The Mindful Comedian

3 02 2016

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It could happen.

Every comic I know that has been at it for a while and that I respect has told me that if you are not bombing once in a while, you really aren’t pushing yourself. Well, if that’s the case then I may be pushing myself right off a cliff.

I have had two experiences this year alone where I was “eating” it from the start. The good news is that I was able to recover but no matter how much I tell myself that this is “supposed to happen”, it feels like absolute shit. It’s horrible and it makes me question not only my comedy but my ability to make life decisions, also. 

Last Wednesday, I had a performance in Philadelphia that started out painfully for me. I couldn’t seem to connect and I just wasn’t able to find the right vibe with the audience from the get go. In addition, it reinforced another recent performance where I had a similar experience.

It got better a few minutes in but 180 seconds of “finding your way” on stage can feel excruciating. What made it worse was that, unlike most shows I do, I had people in the audience that were friends. That’s the worst. That’s like missing the free throw in front of your entire family and friends and them telling you that “you did your best – it was a tough game.”

I noticed a difference that evening, however. My usual negative self-talk was quieted to just a murmur. Don’t get me wrong – it was there. However, I was allowing myself to change the narrative a little and reinforce to myself that I just had an off night and that it happens to the best of us. It’s not as if the feeling of disappointment wasn’t there, but this time, it wasn’t the only overwhelming feeling available to me for hours on end.

I think, for me, the practice of mindfulness meditation, has helped just from the standpoint of understanding what it is that seems to be guiding us in terms of our thoughts. It does two things: 1. it helps me recognize the thought as being there and not place any judgement on it (ie. “I feel really, really shitty right now” vs. “I feel really, really shitty right now and suck at everything and don’t belong here and will never get asked back to this club”.  2. It helps me put things into perspective (ie. “I am doing something that is off the track, risky and makes me feel alive and sometimes it’s going to suck but as long as the important people in my life are ok, what else matters?”).

Perhaps this is a natural set point for a lot of people. These are the ones that seem to, more than not, wade calmly through the waters of life regardless of how rapidly or intensely the flow may be at any given time. I am not one of these people. It is interesting how many times people have commented on my “calmness” or similar trait only to learn that I am the duck who is constantly paddling under water to make sure I can at least appear to stay afloat.

Being a comedian is one of the most humbling experiences I have ever had, next to being a parent (and in the past, a spouse). There is no escaping the reality of the moment, whether good or bad, with an immediate feedback that can change week to week, day to day and moment to moment. 

Think about situations in your life that may be similar – such as relationships, a tenuous work environment, a physical activity or managing the unpredictability of living with some sort of illness. It is extremely difficult to be “in the moment” without having those feelings fester and grow sometimes. Maybe 5 to 10 minutes of focusing on our breath and qualifying our thoughts as nothing more than just that – thoughts – without meaning, is the best friend a comedian, or anyone, ever had.

Until next time,

Marc





On Wedding Anniversaries

2 11 2015
Happy Anniversary to me!

Happy Anniversary to me!

Today is my wedding Anniversary. It would have been my 18th. I guess it still is, legally anyway. I look forward to the day when November 2nd doesn’t have any other meaning than being a couple of days past Halloween and a couple of days away from election day.

I talk about being divorced in my comedy a lot more now. It’s much more comfortable for me to do so than it used to be. It’s just another form of self defecating humor. It’s innocent and it helps take the sting out of the pain. That’s the most amazing thing about comedy or any art, for that matter.

After a show, I do feel a tinge of remorse when I meet a young couple who is engaged or recently married. I always feel compelled to tell them that marriage is great, it’s a wonderful thing and I am sure it is going to work out for them, making some sort of joke about me in the process. It’s weird because I never feel compelled to say this to someone who has been married a while. I know they get it. 

The young married couple is full of hope. Those with a few years behind them haven’t lost hope but it is grounded in the reality of building a life together – the good and the bad. 

Officially, prior to separation, I was married a bit over 16 1/2 years. That’s a worthy investment and not an insignificant amount of time – for either of us. I am so grateful that my kids were already well into activities and friends when it ended because it mitigated losing any further time during those early formative years (not that these are not formative, as well.)

On this anniversary of sorts, rather than feel bad or upset, I am choosing to focus on the fact that 18 years ago, I took a chance, not settling but not retracting due to fear, either, that produced two amazing kids. Today is an anniversary of what started out as an early step in the journey of my two kids. It is something to be celebrated but I’m still thinking of putting my wedding album up on eBay.

Until next time,

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





Attachments

17 05 2015

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My wife left me and my house almost a year ago.

When people left my life in the past, I used to internalize it to the point where I had convinced myself it was because of me and solely because of me. I remember in college, my roommate sophomore year wanted to room with someone else and my first reaction was how it was going to look – me having a room all to myself in the dorm. (Little did I realize how much I would grow to cherish alone time, but hey, I was 18.)

It is embarrassing to admit that someone chose to leave you – whether it is a friend, employer or in my case, my wife. She got to leave our house and literally start over – to the extent someone can – new house, new furniture, new location – not a single immediate reminder of our lives together. Meanwhile, everywhere I looked was a reminder of the life that used to be – from our bedroom furniture, through the pictures on the wall to the spot certain foods were selected to sit in our refrigerator.

Things are far from finalized and in the meantime, I had promised my kids to stay in the house. I would love to sell this one, all the furniture, wall hangings etc and just “start” over but between living in flux right now, saving for my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah, a summer vacation and ridiculous legal fees, that is not going to happen.

More importantly, I felt (and heard from my kids) that staying put was one less change that they would have to deal with and I know inherently that they are comfortable here. That being said, it has been a struggle for me personally to feel like I can make it my own in some way. Besides removing some cheap artwork from the walls and reorganizing some closet and drawer space, the place looks largely as it has in the past. While eager to eventually make it feel like my own, I realize that my attachment to the “things” that occupy space is largely in my head. I can choose my thoughts which inform these attachments.

Let me explain. For almost a year, I sat at the same seat at the kitchen table – 4 neatly placed placemats for the 3 of us to eat our dinner with – the 4th as a noticeable absence, yet interestingly enough, a sense of ease for my kids that it is still at the end of the table where it always was.

Today, I decided to sit in that spot to do my writing and my work. It doesn’t have to be “her” seat or anyone’s seat. In fact, when we have friends or family over, which is quite often, we end up sitting in different seats than our own anyway. In addition, as I look out the window, it has given me a different view than the one I am used to.

Our attachments to things are largely about the memories and perspectives that we bring to them. While our memories are embedded, we can bring new perspective to these things and that is a good thing.  You may have heard the familiar mantra of “change your attitude, change your life”, which, for me at least, is much easier said than done. Perhaps, attaching a new perspective to a familiar object is the first step.

What attachment do you have that may be holding you back?

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading my blog. I’d love to hear from you in the comments section or email me at marckaye91@gmail.com. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter @MarcKaye1.  Please pass this along and subscribe!








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