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

 





Riding in Cars with Budding Adults

4 10 2016

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My 8th grade daughter was talking with me tonight in the car. It seems like the car rides are when the best conversations with my kids happen. That’s part of the reason I never really mind schlepping them from one place to another (though that’s my secret).

She asked me if, when I was in school, I ever had any friends that I thought might be gay. I said yes. I didn’t ask her why because it seemed like a pretty transparent question.

We talked a bit more about it, maybe for 5 to 10 minutes with zero uncomfortableness. I told her how different it is now than when I was in school if you are different – not necessarily easier but definitely it seems a bit more acceptable, at least where we live.

Luckily, for me, she is not a boy crazy 8th grade girl. Her friends are over the house right now as I write this playing Adele on the piano and planning a silly dance routine to videotape with their iPhones. I love that this is her experience right now and am very grateful for it.

I didn’t press our conversation any further than she wanted to take it at the time, (something I learned from first experiencing the nuances of teenage-parent relations from her older brother). However, later in the evening, I walked upstairs to her room before her friends got here and told her that I just want her to know that I don’t care who she ends up loving as long as she is happy and a good person.

It was sort of funny because she knew I would do that. She confided she had a crush on a boy a year ago or so but, to use her words, “I have no idea what I’m going to be like.” That is one of the greatest gifts a dad could hear – the freedom your own child expresses when facing her future – a moment free from the never-ending mound of expectations that accompany so many children transitioning into young adulthood.

This is something I am learning to give myself, finally, and if, decades earlier than for me, I can help make my kids think that their sense of self is not something that is given but rather is a given, then I can forgive myself most of the many, many mess-ups I make along the way.

A world of people who feel good about themselves would be a much different place than the one we live in today.

Until next time,

Marc





I’m back (and squishier than before)

24 09 2016
sleeping-woman

Teen car- sleeping was not as blissful as this but this rendition will have to do.

I haven’t written in a while.

I think about it every single day – and more than once.

There are a few reasons why this is so but none of them really matter. The best way I can describe the hiatus is similar to describing that closet or drawer that has been on your To Do list to “get to one of these days” that is so cluttered that you don’t know where to start. Moreover, it’s not just cluttered with junk – you know, all those annoying gift bag, crappy toys your kids come home with from every birthday party or even all those extra samples that come in the mail. Nope, this is a drawer or closet (or in my case, what feels like a compound) full of things that all hold such profound and deep emotions that to start to write about them is way too hard. It is much easier to peruse Facebook or Twitter and make snide, humorous comments until the bottle of wine is empty, the kids are in bed and you convince yourself that you were just “too swamped” to get to what you really want to do – write. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

(Deep sigh.) There, that feels better.

Not really.

Can I offer anyone a glass of a fine $9 2015 Tempranillo? Anyone? Just me?

So, today, on my car ride back from hiking with the kids and some family friends, I committed myself to writing – wherever it may go. I have a ton of topics – everything from Buddhism to relationships to finally running with no shirt on. (I know – whoa! Shit getting real, now.)

I think I’ll just start with today because as I am learning – painfully – today is really all that we ever have. Period.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and after leaving the mountain for a 90 minute drive back home with the kids, I finally felt a certain sense of peace that was literally the complete opposite of what I have been feeling for a while, despite a seriously increased commitment to meditation.

I looked over at my daughter in the passenger seat, earbuds in, head achingly dangling forward as to not even be able to envision an actual attached neck and completely passed out with the sun dancing on her lashes just like the day she was born. My son, taller than me now (not a hard objective, actually), was in the fetal position taking over the back seat in a sound slumber himself.

Both teenagers now, observing them asleep is the closest I can still come to some sort of God. I waited for it for a long time when I was younger. It came. And now, I am a witness to its slow passage. On the radio – “New Slang” by the Shins was playing. “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find. Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?”

There I was – just me and my kids. I would have done anything to stay in that car with them on a sunny highway forever. I just started crying. I couldn’t help it. I’ve been crying a lot lately. For passages. For hope. For anything that helps open up blockages that keep the spirit from flowing. It sucks.

It’s hard for me to love because it really starts with oneself. This is both a fact and a confession – both embarrassing and true at once. For me, my kids are the only way I can tap into that love because I am really nothing more than a witness so it is completely pure. From their birth, the fact that their souls journeyed to me somehow is overwhelming. I have always said that they chose me somehow. It’s hard to explain but it was in their gaze toward me the moment they were born. There was a knowing there that was overwhelming, intimidating, and definitive, all at once. I can picture it clearly to this very moment.

This is not an endorsement for having children or for a belief in reincarnation. It is simply an acknowledgement that within each of us lies the ability to be cracked open a bit more regardless of whether we may consciously or unconsciously be willing to be an active participant. It is scary, sometimes immobilizing and absolutely necessary.

Luckily, I had Waze on to direct me on my way back and before I welled up too much, thereby restricting my vision, I heard a voice that alerted me: “Car stopped on shoulder”. I’m guessing that driver was having a moment, too.

Or that’s at least what I told myself.

Until next time (and yes, there will be a next time),

Marc

 

 

 

 





Feelings (whoa, whoa, whoa Feelings)

4 04 2016
feelings

“Feelings…nothing more than feelings.”

Ok – that title is definitely showing my age (again) but as my son would say, “that’s the deal, yo”.

My son had a friend over tonight and we all had dinner together – me, him and his friend and my daughter. I sat back and listened to them just talk, like normal teens do and I physically felt this tingling rush through my body. It’s the same thing that happens when my kids forget I’m in the car with them and they just are yakking away, in the moment. Or we are on a hike or canoeing – just “being”.

Every time, since they were babies, that I witness my kids just being themselves and interacting with close friends and family, it makes me so grateful to be alive at this very moment. There is nothing that could compare for me because it is pure love. That is what love really is – when you are witnessing those you would die for just being in the moment and embracing the fleeting nature of it all.

I wish I could explain this without sounding hokey or like one of those “new agey” sensitive, ponytail types. I think why it is so profound with kids – mine and those of friends and family I am close with – is that I have this humbling experience of witnessing the development of a whole person. This is something that is remarkable.

It comes during times of profound challenge, too; the group chat that throws your daughter into a tizzy, the bout of intense sadness that overcomes your son for no reason; the realization that you, as a parent, a friend, an extension of someone else, are without answers, helpless and still.

It is all a gift. Each and every second – good or bad. That is the thing that requires pause – to take it in and just be with it and feel it without definition. That is, in the beginning, and I suppose at the end, the most simple and true definition of life and of soul. When those moments arise – and they are few and far between, I am overcome with gratitude.

I am guessing it is easier to be a woman and discuss these types of things but I truly believe that feeling is not an emotion that is particularly aligned with one gender over the other. Just as women still have yet to achieve equality in pay and work opportunities, men have yet to achieve equality when it comes to acceptance in those fundamental and intense emotions that make us human.

That is of no consequence to me. I am just thankful for the good and the bad. The ability, self-acceptance and non-judgement associated with simply feeling is more than worth the struggle of feeling self conscious, embarrassed or ashamed.

A life without feeling is no life at all.

Until next time,

Marc





The Kids Who See Me Through

9 12 2015
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Love.

Whatever type of leader or person is associated with the quality of decisiveness – well, I was not that person today.

After several weeks of trying to first find a way to live with two cats who were problematic from many standpoints and then trying to find a home for them, the plan was to get them to a shelter this evening.

I had planned the whole thing out including the involvement of the kids and resigned myself to moving forward despite knowing how hurtful it was to my two kids. 

My son told me last night that he would not go to the shelter with me. My daughter would cry in the evenings and again in the mornings and I kept explaining how sorry I was for them and the reason why they had to go. I was set. I convinced myself that there are bigger issues in the world and if this is the worst thing they have to go through, then it won’t be so bad. They are strong and resilient, or so I told myself, and as it turns out, it was more than true.

I felt horrible all morning. I barely slept last evening and by the afternoon, I had to take a break from work to walk outside and take a breath. I sat down and decided that I could not go through with it. The song “What shall be shall be” came on iTunes. I took it as a sign.

When my son came home from school and then soon thereafter, I picked up my daughter from an after school meeting, I spent time with them explaining that we would not have to go through with it, at least not at this time. I expected them to run up to me, grab me in a bear hug and thank me with a last minute reprieve for their furry brethren. Instead, what I received was a resolve from both of them that we had to do this for many reasons that were both logical and true. We went back and forth and then both of them spent the better part of an hour attempting to lure them into their carriers, as they are the only two human forms that these cats seem to trust.

They were unsuccessful and at this writing these two cats will remain with me for an undetermined amount of time, which, if I am brutally honest, I fear will be at least until they go off to college. For those familiar with the Serenity Prayer, (which my son reminds me of), the issue of the cats clearly went from the category of “courage to change the things I can” to the category of “accept the things I cannot change.”

This was a tremendous lesson for me, however. These two kids loved me enough to agree to give up their pets, whom they love very much. They talked about fairness to me and were empathetic to a plight that was not their own. I am a very lucky man because there is nothing more affirming than seeing your own children exhibit behavior that is selfless, resolved and decisive – a quality that I, as a much older adult, am not always great on.

I have, and probably never will, experience a truer or more unconditional love as the one that exists between me and my kids. We struggle and fight and even hurt each other, but we understand and love each other and that is really all that matters. I cannot ask for anything more. Despite all that I have and continue to lose, I have managed to hold onto the one thing that really matters.

Because of my kids, I am not afraid – of change, of the unknown, of death. They are the exact type of people I want to know and grow with and as long as that doesn’t change, there is nothing else to really worry about. Now, I just have to figure out what to do about the litter box.

Until next time,

Marc





1 12 2015

please read

I have been pretty silent on this blog for the past few weeks.

Despite having plenty to say, I felt like no matter what I tried to write, much like my discourse with friends and family, there was a hue of negativity. I am fighting hard against that, albeit not that successfully.

I am not sure if it has to do with the holidays or the milieu of seemingly never ending uncertainty that surrounds me or a combination of both.

I have been exercising, meditating, writing, playing music, listing all the people and things I have so much to be grateful for, talking to myself – you name it, and, believe me there is so much good, but even when trying to put all that into perspective, I could go to some pretty dark places.

I don’t need anything for the holidays other than the experience of being with people I really care about and for that, I am eternally grateful. If I could escape from my thoughts once in a while and maybe just one morning out of each week, awaken with a sense of calm instead of a sense of anxiety, that would be icing on the cake.

The purpose of this blog is not about me, though. It’s about you.

In our age of Facebook posts, tweets and instantaneous sharing and feedback, it can feel lonelier than ever, at least to me. My plea to anyone reading this is simple: if anything like what I have described resonates with you, reach out to someone – anyone – just to talk. It is amazing what 5 minutes can do. If that person is me, that is fine by me. If you don’t feel like you have anyone to reach out, then try me – marckaye91@gmail.com. (I’m working on being a good listener – or at least that’s what I tell myself.) There is no better way to help oneself than helping others so this is me being selfish.

This is a difficult time of year for a lot of people and when we should be entering a period of deep and profound gratitude and connection, for some, it can feel like the exact opposite.

It doesn’t have to feel that way at all.

I hope for all of you true peace.

Until next time,

Marc





Streams of Light

18 10 2015

Light always transcends darkness.

Today was my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. 

We had a great time – a fantastic time and I’m so glad that we celebrated in style.

But a Bat Mitzvah is way more than a party – it represents a very long preparation to read from the Torah in HEBREW – without any vowels (which for those in the know, is a seriously hard task) and lead the service – which she did both Friday night and Saturday morning (the two main service times for the Sabbath which begins Friday evening and ends Saturday evening).

I couldn’t help think of that song from the 80’s (because EVERYTHING reminds of some song from the 80s) by The Godfathers: “Birth, School, Work, Death.” That song, as I recall, didn’t carry the most positive message and today was all positivity. However, I did seem to feel like all of life’s major moments were convening at once.

 Robyn is unlike anyone I know. Yes, I am biased because I am her dad and no, she is not without her flaws – of which we are working, as we are with her brother and yours truly. But, she is that sort of person who is thoughtful in her approach and deliberate in her action. She carries the intuitive insight of someone far beyond her years – and always has. As I mentioned to someone today, for years now, I would be having a discussion and then have to remind myself that I am talking to a 5, 7, 10 or 12 year-old.  

Reflecting on the pride and love you have for your kids – really having that opportunity outside of shuttling to field hockey or baseball games, doing homework, making dinner, pleading to pick up their clothes or just go to bed – that is a gift. I cannot speak for other parents, but while I can find myself nestled in moments of gratitude on a daily basis, it is different than sitting and watching your child do his or her thing for an extended period of time.

It is so humbling.

I put together a photo montage – one of those slideshows you can do through your Mac and add music to and just didn’t see the passage of time through those memories, but really felt it.  The feelings were overwhelming and only grew as the days grew closer to the big event. In fact, I couldn’t even write a quick speech to her without welling up. I had to do it after they went to bed late last night. 

Seeing a family that used to be – well, today was a death of what might have been but also a renewal, or birth of this incredible human journey unfolding before our eyes. It was so important for me to have family and friends, whether close or more distant, witness that, in fact, beauty resides and unfolds in the midst of challenge, in the face of uncertainty and despite the darker edges of reality that sometimes wake us up in the middle of the night.

It really is impossible to dim a light that wants to get in. I wish that we could all pay attention more to those streams of light that are fighting to sneak through the crevices and fan out to the masses. It’s a wondrous thing to see and it can take your breath away. 

Until next time,

Marc








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