Stones to Gravel to Dust: 10 Ways To Grind Your Way To A Better Life.

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Amazing.

When you consider barriers in your mind and heart for the purpose of protection from the illusory risk of being hurt or disappointed, you eventually arrive at a crossroad. When regret over the moments you forgot to live intersect with the art you failed to create, the souls you missed to touch.

Something inside slams the life out of you. Your face is smashed against the stones.

heart wall

In time, walls absorb warmth and dehydrates the health of human vibrancy and a passion for discovery, the willingness to learn. It sucks the all color out of your elevation, dulls the tastes in the mouth; the art you once created withers into gray muck.

And.

Apathy crowds out empathy with each new brick.

The process occurs in great stealth, like absorbed vapor; slowly the walls drain life’s air from who you were before the shit bag of who you are (but it’s not who you really are.)

Walls destroy iterations of all that’s noble in you. The “you” back to childhood – when you were a sponge and innocence opened doors to enrichment (and a few worthy bruises).

photo

You’re.

Eyes wide closed. Blind in the dark. Blinder in the bright. Full steam forward, head down, guarded.

Numb.

Dumb.

Void of passion.

.blindfold cliff

Oh, the hours, the years, the efforts to create what you believe keeps you safe.

Until events outside your control (and those subconscious within).

Rock the foundation.

And reveals the wall for what it is.

Enemy.

evil shadow wall

The first crack in the wall rocked me good. I was sad to realize – I was living a sham. Lifeless corporate job where my sense of well-being was uprooted by assholes in ivory towers almost on a daily basis, an unhealthy infatuation with people I wouldn’t give a second glance at today, and too much alcohol to dull the bullshit, made it palatable.

I was running from pain. At least I thought.

Part of the agony came from the growing realization that I was needing to break free, get my life back, to survive and thrive for whatever years were left.

I helped myself as much as possible with mental stamina I absorbed from the energy of others; people no longer in my life were efficient wall destroyers, too. I’m thankful they were there to take pick axes to it.

However, as I live in peace, I’m grateful every day they’re gone. Ground to dust and cast to the winds of the past.

They no longer effect me.

All the precious energy wasted building and reinforcing structures that had one mission - to live and destroy the builder.

I’m still not sure about the genesis of the angst. Why or when do people decide to chip away at their wall beasts? The chisels, the motivations are different for everybody.

A shock perhaps (for me it was).

A morbid curiosity of what life would be like outside high walls.

The right teachers come along, awaken you, assist with the deconstruction?

Yes.

How much of yourself does it take to turn massive fortresses to stone and then grind them to dust?

How many times must you crush who you were to form a greater self that awakens in the present?

How much of yourself will you lose in the process?

Are you up for the job?

stooge pile

Every chip is a strand of DNA, attached to a part of who you were. And the rubble keeps piling up. Unsettling grit underfoot. The foundation is no longer smooth; the road is covered in rough-busted remnants.

You are troubled by the feel of gravel underneath.

And ahead.

An unsteady path wobbles your resolve.

But you must not stop.

Because to look back is to choke on the dust of vulnerability. Of failure.

It’s a fucking wonder there’s energy left for anything else you know – like working, or checking your e-mail.

As you.

Cut off the oxygen, sever rotted death lines, birth new life threads, and ultimately – a healthier way of being emerges.

A cleaner intake. An enlightened outtake.

Dying along the way is the ticket to a stimulating ride. Sucks.

But that’s the way it is.

Unfortunately, not many are up for the toll it takes on the body, or the weight of the job on the mind. Too immature or self-centered – they’re missing the emotional quota to get smashed by their own stones, pained by the gravel they don’t have enough guts to stumble over, too.

They’re too full of hubris, cowardice to breathe in the dust and puke it up.

breathing

Also, I admit – it’s difficult.

I was thinking:

Where does it say that everybody you encounter needs to tackle this fucking monster wall to get to the deep of you? You crush anyone who goes near it yet you seek someone to crack the code, find the weak spot? Confusing and exhausting.

What forms this barrier to entry?

How high does it go?

Who created this rule?

My grandmother, when something was beyond her comprehension (or outside her little Brooklyn neighborhood), would say to me:

“It’s sky-less.”

What seals this wall beast?

What makes up the mortar?

bloody wall

Oh, I don’t know. It’s a different blend for everyone. I think it’s rejection, disappointment, misguided conclusion, overthinking. Projection. Abandonment. Fetishes of sorts.

Blast-furnace in another quarter of trash from the past you thought was long dead, and watch how you lose control over the entire project.

And you’re gonna need a bigger bulldozer.

To smash your creation. Eye-opening, earth-shattering heavy lifting to get deep underneath this structure, uproot and topple it.

When the dust settles (and for me it took roughly two years), you’ll be thankful for the project. As the wall comes down, second chances emerge.

Relish each tragedy, every revelation; appreciate the loves won and lost. Your choice and challenge is to either forge the masonry or knock out a stone, look through the hole and observe the beauty beyond the barrier.

Consider these ten ways to grind your way to a better life.

Random Thoughts:

1). Tear down walls, erect sails. Create a structure that’s light and captures the air of your passions and creativity. Sure, even an ill wind may throw you off course a bit, however, unlike a wall, a sail will not allow you to stagnate. It won’t close you in. A great challenge is to navigate your course and learn when to expand or contract your sails.

2). Replace heavy bricks. Replace impenetrable bricks of sorrow and regret with a willingness to be open and pliable. Anything that will allow you to see farther than you have before and feed your resiliency is worth the possible risk of hurt. Living within the boundaries of the past to guide present actions will suffocate your rebuilt childlike quality of promise.

3).Take out assholes. Then work diligently to discover and value teachers who will fill mind holes. As walls are razed, it provides openings, even through the dust, for mentors to enter space once occupied by fear and denial. Once your teachers begin to invade, dangerous structures become less menacing. They weaken and crumble at a faster pace than you can accomplish alone.

4). Take risks of the heart and say “fuck it” often. Now that walls are falling, your heart is out there. No protection. Exposing a vulnerable self to others is throwing yourself in front of an emotional bullet; a pure act of love. Consider the act a peace offering to those in your world and ones you seek in your space. It’s not going to feel warm and fuzzy at first.

To evolve in an age of soullessness will never feel right, initially. What ostensibly makes you at ease will always take great courage.

If you make an error in judgment (and you will), consider how resilient your heart truly is. I have learned that the heart is a bottomless well of love and commitment.

5). The words you use mean everything. At one time, I would invite words that formed at the foot of the wall and bled into the foundation. Defeatist sentences that only served the wall and never served me. I’ve noticed the word “why” weakens my spirit. It promotes a victim behavior. “How” is empowering. Ask yourself better questions with positive words and see how your thoughts take you down roads no longer confined by false boundaries.

6). Take a wrecking ball to conventional thoughts about money. Saving all your money in company retirement plans instead of brokerage accounts limits tax flexibility when you need the money the most. It’s financial industry dogma. Why must you purchase a house? How is it the American Dream? Is it truly an investment or merely a place to live?

7). Create and maintain accountability statements. I will be credit-card debt free by January 2015. I will learn a (specific skill) by December 2014. My internal walls are slated too fall today. Right now. Be accountable to the moment you’re in. What it means. How you got here.

8). Find a force. What can you do to turbocharge a positive process? I’ve used anger, fear, passion, revenge, love, faith, hope, hopelessness, laughter, teachers, students, clients, wonderful friends in the media and those creating art for award-winning television fiction/drama. Suck whatever energies you can to propel you forward until you’re a self-sustaining accomplishment machine. I’ve learned that good people are willing to help. To ask for help is a wonderful force. It’s strength, not t weakness to seek guidance. Provide as much gratitude in return.

9). Build protection. Wait a minute. You just advised me to break down walls. OK. One exception: Build layers around your passions. Do it so others can’t discourage you. Protect your resolve with all you’ve got. I’ve observed how many people and organizations bust out the big artillery to focus solely on the destruction of your dreams. They thrive and multiply on failure. I have learned to tune the destroyers out so well, I laugh at their silliness. So will you. I can’t wait to see the smile on your face.

10). Relish what’s in store for you. Can you imagine what’s ahead without debilitating speed bumps and barriers to stop you? The influential people you will touch, and who will touch you. The elevation of mind and spirit. The long-dead exhilaration that comes from resurrecting your true self. The stronger bonds of love and friendship. Like you have never imagined.

A castaway of dead souls.

More “fuck you” in blank faces.

You’re taking “auto” out of “pilot” now.

Fully engaged in the present.

Take the wheel now, squeeze hard.

Feel white-knuckle excitement.

Plow pedal-down fast through what’s held you back. Beat you down.

Watch the dust dance as you create a path of your own.

Observe how the losers choke on it.

And laugh, laugh, laugh.

Dedicated to Amy Bishop.

Waking up A: Living the JA Life.

It was the birth of Occupy Wall Street. Well, pre-birth. A genesis, that’s all I know. For me too. The start of an uprising. I was going to have lunch with my idol, new friend, a mentor. Any minute. Little did I realize, from this connection, this spark, the friendship that would ignite. The life-changing guidance I was about to receive at the foot of a muse. A master muse.

We were in the vicinity of Wall Street. On the concrete fringe. Lunch meeting  at a sushi place. I was nervous. Couldn’t breathe (even though this muse advises thousands to breathe – Breathe deep). Feverishly texting a former friend about how I was about to pass out. Pacing. Pace. Pace. Pace. Dizzy.

For me, it was like meeting Superman, or some other bigger-than-life hero. I know for a fact when JA was in first grade, donning a red cape blanket, leapt from his bed, attempting to fly like Superman and almost broke his ass.

When I was in first grade I wore a blue blanket cape, a Ben Cooper Halloween Batman (plastic death) mask which cut like glass shards around my eyes, and ran around my parents’ Brooklyn apartment like a sugar-crazed, Drake’s cake-induced pudgy, Dark Knight. I’m sort of honored because JA appears to believe Batman was the true super hero – I have a tough time with this revelation.

I also as my mother scolded: “rubbed myself too much” to Julie Newmar who appeared as Cat Woman on the iconic 1966 Batman series  (televised daily in afternoon re-run format I believe on New York’s WPIX Channel 11).

Julie Newmar

Here kitty, kitty. 

There was this girl who lived next door. Linda. She was in Kindergarten. She portrayed a convincing Robin the Boy Wonder. Actually, she was gifted at playing a young boy from what I can piece together. I spoke to her six months ago and she’s a happily-partnered lesbian in Schenectady, New York. All makes sense now.

Although, as I ponder,  I’m not really sure how happy anyone can be in Schenectady.

Supposedly, she remembered our antics and told me how badly I wanted Batman to fly (I never understood why he couldn’t, it was like a disability). She proceeded to describe how I jumped from a park bench on Ocean Parkway and twisted my ankle. Frankly, I don’t remember. She also told me my mother beat my ass for rubbing too much. Linda chuckled. I don’t recall that wonderful memory either. Either way, I’m glad I left such a lasting impression on her. Although I could have gone a lifetime without the rubbing commentary. Oh well.

You never truly know the imprint you’re going to leave on someone, do you?

Ben Cooper

Ben Cooper’s Halloween creations are/were the ultimate costumes of pop culture.

Back to JA. 

A man who traveled so far through mind and body, an old soul, to get where he is today. And yet constantly learning. He is always fine tuning himself. He was, still is:

Endlessly. Evolving.

As I got to know him better, I realized how close in personality we were. After lunch we walked, I think 25 city blocks. In the heat, quick shuffling feet, of an urban summer.

JA said: “I like to walk.”

Well then: “I like to walk, too.”

I wondered: “If JA asks me to jump off a building in Times Square would I do it?”

Let’s say “no” wouldn’t have been my initial response.

jump

As we discussed this new Wall Street protest, he provided color, texture to the situation as we moved, passed the masses shuffling lives on city streets.

“See all these people? They’re sad. They still think the financial crisis is here. Look at their faces.”  Naturally, he won’t recall this but I do. And he was spot on.

We discussed women, philosophy, concepts, out-of-the-box ideas, the book I was writing, how I was unhappy dying a slow death at my job, his trials, tribulations, his death(s), resurrection(s), his failures, his beautiful wife C, my childhood, his upbringing. All the while, I wanted to know everything he did. From then on (aw hell, even before then)..

I wanted to be JA. Live the JA life.

Here I go.. Where would I pass, where would I fail? How am I most like/unlike this amazing person? 

Random Thoughts:

1). James/Rich: PASS: Hair. Lord, our hair styles are the same. We always look like we just rolled out of bed. That makes us appear smart, yes?

James vest

Look we even wear matching vests!

2). Rich FAIL/James PASS – Being self-actualized as he is, JA appears to be funny, self-effacing about his curls – I abhor mine. JA writes – anger is unhealthy (it’s is a form of dishonesty to yourself). He describes how a brain loses intelligence, almost like it becomes oxygen-deprived if it bulks up on hate and anger. I sleep angry. I wake up several times a week, my pillow drenched in blood, because I bite my own tongue at 1 AM out of hate, regret, and every other dark lord that circles the blackness of my bedroom.

Usually, before the bloodletting, I’m dreaming of beheading someone from my past (usually a female), or I’m ten years-old again and my mother is nagging me to pick up cheap beer and tampons and pay for them with her ill-gotten food stamps. And food stamps in the 70′s were DOUBLE the size of personal checks you receive from the bank, which made them incredibly, exponentially, obvious and shameful.

The other night I was thrashing the bed covers as I pondered creative ways to slash the tires on a former corporate middle manager’s truck. Sometimes anger makes me happy. The end result is I bite myself. Bite others (don’t ask). Plasma-drench the goose down.

I’M WORKING ON THIS FAIL, LORD KNOWS. AND I’M PISSED OFF DOING IT. 

3). Rich PASS/James PASS – I’m a relatively lukewarm father (and reminded of it on a regular basis). Sometimes my kid looks at me like I oozed out of some form of primordial vagina. I have no idea what to do. How to relate. I try out of sheer, blinding love but occasionally the actions to teach, guide, and provide fatherly advice to my daughter fail miserably.

JA consistently laments how he’s not geared up to be a dad. My thought is we beat ourselves up quite a bit psychologically over this – there are occasions I think we look at our girls wondering how the hell they got here and why. Are they supposed to teach us, break us? What exactly am I doing being a father? Fuck this.

From what I read, men are no longer important anyway. There’s a recent study circulating out there how all men are morphing into flesh and blood iterations of Homer Simpson. We’re stupid oafs. Insignificant.  Is this how my daughter sees me? I think so.

My girl is interested in photography (thanks to me), I am encouraging her to be gay because I remind her daily how men, well, are indeed dumb, smell bad, are usually sticky and act mature briefly between the ages of 28-43. After that, the Low T kicks in, drives us insane and we do incredibly stupid, narcissistic shit. Before 28, we appear to be living in our parents’ basements masturbating to internet porn and playing X-Box (perhaps at the same time, not sure). We blame the financial crisis for this. And we get away with it!

4). Rich PASS/James PASS – JA writes in his new tome “Choose Yourself” - “Be the source. If you are the source of ideas, then you are ALWAYS the source. People come to the fountain and make wishes and throw money in. Don’t be a trickle of of dirty water. Be the fountain and let people know it by giving away all credit and rewards.” 

I have always loved sharing my creativity, helping others and observing those people flourish due to concepts, ideas I provided. To me, it’s still one of the greatest sources of internal reward. In turn, I learn from those who acted upon my advice. On occasion I assist JA without realizing, until he tells me. Thanks me. And I’m on Cloud 9 for days.  I do regret (JA says regret is unhealthy) providing ideas to former employers who utilized them only to fuck me over later which segues nicely to..

5). Rich FAIL/James PASS – JA  flashed dogma-destroying death rays at me over the last few years. Corporate America is a sham, the “American Dream” of owning a house was a fabrication of the mortgage industry designed to enslave us, college was/is a waste of time. I was reeling, trying to repel, while at the same time, absorbing uncomfortably, his messages. There are components of all his ideas I fully believe – fortunately I realize every day how right he is. How mainstream JA’s ideas are becoming due to his relentless, important messages and his gift to communicate to/with the masses.

“Corporations don’t like you. This is not a surprise to capitalists and entrepreneurs or even artists. The entire idea behind a corporation is to set up a legal structure that takes advantage of cheap labor.” JA.

I’m also discovering through my own experience, how corporate bullies, after years of employee loyalty, seek to destroy – Physical health, financial well being. All at risk.

“Your former employer is trying to kill you,” JA said. 

I believe him. He’s right. Yet, there are times I yearn to return to The Matrix. It’s scary out here working your own deal, especially as corporate behemoths try to create a financially, mentally, physically-breaking fairy tale designed to obliterate you.

I’m ashamed how, on occasion, I want to be plugged in again, returned to a system that minimized my talents, my potential, tried to “dumb me down,” for reasons I still don’t understand. There’s a comfort in this mechanism society has allowed to flourish. Sort of like a cancer gone ignored. So many lost, shareholder-owned souls with blank eyes, living dead or dying in cubicles. No need to improve. Afraid to speak up about what’s going on in Corporate America. How the employee no longer counts. Live a drone. Die a drone.

I want corporate board meetings televised on C-Span! Who’s with me? 

“Stay the course, you’re doing great. I’ll help you get healthy again,” he advises. JA.

His words of encouragement, guidance keep me motivated. Steadfast. My health is improving, my self-esteem returning. I’m thinking clearer because of JA. One day I’ll document my saga with the assistance of a bestselling author.

6). Rich FAIL/James PASS – JA always walks, talks his “Daily Practice.” Like if we meet for dinner or lunch I know it’s going to be early, because he eats only two meals a day (and the last one is at two in the afternoon). I’ve learned to respect the “Daily Practice,” and his ongoing discipline to stick it out, but lord, I just can’t achieve his level. I strive each day, which should count for something. JA owns it, masters this stuff. I’m slowly getting there. Print the following. Read daily. And don’t be pissed off if you perpetually fail. One day some of these actions are going to stick and you’re going to be better for them.

JA writes: “Abundance only comes when you are moving along your themes. When you are truly enhancing the lives of the people around you. When every day you wake up with the motive of enhancement. Enhance your family, your friends, your colleagues, your clients, potential customers, readers, people you don’t know yet but would like to know. Become a beacon of enhancement, and then when the night is gray, all of the boats will move toward you, bringing their bountiful riches.”

JA’s Daily Practice.

7). Rich PASS/James PASS – JA is possibly one of the most empathetic human beings I have ever met. When he hosts his  weekly Twitter Q&A, answers questions from lost or anguished souls, you can tell how passionately he seeks to advise and encourage. Since JA has blown through ten lives in 45 years, he pretty much has “been there and done that.”

He provides priceless content from his own experiences. Due to my own upbringing, as I outline in my book “Random Thoughts of a Money Muse,” I take people’s issues to heart. On occasion it helps me, once in a while it weakens me. Either way, it’s all good. It’s the ugly beauty of the human thread. JA gets it. I love him for it.

Follow JA on Twitter here: JA’s Twitter.

My book. Back cover commentary courtesy of who else? JA: Random Thoughts of a Money Muse. I would have never found my true voice without him.

8). Rich PASS/James PASS – I write daily. At least 1,000 words. Writing is therapy, and it’s a skill you must continue to hone or you lose it. Quick. It’s a bitch goddess monkey on my back to write every damn day. I don’t feel complete unless I document something or think of writing something for media, a blog, to myself, to brunettes I stalk. Whatever.

Damn him for getting me hooked on this writing crap. JA says you need to “bleed” in the written. In other words, you must share a bit of your inner most self with readers, even if it’s embarrassing. Goodness I have bled some strange, awkward material. Re-opened wounds. What else do you people want from me?

9). Rich FAIL/James PASS – JA recommends every day to read/skim chapters from books on at least four different topics. I can’t. I’m consumed with financial topics, non-fiction. I feel icky about myself if I venture into fiction. I do enjoy a good Maxim cover but hey, that’s non-fiction, right? Right? I must advance to areas that make me uncomfortable.

eliza

I love Eliza Dushku. No I mean I really, really, really (really).

10). Rich FAIL/James PASS – JA has found enriching ways to “choose himself.” I remain a work in progress. I’ve been programmed since I’m a kid – been told I was a dumb ass by the people closest to me. After a few years of brainwashing I began to believe it! Plus, I was afflicted with a horrible case of man boobs as a young boy and I was never selected to play dodge ball. Thanks to JA’s writings over the years, the empowering messages, I have altered my thinking. Re-programmed. Through exercise (a Daily Practice) I have conquered the man boobs too.

JA’s new book is available for pre-order here: Choose Yourself.

He practically gives his work away. I mean really. $4.99?

That’s who he is. Spreading the message. He’s like a Jewish Jesus. Oh wait.

I mentioned to JA I was writing this piece (he didn’t think this piece was about him). He’s so humble, he laughed. 

I still have an e-mail from JA, dated 11/19/2012 after he read my first shot at writing a book.

Best. book. ever:  With many thanks to you, James.

So creative. You have to be a writer: Nah, I’m just a money manager with stories to tell. Plus, I so like to share my most embarrassing moments – it humbles a person. 

What’s the story now? Shit, I’m not sure. All I know is I’ll remain a friend and nothing you’re going to write will ever offend me enough to drop the connection (leave the denial over my man boobs out of it).

How are you promoting this? For now, I’ll promote you. Your new book. It’s a game-changer. 

JA is indeed a super hero. Available in comic book form.

altucher confidential

I just accomplished letter “T” of “The Daily Practice.”

Tell someone every day that you love them. 

James Altucher: I just did?

Tomorrow is a new day to master the teachings.

And choose myself.

For that (and you) I remain grateful.

Governing Money – Lessons from the “Governor.”

In a former life, the world before hell and earth went inside out, Philip Blake was a husband, father. I think he sold insurance (and wasn’t very good at it). He probably carried too much debt, drank too much  - I’m certain erectile dysfunction was a grim reality.

I bet he fantasized about having sex with the twenty-something barista at Starbucks or even worse - the overweight college dropout with crooked, yellowed teeth and soured look from behind the register at the local Piggly Wiggly convenience haven. In other words – HO HUM. Mundane. An existence we all mistake for a life because we were told that’s what life is, ya idiot. Or as a friend would say – lame ass!

And now?

He’s bigger-than-life in a world shrinking (literally) from decay. Ain’t that a bitch!

walking dead zombie A former insurance prospect? You betcha!

The “Governor” as he’s been proclaimed by the inhabitants of the fictional town of Woodbury, exists, rules, and on occasion, thrives (code for: gets some). You know what that means. Wink, wink.

It appears the whole end of the world thing has added pep to his step. He dons cool vests and brandishes a big-ass knife low on his hip. He’s handy with an automatic weapon. Yep - he’s discovered his true, higher calling, although the path he takes on occasion, would classify him as certifiably insane. Well, if the world was as it was, once upon a time - the one of sales calls, stopping for beer and milk on the way home to the mortgage payment; praying to get it up on a weekend for the wife he’s long tired of. But in this new world?

He’s the king, baby!!

the governor hip

The Governor appearing calm, collected in front of Woodbury residents. Notice the power stance (I’ve eaten a great breakfast at the coffee shop behind him and was able to leave town, peacefully).

But this new normal is truly abnormal. It requires a huge (over) dose of out-of-the-box thinking followed by unorthodox actions to keep him and his close-knit brood, alive. Fight or die. Stay alert because at any moment you may become a food source for ravenous, rotting flesh eaters and/or victims to the living who want what you have, what you worked so hard to build. All you possess can be gone in an instant. In this place, you fear the living and dead, equally.

His life demands tremendous inner reflection, strong leadership, a healthy dose of paranoia, an intense hunger for knowledge of the deademy (my zombie bon mot for enemy,) stamina, charisma, a penchant for strong tea, an instinct to survive and on occasion, cold-blooded murder of his own species (the living) which is an odd way to re-populate the planet. The deeper he believes in his mission to preserve what’s left of the human race, the more he perceives outsiders as threats. Appears almost everyone is an outsider.

fish tanks

The Governor laments the “experiments” that just didn’t work out.

The end of the world definitely raised his stature. Forced him to rise above. Imagine a former insurance hack re-born as a new-found savior. Only in the America of the living dead. Bittersweet (bloody) success. Climbing the ladder of what’s left of the human race.

The Governor fights passionately to protect what he’s re-created - a tree-lined, bucolic microcosm of once was; the time before this time or whatever this putrid shit is now. He preserves, behind big makeshift walls made of of fat tires and metal, the lives and well-being of his followers. The ones who still breath and don’t seek to eat each other.

In this Georgia sanctuary, residents adhere to daily routines like doing laundry, taking the kids to school and on occasion, they gather together to enjoy a hearty zombie gladiator fight in the center of a dilapidated makeshift arena. Hey, we must have our sports events no matter what, right?

Born from the imagination of master comic-book genius and creator of the concept for the hit show, “The Walking Dead,” Robert Kirkman’s “Governor,” is possibly one of the most complex characters to bridge the annals of comic and television history.

the governor walking dead

The Gov, played by Brit actor David Morrissey, in a pensive mood.

Something has gone dreadfully awry on the road to Woodbury (when it’s not dressed up for television this town is really the peaceful haven of Senoia, GA). You can see it in the eyes of the town folk. They’re scared of Philip Blake. Philip Blake who knocked on their doors once trying to push term insurance. In that old life, they didn’t open the door or got the dog to chase him. Maybe a family pet bit him.

I guess change happens when you can no longer self-regulate (or have no reason to try) - you create the rules, acquire minions to reinforce them. Ostensibly, a bit of sanity erodes as you’re tormented by the memories of those you lost, those you cherished, to wide-mouthed bites of growling corpses who drool black goo. When your back is truly against the wall – you shake things up.

Ponder the horror long enough and the snap-crackle in your mind ostensibly goes pop. You’re no longer who you were. The person inside, the one who worried about following the lawn fertilization schedule to the letter on weekends, is in a dark place now. Deader than dead.

The Governor has allowed the demons to occupy a great portion of his psyche and they rest on his mind on a full time basis. He can’t win against them any longer, so he commands them steer them to push him forward. Hey, when in Rome!

Black inside, tortured but he’s moving. Getting shit done. Every day.

He’s been re-shaped, reborn, by the end of the world he knew and the path he cuts to cling desperately to what was. After observing him you cannot decide who’s more rotted inside – him or the staggering corpses who meander around the parameter, tripping over debris, bumping into burned-out husks of rusted autos of drivers not lucky enough to escape from rotting marauders of warm flesh.

To the people he protects, the Governor is the best thing around. He’ll do whatever is necessary to guard his flock from strangers – living or dead – as long as they’re loyal. There’s something admirable about his rise to power, his grandiose vision to take back a human race most likely lost forever; yet, his actions at times are so horrific, his thought process so cold blooded, you almost wish to take your chances with the ghouls outside the walls of Woodbury.

He does have his heartwarming moments. Like when he talks soothingly to the chained and straitjacketed pre-teen zombie  who once was his daughter Penny. He keeps  her nestled in what appears to be a human kennel, deep inside his quarters. He brushes her hair (which falls out), sings to her.

Penny snarls and snaps at him as he releases the chained collar tight around her neck – her jaws make a  sharp snap sound, directed toward his warmth, like a blind ravenous canine searching for a steak in the dark. She’s so long gone, however. Yet, it’s Philip’s very last cling to hope, to who she was, the young life with so much potential she represented. Represents still, as he works with a genius professor geek deep in the bowels of Woodbury who works fervently to discover what makes these dead things tick. And perhaps, just perhaps, a cure!  He denies the fact there’s truly no cure for what ails precious Penny (except a bullet to the brain).

Penny

A heartwarming moment as Penny noshes on body parts of the once living who faced the Governor’s wrath. 

And if you watch AMC’s hit show “The Walking Dead,” you’ve been fascinated by the Governor and his actions. Why? Because you know (oh, you do), that you can go bat-shit wacko if faced with the same horrific circumstances. You would be altered in ways you cannot imagine. You would work effortlessly to cling to what was, because what was there and now is gone changes you. Lose enough people you love, then you tell me.

There’s a little bit of Philip in all of us. 

There’s a bit of anger, insanity, in all of us. 

There’s a bit of bad behavior where the living are slaughtered, the dead walk (figuratively) in all of us. 

There’s a bit of motivation to protect Woodbury, the safe haven, in all of us.

And when we sit alone and stew about this stuff, allow the demons to play handball against  our psyche, then we are no longer insurance salespeople, stockbrokers, artists, psychologists, the “sane” ones. We are indeed – governors.

Random Thoughts:

1). Construct the walls around you (carefully). Just be mindful of the materials you use. Employ love, civility, warmth and mix in a small dose of paranoia for those who attempt to enter your Woodbury. On occasion, you’ll let undesirables through however, do what the Governor does – dispose of them quietly and explain to yourself how that person, entity, drug, drink was endangering the lives of your minions (or brain cells).

2). Be open to what breaks your current mindset. Recently, I had a revelation after an e-mail exchange that allowed me to easily remove someone from my Woodbury. Realize that Penny isn’t gonna return, put your own back against the wall, get winded. Then wake up. Instead of changing for the worse (as you’ll see in the Governor in the remainder of season 3 and 4), bounce hard against that wall and propel forward. Philip Blake has been broken by the horror of his experiences. He had good intentions in the beginning, but something really bad happened along the way. Watch your path. Create guardrails to not veer off to blackness.

3). Don’t be afraid to retaliate now. As the economy improves, I’m personally seeing, hearing, about people breaking the chains of their old employer and discovering healthier ways to make a living. Something I predicted in my book “Random Thoughts of a Money Muse.” Check out the link below, here’s a blurb from a recent CNBC article outlining the trend:

The steady drumbeat of “you’re just lucky to have a job” that played through the recession is finally starting to fade and employees may be getting ready to say, “I quit!” and bolt for the nearest exit.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100359891

Don’t feel bad – be slightly angry about how you’ve been treated. Rise above. You’re the Governor over your fate and as the economy slowly recovers, you should get your mental minions to focus on a brighter future.

4). Get shit done. Every day. For a time you’ll seethe, give yourself that. Then go ahead and continue to tend to your walls which surround the quaint town in your mind. Eat healthier, exercise more, find better conversationalists, seek friendships where you didn’t look before. Read a book. I’m reading Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks at this time.

5). Be bad. It’s ok. Just don’t appear to be above, criticize, or correct others. You’re not perfect and on occasion, you rot and stink worse than the walking dead. And your opinion is just that especially when wrapped in judgmental tone. You’re getting tuned out, too. Fast. The Governor has convinced himself that even the horrific things he does is for the good of his little community. He’s lost the ability to judge his behavior, self correct. You cannot do the same. Oh, unless the dead want to eat you. Then feel free. Have a glass of wine, a dessert, kick a wall (I accomplished all three last month).

6). Appreciate what you have. Now. Before the dead come back and the world goes to hell. Learn to appreciate those you care about. Feel good about your possessions; realize there’s a point when too many possessions eventually own you, especially if you’re taking on debt to “own” them.

7). Appreciate and gain protection. I know I’m making fun of Phil being a pain-in-the-ass insurance salesman in another life, but do not discount the need for life insurance. Bypass the salesperson. And think term insurance. It’s the cheapest, purest type of insurance. One of the best life free life insurance needs calculator out there is here:

http://www.lifehappens.org/life-insurance-needs-calculator/

For insurance quotes investigate http://www.selectquote.com or http://www.matrixdirect.com.

8). Know your enemies. Inside and outside your skin. Which emotions hold you back? Are there people in your life who do the same? Self assess, write it out, drink some strong tea or coffee and take some time to analyze. Then toss out of Woodbury, those threats to your well being.

9). Learn to let go. When the Governor lost his beloved Penny to a samurai blade to the head, you can tell how broken he was and about to become (terrific acting by Mr. Morrissey). You need to let go of what’s dead already. A love, a longing, a feeling, a thought, a friend, a lover, an actual shopping cart with wheels that work at the supermarket. Learning to let go means less stress. Laugh more.

10). Stand like the Governor. I mean it just looks cool, right? Hands on hips. Your body language says a lot about you.

DSC_0370

The set of “The Walking Dead.” Note the tire, metal walls. Also, the building in the background (with ladder) was the place where the Governor & Michonne fight was filmed. 

11). Don’t lose yourself in anger and regret. With his beloved Penny gone, the Governor has lost all hope (and sanity). He is consumed with the torment that goes along with surrender of the traits which make one human. And a white-hot anger about his failure to protect Penny was enough to break his sanity. Regret and anger has now overwhelmed every thought, each motivation. Perhaps a cure against living death was close.

It didn’t matter now.

It was sweltering on the “set” of Woodbury during Season 3. Then he emerged. Walking behind us. David Morrissey. In his cool signature Governor vest. Carrying a script.

When I asked my daughter why she sat off to the side instead of joining me in a discussion I was having with him, she said bluntly:

“Dad he scares me. He’s the Governor.”

Comic Gov

The Walking Dead comic-book version of the Governor.

Impressions are everything.

Aren’t they?

From mental imprints, projections are born.

Out of grief.

Fear.

Anger. 

Regret.

Don’t let them consume you.

Work to break free.

Today.

I have faith.

You’re not the Governor.

A new season of “The Walking Dead” begins October 13, on AMC – 9pm/8pm CST.

 

What the Dead Taught Me – Lessons from an Urban Cemetery.

It was out of place then. It’s out of place now. Hundreds of years ago-perfect. And when I climbed the fence or dug a hole underneath to enter this hallowed wedge almost directly underneath the elevated “F” Subway line, I felt at home. Calm. An oasis of rest. There was nothing to fear, no one to judge. Just whatever is left after bodies move beyond the rot and weathered gravestones, some with captivating epitaphs.

First time I saw the sign was 1970. It’s timeless.

Hey, the cemetery was founded by a babe (lady). A plus.

There was a rumor that a tunnel existed underneath the caretaker’s abode; allegedly, this channel lead to the back of the cemetery, up through an unmarked grave to daylight. It was an escape route/hiding place during the Revolutionary War. I never had the guts to investigate the validity of this tale, although at times I was tempted. A couple of nights a week, especially during the summer, I’d find myself waking up early morning behind a grave marker. I felt a very live affinity for the dead.

The infamous caretaker cottage. Sealed for decades.

I’m not so macabre. You’ve been there. Many of the living hold a fascination with graveyards and tombstones. My connection, however seemed deeper. As I sat on lumpy ground deep inside iron gates, I’d close my eyes and attempt to cast out a spiritual thread. I was desperately seeking answers. Hoping for a visceral spiritual pull. Once, at 1AM through an August late night that turned to early morning, I felt a tug on the other end of the ethereal thread. It woke me. A voice.

I was startled. Awoke with a rapid heartbeat. It was so strong, I recall my ears closing up to any external sounds. The voice was inner and soothing. He said his name was William. Who the hell was William. I didn’t know a William, or a Bill. The words filled my ears-I live by them 40 years later (or at least by my interpretation of them):

                                                      “We are all the same.”

Underneath the surface not much different.

Random Thoughts:

1). Deep Down We All Seek. Love, good health for us, friends and family, success, fortune. Our paths to what we seek are different. Could be life experience, frames of reference, luck. Yet, no matter what, there is a measure of peace we all wish to discover. You wouldn’t know it based on the day-to-day surface noise we encounter which keeps us divided-class warfare, politics, work, the kids, constipation. Remember though we all share a spiritual thread. The key to reward is to cast it willingly and see what happens. Deep down we are all the same.

2). Empathy/Fairness Strengthens your Signal. If you learn (not easy) to set aside the divisions and truly connect with the very human elements of others, then you will learn something that will make you a well-rounded individual surrounded by friend with rich experiences. Empathy or fairness provides mental fuel for the adventure. Regardless of who you decide to vote for in November, we are all the same.

3). Stock Markets are Fear & Greed Machines. It’s helpful to understand beyond the sophisticated math formulas and technology, financial markets are people. Irrational people. Fear & greed cycles through all of us therefore it flows through markets. It’s not different this time. Far from it. It’s always been this way and always will be unless the dead create a stock exchange. It’s best to understand and work within this framework. You’ll sleep better and deal with the fact that “it is what it is.” The thread that winds through markets is  all the same.

4). Better Them than Me. Recently I watched (50th time) the latest movie remake of “Dawn of the Dead.” When asked to say a kind word over the bodies of the dead (and dead again) Ving Rhames’ character blurts out candidly: “Better them than me.” Yes, better them than you. If you’re alive, keep an open mind. Rise above petty politics and trivial distractions of the day. Get acquainted or possibly connected with other breathing souls. Because when you cut through all the shit realize we are all the same.

And being alive and all the same is better than being dead and all the same.

Ok, Ving R. is a badass. Maybe a bit different? No. Just an actor.

The voice was gone. Heartbeat normal. The streetlight above was bright. I was able to read the gravestone.

Asleep in Jesus. W. Williams. We are all the same.

I went back to sleep. I was no longer the kid with the crazy mom. I was the same. I fit in.

Thanks for the lesson, William.