Acceptance AKA “What If…”

29 09 2016

whatif

There is a school of thought or belief that the individual journey we are on is exactly the one we are supposed to be on.

It is phrased in many different ways. Perhaps you have heard things such as “it was meant to be” or “it happened for a reason”. I don’t personally subscribe to either of these but do believe, as difficult as it may seem, wherever I find myself (physically and metaphorically) is really where I am supposed to be at that moment. It took me many, many, many difficult moments, however, to finally get here.

To me, I have spent more time than I care to admit thinking about life’s more challenging moments in terms of “why is this happening?” and “what is the lesson I am to take away from it?” However, it hit me today that I have never asked myself why certain things are not happening, as well.

I am incredibly grateful for the thousands of things that don’t happen to me and people I care about every day – illness, grief, pain, loss – particularly when these very things afflict so many innocent people all the time.

But what about all the good things that are not happening and seem to be so far out of reach and why stew on this today? Well, I am traveling for a few days and always feel doubly melancholy when I’m away from my kids and not within a 5 mile radius. Luckily, I’m on the same time zone, so it could be worse. With each time zone, it gets exponentially worse, in fact.

This made me realize that so many of the “dreams” that I have for myself – which all revolve around creative pursuits – would be pretty difficult to activate fully without a significant amount of travel, which would invariably take me away from my children a lot more and given the fact that homes schooling isn’t an option, probably for the best. So, what if, and I hesitate to even suggest this at the risk of sounding too “airy fairy”, but what if the universe was holding back knowing that it’s simply not the right time for this?

What if we had the knowledge that what we are going through and experiencing, both good and bad, is all purposeful because, believe it or not, this is the exact right time to experience it – as long as we did not miss the opportunity to take from it the lesson of its intent to move us forward on our journey? Similarly, what if we also knew that those things we long for so achingly may not present themselves just yet because it is simply not the right time? What if we had patience and faith and ignored all those self-help books that give us 10 steps to achieving all our goals in the next year?

I’m going to have to keep thinking about this one but I think there’s something there. Glorious, painful and mysterious all at once – just like life.

Until next time,

Marc





I’m back (and squishier than before)

24 09 2016
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Teen car- sleeping was not as blissful as this but this rendition will have to do.

I haven’t written in a while.

I think about it every single day – and more than once.

There are a few reasons why this is so but none of them really matter. The best way I can describe the hiatus is similar to describing that closet or drawer that has been on your To Do list to “get to one of these days” that is so cluttered that you don’t know where to start. Moreover, it’s not just cluttered with junk – you know, all those annoying gift bag, crappy toys your kids come home with from every birthday party or even all those extra samples that come in the mail. Nope, this is a drawer or closet (or in my case, what feels like a compound) full of things that all hold such profound and deep emotions that to start to write about them is way too hard. It is much easier to peruse Facebook or Twitter and make snide, humorous comments until the bottle of wine is empty, the kids are in bed and you convince yourself that you were just “too swamped” to get to what you really want to do – write. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

(Deep sigh.) There, that feels better.

Not really.

Can I offer anyone a glass of a fine $9 2015 Tempranillo? Anyone? Just me?

So, today, on my car ride back from hiking with the kids and some family friends, I committed myself to writing – wherever it may go. I have a ton of topics – everything from Buddhism to relationships to finally running with no shirt on. (I know – whoa! Shit getting real, now.)

I think I’ll just start with today because as I am learning – painfully – today is really all that we ever have. Period.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and after leaving the mountain for a 90 minute drive back home with the kids, I finally felt a certain sense of peace that was literally the complete opposite of what I have been feeling for a while, despite a seriously increased commitment to meditation.

I looked over at my daughter in the passenger seat, earbuds in, head achingly dangling forward as to not even be able to envision an actual attached neck and completely passed out with the sun dancing on her lashes just like the day she was born. My son, taller than me now (not a hard objective, actually), was in the fetal position taking over the back seat in a sound slumber himself.

Both teenagers now, observing them asleep is the closest I can still come to some sort of God. I waited for it for a long time when I was younger. It came. And now, I am a witness to its slow passage. On the radio – “New Slang” by the Shins was playing. “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find. Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?”

There I was – just me and my kids. I would have done anything to stay in that car with them on a sunny highway forever. I just started crying. I couldn’t help it. I’ve been crying a lot lately. For passages. For hope. For anything that helps open up blockages that keep the spirit from flowing. It sucks.

It’s hard for me to love because it really starts with oneself. This is both a fact and a confession – both embarrassing and true at once. For me, my kids are the only way I can tap into that love because I am really nothing more than a witness so it is completely pure. From their birth, the fact that their souls journeyed to me somehow is overwhelming. I have always said that they chose me somehow. It’s hard to explain but it was in their gaze toward me the moment they were born. There was a knowing there that was overwhelming, intimidating, and definitive, all at once. I can picture it clearly to this very moment.

This is not an endorsement for having children or for a belief in reincarnation. It is simply an acknowledgement that within each of us lies the ability to be cracked open a bit more regardless of whether we may consciously or unconsciously be willing to be an active participant. It is scary, sometimes immobilizing and absolutely necessary.

Luckily, I had Waze on to direct me on my way back and before I welled up too much, thereby restricting my vision, I heard a voice that alerted me: “Car stopped on shoulder”. I’m guessing that driver was having a moment, too.

Or that’s at least what I told myself.

Until next time (and yes, there will be a next time),

Marc

 

 

 

 





Remarkable Day

10 05 2016

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 May 5th was a remarkable day.

I wrote this at 5:04 PM, after what seemed to be a race with unpredictable ending, sitting on the exact train I was supposed to be on to get from NYC to my daughter’s Jr. National Honor Society induction.

In a hurry to get to a meeting downtown and after already being late due to ridiculous traffic, I decided to exit the taxi in a hurry and just walk the remaining 10 minutes or so to where I needed to be. Since I tend to get car sick in the back of taxis, I had decided to meditate to the best of my ability and simply have my credit card ready once we arrived so as to save those precious 10 seconds it would take for me to pull out my wallet and pay the fare.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it may turn out), I left said wallet in the back of the cab and realized it too late. After calling 3-1-1, taxi cab receipt in hand, being provided the cab drivers’ number from the dispatcher and trading phone calls, it turned out that the wallet had been taken and was gone. While definitely starting to panic, weirdly, my initial reaction was how relatively easy and helpful it was in reaching out to and getting help from both the taxi dispatch and the driver.

As someone who has been reading a lot lately about one’s “Buddah nature”, I breathed deeply (several times) while still engaging in the meeting and as time allowed, started to cancel various credit card accounts online, to the best of my ability. I had given in to the fact that the wallet was gone and that my attachment to this outcome was of no help to me. I had to “speak” to myself the way in which I would to a friend. And this is where things started getting interesting.

As anyone close to me can tell you, I have a hard time- a real hard time – holding on to things when I travel – wallets, glasses, books, license, credit cards – you get the picture. No matter how much it seems I try to organize, remind myself etc, I lose things more times that I am comfortable admitting. My inner dialogue always goes something like this: “I am such a loser. Why do these things always happen to me? Oh, yeah – it’s because I’m a loser.”

What I realized this day though was that I have been framing all of these incidents – not just losing things – but everything, good and bad, in the wrong way. It’s not “why do these things always happen to me.” It’s “why do these things always happen for me.”

There are no coincidences. As I have written about before, I personally don’t subscribe to the notion that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that things happen for a lesson, which is more graspable.

Here is what happened next:

  1. I am at lunch with work colleagues when one of them has to ask to have her salad “to go” because she has to go to Fordham University to see final presentations from the senior class, which leads to a conversation about Fordham and the campus.
  2. During this conversation, I feel a vibration on my cell phone, which is in my pocket, but do not immediately look at it as to not appear rude during the discussion.
  3. Once the topic changes and there is a natural pause, I look at my phone and it is a Facebook message that says “found your wallet in a cab. Please call ….”
  4. I call the number provided and a guy tells me where he is located and I arrange to pick up my wallet at his office building later in the day. (I profusely thank him, like too much.)
  5. I look up his profile (or what I thought was his profile) on Facebook and it says his name is Tom and he is a graduate of…wait for it….Fordham University.
  6. Then, there is a mildly boring period of getting back to the business of work meetings and I head to the subway to make my way to pick up the wallet, (after canceling a drink with someone I was supposed to meet up with – more due to the meeting going over than the lost wallet).
  7. I get on the right train, wrong direction – end up in Brooklyn.
  8. Get on the train going back but now unsure of myself ask a woman sitting next to me (we were on a train stuck on the tracks for a while) about my route which convinced me to get off, though it turned out to be right all along.
  9. I then get back on the next train going in the right direction and make my way to the office.
  10. Turns out it was not Tom who found my wallet, but his friend, Travis, who was using his phone.
  11. I get my wallet back and rush to the subway with 35 minutes to get from downtown to Penn Station and here I am.

While on the subway, I pulled out “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown which I am reading. I turn the page and she is talking about her vulnerability during a visit to a special place in Texas, Lake Travis. What? She then talks about a scientist (on the same page) with the same last name of someone who just happened to email me recently out of the blue.

What is going on here?

I am not looking to make something out of nothing but c’mon. The universe is telling me something. I think the universe actually has a wicked sense of humor. Maybe by finally “letting go” of this idea of control, it’s the most straightforward way of knowing that the universe really does have our backs. That day could have gone in so many different directions but every single interaction – from the taxi driver through dispatch, was leading to something bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

I boarded the train in the morning and the evening as planned. However, what happened in between was anything but. Isn’t this the best metaphor for life? We are born and then we exit but what really matters are the unexpected, wonderful, tragic, elaborate, simple, mind-boggling, boring things that happen in-between and what we take from them. That is truly remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Uncertainty – the only certainty.

5 05 2016

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My daughter turned 13 today. Just like I did for her older brother, I posted a Happy Birthday picture of her when she was a toddler next to a recent photo. Sifting through those older photos transported me not back in time but almost as if I was witnessing someone else’s life. It’s hard to explain.

She had her concert tonight and after the concert, I waited for her to congratulate her and wish her a Happy Birthday again. Standing off to the side was her mother and as I passed her, I had that “who’s life is this?” feeling again. Her I was passing a woman I spent almost every single day with for almost 2 decades without an acknowledgement. Weird! (Preferred at this point, but still….weird.)

There is no greater proof that certainty is just something we come up with to help distract us from the realities of a groundless, uncontrollable life than divorce. It is living proof of the uncertainty of assumptions, life, friendships, relationships and those foundational precepts that help to keep us navigating an otherwise unpredictable world.

I think this is part of the reason it is so difficult for others to be around people who are visibly or otherwise publicly going through a rough time – it doesn’t fit neatly into this narrative that keeps us moving along. The only real safe story we can tell ourselves is that there must be something inherently acute to those suffering from failed marriages, chronic illnesses, job loss and other issues. When, in truth, no one know our stories – not even ourselves. As my father always said, the only certain things in life are death and taxes, and between you and me, I’m not even sure about that one depending on your particular economic bracket and propensity for tax-sheltered businesses or your view of what constitutes “life and death”.

My point is that as certain as I was that I had the perfect daughter, she did just turn 13 today. We know how that can go. And that’s as much reminder as I need that we are not meant to live in a certain world and rather than see that as suffering, it could be the most exciting realization yet.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 





Life Between the Creases

4 05 2016

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I am selling my house and everyday is a contest of sorts to see how well I can stage it as if I just happen to own this property and there is daily maid service to keep everything neat and tidy.

With two teenagers, a full-time job and a proclivity for starting strong and then just tucking away whatever is remaining into the nearest drawer, it’s definitely not the Hilton.

Unlike most days, I decided to upend the L-shaped family room couch cushions and really “deep clean”. It’s amazing what you find between the cushions – coins, pens, wrappers, notes, missing pieces to various chargers, etc. It occurred to me that these remnants are symbols of a house well-lived in. Mine is not a museum. It is a “lived in house”, for sure.

Growing up, our modest ranch house was made even more modest by the fact that we crammed our lives, all four of us, into a small kitchen and even tinier den. The rest of the house was pretty much off limits, with the exception of the bathroom and our bedrooms for sleeping. We even were purveyors of that all-too-cliché hard plastic covering that covered the never-to-be-sat in living room furniture. To each their own and in trying to balance the demands of every day life, I can’t blame my parents or anyone for organizing and creating as they need to in order to manage.

I vowed, though, that when I had my own place, I wanted to use the fancy dishes. I wanted each room to be used. I wanted big-ass butt cheek prints to change the cushioning of my couch seating so they looked well worn, (to paint an image).

Luckily, that is the type of home we have and it can get messy. But I love what I find in that mess because that is where life is really most vivid – in between the creases. The folds of notes long forgotten, the dog-eared pages of books that had profound meaning when nothing else did, the concert t-shirt worn so many times that permanent lines outline what your shoulders used to be shaped like and yes, the wrappers and fallen M&Ms in between the couch cushions from that Friday you let both kids watch a Rated R movie though you knew they were secretly counting how many times the “F” word was said.

There’s a reason wrinkles are called laugh lines. It’s the same reason life lives within the creases. There is no smoothness attributed to those experiences that truly imprint the folds of our memory and the fragments of who we become.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Canals and Bridges

20 04 2016
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Believe me, it looked much nicer in real life.

Spring has definitely arrived on the East Coast of the U.S. and not being outdoors at every moment, despite the infiltration of pollen, is too hard to do.

I was lucky enough to go running (and then walking, let’s be honest) along a tow path where I live near a beautiful canal. This was a very contemplative time for me – the kind that I don’t get while walking alone in the city or inside, for example. There’s something about the act of moving through the environment, regardless of where and at what pace, that is very thought provoking, for me at least.

Along the way, there are small bridges that connect local roads in adjacent neighborhoods over the canal. It’s hard not to take notice of the rustic red steel cutting through a light blue haze drenched with the pastels of surrounding flora. It is as scenic as any postcard, if you ask me.

Though I have been in remission from what I can only refer to as “metamorphadosis” – the obsessive ability to find metaphor at an annoying rate for almost anything, it came surging back this past weekend on the tow path.

Here’s the scene – so much disruption going on in my life right now and me, walking my way through it, all too aware that this year represents new work, new tax filing status, new residence, new parental definition (two teenagers …for the price of three, or four) and me, trying hard to move away from planning and thinking about the future and learning to just have faith in the moment. That’s when I looked up and saw the canal in front of me, straight ahead, and the bridge crossing in the opposite direction – a metaphor for the exact approach needed, for me anyway.

You see, it’s not as if I can’t see a general path forward to follow as a parent, son, friend, and employee but sometimes life is not a calm, serene postcard. Sometimes things happen that aren’t simply laid out before you. They require bridges – bridges to get you to a spot in a short period of time to set you on the right path again. These bridges can come in the form of friends, strangers or serendipity, but never coincidence, because there is no such thing.

Unfortunately, not all bridges present themselves as a clear way to traverse the seemingly un-scalable. Much like those old posters from the 90s where you had to stare deep within a land of squiggly lines to see the 3-D unicorn, many times we have to focus, harder than we have ever focused before, to identify what bridges surround us or lie within us. They are there. We just have to find them. Sometimes, they even help us realize that there are other canals to follow, too.

Until next time,

Marc

 





Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

Until next time,

Marc








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