On Monday morning, my youngest got up at 4.45am, and as is always the case when he comes into my bed, neither of us could get back to sleep. An hour later, I convinced him to go back to his room, but for me, it was too late. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I just got up. Bleary eyed and feeling sorry for myself, I opened the lap top to get a head-start on the day, but all I could think about was sitting down to watch TV in about 16 hours time. (Also, side note, I always pictured this hour where you get up before everyone else as bright and sunny – that would be a splendid environment for getting a head-start on the day. But when it’s pitch dark outside and you’re sitting at the kitchen table in the cold, it doesn’t match up to the expectation.)
Anyway, yes, my drug of choice for getting me through unexpected early starts, or just regular starts, is the promise of TV. Up until last year, we used to watch something three or four nights a week, but now that my evenings are spent working on my lap top at the kitchen table (again in the pitch dark), the promise of a TV program gets me through. So it’s a seven night a week habit. And not just any program – it has to be something good. Time is at a premium, so there’s no room for flicking around channels – it’s always something from whatever series we’re watching on Netflix. Happily, my husband and I have exactly the same taste in TV, so that’s easy. And far from being a passive hobby (yes, this post could be retitled “In defence of watching TV”) it’s truly a shared experience – we eye-roll in unison, complain about plot holes, and hide behind cushions for the torture scenes (OK, just me).
My need for TV – particularly when I first sit down to work at 8.30pm – is almost visceral. But of course, it’s a need for motivation, for reward, for the light at the end of the tunnel. For some escapism, for a different screen – one that doesn’t need any input from me. TV, I make no apology – I love you.
I have other drugs of choice too – other things I promise myself to get me through the challenging times. My second one is wine. It’s not one I want at 6am in the cold, dark kitchen, but as the week ticks by, and every school run becomes more tiring than the last, the promise of a Friday* night glass of wine starts to take shape. And again, of course, it’s about reward and escapism. If I’m sipping wine, it means the hard part of the week is done, and it’s OK to kick back. (*By Friday, of course I mean Thursday.)
My third drug of choice is shopping. This one can get pricey so it has to be managed. But when things are tough, that’s what I promise myself. Get through this week, and get a new top on Saturday afternoon. Or coffee cups. Or a scarf. Or a lipstick. Something. Over the last two months, settling my junior infant into school, there have been many school runs when I’ve promised myself much more than a scarf and a lipstick, but it works – the promise alone is enough to make me push forward. And the threat of a credit card bill I can’t pay is enough to keep me from going too far.
I wonder sometimes if other people have their own reward systems – the little things we promise ourselves to keep us going. And I would like some day reach a point where I don’t need anything – to be sitting right at the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a completely fulfilled person who doesn’t rely on TV or wine or retail therapy. But not enough to try very hard to get there – right now, I need my treats. And anyway, what if the treats are more fun than self-actualisation and I only realise once I get there? Maybe I won’t take that chance.