I was a box set addict. I just need to admit that now before we proceed any further. I hold my hand up and declare it. Mad Men, Game of Thrones, True Blood, Breaking Bad – these were just some of my many and varied addictions. “Hello Abigail, how are you?” my husband Leo would ask me sweetly when he came home from work, “Ssssh” I would respond, “I’m in the middle of this scene, I cannot be disturbed, I must know what happens next!” Shrugging his shoulders, he would go off to the other room to watch the news on the computer, his food on a plate with a bit of tin foil wrapped around it keeping it tepid at best. What can I say – I just couldn’t help it.
Each night, once the kids were in bed, I would rush to my sofa, place the cushions in just the right position for maximum comfort and then begin the marathon. Sometimes I could curb it and just watch one, but if it was a Friday night and I knew I would get a lie in the next day, I wouldn’t control myself and would gorge on up to three shows, back to back, devouring them like a predator devours its prey. If it was a”Breaking Bad” marathon, my brain was whirring so much with anxiety and excitement that once the TV was off, I just couldn’t go to sleep. This addiction was destroying my rest and clouding my judgement.
When Leo managed to drag me out to dinners to meet real humans – away from my vicarious life with the various imaginary characters on the screen – I would find myself asking friends if they had seen the latest episode of whatever show I was currently watching. What was happening to me? Those characters on the small screen became as real to me as my own family. It was getting scary – I was doing something I see now as “avoiding” – avoiding taking chances, avoiding thriving and avoiding creating. Photography jobs came my way but my ambition had dried up. I remember my friend suggesting I do another portrait project and the thought of it just tired me out. I was in my early 40s and had basically accepted my lot in life. Ambition and dreams were now for other people. I could feel them slipping away and I mourned them but I didn’t have the energy to chase them.
Then one day my husband started talking about Madrid and the possibility of us moving there as a family. Something stirred inside the lazy husk that I was becoming; some old yearning for adventure began to raise her head and call out to be heard and once she started calling, I couldn’t quieten her. I found myself pushing my husband to talk to his boss so we could make the move. I could feel my urgency – this was it – this was the chance to break free from the clutches of the comfy sofa, kiss goodbye to the characters on the small screen and start living my own life again. I was going to write my own story and be the star of my own show.
Those first months in Madrid, when we were living in a small, cramped air b and b in the middle of the city, with no television, but instead, a throbbing, vibrant real life right on our doorstep, I realised that I was finally liberated from my addiction. Everything, including the language, was new. Life was suddenly such a roller coaster ride that I hardly had time to breathe, let alone watch box sets. Leo would return home from work to our tiny scruffy apartment and do you know what, we sat and we talked.
Over a year has passed since that first month and although I still do love watching television, I now see it as a treat to be savoured, amongst the many other flavours and joys of my week.
So to all of you who love your box sets, I do understand – but just remember, the world out there is a big and wonderful place with a chance waiting on every corner – I just wish I had embraced it sooner!
Pic: My survival book of spanish words and phrases written for me by my son for my first weeks in Madrid!