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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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





Acceptance AKA “What If…”

29 09 2016

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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





Uncertainty – the only certainty.

5 05 2016

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My daughter turned 13 today. Just like I did for her older brother, I posted a Happy Birthday picture of her when she was a toddler next to a recent photo. Sifting through those older photos transported me not back in time but almost as if I was witnessing someone else’s life. It’s hard to explain.

She had her concert tonight and after the concert, I waited for her to congratulate her and wish her a Happy Birthday again. Standing off to the side was her mother and as I passed her, I had that “who’s life is this?” feeling again. Her I was passing a woman I spent almost every single day with for almost 2 decades without an acknowledgement. Weird! (Preferred at this point, but still….weird.)

There is no greater proof that certainty is just something we come up with to help distract us from the realities of a groundless, uncontrollable life than divorce. It is living proof of the uncertainty of assumptions, life, friendships, relationships and those foundational precepts that help to keep us navigating an otherwise unpredictable world.

I think this is part of the reason it is so difficult for others to be around people who are visibly or otherwise publicly going through a rough time – it doesn’t fit neatly into this narrative that keeps us moving along. The only real safe story we can tell ourselves is that there must be something inherently acute to those suffering from failed marriages, chronic illnesses, job loss and other issues. When, in truth, no one know our stories – not even ourselves. As my father always said, the only certain things in life are death and taxes, and between you and me, I’m not even sure about that one depending on your particular economic bracket and propensity for tax-sheltered businesses or your view of what constitutes “life and death”.

My point is that as certain as I was that I had the perfect daughter, she did just turn 13 today. We know how that can go. And that’s as much reminder as I need that we are not meant to live in a certain world and rather than see that as suffering, it could be the most exciting realization yet.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 





Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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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





Groundlessness

30 06 2015

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I am fortunate enough to be involved with a start-up within a larger organization. I say “fortunate” because it suits me personally – entrepreneurial, a bit risky, a bit improvised but with the security of people way smarter and talented than myself…sort of like my whole approach to comedy, I guess.

One of the “mantras” that our team has been guided to embrace is the idea of “being comfortable with being uncomfortable.” When I first heard this, I said something like “you obviously don’t know me that well; I have been uncomfortable my whole life.” While there is probably some truth to this, it is really difficult to feel uncomfortable. My natural tendency is to do anything to help get through it and fight against it, some of which is good (listening to or playing music, exercise, writing, having a glass of wine) and some not so good (I will let you use your imagination here…let’s say multiple glasses of wine for arguments sake). What this mantra is really telling us to do is accept the discomfort. Similar to the messages being relayed in the popular Pixar flick “Inside Out” – sadness is a necessary emotion that should not be suppressed. It is the same thing with discomfort.

This notion resonates with the Buddhist teachings of Pema Chodrun that I have read recently. The idea around groundlessness, as I understand it from my very rudimentary perspective, is that rather than use things, even spirituality, to ground ourselves so that we feel secure and firm “under our feet”, true spirituality helps us understand that the ground is really just a perception of sorts and the nature of life is forever changing, unpredictable and not within our control – essentially “groundless”.

If you weren’t uncomfortable before, you ought to be now. It’s interesting to me because I have had a really difficult time explaining to a few people how I really feel right now and I have used the word “untethered” a lot, not even thinking or considering this concept of “groundlessness”.

It’s an interesting word – untethered. It adequately describes how I feel – not tied to any one thing at any particular time and trying to figure it out. However, what if instead of trying to solve something that is unsolvable, I accepted the fact that this is a natural feeling, despite my false notions and perceptions of how I perceive the world to be? Would I be comfortable ever with the notion that there is not clear plan, 401K, house, family, trajectory, etc and even if there was, that it really could be fluid in nature?

Well, for me, the “reality”, if there is one, lies somewhere in between. Most people who plan over time will reap some sort of outcome for their efforts. That doesn’t preclude the fact, however, that the feeling that one receives may not be one of security. That won’t stop the groundlessness…nor should it necessarily. These “security” barriers that we work so hard for are not necessarily  a guaranteed home run – perhaps in terms of the material but not in terms of happiness. I know this is starting to sound…well, not like me but I guess all I am saying (and learning for myself) is that the acceptance of groundlessness as part of our real experience may lead to a lot more happiness than another upgrade on our car lease or piece of furniture.

Until next time,

Marc

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