Written by Chef James Barry

Written by Chef James Barry

Hello, my name is James and I am addicted to movies.

That’s right, whenever I have a moment of free time, I’m streaming Netflix. Let me be even more specific. This isn’t just “I’ve had a long day, I’ll watch an hour of TV.” This is OCD: I’ve got a Netflix queue that I must finish! (Despite the fact that I’m constantly adding to it.) I fixate on that queue, which plays out with my streaming documentaries and movies in the background while eating, working, or cooking. Before I was married, I even watched movies while I lay in bed to help sleep.

A few months prior to 2013 I made the decision to go on a month-long media fast starting in January.

I realized that movies, TV, surfing the internet, and radio were filling up my brain to the point where I was losing my mind.

Literally! My nervous system was constantly stimulated.

I’ve noticed over the last 7 years that my ability to cope with stress was gradually lessoning. I would get mild panic attacks during stressful times and my stomach would be turning inside. All from everyday things, like being late for a meeting or dealing with customer service for Wholesome2Go.

More and more I felt like the answer to the overwhelm wasn’t just less work and more play.

It was getting rid of the unnecessary stimuli.

I decided starting January 1st, 2013 I would not watch any television or movies, nor listen to any radio, read magazines or newspapers. I would limit my personal email usage to two times a day, not socialize on facebook or use the internet unless for a work-related matter. This would be my commitment for the entire 31 days of January.

I’m three days shy of meeting my one month commitment and the revelations have been profound.

First off, I don’t miss media at all. For the first time in 28 years, I don’t know who is nominated for the Oscars. I don’t know what’s going on in the world other than what gets filtered down to me through friends.

I’m engaging with my wife and friends more. Most importantly, I’m taking better care of myself. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and thinking clearer.

I smile more.

A very telling day I had during this fast was after a grueling two-day catering gig. I returned home, buzzing from the flurry of activity required to pull off the event. Normally I would plop myself on the couch, turn on the TV, watch a movie or two, eat mindlessly and check out. Not this time.

It took everything I had to sit at the table, eat some food, and talk with my wife. For the first 15 minutes, I just sat there eating, not able to look at her. I so wanted to shut down, decompress, and numb out but I didn’t know how to do that without media. So, I sat there bewildered as she watched me, struggling with all the emotions bubbling up from the last two days. Eventually I looked up, we talked about what I was going through and had a good laugh at my learning how to cope media-free.

I’ve re-upped my commitment and will be media-free for the whole year of 2013.

Two days before I started the media fast and signed off personal use of facebook, a friend posted the following Orson Welles quote on my page:

“I passionately hate the idea of being with it; I think
an artist has always to be out of step with his time.”

I humbly accept the path least traveled and look forward to a year of change and connection.

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