My Eyes Are Up Here (Thank you very much)

2 01 2017

how-to-wear-wedding-and-engagement-rings1

I have had a bad habit when I meet someone and I am hoping to break it this year.

Often times, when I first see someone or meet somebody, my eyes divert to the finger on their hand closest to their pinky – you know the one, the “ring” finger. I’ll even check the right hand sometimes for those in Europe and other parts of the world that traditionally wear wedding bands on that hand.

This is the divorced person’s version of every teenage boy not making a first glance above the girl’s neck area. It’s an honest challenge. It’s embarrassing to admit this. No one sees me doing it but I know it and that’s enough.

Last month, after taking a mental inventory of almost every passenger on the C train in NYC, including adolescents who were legally not even old enough to be married, I visibly shook my head in disgust with myself and silently asked myself “why are you doing this”? These questions of self-investigation are not always for the faint of heart. I mean, in the grand scheme of things, big deal. Still, it’s a little mental if you ask me – and yes, I am being pretty judgmental of myself.

The answer is pretty simple. It’s me simply identifying what group these strangers belong to, as I once was a member myself. Of course, nothing about the wearing or non-wearing of a wedding band really tells all that much but I guess it’s like looking at a bunch of college kids and reminiscing that “yeah, I used to be in that group once.”

Marriage was the one thing (along with family) that was the “sine qua non” (an absolute necessary) in my growing up. Regardless of how much money, popularity, degrees or other more accepted measures of “success” one might have had, in my family, it didn’t seem to hold nearly as much weight as a solid family foundation. For me, the dissolution of my own marriage – something that simply cannot be swept under the proverbial rug – was both a moment of profound failure and ultimately, awakening.

There is something I heard a while ago that has helped me with this. Some of you may recall a song from a decade or so ago called “The Sunscreen Song”, the lyrics of which were taken from an essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech by Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Though I was married at the time, I never forgot the following passage, (interesting that this is the one that stuck out):

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t

Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t

Maybe you’ll divorce at 40,

maybe you’ll dance the “Funky Chicken” On your 75th wedding anniversary

Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much

Or berate yourself either

Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

I’m definitely not celebrating a 75th wedding anniversary any time in this life but I feel there’s still a Funky Chicken or two (not to mention an endless supply of “Doing the Robot”) in the not so distant future – and I don’t have to audit a sea of ring fingers to do it, either. (But I will warn you – as someone who has “danced like no one is watching”, it’s pretty embarrassing when you look at the car next to you and realize someone was.)

Here’s to not over-congratulating ourselves for when things go great and not over-berating ourselves for when they don’t.

Until next time,

Marc

(The lyrics to the full essay/song are below if interested.)

 

The Sunscreen Song

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of 2007, wear sunscreen If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it The long term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind You will never understand the power And the beauty of your youth until they’ve faded But trust me, in twenty years You will look back at photos of yourself

And recall in a way you can’t grasp now How much possibility lay before you And how fabulous you really looked You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future or worry that know that worrying Is as affective as trying to solve an algebra equation By chewing bubble gum The real troubles in your life are apt to be things That never crossed your worried mind The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday

Do one thing every day that scares you, sing Don’t be reckless with other peoples’ hearts Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours, floss Don’t waste your time on jealousy Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself

Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults If you succeed in doing this, tell me how Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements, stretch Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what to do with your life

The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t Get plenty of calcium Be kind to knees, you’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the “Funky Chicken” On your 75th wedding anniversary Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much Or berate yourself either Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own, dance Even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room Read the directions even if you don’t follow them Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Brother and sister together will make it through Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good Be nice to your siblings, they are your best link to your past And the people most likely to stick with you in the future Understand that friends come and go But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle For as the older you get, the more you need the people You knew when you were young Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft

Travel, accept certain inalienable truths Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too will get old And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble And children respected their elders

Respect your elders, don’t expect anyone else to support you Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse But you’ll never know when either one will run out Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re forty It will look eighty-five Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it

Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of Wishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off Painting over the ugly parts and recycling for more than it’s worth But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister together will make it through, oh yeah Someday a spirit will take you and guide you there I know you’ve been hurting, but I’ve been waiting to be there for you And I’ll be there just helping you out, whenever I can

Everybody’s free, oh yeah, everybody’s free, oh yeah, oh, to feel good

Songwriters NIGEL ANDREW SWANSTON, TIM COX

Published by Lyrics © Peermusic Publishing

Song Discussions is protected by U.S. Patent 9401941. Other patents pending.

Read more: Baz Luhrmann – Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen) Lyrics | MetroLyrics

 

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Why are Marriage & Divorce So Separate?

2 04 2016
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Now only if there were a divorce registry, too.

That seems like an odd question, I know.

I read an interesting blog post that I somehow stumbled upon from a TED website written about divorce. It was challenging us regarding the way in which we think of divorce so differently than we do about marriage.

I’ll try to explain it. Basically, in the U.S., the notion of marrying for anything other than love, or at least without love being the priority, is judged in a way that is typically viewed as unromantic and maybe even “wrong”. However, when people divorce for “falling out of love”, it is looked down upon. Essentially, is it not somewhat hypocritical to allow and even, expect, a false standard on one end (love being the foundation for marriage) but not on the other (divorcing when said love no longer exists)? We are telling ourselves that it is critical to marry for love but if you fall out of love, you should stick with it.

Here’s where things get tricky. I didn’t necessarily disagree with that notion because it’s not just about one person or even the marital couple, especially when children are involved. For me, this concept made me think about my actions to stay married. I don’t think love was the issue, at least not for me. As difficult as things got, I never considered them to be so bad as to destroy, separate and ultimately dissolve what grew out of it – a familial unit, a way of being, a path toward something. This was clearly not a two way street and as I am on the “tail end of the end” and approaching the very “beginning of the beginning”, I can see that I am already better off and my kids, thankfully, are thriving in this new world.

That being said, it has made me wonder about the constitution of marriage. Though liberal in so many ways, I held onto more traditional norms about “sticking” with it when it came to marriage. Perhaps this was more out of fear than anything. But let’s play this through. If, in fact, many people believe in the nobleness of trudging through the mud, sometimes many times and for long periods, in the name of marital commitment whereby marriage is more than just “finding your soul mate”, then why should it be looked down upon when there are those who may decide to have a more deliberate and practical approach to marriage in the first place? Sure, love and respect are foundational but let’s be honest, there are plenty who select partners based on parameters that have nothing to do with love. Anyone happen upon Rupert Murdoch’s latest wedding?

I am not anti-marriage – just for me. What it comes down to is having no judgement as to the decisions that people make to enter or not enter into marriage nor to stay or exit from marriage once that hard decision is made. I think that this mindset would do two things: 1. it would slowly evolve to where people truly marry for the right reasons and not out of any type of cultural norm, fear, expectation or fairy tale; and 2. it would de-stigmatize what happens when marriages end, for we would no longer so unrealistically separate the human condition which draws us into a commitment from that which may tell us it is finally time to move on.

Thanks for “listening”. I’d love your thoughts on the matter (or any matter).

Until next time,

Marc





On Wedding Anniversaries

2 11 2015
Happy Anniversary to me!

Happy Anniversary to me!

Today is my wedding Anniversary. It would have been my 18th. I guess it still is, legally anyway. I look forward to the day when November 2nd doesn’t have any other meaning than being a couple of days past Halloween and a couple of days away from election day.

I talk about being divorced in my comedy a lot more now. It’s much more comfortable for me to do so than it used to be. It’s just another form of self defecating humor. It’s innocent and it helps take the sting out of the pain. That’s the most amazing thing about comedy or any art, for that matter.

After a show, I do feel a tinge of remorse when I meet a young couple who is engaged or recently married. I always feel compelled to tell them that marriage is great, it’s a wonderful thing and I am sure it is going to work out for them, making some sort of joke about me in the process. It’s weird because I never feel compelled to say this to someone who has been married a while. I know they get it. 

The young married couple is full of hope. Those with a few years behind them haven’t lost hope but it is grounded in the reality of building a life together – the good and the bad. 

Officially, prior to separation, I was married a bit over 16 1/2 years. That’s a worthy investment and not an insignificant amount of time – for either of us. I am so grateful that my kids were already well into activities and friends when it ended because it mitigated losing any further time during those early formative years (not that these are not formative, as well.)

On this anniversary of sorts, rather than feel bad or upset, I am choosing to focus on the fact that 18 years ago, I took a chance, not settling but not retracting due to fear, either, that produced two amazing kids. Today is an anniversary of what started out as an early step in the journey of my two kids. It is something to be celebrated but I’m still thinking of putting my wedding album up on eBay.

Until next time,

Marc





Support Vs. Tolerance

27 10 2015
This is a ribbon, not support.

This is a just a ribbon.

This is not going to be a “feel good” blog but I hope it at least provokes some thought.

I was in a bad mood today. I don’t know why. I’m in a bad mood now, too.

I’m trying to calm my nerves with a glass of wine, which probably isn’t helping.

I was ok until my son came home from school and needed his laptop for homework which was at his mother’s house, all of 2 miles away. I was working and she refused to drop it off. This is another “standing my ground” thing of hers lately and while I have tried to let this stuff pass, it got to me today. Maybe it was my cold. Maybe it was my thinking about job loss. Whatever it was, it got to me badly.

We both work from home some days during the week and we both live close to each other. It is impossible to not put the kids in the middle when these types of things happen, regardless of how hard either of us might work at it. Or at least that’s the case for me. I have tried to not make this my kids’ issue because it is not their fault at all that they even have to think of crap like this – navigating hauling their stuff between places depending on where they are staying. This is not the time to teach responsibility to a kid and if we have to haul them and their stuff back and forth, then, at least in my opinion, we have to grow up, be adults and do it for them. They never asked for this. It was hard for me to hold my frustration about this in, too, and that certainly didn’t help matters with my kids.

Truth be told, the amount of time I spent stewing over whether or not to get in the car with my son and make the 5 minute trek for him to get his stuff, was far beyond the actual time it took to just get it over with. There is no co-parenting with my ex other than her managerial disposition toward me as “permitted” through email. This is not co-parenting and where this is a lack of co-parenting or co-anything, there is a lack of support, in this case – for my kids. (And the frustration grows.)

Several times I have tried to explain, directly or indirectly, that we both have to compromise and make decisions, many of which are uncomfortable, for the sake of the kids. We have to be their main support system, or should be, anyway. I realized today, in my maddening state of frustration, that some people are simply not capable of playing a supportive role. My ex never was. She was always tolerating things. To be honest, I think it was the best she could do. We all have deficits of some sort coming into relationships, some greater than others. Hers was coming from a family that was not supportive of each other. Mine was coming from a family that were not amongst the greatest of communicators. It’s not a blame thing. It’s just the way it is.

Today really stuck with me and before I knew it, I made this about me – hard to admit, but it’s the truth. I grieved for the fact that I never had a partner who really supported me. To support someone is to show true love. I know as a parent that I support things that my kids want to do because I love them and respect them. I want them to do the best they can in what they are passionate about.

I have had a good run so far but if I am going to be totally honest, I never had anyone really close to me that asked me “Marc, what do you want out of life?” I think they already knew that the answer was not in their comfort zone and was too scary for them to consider. I have met so many people who took risks and forged their own path early on and I lived in a well of fear so deep, listening to others rather than myself. I never learned to support myself rather than looking for someone to support me.

This was evident in my childhood, my formative years and I carried it into my marriage, also. Some say that comedy led to my divorce. I think it saved me. It was perhaps my first real step to supporting myself.

When I did so, though, I was naive. I thought my wife would be proud of a husband that was trying something new. I never compromised my role as husband or father. But there was no support, only tolerance. I remember, in an argument, her claiming that she supported my comedy by “letting” me do it, (go to a show, etc). If you “let” someone do something, you are tolerating them. If you help them get there (physically, morally or otherwise), you are supporting them.

This is something that I am trying to get better at myself, with my kids, with other people and more importantly, myself.

If you really support the troops, it’s more than a yellow, magnetic ribbon on your trunk. If you really support something, it’s got to be more than words or a symbolic token of your support. Are you really being supportive of those you love, including yourself? Or, maybe, are you just being tolerant.

Until next time,

Marc

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Just Landed

10 09 2015
...just landed...

…just landed…

I don’t know exactly why, but nothing hits me more that I am no longer a married person than when I’m traveling and the plane touches down. I grab my cell phone and instinctively feel like sending that text I sent over and over again: “just landed”.

When I was married, it didn’t matter if I left the house uneventfully, joyfully or after a stressful conversation, I always texted when that plane landed – regardless of the time.

It’s strange. I can’t text anyone else that I landed now. It’s not that anyone doesn’t care. I just can’t do it.

I think that is one of the things I miss most about being married – texting someone that I landed safely. I know it sounds sort of stupid. 

Some people postulate that I miss being married. I don’t. 

Or that I will get married again one day. I won’t. 

Or that it’s not having that special someone to share any of the hundreds of travel mishaps that I experience along the way. It’s not.

On a subliminal level, it’s knowing that the one person who has the most vested interest in my not dying in a plane crash and sticking around is the one person with whom I am raising children. For me, it’s really that simple. It’s the text that writes “just landed” but really says “I’m still around…plan is still to be back Friday. I know about the game and you taking off a couple of days and if something happens, I’m here and oh, I get that I’m part of something bigger than myself.”

Though not my main reason, getting married had a lot to do with starting a family of my own. When the marital bond disintegrated, so did the ties that connect the only two people who share that experience of raising children, good and bad, and figuring it all out. I looked forward to being old and laughing at the bad times. That’s what you’re supposed to do. I was always ok with recreating some of the more difficult moments for the sake of prosperity. If nothing else, it provides great fodder for my kids to tell to their children.

By no means is the richness of relationships or even raising kids exclusive nor more acute for those two people who have signed the contract and created a family. I get that. There are examples upon examples of blended families, non-traditional relationships etc. that provide the same if not more intense positive environments for children. For me, it happened to be husband and wife. 

My point is simply with respect to that growing storyline that those two people are developing – together. There is an understanding and thread that is carried from the very beginning that makes sense. It’s the glimpse that two people share when one of your kids does that thing again or that funny moment you have to remember to tell your partner at the end of the day. Those things count no matter how difficult things may have been. At least they do for me.

Imagine building something over a period of time and seeing it morph and suddenly your co-creator is not there to celebrate what happens to that creation. It’s a transition.

Surely, you will bring new people into your life to look at your creation, marvel at it’s worth and even help it evolve. It’s just the start of a new ritual. For me, it’s not texting “just landed” anymore. Maybe it’ll be “taking off” so I can focus more on where I’m going than where I came from.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye1. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! Thanks again, 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

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I Never Asked for the Anal Probe

2 05 2015

alien-midway

Well, if nothing else, I am guessing the title of today’s blog post will at least peak your interest.

“I never asked for the anal probe” is a line from a comedic scene from an older movie called Passion Fish. Honestly, I can’t even recall what the movie was about (though I do recall Alfre Woodard in it) but I have always remembered this scene where, if I recall correctly, there was an actress (playing an actress) who was saying that she had only one line and she kept practicing it, emphasizing a different word each time:

didn’t ask for the anal probe. (As if someone did, but it sure as hell wasn’t me.)

DIDN’T ask for the anal probe. (This one makes the most sense because well, yeah…you get it.)

I didn’t ASK for the anal probe. (I just may have insinuated it a little.)

I didn’t ask FOR the anal probe. (I asked about the anal probe – there’s a big difference dude!)

I didn’t ask for THE anal probe. (Because there isn’t just one…there’s a variety as we all know.)

I didn’t ask for the ANAL probe. (I asked for the nasal probe, for example.)

I didn’t ask for the anal PROBE. (But I did ask for the anal…well, never mind.)

So, “Marc – what the hell is the point of all of this?” you may ask. Great question.

Well…a couple of things. One – this is yet another example of my exemplary ability to retain incredibly useless facts that will, in no way every help me in a job nor in a hostage situation.

Two – words are incredibly important but how you emphasize words can mean everything. I have learned this the very, very, very hard way – being married…and by being a comic. It has been a much easier lesson the latter.

It is such an easy thing to simply say to “choose your words” wisely but it is so much more difficult to choose them and then think about how they are going to be received. Even more difficult is the fact that non-verbal communication has an even larger impact.

You may be familiar with the popular statistic that nonverbal communication accounts for 93% of all daily communication, commonly quoted in science and media outlets. Dr. Albert Mehrabian conducted several studies on nonverbal communication and found that 7% of any message is conveyed through words, 38% through certain vocal elements, and 55% through nonverbal elements (facial expressions, gestures, posture, etc).  What?!!!

This reminds me of a time a couple of years ago when a high ranking person explained that even though I appropriately did not respond during a meeting, my face gave me away and I should “work on that”. It’s my face, yo!

So, next time you’re taking the stand-up stage, giving a presentation, making your case to your significant other or faced with an alien abduction, remember – words and non-verbal cues can make all the difference between getting information or becoming part of the experience.

Until next time,

Marc








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