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





Support Vs. Tolerance

27 10 2015
This is a ribbon, not support.

This is a just a ribbon.

This is not going to be a “feel good” blog but I hope it at least provokes some thought.

I was in a bad mood today. I don’t know why. I’m in a bad mood now, too.

I’m trying to calm my nerves with a glass of wine, which probably isn’t helping.

I was ok until my son came home from school and needed his laptop for homework which was at his mother’s house, all of 2 miles away. I was working and she refused to drop it off. This is another “standing my ground” thing of hers lately and while I have tried to let this stuff pass, it got to me today. Maybe it was my cold. Maybe it was my thinking about job loss. Whatever it was, it got to me badly.

We both work from home some days during the week and we both live close to each other. It is impossible to not put the kids in the middle when these types of things happen, regardless of how hard either of us might work at it. Or at least that’s the case for me. I have tried to not make this my kids’ issue because it is not their fault at all that they even have to think of crap like this – navigating hauling their stuff between places depending on where they are staying. This is not the time to teach responsibility to a kid and if we have to haul them and their stuff back and forth, then, at least in my opinion, we have to grow up, be adults and do it for them. They never asked for this. It was hard for me to hold my frustration about this in, too, and that certainly didn’t help matters with my kids.

Truth be told, the amount of time I spent stewing over whether or not to get in the car with my son and make the 5 minute trek for him to get his stuff, was far beyond the actual time it took to just get it over with. There is no co-parenting with my ex other than her managerial disposition toward me as “permitted” through email. This is not co-parenting and where this is a lack of co-parenting or co-anything, there is a lack of support, in this case – for my kids. (And the frustration grows.)

Several times I have tried to explain, directly or indirectly, that we both have to compromise and make decisions, many of which are uncomfortable, for the sake of the kids. We have to be their main support system, or should be, anyway. I realized today, in my maddening state of frustration, that some people are simply not capable of playing a supportive role. My ex never was. She was always tolerating things. To be honest, I think it was the best she could do. We all have deficits of some sort coming into relationships, some greater than others. Hers was coming from a family that was not supportive of each other. Mine was coming from a family that were not amongst the greatest of communicators. It’s not a blame thing. It’s just the way it is.

Today really stuck with me and before I knew it, I made this about me – hard to admit, but it’s the truth. I grieved for the fact that I never had a partner who really supported me. To support someone is to show true love. I know as a parent that I support things that my kids want to do because I love them and respect them. I want them to do the best they can in what they are passionate about.

I have had a good run so far but if I am going to be totally honest, I never had anyone really close to me that asked me “Marc, what do you want out of life?” I think they already knew that the answer was not in their comfort zone and was too scary for them to consider. I have met so many people who took risks and forged their own path early on and I lived in a well of fear so deep, listening to others rather than myself. I never learned to support myself rather than looking for someone to support me.

This was evident in my childhood, my formative years and I carried it into my marriage, also. Some say that comedy led to my divorce. I think it saved me. It was perhaps my first real step to supporting myself.

When I did so, though, I was naive. I thought my wife would be proud of a husband that was trying something new. I never compromised my role as husband or father. But there was no support, only tolerance. I remember, in an argument, her claiming that she supported my comedy by “letting” me do it, (go to a show, etc). If you “let” someone do something, you are tolerating them. If you help them get there (physically, morally or otherwise), you are supporting them.

This is something that I am trying to get better at myself, with my kids, with other people and more importantly, myself.

If you really support the troops, it’s more than a yellow, magnetic ribbon on your trunk. If you really support something, it’s got to be more than words or a symbolic token of your support. Are you really being supportive of those you love, including yourself? Or, maybe, are you just being tolerant.

Until next time,

Marc

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While We’re Young

26 10 2015
Here I go again with hokey metaphors.

Here I go again with hokey metaphors.

I have been battling a cold all weekend. It was officially a cold on Friday in between two amazing comedy shows at Butch Bradley’s Comedy Hideaway in Atlantic City, NJ that I got to perform in which will go down as one of the most memorable days thus far in my comedy career. Not only were the shows and the comics so much fun, but also, I even got to hang with two of the finalists & the winner from Last Comic Standing (Dominique, Ian Bagg and Clayton English) who were so great. I watched every episode and to just talk to them like comics do, was fantastic. This cold was was totally worth it!

However, by this afternoon, after sitting through both my son’s baseball game and my daughter’s play, I was ready to just sit down and watch a movie, a feel-good, comedy. So, I rented “While We’re Young” with Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts. They play a 40’s something, married couple who befriend a couple in their 20s and bring up issues of time lost, regaining youthful moments, dealing with aging and accepting harsh realities.

I enjoyed it but it did not leave me with the “ease of mind” feeling I was hoping for, especially in the midst of just trying to forget about this cold. I think it was the character that Ben Stiller played. I have never met Stiller but there is something about him and the way he portrays his vulnerabilities in movies that makes me very uncomfortable – mainly because I feel like I am watching myself.

His portrayal brought up an insecurity that I have about myself and my age. I don’t feel any differently in my 40s than I did in my 20s. I feel a little bit wiser, calmer, more reflective and in some cases, more anxious to do and see things, but not different with respect to my level of restlessness or discovery. I think discovery is crucial and keeps people feeling young. 

Comedy, more than any other part of my life, has afforded me to forge some great friendships with people regardless of age, many of whom are definitely younger than myself. I never feel an age gap (nor do I with friends who are older) other than the occasional references to 70s or 80s shows or things that are more generational in nature. 

My insecurities about aging are mine. They are not thrust upon me by anyone other than myself. After the movie, I sat and really tried to understand what I was feeling and where it was coming from. The first thought that came to mind was that I didn’t want anyone to think of me as one of those people who were “trying to be or act young”. That’s not me and I am not even sure what that means anymore. I do know that part of the reason I am attracted to more urban environments is because the more traditional lines of age, class – almost anything, are blurred much more and I feel more comfortable and less judgmental about myself.

In the movie, like many, what seems as one thing really turns out to not be that way and stereotypes and assumptions get challenged. There’s a line in there by the young female character played by Amanda Seyfried. In referring to conversation she had with her young husband, she comments that would often wonder how they were going to get old and it turns out – just like everyone else.

To me, that was the key takeaway. The process of aging is so much more than a physical one. If that’s all it is than we have truly wasted this amazing opportunity to learn, evolve, regenerate and learn again. It’s pretty amazing. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Dominique, one of the Last Comic Standing finalists, just this weekend. I was talking to her about how hard it is for me to do comedy in some of the rooms that are just hip 25-30 year olds. She said to keep doing my thing and gave me some great advice. Basically, she told me why it’s great to be doing comedy at my age and that, really, it doesn’t matter. I have to keep doing it. She was right.

I guess I have to start to think of myself like a tree. My trunk ages every year – that’s the physical core of who I am. At the same time, though, I grow new branches and leaves so I get the benefit of a more developed core – nutrients, stability and security while also creating new growth.

It sounds hokey – blame it on the cold. But that’s what I’m going with.

Until next time,

Marc

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In this corner, Anxiety. In this corner, Fear.

29 08 2015

Man, this fight sucks.

Man, this fight sucks.

I have written about fear enough times in this blog in the past but when something occurs that reminds me of how powerful this really is, I feel compelled to write about it again.

Just to reiterate what I may have alluded to in the past, I am not speaking of fear associated with flight or fight – the fear of walking down a dark alley in the city at 2 am or being diagnosed with something horrible. I am talking about the fears that we wear as a coat ourselves – either real or imagined – that become part of us without even knowing it and ultimately mold us into who we think we need to be rather than who we are.

I have to admit, that even after seeing that scientific pinnacle of the psychological community “Inside Out” with my kids, I wasn’t sure if fear was truly an emotion. According to Wikipedia (which is not scientific but I trust more than, say, Donald Trump), fear “occurs as the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable” and is related to but “should be distinguished from” the emotion of anxiety.

I also realized that I took for granted that I thought I understood exactly what an emotion was. It is defined as:”an affective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, fear, hate, or the like, is experienced.”

This is starting to gel now. If my effective state of consciousness is an anxious one, then the resulting experience is fear. If, on the opposite side of the spectrum, my effective state of consciousness is one of contentment, joy is the resulting experience. Makes sense. (Interesting to me how, out of all the experiences referenced in the definition, 75% of them are not so great – necessary but not necessarily great to feel. Had to be written by a Jew – just saying. It’s how we’re wired.)

For many reasons, I had socialized myself to live in a state of anxiety about comedy or anything creative for that matter. I had always done music and that seemed more acceptable but admitting to stand-up always gave me an uncomfortable sqeamish feeling that was hard to ignore. 

Today, my kids and I met long time friends (past neighbors of ours) for brunch and it was just terrific. They have known my family before my kids were even born and I had lost touch with them as I did with many others during this weird 2 year hiatus when I was just trying to get through without anyone knowing what the hell was going on.

In any event, toward the end of our breakfast, they asked me if I was still doing comedy and after replying that I am basically squeezing it whenever I can as long as it doesn’t disrupt the kids etc. – they said something to the affect of “but you’re not giving it up” – almost like holding me to not quitting. It was subtle. Perhaps I read into it. But it was sort of what I needed.

Here’s why. I lived with real and perceived threats around this comedy thing for so long that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy and I became more anxious leading to more fear. It was a cycle of craziness. I had real threats – it was a threat to my marriage in some ways because I just never was able to articulate why it was important and not some sort of low class “hanging out” proposition. It was a perceived threat because I was too worried about what people would think – friends, family, work colleagues. Hell, even to this day, most of my work colleagues don’t have any idea though I am not deliberately hiding it but I’m not going out of my way to advertise it either.

Fear. It can really be crippling.

The one great thing about divorce is that eventually, you can’t hide from it no matter how much you try. Someone has moved out. Someone doesn’t show up to a family function. Some one leaves a ton of crap on your front lawn. It gets noticeable and quick. It’s a good thing. Once that happens, there’s no more anxiety. No more wondering “what if”. There is only the present, and hopefully, the future.

It’s been a great lesson for me for comedy. Some people say comedy ruins people’s lives. I have to say it has only helped mine. I know other comics probably feel the same way. Anxiety may lead to fear but action can lead to contentment. And the circle is complete. Hakuna matata.

Until next time,

Marc

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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





Leaving Your Old Life Behind

5 05 2015

image

I have been deliberately not thinking about the future lately – or at least my future. I think a lot about my kids’ futures – will divroced parents put them at a disadvantage for establishing healthy relationships themselves? Will the world they inherit be a healthy one, mentally and physically, and be empathetic to their individual struggles? Will I help guide them to find their true north and be authentic to who they are and find their passion but still be able to instill upon them the importance of practical work?

I listen to TED Talks via podcast (and recommend it if you don’t already) and heard one titled “Champions”, focused on those who have accomplished amazing feats of strength and willpower, such as Dyan Nyad the 60+ swimmer who swam for 53 hours straight from Cuba to the Florida Keys. These stories are amazing and the one that really got to me was that of Amy Purdy, the paralympic snowboarder, who went on to almost win the entire Dancing with the Stars competition. Her story was heartbreaking and inspiring – an avid snowboarder who, at the age of 19, lost both legs (among other things) to meningitis. In the interview she explains that as devastated as she was, at some point she realized that she had to leave that old Amy behind and focus on the new Amy.

I had a similar experience with a young woman from Wisconsin who, after a horrific car accident, was on life support, not being given even 24 hours to live, now living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is still living with a TBI and in her interview, she, too, said that she wished friends of old would get to know the “new her”.

I find this type of self awareness fascinating. It is not mired in pity but acceptance. This is something that I need to learn myself. When I first confessed, right before the new year, to the fact that I am going through a divorce I ended my blog post by simply stating that it is just another descriptor to who I am.

Things are not always neatly packaged. Most of my friends in my age group are married, and happily, I hope. I see a journey that mimics what I thought mine was – raising kids, fixing up the house, posting family photos of vacations and milestones on Facebook, etc, etc. That was me. That is the “old Marc.”

The new Marc is a single dad who is having new experiences with his kids, enjoying comedy and friends more than ever and struggling through this journey day by day. My struggle is one of millions and not so bad. When you’re going through a divorce, every guy you meet seems to have a wedding ring on. But, we all have our own journeys and we all have many descriptors. At some point, maybe leaving the “old you” behind is a chance to reincarnate in this life and what emerges may be a “new you” that was always there but not able to emerge in the first place. Be forewarned, though, while you accept the “new” you, it may not be as easy for those who know the “old” you.

Here’s to whichever “you” you are. Embrace it, accept it and take stock of your purpose.

Until next time,

Marc





Is Comedy a Pill or a Band-Aid?

11 01 2015

ComedyTragedy

With the exception of a few close friends, not many people I know really know the true me. I think this is probably a safe bet to say in general. That’s what makes them close friends.

However, when I decided to introduce myself to a new environment – one filled with comedians, writers and other creative types – it had a strange effect of feeling completely out of my comfort zone and, at the same time, like a fish finding it’s way back toward the sea.

Originally, the only reason I joined Facebook was in an effort to network with a creative community that I had no access to otherwise in an effort to take advantage of social media, especially as someone who was somewhat “late to the game” of comedy years ago.

Out of this community and into the “real” world, I have found some of the richest, most real relationships I could have ever hoped for. These are people who see the whole thing – warts and all – and not only accept it but understand it. This was something I had really never understood before. Acceptance is wonderful and for that, I am eternally grateful. When one has both acceptance and understanding, that is where real empathy enters the picture.

It saddened me to learn about the passing of a fellow comedian today. I say “fellow comedian” when she was clearly heads above my level and I had only worked with her a few times. I am not going to mention names nor post any of the photos I have with her out of respect for the seriousness and sadness of this. And while I do not know the circumstances nor the cause, based on a few comments I read on Facebook, I would not be surprised if it had to do with depression, bringing back the recent passing of the comedic powerhouse, Robin Williams.

I really contemplated whether or not to even blog about this, mainly for the reason that while many “accept” the fact that many comedians march to the beat of a different drummer, I was fearful that this would exacerbate the cliche that comedians are all “screwed up, manic depressives who can never manage through their issues.” Without defending nor supporting, this is just too simplistic to even begin to address in a blog post.

My personal opinion is that many of those in the comedy world who are just so incredibly funny, authentic and compassionate gather their creative expression from darker places, as many artists do. When I read about someone passing in a way that can have been avoided, it makes me sad to never know what is going to become of that person and vulnerable at the same time – vulnerable to the fact that we must all have a breaking point. I hope mine is beyond my grasp as I hope it is for you.

I don’t know if comedy is a pill or it’s a band-aid. Sometimes it feels like a bad hangover (either metaphorically or literally). What I do know, is that it isn’t some dumb hobby nor a call to gain attention. People express, celebrate and grieve in different ways and comedy is but one avenue. The comedian off stage, however, is no different than anyone else. Everyone needs someone who cares.

Regardless, I feel so grateful for every friend that calls, for every friend I can reach out to and most of all for acceptance and understanding. I hope I can return the favor.

Until next time,

Marc








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