Figuring it out

28 12 2018

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My son got his first college acceptance yesterday to the University of Pittsburgh. This was a well earned acceptance and he worked for every bit of it.

Of course, I am incredibly proud and grateful for all the factors that helped smooth out any bumps – some of them large ones – along the way to keep this part of his journey moving in such a positive direction.

Not to make this about me, but I haven’t fully processed yet the reality of not seeing him on a daily basis in 8 short months. It is the right thing, for sure – all those well written tomes about the unnaturalness of having a teenage son and his father living together ring true. It’s time for him to start this next chapter of his life and it’s time for me to take a small step toward the next chapter of mine.

That being said, I have been wrestling with this restless feeling since yesterday about this and haven’t quite figured it out – until this morning.

Don’t get me wrong – education is critically important. I would like to impress upon him that education is not confined (nor often even truly represented) by seeing your name on a diploma. I want him to go to college and really find the joy in learning about something that makes him think, debate and feel. I also want him to have those experiences that he will remember for a long time to come – good or bad as long as the bad ones are the type he can laugh about with friends twenty years ago and not the type that change his life forever.

At the same time, I want him to know that it’s ok to not know. It’s ok to be overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel lost or not quite as if you belong. It’s ok to question or to change your mind – again and again and again. I think we live in such a “milestone society” sometimes that we are overly focused on the “end game” and not the game itself. Those of lucky enough to go to college, often graduate with this expectation that “real life” has to start.

It’s all real. I mean – let me be honest – I’m not interested in having my 30 year old live in my basement. We need to work and struggle and figure things out. We need to act. But at the same time, it’s ok to allow ourselves to breathe a bit to figure things out. I am still figuring myself out. The truth is that some people may be figuring things out their whole life.

When we send our kids to college, it is often with the expectation that this is their time to “figure things out”. Yes – there probably is not a better time where you can do so without the added pressures that come along with balancing a job, family, loans etc. (not to say that elements of those don’t make themselves present during school, either). It’s just that it doesn’t have to be so black and white. You can have a job and figure things out at the same time. You can have a relationship and figure things out at the same time. You can raise a family and still figure things out as you go. In fact, how else does this really happen?

I would love for my son to go to college with the expectation that in four years, he will develop his ability to ask more questions rather than set the expectation that he has all the answers. I see this at work every day – and quite frankly, even outside of work – this propensity for always having an answer or opinion to something. What is wrong with saying “I don’t know – I need to think about it”? I know if we had more of that, we would have more valuable conversations and a lot less divisiveness.

So, my hope for him is that he enters college with the mind of the warrior entering the unknown and he exits it with the mind of the warrior entering the unknown – but with more passion and skills to figure it out.

Until next time,

Marc





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





Live or Die by Self Talk

2 07 2015
Don't be such an ass to yourself!

Don’t be such an ass to yourself!

Almost every single song that I have written over the past few years – and there have been many – have been about my marriage.

Oddly enough, it is some of my best stuff – deeply personal, sadly honest and, at the same time, removed. I think it is the “removed” part that concerns me the most because no matter how many times you try to convince yourself of something, the reality always shows up…sometimes moments later, sometimes decades.

It is interesting to me because I spoke to no one about my marriage – no one but myself and my piano. Even today, I find it hard to truly emote my deepest personal sadness, regrets, fears, anxieties and feelings to anyone but the closest of friends but if you pay attention to the notes and the lyrics, it’s all there…even without the lyrics, actually. It can’t hide. I am hoping to embark on recording a lot of my songs and I think it is pretty much the anthology depicting the dissolution of a marriage. (Uplifting, I know- read on!)

I have been trying to impart the importance of letting out feelings to my son who is at the tender age of 14 when he is going through so much emotionally and physically. I want him to understand, as I put in terms that I think any teenage boy could hopefully understand, “feelings are like a fart – you can only hold them in for so long and then it’s gotta come out.”

This week, I listened to my feelings and gut and spoke to a very senior level officer at my company because my gut has been telling me over the past few months that my job may not be secure. The last time I had this feeling, 13 years ago, I had confronted my boss who told me everything was fine only to be laid off 2 months later. My discussion today was honest, candid and sobering. I am hopefully optimistic that things are going to work out at my current job but realize that, just like my divorce, there are certain things that change – out of my control other than to respond in a positive and hopeful manner.

I would be lying if I didn’t feel like I am a loser at this stage of my life – downsizing my home, perhaps my job, my perspective on life, my relationships with my kids as they need me less – it could easily turn into a pity party. I live in a nice neighborhood and when you look at guys similar to me at this stage of life, it seems like they are more where you would think they should be – married, saving money, looking hopefully to the future and enjoying family. The truth is – who the hell really knows?Furthermore, what’s the point? It’s completely irrelevant.

The truth is I can look at the future as an abyss or an incredible clean slate – a chance to start again (to a certain point) but this time with a little more money in the bank and a whole lot more wisdom. The way I have processed things in the past were with bad self-talk (“way to go idiot” “I’m such a loser.”). A recent article that I read in Psychology Today was talking to the incremental, positive impact of self talk that begins with your first name – as if you were talking to a friend. The overall point is that you probably would never talk to a friend in need the way you talk to yourself (and if so, please remove me from your holiday card list).

So, I can turn it around to “Marc – you have a lot going for you and this may be an opportunity to start that business you have dreamt of.” or “Marc – look what you’re doing with comedy and music – that’s a pretty cool thing.”

Try it…what do you need to turn around in your self-talk to cut yourself some slack and take stock of how great you really are? If you give it a chance, maybe I will, too.

Until next time,
Marc








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