10 Things You’ll Remember: 10 Seconds Before You Die.

“Two boys gone. The land is mine, Roy.

They’ll never build on it.”

Johnny Cash was awkward at consoling his friend.

Johnny and Roy

I marveled how he lived. Perpetual discomfort in his own skin, especially when the topic turned to human hardships, death or separation from people he had embraced once or a thousand times. He was touched easier than most people.

His heart was meant to be touched.

There was an eternal itch he couldn’t scratch, a wound that never healed and occasionally those souls festered and formed into poetry, often set to music. But mostly, scribbles on wrinkled college-ruled. I possess a few of those scribbles.

He took in those he cared for. All the way in. No one who touched him was ever gone. They continued to tap him on the shoulder, sometimes a bit too much.

Death or disappearance didn’t matter.

Souls gone but never gone, faded to an image of a re-lived last goodbye or emerged as hard reverence.

A graceful testament to those he loved. Especially the tortured ones.

Mostly. The tortured or hurt ones. The frail who couldn’t go on and took matters into their own hands.

Like he was singing to God to let them in.

Pleading for their mercy.

Let. Them. In..

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The Faron Young Memorial. The country legend. A suicide.

They slunk like shadows out of nowhere to follow him.

Around the edges dark of light.

At times, he was ahead of the demons. Then black days existed. He was captured.

Unfortunately,  like ill-timed the public always seemed to be around for those moments.

Johnny mugshot

He was heartbroken and haunted over deaths of youth. They were his losses. In a way, J.C. anxiously sought to absorb the pain because that’s what you did for people you love.

He never was able to release from the death of his brother Jack.

He shuffled the heels of his favorite house shoes.

Back and forth in the dirt like an anxious child with an agitated hitch in his step, or nervous tic. Forming nervous heel arcs in the dirt.

Solemn words delivered deep and straight and without compromise.

Cash was like that with promises.

Those he made to others were kept. Promises made to himself – not so much.

As we admired a big, slung-low orange sun disappear in slow motion beneath the glass-like water of Old Hickory Lake, the conversation shifted to Roy Orbison who lost two of his three children to a house fire.

The Cash and Orbison families were next door neighbors in 1967.

Perhaps it was the Tennessee high-octane that gave me the courage to pull the past into this moment, dig into the scars of heartbreaking tragedy.

The fire fascinated me. Fire always fascinates me.

JC’s overwhelming act of love fascinated me more. As I watched him ponder, perhaps relive that moment, I asked a question that popped into my head.

What do you think goes through your head 10 seconds before you die?

Dark shadow

I don’t know why 10 seconds. It was a question that popped into my head because it was supposed to, I guess.

10 just rolled off my tongue. Little did I know at the time how important the thought of 10 seconds was going to be. And asking the question. Over the following decade I was to lose everybody I cherished.

He spoke in deepest baritone. Vibrations circle and settle in my ears.

In the middle of the night I can hear that voice resonating under my head. Shaking my pillow.

I listen.

I always listened…

plane death

John Gilpin was testing out his camera when he accidentally caught a 14-year-old stowaway’s fall.

The last seconds of a life are staccato sparkles which ignite eyes to free your eyes.

To see.

A thousand firecrackers. Energy agitated, ready to flee, anxious for release.

It’s you pushing out to the next you, whatever, whomever that is.

It’s the wave before the crest.

The smell of a season.

The crisp of air that kisses sharp on the cheeks. Tiny blades of pain and comfort that are rarely never forgotten because it coupled with a first kiss.

The eternally burned anguish of the unrequited.

The glimpse from afar before the lids seal tight.

The sound of a distant cry.

A final goodbye never delivered.

Oh, I’m no expert on death.

Unfortunately, I’ve been in the wrong places at the wrong times. Or have I?

“What are you thinking?” has been my question.

I’ve asked my grandfather, my father, mother, a good friend and a music legend.

The last glimpse of a life from the inside out or inside the inside.

There are snap shots I’ll never forget. Nor do I want to.

But when I asked JC, when I asked him what he believed his last 10 seconds would be like, what would he say?

Quiet. Then.

5 responses:

“I’d see my demons move on. Defeated.”

“I’ll remember how proud I am of my kids and I’d tell them once a second. Ten times.”

“June and I would travel around the planets in a camper.”

“I’d hug Jack for as long as Jesus would allow me. And then some.”

“I want to compose great music to keep the heavens shining.”

Loved ones. I’ve lost many but I’ll stick with my top 3. Their “close to last” words stick with me. They surround me but never wall me in. They encourage embrace.

So, what would your  last 10 seconds on this planet be like?

What will you remember?

Write them. Feel them. One second. Slow it down. Turn it into 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days. Then know you have more time than 10 seconds.

Slow it down.

You’ve been given 10 seconds, 10 lifetimes, of second ten chances.

Are you holding something back?

Are you not telling people in your world how much you love them?

10 seconds goes a long way to shattering a lifetime of regret.

So, 10 seconds is a title. A thought. Headline candy. Nobody is talking anything coherent 10 blood-beats before life energy is released to the universe.

Dad: “Why didn’t we spend more time together?”

Mom: “Will I ever see you again?”

Me. So far: “I never stopped loving you. I never will.”

To live fully is to die a thousand times in one life.

The resurrections make you who you are.

And then there’s the shit that sucks.

Like things you meant to say to those you love before they go.

But you didn’t.

And now you must think those words and hope they carry to a place they may hear them and hold you.

This post is dedicated to radio personality, incredible husband and father, and special person who will be missed  by thousands for an eternity.

A good man. A really good man. A noble man.

Matt

Take courage when the road is long.

Don’t ever forget you are never alone.

I  want you to live forever. 

Underneath the sky so blue….

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).

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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.

You’re Gonna Die Today. 10 Ways to Avoid a Certain Kill.

I felt a slight breeze. I thought I was dreaming.

Then warmth. (Oh I must have been dreaming.)

Heavy breathing heard. Stale liquor odor permeated my nostrils.

Oh where was I? Not dreaming. Just harsh reality.

I turned my head away from the strange. Cat like. Fast.

Surprised at how alert I was so quick. Even though I wasn’t fully connecting the dots.

Eyes wide open. Senses not ready to connect fully to my brain.

I was sound asleep-a primal sliver of me was wide awake.

Was it a nightmare?

I immediately recognized the brown, worn, wooden (or facsimile) handle.

I remembered my mother telling me the knife was a wedding present from Uncle Sal. That was November, 1959.

This was September, 1977. 2:15AM. And there was my parent’s wedding gift deep in my pillow, up to the handle. Right where my ear and the rest of my face was a split moment earlier.

And split was the correct word to use. If I didn’t move away as quick as I did, the knife nana used to cut tomatoes for Sunday pasta sauce would have been deep in my head.

Knives are scary. Little people with knives. Scarier.

What would nana do? She would react! Punch out!

And that’s what I did. Straight up hard enough to knock mom’s new drunken boytoy right off the bed.

I ran. I kept running. I thanked up to divine vapors I couldn’t see nor understand.

Thank you for the burst of stamina I needed to survive.

I realized.

I could have died today. Killed today. Just like that. Shit-and I needed to get to school!

Don’t kid yourself. Most are out to gut you.

Every day someone is out to kill you. Even you.

No, I’m not referring to some psycho ex with a kitchen knife although for some of you I believe that’s coming. Mentally. Financially.

The entire world is wonderfully designed to slap you down and take your money for junk you’ll never use.

I mean do I really need this? I do want one (and I don’t fish.)

Sold millions..Millions!!! Really?

Daily, from the time you wake and turn on the radio or television there’s some fucker out to murder your spirit. It happens today more than ever.

Or I’m getting older and as my prostate grows I get angrier. Either way, I know it’s happening!

So what the hell can you do?? Random thoughts:

1). Find a compliment for someone today. Swallow your bile and do it. And be sincere. Set your tone for the day. Tell someone you love them even though they ignore you when you say it. Do it for you. Don’t expect shit in return.

2). Go one friggen day and don’t buy a damn thing. Not even gum. Buy nothing for one day. Ignore all the temptation to part with money. If you need gas stay home. Take a sick day. You’re sick of spending. And if you must – USE CASH. Yes, cash.

Much “Cash” is king.

3). Ignore negative people. If you feel like you lost a tailwind after talking to a person, remove that person from your life. Today.

4). Increase your retirement plan or 401(k) contribution by 1 percent. Get online or call your retirement plan customer service and do it. Do it now. You won’t even miss it.

5). Write down everything that/everyone who makes your life better. I carry a Moleskine notebook with me everywhere and write daily.

6). Move around. I bought a headset so I can make phone calls while walking around.

7). Cancel a credit card. Cancel your most recent card. You perhaps need two max. All the rest need to go. Cancel the one with the least credit history (I don’t want to murder your credit score) and the most in interest charges.

8). Take control. Of something. I don’t care if it’s arranging your pantry or balancing your checkbook. Accomplish something you feel good about. Something that gets your life in control. In better order. There’s a beauty to order. Hot messes only go so far.

9). Give (get) a foot massage (from) to a willing participant. Personally, I’m not doing this. I may do neck. There are  2 people in the world I’d touch below the ankles. They know who they are. Enough said. And nobody is touching me. Thanks though.

10). Breathe. Go deep.

You’re not dead yet.

You have more to do.

Hold the bastards off. Breathe deep!