Tune Out and Tune In

22 01 2017

pears

I have two pears sitting on my counter. Seeing fruit outside the fridge, in a bowl, a plant near a window, a photo from a trip hung near the piano – these are all signs that things are going to be ok. They are connections to life that exists beyond these four walls – whether in an orchard, a nursery or a vacation destination. They are things that will remain constant in what increasingly seems like a life uncertain.

A pear. A houseplant. A photo. They are not dependent on the size of my kitchen nor whether my piano is a grand piano (it’s not) or a traditional upright (it is). They are just layers of a life; proof of an existence – even if for a moment in time.

And perhaps that is what this divisive period in our nation’s history is, as well. The inauguration, the marches, the tweets – they are layers in a moment in time. Or I hope. If this nation is our “four walls” right now, then we may be looking at those things that are there to give us what we need to remind us that things will be ok.

For some, that is voting an unconventional candidate to lead our country.

For others, it is raising voices and signs in solidarity to not lose the progress that has been made so far and over so long a time.

I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that I am very unsettled about the direction our nation is going. Regardless of the President, I have been awoken to both the plight of fellow citizens and the reality of the real thread of bias, racism and apathy that is overlooked by many good people in the name of “change”. This disheartens me greatly yet it is not for me to judge. It is only for me to recognize what is at this moment and allow it to pass so that we are not defined by party, nor by our social security number but rather by the more complex nature of what makes us human.

That’s why those pictures and plants, children and pets, songs and favorite shows are so critical right now. Tune out of CNN and FOX and tune into YOU. That station is a lot more interesting and a lot more fun for others to watch and without all the side effects.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 

 





Claiming Your Space

16 01 2017

o-stand-up-comedy-facebook

I have been running for over 20 years but won’t call myself a runner.

I’ve been playing piano since I was 7 but wouldn’t call myself a pianist.

I’ve been writing for 30 years but still hesitate to call myself a writer.

And yet with all of these things, I probably have reason to be more confident in those pursuits than I do with comedy, which I have been performing for much less time. Still, I am proud to call myself a comedian, if only reluctantly. It makes me happy.

The truth is, I am a working comedian. I am not working to where it can be my full time job and I’m not sure it ever will be but I get hired to do shows as if others comedians would and it goes well. As I mentioned to another comedian friend, I am at a place where even if it doesn’t go as well as I would have hoped, I feel like I have earned a right to take the stage and I can hold my own. This isn’t an ego thing. It’s just a hard work thing.

I don’t think that unless you have been part of this mind-game that is stand-up comedy you could really understand what that means. It’s like my daughter learning a new dance step. The whole step may take seconds but it can take weeks or months to even get to the point where it’s “in the ballpark.” It’s the same with comedy.

This may be the first positive comedy revelation I have had about myself and though I have no idea if things will progress or not, it really is ok. I am enjoying myself and meeting some really wonderful people and learning to be more confident based on what I know and not what others might think they know about me.

It reminds me a little of losing weight or “getting in shape.” The advice is to not focus on the scale so much (what the scale “thinks” it may know about your health) and focus more on how you feel and even may look (what you, yourself, know). I don’t know – I’m rambling. I just watched “Primal Fear” with my kids (saw it 20 years ago – what a great movie) and my mind is still sort of blown so this is what you get.

I guess the purpose of this blog is to say that we all have a right to claim to be who we are and not just what we do but why we do it. I am an artist, a songwriter, a writer and yes, even a runner, and all of these things funnel up to the dad, brother, son and friend I am. It sort of works that way. Don’t limit yourself. Claim your space. It’s yours. You own it.

Until next time,

Marc

 






My Eyes Are Up Here (Thank you very much)

2 01 2017

how-to-wear-wedding-and-engagement-rings1

I have had a bad habit when I meet someone and I am hoping to break it this year.

Often times, when I first see someone or meet somebody, my eyes divert to the finger on their hand closest to their pinky – you know the one, the “ring” finger. I’ll even check the right hand sometimes for those in Europe and other parts of the world that traditionally wear wedding bands on that hand.

This is the divorced person’s version of every teenage boy not making a first glance above the girl’s neck area. It’s an honest challenge. It’s embarrassing to admit this. No one sees me doing it but I know it and that’s enough.

Last month, after taking a mental inventory of almost every passenger on the C train in NYC, including adolescents who were legally not even old enough to be married, I visibly shook my head in disgust with myself and silently asked myself “why are you doing this”? These questions of self-investigation are not always for the faint of heart. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, big deal. Still, it’s a little mental if you ask me – and yes, I am being pretty judgmental of myself.

The answer is pretty simple. It’s me simply identifying what group these strangers belong to, as I once was a member myself. Of course, nothing about the wearing or non-wearing of a wedding band really tells all that much but I guess it’s like looking at a bunch of college kids and reminiscing that “yeah, I used to be in that group once.”

Marriage was the one thing (along with family) that was the “sine qua non” (an absolute necessary) in my growing up. Regardless of how much money, popularity, degrees or other more accepted measures of “success” one might have had, in my family, it didn’t seem to hold nearly as much weight as a solid family foundation. For me, the dissolution of my own marriage – something that simply cannot be swept under the proverbial rug – was both a moment of profound failure and ultimately, awakening.

There is something I heard a while ago that has helped me with this. Some of you may recall a song from a decade or so ago called “The Sunscreen Song”, the lyrics of which were taken from an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Though I was married at the time, I never forgot the following passage, (interesting that this is the one that stuck out):

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t

Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t

Maybe you’ll divorce at 40,

maybe you’ll dance the “Funky Chicken” On your 75th wedding anniversary

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much

Or berate yourself either

Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

I’m definitely not celebrating a 75th wedding anniversary any time in this life but I feel there’s still a Funky Chicken or two (not to mention an endless supply of “Doing the Robot”) in the not so distant future – and I don’t have to audit a sea of ring fingers to do it, either. (But I will warn you – as someone who has “danced like no one is watching”, it’s pretty embarrassing when you look at the car next to you and realize someone was.)

Here’s to not over-congratulating ourselves for when things go great and not over-berating ourselves for when they don’t.

Until next time,

Marc

(The lyrics to the full essay/song are below if interested.)

 

The Sunscreen Song

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2007, wear sunscreen If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind You will never understand the power And the beauty of your youth until they’ve faded But trust me, in twenty years You will look back at photos of yourself

And recall in a way you can’t grasp now How much possibility lay before you And how fabulous you really looked You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future or worry that know that worrying Is as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation By chewing bubble gum The real troubles in your life are apt to be things That never crossed your worried mind The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday

Do one thing every day that scares you, sing Don’t be reckless with other peoples’ hearts Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours, floss Don’t waste your time on jealousy Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults If you succeed in doing this, tell me how Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements, stretch Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life

The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t Get plenty of calcium Be kind to knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the “Funky Chicken” On your 75th wedding anniversary Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much Or berate yourself either Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own, dance Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room Read the directions even if you don’t follow them Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Brother and sister together will make it through Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good Be nice to your siblings, they are your best link to your past And the people most likely to stick with you in the future Understand that friends come and go But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle For as the older you get, the more you need the people You knew when you were young Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft

Travel, accept certain inalienable truths Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble And children respected their elders

Respect your elders, don’t expect anyone else to support you Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse But you’ll never know when either one will run out Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty It will look eighty-five Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of Wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister together will make it through, oh yeah Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can

Everybody’s free, oh yeah, everybody’s free, oh yeah, oh, to feel good

Songwriters NIGEL ANDREW SWANSTON, TIM COX

Published by Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

Song Discussions is protected by U.S. Patent 9401941. Other patents pending.

Read more: Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 





Day 1

2 01 2017

Image result for day 1

Last night was a New Year’s Eve unlike any other.

I certainly have spent New Year’s eve before unencumbered by the fervor of loud music and flowing booze but never quite to the extent I did for a couple of hours at the Buddhist Sangha (community) to which I have been attending for about a year now.

Though I look forward to the Monday evening meditation and discussion, I was very hesitant to go there last night.

Firstly, I had envisioned a night with my kids including games, music and sarcastic commenting on whatever ridiculous late night New Year’s Eve coverage was going to be on the television.

Secondly, reflecting inward after what will surely go down as one of the most sobering years of my life, was not high on my list of options to ring in 2017.

However, with two teenagers who rather spend a night with friends their own age, I was left with me, my thoughts and a list of On Demand music videos from artists I hadn’t heard of nor could pronounce.

I decided to walk down to the Sangha, hoping it was not just me and two other people, as I was expecting.

There were a lot of cars in the parking lot. This surprised me and for a moment, I thought maybe there was some other event going on, as well. Then, I walked in to a community of 30-40 people with varying levels of experience and reasons for being there who had decided to take a breath, literally and metaphorically, to start this New Year in a much different way than in the past.

It was a humbling experience. This is not the stuff that unicorns and rainbows are made of. One of the things I appreciate the most is the true down-to-earth nature of this community – the ability to meet people who intuitively feel there is something beyond the surface we have been trained to grasp for.

This is a time to come together as a community and simply take a pause. I can’t tell you how important, (notice I didn’t say “easy”), this practice has been over the past year.

I heard a podcast today (replayed from 2009) that recounted a story of an older man who refused to quit smoking after decades, even following a stroke. He simply said it was who he was and that in this life, he was a smoker. Upon having a second stroke, however, that part of his brain that associated himself with smoking, was damaged and he never reached for a cigarette from there on in.

The biological science of craving aside, he just didn’t think of himself as a smoker anymore. We are so ready to confine ourselves to the thoughts that provide guardrails to what we think we can do and who we can be that we often have to experience something profound to challenge these notions.

I really appreciate the idea of our thoughts being tools that are available to us, rather than our specific identity. This is something that meditation has helped me work toward – the ability to see my thoughts, acknowledge them, investigate further and then, maybe just then, let them slip away so that I can be in the moment with no expectation and no identity. Can you imagine what could happen then?

Wishing you a year of discovery.

Until next time,

Marc








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