In this corner, Anxiety. In this corner, Fear.

29 08 2015

Man, this fight sucks.

Man, this fight sucks.

I have written about fear enough times in this blog in the past but when something occurs that reminds me of how powerful this really is, I feel compelled to write about it again.

Just to reiterate what I may have alluded to in the past, I am not speaking of fear associated with flight or fight – the fear of walking down a dark alley in the city at 2 am or being diagnosed with something horrible. I am talking about the fears that we wear as a coat ourselves – either real or imagined – that become part of us without even knowing it and ultimately mold us into who we think we need to be rather than who we are.

I have to admit, that even after seeing that scientific pinnacle of the psychological community “Inside Out” with my kids, I wasn’t sure if fear was truly an emotion. According to Wikipedia (which is not scientific but I trust more than, say, Donald Trump), fear “occurs as the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable” and is related to but “should be distinguished from” the emotion of anxiety.

I also realized that I took for granted that I thought I understood exactly what an emotion was. It is defined as:”an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced.”

This is starting to gel now. If my effective state of consciousness is an anxious one, then the resulting experience is fear. If, on the opposite side of the spectrum, my effective state of consciousness is one of contentment, joy is the resulting experience. Makes sense. (Interesting to me how, out of all the experiences referenced in the definition, 75% of them are not so great – necessary but not necessarily great to feel. Had to be written by a Jew – just saying. It’s how we’re wired.)

For many reasons, I had socialized myself to live in a state of anxiety about comedy or anything creative for that matter. I had always done music and that seemed more acceptable but admitting to stand-up always gave me an uncomfortable sqeamish feeling that was hard to ignore. 

Today, my kids and I met long time friends (past neighbors of ours) for brunch and it was just terrific. They have known my family before my kids were even born and I had lost touch with them as I did with many others during this weird 2 year hiatus when I was just trying to get through without anyone knowing what the hell was going on.

In any event, toward the end of our breakfast, they asked me if I was still doing comedy and after replying that I am basically squeezing it whenever I can as long as it doesn’t disrupt the kids etc. – they said something to the affect of “but you’re not giving it up” – almost like holding me to not quitting. It was subtle. Perhaps I read into it. But it was sort of what I needed.

Here’s why. I lived with real and perceived threats around this comedy thing for so long that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I became more anxious leading to more fear. It was a cycle of craziness. I had real threats – it was a threat to my marriage in some ways because I just never was able to articulate why it was important and not some sort of low class “hanging out” proposition. It was a perceived threat because I was too worried about what people would think – friends, family, work colleagues. Hell, even to this day, most of my work colleagues don’t have any idea though I am not deliberately hiding it but I’m not going out of my way to advertise it either.

Fear. It can really be crippling.

The one great thing about divorce is that eventually, you can’t hide from it no matter how much you try. Someone has moved out. Someone doesn’t show up to a family function. Some one leaves a ton of crap on your front lawn. It gets noticeable and quick. It’s a good thing. Once that happens, there’s no more anxiety. No more wondering “what if”. There is only the present, and hopefully, the future.

It’s been a great lesson for me for comedy. Some people say comedy ruins people’s lives. I have to say it has only helped mine. I know other comics probably feel the same way. Anxiety may lead to fear but action can lead to contentment. And the circle is complete. Hakuna matata.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks for reading – I really appreciate it. To get notifications of future blog posts, please sign up to get more blog posts. Also, follow me on Twitter @MarcKaye1 for a daily quip or two. Thanks, Marc

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My Comedy Uniform

28 08 2015
No live bananas were harmed in the taking of this photo.

No live bananas were harmed in the taking of this photo.

When I was a kid, I used to stay away from my mom when she had no make-up on and a rag in her hand. I knew that in her “cleaning uniform” there was probably a good chance she wasn’t going to be in the best of moods. And after spending a lot of time cleaning my own place in preparation for selling, I definitely understand why.

On the corollary, she had her “going out uniform”. That meant hair, make-up, nice clothes – it meant we were probably going shopping but out of the house anywhere where there wasn’t a laundry list of things yet to be done was a good thing.

I often categorized myself in the same way and for me, it was just normal, but I realized that it was a big reason when I went from “work uniform”, (clean shaven, decent outfit, quaffed hair to the best of my ability) to “home uniform”, (jeans, t-shirt, unshaven and unruly hair). This latter was what was to become my “comedy uniform” for better or for worse.

As much as I read about comics who stand apart with their wardrobes (Jerry Seinfeld, Sinbad, Amy Schumer), I haven’t exactly gotten to any other separate uniform for comedy yet.

Yesterday, I did an outdoor show in New Jersey. It was great. I had a great time despite being relegated again to the spot of going on first. I still don’t know if this is a compliment or a nice way of saying “we still think you’re funny but just in case…”. Anyway, it was great.

One of the best moments of the night, though, was talking with the comics after the show. I met a new comedian who, like me, has had a corporate career (and I still do) and got her MBA, as well. We were talking about how much more comfortable we are with other comics, how these are “our people”. It was so amazing hearing my thoughts come out of someone else’s mouth – from the perspectives that we have about being around people who claim to be self-aware but are anything but to living within the mental confines of suburbia. It was so refreshing.

It occurred to me on the ride home that I never really had a comedy uniform. My “comedy uniform” is really the authentic me. I have been wearing other uniforms – dad at the baseball game, dad at the school play, dad at the bus stop, husband, employee – you get the picture that were different than my real one.

The more and more I “do comedy”, the more I realize that this isn’t about an end game at all. It’s about wearing the uniform that fits me best. And it feels right. What’s your natural uniform?

Until next time,

Marc





The Unbearable Lightness (and occasional darkness) of Being (a Father)

28 08 2015

Amen.

Amen.

I asked my kids to help me clean up their rooms recently; really clean-up – not the “stuff all your crap in a drawer and use your butt to try and close it until the crappy cardboard that is called a drawer bottom falls out” clean up. It’s because we have to get our house ready to sell.

When our family of 1 became a family of 1 divided by 2 parents last Summer, I vowed to keep the house for the kids. They feel comfortable here and safe. It is where their friends come over. It’s where they are secure. It was the one constant that I felt I could control during the upheaval that is divorce.

After over a year, I had to make the difficult decision to sell the house – both for financial reasons and more importantly, for emotional reasons. It is important for me to have a place that isn’t like living inside a diorama of my marriage on a 24/7 basis.

Yesterday, as I checked in how my daughter’s progress was coming along, I saw she had her iPhone horizontally placed between her hands as she pivoted in a circle from the middle of the room.

“What are you doing?”, I asked.

“Oh – I’m filming my room because I don’t want to forget what it looked like.”, she responded rather innocently.

I had a lump in my throat for the rest of the night and a larger one in my stomach. I had second, third, and fourth thoughts…and a glass of wine to match each.

This is difficult. I love my kids more than anything. Truly. I think sometimes people don’t understand how much you love someone until a 12 year old innocently states a fact that you know has more meaning than she even realizes.

I ran into an acquaintance recently, about to become an empty nester as her last kid goes off to college. I tried to find the positive by reflecting how nice it will be to get back to her own time, that sort of thing. She replied, “no, I actually like my kids.” Wow – message received. If you like your kids – good for you. I like mine, too, sometimes, but that’s not really the point.

I love my kids. I don’t particularly like them all the time. And as the teenage years keep coming, less and less. I am pretty sure they feel the same about me.

The unbearable part of all of this is the love part. I could deal with the like. I like hanging with my kids, too, but the prospect of moving doesn’t tug at my gut in that way. But it does when I check on them at night sleeping or I see them carelessly walking down the stairs without looking. It’s hard to not feel as if I am causing yet another disruption. This is where the love part stings. 

It’s difficult being a parent of any ilk – male, female, married, divorced, whatever – if, if you are willing to love your kids even when you don’t like them. That’s when it gets really hard because it’s no longer a contest to befriend them. It’s a mirror held in your face every second that keeps you honest. And that – that is something that helps you realize that there will be new films to be taken in a new house, too, but it won’t make things necessarily any easier.

Until next time,

Marc





Portrait of the Artist as a (not so) Young Man

26 08 2015
This is not a portrait nor a young man...discuss.

This is not a portrait nor a young man…discuss.\

Yes- leave it to me to pick a nerdy title for a blog post. I’m special that way. Now onto the blogosphere….

Last weekend I got to sit out in the evening at a local pub – the mahogany bar in front of me and on the other side of a wooden divider, the sounds of a lone singer belting out classic tunes by Neal Young, Pearl Jam and other amazing artists. It was as close to my version of “The Voice” as I had come to before….hearing the vocals but only being able to imagine from whom they arose.

The singer had a fantastic range and a syrupy but deep tonality that surprised me for the range of various different songs he was playing on the guitar while strumming away. I had an image in my head of who this guy was. When I took my beer and headed over to the patio where he was performing, I was surprised to see a guy not much taller than myself with a pair of jeans, spectacles and an unassuming blue and gray plaid short-sleeve shirt. My first impression was, “man, this guy looks like Moby but I don’t think Moby sings like that.” My second was: “did we go to school together?”

I was thoroughly enjoying this guy singing and even wanted to catch up with him after as I have been looking to hire a vocalist to record (or re-record in some cases) some original music I have written. After he played his last tune, he thanked the audience and also said that he had an original 10 song CD for sale for $5.

An older gentleman sitting with his 3rd or 4th wife – I couldn’t tell the exact number; it’s so hard to tell these days – started laughing and quipped to me: “$5 for 10 songs? How good can it be? He’s a little old to be hocking CDs.” In one minute he was able to convey every horrible judgement that some inappropriate distant relative from the past had said to me at one point or another about something or somebody.

Thankfully, I had not let my “beer voice” talk on my behalf and instead, just said something to the effect of “well, he’s really good and clearly enjoying himself.”

I was so frustrated by this guy. Was I internalizing his comment a bit? Probably – sure. What gets me though is the ease with which he felt comfortable making fun of this artist. Had he been 20, I am sure he would have still said something like “let’s see where you are in 20 years” but have accepted the fact that he was giving it a try. The message here was that his age had something to do with the acceptability to express a passion of his – guitar playing and singing. (OK, OK  – editors note here – I AM internalizing that part because, honestly, for all I know he hates singing and guitar playing and was just doing it to pay the bills. But based on the looks of his tip jar that night, I highly doubt it.)

Why is our society so comfortable with allowing youth to explore but once you reach a certain age limit, it becomes more acceptable to judge? I am the first to find annoyance with all of those adults still “finding themselves” but that doesn’t mean that people necessarily should stop finding a part of themselves.

Sometimes people are found – they don’t need to look anymore. They are born into families that are supportive (financially, emotionally or otherwise) or have a natural gift for those faculties that are easier to get caught and be found – athletics, academics, the last name Kardashian. However, many of us have a lot of exploring to do and this should not be seen as the antithesis of responsibility. It’s quite the opposite. Show me the person who has nothing left to figure out and I’ll show you someone who continues setting unrealistic expectations on someone – a child, an employee, an entire Republican party (hello Mr. Trump – I’m talking to you).

But in all seriousness, Joyce wrote about his protagonist breaking away from conventional norms and figuring out his identity. He was a young man but his age wasn’t what made it exceptional. It was his journey. This doesn’t have to stop just because you happen to be an older man of means sitting with your 3rd or 4th wife watching an amazing guitarist and singer for free on a beautiful weekend evening. That’s not “making it” at all – that’s barely even “finding it” if you ask me.

Until next time,

Marc





Celexa, Carol King and Me.

26 08 2015
Carol is sort of like the "tear-whisperer".

Carol is sort of like the “tear-whisperer”.

Over 2 years ago I started taking Celexa – or Citalopram, as the generic is known. 

I like saying Citalopram better – it sounds “practical jokey”. Celexa sounds like a high class luxury vehicle or a blonde socialite I would never have anything do with. “I met Celexa at the club and we parted in my Selexa 99S.” That’s never going to happen – either of those things.

Have I digressed from the real topic of being on an anti-anxiety med? (Pretty sneaky.)

For the uninitiated, this drug of choice is yet another in the class of SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors) meant for depression and anxiety. This one was more geared toward anxiety, which apparently I had no shortage of and it was decided that a little inhibiting of my serotonin uptake might be in order.

I decided to do this largely at the urging, or should I say guilting, of my then-wife/soon-to-be-ex-wife/not-sure-what-to-call-her-anymore. I was really against it for various reasons, the least of which was not that I felt that in our over-prescribed society, it was an insult to those who really needed SSRIs to have those of us, like myself, who were mired in more “white people problems”. That being said, given the fact that my wife (at the time) saw this as a problem and I continued to fight against it, I surmised that it was my duty as a good husband to oblige and so I did.

Then, a few months later, I had a ball drop – my wife filed for divorce and I spent the next year unsuccessfully trying to hold onto something that could not be held onto and let’s just say, that didn’t seem like the most opportune time to get off a drug, hell, any drug. Anything that would help me continue to raise my kids, work hard and appear to have it under wraps was just fine with me.

A little over two weeks ago, I traveled to New Hampshire for a week with my kids. It was an excellent week, spending the majority outdoors and really enjoying caves, mountains, swimming and a general devolution from technology. I noticed I was having dizzy spells continually and having trouble sleeping, only to realize that I had neglected to pack the said Citalopram.

Upon realizing this on day three, I made a conscious decision that this was not a coincidence. No, it was “meant to be”. My thinking went something like this: “I am hopefully winding down 2015 with a smaller house, a new “relationship” status on Facebook and if I can squeeze it out, a more clear objective and dare I say, positive outlook on life”. And so the die had been cast.

Except the past two plus weeks have been an amalgamation of exhaustion, dizziness and feeling. Yes, feeling. I didn’t realize how many of my feelings were being moderated by this drug. Don’t get me wrong – I think it was not a bad thing. Being off of an SSRI, for me, is like tasting the cupcake AND the frosting but it is also like feeling the winter cold AND the frostbite. 

It is scary for me, to be honest but also revealing that I have to accept that I am a dude who just feels things deeply, for better and for worse. In writing this blog, I am accepting myself. I am trying to be honest and not hide from some exterior version of what people need to see to feel comfortable or worse, what I thought I needed to portray to be exhibited. The shame is not that I was embarrassed to admit that I had taken an anti-anxiety med but rather in that I was too embarrassed to reveal that I am an emotional dude at times and that my struggle is also my strength. That is what I am ashamed of…not taking the drug.

On Sunday, I saw “Beautiful” – the musical based on Carol King’s songs and her life. I don’t remember crying that much since watching “Precious” on a plane back from London while sitting near an Orthodox Jewish guy that got up every 15 minutes to pray. (Man, that flight attendant had no clue what was going on in 15 D and E). But more about that later.

The music was exceptional and the words hard-hitting. I joked that they should have called it “Divorce- The Musical” (which I want to write – as a parody, by the way). I cried for Carol. I cried for the soul she poured into her art, not because she had to but because she had no other choice. I cried for myself and my kids and lost time and new found meanings. I held it in pretty well until the song came I knew was bound to be played -“Too Late”. 

I had that same feeling I had while sitting Shiva (mourning) for my grandfather 21 years ago knowing that in a few days, my sister, me, and my parents would all be standing in my grandparents’ driveway heading our separate ways knowing that nothing was ever going to be the same next time we saw each other. Just standing there looking at each other trying to hold it together, knowing for days before that that moment was inevitable.

And it’s too late, baby now, it’s too late,

Though we really did try to make it.

Somethin’ inside has died, and I can’t hide,

And I just can’t fake it, oh, no, no.

The tears came down and I let them just sit there and dry on my cheek, thankful for feeling, for feeling sad – for feeling period. 

It’s funny – last night I posted to Facebook for the first time in a while. I said “I’m so tired of feeling like everything has to be ok. Anybody else? Just me?” and I realized that it was taken in a depressing sort of way when really what I was trying to say was “It’s ok to feel and if you really feel, not everything has to be ok because it’s part of life. It’s acceptable. It’s weird if everything is ok, isn’t it?”

So, here I blog to you for the first time in a while, absent of infused substance, other than a glass of red wine by my side, hoping that regardless of your medical regimen, you feel something…anything because living without feeling is safe but it sure ain’t rich. And it’s definitely not too late.

Until next time,

Marc








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