Where’s the F$&*#@^ Remote?

The television remote went missing last night. My daughter and her friend had been playing in the den all day and, somehow, no one knows exactly how, the remote vanished.

Let’s be honest. This blog is mostly about First World Problems. That’s what I write about because that’s where I live. Disappearing remotes are a significant annoyance. Disappearing remotes are maddening. They are piercingly aggravating. There is a small basket where these things are meant to go: the remote for the TV; the remote for the DVR; the remote for the DVD player and the remote for the VCR. Yes. We have four separate remotes. Please don’t judge. I know people who have more.

The point of this story is not remote control madness. This is not even a moral tale of laziness and being ruined by point-and-click convenience. The point, if there is one, is the blind fury of discovering the missing remote at 11:30pm and the obsessive worry that follows realizing the missing device might never be recovered. The mind races toward the scenario of having to purchase one of those awful universal remotes with too many itty bitty buttons and the work of reprograming all those settings by pressing all those itty bitty buttons and waiting and cursing and pressing and waiting and cursing some more.

And the point of this story is the crushing self-pity that comes at the end of a long, tiring day when all that is wanted is a few stolen moments of Netflix before bed and the disappointment that comes when you are deprived of that simple, restorative luxury.

And how the mind races around the room, seeking all the places that controller might be. Places dark and secret. Logical and profoundly illogical. And how, in the mind’s bright panic, the upsetting realization that the remote is not going to be found and that there is no other button so neatly labeled Netflix to resolve the situation and restore order to the collapsing shambles of the day. And how, gripped by fits of fear and frustration, the mind forgets how many other ways there are still to watch the thing that wants watching. How the DVR button still controls the TV. How the VCR and Wii can work together to funnel Netflix down from The Cloud. How laptops and iPads easily stream Netflix and, in a pinch, the very phone in my left front pocket can deliver everything I believe that I need.

But I cannot rest. I cannot relax. The remote is lost. How are people sleeping? How are their dreams not curdled with existential fear?

I search and search in the way I have of not really searching. I have stopped looking about twenty minutes ago and now it is just a parade of frustration and inventive imprecations toward the wayward slackers who don’t place remote controls back in the remote control basket. The proper place where such things belong.

Back to the Point

I started this blog more than 4 years ago with the idea of exploring ways information technologies shape how I live my daily life. Sometimes that influence is inescapable and pervasive. That’s the ubiquitous part. Sometimes the influence is small and subtle. That’s the quotidian. The reality, of course, has been a bit of both. Information technologies have become the scaffolding of my daily life.

This blog has covered a lot of other ground along the way. I’ve written about the loss of someone I loved very much. I’ve written about parenting. I’ve shared out some of my fictional fare from time to time.

I am still thinking about the technologies, trying to sort out whether they are on the whole, for me, more helpful or more harmful. I’ve felt quite a bit of both. There is, I’ve noticed, a kind of malaise settling in. I think of it as information sickness. I am using Facebook and Twitter a bit less that I used to. My Feedly account has 9 days worth of unread blog posts, a situation akin to a briar patch full of juicy berries laced through with prickly thorns. I am reading more on paper again, though I remain a big advocate of eBooks.

The thing I want to say for now is that I have come to feel like the tools I once eagerly adopted to make my life easier, better and more productive have coopted a bit of my life and taken something important. It is, of course, ridiculous to blame the tools. The tools are value neutral. I am working with finding a new relationship with my tools. Which is to say, I still believe the tools can make my life easier, better and more productive. But I need to decide: “easier and better how?” and “more productive for what?”

Time Change!

I’ve never understood how New Year’s Day became the high holy day for self-improvers. You go to bed too late and wake up with a brand new calendar. Your insurance deductibles reset. You have to stop and think before dating the documents you sign. Everything else stays pretty much the same.

Where I live it is usually a bit dreary on December 31 and dreary again on January 1. The weather doesn’t change. The angle of the sun doesn’t change.

Our ancestors used to mark time by the passage of the sun, the angle of the light and the resulting changes in the world around them. Winter is the dream time when the world is dormant and sleeping. When dream time ends, you know it because you can see the world waking up. Daylight has heft and lasts longer. Green things start to grow. The world is frisky and vibrant. Everyone and everything is awake and full of potential.

For me, this transformation becomes most apparent with the start of Daylight Savings Time. Say what you will about the antiquated practice, I love the one hour jump. Until my body adjusts, I feel like I am living an hour in the future. This excites and inspires me.

I don’t make resolutions on New Year’s Day. Those plans aren’t real. They don’t enshrine themselves into ongoing habit. However, with the start of daylight savings time, I naturally adopt a new mentally. My focus and attention sharpen. I run more. I eat healthier. I pay attention to the calories I put in my body, the calories I expend, and the amount of water I drink. My family spends more time together outdoors. We do things, fix things, organize things.

This happens every year without fail and without advance planning. This is, for me, the end of dream time and beginning of waking up.

How does the time change affect your life routines? Do better choices become easier or does it make any difference at all? Do you ever feel like you are living just a little bit in the future? I’d love to know if I am party of one or if this happens for you.

Show. Don’t Tell.

“Show. Don’t tell” is the most common advice given to writers practicing their craft. It is essential advice but often difficult to practice. Words are easy. Telling is a shortcut to getting the idea across. But writing is about more than just getting the idea across. We need our reader to feel something, to have an experience that makes for them a lasting change.

“Show. Don’t tell” happens also to be excellent advice for life. It is becoming my directive for authentic, meaningful relationships.

I share my life with an incredible woman who doesn’t realize how incredible she is. We have known each other 25 years. That’s more than half our lives. In that time, you come to understand essential things about each other. You also develop shortcuts and habits in the way you see and tell each other things.

In 25 years, you say “I love you” a hundred thousand times, sometimes without thinking, sometimes as reflex. Sometimes “I love you” makes complicated things easier. Other times, instead of saying the thing you need to say, saying “I love you” lets you off the hook.

I love this person more today than I ever have, but I am trying to say “I love you” a little less. I am trying to put myself back on the hook. I am trying to find ways inside our life to show rather than tell. And when I do say those words, “I love you”, I want to know she understands exactly what I mean. I want her to have an experience that she can feel, some small thing that makes a lasting change.


Terminala poem for Patricia

I am thinking of the night you called, two years ago, sobbing and hysterical with fear, suddenly overwhelmed by the fact of your terminal diagnosis. And as we spoke on the phone, I could feel you were stunned by the silence of your one-person home and how like a graveyard it must have felt. How your mind began flying like a moth trapped inside a tomb. And ever arrogant, I aspired to do one brave thing and tell you how things would go with some conjured sense of certainty. How much braver I would have been to admit right then that I sometimes have nights like this myself. Me, a person with no terminal diagnosis living in a house full of people, still able to pretend the years all belong to me and that I feel them stretch endlessly out ahead.

Three Words for 2015: Love. Authenticity. Flow.

I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a few years ago. For me, resolutions had become Puritanical slogs of self-deprecation and guilt with an incredibly unhealthy focus on not doing some things I was doing and doing some things I was not. It had to stop. I have no regrets.

The goals I set myself were usually so minor or so divorced from reality that they could not survive contact with daily life. Exercise more. Count calories. Read more. Write more. Weigh less. None of this is helpful in improving my actual life.

And so, I came to the idea of writing a personal mission statement, which I did. It felt good. Rather than a prescriptive list of things to do or not do, habits to be created and broken, the yearly mission statement is a simple statement that helps me recognize and stay focused on my true priorities through the year. The work isn’t managing a specific list of behaviors or thoughts. The work is managing focus so I can constantly make useful choices about how I use my time and where I invest my energy. You can’t do everything. The trick is figuring out what most deserves your time and where you will receive the greatest reward.

And the work of writing my mission statement was useful. It felt good. Then, I read Chris Brogan’s post about choosing three words to carry with me through the year. Three words are precise. Three words can be carried in my head. Three words are handles for what means the most to you and where you will spend your attention, time and energy.

And so, my three words for 2015 are: Love. Authenticity. Flow.

Love because, when things get crazy, it is way too easy to take the people you love the most for granted.

Authenticity because, unless you practice constantly, it is easy to live someone else’s version of your life.

Flow because, more than anything else, I like to imagine things and write them down. I want to do that as much as I possibly can.

And so, without reading my mission statement, you can tell where I am going to place my practice this year. I will try things I have never tried before. I will refuse to do things I have been doing for too long. So yes, it is, again, a list of doing and not doing, except Three Words gives me the framework to evaluate and decide each moment what deserves my focus. I can grow with it and let this become my practice.

I am ready to start a new year and see where it can take me.

Eyes Front

You do not need to accept the facts of evolutionary biology or believe in the Creator God to understand that your eyes are placed on the front of your face for a reason. We live forward. Our attention must always be forward. And yet, sometimes, we are tempted to look behind. Sometimes we need to look back. Perhaps our attention gets drawn by fear of some unseen predator. Or maybe we get distracted by the gravitational pull of some pursuing regret. Be careful. No matter the reason, you must always know that you can only look in one direction at a time. Pay attention. Our lives are lived forward. Watch accordingly.

To Bring You My Love (Final Section)

The last section of this experiment in blogging my first draft. I understand why a first draft should be kept secret. It is messy and there are lots of weird turns and gaps. There have to be. It is a new thing with edges that don’t connect and spaces that require leaps. Still, I feel like there is a lot to work with here. I will post the revision whenever that is finished. For now, just thanks for reading whatever parts you have read and for being gentle.


Lana came out wearing lounge pants and an oversized tee-shirt. She was dressed for comfort. She sat down on an empty space on the couch. Gestured for Sebastian to come sit beside her. They sat in silence for a few minutes, just looking at the room.

“Do you want to stay in and talk? Or do you want to go out?”

Sebastian took her hand, which seemed so impossibly small and fragile in his. He had never before thought of Lana as something delicate that could be so easily crushed.

“It doesn’t matter at all to me. I just want to be beside you.”

She kissed his cheek. “That’s so sweet.” Patting his hand. Then, “Where have you been? I mean, you’ve been gone a long time.”

“Not so long in the scheme of things, but it felt like a very long time to me as well. I had some things I had to take care of. Housekeeping. I’ve got it all sorted out now,” he told her.


He nodded. “Some decisions. Some loose ends to tie up.”

“Oh. Like a girlfriend or something?”

“No. Nothing like that. Just had to put things in order. It doesn’t matter now. I’m here. I can stay as long as you like. I can stay forever.”

Lana shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Forever,” she said. ““That’s quite a long time. That’s a pretty big mouthful.”

“I don’t mean to scare you,” he told her.

“You don’t,” she said, then kissed him. It was the warm, soft welcome invitation kiss he remembered from so long ago. He gave it right back to her. And soon they were fumbling and rubbing and smoothing and stumbling from the couch to the hallway past the bathroom door to the bedroom where there was no time or need for long conversations. Their hands, bodies and mouths remembered exactly what to say.


It was over quickly and then they lay in bed, neither of them knowing what to say.

“That was different,” Lana said at last.


“I mean, you were different. What’s different about you? What changed?”

“That is what I have been wanting to tell you. I have forsworn by accursed heritage. I have severed my wings and turned my back on my family. I am no longer an Inbetweener. I am finally free and we can be together. Really together.”

Sebastian watched Lana take this information in. The expression on her face like she had a mouthful of curdled milk. It was not the expression Sebastian had hoped for. It had something in it other than the look of amazed surprise.

“You did what?” she said at last.

“I surrendered my wings. I am mortal. I can live with you now. I am free.”

“Free?” she shouted. “How could you? Oh, God!” Lana buried her face in her hands.

Sebastian reached out, pulled her hands from her face as gently as he could. “Don’t worry. Everything is okay now. I can be with you forever. Everything is okay.”

“How could you? I can’t believe you did this.”

“To be with you,” he said.

“To be with me?”

Sebastian nodded.

“You shouldn’t have done this.”

“It is okay. It was an easy choice. Now we can be together.”

“I can’t believe you did this. You should have warned me. You should have told me before doing. This.”

And Sebastian slowly realized the expression in her voice was not amazement or wonder. It was anger. Pure, vile, bitter anger.  And for the first time, his fully mortal heart knew the icy ache of savage fear.


Sebastian reached out to touch Lana. She turned from his touch as if the feel of his hand was unpleasant, repulsive.

“I did this for you.”

Lana screamed, pushed him out of the bed. Sebastian reeled backward, once again feeling himself expulsed from the place where he belonged. Felt his father’s hands and the hands of the thousand Host. He felt himself being pushed out of heaven.

Sebastian fell to the floor, the short, brutal work of gravity always dragging bodies down. The oppressive weight of the world and his place in it. For the first time, Sebastian considered that he might have made a mistake, an impetuous, adolescent mistake. He was only 600 years old. Perhaps he had been rash. He shook the thoughts from his head. Those thoughts could not serve him now. He had made his choice. He had made his bed, and even though he had been pushed out of it, he must now try to lie in it.

Lana was crying. Sebastian sat up, peering at Lana from the edge of the mattress. Lana was crying. She had her back turned toward him so he could not see her face but he had studied humankind for centuries. Had studied Lana for such a long time. He recognized the inward slump, the hunched shoulders. Lana was crippled by something he had done. Sebastian felt an insatiable need to fix it, to make things better somehow.

“I did this thing for us,” he said. “So we can be together. That is all I ever wanted. And now it is possible.”

Lana turned to face him. Her eyes large and bright with emotion. This was a thing Sebastian had not expected. He knew it happened but he had never been in the presence of Lana while she cried. Her face was red and swollen. Mucus dripping from her nose. Her lips trembling involuntarily, like some quivering mollusk.

Sebastian was back in bed, stroking Lana’s hair, hoping to smooth the rough edges of her distress using only his hands.

“I did this for us,” he said again.

Lana said nothing. Sebastian gazing into her face, trying to catch her eyes. Lana looking at a spot just over his shoulder at the far-side of the room. She was there, but she was not.

“I couldn’t stay the way I was. I had to change things. Now we are the same. Now we can be together.”

Silence. Lana stopped crying, focused her attention on just breathing. Sebastian watched the careful way she brought her breath in and back out again. Like it was a thing that required much concentration.

And then, in the smallest possible voice, like a whisper in the folds of his brain, she said, “I don’t want this.”

And for the second time, Sebastian felt himself falling, though the plunge was entirely inside himself. The velocity with which he plummeted. The wind howling around his ears as he fell uncontrolled through the brutal, empty expanse. And this time there was no ground to catch him. There was no floor. He fell and fell and fell. Darkness and confusion swallowed him.

Sebastian had no memory of leaving Lana’s bed or apartment, though he now wandered the dark, empty streets of the city. He felt numb and bruised deep inside. This feeling was entirely new. He was acquainted with the urgent piquancy of desire and curiosity but this swallowing sadness was a new thing. It carried him in its stomach as he moved through the world, noticing for the time not the miracle of the light but the miracle of the darknesses that sat between the lights. And the people who moved in this night-time city with him. The lovers walking home from a date. The drunk staggering along the sidewalk. Even the mice and rats and other skulking, shadowy things driven by hunger and need. How these things moved like him, a body in darkness moving from light to light and the miracle of the space between lights where mystery lay.

Sebastian came to a public square, where the buildings made way for grass and trees and an open patch of sky. Sebastian looked up. So many of the stars and planets he knew were obscured by the light. But he was familiar with the darkness. The darkness was his home.

Sebastian looked up and tried to imagine his mother and father and grandparents looking down at him. Would they have it in them to feel proud of him? He had solved the elusive equation. He finally knew what it meant to be human. It was not love or sex or any one of a million mere ambitions.

It was loss. The constant possibility of loss and the uncertainty that came with it. Already, he felt Lana was a million miles away from him. There was a vast, impossible separation between them that could not be breached. And the loneliness that seemed ready to crush him, closed in around him like a capsule and he felt a wild, perverse exhilaration.

Far stronger than gravity, this was the ineffable force that pressed them to the earth. The yearning for things that cannot be kept and the certainty of pain that came from it. Sebastian had made a careful study of human kind and had made his greatest discovery. He had solved the puzzle of human love. It was not only the fierce need and desire that came with the initial attraction. It was the mournful breaking of the heart in solitude. Inevitable but satisfying.

He had given everything he had and found it had not been enough. He had been wrong, perhaps, to give so much.

Sebastian thought of Frieda. She was now his only friend. His first friend. He would find her and thank her for her kindnesses. He would cry on her couch and laugh at her jokes.

A weight shifted inside of him. The pain and bewilderment did not disappear but it moved aside.

Sebastian smiled to his family. It did not matter if they could see him or if they would pay attention. It was enough to know that he was smiling. That he could smile. That he could bear the price he had paid and carry it with him.

Sebastian left the park and began walking again. He would walk as far as his feet would carry him, and, when they would no longer carry him, he would rest and see how that felt. It was a new thing he had found. There was fear and dread and disappointment but he found there was bravery there as well. He had given his wings so he could no longer fly but he could walk anywhere his feet would carry him.

And so he began, understanding.

Earth is the right place for love.

To Bring You My Love (section 15)

Note: 8700 words into this, whatever it is. The words are coming slower but they are still coming. Something interesting is about to happen. I am wondering what that is.


Lana led the way through the crowded apartment, pushing piles of clothes and other detritus with her feet as she clutched her towel around her. “Just ignore the mess,” she said, reaching down for a pile of bras on the floor.

And it was true. Lana’s apartment was a riot of things out of place. Half forgotten projects. Unfinished meals.

Sebastian didn’t mind. The chaos was Lana’s life. It was beautiful just as she was beautiful.

“I wasn’t really expecting to have company,” she explained. And then, “Why are you here?”

Lana reddened. It wasn’t the thing she had meant to say or, at least, it wasn’t the way she had meant to say it.

“I came to be with you. I came from very far away. But I am ready now. I can stay.”

Lana flushed more. “Bad timing,” she said, and then, looking up at the clock, “Oh geez. I’ve got to get to work. I’m going to be late. I can’t be late again. You understand. I can’t stay and catch up right now. I’ve got to get going.”

“I understand,” Sebastian told her.

This next thing she considered for a moment before saying, “You can stay here. Wait for me. If you want. Maybe I can come home during lunch. Or we can order in some dinner and talk.”

“I will like all those things,” Sebastian told her.

Lana paused in the hallway, studying him. A strange smile on her face. And then, an awkward kiss on his cheek. And she was returning to the bedroom to put on her clothes, finish drying off.

Sebastian waited in the living room. Unsure whether to sit or stand. He stood where she had left him. This was not the reunion he had imagined but it was better than anything he could have imagined  because it was real and there was sweetness in the knowing that they were, at last, standing together in the same place.

“Help yourself to whatever you want,” she told him, now dressed smartly in a professional slacks and jacket. “Make yourself at home. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

And again she kissed him. This time on the mouth though it was a sideways kind of kiss that nearly missed his mouth.

“Back for lunch. Or, if not, definitely dinner. Sorry.” And she was gone leaving Sebastian to unravel the ten thousand mysteries of a morning and afternoon spent entirely to himself.


The waiting was awful. The cold, interminable stasis of a long afternoon. He had not calculated for this. He had not expected the cool trench of reality that was her morning. There was no time. He had arrived, touched her briefly and how quickly Lana had flown away. Not to worry, he told himself. This was not a matter for concern. It was the mechanics of life. The machinery of disappointment and frustration. He was here. She was there. Soon, they would be together. He told himself not to count the minutes. That would not help anyone. And so he walked around the room, acquainting himself to a space where he did not really belong. Sebastian picked up objects, considered them, put them back into their place. It was a kind of inventory he was doing, a way of taking the measure of how her life had been without him. The objects were unfamiliar, foreign to him. He took stock, careful treating each with the measured respect of a scholar. Or the full hearted reverence of a poet. They were artefacts from another life. He was on a archaeological dig, piecing together the mystery of Lana in absentia. And it was easily done, picking up each object in turn, seeing it from every angle, placing it back into the place where it belonged. Feeling as he placed it back that he understood a little bit better.

And so the day passed, not quickly, but in a productive state of taking accurate measure. And he waited as patiently as he could while the daylight traveled through the room, ray of sunshine cutting the air. It was a long arm of light reaching out to him from home. It would not touch him where he stood. He would not move toward it. He felt the loneliest he had ever felt.


“Oh, hi.” Lana’s greeting when she returned home as if both a bit surprised and confused that Sebastian had actually waited. “Sorry,” she told him and kissed his face.

Sebastian took her brief case and coat. “How was your day?” he asked and then waited with the patience of a loyal dog because he really, truly, desperately wanted to know.

“Ok, I guess. I didn’t get fired or anything. I mean, I made it to work and got my stuff done. My boss liked some of it, I think.”

Sebastian knew he was staring at her too long but seemed unable to stop himself.

“Good,” he said.

“How was your’s? Find anything interesting?”she asked, guesturing around the room. “You cleaned up.”

Sebastian nodded. “I didn’t mean to. I just got curious and thought I could help by putting things into places.”

“Sure. Okay. Yeah. Thanks.”

And a long awkward moment that Sebastian wanted to be filled with kisses but as he leaned in toward Lana, she turned her face. “Let me get changed out of these work clothes. I hate carrying the day into my house. Feel like I’ve got the day’s dust on me. Be right back.”

And Sebastian liked the way she scampered to her bedroom like a small, frisky woodland creature. Such grace and beauty.

She closed the door. Sebastian admired her modesty.

Lana was gone only a few minutes but Sebastian felt each like a stitch through his heart.

The day had passed. Daylight was gone and the city outside was lit by artificial light. In his hundreds of years among humans, Sebastian most loved cities and the clever ways they pushed against the needless limits of nature. Conjuring light and sound where nature would have none. It was a wonder of innovation and creativity. Being in the city, Sebastian felt most like Lana, as if there was very little difference between them. Sebastian felt human.

Happily Ever After: The Work of Love

The work of love is learning to share your life completely without accidentally giving it all away. Our earliest stories in life show us two main virtues to true love: to rescue or to be rescued. You know these stories. Our most basic behaviors, beliefs and thoughts are drenched in the brine of idealized expectation.

If you are stuck in life, you can be the unfortunate stepdaughter princess, always waiting without fully realizing that you are waiting, wiling the hours away with songs about wishes and stars until, one day when you least expect it, true love bursts into your life through the forest and gets you unstuck.

Or, if you are stuck in life, you can become the directionless prince wandering with his noble, shimmering steed on some nameless, purposeless errand only to find the damsel desperate for your hand. Only you can help her. You cannot ignore this moment. She is beautiful to be sure, but how much more beautiful she will seem to you wrapped in her dirty, desperate rags, her eyes bright with hope and expectations to be fulfilled.

The gender doesn’t matter. The story is the same. True love divides us into the rescued and the rescuer. Happily Ever After becomes our endless pursuit, the project around which one builds one’s entire life.

Our tales of True Love command we give ourselves completely to the person who most desperately needs our help.

And yet, we are all somewhat stuck inside our lives — sometimes happily, often with great joy and purpose, but situated nonetheless in a particular circumstance or lack that needs fulfilling. This is not a dark thought. It is acknowledged truth.

True love cannot save us. True love keeps us locked in, always being the rescued or the rescuer.

I prefer authentic love. Authentic love that sees the other exactly as they are. Authentic love that sees the self as it is rather than as it would prefer to be. There is no rescue. There is no rescuer. There is just the authentic self seeing and the authentic self being seen. This is, it seems to me, the most basic root of human need — to see and to know that one has been seen.

Happily Ever After is no longer the project. Happily Ever After is a life without pain, discomfort or inconvenience. Happily Ever After is the vision of heaven that drove me out of the church.

Better, so much better, to be fully present sometimes with pain, to be awake sometimes in darkness. Better to see and be seen exactly as we are. This is not easy. They do not write stories to prepare us for this. But if we can be authentic and allow ourselves to see and be seen, then we can share ourselves completely and know the peace, joy and comfort that comes only from being really and truly known. This is the work of our lives. Love is our greatest tool. To learn how to share our authentic selves without reservation and without the distractions of self-sacrifice. To allow the people we love to help us without rescue, to leave off with Happily Ever After and welcome ourselves to be completely as we are — improvised, imperfect, authentic.


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