Acceptance AKA “What If…”

29 09 2016

whatif

There is a school of thought or belief that the individual journey we are on is exactly the one we are supposed to be on.

It is phrased in many different ways. Perhaps you have heard things such as “it was meant to be” or “it happened for a reason”. I don’t personally subscribe to either of these but do believe, as difficult as it may seem, wherever I find myself (physically and metaphorically) is really where I am supposed to be at that moment. It took me many, many, many difficult moments, however, to finally get here.

To me, I have spent more time than I care to admit thinking about life’s more challenging moments in terms of “why is this happening?” and “what is the lesson I am to take away from it?” However, it hit me today that I have never asked myself why certain things are not happening, as well.

I am incredibly grateful for the thousands of things that don’t happen to me and people I care about every day – illness, grief, pain, loss – particularly when these very things afflict so many innocent people all the time.

But what about all the good things that are not happening and seem to be so far out of reach and why stew on this today? Well, I am traveling for a few days and always feel doubly melancholy when I’m away from my kids and not within a 5 mile radius. Luckily, I’m on the same time zone, so it could be worse. With each time zone, it gets exponentially worse, in fact.

This made me realize that so many of the “dreams” that I have for myself – which all revolve around creative pursuits – would be pretty difficult to activate fully without a significant amount of travel, which would invariably take me away from my children a lot more and given the fact that homes schooling isn’t an option, probably for the best. So, what if, and I hesitate to even suggest this at the risk of sounding too “airy fairy”, but what if the universe was holding back knowing that it’s simply not the right time for this?

What if we had the knowledge that what we are going through and experiencing, both good and bad, is all purposeful because, believe it or not, this is the exact right time to experience it – as long as we did not miss the opportunity to take from it the lesson of its intent to move us forward on our journey? Similarly, what if we also knew that those things we long for so achingly may not present themselves just yet because it is simply not the right time? What if we had patience and faith and ignored all those self-help books that give us 10 steps to achieving all our goals in the next year?

I’m going to have to keep thinking about this one but I think there’s something there. Glorious, painful and mysterious all at once – just like life.

Until next time,

Marc

Advertisements




Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

untitled

I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

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





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





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

Thanks for reading. Pass it along and I appreciate you signing up for this blog or even providing comments!

Follow me on Twitter @MarcKaye1





Are you at the right bus stop?

17 02 2015

Parent-and-Child-at-Bus-Stop

We moved in 2006, only a couple of miles away, but to what felt like a completely different neighborhood. My son was in kindergarten and I remember waiting at the bus stop with him and a bevy of other kids and their parents or caretakers.

No one said hello to me or my wife. It was weird, so I waited. October. November. Nothing. It wasn’t done out of malice but it just seemed weird – no one in our neighborhood really hung out and after hearing from our new neighbors how amazing the people were who had previously lived in our house, well, i guess you can say it was a let down.

It got to the point when I would joke with my wife that I was going to take out my phone and pretend to have conversations to see if I could get their attention with things that would never even come close to who were were: “yeah, babe…the wife went to work, why don’t you pop over in 10 and wear that red piece you know I like so much.” or “I told you where to put the body! Do I stutter!”. For the sake of my family, I refrained and kept my thoughts as just that – thoughts.

Then, i started showing up to my son’s school events. I was the only dad and the well made-up mothers just pretended I wasn’t there. I tried not to take the whole thing personally. I had this nagging feeling of not belonging, of just walking into a room and automatically knowing I didn’t fit in. This is something I hadn’t had for the most part up until my kids started to go to school. It felt uncomfortably familiar…but from where?

Oh, that’s right! High school.

Simply put, there are some people that naturally fit in and there are others who, well, let’s just say we maneuver our way through the awkwardness as best as possible. It was interesting because in other situations, I did not feel this way at all. Obviously, being with good friends or family where I could just be me was a no brainer. It occurred to me that I just wasn’t at the right “bus stop”.

The truth of the matter is that people congregate in areas with like-minded people. I am not a suburbs sort of guy. Don’t get me wrong, I like the suburbs. I am incredibly grateful for the few good friends I have made over the many years here, not to mention the great education – you know, you get the picture…basically all the stuff the realtors describe to you when explaining why your taxes are 20-30% higher than the house 3 miles away from you. But that being said, it can get pretty homogenous.

Perhaps it was just that I was now living in a sea of other parents in my age group and fitting in meant finding common ground. That’s not fair to everyone else. The truth is this is how I have always been – my interests are different and weirder than the norm and that’s ok. No one cares and I shouldn’t either. But to be happy, I did need to “change my bus stop” or in this case, create a new “bus stop”, which is why I started producing a local comedy show and getting the word out and not being ashamed.

It doesn’t shock me anymore but I still am surprised when people come up to me and not only say “I had no idea you were a comedian” but then I get that comment where it was the last thing they think I would do. We are all multidimensional people. Some of us just have the common sense to save a few dimensions for the privacy of our own 4 walls. Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people.

So, if you feel like your “bus stop” may not be a good fit, find one that will or try and create your own. You may be surprised  – you may even get to sit in the back of the bus with the cool kids!

Until next time,

Marc





Fight Your Way Through

26 01 2015

ira_8701378838_l-650x537

A couple of days ago, I posted on Facebook that I found the next topic I was going to write about on this blog and here it is. In basically a minute and a half, Ira Glass, host of This American Life, had a lot to say about creative pursuits, patience and fortitude.

Basically, he explains that in beginning any creative endeavor, the fact that your first results are less than what you had hoped for does not take away from the fact that you still have good taste. The fact that you are aware of what you are trying to achieve but have yet not done so is proof enough that with a lot of work, patience and resilience, you will eventually get to a place where your “work is as good as your ambitions.” He ends by summarizing that “it takes a while…and you just have to fight your way through that.”

I made a spreadsheet at the end of last year of all the projects that I can potentially be involved with this year, that I know of. There is no way that I will be able to devote my time to all of them, but I prioritized according to those that I have more control over and I feel will help showcase my writing. When Ira Glass stalks about getting to a place where your taste matches your ambitions, he is talking about creating a “lot of work” – volumes of work so that you can hone in on your craft.

Interestingly, I happened to have a conversation similar to this theme with a very good friend and full time comedian just this week. I was explaining to him that my intention is to keep writing, writing, writing and not overthinking it. It might take years, and if it happens at all, most likely will take many, many years, but eventually something will stick. Something will lead to being able to look back at this time and realize that it was not a worthless pursuit. It may very well be that that something is not monetary in value nor recognition. It may be something as having a volume of work that my great grandchildren will look at decades from now the way we try to reconnect our ancestry to ask ourselves who we are and where we came from.

The point is, for me anyway, write articles, blogs, skits, scripts, do stand-up, blog, practice improv, participate and say “yes” more than you say “no” because if you have good taste, you owe it to yourself to quiet the restless voices that keep you awake and open yourself to where life might take you.

It’s a lesson for artists and “non-artists” alike.

You can watch and listen to the short explanation by Ira Glass here: http://omeleto.com/188186

Until next time,

Marc








%d bloggers like this: