Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mother's Day Forgiveness

On Mother's Day I give myself a little gift of namaste. My thought process is, "What a relaxing way to start Mother's Day!" I figure I'll be nice and chilled out for the day and that will make me a truly pleasant mom for the whole entire day while my family is forcibly nice to me. 

(Just kidding. They're always nice to me.)

The yoga teacher plays a bunch of mom-themed songs and it really doesn't mean much to me. I pretty much cut myself off emotionally from any over-the-top mom sentimentality. I try to be pretty cool and unemotional about most overly treacly mother stuff because I have mom issues. 

I know, who doesn't? 

Maybe the difference is that I've been in therapy since I was 14 years old. I don't know whether to be proud of that or ashamed. I've never claimed to be a quick learner. I've taken those emotional intelligence tests online and basically I'm emotionally impaired. So cut me some slack. I'm medicated and in therapy. 

I'm a work in progress.

There I am, in yoga, with 50 other people jam-packed in a tiny room, listening to soothing sentimental songs about mothers, listening to the yoga teacher talk about moms and al of the sacrifices they made for you, and I'm totally focused on the physical aspect of it all.

It's the first time I've tried a regular Vinyasa class. I'd been doing slower Vinyasa classes during the week because I'm new at the whole yoga thing and my kinesthetic intelligence comes second only to my emotional intelligence. All 5'10" of me does not communicate smoothly or harmoniously. The head does not know what the heart, arms and feet are up to. 

It's potentially comedic.

But I'm doing it! I'm keeping up! I'm touching my toes and going in the right direction! Everything is so cool! I kind of roll my eyes at some of the over-the-top mother stuff because I'm still working through "My Mother Was an Alcoholic" even after 30 years of therapy. I'm medicated now, so the learning seems to come quicker. But I'm a hard girl with walls. I rarely if ever cry in therapy. 

I'm basically a badass.

But then: Eminem.

Motherfreaking Eminem comes on and he's rapping all angry and spitting out words about his mother like he always does. I usually don't pay much attention to Eminem save for the rhythm and energy and whole force of the thing—but I'm in yoga. It' dark. I'm sweaty and exhausted. I've built up emotional walls from all the sacrificial mother talk and I might be in a weakened state.

Suddenly there's Eminem wrapping about forgiving his mom, about being too old to cry about this, and even though the tone and the music are angry and driving, the words are wrapped up in pain and forgiveness and goddammit all, I'm crying for the second time in this new yoga studio.

"And I'm way too old to cry, the shit is painful though
But, Ma, I forgive you, so does Nathan, yo
All you did, all you said, you did your best to raise us both."

Fortunately it's dark and hot, everyone's body is running with sweat. No one is going to notice silent tears running down the sides of my sweaty face. I'm doing everything I can to not start sobbing. Like ugly crying. All I want to do is to go out to my car and rest my head on the steering wheel and cry from the depths of my soul, I want to cry so hard my throat gets raw and whatever nameless hurt in me is finally excised once and for all. 

"And as you left, I had this overwhelming sadness come over me
As we pulled off to go our separate paths
And I saw your headlights as I looked back
And I'm mad I didn't get the chance to thank you for being my Mom and my Dad"

But I'm in a yoga room packed with people on Mother's Day. I'm a civilized person and I keep my shit together. I'm really good at keeping my shit together. Finally we all lay on our mats, palms up, eyes closed, and the room is filled with a new song. I keep pulling it together and then those rebellious tears run down the sides of my face but I'm in the back row and I'm silent. I'm so good at being silent. So good at remaining unnoticeable. I blend into walls, I blend into carpet, I blend into the hallways at school so no one notices how bad everything is at home. 

My god, can I blend now please?

I blend and bleed into my yoga mat and suddenly: hands on my face. Hands stroking my forehead and hair. Sympathetic hands that soothe and rub out the pain and I'm torn between mortification and gratification. I hope the teacher's hands have moved to every one of those 50 faces in the entire class. I hope it's not because she saw that the water running down the sides of my face wasn't sweat.

And then a cool cloth on my eyes. Gentle hands that press it down on my eyes. I accept this kindness. I accept this love. I let go of the fear that she notices my pain.

Then class is over and I remove the cloth from my eyes and see that everyone else has a white washcloth over their eyes too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Thing About Bullies

*This is an older blog post that I'm reposting for a friend who is dealing with a bully. Thought it might help those of you who are dealing with bullies too.*

Most of my life I have dealt with various bullies by either trying to stay under their radar or by trying to kill them with kindness. What heart of stone could resist my continuously applied sweetness and light? Surely I could tame the savage beast and hence be special enough for the bully to be kind to me and bully anyone who messed with me.

Turns out that's exhausting and doesn't actually give you much in return. I don't know about you, but I don't have people messing with me very often. Besides, it's usually the bully in question who is messing with me, so what's the point of befriending him in the first place?

Lately, I've had enough of bullies and I've been speaking up for myself. Of course the conflict riles me up and stresses me out. I prefer that everyone be nice, including me. But enough is enough. Turns out being a doormat just encourages bullies to wipe their feet on you.

So the other day I dressed down a bully. Oh, I went in for the kill. I sliced and diced the bully with the long knives of a verbal ninja and the bully didn't know what hit him. I was mostly stunned by how easy it was. When I actually lashed out and took the bully to task, he had nothing to say. It was almost like slapping around a baby. He fell apart under the truth being hurled at him, no holds barred, no filter, just the brutal truth. One after the other. Brutal truth punches left and right.

It wasn't nice. It wasn't pretty. And he probably felt completely emasculated and like a ginormous loser after I was done with him. I imagined I would feel really bad about it after all was said and done, but oddly, I felt empowered. Emboldened. "Don't mess with me." Hells yeah!

Kinda like a bully, right? I worried about that. Had I just turned into the aggressor? No, I was merely holding the line, announcing that I have boundaries and they will not be crossed. Bullies like to leap over your boundaries and then slap you in the face. This particular bully once knocked me around a parking lot and I had to get a restraining order to make sure he didn't leap over that boundary again.

And he hasn't.

That's the trouble with bullies. We want them to be reasonable. We want them to be good, to simply obey the rules so everyone can live in peace. I don't want any trouble. I just want to be left alone. But nooooo.

Yet the guilt persisted. Was I now the bully? The bully had called ME a bully and that threw me off, I admit it. Doormats aren't accustomed to being called bullies. We want people to like us. And to have clean feet. So I did a little Internet research on how to deal with a bully.

It didn't help.

In column after column I read about how it is best to avoid conflict with a bully. (Duh.) Article after article spelled out how the bully is actually a very psychically fragile being. A bully is merely the gruff mask to a terribly insecure ego. Wracked with insecurities, they lash out in order to protect their tiny, tiny egos.

Some articles went on to say that you should encourage the bully and praise the bully for what they do right and not mention where they fall short. Are you kidding me? If that's not a co-dependent and dysfunctional relationship I don't know what is. Jesus.

So should I praise the bully when he stops grabbing me by the arms and banging my head against the wall?

"Thanks for stopping your attack! That was really nice of you and showed a lot of restraint! Good job!"

Screw that. I may be trying to progress along the Buddhist path, but I'm thinking the Buddha wouldn't think I was showing myself compassion if I let a bully continue to scare me. So I looked around a little more, ignored the self-help writers and went straight for the politicians.

This is what I found:

"If you let a bully come in your front yard, he'll be on your porch the next day and the day after that he'll rape your wife in your own bed."    

- Lyndon B. Johnson

That's what I'm talking about. I'm not a bully. I'm not prancing all over someone else's lawn. I'm just telling one asshat to stay off mine.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Everyone Says I Should Do Yoga

"You're a Buddhist? Do you do yoga?"

I don't even want to tell you how many times I've been asked that question. And if you really are asking me that question, the answer would have been "No. I don't." I may have glared at you too.

I've been asked this so many times and it irritates me so much that it's become a standing joke between my husband and me. He sends me articles about yoga or if someone asks me that question in front of him, he hides a huge grin behind his hand. 

Despite my general irritation with yoga, I have tried it off and on throughout the years. But it never took. Many yoga classes are too slow and too boring. Some are too fast and too confusing. I almost got into yoga last summer when I tried Hot Vinyasa. The sweat made me feel like I was actually accomplishing something. But most of the teachers were either too new-agey and soft-spoken or too hip and full of themselves.

But when my friend asked me to try a new place a few weeks ago, I said "Yes." I wanted to spend time with my friend. Plus I'm super stressed out and my body is super inflexible. I mean, despite not liking yoga, I've always known my body could benefit from it.

I carry my stress in my shoulders and neck. I'm a huncher from way back. Maybe it's because I was too tall too soon? As a young girl and teen, I hunched down to try and seem like I wasn't taller than all of the boys. And I don't handle conflict well. If there's tension in the room, my shoulders go up to my ears as though I'm shielding myself from a blow.

You try a lifetime of that and see if you're not wound as tight as a drum.

So I went to yoga.

And I liked it.

Like really, really liked it.


I found a class that just jived with me all around. It was after the kids went to bed. The class is never busy because it's the last one of the night and everyone else is probably going to bed. The yoga room is lit by candles and there's gentle music playing instead of hip modern tunes that are meant to make me push myself to the edge like a goddamn spinning class.

That's not what I need.

I need to lay on a mat in a hot room with only flickering candlelight. 

On top of all that, it seems I've found a yoga teacher who speaks my language. He reminds me of the guiding teacher at my temple. He "gets" it. He's enlightened without being pious. He drops a lot of f-bombs and makes me laugh. He tells stories about letting go of all the shit that got you all riled up during the day and the way he tells it, it doesn't seem like some new-age pretentious bullshit. 

It just seems like truth.

The other night, as we took a big breath in and then slowly exhaled, something happened. 

"What if, when you exhaled this last time, you really let go? What if you let go of that thing that has burdened you the most? What would that be like? What would that feel like? What if with this breath, you finally let that shit go?" he said.

I thought of that place in my heart, the tender spot. That source of all my heartache. And instead of rolling my eyes, I allowed myself to consider it.

"What if I let it go?" 

For a moment, while I exhaled, I imagined that I breathed out that hurt—flushed it out of my body, and where it once was, I was light.

Then I felt tears falling down the sides of my face. A part of me wanted to shake my fist at the room and say, "Damn you, Yoga! You finally got me!" But the other part of me felt … happy and relieved.

So I laid on the floor in the candlelight and kind of rejoiced in those tears.

Namaste, indeed.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Nothing Much to Say in Detroit.

An aptly-named vin.

I recently received 130 emails notifying me that my blog was being spammed by some spambot selling presumably fake and/or stolen Michael Kors purses. Or was it Michael Cores? Whatever the case, it brought my attention over and over again to this neglected blog. Each *ping* of an email received was another tap on the shoulder saying, "Hello. You have a blog. Why don't you write in it?"

But as is the case with most writer's block, the moment I feel as though I must post in my blog, my mind goes completely blank. Even once trivial thoughts and ideas begin to emerge, I immediately dismiss them as "not good enough" or "already posted as status updates on Facebook."

I bought these today. I'm putting them here now in order to add color.

I've been thinking I would post while I'm in Paris. I mean, if you can't come up with writing material in Paris, what the hell kind of lame excuse for a writer are you, anyway? I'll have nothing but time over the course of six days in the most wonderful city in the world. I'll bring my big camera and take real photographs. I'll post them artfully with witty quips about Parisians. It will be wonderful.

This is my cat Obi-Wan Kenobi. He used to be feral too.

But what can I post about Detroit? I've had three jobs in the past six months. After working in the same ad agency for seven years, I left. That was momentous enough. But then I left the new job after 12 weeks for a new, new job. All this newness and change has been quite exhausting. It hasn't left me with much energy or inspiration to write. Besides, I'm terrible at change. I've also been horribly homesick for agency life. It's like being in the creative department of an ad agency allows you to go completely feral and I've been trying to get domesticated at these new jobs. I want to drink beer at work and swear at my co-workers. I miss having remote controlled helicopters buzzing over my head. I miss rock bands and cappuccino machines. I miss all the beards and tattoos. My god, I even miss leggings as pants, if only to mock them with my work partner. So yes. I'm a little homesick and dealing with change and all of that leaves me creatively challenged.

These are paper cats. I made them. I'm not sure why either.

Paris. Paris is when I'll have something to write about that is interesting and beautiful. Profundity will pour out of me like a heavy cab and creativity will spread across my brain like fois gras. I'll sit where Hemingway and Fitzgerald once sat and fantasize about never coming back to the bourgeois Etats-Unis.

I'll write then. When I have those kind of thoughts. Readable thoughts. Dreamer's thoughts. Thoughts that will take you away from wherever it is you're sitting right now, reading this, wishing you were somewhere else.



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Giving Money to Strangers.

My husband showed me this video a few weeks ago and I haven't been able to shake it off. Perhaps that's because he sent it right around the New Year and I had resolutions on my mind? Perhaps it's because I'm hormonal or an overly sensitive-type person? For whatever reason, the video confirmed something I'd suspected all along.

It's better to help than not to help.

I know we all have reasons for not helping. Too busy. Don't want to cause a ruckus. Don't like strangers. Don't know what someone is actually going to do with the money. Etc. I've had all of those thoughts go through my head when confronted with someone asking for money or donations of any kind. Every time I say no or pass them by, it nags at me.

I'm not gonna lie.

It just doesn't sit well with me.

Ever since I've watched this video, I've decided to say yes to everyone. If you've got a cup, I'm putting money in it. If you want canned food for the homeless, I'm going to buy a can. Although I've only had two opportunities to give people money and one opportunity to donate food, it feels good that I've said yes three times rather than no.

The two men I helped were both standing on the side of the road, on different days. The first man was easy to help. He was standing outside on a frigid day and I waved him over to my car. When I gave him the money he said, "Bless you."

The second gentleman was a little more out of my way, but I decided that annoying the cars behind me was more important than passing up another opportunity to help. That, in and of itself, is outside of my comfort zone.

"You're a lifesaver," he said and our eyes locked. I was caught in a moment of raw humanity. I was not staring into the eyes of a junkie. I was not staring into the eyes of a conman. I was looking into the eyes of a fellow human being who was suffering and who was grateful for my small gesture.

It almost crushed me.

To think of all the people I'd said No to because I was afraid they might be drug users, alcoholics, conmen, lazy and whatever other negative connotations I could come up with to excuse my inhumanity. But the fact remains — not giving people money always makes me feel bad.

But giving never makes me feel bad.

I feel more connected.

I feel more human.

And it just feels right.

Maybe giving to others is actually a selfish act? In trying to help others, I actually end up feeling better about myself.

Friday, January 9, 2015

The Case of the Very Strange Speech Impediment

I told my husband how a former boyfriend called me "Structure." It was his pet name for me, and yes, it was odd. That boyfriend thought I said the word "Structure" in a strange way and then he would imitate me, really enunciating the consonants in the word.


I thought it was just a bit of silliness. I didn't really think it was a real thing. Maybe a harmless exaggeration on what was a hardly noticeable trait.

But when I told my husband the story, he laughed.

"Yeah, you really do chew up the consonants in that word."

We both chuckled and I filed it under "Even More Charming Quirks for Mandy." I figured the way I said "Structure" was similar to the way I organized objects on restaurant tables or the way I obsessed about my appearance. Quirky. Odd. But totally not a real problem.

As the years have gone by, I've obviously admitted to myself that I do in fact have an eating disorder and I do have OCD. I thought my weird behaviors and thoughts were just that … little oddities that I could control if I really wanted to.

But now I admit that these things are well outside the realm of my control and are most definitely not "normal." And I'm fine with that. I figured "Structure" was something I did intentionally and that I could stop it if I really wanted to.

It came up again the other day and I decided to put an end to the charade. I needed to prove to myself and my husband that I could say "Structure" like a normal person. I mean, between the OCD and the eating disorder, my neuroses plate is full.

"Teach me how to say 'structure' right."

"Are you serious?" my husband started laughing immediately and closed his eyes.

"C'mon. I mean it. What am I doing wrong? STRUCK-TURE. STRUCK-TURE. What's wrong with that?"

"It sounds like your chewing the letters. You're really getting right up in those consonants. Relax your mouth a little."

"SCHTRUCKTURRRRRE." I looked at him hopefully. He started laughing again.

"You're pushing it too far to the front of your mouth or something. Just say, 'structure."


"Oh my god, you really love those consonants," he started chuckling again.

"Stop it! I want to fix it! SCHTRUCKTURRRE. SCHTRUCTURRRRE."

"Stop saying it. You're just saying it the same way over and over again. Try to soften the consonants."


"Now you're whispering it."


"Now you're making an insane face. What are you doing?"

I'm trying to change the shape of my mouth when I say it. SSSSSSSTRUCKTURRRRE."

"You look like an crazy person. Stop grimacing. Put less emphasis on the Ts and the Rs."


"Now you're whispering and grimacing. I think you have too much of an "SCH" sound in there."


"Now you're hissing like a snake."


"Now you've dropped all the vowels."




"No. Just let it go."


"It's cute. Just leave it alone."




"It's not working."

At this point, our four-year-old daughter walked in the room.

"Hey Grace, say STRUCTURE!" I said.

"SCHTRUCTURRRRRRR!" she said back, joyfully.

"Oh god, no," whispered my husband.

And I felt oddly satisfied. Like I'd passed something on of myself. I will live on in the consonants of my progeny.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Resolutions Should Be Fun and Should Not Use the Word Should. Shoot. I've Already Broken My Own Rule.

I read a Facebook post by my friend John in which he gathered together sundry posts from last year's New Year's resolutions. Though he tagged the people whom he'd quoted, he did not identify who said what. One post read, "I prefer my New Year's resolutions to be fun."

And that one rang true to me. I don't know if that was my actual post or if it's only wishful thinking. I do know that my resolution last year was to sleep naked more often. Though I started out strong in the new year, just as with other, less fun resolutions, I slacked off on this as the year went by. By year's end, I was more often in a tattered baseball jersey in bed rather than in my birthday suit.

But I stick by my premise (or whoever's premise it might have been). Resolutions should be fun. Otherwise the new year starts out on such a punitive note. Lose weight. Get more sleep. Work harder. Work out. Spend more time with your kids. Eat right. Quit smoking. Quit drinking. Read more. Watch less TV. Quit Facebook.

New Year's resolutions are for the puritans in all of us, I swear.

I'd rather resolve to spend more time with friends. To push myself outside of my comfort zone. To do something I've never done before. Go somewhere new. Shake things up a little. Activate the gray matter in my brain so it doesn't slowly slip into atrophy as the years go by.

This year I would like to spend more time with friends. Go out with my girlfriends once a month. Host more parties. Not make such a big deal out of having parties. The house doesn't have to be perfect. (It already is, let's be honest.) I don't have to cook all of the food. I don't have to buy all of the booze. (My friends come with plenty.) I think my perfectionism gets in the way of my socialism. (Yes I know it doesn't mean that.)

I'd like to resolve to be more impetuous and less perfectionist.

I'd also like to get a little more uncomfortable sometimes. I went to a Startup Grind event in December. I saw Veronika Scott speak about how she started The Empowerment Plan. Her initiative is one to help the homeless. Her company makes coats that turn into sleeping bags for the homeless. The coats are actually made by women who were formerly homeless. Therefore Scott is not only making a product that helps the homeless, her company itself is employing the homeless to make that product. It was in inspirational evening on a dark, cold night in Detroit. A night I didn't feel like going downtown. A night I just wanted to leave work and go veg at home in front of HGTV.

There are Startup Grind events each month in Detroit. And each event features a different entrepreneur from our city. I'd like to resolve to go to Startup Grind each month. Once a month I'd fling myself out of my comfort zone. Once a month I'd go out instead of going home. Once a month I'd meet new people instead of hermitting away in my own home.

That's a start.

I'd like to go to temple more often. I'd like to connect to my sangha. Every time I go to temple, I leave with a head full of good thoughts. I'm often inspired to write. Sunday mornings at Still Point Zen Temple last much longer than the hour or so of time they require. That hour feeds my mind for many hours and days afterwards.

I'd also like to be naked more in 2015 than I was in 2014. Even though I fell off the wagon last year, I want to make another effort. Humans are animals. We crave closeness. We crave intimacy. Babies can die if they don't get enough skin-to-skin contact with their mothers. Little baby monkeys prefer the comfort and warmth of a cloth-covered fake mother than the cold, hard fake wire mother with a bottle of formula. You see, comfort and warmth takes precedence over even food.

We often forget this.

Are our New Year's resolutions meant to be punitive? A strict set of rules on how to be better people? Better looking? Thinner? Healthier? Smarter? Or should our resolutions make us happier? What makes us happy? What does science say?

I've heard it time and time again, but our minds crave new experiences. Our minds crave change. Throw yourself out of your comfort zone in 2015. Do something inconvenient. Go to an event and meet new people. Wake up early on a Sunday. Get naked with your significant other even when it's cold and they're annoying.

Keep life interesting. Keep your brain guessing on what you might do next. You might be surprised by how happy getting out of your comfort zone makes you. It's counter-intuitive really.

But I find that the smartest things usually make the least sense at first.

Happy New Year to all of you. I'm making this post in all its imperfect glory. I'm uncomfortable with that, but here's me pushing myself out of my comfort zone on this first day in 2015. I challenge you to do the same.

And let me know how it goes.