Memorial Day Perspective

26 05 2015


It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our daily drama and at our best, to realize that “suffering” is a natural part of growth.

Then comes along Memorial Day. I don’t even know the meaning of the word “suffer”. Here is a day devoted to those men and women who literally lost their lives to defend for our freedoms. Who can possibly compare with that type of loss?

To be honest, I spent the day yesterday like many Americans – enjoying the gorgeous weather (at least in my part of the country), going to a picnic and spending time with my kids. Not once did the subject of service, gratitude or sacrifice come up. I thought about it  and reminding my kids for the umpteenth time but I also knew that another one of my sermons would just fall on already deaf ears. Poor excuse, I understand.

Memorial Day is a strong reminder of the perspective that exists all around us but we sometimes neglect to truly see. Maybe it’s me, but how many times have you been frustrated by something (let’s say a nagging kid for hypothetical purposes), when you see a handicapped person who is just minding his own business and getting on with the day or someone else with a physical or mental challenge? I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, it sends any ounce of self pity that I have surging through my body. All of a sudden, I’m like “who wants ice cream?”

Why is that? It’s because we forget how precious life really is at any given moment. Life can change in the blink of an eye and we all know that we live on the precipice of what was and what may be at any given moment. We can’t live our lives like that – it would be too daunting and too difficult. However, we can filter our experiences through the eyes of perspective – a respect and appreciation for all we have and all we have yet to achieve when there are so many with so much less.

I remember traveling around Mumbai with someone who was living there. It was hard for me to be taken around by a chauffeur in a nice town car while inches away from our car were little children living in squalor right outside our windows. This person said to me, “well, at least we don’t hide our poor” insinuating that in America, we relegate our poor to other neighborhoods where those wealthier than them don’t have to be reminded of the poverty that exists. I am not sure I agree with this black and white assessment but the point is taken. It’s about perspective.

So, here’s the thing. I’m probably not going to stop complaining. It’s one of my strengths – not to mention a good source of comedy. But I do promise to maintain a healthy daily doses of gratitude and perspective and see if there is a way of embedding that into my offspring without sounding like Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch. I’ve been told he is annoying in a preachy sort of way. Who knew? I sort of thought he was just a closet stoner.

Until next time,


The In-between

18 05 2015


I think I have become too reliant on the GPS. It’s probably typical to look for the most direct route from point A to point B and that is certainly a benefit. However, visualizing that thick blue line on the screen gives me a false sense that it is really that easy: follow the map, a turn here, a turn there and then before you know it – I will have arrived!

The truth is that sometimes Siri (or whatever cosmic force is in charge) decides not to allow the GPS to work or more likely, there is some unforeseen detour that needs to be taken. This is unexpected but the unexpected should always be expected.

For all intents and purposes, I am in the midst of raising two teenagers (a 14 year-old and a 12 year-old). I have my good days and my bad days. After a string of successful weekends, excursions, conversations, the gods let me know to not get too cocky and I had a bad parenting moment this weekend with my oldest. The dialogue was straight out of a bad after school special, right down to the “I learned it from you dad. You!”. (No, it wasn’t drugs…though after the argument, it seemed like a reasonable alternative.)

My approach to parenting teens is that this is very much a between stage for them and I have to remind myself constantly to cut them some slack. They could go from needing a parent to proclaiming complete independence in about the time it takes a 14 year old to wolf down a cheese stick after school. I like the idea of the “in between” for budding adolescence because it is a platform that I can grasp and even articulate to my kids. Basically, “look guys, you’re figuring stuff out. It sort of sucks sometimes but it can be super exciting and there’s going to be lots of things happening now that will inform who you want to be – good and bad. Just make decent choices because some choices can last forever and you don’t want to jeopardize what is looking to be a pretty amazing future.” Anyway, it goes something like that.

For me, it’s been a different story. As much as I have embraced meditation, writing, authenticity and self-forgiveness, it is hard for me to not benchmark myself against where I “think I should be”. It’s difficult to not look at my internal GPS and ask “how did I end up here?” and try to blame it on Siri. I never really expected the unexpected. I don’t mean that I should have expected my marriage to end but I also should not have necessarily expected a smooth journey from point A to point B.

In a way, I am no different that the teenagers living in my house – being exposed to experiences I hadn’t been involved with before and figuring it out. I am figuring out that the “in-between” phase is not age restricted, nor is it restricted to one experience. There are “In-between” phases in everything and learning to accept this can be a meaningful (and even fun) way to get through. In fact, as you may have heard, the journey is often more gratifying than the destination.

A good friend of mine said I am on a bridge right now and just transitioning from the past to the future. Isn’t that always the case? We are all in-between, regardless of what we may think.

Until next time,



17 05 2015


My wife left me and my house almost a year ago.

When people left my life in the past, I used to internalize it to the point where I had convinced myself it was because of me and solely because of me. I remember in college, my roommate sophomore year wanted to room with someone else and my first reaction was how it was going to look – me having a room all to myself in the dorm. (Little did I realize how much I would grow to cherish alone time, but hey, I was 18.)

It is embarrassing to admit that someone chose to leave you – whether it is a friend, employer or in my case, my wife. She got to leave our house and literally start over – to the extent someone can – new house, new furniture, new location – not a single immediate reminder of our lives together. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked was a reminder of the life that used to be – from our bedroom furniture, through the pictures on the wall to the spot certain foods were selected to sit in our refrigerator.

Things are far from finalized and in the meantime, I had promised my kids to stay in the house. I would love to sell this one, all the furniture, wall hangings etc and just “start” over but between living in flux right now, saving for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, a summer vacation and ridiculous legal fees, that is not going to happen.

More importantly, I felt (and heard from my kids) that staying put was one less change that they would have to deal with and I know inherently that they are comfortable here. That being said, it has been a struggle for me personally to feel like I can make it my own in some way. Besides removing some cheap artwork from the walls and reorganizing some closet and drawer space, the place looks largely as it has in the past. While eager to eventually make it feel like my own, I realize that my attachment to the “things” that occupy space is largely in my head. I can choose my thoughts which inform these attachments.

Let me explain. For almost a year, I sat at the same seat at the kitchen table – 4 neatly placed placemats for the 3 of us to eat our dinner with – the 4th as a noticeable absence, yet interestingly enough, a sense of ease for my kids that it is still at the end of the table where it always was.

Today, I decided to sit in that spot to do my writing and my work. It doesn’t have to be “her” seat or anyone’s seat. In fact, when we have friends or family over, which is quite often, we end up sitting in different seats than our own anyway. In addition, as I look out the window, it has given me a different view than the one I am used to.

Our attachments to things are largely about the memories and perspectives that we bring to them. While our memories are embedded, we can bring new perspective to these things and that is a good thing.  You may have heard the familiar mantra of “change your attitude, change your life”, which, for me at least, is much easier said than done. Perhaps, attaching a new perspective to a familiar object is the first step.

What attachment do you have that may be holding you back?

Until next time,


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Leaving Your Old Life Behind

5 05 2015


I have been deliberately not thinking about the future lately – or at least my future. I think a lot about my kids’ futures – will divroced parents put them at a disadvantage for establishing healthy relationships themselves? Will the world they inherit be a healthy one, mentally and physically, and be empathetic to their individual struggles? Will I help guide them to find their true north and be authentic to who they are and find their passion but still be able to instill upon them the importance of practical work?

I listen to TED Talks via podcast (and recommend it if you don’t already) and heard one titled “Champions”, focused on those who have accomplished amazing feats of strength and willpower, such as Dyan Nyad the 60+ swimmer who swam for 53 hours straight from Cuba to the Florida Keys. These stories are amazing and the one that really got to me was that of Amy Purdy, the paralympic snowboarder, who went on to almost win the entire Dancing with the Stars competition. Her story was heartbreaking and inspiring – an avid snowboarder who, at the age of 19, lost both legs (among other things) to meningitis. In the interview she explains that as devastated as she was, at some point she realized that she had to leave that old Amy behind and focus on the new Amy.

I had a similar experience with a young woman from Wisconsin who, after a horrific car accident, was on life support, not being given even 24 hours to live, now living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is still living with a TBI and in her interview, she, too, said that she wished friends of old would get to know the “new her”.

I find this type of self awareness fascinating. It is not mired in pity but acceptance. This is something that I need to learn myself. When I first confessed, right before the new year, to the fact that I am going through a divorce I ended my blog post by simply stating that it is just another descriptor to who I am.

Things are not always neatly packaged. Most of my friends in my age group are married, and happily, I hope. I see a journey that mimics what I thought mine was – raising kids, fixing up the house, posting family photos of vacations and milestones on Facebook, etc, etc. That was me. That is the “old Marc.”

The new Marc is a single dad who is having new experiences with his kids, enjoying comedy and friends more than ever and struggling through this journey day by day. My struggle is one of millions and not so bad. When you’re going through a divorce, every guy you meet seems to have a wedding ring on. But, we all have our own journeys and we all have many descriptors. At some point, maybe leaving the “old you” behind is a chance to reincarnate in this life and what emerges may be a “new you” that was always there but not able to emerge in the first place. Be forewarned, though, while you accept the “new” you, it may not be as easy for those who know the “old” you.

Here’s to whichever “you” you are. Embrace it, accept it and take stock of your purpose.

Until next time,


The Positive Side of Hopelessness

4 05 2015


I have been reading a book by Pema Chödrön, “a notable American figure in Tibetan Buddhism” in which she talks about the benefits of hopelessness. That’s right – not hopeFULness…hopeLESSness.

This is not what I had expected at all, as you can imagine. In fact, I thought that in the practice of meditation and being one with  the present, that it was hope I would find. Rather, hopelessness is the beginning.

Here is what she has to say on the subject:

“The difference between theism and notheism is not whether one does or does not believe in God. It is an issue that applies to everyone, including Buddhists and non-Buddhists. Theism is a deeply seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves. Nontheism is relaxing with the ambiguity and uncertainty of the present moment without reaching for anything to protect ourselves. Nontheism is realizing that there’s no babysitter that you can count on. The whole of life is like that. That is the truth, and the truth is inconvenient.”

The truth is inconvenient? Boy, don’t I know it. Those are probably the truest 4 words ever spoken in the English language.

What Chödrön is essentially saying is that there is a benefit to the idea of hopelessness. If we are able to abandon hope it forces us to stop waiting for something better and/or not fully live in the present. Living in a present that is less than ideal is uncomfortable and inconvenient. However, doing so gives us great confidence in our ability to do just that because we have to face what is – whether it is good or bad – and after we do just that, we gain great confidence.

Basically, suffering is part of life. It is inescapable. There is great comfort and pride in actually doing something and dealing with what is here and now. I think that regardless of how badly a night of comedy might go, that is why I keep coming back. At least I was living. I couldn’t stand up there bombing and hope it would get better. I could deal with it right then and there and sometimes that actually turns out to be just fine.

And that is just comedy. In the grand scheme of thing, it is not important. Today, I went to a WWII discussion with 3 veterans on a panel and they all spoke to the daily uncertainty they lived with as young soldiers – having to deal with the very real present and death every day. They accepted this suffering and talk about it with great humility and pride. It has given them incredible resilience and perspective. Perhaps the hopelessness that they felt 70 plus years ago was the most pivotal thing that could have happened to them in their young lives because it forced them to accept what is and not what they hope it to be.

This is a lesson I am learning every day in my life. Through some of the most challenging days over the past 2 years, I have felt more grateful than I had ever felt before.

Until next time,


I Never Asked for the Anal Probe

2 05 2015


Well, if nothing else, I am guessing the title of today’s blog post will at least peak your interest.

“I never asked for the anal probe” is a line from a comedic scene from an older movie called Passion Fish. Honestly, I can’t even recall what the movie was about (though I do recall Alfre Woodard in it) but I have always remembered this scene where, if I recall correctly, there was an actress (playing an actress) who was saying that she had only one line and she kept practicing it, emphasizing a different word each time:

didn’t ask for the anal probe. (As if someone did, but it sure as hell wasn’t me.)

DIDN’T ask for the anal probe. (This one makes the most sense because well, yeah…you get it.)

I didn’t ASK for the anal probe. (I just may have insinuated it a little.)

I didn’t ask FOR the anal probe. (I asked about the anal probe – there’s a big difference dude!)

I didn’t ask for THE anal probe. (Because there isn’t just one…there’s a variety as we all know.)

I didn’t ask for the ANAL probe. (I asked for the nasal probe, for example.)

I didn’t ask for the anal PROBE. (But I did ask for the anal…well, never mind.)

So, “Marc – what the hell is the point of all of this?” you may ask. Great question.

Well…a couple of things. One – this is yet another example of my exemplary ability to retain incredibly useless facts that will, in no way every help me in a job nor in a hostage situation.

Two – words are incredibly important but how you emphasize words can mean everything. I have learned this the very, very, very hard way – being married…and by being a comic. It has been a much easier lesson the latter.

It is such an easy thing to simply say to “choose your words” wisely but it is so much more difficult to choose them and then think about how they are going to be received. Even more difficult is the fact that non-verbal communication has an even larger impact.

You may be familiar with the popular statistic that nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all daily communication, commonly quoted in science and media outlets. Dr. Albert Mehrabian conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).  What?!!!

This reminds me of a time a couple of years ago when a high ranking person explained that even though I appropriately did not respond during a meeting, my face gave me away and I should “work on that”. It’s my face, yo!

So, next time you’re taking the stand-up stage, giving a presentation, making your case to your significant other or faced with an alien abduction, remember – words and non-verbal cues can make all the difference between getting information or becoming part of the experience.

Until next time,


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