Monday, April 17, 2006

Reflection on Giving Up Solitaire for Lent

After my previous post about playing solitaire on my computer during the Olympics, I decided to give up solitaire for Lent. (Well, actually, I decided to give up both of the games I played to procrastinate from schoolwork, which meant I also gave up Bejewelled on my cell phone.) Now that Lent is a whole two days past (on the Western calendar, at least) I thought it would be a good time to reflect on my experience. So here goes.

The most interesting part of my journey happened in the first few weeks. I was surprised how guilty I felt when I had to procrastinate in other, less mindless ways. It felt more like procrastinating when I socialized with my classmates, read books I didn't have to read for classes, or even watched TV.

What it came down to was that I had convinced myself that when I was playing solitaire and Bejewelled, I wasn't actually using up as much time as I was. Because I wasn't really using my brain during that time, I had nearly convinced myself that the time I spent playing these games simultaneously: (1) didn't really exist because I didn't use my brain and (2) was somehow necessary because it allowed other ideas to develop under the surface.

The first one wasn't true at all, and the second wasn't nearly as true as I thought it was. Sometimes I'm pretty good at lying to myself.

So anyway, I came to realize that I can be a pretty hard and unreasonable boss sometimes. I realized that it was okay to not spend every minute of my day working on schoolwork (i.e., it was sometimes okay to procrastinate). But I'd somehow come to believe that one of the only ways it was okay to spend some of those mid-day off-hours was to play solitaire, which was silly. Once I gave these games up, I gradually started to have a healthier, more well-balanced set of off-hours activities. Unfortunately, it was still too cold outside for a lot of time spent outside for most of Lent, but I did find myself doing the following:

(1) I found myself watching more TV, then getting sick of it earlier and eventually turning it off quicker. Now it's true that TV isn't all that much healthier than playing solitaire, but it can potentially take a bit more brainpower. And I find that when I force myself to give it all my attention, I eventually turn it off quicker and turn to other activities.

(2) I found myself reading more books that I didn't need to read for my classes. And this was a good thing, since it was around this time that I was reading quite a bit of dystopian speculative fiction for one of my classes. Since very little books of this genre (think 1984 and Fahrenheit 451) have happy endings, I found myself reading a lot of mystery novels (which usually end with some kind of justice) to balance out my book consumption. These books didn't take too much brainpower, but they were more food for thought than solitaire.

(3) I found myself socializing more. I especially had to tell myself that the socializing was okay. For some reason it felt more like I was goofing off if I talked to other people instead of doing my work. Maybe that was because I felt like I was pulling others into my non-working mode as well. But once I realized that others often wanted to socialize and that it was one of the best ways to spend my time (especially since I live alone), I realized that it was a good thing. Not only did I get to blow off steam, discuss ideas, and build community, but also it pulled me out of my sometimes-too-introverted world of self.

So on the whole, I'm rather happy with my Lenten experiment--so happy that I feel no need to go back to playing games now that Lent is over. Now that I made it through a whole paper-writing season without this procrastination tool, then I really don't need it in general. Not that I might not play occasionally in the future at some point. But for now, it's spring, I'm on vacation, and it's nice outside. I'm much too busy taking walks and catching up with friends to play solitaire.

1 comment:

Dean Ziegler said...

One of my friends once gave up KFC for Lent. I have to say that it all seems like a marvelous experiment to me. I once considered giving up slurpees, not for Lent mind you but for the prevention of juvenille Diabetes,for a short period of time, but then the migrains started to kick in.