Lions and Tigers and Netflix, Oh My!

It was supposed to be someone’s temporary Christmas present. But…

Yeah. We forgot to cancel our subscription.

Again.

On the one hand, I think Netflix will be mine and my husband’s downfall, will lead to our family’s utter destruction, and will turn our kids into robots.

On the other hand, it is so dang nice to be able to turn on something whenever you want to, be it educational, informational, or purely for entertainment, stress relief, or fun — or even for gross-out factors (Food, Inc., anyone? Ughhh…).

We never used to watch any kind of TV. We never had cable or satellite. We only would watch a DVD once or twice a week, munch on popcorn, not get addicted, and call it good when the movie was over.

But then magical shows like Once Upon a Time appeared in the world of Netflix, or brutally horrible but intensely intriguing shows like Prison Break, or witty and mysterious shows like Bones.

After too many nights to count of lost sleep (“just one more episode…”), I think we’ve finally decided to stop watching shows. Yay us. We’ve moved on — a little.

But there are soooo many movies on there. We’ve seen some really great ones, and…some really not great ones. I don’t want to say it’s been a waste of time the whole time, because we do enjoy vegging together at the end of a long day, and usually it doesn’t really matter what we’re doing as long as we’re together — we enjoy it.

But. How much of our lives have we spent in front of a screen? What would we do if we suddenly had no power and had to figure out life without any of them? No TVs. No computers. No phones. Nothing.

Well, I’ll tell you, we had a little taste of that when we first moved out here to California. The place we kind of accidentally rented — which was supposed to be for just a few short months but ended up being for more than 8 — was up a canyon in an old, run-down ranch house that was falling into disrepair. Now, our time there is a long, challenging story and I’ll save most of the gritty details for another post — if you’re brave enough to hear it.

But. One thing that happened there that ended up being a blessing is this: because we were so far up in that little canyon, we had no reception and even iffy electricity. So…no computers. No phones. No Internet. We did set up our TV and DVD player and used it for an occasional movie…but the house situation was so yucky that we didn’t want to be in it if we didn’t have to.

So we spent a lot of time outside. We went into town to use the resources there to do our homeschool lessons. We went on walks all over those hills, exploring new things every time. We drove to the beach. We got out our board games. We made movies. We wrote letters to our family and friends.

Did you catch that?? We actually wrote letters.

We colored. We played. We listened to the only radio station that would come on up in that canyon: KLOVE, which plays positive, encouraging music and messages. That radio station really pulled me through some rough days, I’m telling ya.

We built forts. We played the piano. We played with legos and bionicles. We got covered in dirt. Every single day. We sang songs. We laughed. We cried. We clung to each other through a lot of challenges we were experiencing, and we cemented ourselves as a family who had to rely on each other and on God.

And we did it without the distraction of screens.

Now, I’d be lying if I tried to say we didn’t ever have access: of course Mike did at work, and when we went down into town I could usually get reception on my cell phone so I could text, make quick phone calls, briefly hop on Facebook, reply to emails, etc. And like I said, my kids were using the library’s computers to do their online school lessons.

But much of what we had grown accustomed to taking for granted in our lives was no longer readily available, and although it was hard to adjust to that, in the end, I think it saved us. We were forced to focus on each other, to be creative, to rely on our own ideas and methods for entertainment, to go back to ‘snail mail’ for a lot of our communicating.

It seemed crazy at the time. It felt like because of this change, plus with the living conditions we were in out there by ourselves, that we were living in some other country. I had nightmares, regularly. I had thought I was tough, but living there made me tougher — and I’m not just talking about being cut off cold-turkey from keeping in touch with the outside world, with my family and friends, from where we had had our life before coming here. We all got tougher. We all turned to each other, and to God.

If someone had a problem, they couldn’t just escape to an online world; they had to face the problem. If someone was bored, they couldn’t just turn on the TV; they had to find something else to do. When we felt sad or lonely or anything else — we had to deal with it, the real way. Not in some virtual way.

And we made it. And for as much complaining as I did during those long months, I said just as many thank-you prayers that we were safe, we were there together, and that we were being given this opportunity to focus on what was most important.

Yeah. I’ll admit that now, I’m once again somewhat addicted to technology, to the ease of everything Google and beyond. We just watched Red Dawn on Netflix…way too gory for my taste and neither of us liked it much. Once it was over, Mike finished playing a game on his phone and I checked a few things on the school computer that was still on before shutting it down. Heck — I’m using my smart iPhone to speech text this blog that I’ll link to Facebook after uploading a picture I just edited. I mean Wow.

Technology can be used for some really good things, too. You know what they are — I don’t have to start making that list. I think the thing is — we can get addicted and/or so distracted so very, very easily and quickly, and pulled away from what’s most important. What’s Good? What’s Better? And what’s Best? We just have to be so stinkin’ careful that we try to balance out how and why and when we are using technology, screens, etc. and make sure that we aren’t doing it too much or for the wrong reasons –and that it isn’t taking precedence over the more important things, and people, in our lives.

I still occasionally have nightmares about that falling-apart ‘cabin’ we lived in, and I wake up thinking I’m hearing animals in the walls or the ceiling, or that the police will show up with the mugshot of some criminal who escaped and they think is hiding out up where we live, and asking my kids if they’ve seen him. I still turn on the running water here and say a thank-you prayer that it IS running, that it’s not murky on an off-chance day, that we always have a way to heat it, and that we can drink clean water. I could seriously go on and on…but another time.

My point is: for all the hardships we experienced during that time, I do miss one thing:

The simple life.

The life free from the distractions and noise of the world coming at us and into our home and family through every portal possible. The reason to have to find something else to do because, sorry, there’s no computer. The fact that no one could fight over who got to use which electronic device because, sorry again, none of them work so we might as well not even turn them on. The quiet. The family time. The REAL, here and now time focusing on what matters.

Will I remember a week from now what in the world “Red Dawn” was about?

Heck no.

And yes, I got to spend two hours snuggling next to my hubby on the couch, but we could’ve totally been smarter about our movie selection and picked something a little more worthwhile if we were going to give in to the Netflix temptation.

Maybe we really will cancel it. Maybe not. But I’m determined to make wiser choices. After all, we really are only on this earth for like a split second. You know?

When I get to the end, will I be proud of how many hours I spent looking at a screen — any screen? Or will I be more proud of the hours I spent looking at my family, and sunsets?

This life really is a split second. So much matters…and so much doesn’t.

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