Choices: The Haunting of February

7 03 2017

Related image

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





Nov 9 2016- We Must Choose Love

9 11 2016

martin-luther-king-jr-quotes-8

I don’t want this to sound all melodramatic but I had a terrible night’s sleep. I woke up with a profound sense of loss and despair.

I am committed to meditating in the morning before my day gets started whenever I can and did so again this morning. It was hard. As many times as I tried to return to my breath and the present moment, my mind had other plans.

Meditation practice teaches us to acknowledge what we are feeling by simply naming it without judgment. I was sad. Really sad – to a point that seemed disproportionate to what I was sad about. After all, we still live in a democracy. We still live in a nation of freedom and great opportunity.

But I am sad for my children, my nation and my world because I think this election has revealed a deeper truth in which in the midst of unrest, unease and, in many cases, pure hate, it is easier and more acceptable to choose fear over hope.

And so I continued to meditate and come back to the breath – over and over again. Man, this was the worst meditation session ever. Until it came to me – this is not for us to suffer with. This is not for us to attach to our own fears, our own unease or our own hatred.

We must choose love.

Our nation is merely a reflection of the nation within ourselves for each of us has the hope and the fear, the love and the hate, the joy and the sorrow all woven together.

We must choose love.

There is no other option. We cannot look to others, leaders or otherwise, to choose for us.

We must choose love.

But we have to dig in – and dig deep.

We have to show up – fully present and more than we have ever done before.

We have to be uncomfortable and extend ourselves beyond our own borders of insecurity.

We have to make our beds, clean our dishes, groom our lawns and mend our own hearts in the process.

We have to forget about our homes, our 401Ks, our failed relationships, our jobs and our regrets.

Most of us will not be here within a mere century – a simple blink in time. What we leave can only be left out of love otherwise we won’t have anything of real value that anyone will want.

There is no other option.

We must choose love and we have to do it starting now.

 





The Trump in All of Us

9 10 2016

donald-trump-caricature-flickr-cc

I have had fun at Donald Trump’s expense over the past couple days tweeting about his most recent developments. He has seemed to be immune from any consequence linked to his self-centered arrogance, until now. I have been waiting for this moment like a little puppy waiting for his owner to get home. Sadly.

Without getting into a political battle, (I am an Independent voter for those who care), this is not about anything against the Republican party. In fact, if there is anything positive about the whole debacle that is Donald J. Trump for over the past year or so, it is the humility of so many Republicans who have showed integrity and authenticity over blind faith to a man who does not represent their values or those of their party, at least as they interpret it.

Make no bones about it, the man disgusts me – even before full proof of just how Donald J. Trump behaves and thinks became so apparent with the latest release of video and audio tapes. He represents everything that creates hate, insecurity and fear… and yet, isn’t there a little bit of Trump in all of us?

Personally speaking, I am not talking about his personal outcome of his hate, insecurity and fear – racism, sexism, arrogance, pathos – but rather the root causes themselves.

Currently, the national (global) discourse around Trump is whether he is fit to be president and whether his temperament should matter to this endeavor. This conversation will get stale soon and we may all be missing a larger opportunity to recognize the Trump in ourselves and investigate what it really means.

Trump is the quintessential example of what it means to react versus respond, and boy, does he react. I cannot speak for anyone else, but it would be a misrepresentation for me to say that I have never been there myself. Let’s be clear – it’s not about how he reacts, just the fact that he is reacting versus more thoughtfully responding in the first place. Isn’t this an initial “go-to” place for a lot of us when under attack (or perceived attack)?

I like to think that a big difference between myself (and hopefully all of us) and Trump is at least we can recognize it, hopefully before it happens, perhaps as it is happening and at worst, after the fact so we can apologize – sincerely versus a Trump apology which is more like reading an adverse event warning on a prescription bottle.

To me, the dangerous, scary and honest concern about Trump is not so much that he is mired in so much hate and arrogance or even how he exhibits it (though that is all incredibly troubling, particularly for someone who, at least up to now, seemed to have a decent chance of being the leader of the free world), but rather the complete, utter and stoic denial that he exhibits in taking accountability for his actions, never even really acknowledging it without throwing someone else under the bus.

The lesson for me is that, as ashamed as I am to admit it, there is a little Trump in me that shows up every now and then – like when I get another letter from a divorce attorney or someone is tailgating me on the road while the kids are in the car, to name a couple examples. However, I’m aware of it. This is a significant nuance – one that, thankfully, does not make me Donald Trump. The current Republican nominee is completely non-aware, and that is what makes him Donald Trump. And in my book, that’s a big difference.

Until next time,

Marc





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 Mindful Comedian

3 02 2016

sense-of-humor-comedy-mindfulness

It could happen.

Every comic I know that has been at it for a while and that I respect has told me that if you are not bombing once in a while, you really aren’t pushing yourself. Well, if that’s the case then I may be pushing myself right off a cliff.

I have had two experiences this year alone where I was “eating” it from the start. The good news is that I was able to recover but no matter how much I tell myself that this is “supposed to happen”, it feels like absolute shit. It’s horrible and it makes me question not only my comedy but my ability to make life decisions, also. 

Last Wednesday, I had a performance in Philadelphia that started out painfully for me. I couldn’t seem to connect and I just wasn’t able to find the right vibe with the audience from the get go. In addition, it reinforced another recent performance where I had a similar experience.

It got better a few minutes in but 180 seconds of “finding your way” on stage can feel excruciating. What made it worse was that, unlike most shows I do, I had people in the audience that were friends. That’s the worst. That’s like missing the free throw in front of your entire family and friends and them telling you that “you did your best – it was a tough game.”

I noticed a difference that evening, however. My usual negative self-talk was quieted to just a murmur. Don’t get me wrong – it was there. However, I was allowing myself to change the narrative a little and reinforce to myself that I just had an off night and that it happens to the best of us. It’s not as if the feeling of disappointment wasn’t there, but this time, it wasn’t the only overwhelming feeling available to me for hours on end.

I think, for me, the practice of mindfulness meditation, has helped just from the standpoint of understanding what it is that seems to be guiding us in terms of our thoughts. It does two things: 1. it helps me recognize the thought as being there and not place any judgement on it (ie. “I feel really, really shitty right now” vs. “I feel really, really shitty right now and suck at everything and don’t belong here and will never get asked back to this club”.  2. It helps me put things into perspective (ie. “I am doing something that is off the track, risky and makes me feel alive and sometimes it’s going to suck but as long as the important people in my life are ok, what else matters?”).

Perhaps this is a natural set point for a lot of people. These are the ones that seem to, more than not, wade calmly through the waters of life regardless of how rapidly or intensely the flow may be at any given time. I am not one of these people. It is interesting how many times people have commented on my “calmness” or similar trait only to learn that I am the duck who is constantly paddling under water to make sure I can at least appear to stay afloat.

Being a comedian is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had, next to being a parent (and in the past, a spouse). There is no escaping the reality of the moment, whether good or bad, with an immediate feedback that can change week to week, day to day and moment to moment. 

Think about situations in your life that may be similar – such as relationships, a tenuous work environment, a physical activity or managing the unpredictability of living with some sort of illness. It is extremely difficult to be “in the moment” without having those feelings fester and grow sometimes. Maybe 5 to 10 minutes of focusing on our breath and qualifying our thoughts as nothing more than just that – thoughts – without meaning, is the best friend a comedian, or anyone, ever had.

Until next time,

Marc





Bullying, Looking in the Mirror & Changing Leaves

30 10 2015

Another lesson from one of my kids..

Another lesson from one of my kids..

I had a conference with my daughter’s Gifted Teacher today to review her progress in the program and so far in her 7th grade school year. The project they have to work on this year is in developing a Public Service Announcement (PSA). My son did one two years ago against smoking and my daughter has chosen bullying as her topic – writing, directing and acting in the final product.

In discussing this, her teachers said that, whereas at other times my daughter might take her time to figure out a topic or strategy, this time, she knew what she was going to do for her PSA as soon as she was asked. Her teacher asked her how she knew so quickly. Apparently, my daughter explained to her that she had witnessed someone getting bullied in the hall and felt bad for not intervening. She wants to finish her PSA and then show it to that student.

My daughter has a high level of empathy and this moved me a lot. Who hasn’t been in a situation before where you should have spoken up but didn’t for whatever reason? This is a 12 year old girl and she was able to both acknowledge this and do something about it.

I can’t say I blame her. My mouth has gotten me into trouble in the past. Over the past decade or so, as I have let wisdom take a front seat instead of back seat, I have been much better about letting things go or just trying to measure my words, though I have a long way to go – as my soon-to-be-ex (or her mother) will attest to, I am sure.

I understand where my daughter is coming from. She’s a little thing. She doesn’t bother anyone. She’s a good student. She is not Rizzo from Grease. I am not a non-confrontational person by nature but it made me think about what types of bullying we deal with as adults and how do we stand up for ourselves or others, especially when there are big things at stake like jobs, marriages or other types of relationships?

Not all bullying is as direct as having your books knocked out of your hand at your locker in the middle school hall. Sometimes it is being told that you are not good enough or don’t know enough or don’t fit in – either directly or through a veil of arrogance. Sometimes we bully ourselves with our thoughts and actions (or lack thereof). So, how do we combat these?

The first thing is to be able to say to ourselves that not only is bullying happening but we don’t have to accept it. Then, you have to speak up. In some fashion. You have to politely interrupt the discussion – at the conference table, at the dinner table or in your own head – and state your opinion, correct the misperception and then move on. This “move on” part is the most difficult because this is where we confront our fears and ultimately, bullying is all about intimidation and fear.

Move on. Understand that you don’t want to be surrounded by people who are there to bully you – subtly or directly. Understand that you are not a sum of what others see or perceive but the thoughts you allow to enter and grow. This means you may need work toward a better job, better relationship or better self-awareness (or all three).

I took a walk after work yesterday and the color of the leaves in the Northeast this year are beautiful. I am not sure that a leaf gets to choose it’s color or vibrancy any more than we can choose our true nature but I do know that there are many factors that are influential – the amount of rainfall, soil moisture, summer and autumn weather, as examples. We have a lot of influential factors, as well, but it is not easy. It is up to us to manage our thoughts, assumptions and, for me, response to fear in a way that lets us show our true colors and vibrancy. That’s the best response to bullying – from others or ourselves – that I know of.

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

Thanks for reading – I really appreciate it. To get notifications of future blog posts, please sign up to get more blog posts. Also, follow me on Twitter @MarcKaye1 for a daily quip or two. Thanks, Marc








%d bloggers like this: