Claiming Your Space

16 01 2017

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I have been running for over 20 years but won’t call myself a runner.

I’ve been playing piano since I was 7 but wouldn’t call myself a pianist.

I’ve been writing for 30 years but still hesitate to call myself a writer.

And yet with all of these things, I probably have reason to be more confident in those pursuits than I do with comedy, which I have been performing for much less time. Still, I am proud to call myself a comedian, if only reluctantly. It makes me happy.

The truth is, I am a working comedian. I am not working to where it can be my full time job and I’m not sure it ever will be but I get hired to do shows as if others comedians would and it goes well. As I mentioned to another comedian friend, I am at a place where even if it doesn’t go as well as I would have hoped, I feel like I have earned a right to take the stage and I can hold my own. This isn’t an ego thing. It’s just a hard work thing.

I don’t think that unless you have been part of this mind-game that is stand-up comedy you could really understand what that means. It’s like my daughter learning a new dance step. The whole step may take seconds but it can take weeks or months to even get to the point where it’s “in the ballpark.” It’s the same with comedy.

This may be the first positive comedy revelation I have had about myself and though I have no idea if things will progress or not, it really is ok. I am enjoying myself and meeting some really wonderful people and learning to be more confident based on what I know and not what others might think they know about me.

It reminds me a little of losing weight or “getting in shape.” The advice is to not focus on the scale so much (what the scale “thinks” it may know about your health) and focus more on how you feel and even may look (what you, yourself, know). I don’t know – I’m rambling. I just watched “Primal Fear” with my kids (saw it 20 years ago – what a great movie) and my mind is still sort of blown so this is what you get.

I guess the purpose of this blog is to say that we all have a right to claim to be who we are and not just what we do but why we do it. I am an artist, a songwriter, a writer and yes, even a runner, and all of these things funnel up to the dad, brother, son and friend I am. It sort of works that way. Don’t limit yourself. Claim your space. It’s yours. You own it.

Until next time,

Marc

 

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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





A Most Significant February

13 02 2016

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I don’t even know where to start. This is the shortest month of the year and it’s not even over and it has been one for the books.

This has been quite the month – divorce final on the 3rd, confirmed my job will be ending this year on the 11th and very possibly selling  my house (for a loss) somewhere in the remaining 16 days.

At the same time, my mother is doing great after having had heart surgery, my dad is doing equally well, the kids are well and I have had terrific feedback with both comedy and my songwriting. Perhaps the internal forces that were waiting to finally be listened to could not be heard in light of the life that had to be left behind. It’s the yin and yang, the pleasure and pain, I guess.

There’s no grand plan to leave it all behind and start over – finally enter that creative universe that I long for. Two kids, college savings and a now badly dented retirement savings requires the practicalities of a “real job” and I am just grateful for those who may be able to help me in that capacity, as well.

What has surprised me, however, is just the wave of almost eery calm that seems to accompany what might be considered “bad news.” The fact is, for me, and I suppose many others, I am much better off with knowing than not knowing, even if the knowing is not good. The in-between stage of waiting, wondering, hoping, fearing, surmising and assuming is a purgatory that is not relegated for the faint of heart. At least with knowing, there can be action – or, in my case, more definitive action.

The same day that I learned about my work situation, I also viewed both my kids’ report cards – straight A’s with the exception of high Bs in honors math for both of them. They are doing amazingly – both academically and socially. I have nothing to complain about. I am convinced that, however difficult this period is for them (and for me), it is where we are all supposed to be in this journey. If I never receive a promotion, check off the items on the bucket list or “make it”, it is of no consequence because I am sure that my purpose in life was to make sure that these two kids were here at this time. I don’t know why….yet. But I am sure.

It makes me happy to finally get toward some resolution. By the summer, I will be in a new place with a new job (hopefully) and a new tax filing status. On a recent TED Talk podcast, the subject was about resiliency from people who had to exhibit tremendous fortitude – much greater than I had to. It was mentioned, as it often is, that we don’t really know what we are made of until we are put in situations that really test us. I agree with this fully. I also think that we don’t know why we are here sometimes until we are put in these situations. The truth is that the steps that continue to forward my path to wherever it is meant to go are the exact ones that I may never have ever followed were it not for some very, very tough times, decisions and truths.

I hope that we all have the resiliency we need to call upon the strongest parts of our being when we are called to do so and that we are supported along the way.

Until next time,

Marc





Open Heart (Surgery)

10 01 2016
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I am trying to open my heart to the fact that this is a schmaltzy image.

My mother had open heart surgery this past week. Nothing snaps you out of the self pity associated with job uncertainty, divorce, financial instability and overall restlessness like sitting 175 miles away in your home while you know the person who gave birth to you is on a ventilator while someone rewires her heart.

My kids and I just returned from visiting her (and my dad) and there were some key takeaways (sorry – that was so disgustingly corporate) – there were some important messages (that’s better) that I felt compelled to write down and share:

  1. Sometimes you have to sweat the small stuff. When I was visiting my parents with my kids just after Christmas – my sister was also there with her family and for all the articles and morning talk shows that insist upon the importance of having those “difficult conversations with your aging parents”, it never happened. Certainly, with the knowledge that my mom’s surgery was essentially a week away, that was not the best time but it wasn’t going to happen anyway. Instead, we played board games, got annoyed by incessant calls to eat more junk food and dealt with familial familiarities, good and bad, that would be of inconsequence to most people (yes, apparently it does matter who takes what food home with them and how much). This is as small as it gets but you know what? It is exactly the type of diversion that helps get through times when the gravity of the situation just seems too great to bear. That’s why I think sometimes (and only sometimes), sweating the small stuff isn’t such a bad idea.
  2. We need doctors. I, for one, have had many dealings with arrogant, self-centered, “cry me a river/claim poverty” U.S. physicians who have lost both their empathy and their perspective but…there are many, many physicians who are saving lives, every single damn day. I don’t give a shit about a single doctor who is interested in making some 50 year-old rich, entitled socialite look 30, but for every single doctor helping with cardiovascular disease, the onslaught of neurological-based diseases and children, etc. – thank you, thank you, thank you.
  3. I am a series of computer programs in dire need of software upgrades. I have written before about the scripts we carry around with us and the self-talk that we do and impacts us, either for better or for worse. As I took a shower in my childhood home, it occurred to me after cleaning it out, that there are tons of rituals I do that have been embedded in me for decades that are in need of a little mindfulness. Let me explain briefly. Since I can remember, the last person who took a shower had to clean out the tub and walls. I have always followed the same pattern: faucet, shelf, top half sides, bottom half sides, little stool, left glass door, right glass door and the shower bottom – in that order – since I ever even had a reason to take long showers (which is code for “a long time ago”).  I did it again this morning (the cleaning, not the long shower) and realized that I have tons of these rituals – some physical, some mental, that I never change. How I react after taking a shower in my parents’ house is one thing but what about how I react after being dismissed in a social situation? My thoughts follow a similar pattern every time – and it’s not good.
  4. Friendship is the #1 most vital component to a sustainable marriage. My mother can give my father a hard time. My father can selectively hear and not hear what my mother has to say. But they are friends, tried and true. It was never more apparent than during our visit this weekend. They respect and love each other in a way that transcends (or is exclusive of) romantic love and at least, in older age, seems to be the vital ingredient to a meaningful marriage (or partnership).
  5. I am so thankful for my kids. We were in the hospital for 6 hours and they never complained once. Mind you – they are on the verge of being 15 and 13. 6 hours with their dad and grandparents – in a hospital – on a Saturday – can seem like an eternity. And they were great. There were cell phones and untied shoes but there was also a tremendous respect and love. I am a lucky dude.
  6. Trump, ISIS, my job situation, Kardashians, cat videos, who got a promotion, who is headlining – they will all go away. Every single second focused on the irrelevant and stupid is a second wasted on the relevant and important. Every damned, single second.

My mother has a ways to go in her recovery. The good news is that her cardiac vitals are very good and if she can take the long-term view, I really think everything will be for the better. It is hard to see your parents age, for both the knowledge of what no one wants to talk about and the acknowledgement of one’s own aging and mortality. But it makes one so thankful for the days that do exist where we have to bite our tongue, sweat the small stuff and think about opening our own hearts a little more, which is a lot tougher sometimes than a 6 hour operation.

Until next time,

Marc





Memorial Day Perspective

26 05 2015

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It’s so easy to get wrapped up in our daily drama and at our best, to realize that “suffering” is a natural part of growth.

Then comes along Memorial Day. I don’t even know the meaning of the word “suffer”. Here is a day devoted to those men and women who literally lost their lives to defend for our freedoms. Who can possibly compare with that type of loss?

To be honest, I spent the day yesterday like many Americans – enjoying the gorgeous weather (at least in my part of the country), going to a picnic and spending time with my kids. Not once did the subject of service, gratitude or sacrifice come up. I thought about it  and reminding my kids for the umpteenth time but I also knew that another one of my sermons would just fall on already deaf ears. Poor excuse, I understand.

Memorial Day is a strong reminder of the perspective that exists all around us but we sometimes neglect to truly see. Maybe it’s me, but how many times have you been frustrated by something (let’s say a nagging kid for hypothetical purposes), when you see a handicapped person who is just minding his own business and getting on with the day or someone else with a physical or mental challenge? I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me, it sends any ounce of self pity that I have surging through my body. All of a sudden, I’m like “who wants ice cream?”

Why is that? It’s because we forget how precious life really is at any given moment. Life can change in the blink of an eye and we all know that we live on the precipice of what was and what may be at any given moment. We can’t live our lives like that – it would be too daunting and too difficult. However, we can filter our experiences through the eyes of perspective – a respect and appreciation for all we have and all we have yet to achieve when there are so many with so much less.

I remember traveling around Mumbai with someone who was living there. It was hard for me to be taken around by a chauffeur in a nice town car while inches away from our car were little children living in squalor right outside our windows. This person said to me, “well, at least we don’t hide our poor” insinuating that in America, we relegate our poor to other neighborhoods where those wealthier than them don’t have to be reminded of the poverty that exists. I am not sure I agree with this black and white assessment but the point is taken. It’s about perspective.

So, here’s the thing. I’m probably not going to stop complaining. It’s one of my strengths – not to mention a good source of comedy. But I do promise to maintain a healthy daily doses of gratitude and perspective and see if there is a way of embedding that into my offspring without sounding like Mike Brady from the Brady Bunch. I’ve been told he is annoying in a preachy sort of way. Who knew? I sort of thought he was just a closet stoner.

Until next time,
Marc





Attachments

17 05 2015

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My wife left me and my house almost a year ago.

When people left my life in the past, I used to internalize it to the point where I had convinced myself it was because of me and solely because of me. I remember in college, my roommate sophomore year wanted to room with someone else and my first reaction was how it was going to look – me having a room all to myself in the dorm. (Little did I realize how much I would grow to cherish alone time, but hey, I was 18.)

It is embarrassing to admit that someone chose to leave you – whether it is a friend, employer or in my case, my wife. She got to leave our house and literally start over – to the extent someone can – new house, new furniture, new location – not a single immediate reminder of our lives together. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked was a reminder of the life that used to be – from our bedroom furniture, through the pictures on the wall to the spot certain foods were selected to sit in our refrigerator.

Things are far from finalized and in the meantime, I had promised my kids to stay in the house. I would love to sell this one, all the furniture, wall hangings etc and just “start” over but between living in flux right now, saving for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, a summer vacation and ridiculous legal fees, that is not going to happen.

More importantly, I felt (and heard from my kids) that staying put was one less change that they would have to deal with and I know inherently that they are comfortable here. That being said, it has been a struggle for me personally to feel like I can make it my own in some way. Besides removing some cheap artwork from the walls and reorganizing some closet and drawer space, the place looks largely as it has in the past. While eager to eventually make it feel like my own, I realize that my attachment to the “things” that occupy space is largely in my head. I can choose my thoughts which inform these attachments.

Let me explain. For almost a year, I sat at the same seat at the kitchen table – 4 neatly placed placemats for the 3 of us to eat our dinner with – the 4th as a noticeable absence, yet interestingly enough, a sense of ease for my kids that it is still at the end of the table where it always was.

Today, I decided to sit in that spot to do my writing and my work. It doesn’t have to be “her” seat or anyone’s seat. In fact, when we have friends or family over, which is quite often, we end up sitting in different seats than our own anyway. In addition, as I look out the window, it has given me a different view than the one I am used to.

Our attachments to things are largely about the memories and perspectives that we bring to them. While our memories are embedded, we can bring new perspective to these things and that is a good thing.  You may have heard the familiar mantra of “change your attitude, change your life”, which, for me at least, is much easier said than done. Perhaps, attaching a new perspective to a familiar object is the first step.

What attachment do you have that may be holding you back?

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or email me at marckaye91@gmail.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @MarcKaye1.  Please pass this along and subscribe!








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