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





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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Say Yes…but not to everything and everyone!

1 06 2015

stay-focused-and-amaze-yourself

I was always one of those kids who was never quite satisfied. I wasn’t much of a watcher and always wanted to be doing the things that looked interesting to me – music, travel, drawing. Then, as I got older, the list just grew longer and wider – learning to play the violin, scuba diving, mountain climbing, cooking, on and on and on.

I’d see a show on underwater sea excavation and I’d think “man, what would that be like – I wish I could try it” and then read about someone who overcame a major adversity and think “what is my purpose in life? I need to learn to speak Spanish way better.”

I am restless by nature and every time I would have one of these epiphanies, my wife would say “I’ll add it to the list”. Who can really blame her, I guess. It’s hard to be around someone who seems so unfocused.

Truth is that I am very focused which is where the restlessness comes in. I don’t just want to try new things but learn to master them. It’s just not possible.

The two things I have always done – writing and music – took a back seat during my marriage, and for the most part, for a good reason – my kids were young and between being a husband, father, employee, homeowner and at one point, returning student – it just wasn’t feasible. But there were other reasons, too, and as my marriage was, shall we say, “expiring it’s contract”, I started to more passionately return to those things that made me not only feel good about myself but were inherently a part of who I am. I took it to another level when I convinced myself to open up to new experiences and start by saying “yes” rather than finding reasons why it might not be a good idea.

I still do that today and if it were not for that, I would not have had some of the amazing experiences and friends that I do today. For that, I am eternally grateful. However, and in my comedy world, in particular, I have said “yes” perhaps to too many things. The truth is when you say “yes” to something, you are usually saying “yes” to someone (at least one person) and that is not to be taken lightly because, at some point, you will be dependent on that person or vice versa.

With limited time, limited energy and unlimited ambition, it has occurred to me that I have to find the balance between who I became as married person – just a reflection of who I was – and being a “renaissance man” of sorts who can dabble in may different endeavors at once.

It’s a difficult thing to do for someone like me because, if I am going to be honest, I always had this fear of “missing out”. This is crazy making. If you’re living – really living and not always planning – you are not missing out. Good or bad, you are experiencing life in all its messiness. These past two years have been messy, too. They have also been transformational – or are in the process of being transformational. But, to be valuable, I have to start to really identify not only who I want to be but also what I am willing to put my efforts behind because being all things to all people and putting your all into everything – it’s both not possible and it is also a shortchanging to you and others.

Some people have the opposite problem – committing. I try to keep my word when I say something. However, given time constraints and just life in general, there is only so much that one can expect to squeeze in to a day without succumbing to the inevitable letdown.

There’s probably a reason the famous Nike phrase is “Just Do It” and not “Just Do Them”.

Until next time,

Marc

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Put it out there

19 02 2015

fail

In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes: “…for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” There are a few different interpretations including Hamlet basically saying that ignorance is bliss or the other which is that we are, in essence, a product of our own thoughts. I guess both are true.

Being a realist sucks. Especially when you’re a dreamer, too. Somehow, the realist always seems to trump the dreamer. I am not sure why it can’t be the other way around, at least some of the time. The problem with the realist, though, at least in my case, is that it always seems to be overly cautious. Worse of all, when the worst case scenario really does happen, that inner voice that says: “hah! I told you this wasn’t going to work out” chimes in and the dreamer retreats.

I have been spending a lot of time, (too much time), thinking about why some people seem to be so content and others, restless. I think being a creative type does not help at all, or at least for me. The one thing I did realize, however, is that if you are going to do something, you really have to do it all the way. That doesn’t mean “quit your job and head out to L.A.” all the way.

Let me explain from something I can relate to – comedy. While it is far from completely gone, for a long time I was very embarrassed about the fact that this “responsible” adult that I was carrying around – husband, father, son, friend, employee – was so passionate about writing and learning the craft of comedy. I mean, turn on the TV and it is clear that there aren’t too many people in my age group doing comedy who haven’t been doing it since their 20s. As such, I talked myself through it convincing myself that it’s good enough for me to just try something and, therefore, i never went all out for a long time – never tried things that were really scary like being completely true on stage, being ok with having some people be uncomfortable or even doing on-the-spot improv.

That was a huge mistake. Here’s why. For someone like me (and maybe you are the same way), I am more disappointed in myself for not just “putting it out there” and trying something than playing it safe and wondering what would have happened if I had tried. Even on my worst “go all out” days, I felt proud that I tried.

The truth is that spending time wondering about why people seem so content is a waste of time. Perhaps they really aren’t. Perhaps they are not risk takers and don’t want to be. That’s fine, too. Perhaps they are, themselves, “putting it out there” and passionate about something that doesn’t involve mowing the lawn or watching the game. And if that’s their thing, more power to them.

What matters is that life really is short. Super, super short. But it can feel incredibly long sitting on the sidelines. I rather feel like time is passing me by while I try to fit it all in. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Until next time,

Marc

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