4 Simple Ways to Live a Happier Life.

“In the dark of light, there’s no life in sight.”

Your IPhone when you stare into the screen.

Reality alert: As humans our tendency is to complicate everything, or close to everything. This penchant to complicate festers the longer we live.

Once I believed that with age came wisdom and clarity. Now, I’m not so sure.

With each passing year, the build-up of negative experiences saunter like heavy suffocating shadows.

We over-stuff our heads with negative episodes of the past. Personal baggage pressed at the seams appears at the ready to spill poisonous contents on innocent poor bastards thus destroying any hope of connection.

Facebook has a blocking feature where you can make people quickly disappear.

Blocking is a healthy addiction. Too bad we can’t find a way to permanently block debilitating thoughts. At least long enough to allow another to share a comforting word without skeptically searching behind it for a motive. Too much searching. Not enough listening.

We are overstimulated and overstimulation leads to overthinking which culminates in complication.

Opportunities to connect with a clean slate, with minimal if any expectations, are rare.

The worst part?

Our inner sparks go cold. Nothing excites us anymore. We think smaller. We can no longer find the humor. We lose hope.

This will be my first Christmas without a tree. Oh, I own one. Purchased a new eight-foot evergreen beauty with colored lights from Wayfair last month. Surprising to me, I have very little motivation to release the damn thing. Like opening the box means imminent doom. It’s a warning sign that something isn’t right. One I won’t ignore.

I think about how our brains shrink as we age. Perhaps that’s the reason I’m just not feeling the tree thing this year.

It’s all about perspective and not falling into a dark well with a bottom that never follows through. Talk about perspective – I know a few males who can’t ‘get it up’ any longer and they’re happier as hell. Happier than they’ve ever been.

Having sex, thinking about sex, working to get sex, steers precious mental resources away from important, life-changing ventures. So they tell me.

One head may be dead but the other – Teeming with ideas?

Amazing what happens when the bar is raised high from the low of which you focus.

Simplicity in a world dominated by narcissistic grandeur is a daily challenge. One must work at it. Stay focused. Of course, it’s healthy to have a positive self image. However, there’s a deteriorating marginal utility to self-adulation when every photo on your personal Facebook page is a selfie (and they all look the same after a while, BTW).

In the social media age, seductive headlines, each inflammatory phrase, is deftly crafted to over-stimulate the limbic system of the brain, the amygdala, or plainly, the primal ground-zero of personal fears.

Fears that we’re not the smartest, the prettiest, the sexiest, the most popular; that our dicks are too small, asses too wide; our politics are rot and conflicting opinions don’t count for shit. Today there exist endless algorithms of headlines which gorge negativity.

Image result for fear

Social media obfuscates how we truly measure up with little understanding why we try so hard to do so. We’re constantly competing, seeking something (or someone) smarter or betting looking, always striving to one-up. Instead of competing with ourselves, we’re competing with the fabricated, select Facebook lives of others, most of them strangers.

It’s an anxious, mystifying state of purgatory. The hamster wheel to nowhere. No rewarding endgame. Just exhaustion.

At the end of all the mental bullshit gymnastics, I wonder:

What the fuck do we accomplish?

Image result for penis shrinkage

As I purposely tighten up my personal space and establish new boundaries which includes a reduction of social activities, purposeful quiet has allowed me to re-group and take inventory of the physical, mental and spiritual contents of my life.

Calm has finally arrived after a prolonged stint in a mentally abusive relationship, the worst I’ve experienced with another human; a prolonged period of anger, mourning, and ostensibly, apathy, blissful apathy.

It’s also been an amazing period of career growth. Embedded throughout there has been this yearning, insatiable desire for simplicity.

In a plugged-in 24/7 world that seems to thrive on complexity and drama, I cogitate over simplicity as the true path to dissonance reduction. Inner quiet emerges from disconnect, not the connect.

Achieving small, however you define ‘small,’ allows control and control creates choices that lead to fulfilling accomplishments. At the least, your perspective won’t feel “blocked” or “polluted” by the miasma of complexity.

Listen, people are catching on to the concept of simple. It’s not a fad. It’s becoming a way of life for a generation. Oh they’re online connected but ironically they’ve found the way to use it to their advantage, I guess.

Forget Millennials. Consider Gen Z or those born after 1998. They strive for small yet enriching lives.

gen-z

According to Goldman analysts Robert Boroujerdi and Christopher Wolf, Gen Z is more entrepreneurial and pragmatic about money,

“Raised by parents during a time marred by economic stress, rising student debt burdens, socio-economic tensions and war overseas, these Gen Z youths carry a less idealistic, more pragmatic perspective on the world.”

What are 4 ways to live a simpler life?

Random Thoughts:

Downsize

Living lavish appears great in movies. In reality, not so much. Big mortgage, big car payment, big liabilities in general, are certain to curtail the breathing room and proper perspective to allow consideration of  life-changing choices that can lead to enriching wealth however wealth is defined.

Generally, people will stick with what feels safe such as a job they dislike, solely to meet financial obligations. They may even compromise their personal ambitions, seek happiness in the very possessions that chain them, prevent them from achieving personal and financial self-fulfillment.

Downsizing begins in the psyche. Start small. Take inventory of material items no longer used then release them. If you must purchase a durable good like an auto, exclude models with unnecessary bells and whistles.

Need a kitchen appliance? Basic models freeze, clean, bake at 30% less; seek out floor models or slightly dented. I’ve always been amazed by consumers who are turned off by an undetectable scratch on a refrigerator door.

Downsizing will help you reclaim some of the rhythm of life choked off by a complex, debt-fueled existence.

Cut

Image result for negative energy

The wrong people can chip away at your sense of well-being like a cancer. Complex reasons exist for keeping around those who treat you badly, cut you down or make you feel rotten about yourself. I won’t go into them. Look back and I’m certain you can come to your own conclusions as to why you stay longer than you should. We’ve all gone through this.

Cutting people you dislike out your life is one thing; removing those you love because their energy isn’t healthy is a supreme paradox.

Those who thrive on drama or negativity battle a special kind of demon. Usually, due to a great loss or void in their lives their perspective is closed, or off kilter. They’re not out consciously to cause harm.

Frankly, more of the damage is to themselves; their release of energy or what I deem the “after burn,” is what those close to them feel. It’s like standing near a blazing fever or taking in the bittersweet odor of a person close to death from metastasizing cancer.

The easiest path to a cut is simply, avoidance. Frankly, under the guise of being busy it’s plausible to rarely be in the same place at the same time.

Regardless of the method, to remove people you like or possess no-ill will is a difficult conscious choice to cleanse the negative and establish fresh boundaries.  It’s the saddest of breaks, however it could be necessary.

Journal

Self-reflection with journal and pen (not computer), even if it’s only 15 minutes a day, is a healthy way to blow off steam and deal with the energy-draining trials of the daily toil.

Whether it’s author James Altucher’s daily habit to generate 10 ideas a day on a waiter’s pad of all things, documenting a morning ritual or short sentences of gratitude, writing is a healthy addiction that provides balance.

As I’m up at 4 am daily (I’m a morning person), I favor The Morning Sidekick Journal.

Abstain

Abstinence is a discipline even if it’s not a forever deal. An extended period of isolation or limiting activities which fog the mind, is a self-nurturing act.

I have a friend who for three months a year abstains from alcohol, fried foods, staying out past nine and updating social media. It’s her line in the sand. A time of rejuvenation and renewed purpose. Those months are not boring, they’re filled with organization, writing, physical self-improvement and documented reflection.

You know what complicates lives?

Pondering over endless brands of paper towels and toilet paper that choke up long aisles at retail stores.

How much fluff and fragrance do I need to wipe my ass or clean counters? Also, keeping up with every social media channel and figuring out why we take on such a task is beyond rationale.

Recently, at Best Buy with my daughter I was overwhelmed by 4 rows of washers and dryers. Waves of whites and stainless steel blocks vying for consumer attention. Front load. Top load. Multiple dials, buttons.

Overall, I felt paralyzed and sort of stupid. When I need to replace appliances I’ll look to hire an appliance consultant to make sense of it all.

Washing machine

Am I launching a space shuttle or cleansing my briefs? You tell me.

Strange how with all the modern conveniences and innovations designed to make our lives easier, simplicity has been push-buttoned and dialed away.

Maybe ’tis the season let go. Get crazy: Don’t look for reasons to believe a person you recently met is going to disappoint like an ex or another asshole.

Set your expectations of others to zero. 

Well, I’m feeling better.

I may put that new Christmas tree up after all.

Check with me next week.

Dedicated to my close friend Lori Pinder who searches and defines her personal simplicity every day.

 

 

 

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.

 

Five Silly Signs of Economic Recovery – What are Yours?

As economics is a social science, we all exist or swim in the soup of its existence. The best economic indicators are within 3 miles of your house. No really, they are. I’m always observant of the world, mostly my world, as a launching point for economic discussion or analysis.

I’ve learned to get better at taking in the signs of my current surroundings, stepping back, and examining how they apply to everyone else.  On occasion, I’m able to at least scope out an investment idea which ostensibly requires further homework and some hair pulling. But that’s ok. I’m thinking. I’m observing. I’m talking. I’m taking notes.

However you want to term it – Economic conditions are sluggish, sort of ok, not so hot; as a friend of mine would lament – sort of “meh.” I’m thinking the economy is somewhere between “meh,” and “yay!” Like pergatory. No fire, brimstone. No heaven. Just sort of blah. There’s an economic angel in there somewhere waiting for wings. For the first time, in a long time, I’m seeing a decent positive tone to my 5 hometown signs of economic recovery.

Random Thoughts:

1). Waitstaff at my local Denny’s is progressively less appealing to the eye. During the throes of the financial crisis, I noticed the waiters, waitresses, cashiers, looked like models. Good-looking people were serving me my Grand Slam Breakfasts. Now, not so much. The current staff messes up my order more often now, too (I ordered over easy not scrambled). In my mind, the lookers have moved on to better opportunities. I’m willing to sacrifice my breakfast for the greater good of economic prosperity.

 Why did my sexy waitstaff wander off?

2). It takes twice as long as usual for Domino’s to deliver my order of chicken wings. My pup Princess hates this even more than I do. I ask: Hey, what’s up with the wings taking an hour to fly over here? I’m sorry sir we are really, really busy. I don’t understand it. And it’s a Tuesday. I always tip the Domino’s delivery people 20 percent.

3). Less bodies at the local gym at 2pm weekdays. I shouldn’t even be there at 2pm weekdays. It seemed that during the “Great Recession,” I couldn’t find an available treadmill. Now? Rows and rows (and rowing machines). Perhaps it has to do with people waiting for their chicken wings from Domino’s and losing weight from starvation. May be coincidence but I’ll take it as a positive.

 4). Higher heads. I’m noticing progressively higher tilts to the jawlines. Like the people on the street are working through this economic cycle, getting a better handle on their household financial situations, feeling lighter, less burdened. I’m seeing more of a shine to people’s eyes. Perhaps more of a focus on the little things that are more important. I like it although I’m a bit paranoid so I’m always thinking people are staring at me for some reason. At the zenith of the housing bubble I was downright paranoid all the time. Now? Slightly. Good sign.

 I’m walking here..

5). Everywhere I go temporary license plates. I know for sure autos make up more of our GDP growth than housing does. I’m seeing more temporary tags than ever on the back of cars. They’re usually poorly printed paper tags that look like your kid drew them using black crayon on white posterboard.

Ok, these are fun, perhaps silly. We are completely entitled as deep inside we are all economists.

You know you have your five. Or two. Or one.

Share them. Write this stuff down. See if you’re correct in a year.

What  – you have anything else to do?

Not an economic sign.