This article was originally published on Better After 50.
A friend asked me the other day what I was reading, and I gave her a blank look.
"Uh, I don't know."
"What? You can't remember?"
"Right. Give me a second."
And it was then I realized that I hadn't been reading at all lately. I looked at my shoes and suddenly remembered I had somewhere to be.
"I've been playing Candy Crush," I told her, hoping she would understand, hoping that seemed like a reasonable answer. She just looked at me blankly. She had never played.
Since I started with Candy Crush about two weeks ago, this is the scene in my bedroom on a typical weeknight:
It's 11:00PM, and my husband shuts the light off on his side of the bed. Having taken a little nap on the couch during TV time (he loves it when I ask him to explain in detail what happened on House of Cards) I am very much awake. I grab my iPad, looking for distraction and something to make me sleepy.
There are four things that grab my attention in the darkness (there were five, but one of them has rolled over and has begun to breathe heavily.) There is 1. the NY Times online; 2. Words With Friends- six people waiting for my move (damn it, let them wait); 3. The Wave, the book by Susan Casey I started two weeks ago; and 4. Candy Crush.
There is no contest. The familiar music starts up, and I sit up in bed and smile. I'm feeling lucky. My husband stirs.
"Are you kidding me?" he groans from the other side of the bed. But he's too groggy to be really angry, and I turn down the sound.
"I'll just be a second." I whisper. "I don't want to miss my daily free spin."
I am lying of course. He knows I am lying, and I know that he knows I am lying, but he's too tired to argue. I have every intention of playing until I lose all 5 of my lives and the game won't let me play any more. I've got to get past level 65. It's a killer.
So, while my husband sleeps, I continue to play until I am out of lives. It doesn't take long -- I am still on Level 65 when I close my eyes, too tired to read, too tired to play WWF (my opponents are no slackers -- you don't want to make your move half asleep.) I turn off the iPad and roll over, and as I drift off I think only of colorful balls and striped jelly beans. I am not anxious about the kids or work -- my mind is too full of exploding mints, expanding chocolates, and lollipop hammers. When I wake in the middle of the night, cascading jelly beans continue to fall, and my mind is thick like the jellies that I try so hard to eliminate.
The bad thoughts have no room to enter. The voices in my head are singular -- the Candy Crush Narrator telling me I'm "Tasty," "Sweet," "Devine."
The Wall Street Journal just reported that Candy Crush is showing signs of fatigue, but I don't care -- so am I! This game gets so in my head that it takes up the space that used to be filled with--yes, not only semi-intelligent contemplation -- but also buckets of anxiety and worry. Forget about Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) -- Candy Crush is the ultimate Mind-lessness Based Stress Reduction.
And perhaps this new find is good news for Candy Crush and developer King Digital, which could use some good news since it's disastrous IPO last week. And according to the WSJ on March 31, income from the game declined in the fourth quarter of last year compared with the third, and in the U.S. the game was recently leapfrogged as the top-grossing mobile game by Clash of Clans. Please, people, don't less this game fail -- don't make me renew my Lorazapem prescription!
Because I know that if I start reading again before bedtime -- if I read a chapter of The Wave before bed instead of gaming, there is no question that while I may learn a bit about giant waves, my thoughts will be only of gargantuan waves swallowing our family as we sail to Block Island this summer. I may be getting stupider by the minute, but at least I'm well rested.
And please, don't ask me what I've read lately.
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