I recently started my own company and was frustrated that it wasn’t progressing at the rate at which I wanted. In my mind, I had envisioned that the company would be up running, financially sustainable, and growing exponentially. When this didn’t happen immediately, I soon became full with doubt, wondering whether I was capable enough to start my own business.
Here is what I have learned: Our time frame of where we want to be is often far from where we actually are. Meaning, what we want to happen and when doesn’t always unfold on the schedule that we want it to.
When we are frustrated or disappointed, it is easy to ask questions doubting our self-worth. But when we shift our questions of doubt to curiosity and reflection, we can gain much more from our experience. Some wonderful questions to ask during moments of frustration are: What am I learning right now? How is this period of waiting deepening me? How am I dealing this moment? How am I being inspired to envision something new?
Life rarely unfolds on our time table, and that is a reality we must learn to accept. When we accept it, we can become comfortable in the present moment, knowing that we are here where we are right now for a reason.
We do not have all the answers in life; sometimes all we have is questions. But the questions that we ask can help prepare us in the future. Taking time to rest in questions that inspire growth and reflection will help pave the path down the road where anything may be possible. It’s through sitting in those questions and being patient for the answers that we become prepared for what’s to come, slowly developing into the self-aware women of character that we hope to be.
I have a terrible memory. This is not as much a character trait as a medical condition. Instead of being sympathetic and enlisting me in
treatment, my family has simply decided that I am a liar.
Because my memory is skewed, I admit that I have a tendency
to recount stories far differently than the way things actually happened. I
don’t mean to make stuff up, but
because of my condition, the details become quite fuzzy.
For example, I spent eight months recounting the story about
how Alex and I got engaged. For those of you who haven’t heard it, I would have told you except for the fact that when Alex heard me recall it, he stopped me halfway
through, looked at me sympathetically and said, “Kerbear, that’s not what
“What do you mean?” I said, wide-eyed and prolonging my
vowels in disbelief.
Alex then walked through his version, which, after he
mentioned it, did seem to ring a bell a bit more than my version. And the matter was settled. At this point, I don’t even get defensive any more
when people challenge my memory. I usually just let them win, which probably
makes me vulnerable to mass manipulation, but so be it.
Anyway, where was I?
Reminders! Because of my poor memory condition, I need to
constantly remind myself about how to live my best life. Everyday. Over and over
again. My new thing is using my voice recording on my iphone and sending “Dear
Kerry” voice memos.
Because the sound of my own voice annoys me at times, I
thought I’d transcribe my most recent “Dear Kerry Memo,” and share with you my
daily struggle to be mindful.
Mindfulness is not sitting on the toilet and reading your
It is not texting while you cross the street and almost
getting hit by a bike-riding chambray-wearing hipster.
Mindfulness is not talking to your mom while also checking
your facebook status to see whether you have any more “likes” on your Mindful
Mentors page. (P.S. have you liked the page yet?)
It is not listening to music, writing a blog entry, planning
your honeymoon, checking your email, and intermittently doing pushups wearing a skirt.
Mindfulness is not scarfing down your cake batter vegan ice
cream cone and then mourning the last bite because you got distracted on bite two and
forgot to taste what the flavor actually tasted like.
It is not rushing to the subway scrolling through your mental to-do list and forgetting to exhale for a full five minutes.
Mindfulness is not listening to Alex and then half way into
his spiel on the current state of the health care industry wondering whether
you should eat sushi or gluten-free pizza for dinner.
It is not getting defensive when a family member calls you out on something and then reactively telling that family member the seven flaws you see in them.
Mindfulness is, however,realizing when you’re not being mindful. Good
As a wedding gift, Alex’s close family friend sent us a
six-foot tall gold encrusted Buddha. Because I’m a spiritual materialist
(meaning I want to buy all things that serve as a reminder that I don’t need to
buy all things), I was giddy when Buddha arrived, squealing as I ripped through six
inches of saran wrap encasing.
After discussing whether Alex should move in with his
brother so that the Buddha and I would fit more comfortably in the bedroom, it
was decided that the Buddha should remain in the living room, staring at all who
Like most people who display religious or cultural
artifacts, I had high hopes that the Buddha would serve as a constant reminder
of simplicity, peace, and love. Instead, the Buddha serves as a constant reminder that . . .
I am not a monk.
Well, this is obvious. Let’s just say they don’t call it
“Bu-DUH!!” for nothing. (That was a terrible pun, but I’m not sorry for it). But
in case you had any doubts, I am not a monk because (1) I do not renounce
anything, (2) I don't think I'm a Buddhist, and (3) I look terrible in orange and therefore could never don the
Because of the Buddha’s prime location in our living room,
he is privy to all my fallibilities. He notices when I steal a piece of pork to
gnaw on from Alex’s plate. He greets me when I walk through the door holding 4
large Bed Bath and Beyond bags filled with kitchen stuff that I don’t actually need. He overhears when I vent to my mom on the phone about people who drive me crazy. He observes when I try to sit for my mindfulness practice, and then
sneakily check my phone when a text message beeps in. He sees me run back and forth from my
bathroom to my bedroom in multiple different outfits because I can’t decide
which article of clothing looks best. He looks over my shoulder when I’m trying
so hard to mono-task on The Mindful Mentors, but then seek distraction by
checking whether the Huffington Post has any new
juicy liberal sensationalism.
In sum, the Buddha sees all my flaws that arise in our tiny
NYC apartment. Lucky for me, he never says a word of judgment to make me feel
bad. (I’m not sure whether any one sells a “talking elmo” version of the
Buddha, but if they do, I don’t want it). Rather, the Buddha’s presence alone
brings attention to the fact that I still have much to learn.
Because I can't lug this shiny gold statute around to keep me on track, I'm trying to learn how to be my own buddha, bringing a nonjudgmental awareness to my flaws with the hope that the recognition leads to positive change. Then, maybe one day, I'll look better in orange.
As I have discussed in prior entries, I have self-diagnosed speech dyslexia, which means I consistently pronounce words wrong.
I also have spontaneous moments of stupidity, where I suddenly forget how to spell simple words like "or." Yesterday morning, my stupidity crept up on me again. As I wrote about about my need to better accept where I am now, I kept writing HEAR, instead of HERE.
Be hear now.
After noting that I don't reade gud, I scanned my brain lapse in search of meaning (which is usually a vain attempt to feel better about myself).
Aren't here and hear one in the same?
When we are fully present, we are open to truly hearing the subtleties of life. We actually hear what people are saying (with or without words). We hear the voice in our head or gut that may not get as much attention. Maybe we hear birds chirp in a moment when our own spiraling thoughts usually drown them out.
Maybe it's no coincidence the two words sounds exactly the same.
I didn't write this poem. But I love it. So much I have to share-- encompassing humanity in the most mundane moments.
Wandering Around the Albuquerque Airport Terminal by Naomi Shihab Nye
After learning my flight was detained 4 hours, I heard the announcement: If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic, Please come to the gate immediately. Well -- one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there. An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress, Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly. Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she Did this. I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly. Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick, Sho bit se-wee? The minute she heard any words she knew -- however poorly used - She stopped crying. She thought our flight had been cancelled entirely. She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the Following day. I said no, no, we're fine, you'll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let's call him and tell him. We called her son and I spoke with him in English. I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and Would ride next to her -- southwest. She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it. Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and Found out of course they had ten shared friends. Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours. She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering Questions. She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies -- little powdered Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts -- out of her bag -- And was offering them to all the women at the gate. To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California, The lovely woman from Laredo -- we were all covered with the same Powdered sugar. And smiling. There is no better cookies. And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers -- Non-alcoholic -- and the two little girls for our flight, one African American, one Mexican American -- ran around serving us all apple juice And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too. And I noticed my new best friend -- by now we were holding hands -- Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing, With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere. And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought, This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.
Not a single person in this gate -- once the crying of confusion stopped -- has seemed apprehensive about any other person. They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too. This can still happen anywhere.
I had jury duty on Wednesday. Despite Alex's belief that a court-ordered summons to report for jury selection is "optional," I dutifully joined the other potential jurors in Room 1125 of the Supreme Court of Manhattan on Wednesday morning.
The room caused me a bit of anxiety considering it was the same room where I sued Alex's landlord last year and was subsequently berated by the landlord's defense attorney "Larry," who accused me of being a "fake lawyer." But, that's beside the point.
The morning started like any other morning where you're shoved in a room with a hundred other people. Every one sat every-other-chair and rolled their eyes at the old woman up front who asked, yet again, how to fill out the three question questionnaire. Sitting in silence, we were then led like sheep to another courtroom, escorted by a policeman John who whistled as he walked.
Now sitting crunched side-by-side, someone went over the procedure in a monotone voice. Twelve names were then called to sit in the Juror Box. Despite the fact that no one wants to actually serve on the jury, I felt victorious when my name was called. YES! I almost squealed, pounding my fist in victory when they pronounced my name wrong, and turning to gloat at the 38 other people before realizing that being selected for a 2 week medical malpractice suit may not be a "win." Regardless, I sauntered to my seat in the front row of the box and awaited till ten more names were called.
Then the "voire dire" started, which is a fancy word for "telling strangers about what you do and why you're a bigot with bigoted opinions."
The first question was a trick question, so I had to answer carefully. "And what do you do Ms. Doshhertiii?" the plaintiff's attorney asked inquisitively.
"Like now? Or like before?" I asked slowly, weighing my words carefully.
"Before what?" the attorney responded confusedly.
"Before I did what I do now?" I asked.
"Well I don't know what you did before you did what you do now, so what do you do now?"
The onset of an identity crisis was brewing.
"I'm a mindfulness coach..." I said quietly. Then blurted, "I mean a lawyer! I'm a lawyer!"
The attorney looked flustered. Impatient really. "Well, those are quite different fields Ms. Doshhhertiii. Do you, in fact, do litigation or meditation?"
He was annoyed. He obviously needed a mindful mentor. "I'll give you my card?" I suggested, then I winked.
Well, I actually didn't wink or give him my card. Instead I confessed that I identified as both. He made a note and moved on.
In the next two hours, the eleven strangers surrounding me soon began to be, well, not strangers. I learned about their professions, their children, their former lawsuits, their medical conditions. I learned their habits of falling asleep after lunch, how they thought that doctors shouldn't be sued, or that they'd be too sad to hear testimony about the patient that died because they just lost their father-in-law.
At lunch time, I ate falafel with potential-Juror #3; a girl my age named Laura, who was a nurse, and who inspiringly and openly shared about overcoming her eating disorder, confiding how anorexia had shaped her decision to enter into medicine.
Returning to our seats as fast friends, we then talked Hunger Games with Miko (Juror number 7) and encouraged Nancy (Juror number 9), that her narcolepsy may not prevent her from serving. This may be my family for the next two and a half weeks, I thought to myself, knowing it could be with them that we decided the outcome of a serious and tragic matter.
And then, suddenly, I was excused from the case. I grabbed Laura's hand. "No," I said firmly, as the lawyer waited for me to get up. "We were supposed to go through this together!" I exclaimed frantically.
"Come on, Kerry," Mr. Stonehill, the 70-year old man who invested in liability insurance said slowly, touching my sleeve gently. "We're free now."
The five of us--the excused jurors--left the courtroom in silence. I looked over my shoulder one last time to see Laura, still stationed in Juror Seat 3, looking at me with wide eyes. "Write me!" I mouthed as the heavy emblemed "In God We Trust" door shut behind us. The rest of us proceeded to the elevator. Once crammed in, we instantly started to share our feelings--relief, disappointment, annoyance, noting how that one attorney was like so confrontational and didn't the other lawyer kind of badger Ms. Chung?
The elevator door opened. We were free. We walked out of the courtroom to go our separate directions. No longer strangers.
Oh I know, I'm terrible. Totally self-consumed, but welcome to the story of my life. Isn't it kinda always about us even when we pretend it's not?
Alex gently shed light on this fact at 4am this morning as we sat in the hotel lobby in a lame attempt to distract him from his pain and insomnia post-surgery. After sipping chamomile tea and talking to Paul--the late night receptionist who shared with us the inner workings of the hospitality business--we slowly walked back to the elevator, Alex walking at the speed of a 95 year old grandmother. Suffering from a bit of vertigo as he walked, I compassionately inquired whether he felt like he was going to pass out. "I just need to know," I whispered, "because you'd be a lot of dead weight to drag back upstairs."
Alex suddenly stopped in his tracks and looked at me bewilderedly. Then he started shaking and for a second I thought he was sobbing. He wasn't. He was hysterically laughing. At me.
"You are freaking unbelievable," he mustered out as he gasped for breath, obviously high from sleep deprivation. Then he slowly recounted the past four days.
There was the first night after surgery when I woke up with him and held his hand as he slowly walked around the hospital floor every two hours. The next morning, as he grimaced in pain and stared at the ceiling restlessly, I talked about how exhausted I was considering I didn't get my usual consecutive 8 hours of sleep. Al encouraged me to go back to the hotel to take a nap.
The next day, I graciously stayed the night in the hospital with him again. However, due to my self-diagnosed "heavy sleep disorder," I failed to get up with him each hour when he woke up and painstakingly dragged himself to the bathroom. At one point, he was unable to get back in bed and had to call a nurse, who assisted him as I slept angelically on the cot amidst stolen plush hotel blankets. When I awoke in the morning, I yawned and held my back, noting how many knots I had gotten from the plastic mattress. "Oh man, I think I need a massage," I groaned. And then I assured him that I would get him his breakfast soon, "just after I have my cup of coffee first." "Of course," Alex stated understandingly.
The day Alex was discharged from the hospital, he walked in on me sitting in a bubble bath crying in the bathroom telling my mom how tired and overwhelmed I was. When I got out, I grabbed a box of tissues, sat in my robe, and blubbered all over Alex as he rubbed my back and soothed, "there, there Kerbear," while ensuring that the four puncture wounds in his belly didn't pop open. After he gave me a pep-talk, I felt much better.
Now, I'll give myself some credit in playing nurse. But if I'm going to admit how nurturing I can be, I need to admit how terribly self-consumed I am as well. It doesn't mean I have to hate that part of me, because, well, self-absorption is a part of who I am. I'm working on it. But just as Alex can laugh me, I have to laugh at myself. Because if I didn't laugh, I'd certainly cry.
Alex is donating his kidney this week. Meaning the left kidney resting cozily in his body is going to be sucked out and put into a body that needs it. It was supposed to go to his dear friend and colleague Art, but after learning that Art would be better off with a closer match, Alex had the option of donating his kidney to a “bank.” Basically, if Alex donated his kidney to the bank and a chain of people donated their kidneys to the bank, there was a better chance that each person along the way could receive a kidney that was a perfect match.
It worked. On early Wednesday morning, in hospitals around the
country, there are 8 people who will be giving or receiving their kidney. Alex’s kidney will be on a jet to Virginia,
and Art will be receiving one from Pennsylvania later that day.
It’s been a year in the making, months of testing and phone
calls and delays and anticipations and more delays.
Alex, in his ever-endearing nonchalance, doesn’t think it’s
a big deal. His usual response amounts to, “I have two kidneys. I only need one.
Someone else needs one, so I’ll give mine away.”
I mean, duh?
Sure, there are consequences to the surgery for Alex. He has
to inhale some laughing gas for a few hours, eat hospital jello for three days,
endure the pain that most women feel after a C-section (perhaps something all
men should go through?), sit on the couch for two weeks while playing on his
mom’s ipad, and bear the at-times exhausting and painful effects of one kidney
taking on a two-kidney job. But there have been worse things.
The irony is that Al’s kidney donation has not seemed
sacrificial. Rather, it’s been a huge gift in our lives. We have formed
intimate relationships with Art and his family. We have been moved to tears at
their strength and gratitude. We have looked forward to this day as a day of
celebration of thanksgiving.
That’s the irony about giving. Just when you think you’re
giving something up, you realize you’re getting something more in return. If
that’s not a good investment, I don’t know what is.
I don't know much about the stock market. But I do know that investing in giving guarantees huge
A few weeks ago, as Alex and I sprawled out in the living room prepping for a quiet Saturday night at the Jersey Shore, the door burst open with the arrival of our good friends Katie and Ronnie and their 15-month old (you're supposed to measure a child's age in months right?) blonde bouncing girl named Emma. After unsuccessful attempts to hold her and pet her head like a puppy, she squirmed out of my arms, wanting to explore the new territory of Al's living room. She quickly started stumbling around, picking up non-child proof friendly porcelain shells, gnawing on a bagel, and doing a labyrinth around the coffee table.
As my eyes dizzingly darted to and from her endless movements, Emma suddenly crashed to the ground, tripping over her still wobbly-walking feet. Alex and I grimaced as we waited for her to start crying, and I impulsively brought my hands to my ears to drone out the shrill of her shrieking (can you tell I'm not a parent yet?). But Emma didn't cry. Instead, she paused as she absorbed the shock of the fall, looked at her parents, broke out into a huge smile, and started clapping.
(this is not Emma, this a is a photograph of a cute baby that I stole from the internet)
As one who is constantly looking for information as to how best heathily manipulate a child, I asked Katie what the heck had just happened.
"Oh, it's simple," Katie responded matter of factly. "We taught Emma at a young age that falling is fun, so every time she falls, we clap for her. And now, she claps for herself."
"That is genius!" I shrieked, jumping up from the couch and running to Emma to coo "I can't believe your parents duped you into clapping when you fall, you cute most gullible little thing I've ever seeeen. Your parents are soooo smaaart and sneaaaaky hmmmmm??? (gurgle gurgle cooo gag)."
Emma looked at me blankly in that, "please get out of my face you idiot" sort of way.
And, in a way, compared to Emma, I was the idiot. Because Emma had already learned (at a very young age), that making mistakes and falling (or failing) was not cause for crying or pain. Rather, it was an opportunity to pause, to smile, and to clap in celebration, and then, to simply get back up and start stumbling around life once again (perhaps to gnaw on some more bagels).
You know you've a got a lot to learn when a 15 month old proves wiser than you.
Sometimes I forget that life is not linear. It's not a straight forward line where things chronologically unfold and the further we get along the more we live. Of course, you could probably picture it like that, and even as I write that sentence I think, well that seems to make sense.
But, most of the times, life doesn't seem so linear. It seems like these endless and beautiful circles that spiral forward like a stretched out slinky. Full of beginnings and endings and births and deaths. Full of new seasons and dreams and closings of eras and desires. This never ending rolling beginninglessness and endlessness that just goes on and on and the line never straightens. This yo-yo of now I'm happy, now I'm sad, now I'm afraid, now I have hope, and I keep spiraling forward nonetheless. This "here I am, I've been in this place before, but wait, now, this is new and exciting and unpredictable, and then yup, I've returned to where I am."
Life spirals forward through the foreverness of circles, and while it can make us dizzy, it certainly keeps us entertained.
Oh life--you "wonderfully magical toy, you're made for a girl or a boy."
I must admit that I’ve been a bit overwhelmed
lately. I’m not on the verge of a twenty-something-life-crisis per se—well, let’s
call a spade a spade—I’m on the verge of a twenty-something-life-crisis.
Correction--I am having an existential life crisis.
I can't describe fully what I'm thinking because its all so murky and foggy in my head, and part of the murkiness is the inability to articulate what I'm feeling. So, instead of describing it, I am going to replay how a typical internal dialogue sounds lately. The character of "Me" will be talking to the character of "Kerry." Which one is which you ask? My question exactly.
Me: I'm having an existential life crisis.
Kerry: What do you mean by crisis?
Me: Like, I have no idea what I am doing with my life. I have no idea what career path I should take. I don't know what anything means anymore. I'm totally lacking clarity.
Kerry: Ha! That's not a crisis--the real crisis is that you think you are having a crisis. The fact that you categorize the inability to give clear meaning to your life as a crisis is really indicative of larger issues you're facing.
Me: Like what?
Kerry: Like your unsated desire for clearcut answers on how to live your life and your all-consuming obsession with future plans. I didn't want to say anything, but you've had a lot of unnecessary freak outs lately.
Me: Oh my god, this is even a worse life crisis than I thought.
Kerry: Which brings to me another issue you have--your use of the word life to clarify crisis is totally superfluous; a crisis can only exist if we say it exists--if we're alive. So you're actually the cause of the crisis. And, while we're on it, maybe we should start examining who the "I" is that you're talking about. When you say "I" who do you mean?
Me: So, the person that I think is "I" is the creator of a crisis that doesn't even exist?
As only my sister can attest (compliments of her repeatedly betraying my trust by reading my red diary I hid beneath my bed), I was a morbid child. Though seemingly upbeat in my Lion King dance renditions, my diary shared darker thoughts.
By the age of ten, I had already written three different versions of my obituary, composed a song about our dead rabbit Sam ("Sam oh Sam, I'm dressed in black; Sam oh Sam, when are you coming back?"), and wrote down the name of every person who I heard had died (RIP Mr. Bihr who worked at the corner store.) Shannon may also cite to my morbitity by mentioning the game that I invented called "Hostage," which entailed me capturing her and her friends and then tying their necks to lamps and making them drink "poisonous" drinks replete with toothpaste, ranch dressing, pepper, and milk. (Don't worry, Shannon and I have spent years working through this, and she has since admitted loving the game). But that's beside the point.
At age eleven, I was obsessed with Emily Dickinson, memorizing her poems at night (which was quite a feat considering I couldn't remember--and still can't--all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance). My favorite poem of hers was "I'm a Nobody Who Are You" and I'd scrawl the lines in a Black Meade Composition Notebook, asking rhetorically "are you a nobody a too?" I didn't fully understand the second stanza (what was that whole reference to a frog thing?), but that didn't stop me from loving the poem.
I hadn't thought about that poem for years, but thanks to my existential life crisis which I'll discuss next time, I've begun thinking about it.
I really want to be Somebody.
And this has caused me a lot of anxiety.
In the land of public display of somebodyness, where I constantly read about everyone's accomplishments and chronicle people's self-promotional successes, my increasing desire for validation patheticizes me (verb: to make one feel pathetic).
Of course I seek validation. I mean, hello, I have a blog. Nothing screams a desperate attempt for attention than writing about one's inner most thoughts, posting it on facebook, and then squealing in delight to see a "like." And it's not just that I write because I need it as an outlet (which, I admit, I do). I write because I want people to read my writing, if only to affirm the fact that, why yes, they too had similar thoughts and can affirm that they are just as delusional as me.
I want to be a freaking somebody. I want people to read my blog and like my statuses; I want to be seen and recognized; I want to be a famous writer and then a speaker and then have millions of dollars and then be a philanthropist who gives away my money while still living a perfectly comfortable life in a gray-shingled house on the water that won't be that big but will probably still cost a lot of money with that sunset view and all. I want to be a person that people say is She's a Somebody, She's Good (whatever the heck that means).
But all this trying to be Somebody stuff--God, it's exhausting. And I'm kinda sick of it. How liberating would it be to just be a nobody? To live life without the need for the crowd's response? To screw all that seeking, wanting, its-never-enough-validation stuff. Ah, to be a Nobody . . . to want to be a nobody. How much freer would I feel?
So, Emily Dickinson, there's a pair of us now. But don't tell, they'd banish us you know. . . . (read the fricking poem for clarity on that last line--it's only 2 stanzas for goodness sake!)
Part of writing about myself means that I share some of my innermost thoughts and experiences. In doing so, it is unsurprising that some of the people I hold most dearest appear in my entries--Alex more frequent than most. Because it is in my nature to shun sappiness (thanks mom!) and to exaggerate meaningless details (thanks dad!), Alex can sometimes come across as my slappy roommate whose flaws I broadcast to the world to make my own story better.
He is always a good sport about it, but for clarity sake, let me clear.
I love Alex. I love him so much I want to marry him.
He is my rock when I'm blown around in doubt, my confidante when I'm making tough decisions, my cheerleader when I'm struggling with self-doubt, and my "stop writing and let's enjoy the day outside" inspirer. He is the one who, when I spiral out of control on one of my rants, patiently listens and delicately encourages me to figure out what's "really going on." He is the one who asks me every few weeks, "is there anything else I can do to make you feel more loved?" He never complains, ever, even when I'm in one of my terribly nagging and self-righteous moods. He sees the world in a childish way--full of adventure and opportunity and joy, and this constantly refreshes me. He doesn't judge people, never holds a grudge, and his generosity is beautiful. The way he loves and treats his mom is beautiful. The way he values his family is beautiful. He is, to me, the epitome of beauty.
So, disclaimer: when I am harping on Alex, which I have a tendency to do at times, and undoubtedly will continue to do (bless his heart), my love and adoration for this man never waivers. Just an FYI.
Photo taken by Kerry Docherty outside Lopuri, Thailand
I stumbled across the book The Happiness Project last year by Gretchen Rubin. In the book, Gretchen chronicles a year in which she focuses on being happy. The book has become a best seller, and even though the premise of the book is a little cheesy (but certainly no less than my book may be), I can't help but love the woman considering she wrote me an email.
Well, back up. First, I wrote her a stalker-ish emailed titled "we're the same, except you're a better version than me" and then shared the parallels of our lives--we both lived in New Haven, we both went to law school (she to Yale), we both were federal law clerks (she for a Supreme Court Justice), we both moved to NYC (she to a bigger apartment), and decided to write a book (she a successful author). I mean, if that's not a soul mate, what is?
So, I wrote her an email asking her to coffee and promising that we would have so much in common that she'd randomly decide to be my mentor and walk me through this strange journey of writing a book. That almost happened.
When I say things "almost happened," I usually mean that I was utterly rejected. Like if I were to tell you that I was almost on the hip hop dance team in college, you'd know that I actually endured a humiliating tryout where i failed to properly do the Harlem Shake and fell on my chin while trying to do the "worm," such that I didn't get a call back.
So, when I say that Gretchen Rubin almost became my mentor, I mean that she kindly wrote me back, telling me that she was working on another book and, at this point in time, saying "no" to all invitations. That being said, she didn't refute my statement that we were the same, and she even told me good luck on my endeavors. I saved the rejection under my "Inspiration" label of gmail.
Gretchen, I can call her by her first name at this point, don't you think?, has now dedicated her life to sharing tips on being happy. Her following is huge in large part because so many people want to be happy. Who doesn't?
Well, maybe me. I mean, of course I want to be happy, but I've become so bombarded by information as to what happiness looks like, that I don't even know what happiness means anymore. It's that feeling of, "sure I want it, but what's 'it' again?"
So, when people tell me they're "happy," I always want to know more. What does it feel like? Like in your body and in your mind? How long does it last? And when you can't feel it anymore, what replaces it? Is it a continuous high, a freeness, a state of euphoria?
And what's the cause of it? What's the source? I know happiness isn't an accumulation of good things in one's life because there are times when I've had a nice apartment, significant other, great friends, and a world of opportunity, and still felt anxious and burdened. I also know that happiness is not merely a lack of suffering, because there have been times when I've been fully immersed in suffered-filled situations and felt happy. Happiness isn't merely the following of one's dreams either because even though I'm writing a book and embarking down a path more aligned with my passions, I don't really feel that different than I did a year ago. Maybe more energized perhaps, but certainly no happier.
Perhaps I've felt happiness before, but as I remember it, it was kind of boring. One of those "oh, well, this is nice." Or maybe I had a burst of "hallelujah, life is good!" before realizing that I had to the dishes before company came over. It felt kinda like how you feel after a good meal, where you sit back in your chair with your top button unbuttoned and you pass on dessert because you don't feel like you need anything else to feel satisfied.
Along those lines, then, maybe we should talk about contentment. "Oh shut up, Kerry," you may be thinking, "now you're getting into semantics--happiness and contentment are virtually the same thing, so move on." And, maybe you're right, and when it coms to semantics, I'm the last person you'd want to talk to considering I use words wrongly (wrongly is a word, right?). But, I still think there's a difference in what we expect happiness and contentment to look like; the words, to me, conjure entirely different feelings.
When I think about happiness, I think about ooey gooey feelings of giddiness, of slight intoxication, of the allure of the unknown, the intimate touch of comfort, or an orgasmic bite of a bacon-ridden meal. My happiness moments stem from something wonderful and external--friends, date nights, music, food, and coconut smelling bubble baths. These moments are amazing, but oh-so-fleeting. Happiness' downfall therefore is its stamina; it just doesn't seem to last that long. And yet, it tries so hard. It's like we're taking Viagara for happiness, begging it to last longer, and then feeling disappointed when it goes limp minutes later.
Contentment, however, is happiness' rebellious sister. The one that says, "yeah I like to feel good, but who cares?" It's that state of being without desire--that, no matter if good or bad happens, she knows she'll still be okay; that "yeah this is fun, but I'd probably be just as content if I was sitting home alone"; that "there's a long line at the grocery and a child is crying, but that's okay because I'm where I'm supposed to be"; that "it'd be nice to be eating out right now, but this bowl of apple cinnamon Kashi oatmeal surely will do." Content moments seem to last longer because they usually don't result from anything but a feeling of fullness. And, because it doesn't feel as amazing as happiness, it tends to be less addictive; there's not as much panic in holding onto it or searching for it to get the next high.
Don't get me wrong, contentment doesn't seem that sexy. But I trust it more. All I know about happiness is that it tricks me to wanting more of something that I can't ever hold on to. So, Gretchen Rubin, I haven't given up on you, but this whole "Happiness Project" has made me question whether a pursuit of happiness will make me happy or just make me feel guilty about the fact that I can't hold happiness long enough. If you write a Contentment Project, then we're talking.
As the stresses of planning my upcoming nuptials with Alex start to give me borderline anxiety attacks (whoever says that a wedding is only about the couple getting married is lying), I've been trying to refocus on what a wedding really means. Not only am I reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed (thank you, Herbie), but I've been breaking down the elements of what makes a healthy relationship.
Like thoughtfulness, for example. (I know you like smoothies in the morning, so I made you one despite the fact that I always ask you to make me coffee but you don't do it unless I beg you.)
Patience. (It's okay that you left your clothes hangers all over the bed despite my repeated requests to not leave hangers all over the bed, just please try to remember next time k?)
Compassion. (It's really annoying that you're zoning me out right now, but I know that you're stressed, so instead of complaining to you and making you more stressed, I'll zone you out and pretend I'm zen.)
Short-term commitment. (I just got asked to dinner with some friends tonight, but because we already agreed to watch a sports game tonight that I don't really care about it, I'll still watch the game because I value date night.)
Long-term commitment. (I promise that even when I get really sick of you, I'll stick by you).
So, as I started to reflect on what attributes I wanted my relationship to have, the more I thought about, well, me.
This entry is not about the healthiness status of my relationship with Alex: it's about my relationship with myself.
Comparatively, and I'm not sure if it's a good thing or bad thing or anything, my relationship with myself is far less healthy than my relationship with Alex. I'm certainly not thoughtful to myself. I mean, I have a lot of thoughts, but surely that in itself doesn't make me "thoughtful," right? Rarely do I indulge in sweet kind acts for no particular reason but self-love. (Flowers for me? Nah, not worth it). I'm not that patient with myself either. (You did it again you mindless dweeb--you forgot to respond to that email. Get your act together, woman!) I know I lack self-compassion. (You say you want to write a book, but you don't even have a good enough discipline to write on your blog consistently, so surely you make a terrible writer (and person, for that matter.)) I lack short-term commitment. (Dear Workout, I was going to totally spend time with you tonight, but instead I'm getting a gluten-free pizza with bacon, sorry.) And, I certainly lack long term commitment. (Dear God, I know that I've committed to this whole "spiritual practice thing," but it's just not as passionate or fun as it used to be, so I'm not saying that its 'You' per se, but it's just too daunting right now to think of having to meditate for "forever.')
Sigh. I'm in an unhealthy relationship with myself.
When did I start cheating on my well-being with my promiscuous mind? When did I start to think that I wasn't worth flowers and patience and and compassion and commitment? When did I start to falsely believe that I could I have a healthy relationship with others when I couldn't even have a healthy relationship with myself?
Screw the golden rule for a bit. I need to do undo myself the way I do unto the people I love. And, maybe with some TLC to good ole me, I'll realize that I don't need a prince charming to live happily ever after, I just need a healthy relationship with Me.
(Although Al and a castle on the Jersey shore would certainly be a nice bonus.)