Choices: The Haunting of February

7 03 2017

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I thought about writing every day for the past month. I was restless with thoughts of what I would write about, more than not reverting to a feeling that it was pointless.

I ruminated in the dwelling of the everyday routine – caught between that split second when one emerges from sleep still not fully in the day and the flood that happens in the mind when the day takes its place in the week and the tasks and thoughts line up like soldiers waiting in line waiting for their number to be called.

It was a very introspective month for me and I didn’t even realize it until a friend messaged me on Facebook a very simple message: “everything ok? You’ve been awol” and it snapped me out of a weird fog because I knew I was sort of passing the days but didn’t investigate why. This is someone who I haven’t seen since we were not much older than my son is now and it just took those 5 words to inoculate me from February sliding into March. I am very grateful.

I spent the majority of the month just completely immersed in parenting and work with the occasional self-reflection. I am trying to come to terms with the idea of choices and where they lead to – this idea that it is not who we are that leads us down a path as much as it is based on who we think we are – for better or for worse. It’s hard for me to look forward without looking behind because so much of where I want to go is where I was to afraid to go in the first place.

If we are lucky, we do not accept our station in life simply because there seems to be no other choice. But to do so, we have to accept loss of who we thought we were or thought we could be before we can kill our fears and accept hope of who we know we are now and where we are meant to be headed.

This isn’t some Tony Robbins style bullshit. This is just the reality of human existence. It is not for us to judge where someone happens to be in their life because we don’t know how they got there – the causes and conditions that led to one choice versus another. For me, it’s time to stop questioning “why” and start focusing on “how”.

It is not a coincidence that I received a call on the last day of the month about a choice that a family member made that was absolutely disastrous. I was not close to this person but am part of the extended family and am not sure it will ever be fully understood. I do know that sometimes, we have choices that go beyond ourselves that do count, though…like a quick message to ask if everything is ok.

I hope everything is ok with you. If not, you know where to find me.

Until next time,

Marc

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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





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

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Put it out there

19 02 2015

fail

In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes: “…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” There are a few different interpretations including Hamlet basically saying that ignorance is bliss or the other which is that we are, in essence, a product of our own thoughts. I guess both are true.

Being a realist sucks. Especially when you’re a dreamer, too. Somehow, the realist always seems to trump the dreamer. I am not sure why it can’t be the other way around, at least some of the time. The problem with the realist, though, at least in my case, is that it always seems to be overly cautious. Worse of all, when the worst case scenario really does happen, that inner voice that says: “hah! I told you this wasn’t going to work out” chimes in and the dreamer retreats.

I have been spending a lot of time, (too much time), thinking about why some people seem to be so content and others, restless. I think being a creative type does not help at all, or at least for me. The one thing I did realize, however, is that if you are going to do something, you really have to do it all the way. That doesn’t mean “quit your job and head out to L.A.” all the way.

Let me explain from something I can relate to – comedy. While it is far from completely gone, for a long time I was very embarrassed about the fact that this “responsible” adult that I was carrying around – husband, father, son, friend, employee – was so passionate about writing and learning the craft of comedy. I mean, turn on the TV and it is clear that there aren’t too many people in my age group doing comedy who haven’t been doing it since their 20s. As such, I talked myself through it convincing myself that it’s good enough for me to just try something and, therefore, i never went all out for a long time – never tried things that were really scary like being completely true on stage, being ok with having some people be uncomfortable or even doing on-the-spot improv.

That was a huge mistake. Here’s why. For someone like me (and maybe you are the same way), I am more disappointed in myself for not just “putting it out there” and trying something than playing it safe and wondering what would have happened if I had tried. Even on my worst “go all out” days, I felt proud that I tried.

The truth is that spending time wondering about why people seem so content is a waste of time. Perhaps they really aren’t. Perhaps they are not risk takers and don’t want to be. That’s fine, too. Perhaps they are, themselves, “putting it out there” and passionate about something that doesn’t involve mowing the lawn or watching the game. And if that’s their thing, more power to them.

What matters is that life really is short. Super, super short. But it can feel incredibly long sitting on the sidelines. I rather feel like time is passing me by while I try to fit it all in. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Until next time,

Marc

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Measure Twice, Cut Once

10 01 2015

measure_twice-resized-600.jpg

It’s an old adage but it applies to more than just measurement. Something tells me that I’m also probably not the first person to use this saying as a metaphor for life, either. For the sake of argument (and this blog post), let’s just say I am, though.

As some of you (all 6 that follow this blog) may know, this has been a year (plus) of some significant change for me. I think I have gotten so much better at embracing change – though truthfully, much more so for that which was by my own making – and dealing with it, but the ability to silence the noise both in  my head and outside of it has always been a challenge. Much of this anxiety has been driven not so much by the fact that people will react to changes that affect me, but more so by the fact that I have to deal with it at all.

To that, there is a collective “get over it” and rightfully so. It has also occurred to me that I really need to challenge my own thoughts and beliefs. Whether it’s showing up with a newly grown beard, showing an embarrassing video parody of Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball”, admitting that I do stand-up comedy or having to face the awkward silences of telling those around me that I am going through a divorce, I have to stop predicting how this will be taken (my first “measure”) and consider the more positive alternative (my second “measure”) before forming an assumption or opinion.

In the end, unlike cutting a piece of lumber or structuring an overpass bridge, when it comes to perception and reality and how you are received both by yourself and those around you, it really doesn’t matter how many times you measure because there will be those internal thoughts and those external comments that will make you feel like a well crafted piece of oak furniture and on the other side, the corollary that will make you feel like the bridge in the picture above.

You’re probably sensing a theme (and maybe a tired one at this point) in a couple of these blog posts – it really is about getting comfortable with who you are. It’s one thing to not care about what other people think about you. It is quite another to give yourself a pass once in a while, too.

Until next time,

Marc








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