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.