In the middle of December, Zach, Francis and I pooled our money to buy a big-screen TV. It currently sits in our living room, dominating a wall, propped atop two plastic storage bins.
For a while, I hated it.
I resisted buying it in the first place, allegedly due to concerns about money. Zach pointed out that his Walmart holiday discount coupled with Francis’s offer to pay half made it very affordable (both in general and for us specifically). We watch TV shows pretty frequently, Francis loves Netflix, and Zach wanted to play the video games he loved as a teen. Inasmuch as an entertainment object can be practical, it definitely was.
Still I resisted. When we bought it, I felt self-conscious having a huge TV in our shopping cart. When we set it up, I retreated to my room to pretend that it didn’t exist. When we watched our first show on it, I felt tense the whole time.
Why on earth would I react to an inanimate object with such revulsion?
The answer, in short, is pride.
I didn’t want a big-screen TV because in my mind, only materialistic people buy a big-screen TV, and I am most definitely not materialistic, darn it! Yes, this means that in my life I have been automatically judging anyone who owns a big-ticket item like this, and was afraid of other people applying this judgement to me. Talk about one of those “greater self awareness” moments. It’s part of my constant struggle to avoid finding my identity in the act of not having things.
There are countless big-ticket purchases that don’t seem materialistic to me— our canoe, Zach’s bike, a trip to Pennsylvania— even though they are more expensive by orders of magnitude. But I had trouble with this purchase because it bumped up against my fantasy self, a strange version of how I want reality to be: and in that reality, Lisa and Zach do not own a TV because they are too busy taking walks and playing piano and doing meaningful things with their time, every night, always.
One night I sat for a while and watched Zach play Call of Duty: Black Ops with his two brothers, the three of them rapt as they guided their avatars around the map, alternately yelling at each other and laughing maniacally.
The next night, Zach and Francis and I squished together on the couch, munching on snacks, and watched Frasier together on Netflix. I love the sound of Zach’s laughter.
One night Zach and I spent hours playing Beatles Rock Band, singing into the microphones and trying to get the notes perfect so we could win a “Double Fab” score.
Gradually, I began to let go of the fantasy, and embrace the reality.
Yes, some nights Zach bakes a loaf of artisan bread while I compose songs on the piano, and afterward we take a walk and stop by to chat with my family.
Other nights we sit and veg out in front of the TV.
This is our reality. This is okay. This is nothing to judge myself for, and certainly nothing to judge other people for.
As is the case with so many life lessons over the past few months, the goal is the same: let go. Let go of the pride, the judgement, the fantasy world.
And belt out those notes. I have a lot of Double Fabs left to catch.