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





Life Between the Creases

4 05 2016

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I am selling my house and everyday is a contest of sorts to see how well I can stage it as if I just happen to own this property and there is daily maid service to keep everything neat and tidy.

With two teenagers, a full-time job and a proclivity for starting strong and then just tucking away whatever is remaining into the nearest drawer, it’s definitely not the Hilton.

Unlike most days, I decided to upend the L-shaped family room couch cushions and really “deep clean”. It’s amazing what you find between the cushions – coins, pens, wrappers, notes, missing pieces to various chargers, etc. It occurred to me that these remnants are symbols of a house well-lived in. Mine is not a museum. It is a “lived in house”, for sure.

Growing up, our modest ranch house was made even more modest by the fact that we crammed our lives, all four of us, into a small kitchen and even tinier den. The rest of the house was pretty much off limits, with the exception of the bathroom and our bedrooms for sleeping. We even were purveyors of that all-too-cliché hard plastic covering that covered the never-to-be-sat in living room furniture. To each their own and in trying to balance the demands of every day life, I can’t blame my parents or anyone for organizing and creating as they need to in order to manage.

I vowed, though, that when I had my own place, I wanted to use the fancy dishes. I wanted each room to be used. I wanted big-ass butt cheek prints to change the cushioning of my couch seating so they looked well worn, (to paint an image).

Luckily, that is the type of home we have and it can get messy. But I love what I find in that mess because that is where life is really most vivid – in between the creases. The folds of notes long forgotten, the dog-eared pages of books that had profound meaning when nothing else did, the concert t-shirt worn so many times that permanent lines outline what your shoulders used to be shaped like and yes, the wrappers and fallen M&Ms in between the couch cushions from that Friday you let both kids watch a Rated R movie though you knew they were secretly counting how many times the “F” word was said.

There’s a reason wrinkles are called laugh lines. It’s the same reason life lives within the creases. There is no smoothness attributed to those experiences that truly imprint the folds of our memory and the fragments of who we become.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 





Feelings (whoa, whoa, whoa Feelings)

4 04 2016
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“Feelings…nothing more than feelings.”

Ok – that title is definitely showing my age (again) but as my son would say, “that’s the deal, yo”.

My son had a friend over tonight and we all had dinner together – me, him and his friend and my daughter. I sat back and listened to them just talk, like normal teens do and I physically felt this tingling rush through my body. It’s the same thing that happens when my kids forget I’m in the car with them and they just are yakking away, in the moment. Or we are on a hike or canoeing – just “being”.

Every time, since they were babies, that I witness my kids just being themselves and interacting with close friends and family, it makes me so grateful to be alive at this very moment. There is nothing that could compare for me because it is pure love. That is what love really is – when you are witnessing those you would die for just being in the moment and embracing the fleeting nature of it all.

I wish I could explain this without sounding hokey or like one of those “new agey” sensitive, ponytail types. I think why it is so profound with kids – mine and those of friends and family I am close with – is that I have this humbling experience of witnessing the development of a whole person. This is something that is remarkable.

It comes during times of profound challenge, too; the group chat that throws your daughter into a tizzy, the bout of intense sadness that overcomes your son for no reason; the realization that you, as a parent, a friend, an extension of someone else, are without answers, helpless and still.

It is all a gift. Each and every second – good or bad. That is the thing that requires pause – to take it in and just be with it and feel it without definition. That is, in the beginning, and I suppose at the end, the most simple and true definition of life and of soul. When those moments arise – and they are few and far between, I am overcome with gratitude.

I am guessing it is easier to be a woman and discuss these types of things but I truly believe that feeling is not an emotion that is particularly aligned with one gender over the other. Just as women still have yet to achieve equality in pay and work opportunities, men have yet to achieve equality when it comes to acceptance in those fundamental and intense emotions that make us human.

That is of no consequence to me. I am just thankful for the good and the bad. The ability, self-acceptance and non-judgement associated with simply feeling is more than worth the struggle of feeling self conscious, embarrassed or ashamed.

A life without feeling is no life at all.

Until next time,

Marc





You’re Doing Great

26 01 2016
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Sorry in advance for smudging your screen.

I had someone who knows about all the things that are going on with me right now say, “keep going, you’re doing great” and I have to say, it took me by surprise.

I have received some empathetic quips in the past but don’t remember anyone looking at me and basically making me think that maybe, just maybe, I am doing ok. It’s sort of like the blizzard we just had here on the East Coast – there’s a lot of shit that went down but it’s not representative of anything than a moment in time. (There I go with those stupid metaphors again – first bad one of 2016 which means those with resolutions can officially break them now – you’re welcome).

The strangest part about this statement wasn’t that it was said but that it struck me so profoundly. Usually, I would just pass it off with a “thanks” or something but it really stuck with me. What if I am doing ok? What if in the midst of divorce, job uncertainty, house uncertainty, and lower back pain, I really am doing ok? Jeez, is that even a possibility?

The thing is, at this moment – on January 25, 2016, I am doing great. I am with my kids. We had some amazing time together – sledding, watching movies, celebrating school cancellations and just being. My mom is feeling great. My kids are doing great. I am walking tall, listening to music  – really listening – like I am 15 again reading the inner pocket of the album. It feels so good to just feel good.

That’s it.

Today, I am doing great.

I hope you are too. 

I really do.

Until next time, 

Marc





The Last Time

11 01 2016
PATRICIA HEATON, CHARLIE MCDERMOTT, ATTICUS SHAFFER, EDEN SHER, NEIL FLYNN

I’m looking to also downsize to a small parcel of land with just a couch.

My daughter and I were catching up on the two shows we watch together – Modern Family and The Middle, interspersed with football watching with my son and then a familial viewing of Law and Order (because nothing says bedtime on a Sunday evening like procrastinating with a good homicide).

In the episode of The Middle, the mother, Frankie, has somewhat of a meltdown when her youngest teenage son, Brick, comes back from a shopping expedition with a friend, having bought pants – all on his own. Regardless of the fact that she never enjoyed shopping with him in the first place, this incident sets off a cascade of things that she realizes she will never do with her children again. In a moment of weepitude (yes, I made up that word), she tries explaining to her husband, Mike, that if she had known of all the last times she did things with her kids, she would have paid more attention.

This is a comedy series but the point is well taken. It is so important to focus on new beginnings, big and small, but we rarely talk about the last times. I tend to think in these terms sometimes. For instance, after years and hundreds of baths with my kids, when was the last one? Was there a clear exit strategy to celebrate the movement from bath to shower? Had I known, should there have been? Or when was the last time that I really lay with my kids in bed? I used to do this all the time, for anywhere between 10 to 20 minutes at a pop. Truth is, I could probably still sneak it in every now and then rather than pray that I can even stay up as late as they do half the time at this point.

Today is the youngest you will ever be. You have probably heard that before. This is just a nicer way of saying “this is the last time you are going to be this age, have this day, live this moment, be in this present.” It’s true. There are slew of last times waiting for us, some knowingly and happily (last time I will have to pay a mortgage bill? yeah – I’ll celebrate that one) and most unknowing to us (I don’t want to think about the last time I get to eat dinner on a regular basis with the offspring).

It’s too much to live hour by hour thinking of how to be in what can be a “last time”. It’s not too much, however, to revel in the simplicity and gratitude for what is this time – this time that you sit down to dinner, this time you get to be with that long-distance friend, this time that you get to walk in ridiculously warm weather in January or this time that you get to live with what may seem mundane today but an unreachable longing tomorrow.

Be thankful that there will always be a last time, without which there would be no first times.

Until next time,

Marc





Forgiveness

22 09 2015

Tomorrow night starts Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, when we ask for forgiveness.

It’s a particularly reflective day in that we are supposed to look over the past year and hope that we are “sealed in the book of life” for another year.

This concept of forgiveness is a tough one for me. I wish it weren’t so, but it is. Especially as of late. I am trying hard to  separate feelings from facts and reactions from responses, particularly when it comes to those who I feel have wronged me or ones I love in some way.

Divorce may be the ultimate playground for toying with forgiveness. I really do say “I’m sorry” when I have done something wrong and try to fess up to my fallacies, of which there are many. There is no way to say “I am sorry” when you are in the middle of a divorce- at least not mine. It’s hard to apologize when it feels as if every turn you are on the receiving end of a whole pile of ugliness. 

That being said, you’ll never hear me say that I was the perfect husband. Far from it and as hard as I tried, it wasn’t enough and there are certainly things I could and should have done better – communicating while trying to save a marriage being at the top of the list.

I’m not ready to apologize anymore than I did during the marriage. I may never be. The hurt is too deep and the burn too strong still. Maybe one day. However, I am not willing to step close to the shoreline of resentment and sink into a sea of bitterness, either. 

My sole focus has been on focusing on my kids. Thankfully, they are doing amazing. They are not without their struggles, as I suspect most of us are, but are truly resilient. As I write this, they are throwing a ball around in my bedroom razzing each other and continuing to solidify a bond that no one but the two of them will ever really be able to understand.

Tomorrow, I take my first step at focusing on myself a little bit in a new direction. I am going to try and start to forgive myself and shed myself of the guilt, shame, anger and fear that can stir the soul and cloud the inner engine that propels us forward. 

Every day, at some point, I realize that it could be the last and for all the turmoil and pain, there are more examples of incredible gratitude – my kids, my friends, the warmth of the sun on my face during a baseball game, the piano and for me, comedy. I have to forgive myself lest I lose possession of all one by one.

What do you need to forgive yourself for?

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye1. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! Thanks again, 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








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