I’m back (and squishier than before)

24 09 2016
sleeping-woman

Teen car- sleeping was not as blissful as this but this rendition will have to do.

I haven’t written in a while.

I think about it every single day – and more than once.

There are a few reasons why this is so but none of them really matter. The best way I can describe the hiatus is similar to describing that closet or drawer that has been on your To Do list to “get to one of these days” that is so cluttered that you don’t know where to start. Moreover, it’s not just cluttered with junk – you know, all those annoying gift bag, crappy toys your kids come home with from every birthday party or even all those extra samples that come in the mail. Nope, this is a drawer or closet (or in my case, what feels like a compound) full of things that all hold such profound and deep emotions that to start to write about them is way too hard. It is much easier to peruse Facebook or Twitter and make snide, humorous comments until the bottle of wine is empty, the kids are in bed and you convince yourself that you were just “too swamped” to get to what you really want to do – write. (Hypothetically speaking, of course.)

(Deep sigh.) There, that feels better.

Not really.

Can I offer anyone a glass of a fine $9 2015 Tempranillo? Anyone? Just me?

So, today, on my car ride back from hiking with the kids and some family friends, I committed myself to writing – wherever it may go. I have a ton of topics – everything from Buddhism to relationships to finally running with no shirt on. (I know – whoa! Shit getting real, now.)

I think I’ll just start with today because as I am learning – painfully – today is really all that we ever have. Period.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and after leaving the mountain for a 90 minute drive back home with the kids, I finally felt a certain sense of peace that was literally the complete opposite of what I have been feeling for a while, despite a seriously increased commitment to meditation.

I looked over at my daughter in the passenger seat, earbuds in, head achingly dangling forward as to not even be able to envision an actual attached neck and completely passed out with the sun dancing on her lashes just like the day she was born. My son, taller than me now (not a hard objective, actually), was in the fetal position taking over the back seat in a sound slumber himself.

Both teenagers now, observing them asleep is the closest I can still come to some sort of God. I waited for it for a long time when I was younger. It came. And now, I am a witness to its slow passage. On the radio – “New Slang” by the Shins was playing. “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find. Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?”

There I was – just me and my kids. I would have done anything to stay in that car with them on a sunny highway forever. I just started crying. I couldn’t help it. I’ve been crying a lot lately. For passages. For hope. For anything that helps open up blockages that keep the spirit from flowing. It sucks.

It’s hard for me to love because it really starts with oneself. This is both a fact and a confession – both embarrassing and true at once. For me, my kids are the only way I can tap into that love because I am really nothing more than a witness so it is completely pure. From their birth, the fact that their souls journeyed to me somehow is overwhelming. I have always said that they chose me somehow. It’s hard to explain but it was in their gaze toward me the moment they were born. There was a knowing there that was overwhelming, intimidating, and definitive, all at once. I can picture it clearly to this very moment.

This is not an endorsement for having children or for a belief in reincarnation. It is simply an acknowledgement that within each of us lies the ability to be cracked open a bit more regardless of whether we may consciously or unconsciously be willing to be an active participant. It is scary, sometimes immobilizing and absolutely necessary.

Luckily, I had Waze on to direct me on my way back and before I welled up too much, thereby restricting my vision, I heard a voice that alerted me: “Car stopped on shoulder”. I’m guessing that driver was having a moment, too.

Or that’s at least what I told myself.

Until next time (and yes, there will be a next time),

Marc

 

 

 

 

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Naked & Afraid

12 04 2016

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I should only look so good in my state of nakedness and fear.

There is nothing more vulnerable than putting “it” out there in the world. And by “it”, I am talking about that thing that you have been keeping to yourself and have finally given up on trying to hide from the universe for whatever reason.

Maybe you can’t live with yourself refraining from telling that person how you really feel. Maybe it’s been 3 years of working on the same damn manuscript and you can’t bear to look at it one single, solitary second longer. Perhaps you’ve practiced that solo over and over again, or that pitch you have wanted to try out but were afraid would fail miserably in front of the coach or the audience.

For whatever reason, you have decided the price of living in fear is far worse than the price of any potential embarrassment and you have put “It” out there.

This is what I refer to as my “naked and afraid” moment, or moments. It starts when you’re in junior high school and your chubby, pimply and less-than-macho self cannot resist from asking out that girl to the dance even though every guy likes her. Sure, the advanced math part of you knows the odds but damn those hormones. It just grows and gets worse and worse from there.

For us creative, angst-ridden types, it can be pure torture. Though, as I write and talk to more people, I am convinced that it is in all of us. Many of us are just better at maintaining clearer lines between our inner and outer voices.

I have given presentations on such exciting topics as market share growth and competitive market analyses in front of people who could single handedly decide my career trajectory and have felt way less vulnerability than sending a 100 page script I wrote to a few friends “in the biz” to get their feedback.

Why? Simple. It matters to me. It matters a lot; more than it should. I don’t envy those poor souls who received it and consider their friendship with me too good to actually provide me with the truth, though that is what I need the most.

Here is what I say to them and to you, should you ever be on the receiving end of one of those “can you let me know what you think” requests – be honest. Apologize in advance for the criticism if you have to. Be kind but be honest. As much as it may kill us (slowly) to realize that our biggest fears may be true – that we suck, it’s a bad script, she’s not into you, etc. etc. etc. – it’s only going to be worst later on.

I finished my first full-length screenplay in April of 2015. I sat on it until early this year to even start to make any revisions. After the 5th or 6th time, I just had to let it go into the universe. It was doing no good, just sitting there on my computer any longer. I know it’s not perfect. Hell, it may not even be good. Even worst, it might be the hokiest, cliché, boring piece of shit that anyone has ever read. I’m not totally sure yet because I haven’t received any feedback from those I sent it to (hint, hint).

In seriousness though, I want them and you future reviewers out there to know that it’s ok. You can start of your feedback email with something like “I commend you on working toward your dream” or “I am so happy your day job seems to be working out for you.” We get it. In the meantime, some constructive feedback might actually turn that stinker into something of real value one day. You know the story – piece of crap athlete turns it around after reading coach makes link between learning style and his pitching. Something like that anyway.

Here’s some things for you hesitant “friend/reviewers” to keep in mind:

  1. We had to do it. We had to write, sing, draw, ask her out, and try to build that deck on our own. We just couldn’t NOT do it. It wasn’t in our blood.
  2. We know that we are all amateurs in this game and yes, we really, really, really want to do something great with “it” but chances are slim and we aren’t go to die from rejection or the truth. (I don’t think.)
  3. We feel bad for asking you. We spent hours – ok, months, with a draft email in our Draft Email box waiting to go out to you asking for this one favor. I made a bid on an entire house that I am not 100% sure I am eligible to buy in a ridiculously less amount of time than it took me to craft that email, by the way.
  4. We understand you are not an expert. We get that these are opinions. But for whatever reason, we need to hear what you think. In my case, I need to hear from people who write, who may have a female point of view (for the protagonist in this one particular script) or have a cultural knowledge that is woven through my script. Or maybe, I just need a friend to read it and say “wow – that was not what I expected.” I am not sure.
  5. If reviewing something is a burden or you just flat don’t want to, just be a mensch and say so. It’s totally fine. I Facebook messaged a comedian I know (peripherally) whose writing I admire. This dude has been on Comedy Central, Inside Amy Schumer etc. etc. – you get the picture. I was on a few shows with him (as I reminded him in my message) and am sure he has no clue who I am. I asked him if he would consider reading my script, fully expecting that he wouldn’t want to or be able to. Sure enough, I was right. But he messaged me back the same day, told me he was super busy and was totally cool about the whole thing. I hated asking him. Hated with a capital “H”. I did it though because how the hell does anyone accomplish anything without the help of others (besides Donald Trump, that is)? I am much more grateful that this guy just said no politely than tried to pacify me. That would only lead to him having to blow me off in the future or refer to me as “some dude who I told I’d review his thing” which is never good.

So, here is my lesson for anyone who is naked and afraid. Go with it. We are all naked and afraid. That Rico Suave looking dude with the French cut fit shirt, George Hamilton smile, perfect hair and huge 401K account? Yup. He’s way naked and afraid. Of what you might ask? Exactly! That’s how naked and afraid he really is. He’s still wearing his costume.

Go out there and show your cajones (figuratively, please) and your vulnerability (that one you can try literally) and it will feel nauseating, anxiety provoking and even a little liberating.

Until next time,

Marc





Daylight Savings, Raking Leaves & Beginning with the End

1 11 2015

It's a fine line between death and birth

It’s a fine line between death and birth

I’m not a huge fan of the period between Thanksgiving and the onset of Spring. I can tolerate the cold, though I tend to wish for warmer weather. It’s the darkness that I have a hard time with.

I don’t know whether or not I have SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) or not. It doesn’t matter if I do and I want to be careful to not self diagnose when there are people who really do suffer either seasonally or otherwise. All I do know is that when the sun starts to set early, I can’t stop yawning – a lot. The urge to nap, slow down and eat carbohydrates is pretty intense – or at least more intense than normal as those are all three things I enjoy doing, anyway. I take Vitamin D and I try to keep up with exercise, regardless, but as the days shorten, so does my motivation. (Daily intake of left over Halloween candy doesn’t exactly help, either.)

It’s not a coincidence, then, that on this first day of Daylight Savings Time when, yes, we gain an hour, but we also start to transition to much shorter days, I made myself sign up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). This is, essentially, a 30 day challenge to write a a 50,000 word novel – approximately 1,700 words a day. I am not sure if I am going to succeed or not, nor if I do, if what I end up with will be worth anything. But I do know that without some sort of goal, the potential for getting to November 30th with little more than another month’s worth of “to do” lists is pretty good.

After grabbing a late breakfast with my son at a diner this morning, we raked leaves for a little under two hours in the front yard. He is an endless source of comedy material but more than that, an endless source of pride. Truthfully, the way this kid is maturing is an experience to behold – his approach to school, his aptitude for helping friends, his hilarious sense of humor and more importantly, his resilience. I am part father and part witness to an emerging adult.

We raked in silence, side by side, with the occasional verbal interruption. He could not tell the feelings of longing and loss that were welling up within me – both grateful for the opportunity to be there in the moment and, at the same time, dealing with a profound sense of sadness, melancholy and frustration at my current situation. If we were laying poolside in 85 degree weather at a resort, I may have the same experience but it would come and go. Something about the fall shadows cast on the lawn as we raked in an autumn chill, the smells of decaying leaves and the distant rustle of wind, leaves and branches set a scene for things coming to an end. It’s all too easy for me to internalize my surroundings. This, in some form or fashion, has been my achilles heal my entire life.

I really struggled with a sense of hopelessness. I am not sure exactly why. Intellectually, I knew that it was both not as dire as it felt nor chronic in nature. Still, the feelings were profound. When I get this way, I try to get to the root and ask “what is going on and what am I afraid of?” I concluded that it’s all about endings. This year is going to come to an end and one way or another, I will have to forge through a new beginning of sorts. Anyone who knows me understands that I am trying to get there – divorce, house, job – there are a lot of endings on the horizons and new beginnings to be had.

Though a story of fiction, I am hoping that the novel I am writing, “On the Side”, will help me get there. I need to get things out of my head and onto paper in one way or another – either through prose, song or comedy. I don’t have much of a choice at this point. Maybe NaNoWriMo is good for me. Maybe it isn’t. I do know that it is better to have something to shoot for than not. I need to apply this to all facets of my life, in reality.

I have no delusions of grandeur. There is no Pulitzer prize, Grammy or Comedy Central special awaiting me. I would be happy to get some extra comedy bookings and record a song or two, if that, not to mention, some sort of job security (let’s not forget about that).

I also know that I cannot simply “walk with my feelings” alone. It helps to acknowledge them. It helps to understand that they are with me, regardless of wish, desire or circumstance. That’s not enough for me, though. I need to have them materialize somehow for no one other than me the same way that a maple tree must shed it’s leaves in November. There simply is no choice. 

A setting sun, a browning landscape and an emerging winter must still be expressed, regardless of whether it is welcome or not.

Until next time,

Marc





SNL – Dicks-appointing…Discuss.

11 03 2015

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I was watching SNL this weekend. With the exception of Kate McKinnon who gets into so many different characters hilariously, I think there were more “dicks per minute” in terms of jokes than are probably needed for a program that is supposed to be surviving for 4 decades. I mean even during Weekend report there was 8th grade humor being woven in.

Needless to say, I found this a little disappointing. I know I can write better than that show currently has and it is so frustrating. For me and thousands of others, I am sure. A lot of comics and people just write SNL off but I feel that at some level, it would be great to get to Lorne Michaels and really challenge a lot of the crap that is on there.

I don’t know where I am going with this post other than frustration that again, it’s who you know, not what you know.

Until next time,

Marc





The Virtue of a Made Bed

12 02 2015

Textured-wall-tiles-draw-your-attention-instantly

Until recently, I rarely ever made my bed. It wasn’t for the reasons you may imagine: “what’s the point, it’s just going to get unmade at the end of the day?.”

It was pretty simple, actually. There were a ton of blankets and pillows and it took a long, long time. And I was the only one who would make it. That, and I, too, admittedly, didn’t really see the point. My wife had 3 or 4 blankets, an assortment of pillows and lots of other stuff. That is typical, I realize but it was a lot to get through.

Then my wife filed for divorce and everything came to a grinding halt. I mean – serious halt – like the one where everything goes into slow motion and you can actually hear screeching sounds from thousands of miles away. What little control I ever thought I had quickly was removed and through these almost 2 years of, let’s call it ‘hell’, just for lack of a name at this point, it became clear that I needed to surround myself with people and things that were positive more than ever.

Don’t worry, I’m not about to get all “self help” on you. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with myself let alone you. So, here’s the point. I write – all the time. I read a lot, too. I do both of these activities for work, comedy writing, scripts – you get the picture and I found myself sitting at my desk completely cluttered. Millions of thoughts floated simultaneously and a list of items to do and the order in which to do them (categories, actions, timelines, sub actions) would not help my cause.

Then it occurred to me – I need a decluttered environment to declutter my mind. There has been plenty written about this but I chose to ignore it, pretty much like everything else. It is true. I make my bed and organized my desk almost every morning (after the kids go to school because before – what’s the point, right?). It makes a difference. This is sort of my physical meditation. Clear mind, clear room and I can think. It works.

I have been thinking about why and I can only tell you why it works for me.

I am not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination. (There are a few things, though, that if I could get my kids to agree to, would inspire me to write poetry: answering the phone, closing a drawer, putting a glass in the sink and pushing down the garbage. Four things. That’s it. Not too much to ask, right?)

Though I’m not OCD, I realized that the more clutter around me, the more a subtle (or maybe not-so subtle) reminder of how out of control things seem in my life. When I am working in a decluttered zone, I visually see calm and that sets my  mind in the right state to focus on other things like writing. That’s it – all I have to offer.

I will say this. I feel so good about my comedy right now. Not “wow – I’m going to make it” good but “yeah, ok, I can do this” good. There are two things that have changed: 1) I have been very honest about my personal situation in a funny way (or I hope a funny way) without worrying if people think it is appropriate or not, and  2) I have been more focused in my writing. For that, I have to thank the simplicity of a fitted sheet, a top sheet, two pillows and a barely fitting blanket. My bed looks like a bare bones lasagna but it is orderly and now, so are my thoughts.

Try it.

Until next time,

Marc





Fight Your Way Through

26 01 2015

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A couple of days ago, I posted on Facebook that I found the next topic I was going to write about on this blog and here it is. In basically a minute and a half, Ira Glass, host of This American Life, had a lot to say about creative pursuits, patience and fortitude.

Basically, he explains that in beginning any creative endeavor, the fact that your first results are less than what you had hoped for does not take away from the fact that you still have good taste. The fact that you are aware of what you are trying to achieve but have yet not done so is proof enough that with a lot of work, patience and resilience, you will eventually get to a place where your “work is as good as your ambitions.” He ends by summarizing that “it takes a while…and you just have to fight your way through that.”

I made a spreadsheet at the end of last year of all the projects that I can potentially be involved with this year, that I know of. There is no way that I will be able to devote my time to all of them, but I prioritized according to those that I have more control over and I feel will help showcase my writing. When Ira Glass stalks about getting to a place where your taste matches your ambitions, he is talking about creating a “lot of work” – volumes of work so that you can hone in on your craft.

Interestingly, I happened to have a conversation similar to this theme with a very good friend and full time comedian just this week. I was explaining to him that my intention is to keep writing, writing, writing and not overthinking it. It might take years, and if it happens at all, most likely will take many, many years, but eventually something will stick. Something will lead to being able to look back at this time and realize that it was not a worthless pursuit. It may very well be that that something is not monetary in value nor recognition. It may be something as having a volume of work that my great grandchildren will look at decades from now the way we try to reconnect our ancestry to ask ourselves who we are and where we came from.

The point is, for me anyway, write articles, blogs, skits, scripts, do stand-up, blog, practice improv, participate and say “yes” more than you say “no” because if you have good taste, you owe it to yourself to quiet the restless voices that keep you awake and open yourself to where life might take you.

It’s a lesson for artists and “non-artists” alike.

You can watch and listen to the short explanation by Ira Glass here: http://omeleto.com/188186

Until next time,

Marc








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