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





The Election and Moving On.

24 10 2016

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I’m done with this election. 100%. Anyone who still doesn’t know who they’re voting for, if they’re voting, is holding out for something that is never going to come.

I had a comedy fundraiser last night at a church and as I was heading back getting ready to pick up my son, it dawned on me that all the things I riffed about on stage – the struggles of parenting, marriage, growing older, dealing with pretentious people – these things have no party affiliation. It’s the connection of being human and I want no part of distilling down human emotion to a few soundbites anymore.

I have opinions. You have opinions. It’s the way of the world. Twice this week, I had hour long conversations with two people who are supporting Trump. The frustrated journalist in me just wants to understand. I don’t need to agree. I don’t need to approve. I just want to understand. And you know what? I got a little closer – not to supporting Trump but to understanding the complexity behind the affiliations we have for those things that ultimately drive our allegiances toward one direction or the other.

It’s frustrating because we have become so polarized that we fail to see that in the Venn diagram of life, there is way more overlap than we care to admit. The anti-immigration proponent and the left-leaning open borders advocate are both Green Bay Packer fans. The Pro-Choice voter and the Pro-Life voter both are fans of Game of Thrones.

In our information overloaded society, why can’t we have an app that quickly scans all the good stuff in each of us each time we pass each other on the street? Can you imagine? It’s not as if this would drive some sort of state of Nirvana but it sure would give each of us the time to collectively pause before we so fully aligned toward one side or the other and walk right into judging “who is with us and who isn’t”.

I don’t know. Maybe I think too much. Ok, I definitely think too much. But I can tell you this – I am going to spend a lot less time worrying about what someone thinks and a lot more time trying to learn why they think it. It’s not going to be easy but damn it, we can’t rely on our leaders to do it and despite what they might want you to believe, we have to build this from the ground up. Who’s with me?

Until next time,

Marc





The Trump in All of Us

9 10 2016

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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





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





Remarkable Day

10 05 2016

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 May 5th was a remarkable day.

I wrote this at 5:04 PM, after what seemed to be a race with unpredictable ending, sitting on the exact train I was supposed to be on to get from NYC to my daughter’s Jr. National Honor Society induction.

In a hurry to get to a meeting downtown and after already being late due to ridiculous traffic, I decided to exit the taxi in a hurry and just walk the remaining 10 minutes or so to where I needed to be. Since I tend to get car sick in the back of taxis, I had decided to meditate to the best of my ability and simply have my credit card ready once we arrived so as to save those precious 10 seconds it would take for me to pull out my wallet and pay the fare.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it may turn out), I left said wallet in the back of the cab and realized it too late. After calling 3-1-1, taxi cab receipt in hand, being provided the cab drivers’ number from the dispatcher and trading phone calls, it turned out that the wallet had been taken and was gone. While definitely starting to panic, weirdly, my initial reaction was how relatively easy and helpful it was in reaching out to and getting help from both the taxi dispatch and the driver.

As someone who has been reading a lot lately about one’s “Buddah nature”, I breathed deeply (several times) while still engaging in the meeting and as time allowed, started to cancel various credit card accounts online, to the best of my ability. I had given in to the fact that the wallet was gone and that my attachment to this outcome was of no help to me. I had to “speak” to myself the way in which I would to a friend. And this is where things started getting interesting.

As anyone close to me can tell you, I have a hard time- a real hard time – holding on to things when I travel – wallets, glasses, books, license, credit cards – you get the picture. No matter how much it seems I try to organize, remind myself etc, I lose things more times that I am comfortable admitting. My inner dialogue always goes something like this: “I am such a loser. Why do these things always happen to me? Oh, yeah – it’s because I’m a loser.”

What I realized this day though was that I have been framing all of these incidents – not just losing things – but everything, good and bad, in the wrong way. It’s not “why do these things always happen to me.” It’s “why do these things always happen for me.”

There are no coincidences. As I have written about before, I personally don’t subscribe to the notion that everything happens for a reason but I do believe that things happen for a lesson, which is more graspable.

Here is what happened next:

  1. I am at lunch with work colleagues when one of them has to ask to have her salad “to go” because she has to go to Fordham University to see final presentations from the senior class, which leads to a conversation about Fordham and the campus.
  2. During this conversation, I feel a vibration on my cell phone, which is in my pocket, but do not immediately look at it as to not appear rude during the discussion.
  3. Once the topic changes and there is a natural pause, I look at my phone and it is a Facebook message that says “found your wallet in a cab. Please call ….”
  4. I call the number provided and a guy tells me where he is located and I arrange to pick up my wallet at his office building later in the day. (I profusely thank him, like too much.)
  5. I look up his profile (or what I thought was his profile) on Facebook and it says his name is Tom and he is a graduate of…wait for it….Fordham University.
  6. Then, there is a mildly boring period of getting back to the business of work meetings and I head to the subway to make my way to pick up the wallet, (after canceling a drink with someone I was supposed to meet up with – more due to the meeting going over than the lost wallet).
  7. I get on the right train, wrong direction – end up in Brooklyn.
  8. Get on the train going back but now unsure of myself ask a woman sitting next to me (we were on a train stuck on the tracks for a while) about my route which convinced me to get off, though it turned out to be right all along.
  9. I then get back on the next train going in the right direction and make my way to the office.
  10. Turns out it was not Tom who found my wallet, but his friend, Travis, who was using his phone.
  11. I get my wallet back and rush to the subway with 35 minutes to get from downtown to Penn Station and here I am.

While on the subway, I pulled out “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown which I am reading. I turn the page and she is talking about her vulnerability during a visit to a special place in Texas, Lake Travis. What? She then talks about a scientist (on the same page) with the same last name of someone who just happened to email me recently out of the blue.

What is going on here?

I am not looking to make something out of nothing but c’mon. The universe is telling me something. I think the universe actually has a wicked sense of humor. Maybe by finally “letting go” of this idea of control, it’s the most straightforward way of knowing that the universe really does have our backs. That day could have gone in so many different directions but every single interaction – from the taxi driver through dispatch, was leading to something bigger than the sum of it’s parts.

I boarded the train in the morning and the evening as planned. However, what happened in between was anything but. Isn’t this the best metaphor for life? We are born and then we exit but what really matters are the unexpected, wonderful, tragic, elaborate, simple, mind-boggling, boring things that happen in-between and what we take from them. That is truly remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Life Between the Creases

4 05 2016

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I am selling my house and everyday is a contest of sorts to see how well I can stage it as if I just happen to own this property and there is daily maid service to keep everything neat and tidy.

With two teenagers, a full-time job and a proclivity for starting strong and then just tucking away whatever is remaining into the nearest drawer, it’s definitely not the Hilton.

Unlike most days, I decided to upend the L-shaped family room couch cushions and really “deep clean”. It’s amazing what you find between the cushions – coins, pens, wrappers, notes, missing pieces to various chargers, etc. It occurred to me that these remnants are symbols of a house well-lived in. Mine is not a museum. It is a “lived in house”, for sure.

Growing up, our modest ranch house was made even more modest by the fact that we crammed our lives, all four of us, into a small kitchen and even tinier den. The rest of the house was pretty much off limits, with the exception of the bathroom and our bedrooms for sleeping. We even were purveyors of that all-too-cliché hard plastic covering that covered the never-to-be-sat in living room furniture. To each their own and in trying to balance the demands of every day life, I can’t blame my parents or anyone for organizing and creating as they need to in order to manage.

I vowed, though, that when I had my own place, I wanted to use the fancy dishes. I wanted each room to be used. I wanted big-ass butt cheek prints to change the cushioning of my couch seating so they looked well worn, (to paint an image).

Luckily, that is the type of home we have and it can get messy. But I love what I find in that mess because that is where life is really most vivid – in between the creases. The folds of notes long forgotten, the dog-eared pages of books that had profound meaning when nothing else did, the concert t-shirt worn so many times that permanent lines outline what your shoulders used to be shaped like and yes, the wrappers and fallen M&Ms in between the couch cushions from that Friday you let both kids watch a Rated R movie though you knew they were secretly counting how many times the “F” word was said.

There’s a reason wrinkles are called laugh lines. It’s the same reason life lives within the creases. There is no smoothness attributed to those experiences that truly imprint the folds of our memory and the fragments of who we become.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 








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