doing this? I’m heading off to meet a bunch of people I’ve never laid eyes on and we’re all going to be together at this conference? I re-assured myself if I hated everyone, I could simply attend the CPAC sessions and then skip out early. Naturally everyone else was thinking the same thing as they made their way from Illinois, Virginia, and Georgia.

A Happy Surprise

Stepping out in faith always leads to rewards – especially in meeting new people. My fellow VIPs were and are terrific people. (We’re planning another get-together in Chicago this June.) We hit it off with both the Stephens and other PJ Media writers. And best of all – we got to be on the Live Chat the Stephens hosted in one of the bars at the CPAC conference hotel. We commandeered a table for eight (knocking aside another party in line – but hey, possession is 9/10 of the law.) I think I’ll draw the curtains shut on that four-hour escapade. Just know our waitress must have cleared over $300 in tips. And that’s probably low-balling it.

Ever since we came back from that CPAC, our fun-loving group of VIPs is still getting together virtually – but in addition to the weekly Live Chats, we also hold our own, renegade ZOOM calls (not sponsored by PJ Media.) The Zoom calls are where everyone who’s normally just writing messages in the chat gets to turn up on camera. Naturally, everyone has a cocktail or two. And my friends in the Central and Pacific time zones keep the party going long after I have to sign off on the East Coast. It’s a wonderful, welcome by-product of the pandemic: new friends across the United States.


Coming soon: the drastic steps I’m taking to lower screen usage – all to make time for my gardening, cooking, books and baking.

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