My Eyes Are Up Here (Thank you very much)

2 01 2017

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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

 





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





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

 





Nov 9 2016- We Must Choose Love

9 11 2016

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I don’t want this to sound all melodramatic but I had a terrible night’s sleep. I woke up with a profound sense of loss and despair.

I am committed to meditating in the morning before my day gets started whenever I can and did so again this morning. It was hard. As many times as I tried to return to my breath and the present moment, my mind had other plans.

Meditation practice teaches us to acknowledge what we are feeling by simply naming it without judgment. I was sad. Really sad – to a point that seemed disproportionate to what I was sad about. After all, we still live in a democracy. We still live in a nation of freedom and great opportunity.

But I am sad for my children, my nation and my world because I think this election has revealed a deeper truth in which in the midst of unrest, unease and, in many cases, pure hate, it is easier and more acceptable to choose fear over hope.

And so I continued to meditate and come back to the breath – over and over again. Man, this was the worst meditation session ever. Until it came to me – this is not for us to suffer with. This is not for us to attach to our own fears, our own unease or our own hatred.

We must choose love.

Our nation is merely a reflection of the nation within ourselves for each of us has the hope and the fear, the love and the hate, the joy and the sorrow all woven together.

We must choose love.

There is no other option. We cannot look to others, leaders or otherwise, to choose for us.

We must choose love.

But we have to dig in – and dig deep.

We have to show up – fully present and more than we have ever done before.

We have to be uncomfortable and extend ourselves beyond our own borders of insecurity.

We have to make our beds, clean our dishes, groom our lawns and mend our own hearts in the process.

We have to forget about our homes, our 401Ks, our failed relationships, our jobs and our regrets.

Most of us will not be here within a mere century – a simple blink in time. What we leave can only be left out of love otherwise we won’t have anything of real value that anyone will want.

There is no other option.

We must choose love and we have to do it starting now.

 





Someone Died Unexpectedly Today

25 10 2016

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It’s true. It happens every day, numerous times every day. I hope it wasn’t anyone you knew though one day in your life, it probably will be. This is the tug of impermanence – the truth that all we have is this moment.

My dad used to say that the only guarantees in life were death and taxes, (and quoting Ben Franklin, apparently). I’m not going to comment on the taxes part but let’s just say – “message received”.

I have been very stressed lately about a house that will just not sell. It is in great shape and at a great price and it won’t sell. In addition, I am (laughably) being sued for it not selling by a certain former love as if it were my fault. The weight that these two situations places on me is heavy at times and waking up from this is not as easy as it may sound either.

So it is upon committing to a practice of meditation and simply being mindful of the moment and the feelings that present themselves while doing so without judgment that this heaviness starts to dissipate, for not only good things are impermanent.

It is in this practice that the clarity of time, or lack thereof, re-emerges. There is no enlightenment. There is no nirvana. There is simply presence of the moment and a call to take that with me one more moment today than I did yesterday.

I am grateful for this moment and the call to slowly lead the background to the foreground – the daughter singing, the son face timing his friend, the smell of the leaves when I open the door and the vibrating pulse reminding me that we are all energy and spirit if we take a pause to recognize it.

The unexpected condition we know as life is actually quite expected. It may only be that by walking toward it with clear presence that we can truly be free.

Until next time,

Marc

 





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








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