The Acceptable Overdose

Most folks, regardless of religion, don’t encourage binge-drinking on a regular basis. Most of us tend to look askance when a friend habitually runs up credit bills. Overdosing on any substance, illegal or otherwise, is usually cause for serious concern.
Yet, regular binge-watching has become a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time, in Christendom and beyond. In fact, any stigma or shame around the word “binge” has seemingly dissolved to the great delight of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services to which we subscribe.
Zombie-like he stares at the screen
OH SNAP. NO SHE DI-INT. Ol’ prudeyface Kendra just yanked the plug on the joy cord.

Hah. Oh, dear friend. If only that were true.

If anything, this is a missive to myself on my own habits, an examination of my own penchant for blazing through the latest program on my queue like it’s my full-time job with bennies. I love me a good drama (“Six Feet Under,” “The Wire,” and “13 Reasons Why”), and have been known to drop out of life for the sake of a compelling documentary, e.g. “Making a Murderer.” My attention rapt, I go to sleep hypothesizing about what will happen next and wake up having dreamt about D’Angelo Barksdale and Hannah Baker. But it’s all well and removed from my life and no one gets hurt, right?
Family watching TV on their boat - Fort Lauderdale

The danger of writing about a seemingly innocuous habit, e.g. binge-watching all 7 seasons of “Parks and Rec,” is sounding overly pious and adding more killjoy rhetoric to an already heaping pile of legalism. So few of us respond well to rules for the sake of rules. Change that is sustainable begins in the heart. And as far as binge-watching, my heart is good, right? Who’s saying anything about change? You’re the one titling this post, Kendra. Maybe we don’t agree on the definition of overdose. After all, even Christian publications endorse binge-watching. CT Women recently featured the interview with Andy Couch, “How to Binge-Watch like a Believer.” However, the piece was technology-focused and did not address actual binge-watching. Even Relevant Magazine endorses binge-watching for believers.

And this, I think, is the problem. We have bandied around the term “binge” so freely in recent years that it has lost some of its potency. For example, I expect most of us would be troubled if a friend mentioned that she spent all weekend watching porn. I mean, all weekend. Like, barely slept. Concern for her would abound, surely. But it’s all good in the ‘hood if she spent all weekend watching “Parks and Rec.”

‘What’s happened to the man I married?’

So what you’re saying, Kendra, is that Hard-Core Porn and hard-core watching Amy Poehler are the same thing.

Well, are they?

I heard writer David Dark speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing a couple years ago. Dark, whose writing I admire, said his “guilty pleasure was binge-watching” certain shows. We could unpack what it is to have something that is both pleasurable and guilt-inducing but Dark had done his own unpacking of this paradox. He observed that in his own life, this meant that he was drawn to particular story lines. For example, he wondered aloud, “Is there some unacknowledged despair in my own life that is better articulated in ‘Breaking Bad’?”

That resonated with me. A season of NBC’s “Parenthood,” for example, had once felt eerily pulled from my life’s narrative. It was a balm to watch the show, to see a clean resolution in their stories in contrast to the raggedy edges of my own life.

Dark’s identifying of being drawn to story lines was a great point to begin my own self-examination. What I took from Dark was that we should not deny the inner situation that draws us to certain stories. Whether it’s resonance or total escape from our reality, we should not be afraid to examine the reason for our intake of stories. Because that is, after all, what binge-watching is all about: stories. Whether fact or fiction, whether in short spurts or long-binges, we should not fear walking past a mirror on our lives.

This was incredibly freeing. Especially because we know addictions are often rooted in shame. What good can come of more shame?

I believe Proverbs 4 is not meant to shame us, but to call us to this very kind of freedom. We are exhorted to guard our hearts. Above all else. Above our time, above our physical health, above our money. Maybe this is because, as the verse continues, “everything you do flows from it.” Everything you do is a heart matter. So guard your heart. To me, this is a better petri dish for examining how we spend our time, and how we populate our Netflix queues.

The question is not, how many episodes of “When Calls the Heart” have you watched this week, but how is the calling on your own heart?

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Boomerangs

After hyperventilating
at the apocalyptic mess
in girlchild’s room, the floor
laden with crafts half-
done and clothes half-
worn we together
resolved on a plan
for a tidier space.
Our reconnaissance mission
to a store called Boomerangs
for the elusive desk
with drawers.
We purchased a solid oak
grand dame of drawers,
loaded with the help
of brawny workers, so kind.
On our way home, boychild asked
if he could watch YouTubes on
“How to pick a lock,” since
he said that might be
useful in his future.
Back home
Husband paused, no words
reminded me, third floor 
aloft, winding narrow stairwells
this monster 
bedroom imposter
must be returned.

Boomeranging to
Boomerangs I found her
majesty had no match,
elected instead to accept
store credit and a
sequined hooded
sweatshirt from Justice,
the balance of justice here lacking
as it will be if boychild
ever tries to pick a lock
to his sister’s room
which may well remain
apocalyptic until the very end.

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In which I talk about the book

I have not talked much about the book, the book that I wrote, that an agent represents, for which a book deal has been drafted but not signed.

Nearly a year has passed since I have seen the draft of the book deal. Since that time, I’ve been waiting to sign something. I’m dying to John Hancock the heck out of a book deal. But after all these months of uncertainty, I don’t know if the book will ever be published because I don’t know the terms of the negotiations between publisher and agent.  I worked hard for a long time on the book and I hawked it at every conference and waited for a long time for Very Important Publishing People to notice my book sitting alone at the cafeteria and to invite it over to their table.

When I got the book offer, I finally felt like I had found my table in the cafeteria and that there would be outstanding conversations and mediocre Jell-o on trays for all times.

Then, the VIPPs at my table went over to other tables to have other conversations about the book. I wasn’t involved in those conversations which seemed to volley back and forth over weeks that turned into months.

I surrendered my expectations and there was freedom in that.

But then I sort of stopped caring about the book deal and the Jell-o. People stopped dropping by my table in the proverbial cafeteria to ask about the book. I stopped asking about the book. I picked up my backpack and went back to class.

In recent days, I started to feel very convicted about my surrender which had turned into apathy. Langston Hughes was all up in my head with notions of a dream deferred. Would my plump li’l grape of a manuscript start drying out like a raisin in the sun? Why read all this Brene Brown if I’m not going to Dare Greatly or Rise Strong but instead reject vulnerability in favor of taking a nap on this book project, indefinitely.

So much of the joy in writing had been processing of my experiences in marrying cross-culturally. I was filled with hope that the accounts would somehow help other couples walking a similar path. I fought for my marriage and I am still fighting the temptation that is ever-present in marriage to kick back into cruise control. Why was I not fighting for this book?

While writing this post, my agent e-mailed me to let me know that the publisher will be going over the legal beagle notes and other things about which I have no authority or expertise. I shall be too busy slurping Jell-O and dreaming of one day signing a book deal, like for reals, y’all.

***

A little talisman from one of my favorite authors Amber C. Haines whose inscription on her book Wild in the Hollow is much cherished and encourages my heart whenever I happen upon it.

Amber HainesAmber Haines

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