Denny’s, LinkedIn and Lost Moments

30 09 2016

linkedin-message

I received a LinkedIn message a while ago that simply said “how are you?” Thinking this was just someone I had met at a conference who might be looking for a job, business, etc., I chose to ignore it. (Nice, I know.)

Then, a couple of days ago, I happened to see that this same person wrote another message. It went like this:

“I have to let you know, a lot of my success and my future adventures I owe in (part) thanks to you. When we all ate dinner at Denny’s you, Kim and Eric…I finally felt like I belonged for the first time in my miserable life, and I spilled my water and apologized profusely. Again later as we were all friends (you were all older than me) you sang “All the leaves are brown, the sky is grey” outside the libray (sic) with Kim and you took her teddy bear and pretended to Die againt (sic) the brick wall in such comedic fashion. These moments really became one of the many cornerstones in my life, about friendship and such enjoyment !! I just wanted to let you know you had an impact on my life, since highschool had been horrible to me. Then, my future exploded 🙂 thanks !!”

I thought this was a fantastic message (and though he went on to be an Emmy nominated computer animator and this seemed like an interesting contact to have), he had clearly thought I was someone else. Although Denny’s made me think of college (and many post drunken escapade patty melt excursions) plus the fact that I am a huge fan of the Mamas and Papas, I had convinced myself that he had the wrong person. These facts were merely coincidences. Feeling bad that this person reached out to me with such a heartfelt message that was misdirected, I felt compelled to email him back to let him know both that he had a case of mistaken identity and to not feel as if he were being ignored:

“Hi (name withheld)- that is a great email – I only wish I were with you, Kim and Eric but I don’t think it was me! In any event, I am glad that you have a memory to hold onto that helped to transform you to a better place. Continued success, Marc”

A few hours later, he replied and guess what? It was me!

I actually lived with both Kim and Eric at one point in college and it still didn’t connect with me! I have long lost contact with both of them, but still, how did I neglect to connect all these dots – me who will spend hours on google investigating the stupidest of things yet, in this case, though every single clue pointed in my direction, I didn’t give it a second thought that he had the wrong guy? (That sentence was way too long but I’m too lazy to address it right now.)

It actually made my day to know that something I couldn’t even remember from more than 2 decades ago stuck with someone still. Isn’t this the case more than we actually realize?

When we review our lives, there are moments that provide meaning to us in ways only we could understand in the broader context of our own personal experience. I know that is the case for me. Rarely are they the vacations or “big” events. More often, they are the small moments that probably only stick in our heads – sitting in the back of the orange, Chevy Impala asking your mom to ask your dad to have “the talk”, running through the field to your grandpa to tell him you’re learning trumpet, or sliding down the sloped doors in the backyard that lead to the basement… and the dentist after cracking your tooth.

These moments have no postcard images and even in today’s smart phone obsessed world, would probably not even have an Instagram pic to upload. These are the moments that remain imprinted solely in those internal cranial crevices that are only reachable by those who know the secret pathway to get there – the one that no one else knows about. When they’re shared with others who long forgot about them, they could be a gift.

You matter. You never know when some small innocuous moment could have a great meaning to someone that might look you up on a social media site decades later. Now only if I could get a message from that girl from Junior year who dressed like Suzanne Vega and introduced me to Robyn Hitchcock.

Until next time,

Marc

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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





Lessons from a Soup Kitchen

12 02 2016

soupkitchen

It’s like chicken soup (kitchen) for the soul.

This week, I took my son and a friend to an area soup kitchen to do some volunteer work after school. It is important to me to expose my kids to not only the “have-nots” but also somehow reinforce the notion of service to others. In doing so, it becomes clear who really are the “have-nots” sometimes – and it’s not always on the side of the serving counter you might expect.

In our custom-tailored world of playlists, Instagram accounts and celebration of all things “unique”, we can easily lose sight of community. It is, after all, easier and quicker to connect with someone 3,000 miles away through the Internet, than a minute walk next door.

Volunteering at the soup kitchen was as much a lesson for me as it was for the kids, probably more.

  1. Don’t pity someone because of their circumstances . So, here we were, with a group of about 10 other volunteers, serving meals to people who came in, sat down at cafeteria style tables and patiently waited for a solid meal. Some were entire families, some were alone and others seemed to be familiar with each other. Like any other meal you might be used to, some tables were infused with laughter, smiles and banter. Others, not so much. I had to challenge my own notions and accept the fact that the tenor of one’s disposition does not lie within their wallet but within their soul.
  2. This generation is not any more selfish than any one before it, and perhaps no more altruistic, either. They are just like any other. If you believed everything you read on Facebook, heard on CNN and worried about with other adults, you may be convinced that the opportunity for our civilization to emerge as one in which we look out for each other, embrace a sense of community with pride and put our short-term goals aside for future generations (at least sometimes) is all but lost. However, in witnessing my son, his friend and the other younger set at the soup kitchen, this simply isn’t true. In fact, I don’t know that their participation – with each other or toward the constituency that was being served – was really any different than it would have been for me during high school or my parents before me. Our struggle is not always borne out of the convention that the past generation screwed it all up and the next must fix it. Let’s be honest – as we age, the real struggles of every day take precedent front and center over more collective based pursuits and goals. It’s just the way it is. It is us, the adults, that have to make a change. If our kids (the collective “our”) witness adults exhibiting the types of behaviors and commitments to those other than within our limited comfort zone, it will catch on. 
  3. People make mistakes. It’s not intentional and it’s always good to have a sense of humor. When it was time to leave the soup kitchen, the kids were cleaning up while I headed to the front of the soup kitchen to wait for them. One of the guys who worked there saw me and directed me to leave through the side door. I obliged, not completely understanding why. As I headed there, where others were leaving, my son and his friend headed over to me. Seeing this, the guy who worked there, looked at me and said “oh…sorry…you can go out the front.” In other words, he thought I was a soup kitchen patron and not a volunteer. Mind you, my hair is longer, I have a beard, my wholly jeans are from like 1996. I get it. It’s pretty funny. We both looked each other and without saying anything, we both knew exactly what happened. It may be the first time my son actually thought I was cool!

Life is a journey for all of us but we have to be willing to open up the entire map (or scroll down the GPS to keep it relevant). If we keep it rolled up (or don’t scroll down) so we can only see one part of the trip, we may stay comfortable but boy, do we ever miss out. Embrace the messiness, the discomfort, the embarrassment, the ugliness and the fear and there is so much more to enjoy.

Until next time,

Marc





The Kids Who See Me Through

9 12 2015
im1.shutterfly-14

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





Right Where I’m Meant to Be

11 11 2015
Time to be where you are.

Time to be where you are.

I had a great weekend for comedy.

I was not with my kids and, as much as I joke about them in my writing, I always deal with a little depression when they are not around me for an extended (24 hour) period of time. The distraction of 3 comedy shows, friends and family this past weekend helped me rid of those feelings, if only temporarily.

Not only was each show better than the last for me as a growing comedian, but also I found that I continue to have a lot to be grateful for – friends and colleagues in the comedy community who continue to bring me along and recommend me, high school friends who came out to see me after such a long period of time since high school that I could not have ever imagined, parents who support this crazy thing I am doing and kids who continue to be resilient, not to mention healthy, during these formative years.

At one of my shows in CT this weekend, it really hit me. I sat at a table of friends from high school and at that small table, we represented a wide spectrum of the human experience. Out of respect for my friends, I will leave out the details but suffice it to say that none of it mattered and that was a beautiful thing for me. In an environment where I find myself often the odd man out, it was so refreshing to have no corners or boundaries by which we were trying to fit into. Sitting at that table represented what I love so much about those friends I have made in the comedy community, as well.

Something that one of my friends said toward the end of the night really struck me. She said something to the effect that she looks outside each day and thinks about how beautiful that day is and how she wants to dance and live and really live life while she still can and for as long as she can.

This is not a fly-by-your-seat person. She has a family she is close to, as well as friends and basically been working full time forever. You get the point. It was not an easy journey for her but she is not even close to done. I loved that. There was no excuse. 

It’s like looking in the mirror and realizing that you’re not the 17 year old who just had all this passion to do big things. That never goes away – at least not for me. The challenge is to understand that our responsibility as friends, partners, sons, brothers, sisters, daughters, parents, grandparents, etc does not bury that 17 year old driven to do big things. Failure doesn’t have to be a fear. It can be an innocent bystander along the way and then you move on. It’s all how we look at it.

More than ever in the past 20 years, I have no clue what things will look like for me next year at this time but I do know that it’s not a question anymore of better or worse. It is simply a question of how quickly it will take me to realize that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at that very moment…sort of like right now.

Until next time, 

Marc





There are no coincidences

22 10 2015
There are no coincidences - but lots of choices.

There are no coincidences – but lots of choices.

2015: This year isn’t even over and it still keeps coming – divorce, house that won’t sell, money leaping from my savings account at a rate that would astonish even Superman and today – news that my job may not be long for this world.

It is overwhelming for sure and there is a part of me that asks, “well, surely he must have done something to get to this point.” That’s me judging myself. I listened to a podcast this week about happiness and it reminded me that those of us that judge ourselves are also more likely to judge others. I didn’t like that. I like to think of myself as open minded. Truth is that as hard as I am on myself, I probably take that with me when I observe others, too, without even knowing it.

So, in an effort to turn this around, I tried re-framing all this stuff that seems to be collecting at once. Divorce happens. It sucks. I was not the perfect husband but I really did try my best. I was present. I was engaged. I was there. And I still failed in some capacity. I don’t think there’s any higher karmic purpose for this particular divorce. I think it just falls into the “shit happens” category.

As for the house – well, that’s a by-product of said divorce and a market that seems to be stagnant (at least at this time of year).

What about my cash flow (or outflow as it might be)? Well, two teens, a divorce and single handedly paying for a Bat Mitzvah seems to explain that. Thankfully, I at least was able to pay for stuff I had to.

Finally, the job? Well, considering I have been at my currently employer for 13 1/2 years, I think it’s been a good run. I have to pick myself up for the next chapter…right after this 2nd glass of wine…I promise.

I look at all this in the midst of two kids who are thriving and I am happy. I am actually happy. Nervous? For sure. Unsettled? Without a doubt. Contemplative? Always.

But, I am blessed with family, friends and health. The rest is gravy. I am not an overly spiritual person (though I try at times) but I do believe that perhaps the “universe” is pushing me in a new direction for a reason that has yet to be identified. I don’t believe in coincidence. All these seemingly tough life events happening at the same time cannot be a coincidence. If it were, I think I would have to convince myself that I was one of those dudes with a black cloud hanging over his head. You know – the guy you meet at the kid’s baseball game and think “I am so glad I’m not him.” That’s not me, though. As “put upon” as it may seem to others, I had years – many years – where things seemed to just go fine, or at least with little drama. Maybe 2015 is just the year for me to transition to whatever comes next.

I am pretty sure I know who I am. Someone said that I am pretty open and raw in this blog – in a cautious way. I don’t want to be otherwise. Maybe one day my kids will read this stuff and realize it’s ok to be vulnerable and it’s not a sign of weakness. Maybe someone will read it and feel that way before then. If not, it doesn’t matter.

I feel that in 5 years I am going to look back at this time and where I am at that point and be humbled in a way that I have yet to experience. It is frightening. But the best part of fear is that you have to make a choice. You have to retreat or you have to face it. There are no other options. A decision has to be made.

I’m going to face it. 

Until next time,

Marc





Recalibrate, Don’t Reinvent

18 10 2015

Tiny adjustments. Big effects.

Tiny adjustments. Big effects.

It is not unusual to find ourselves intrigued by metamorphosis. Think “before and after” photos of weight loss, home make-overs or stories of “transforming” one’s life to a place never imagined.

These are the stories that movies are made of. However, in reality, I think the less sexy version has a lot more sticking power. How many times have we read that “diets do not work” – that there is no quick fix, but rather it’s about smaller, incremental steps that you have to weave into your daily routine? 

To me, this makes a lot more sense and applies to much more than whether I’m going to be able to fit into the same bathing suit next year as the one a year before. When someone goes through a pretty big life event, particularly if it is not the most positive (ie. job loss, health diagnosis or, hypothetically speaking, a divorce (he says in jest for anyone who has been reading this blog)) – there is a lot of talk about taking advantage and an opportunity to “reinvent” oneself.

That’s a whole lot of pressure. If you believe, like me, that we are fundamentally who we are with the ability to tweak, learn, and grow but NOT in the business of radically changing our true nature, then this concept of “reinvention” seems like a recipe for failure. 

In looking back over the past year or so, when I ponder those things that have made me really happy, they all come back to the same things that maybe I had lost or had compromised during my marriage. It doesn’t matter what that is and it was my decision all along. However, the one good thing about reflecting on all of this is that is has allowed me to adjust the knobs of my personal “studio sound board” to where the mix is just right…or at least getting there. It’s about recalibration.

I gave a very short blessing to my daughter yesterday during her Bat Mitzvah and referenced a quote that always stuck with me from my English class during my junior year of high school. It was from Ralph Waldo Emerson and you may be familiar with it:

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. 

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages… In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.

The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried”

Our contentment ultimately lies within us – not around anyone else. This is a hard lesson because it puts the onus on us to look at our internal portfolio of where we spend our time, with whom, how and for what purpose. And when we do so, we may find some serious adjustments that need to be made – but they are worth it.

Is it time for you to recalibrate?

Until next time,

Marc

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