Courage is Not Just a Word

11 11 2015
Courage has nothing to do with sales.

Courage has nothing to do with sales.

Today is Veteran’s Day. My dad is a Veteran. My brother-in-law is a veteran. I am a college graduate with a gap in my perspective because I haven’t put in the time and sacrifice that so many men and women have. It’s the truth and I am not going to make an excuse about it.

It was never in my trajectory to join the armed services and I am not sure I would in hindsight. However, having grown up with a very strong sense of country, thanks to my parents, I have always felt as there was more I can do. 

There is an act-out (this is a comedy term for “acting out” part of a comedy set, for example) that I have been working on based on a true experience. Thanks to my incredible acting skills, I am hoping it will be hilarious (he says sarcastically) but it was based on a very unfunny experience, in my book.

Here is the short Cliff Notes version – I was at a pretty high-level training course a few years ago and one of the women presenting to those in attendance was talking about how “hard” it is to build the right type of sales and marketing teams. After a very pregnant and deliberate pause, she looked at all of us intently and said “it takes real courage” to do that.

It took every fiber of my body to bite my tongue or not get up out of my seat. While the majority of the room was complimenting her on what a great leader she was, I was very frustrated by her use of the word “courage”. Let me be perfectly clear – building sales and marketing teams doesn’t take courage; it takes doing your job. Period. I hear words like “courage”, “fearlessness” and “perseverance” thrown out in contexts that have nothing to do with the foundations of these concepts – all the time. I may be overthinking it but don’t we suffer from a society today that doesn’t really keep ourselves honest anymore? It seems like it.

There has been a lot of debate recently about this word, “courage”. The most recent example that comes to mind is with respect to Catlyn Jenner and awards for courage that she has received. We all have our own opinions on this. In my opinion, what she did did take courage. I am not saying she may not be “milking it” for her cause but let’s be real, you have to feel pretty tormented to make the decision to become who you truly think you are.

There are different types of courage but can we hold each other accountable so we don’t minimize the true courage and sacrifice that people make in the battlefield, in the cancer ward, in the living room trying to raise a special-needs child, and in identifying with a certain race, gender or creed, especially based on where you may happen to live?

We all have in us moments when it takes courage to live – the life we are meant to or the life we are given and didn’t plan to. Sometimes, it is the courage to live a combination of the both. To me, it is ignorant to throw that word around as if it is just any other word.

What do you think?

Until next time,

Marc





Right Where I’m Meant to Be

11 11 2015
Time to be where you are.

Time to be where you are.

I had a great weekend for comedy.

I was not with my kids and, as much as I joke about them in my writing, I always deal with a little depression when they are not around me for an extended (24 hour) period of time. The distraction of 3 comedy shows, friends and family this past weekend helped me rid of those feelings, if only temporarily.

Not only was each show better than the last for me as a growing comedian, but also I found that I continue to have a lot to be grateful for – friends and colleagues in the comedy community who continue to bring me along and recommend me, high school friends who came out to see me after such a long period of time since high school that I could not have ever imagined, parents who support this crazy thing I am doing and kids who continue to be resilient, not to mention healthy, during these formative years.

At one of my shows in CT this weekend, it really hit me. I sat at a table of friends from high school and at that small table, we represented a wide spectrum of the human experience. Out of respect for my friends, I will leave out the details but suffice it to say that none of it mattered and that was a beautiful thing for me. In an environment where I find myself often the odd man out, it was so refreshing to have no corners or boundaries by which we were trying to fit into. Sitting at that table represented what I love so much about those friends I have made in the comedy community, as well.

Something that one of my friends said toward the end of the night really struck me. She said something to the effect that she looks outside each day and thinks about how beautiful that day is and how she wants to dance and live and really live life while she still can and for as long as she can.

This is not a fly-by-your-seat person. She has a family she is close to, as well as friends and basically been working full time forever. You get the point. It was not an easy journey for her but she is not even close to done. I loved that. There was no excuse. 

It’s like looking in the mirror and realizing that you’re not the 17 year old who just had all this passion to do big things. That never goes away – at least not for me. The challenge is to understand that our responsibility as friends, partners, sons, brothers, sisters, daughters, parents, grandparents, etc does not bury that 17 year old driven to do big things. Failure doesn’t have to be a fear. It can be an innocent bystander along the way and then you move on. It’s all how we look at it.

More than ever in the past 20 years, I have no clue what things will look like for me next year at this time but I do know that it’s not a question anymore of better or worse. It is simply a question of how quickly it will take me to realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at that very moment…sort of like right now.

Until next time, 

Marc





The Downside of Funny

5 11 2015

Way more than one dimension.

Way more than one dimension.

By now, I’m pretty sure you have read at least one article regarding the recent and tragic suicide of Robin Williams. (They are all tragic, by the way.)

It is probably not a new thought that depression and suicide seem to be higher among creative types – musicians, artists, comedians, etc. To be honest, I am not sure if this is actually true or not. I have read articles online that allude to it, give theories as to it, but have not seen a definitive study that is double-blinded, randomized and statistically significant, though one may exist.

To me, it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that people understand that human beings are not one dimensional. I can’t imagine a physician, plumber or toll booth operator as not having a sense of humor simply due to their occupation and yet, it seems that when someone is funny, it becomes hard, and at times, unacceptable, for others to accept the mulit-dimensionality of that person. As the saying goes, “everyone loves a clown.” (Though, I hate clowns, and parades, if anyone is curious).

I personally believe that it is called a “sense” of humor because the humility and perspective that humor provides is very much a means by which one can perceive, just like touch, smell, taste, hearing or sight. Humor has helped me defray many a sticky situation. In fact, given how direct and confrontational I can be at times, I cannot imagine how much more so this would be if it were not for humor. I suspect I may never be able to hold down a job or relationship, let alone get through traffic or the deli counter at the local market where the dude behind the counter seems to be perpetually in a bad mood.

My parents are the type of folk that are either your best friends or can be your worst enemies. It’s a bit dramatic but it is to say that they are fiercely loyal but spare no delusions when someone is being less than authentic or worse, dishonest. I come by it honestly. My goal has always to be as fair as possible and try not to be mean. It’s difficult especially when dealing with certain people. I like that people can feel at ease around me and I can make them laugh when things get tough. However, at times, it seems, to those who really don’t know me, as I am considered the Mascot at the game – always the go-to-guy to feel better when in truth, sometimes I’m not up for the task.

When this occurs, there is a distinct difference between those who can see the multi-dimensionality of the person in front of them and those who are disappointed and even a bit angry that I am not in a good mood or a good place. The same gift that might allow certain people to “think outside of the box” is the same heavy cloak that causes us to retreat at times. I don’t know if this makes sense to people who may be more level in their moods. We are all born with a different “level set” and for those who traverse the good and the bad, it can be difficult to explain this to those who are not of the same ilk.

The downside of funny is not really a downside, per se, as much as the other side of funny. Not all comedians are tragic just as all theologians are not righteous. People are more than a sum of their careers, passions and perceptions. The multi-dimensionality exists in all of us but it takes more than a passing encounter to understand, respect and accept it.

Until next time,

Marc





The Virtue of Cat Pee

3 11 2015
If only...

If only…

I want to move on. So. Damn. Badly. 

Sometimes, I wish there was a big hand from the sky that would reach down, grab me by my bootstraps – well, wait, I don’t have bootstraps – by my t-shirt shoulders and plop me down wherever it is I am supposed to end up with whatever I have left from this year. It’s the unknowing that gets to me. Once I know, I’ll move on.

I have to move from this house for reasons as emotional as financial in nature. Regarding the sale of this house, I finally seemed to have resolve an issue of one small area that one or both of my cats has continued to mark their territory, or otherwise denote their dissatisfaction for me, the house or life in general. With cats, it could be all three, all the time. I’m sure if they could speak, they would sit me down and say “Marc, to be honest – you’re not exactly the owner we had hoped for.”

This is the one thing that will send me flying off the edge. I have had cats before and had to deal with a similar (and much worse) situation but this time, it is what they represent – a second set of cats that I was not all that enthusiastic about and talked into by my wife in the best interest of the kids.

She knows me well. If you want me to do anything – just add “in the best interest of the kids” to the sentence and I’m sold. I’m a sucker that way.

“Marc, I really think you need to shove this shovel up your ass.”

“Um – I’m not really sure that sounds like a good idea.”

“It’s in the best interest of the kids.”

“Ok, I guess. Which end is best to start with?”

On the day she left, I developed significant neck pain and apparently, she developed a serious set of allergies (though my skin looks like a braille card anytime I take an allergy test).  As such, I am stuck with these cats regardless of protestations. There is no way to rid of them, these creatures who ignore me other than the daily presents they leave just outside the litter box. Every time my son is around, the male cat follow him around like a lost puppy. My daughter is guarded on a regular basis by the female cat. It would be cruel for me to get rid of them, though I fantasize about it on a regular basis. And I make no secret of this either. Both my kids know it.

Haley Joel Osmet saw dead people everywhere in The Sixth Sense. I smell cat pee everywhere – my hoodie, the family room, the waiting room at the doctor’s office. It’s insane. Clearly these cats have a meaning attached to them beyond their nine lives. They represent everything that I cannot seem to rid of  – reminders that there is no clean break, there is no controlling that which cannot be controlled and the dual nature of poison and pleasure – driven by the perception of whom is on the receiving end.

This, in a nutshell, is the virtue of cat pee.

Until next time,

Marc





On Wedding Anniversaries

2 11 2015
Happy Anniversary to me!

Happy Anniversary to me!

Today is my wedding Anniversary. It would have been my 18th. I guess it still is, legally anyway. I look forward to the day when November 2nd doesn’t have any other meaning than being a couple of days past Halloween and a couple of days away from election day.

I talk about being divorced in my comedy a lot more now. It’s much more comfortable for me to do so than it used to be. It’s just another form of self defecating humor. It’s innocent and it helps take the sting out of the pain. That’s the most amazing thing about comedy or any art, for that matter.

After a show, I do feel a tinge of remorse when I meet a young couple who is engaged or recently married. I always feel compelled to tell them that marriage is great, it’s a wonderful thing and I am sure it is going to work out for them, making some sort of joke about me in the process. It’s weird because I never feel compelled to say this to someone who has been married a while. I know they get it. 

The young married couple is full of hope. Those with a few years behind them haven’t lost hope but it is grounded in the reality of building a life together – the good and the bad. 

Officially, prior to separation, I was married a bit over 16 1/2 years. That’s a worthy investment and not an insignificant amount of time – for either of us. I am so grateful that my kids were already well into activities and friends when it ended because it mitigated losing any further time during those early formative years (not that these are not formative, as well.)

On this anniversary of sorts, rather than feel bad or upset, I am choosing to focus on the fact that 18 years ago, I took a chance, not settling but not retracting due to fear, either, that produced two amazing kids. Today is an anniversary of what started out as an early step in the journey of my two kids. It is something to be celebrated but I’m still thinking of putting my wedding album up on eBay.

Until next time,

Marc





Daylight Savings, Raking Leaves & Beginning with the End

1 11 2015

It's a fine line between death and birth

It’s a fine line between death and birth

I’m not a huge fan of the period between Thanksgiving and the onset of Spring. I can tolerate the cold, though I tend to wish for warmer weather. It’s the darkness that I have a hard time with.

I don’t know whether or not I have SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) or not. It doesn’t matter if I do and I want to be careful to not self diagnose when there are people who really do suffer either seasonally or otherwise. All I do know is that when the sun starts to set early, I can’t stop yawning – a lot. The urge to nap, slow down and eat carbohydrates is pretty intense – or at least more intense than normal as those are all three things I enjoy doing, anyway. I take Vitamin D and I try to keep up with exercise, regardless, but as the days shorten, so does my motivation. (Daily intake of left over Halloween candy doesn’t exactly help, either.)

It’s not a coincidence, then, that on this first day of Daylight Savings Time when, yes, we gain an hour, but we also start to transition to much shorter days, I made myself sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This is, essentially, a 30 day challenge to write a a 50,000 word novel – approximately 1,700 words a day. I am not sure if I am going to succeed or not, nor if I do, if what I end up with will be worth anything. But I do know that without some sort of goal, the potential for getting to November 30th with little more than another month’s worth of “to do” lists is pretty good.

After grabbing a late breakfast with my son at a diner this morning, we raked leaves for a little under two hours in the front yard. He is an endless source of comedy material but more than that, an endless source of pride. Truthfully, the way this kid is maturing is an experience to behold – his approach to school, his aptitude for helping friends, his hilarious sense of humor and more importantly, his resilience. I am part father and part witness to an emerging adult.

We raked in silence, side by side, with the occasional verbal interruption. He could not tell the feelings of longing and loss that were welling up within me – both grateful for the opportunity to be there in the moment and, at the same time, dealing with a profound sense of sadness, melancholy and frustration at my current situation. If we were laying poolside in 85 degree weather at a resort, I may have the same experience but it would come and go. Something about the fall shadows cast on the lawn as we raked in an autumn chill, the smells of decaying leaves and the distant rustle of wind, leaves and branches set a scene for things coming to an end. It’s all too easy for me to internalize my surroundings. This, in some form or fashion, has been my achilles heal my entire life.

I really struggled with a sense of hopelessness. I am not sure exactly why. Intellectually, I knew that it was both not as dire as it felt nor chronic in nature. Still, the feelings were profound. When I get this way, I try to get to the root and ask “what is going on and what am I afraid of?” I concluded that it’s all about endings. This year is going to come to an end and one way or another, I will have to forge through a new beginning of sorts. Anyone who knows me understands that I am trying to get there – divorce, house, job – there are a lot of endings on the horizons and new beginnings to be had.

Though a story of fiction, I am hoping that the novel I am writing, “On the Side”, will help me get there. I need to get things out of my head and onto paper in one way or another – either through prose, song or comedy. I don’t have much of a choice at this point. Maybe NaNoWriMo is good for me. Maybe it isn’t. I do know that it is better to have something to shoot for than not. I need to apply this to all facets of my life, in reality.

I have no delusions of grandeur. There is no Pulitzer prize, Grammy or Comedy Central special awaiting me. I would be happy to get some extra comedy bookings and record a song or two, if that, not to mention, some sort of job security (let’s not forget about that).

I also know that I cannot simply “walk with my feelings” alone. It helps to acknowledge them. It helps to understand that they are with me, regardless of wish, desire or circumstance. That’s not enough for me, though. I need to have them materialize somehow for no one other than me the same way that a maple tree must shed it’s leaves in November. There simply is no choice. 

A setting sun, a browning landscape and an emerging winter must still be expressed, regardless of whether it is welcome or not.

Until next time,

Marc








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