Day 1

2 01 2017

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Last night was a New Year’s Eve unlike any other.

I certainly have spent New Year’s eve before unencumbered by the fervor of loud music and flowing booze but never quite to the extent I did for a couple of hours at the Buddhist Sangha (community) to which I have been attending for about a year now.

Though I look forward to the Monday evening meditation and discussion, I was very hesitant to go there last night.

Firstly, I had envisioned a night with my kids including games, music and sarcastic commenting on whatever ridiculous late night New Year’s Eve coverage was going to be on the television.

Secondly, reflecting inward after what will surely go down as one of the most sobering years of my life, was not high on my list of options to ring in 2017.

However, with two teenagers who rather spend a night with friends their own age, I was left with me, my thoughts and a list of On Demand music videos from artists I hadn’t heard of nor could pronounce.

I decided to walk down to the Sangha, hoping it was not just me and two other people, as I was expecting.

There were a lot of cars in the parking lot. This surprised me and for a moment, I thought maybe there was some other event going on, as well. Then, I walked in to a community of 30-40 people with varying levels of experience and reasons for being there who had decided to take a breath, literally and metaphorically, to start this New Year in a much different way than in the past.

It was a humbling experience. This is not the stuff that unicorns and rainbows are made of. One of the things I appreciate the most is the true down-to-earth nature of this community – the ability to meet people who intuitively feel there is something beyond the surface we have been trained to grasp for.

This is a time to come together as a community and simply take a pause. I can’t tell you how important, (notice I didn’t say “easy”), this practice has been over the past year.

I heard a podcast today (replayed from 2009) that recounted a story of an older man who refused to quit smoking after decades, even following a stroke. He simply said it was who he was and that in this life, he was a smoker. Upon having a second stroke, however, that part of his brain that associated himself with smoking, was damaged and he never reached for a cigarette from there on in.

The biological science of craving aside, he just didn’t think of himself as a smoker anymore. We are so ready to confine ourselves to the thoughts that provide guardrails to what we think we can do and who we can be that we often have to experience something profound to challenge these notions.

I really appreciate the idea of our thoughts being tools that are available to us, rather than our specific identity. This is something that meditation has helped me work toward – the ability to see my thoughts, acknowledge them, investigate further and then, maybe just then, let them slip away so that I can be in the moment with no expectation and no identity. Can you imagine what could happen then?

Wishing you a year of discovery.

Until next time,

Marc

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To Endings: Farewell to 2016

29 12 2016

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There seems to be a lot of group think that 2016 was generally a crappy year, and from a personal perspective, I can understand it. As I have joked on Twitter – I officially got divorced, had to sell my house and lost a job – and all of that disappointment still didn’t compare to November 8, 2016. I hope I look back on this year and despite the difficulties, can say “man, but it was needed”, sort of like a root canal: painful but better than the alternative.

Politics (and embellishment) aside, this year was about endings. And endings are important. They don’t get as much press as their more popular cousin “beginnings” but they should. Beginnings would barely exist if it weren’t for them, after all.

As I learned this year, there’s hardly a good time for things to end, but there usually is a right time. Regardless of where you stood on the political spectrum, I really haven’t met anyone who has wished that the election cycle would have carried on for another second. It was not only a good time for that to end, but probably also beyond the right time, too.

On a personal note, it was a tough year with spots of incredible beauty – including watching my kids continue to blossom into pretty amazing humanoids, being grateful for my mother coming out of heart surgery, landing a job with a pretty amazing team and among all of this, experiencing painful endings, as well. Life is tough and messy and impermanent and if you step into the fear with an open heart, you will not regret it – because feeling, even difficulties, is better than being numb. It’s how we experience love.

Sometimes it takes a good ending to find out what you’re made of and learn that you’re not so breakable, after all. So, let’s not shy away from endings, for they are the stuff of great narratives, amazing lyrics and someday, even better beginnings.

Here’s to a meaningful 2017 and until next time,

Marc

 





A New Year’s Reflection for all my Trump Supporting Friends and Family

2 10 2016

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Tonight will mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5777 and though I am not religious, I thought this was as good as an opportunity to wish all my Jewish (and non-Jewish) friends and family a Healthy, Happy year ahead.

This is typically a good time for reflection – in the Jewish religion – as to what kind of person we were during the past year and our hope to be “inscribed” for a good year to come. This is an easy wish to also grant to those around us, particularly those who happen to agree with our positions, but not so much for those who do not, especially during this vitriolic election cycle.

So, in an effort to really try and challenge myself as to how people I care about could possibly support someone that is so antithetical to most of my beliefs, I am taking this opportunity to turn things around and demonstrate a willingness to assume the best. Here it goes.

You really do want to make America Great Again.

 

Let me be the first (and maybe only) to admit that when Trump says this, I don’t know what his reference point is? I hear a lot about financial metrics like jobs and infrastructure, which is hard to disagree with in regarding the need to move this forward – a platform of all involved parties.

However, if you happen to be non-white, and, for the most part, non-Christian, America wasn’t so great in the first place. This is not a bleeding heart liberal opinion. It is fact. Ever notice that the only people ever getting really angry about calling out racism are white people? I’m one of them by the way (white, not calling out racism – well, ok, both).

Nonetheless, the purpose of this blog is not to defend nor accuse and therefore, I get it. You truly believe that Trump has the business experience, the balls and the intention of focusing on America and its future for the better. I believe that for Hillary and believed that for Kasich. I even could sort of believe that for Bush. Trump? Not so much. But that is my belief and I respect yours.

You don’t trust Hillary and rather see Trump in office, or anyone, other than her.

 

I get this, too. Let me just say that it is disconcerting that this presidential race seems more like a high school race, based on popularity and likeability, rather than who is best to lead, but I, again, will give you the benefit of the doubt that you, too, are deciding based on leadership, not based on who you’d like to have a beer with.

That being said, I will accept that, even given the 3rd party, non-partisan, vetted and credible fact checking sources that are often cited that show Trump actually lies more than Clinton (what a low bar either way, I realize), you inherently feel that there is more trust in a Trump presidency than a Clinton one. Perhaps it has to do with his proclivity for not being able to hold back a single thought and therefore there is seemingly more transparency. Either way, trust and instinct are very subjective and I cannot challenge the reasons why you find one more trustworthy than the other anymore than I can challenge why you might like one type of music over another.

You feel only Trump will call it like it is and put America first, reversing what seems to be like out-of-control policies of the last 8 years.

 

Whether it is immigration, the racial tensions between African American communities and our police, or policy on trade with other nations, one could certainly surmise that we have lost our way in constructing a foundation for ourselves that will lead to security and prosperity. I watch the news, too (though that needs to stop) and it’s very easy to lose perspective.

The truth is that there is no candidate that will be able to ignore any of these (or other) major issues. I hope we can all agree that no candidate is suggesting that there isn’t a problem, but rather, unfortunately, we hear little other than focusing largely on who is to blame. Like any complex situation, there is no “one” person or administration to blame but like the other items above, I, too, get how you feel Trump will be more targeted in identifying and implementing solutions here. I disagree but should he enter office, for the sake of our nation, I hope you are correct and respect your belief.

So there it is – I know there is a lot more. I am not anti-Republican. I am anti-Trump. Absolutely 100% without a doubt. The hate and separation that has been excavated from the underbelly of our own backyards has deeply saddened and troubled me. I pray that we may all find healing together. But that’s not going to happen if we don’t at least try to understand where each of us is coming from. We don’t have to like or even accept it. Understanding is all that is needed. This is my attempt to do so.

Whether it is in the context of the Jewish New Year, the “Traditional” New Year, or just a new day – may we all breath out that which divides us and deeply breathe in that which connects us – love, hope and most of all, peace. It’s there in all of us if we could tap into it and let fear aside for a few moments to allow space.

Until next time,

Marc

 





Reflections, the Serenity Prayer & 2016

4 01 2016

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2015 was about control. 2016 is about wisdom.

I have been attempting to write a blog post for the past week or so, thinking it is the right time for reflection as one year closes out and another begins. This is my third attempt and regardless of whether I feel it is worthy or not, I am going to post it, if for no other reason than to put me out of my (short-term) writing misery.

In trying to frame what I wanted to write about and what I thought might resonate with anyone reading it, I kept asking myself the question of “what have you learned this year that can be applied to not just the new year but also the way in which you structure, approach or otherwise navigate your life in general?” Pretty simple, right?

It finally occurred to me that the good old standby of the Serenity Prayer is probably the best way to organize my thoughts. You are more than likely familiar with this one. The basic gist is “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” This is really the best advice I have ever come across.

So here it goes:

The things I cannot change (and am still learning to accept):

  1. People judge by appearances. They just do. This doesn’t mean that their perceptions can’t be modified, and even, in some cases, relatively quickly, but take it from me, when your hair is longer, people think of you differently than when it is shorter. When you’re at the airport with jeans and a t-shirt, security looks at you differently than when you’re wearing a suit jacket.  When you’re divorced, some people treat you differently. It just is.
  2. People will have preconceived notions about you and what your capabilities are based on nothing that has to do with reality. Whether at my day job or on the comedy circuit, I have come across people who either thought their work was too complex for me to understand, the comedy business was too messed up for me to have a place in, or personally, lawyers were too “in charge” for me to challenge them. These were based on nothing other than a) what was (or was not) on my resume or what they thought I actually did or knew, b) something someone “heard” about me or c) pure ignorance. Let me repeat – almost every single time this happened, it was relayed to me on behalf of someone who barely spent any time speaking with me. I cannot control this. Maybe it’s a function of our 140 character, twitterized society or maybe it’s human nature. I don’t know. I am also no longer angry about it. I can, however, control the way in which I respond which is best when it is in the “no response” category. The best way to prove who you are is to just do it. It won’t happen in time for someone to give you that work assignment, that gig or even acknowledge that you caught a huge mistake despite their law degree…but it happens.
  3. Time will not stop or slow down – ever. The idea of capturing every moment as time moves faster and faster will not stop the fact that kids and parents grow older, not to mention ourselves. You will look back and wonder where time went. You will see a picture of yourself and think “why was I so hard on myself?” You will reflect on something and wish you did it differently. You will think about your future and wonder if you have time to do something grand. And as you do this, another minute, 5 minutes, day or even year has passed. It’s great to be organized. It’s helpful to have lists. It’s good to have a plan. But it’s even better to just do something – anything.
  4. Some people do have an easier time of it than others. Maybe it’s because of their DNA, their upbringing, a better perspective or luck. It doesn’t matter. This is not in our control. We have no control over anyone nor their situation any more than they do over us; even our children – we are simply here to guide as best we can. We can start to control the degree to which “ease” can enter our lives. Do we react or respond? Do we do the hard work of exercising and watching what we eat, at least a couple times per week or do we put it off? Do we challenge our thoughts and how we judge ourselves or keep playing the same script over and over? This is a lot harder to do than looking at the relative ease to which others seem to navigate the world compared to ourselves. But it’s the only control we really have, not to mention a lot more realistic as we never really know what someone else is going through.

The things I can change (and am finding courage to do):

  1. Relationships – with others and with myself. Disappointment is a difficult prospect for me. I enjoy helping people, being part of a team and generally, seeing people succeed. However, I have come to learn that, regardless of whether it is deliberate or not (and it usually is not), being around people who cannot keep their word is a source of profound disappointment for me. This goes for me, as well. I feel especially bummed when I have made a pact with myself to complete something, respond in a certain way or manage something positively that did not go the way I had intended. I am finding the courage to be more vocal with those that I may not have been vocal with in the past and respectfully articulate my feelings while taking responsibility for the fact that they do belong to me. This is hard for me because it may compromise friendships or prospects, but it is required. I also am trying to find the courage to both hold myself more accountable for learning when things do not go the way I had planned as well as being kinder to myself for failing, or perceiving to have failed.
  2. Moving toward minimalism. I am not joining a cult or about to embark on a process to cull my belongings down to whatever I can carry in a backpack but I am purging like never before. Throwing things out doesn’t necessarily take courage but throwing out associated feelings of the past does. This is a delicate balance in acknowledging those parts of you that maybe you are not as proud of or wish were not there but were and then saying, “it’s ok.” I have a quote that was sent to me hanging on my bathroom mirror that represents this perfectly. It is from Eric Roth, who wrote the screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. It is as follows: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.”
    3. FOMO – You may be familiar with this. It means “Fear Of Missing Out.” For me, I realize that social media has played into this fear a lot. I have written about my love/hate relationship with Facebook (actually, just hate) and over the past 2 weeks, I have significantly reduced my time on Facebook to maybe twice a day and for just a couple of minutes to see if I got any messages. I can absolutely control the amount of time I spend on social media AND the FOMO attitude that kept drawing me there in the first place.
    4. Where I live, at least metaphorically. I am tied to where I am living right now until my daughter graduates, which will be here sooner than it may seem. I am eager to move geographically, for many reasons, and spent a lot of time in 2015 lamenting about how if I could only move physically, I might get the fresh (or fresher) start I was longing for. I realized last year that where I reside had very little to do with where I spent my time, with family, friends or alone. Without sounding too “new agey”, there are people who live in big cities and never leave their apartments and people who live in small towns and have networks with global reaches. I know I can change the scope of my network and my capabilities by focusing less on where I live and more on what (and where) lives within me.

    Now…as for the wisdom to know the difference…that’s a big part of 2016.

    As an aside, since I keep long lists on my cell phone of books, movies, articles, music, etc. that I want to get to, I thought I’d start a “Recommendation of the Blog” section at the end of each blog that you might want to check out, also.

    So, here is the first one.
    Recommendation of the Blog – If you haven’t seen it, check out the documentary “Inside Job” about the 2008 financial crisis – by far the most clear, organized and thorough explanation of the players, dynamics and history that led up to the crisis and how it was all connected.

    I wish for you a serene 2016 and until next time,
    Marc

Thanks for reading and I hope you consider subscribing to my blog and following me on Twitter @MarcKaye1. 





Rosh Hashanah, Natasha Bedingfield and the Art of Getting Off Your Ass

16 09 2015

Natasha - not a Jew but her words could be.

Natasha – not a Jew but her words could be.

(It’s a catchy title, I know.)

Tonight ends the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It is the year 5776 and if I could go back to year 1, I am pretty sure there would be a hieroglyphically-written blog post about the strange mix of apples, honey, indigestion and families having multiple conversations (all at increasing volumes) at the same time. There would also be something about “being inscribed in the book of life for another year.” 

On this holiday, Jews pray all over the world that God will see to it they are written and included in the “book of life” to see another year. Always on the verge of some sort of destruction, it doesn’t hurt to try to turn that frown upside down, I guess, even on what should be a celebration – a New Year. 

As a kid, I really did believe in this version of religion – that we had to hope and pray that we would live for another year, as would those we cared about. I understand the importance of believing in something higher than ourselves but the idea of some sort of Jewish Santa Claus making a list of who will get the gift of life versus those who will get eternal coal is a bit too much for me, not to mention, a bit too passive.

On the ride home from my parents’ house, the kids and I were in the car and my son assumed his usual role of “DJ of the car.” After stomaching several rap songs, all of which were not of the good “Beastie Boy/Run DMC” flavor, my daughter and I convinced him that he had to choose things we all could listen to, or at least take turns.

Half way through our ride, “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield, made it to the line-up. It’s a catchy enough tune. I could deal with it. This time, however, as part of my practice of trying to be more “in the moment”, I really paid attention to the lyrics. As it turns out, it’s not about tasting rain, which is all I ever really got subliminally out of that song. It talks about really embracing life on your terms. And in the lyrics? “Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten.”

The immediacy of hearing about beginning a new book yet to be unwritten on the Jewish New Year was not entirely lost on me. If anything, I may have (and continue) to make a connection where none exists for anyone but me. But, hey, as you know from reading other blog posts, that’s sort of my thing.

I like Natasha’s version a bit better than the Old Testament one, to be honest. In the former, it feels like we have not much say as to whether we are going to be inscribed for a good year or not, other than the judgement of our actions from the past year. In the latter, it feels like we are given the chance to reflect and start anew and it is up to us to “get off our ass” (see where that fits in now?) and actually not wait for someone or something to help us.

This fits in nicely with a more recent blog post I wrote about a passage I had read from Pema Chodron. (See “The Positive Side of Hopelessness – May 4, 2015). To reiterate, she writes: “Theism is a deeply seated conviction that there’s some hand to hold: if we just do the right things, someone will appreciate us and take care of us. It means thinking there’s always going to be a babysitter available when we need one. We all are inclined to abdicate our responsibilities and delegate our authority to something outside ourselves.”

I like the idea that we should not just wait and hope but start writing our own story. It is unsettling to have your book just begin and unwritten. For me, at least, it’s more unsettling to be a character in a story you had no part in at all. 

To all, whether it’s a New Year for you or not, here’s to starting your story. What will your first chapter be and when?

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








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