January 31, 2012

I'm a nobody who are you?

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!)

January 22, 2012


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.

January 16, 2012

Dear Gretchen Rubin, Happiness is Overrated.

                                             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.

January 10, 2012

I'm in an Unhealthy Relationship.

                                           (Giddy over the ice displayed on my ring finger)

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.)

January 5, 2012

The less I want to say

                                               the more I realize that my thoughts aren't true

                                                                the less I want to say.