KERRY WASHINGTON On The Family Secret That Changed Her Life: ”We’re as sick as our secrets” | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "KERRY WASHINGTON On The Family Secret That Changed Her Life: ”We’re as sick as our secrets”".
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And if you don't want the spoiler, then turn off the podcast now. My parents sat me down and told me that... Please give it up for Carrie Washington! I am not a fantasy. You want me? Earn me! Behind the mask of these characters, I actually started being able to express more of my truth. My characters became this safe space for me to both hide behind, but also secretly reveal myself. Before we jump into this episode, I'd like to invite you to join this community to hear more interviews that will help you become happier, healthier and more healed. All I want you to do is click on the subscribe button. I love your support. It's incredible to see all your comments, and we're just getting started. I can't wait to go on this journey with you. Thank you so much for subscribing. It means the world to me. The best-selling author and host. The number one health and wellness podcast. The purpose with Jay Shetty. What would you say is a childhood memory that stands out to you in that it defines a lot of who you are today?
Experiences And Reflections On Childhood And Self-Discovery
What Is A Childhood Memory That Shaped You? (00:59)
Oh, wow. What a great question. I feel like there are a lot of them in here. But one, I have a lot of pride about being the first girl in my neighborhood to play All Sharks Under, which is that game we played at the pool in my neighborhood. Because I don't know. I think I come from a line of really brave women. When I think about my grandmother being an immigrant and coming to this country from Jamaica and being a young woman looking at that Statue of Liberty and what it must have meant for her to take on that adventure. And I think about my mom and the career that she built and the education that she pursued and the risks that she took, even in terms of what I talk about in the book and how she, how I came to be in the world. And so I think being a little girl who was willing to be one of the Sharks, willing to play with the guys, willing to jump into the deep end and challenge myself and be one of the big kids and not be limited by my gender or my age or by the fear of what the game was or the depths of the water. I think that says a lot about kind of how I've lived my life, that willingness to swim in the deep end. Wow. Yeah. What do you think gave the women who came before you that courage, that strength?
Generational Resilience and Courage (02:32)
Because I feel like a lot of the conversation around that has of course developed more recently, sadly. But you see these women who just always had this strength and resilience and power despite it not being given to them or opportunities not being shown to them. Yeah. What do you think brought them through all of that? It's funny because I think in a lot of ways like for women of color and black women in particular, we haven't had the, you know, dare I say, privilege of being like damsels in distress. No one was saving us, no one was rescuing us as black women, particularly, you know, with the diaspora and the history of slavery. We've always been working women. We've always been resilient and strong out of necessity. And I think there's something about that that lives deep in my genetics, deep in my family history. I think we talk a lot about generational trauma and there's definitely some of that in my story and some of it I talk about, but there's also generational courage and strength. And I think it's important for me to embrace both, to see both as being part of who I am. Yeah. And it's almost like in a general sense, one can't live without the other. That's right. And they kind of give birth to each other a little bit too, right? Like the trauma causes strength and the, it's you become a survivor and then you apply that wisdom. And I know that's true for me that, you know, there's things I know that I am who I am because of the things that I've had to walk through. You know, I am as much who I am because of all the extra hugs and love and encouragement I got. And because of the adversity, you know, it's all, it's all part of it. Yeah, it's so beautiful to hear it like that too, to look at it as non-binary. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I do, it's funny when I was coming here to talk to you, I was like, oh, this is so different for me because I'm used to doing interviews to talk about like a television show or a movie. And I know like, I know what that narrative is and I know what I'm selling, right? But this is like, I'm not really selling anything, I'm really sharing. And I don't have like an agenda for like a piece of content. I'm really just like offering myself. And so it's different. It's a very different process and experience for me because I'm not translating my experience into a character's journey. Like I'm the character. So I bring that up to say, I've been thinking a lot about the fact that there's a lot of complexity and it's not binary. There's a lot of gray area. There's not like, there's no clear villain and there are no clear heroes and it's real life, you know? And so I think I'm in talking about the book, I'm gonna have to get really comfortable talking about those kinds of complexities 'cause it's just not, it's just not simple. Nobody's life is simple, you know? - Well, I think you do a really wonderful job in the book to elegantly and gently share it with everyone, the complexities of it. And what I did is I have a few lines from the book that really stood out to me.
Having Panic Attacks Since Age 7 (05:55)
And I'd love to discuss those. - Okay, yeah, of course. I'm like, let me get comfortable here. I'm gonna take my shoes off. Yeah, I'm gonna cross your legs. You're gonna cross your legs. - You're gonna work, we're gonna read the book, okay. - I always find that the words that someone chooses and the vocabulary they have and the language they use to define experiences. And of course, I want everyone to know that we're only skimming the surface of what's in the book or all the details in the book and I highly recommend you turn to the book for more of the context. - Yeah. - But I think this will give people a glimpse into the kind of places you go to and you allow yourself to go to. - Okay. - One of the things that stood out to me in the book and I'm reading here only to make sure I don't misquote you. So you talk about how you suffered from panic attacks at age seven and in your words, you say, I would force myself to try to have good thoughts. And I was just thinking, did you know what a panic attack was at seven where you were aware, what did it feel like? And why did you try to say good thoughts? Like, why was that the solution and what were those thoughts? - Mm-hmm. - No, I didn't know, I didn't have the language when I was seven, that it was a panic attack. It was later in life in my early 20s when I started having panic attacks again, that I recognized that this was something that's been with me for a long time on and off through the years and I realized I had been having them since I was that little kid. And it felt like dread pulsing through my body. I know I described it as like this whirling, like a spinning, like a rhythm I couldn't control, like a rising heat, like a clenching in my throat, a fear that felt like it was small enough to be in every little cell, but big enough to drown in, you know? And I just like, as I say that to you, I have so much love for that little girl lying in that bed without the language to describe it as I'm describing it to you, but still having to hold space for the experience of it. The good thoughts, you know, I think I sort of, I think I describe it that way in that moment as good thoughts because I was seven and there was good and bad, right? There wasn't the nuance of like, this is an opportunity or that, you know, this is like, like this feels bad, right? Like this feels really bad and I wanna feel good. And I didn't, you know, I didn't know Louise Hay at that time. I didn't know that, I didn't know about affirmations, but I just would, I knew the sound of music. I knew that you could like think about your favorite things and maybe feel all right. And so I just tried to think about things that made me happy, things that brought me joy or a sense of peace. And I would try to kind of shut out the panic and make the volume of the good things louder in my head. And at seven, where were those negative or bad thoughts coming from?
I wasn’t emotionally safe....” (08:58)
Like where was that panic coming from? What was the source of it? - Yeah, I think a lot of it was, you know, I talk about hearing my parents arguing in the other room, but in general, there was this, this sense of, it's a big word and I'm gonna say it and then contextualize it. I think I felt unsafe. I was safe in a lot of ways. I was very loved. We were, you know, I was provided for materially. I was wanted, I was appreciated, I was encouraged, but I also knew as I talk about in the memoir that there were things, there was information that was being kept from me. I didn't know it consciously, but unconsciously, I felt like I wasn't being given the full truth. And that created in me this, like a sense of distrust and of longing for wholeness. Like something felt incomplete and unwhole. It's not, it's probably not the right way to say it, but so I think the panic was me trying to navigate the fear of like, what don't I know? I don't even know what I don't know. I just know I don't have everything I need to feel safe. - I'm really glad you gave that context because I think that today when we hear the word unsafe, we think it means physically. And we think it means materially. But it's so interesting that those things can be taken care of and you still feel an internal unease. - Yeah, yes, a dis-ease, like a, it was an emotion, I wasn't emotionally safe. I knew that, that's what I knew somewhere deep down. And I didn't have a way to confirm it. I didn't even have a way to ask about it. It just was this feeling. And I didn't even know if I should trust the feeling, right? Because everyone was saying, it's all good. Everything's fine. So I think that maybe a lot of the panic was that I was from early on being asked to disconnect from my own sense of knowing. You know, I was being taught from the moment I got to this planet, from the moment that I was born, I was being taught that I had to act as if the lie was true. The lie of who my family was and how we came to be. So I didn't really, I didn't know, I didn't know what I didn't know, but I knew I didn't know something. - Yeah, and it's so interesting, right? I think that so many of us feel that way, that our feelings when we're younger, we're not validated or acknowledged. And we weren't trained to do that. If anything like in yours, we were taught to reject or abandon, deny. - Deny. - Deny. And then they don't just go away because of that. They often come back in the future and we'll get to that. But they come back in so many different ways in our lives when you abandon your own truth. - Yeah. - At the beginning of your life. And it's, did you ever feel that you were able to reconnect, what helped you reconnect with that sense of knowing again in the future internally?
How Did You Reconnect With Yourself (12:03)
- Yeah. - Because I feel like that's something that, like you can remember having knowing. - And then you can remember how you let it go. Most people I speak to feel like they never felt like they knew. And I don't think it's because they never knew it's because they let it go of it so early that we forgot that we knew. - Yeah. - Is that makes me sick? - It does, it does. I don't remember, I don't remember knowing and then not knowing, but I remember learning that it was more important to play along than to fight for what I thought I knew. And then it was like, okay, it's the script that matters. It's like the, this performance of this perfect family, like that's the priority. And their feelings are more important than mine, whoever the day is. And then the day was like lots of different people throughout my life. But I think one of the first things, one of the first tools that helped to bring me back to myself was yoga. It was like the first, one of the first times that I remember being still in my body in Shabbat-Sana at the end of that first yoga class that I took in high school and weeping because I felt really like present in my body. Like I wasn't trying to escape or deny or quiet or I was just like fully present in my body. And it was terrifying because I was like, I don't know if this is okay. It was different from how I was taught to be, not like diactically taught, but it was different from how I learned to be, to survive emotionally. - How did that feeling transpire in other areas of your life, that desire of like, I'm gonna perform, I'm gonna put up what people need me to do.
Acting Helped Me Express My Truth (13:56)
Like did you find that manifesting in other areas of your life or were you able to kind of go, no, that was just with my family and... - No, I mean, I got really lucky because I found a career where I could perform or I could like this superpower that I had to kind of shape shift and be whoever you needed me to be. I started knowing how to do that in an audition room and on a set and on a stage. And I realized there actually was this place in life where performing was the true goal. And it was okay to want to be somebody other than myself and to want to step away from my truth to another person's truth. Like that actually led me to a really exciting, adventurous, abundant life. And then this weird thing happened where behind the mask of these characters, I actually started being able to express more of my truth. Right, like in my life with my family at home, I couldn't necessarily be angry or express fear or insecurity, but if I was playing a character, I could have all of those big, intense feelings. And it wasn't threatening to anyone, it was actually rewarded. So my characters became like this safe space for me to both hide behind, but also secretly reveal myself. - It's incredible how like something so stressful and uncomfortable turns into a talent, but also a healing. - Yes. - Right, it's a... - Truly, I'm so grateful that acting led me to be able to have more emotional vocabulary, more willingness to actually feel my feelings and express them. And I'm even grateful. I mean, it was how I stumbled upon acting is that, you know, my mother is a very stoic. She's so elegant and like, she's really somebody who is not very expressive of her emotions 'cause she operates from here and is very dignified and stoic. And so, you know, because God has an enormous sense of humor, she had this child and I was just like a walking id, just like feelings all over the place. And God bless her because she's an educator rather than just say like, stop having feelings. She was like, you're gonna go to this children's theater company 'cause I imagine, you know, she was thinking, I don't know what to do with all these feelings, you know, as well as I know my mother, she was kind of like, I don't know what to do with you, but they'll know what to do with you. And so she, the amazing educator that she is, she led me to spaces where I could be expressive and energetic and emotional and she could applaud from over here and not have to wrangle. - Yeah, absolutely, yeah. And it's, what I find so interesting when I was reading the book too is just recently, I saw that you mentioned how you have always been trying to get away from acting there.
Wanting To Step Away From Acting (16:55)
- Yes. - And these amazing opportunities keep coming your way. Explain that to us because I think what I love about this is kind of what we were talking about since the beginning of this interview, which is this texture and this complexity, which what appears to be a paradox. - Yeah. - But actually that's the human experience where you're like, I had this pain, acting was healing me, but now acting something I've been trying to move away from, but it's okay that that's so walk me through the depths of that or the texture behind that, of like, why is it something that despite it being so healing and powerful and a safe space to feel all of this, does it not feel like a forever home sometimes? - I'm super interested to hear what you think about this because some of this is the tension between the pure art and craft of the work, the creative craft of acting and storytelling and narrative. And I love that work, I always love that work. Even when it's really, really hard, I feel like what a privilege, what a gift, it feels like a true calling. I don't always love the business stuff. I don't always love the rejection and the competition and how hard it is to get something off the ground, I get something produced, I get something greenlit or like, I don't always love, I love the making of it. I don't always love the vulnerability of when it hits the airwaves and like the criticism and the ratings and the reviews. And so that, it's like the, when I wanna leave is when it feels like the business parts of it, the kind of worldly material parts of it become too expensive to my soul. It just feels like I don't wanna have to navigate all of that stuff. So I'm gonna go find something else. It's like that great, the Winston Churchill, Bernay Brown quote about like being in the ring and what it is to be in the ring. It's that beautiful vulnerability. And sometimes I'm like, I don't wanna be in the ring. Like, you know what God, like you can have the ring. Like I'm good. I think I wanna be an observer and like, be booing from the crowd for once. Like not really, I'm not a very generous viewer usually, but sometimes it's that. It's like sometimes the vulnerability on the business side feels like too much. Not the vulnerability on stage, not the vulnerability in front of the camera, but the stuff outside of the creative craft. So that's when that stuff feels like, oh, it's taking over and I'm spending more time thinking about how to win than I am about how to create, then I feel like I'm gonna go do something else, something that feels pure, like teaching kids or teaching yoga or you know, something, all the other things I've tried to do. And then inevitably, you know, I'll read and write when. Like I remember, I had, I mean, I really did not have money to burn. It was early in my career and I was like, I'm done. I'm done, I'm done, I'm done. And I signed up for a yoga teacher training. I got certified to teach yoga when I was living in India, but this, I didn't have a certification in the States. And so I signed up for this very fancy Jivamukti yoga in New York. - How are you? How are you? - Yeah. And so I was gonna do their teacher training. I just made my last payment and then I read the script for Ray. And I was like, holy. I have to do this movie. So that's what happens always is like, I get to the edge of like, eh. And then something beautiful calls me in. Something that feels like it's worth the work of the material stuff, the BS, the, or just like the adulting, like all that, you know, all that stuff, it's worth that to be able to go back to that play and that creativity and that stuff where I feel like my soul gets to be of service in a narrative. I think you're speaking the language of every true artist and creative. It feels that in a way that they may not even have tried to push as far as you have. Like you're someone who's achieved the peak of your creative endeavors, right? You've made incredible box of his films, like TV. Like you've won in that sense in your art. - Yeah, sort of. - And I mean in the external material, like in the sense of like you're someone who's-- - But you see what I mean? - Yeah.
I always felt like I was the co-star of my story” (21:29)
- When I say sort of, it's because like there are awards I haven't won. There are awards I haven't been nominated for. There are like certain people who've made more money at the box office, the whole different record. It's like, and that's a little bit of the part of what I do that I don't love. Like I remember an acting teacher saying to me once, no matter what he does, Tom Cruise is never gonna be Tom Hanks. He's never gonna have like three years in a row back to back Oscar nominations. He's never gonna have that. Like he can have more than the Fourth of July, but he's not gonna be, he's not gonna have Tom Hanks' career. And guess what? No matter what Tom Hanks does, he's never gonna have Tom Cruise's career. He's never gonna have back to back mission impossibles and like hold all the box of records. And 30 years later, be able to make another top gun and have it be the nominated for best picture. Like they have different careers, but neither is less valid. Like they're both winning. They've both won. And that's part of the challenge for me is like, how to accept that this journey, my journey is the journey. It doesn't have to look like anybody else's. It doesn't have to measure up according to anybody else's standard. And I think for a long time, because I wasn't comfortable with myself because I didn't really know my story. And so I wasn't really living my story. I always felt like I was the co-star in somebody else's story, whether it was at work or at home or whatever, that writing this memoir was a little bit about like, I got that missing puzzle piece that helped me put myself at the center of my story. And then I was like, I wanna do the work to write that. I wanna do the work to know what it feels like to center myself so that I can make sure that in this lifetime, I'm living my story and not chasing somebody else's. - Wow, you're speaking to everyone's soul right now. Everything you're saying, I'm like, oh, like, it's, and it shows, right? I think when we feel like we can really understand someone we don't know or someone we haven't spent a lot of time with, it means that they understand themselves because we're, you know, when you're-- - We're at that like humanity, that like naked truth of just what it means to be human. - Exactly, like I'm listening to you going, wow, I think everything you just said, like I think every creative person I know has expressed some part of that to me. I think there's parts of me that have grappled with that. And if you don't mind, I'd love to offer you what you asked for earlier and you were saying you'd love to hear my thoughts.
What Is Your Dharma? (23:45)
- Yes, both as a coach, but also as somebody who, 'cause I feel like I'm here, I should get free coaching. But also as somebody who is navigating the combination of the material world and the spiritual world and living in both of those spaces. - Yeah, so from a coaching or even spiritual perspective too because all my coaching is of that type. So the Sanskrit word for this is dharma. And dharma very loosely can be put to purpose, but really what dharma is is almost like an inherent calling that you can't separate from yourself. It is so in deep alignment and centered with who you are at the core that even if you try and push it away, it just keeps pulling you back. - It's calming you. - No matter what that is. And that isn't an activity, like it isn't a title. Like I think today we think of like purpose or passion as a job or a. - Like CEO is not a dharma. - Exactly, exactly. CEO or actor or actress or podcaster or author is. That's not your dharma. It's like you're an artist who expresses yourself through many different ways. You've written an amazing memoir. You've done TV, you produce, you tell stories. You know, you have two interview shows, podcast and scripted. Like those are just mediums. And but what I'm getting to is that there's a part of you where performance and the expression of emotion through performance is so core to what helps you heal and live and breathe. In whatever way it is, it doesn't always have to be in a TV or a film. There's some part of you that loves to express and loves to feel in that way. And you can probably define it better than me. And what I've found is that we're always trying to escape that because usually in the same way as you're saying because of the business aspects that make it seem dirtier, murkier, less pure because it comes from such a pure place. It's not coming from the place of wanting to win. It's not coming from the place of wanting to be the best. It's coming from the place of like service. Service, what this just needs to get out. And that's something that I've found that it's really hard to shake that because it's almost like God, the universe wants you to use that in the service of others. And so I've rarely found, so I've not found anyone I think that's been able to extract their Dharma from themselves because it is inextractable. Like it's you and it's what? - It's your spiritual identity. - Yeah, it's almost like what would be considered your spiritual offering in the material world. It's what connects you to that spiritual world in the material world because without it, and again, by the way, this is not a, I'm just calling it out. This is specific to carry and this is different for everyone. If you did give that up and you went off and tried all the other things, which you've obviously tried so you already know this, I don't even tell you, you can try it and it's not that that isn't fulfilling. It's just that there's this thing that just keeps pulling you back. Like the boyfriend you can't quit. It's just the spiritual boyfriend you can't quit. That's my Dharma. - I love it. - Yeah, I think for me, it might be some sort of, there's something about the expression of emotional truth.
Getting Closer To Your Truth (27:23)
It feels like my Dharma is connected to holding space for emotional vulnerability or emotional truth. And I think in some ways, that's why I grew up in a family where truth was kept from me because it's like I developed like a heat seeking missile for like, I'm gonna find the truth, I'm gonna know what it looks like. If I can't express it here, I have to express it here. It was like it was kept from me so that I would learn to cultivate it and honor it and hold space for it. And I think about even when I'm working as a director, often my note to an actor in a scene is like, I just, I don't believe you yet, right? Like I wanna believe you more. And I think there's something about like, I survived a childhood where I learned what truth doesn't look like. And so I'm really aware of what it does look like now. And it's so important to me. - Yeah, that's so powerful. And it's almost like that's the acceptance that even I've had to make. Like I think for me, it was on a very deep level the business or the systematic approach to art which you have to take if you want your work to scale or you want your work, like you're saying. - The discipline. - The discipline of it or the business of it, as you were saying, the parts that we don't enjoy. - Right, right. - Is actually what, at least from a very Eastern spiritual perspective would be like, that's the stuff that purifies you of the ego that comes from art. - Ah, yes, of course, of course. It's, I mean, it's funny because then when you say it, it's like, yes, this is what you learn in the ashram, right? I think this is what you learn in a yoga practice that like, you don't get to have the transcendent moment at the end of practice sitting in meditation until you do the 20 sun salutations. Like they get you there, they open you up, they get you closer. It's that it is the discipline that makes room for the goodness. If we just like woke up out of bed and were immediately transcendent without any discipline, we probably, I would probably be a pretty horrible person to be around. - I'm amazing. Everything comes so easily for me. - Or the opposite where we end up in complete like, dullness and brewing, where we're like, it doesn't work and I can't do anything. And it's either or. And I find that when you have to reflect on the competitive aspect and purify that desire to be competitive, it gets you closer to your truth. When you have to sit in it and go, I don't care if I'm not Tom Cruise, I'm happy being Tom Hanks. I don't care if I'm not Tom Hanks, I'm happy being Tom Cruise. That is the purification of getting you closer to your truth. Whereas if you never had to do that activity, you almost could live in ignorance. - Oh, insane. - And ignorance is bliss. Well, if that makes sense. Again, I'm not saying I agree with how it's all done or run. I'm saying that's how I think you're trying to operate as a warrior on a war field. As you know, like you're relishing the battle of it because you notice that the battle is actually forcing you to go more inward. Because if you lived it outwardly, it's just too much. If that makes any sense. - It does, it does. - Anyway, but so we got lost over that. But no, I really appreciate what we're going with this conversation because I do think that, that I think all of us are caught within that battle for the truth in our own lives and our own truth in different ways. This was interesting to me because I'm also picking out things that I think a lot of our community and audience can like.
Being Busy Gives Us A Sense Of Control (31:27)
So there's one thing that said, being busy is one of the ways I create a sense of safety and control during times when I feel there is none. Whenever I've read that, I was like, wow, right, the amount of people that I know. - To every workaholic out there. - Literally. And it's hard to even become aware of that because there's joy in that. - That's right. - And then how have you allowed yourself to become less busy? Have you allowed yourself to become less busy? Or what has that awareness led to? - Yeah, I do, I feel like it was in, this was the period that I wrote this book. What happened was about five years ago, my parents gave me some new information. - Oh, I'm talking about that. - Yeah, about kind of, about me and our family and how I came to be. And that new information kind of turned my world upside down. And it came at a really interesting time in my life because I was just ending seven seasons on this like crazy successful hit show playing an iconic character. And I was in many ways asking like, who am I now? But I did have this fantasy that when that show ended, I would suddenly have a lot of free time because that show I was filming 16 hours a day, you know, I don't know, nine, 10 months out of the year. And I was, you know, within the life of that show, I got married and had two children. And now I have three children, my husband came with one and it was just like, there was no downtime. And I thought when the show ends, I'll have some downtime. And I remember like a year after the show ending, I was like, oh, I might be the problem. Like I don't think the show is the problem because I still have no downtime. And I am not the number one on the call sheet of a hit prime time drama, but I was finding other ways to fill my time and still finding moments where I was feeling overwhelmed and overworked. And so I really started to think about how I, if I was the problem, if I was the common denominator, if I was the issue, then how could I also maybe be the solution? And I think the truth is I do love to be busy, but I'm trying to check the intention of what that business is about. So making sure that I'm not saying yes to things because I just want to be in a constant state of cortisol spikes and not getting enough sleep and just feeling like I'm on a hamster wheel because then I don't have to deal with some other stuff. I'm trying to have the yeses come from purpose and passion and to have more nose to say no more often so that there's room to say yes for things that make me feel not busy, but driven and generous and like I'm contributing, not just accomplishing, but really contributing, giving of myself. - And I think that feels like a tough, tough thing to do when you've been such a high performing person for a long, long time and all of a sudden you have to reevaluate what performance means and what high performance means.
Redefining What Success Means (34:30)
- Yes, and even start to redefine what success means, right? Like I think it's like we say to these corporations like your success can't just be about the bottom line. Like are you also thinking about diversity and inclusion? Are you also thinking about the environment in your bottom, you know, in your definition of success? And I feel like I'm trying to do that personally also, like think about success in the material world, but factor into that success, my life as a wife, my life as a mother, my life as a daughter. And I think that too, was part of what made me want to write the book was to kind of be able to have the narrative of my life really reflect on all of it. Because when I sold a book idea, a few write when the show ended, I sold this book idea that was like, here are the 10 things I learned about life from this character. And my parents had just given me this information about myself, but I was like, I'm not gonna deal with that. I'm gonna go sell this other book idea. And that felt like a book I could write because it was not really about me, it was about the character. And it was like very sticky, cute life lessons kind of a book. But every time I sat down to write, that didn't feel honest. It was like, I have this new information, I have this new curiosity, I have this new awareness. And if I'm gonna write something about myself, then it has to be that. And I was like, well, I'm not writing that. So I tried to give the money back to the publisher. And I was like, I'm definitely not writing that. But eventually I did. Eventually I was like, what if I just try to write that? If I try to write what the story is, not just in terms of the movies and the TV shows and even not just the activism and the leadership, but really like what it might mean to feel like a successful human, like somebody who's living in truth, you know? - Do you want to share, and I know the book goes into this in depth, do you want to share because you've referred to it a few times?
Impactful Revelations And Emotional Connections
Book Spoiler Alert** The Revelation That Changed Kerry’s Life (36:30)
- Yeah. - The news that you received at 43. - Yeah, yeah. - And obviously you talk about it at length in a book but I'd love to give that to people so that they have a context of what you need. - Sure, yes, and if you don't want the spoiler then turn off the podcast now. - Yes, this is the moment too. - It is a reveal. - So if you don't want it, yeah. - And I recommend that too. Like yeah, just skip over the next three minutes. - I'm such a fan, I know that like you have those time codes at the bottom, so just skip to the next. - We'll put that on the time code, we'll put skip now if spoiler alert. - Yes, okay. So my parents sat me down and told me that my dad is not my biological father, that I was born from a sperm donor. And this was shocking to me and also not, right? Like it was that thing of like I was shocked because it was not the story I had been told and not the story we had been living but also it made so much sense to me because there had been this sense of like, I felt like I didn't know myself and I felt a disconnect with my parents and I felt a disconnect with myself and I never knew what to ascribe that to. I never knew why. And suddenly it was like the pieces all fell into place. It was actually like, it was like there had been this beautiful puzzle on the wall of our home that had this one wrong piece in it but it was close enough that everybody just pretended that the painting was perfect. You know, everybody was like, it's gorgeous, it's beautiful. If you got close enough, you could see that there was a missing puzzle piece but since we all ignored it, we all kind of forgot about it. And when my parents told me, it was like somebody finally took that wrong puzzle piece that had been like jammed into place and pulled it out. And we got to all be honest about like that piece was wrong and we don't even know what the missing piece is 'cause I don't know who the donor is but at least now the painting is honest and I can maybe try to find that missing puzzle piece but even just to know that the painting now is honest felt like a gift. - And why did they wait till 43? Like why? - Yeah, it was younger than 43 of it. I was like, yeah, like 41 maybe. I mean, my dad, if he had his brothers would have never told me which is in many ways, like infuriating but also so beautiful because to my dad, I am his and he is mine. And there's no point in acknowledging any other truth. I mean, even to today, he acknowledges it. He's had to come to terms with it but it doesn't matter. And in a really beautiful way, like I am his and he is mine, he is my dad, he will always be my dad. But if he had his choice, you and I would not be having this conversation. This book would not be written. Like we would just be living in this other reality which is, I'm his and that we belong to each other. Which is true. It's just there's more complexity, right? There's more nuance. It's not a binary. It happens to be that like, yes, we belong to each other and there is this other figure that is 50% of my genetics. They waited to tell me, my mom said that she was going to write a note for me and leave it in a safe deposit box so that eventually when they were gone, I would have this truth. I'm so glad that that's not what happened. I also wonder like when she was gonna do that 'cause at the point that we were having this conversation, she had had cancer three times and was like knocking on 80. So I was like, exactly when was this note gonna happen, right? So I think it was hard. I think they didn't intend to be duplicitous or they weren't trying to lie to me. I think they, it happened at a time, I mean, my parents were way ahead of the curve. There were no, you know, when I was conceived in '77, '76, there were no sperm banks. This was not something that people did. It was like a highly experimental, very secretive thing. There was no frozen sperm. It was like, it was all very, very cutting edge and they were innovators and ahead of their time and risk takers and nobody knew that 40 years later, you'd be able to take a DNA test and know where you come from. It just was like, this is a secret. We will take to our graves. There's no point in telling her we need to keep our family unit together and we don't need to upset her and we don't need to embarrass our family. And they eventually told me because I was gonna do a show, Skip Gates has a show on PBS called Finding Your Roots where they research your family background and they do it a lot through record keeping and census reports, but they also do DNA tests. And so I told my parents I was gonna do the show and they were really excited and then I handed them one of these commercial DNA kits and my dad started having panic attacks. And I was like, what's happening? And so eventually they had to tell me why they didn't wanna do the show and what the truth of our family history was. That's what it was. Yeah, yeah. How have you trained yourself to be able to, I love what you said earlier. You were like, you wouldn't have told me if it wasn't for this, but you would have found it infuriating but also the most sweet and beautiful thing. And it's like, how have you allowed yourself to accept two things existing at the same time because there's a beautiful statement by F. Scott Fitzgerald where he says that the paraphrase version is that one of the greatest skills or talents of the human mind is the ability to hold two seemingly opposite ideas and allow them to coexist. And that's such a, I feel like that's the art that's missing in the world today. The ability to accept that something can be painful and beautiful and something can be true and untrue in certain ways that, and it feels like even though you were like looking for this truth and this puzzle piece and you have every reason because you've known it for your whole, like it's so deep. Like you make it look so elegant but inside your heart for what is-- It was such a struggle to be like, what is this one thing? What is wrong with me and what's wrong with my life and what is the secret? And yeah. And then you find it, but then you still go, you have the grace to say, I understand. He is me and I am hit. It's like that beautiful statement that you just repeated twice there. I'm just, what has allowed you? How have you developed that ability to let two truths coexist? I don't know where it comes from. It comes throughout the book. I see it throughout the book. Interesting. I don't know where it was born. I mean, I do know, I think maybe one of the first places that I started to think about it consciously again, weirdly, was in my yoga practice, right? Because you learn in yoga practice that you must have this combination of being steady and strong, but also flexible and yielding. That that's the very practice of yoga only works if you can tap into the surrender of each pose combined with the commitment and strength for each pose. So that's one of the places where I think I started to learn what that feels like in my body and think about it. But as I'm sitting here, even just my commitment to say and to help my dad say, it's okay for me to have two energies in my life that represent father, right? Like that this donor, this stranger, I have no idea who this person is. There's a whole team of people on the search, but I don't know who this donor is. But that person, because of the amount of genetic material that they've poured into me, and therefore all kind of coding, that person represents some of the father energy in my story and in my life. But my dad is my dad, right? Like he's also, he represents the father energy in my life. He is the man who raised me and he has loved me like a father and he is also father. So, you know, even just like there's no way for me to live my life without embracing those truths. It just is the fact of my life. Maybe there's something about also like giving myself to these characters and like any one time having to be like 100% that character and also 100% me, that dance between like losing myself and coming back to myself and having space to be carry but also Olivia or whoever, that might be part of it too. I don't know, but I do, I know that at times I've seen this as a weakness that I'm not more decisive or more have more critical thinking skills. But I do think it is just a part of me that I hold on to multiple truths. - Yeah, I would say that my humble observation just from our conversation and reading your work is that your quest for the truth has actually ended in finding truths. - Oh, yes, right. - Right, because that's right, right? I feel like I'm finally able to tell my truth but there's also this awareness as I sit across from my parents that like this is not the book they would have written and their book is no less true. It's just that's their truth and this is mine. Yeah, that's interesting. - Yeah, and it's like that core of just being it. I don't know, there's something beautiful in seeing you find your truths and being like, oh, there's actually so many more and there's so many versions and that almost is more comforting and kind of reassuring that the version you have is not untrue. As you were saying earlier at the beginning, you were like, I was taught to like abandon my truth. - That's right. - Because again, someone had said this is the truth. - That's right, because the other truths were too threatening. It's funny, I talk in the book about how when my parents told me, you know, I had spent my whole life saying, I love you to my dad and it was true.
Our True Self Deserves To Be Loved (46:54)
I loved my dad before this revelation. But when I got this information, in that moment I understood that this was an opportunity for a different kind of love between us because he had only heard me say, I love you on the condition of a lie up until that point. Up until that point, every time I said, I love you, it was passing through this veil of pretending. And so there was a part of his unconscious that was made to believe because she thinks I am her biological father, she loves me. And once I had this truth, I knew I now have the opportunity to show my father what it feels like to actually be loved unconditionally. From this point on, every time I say, I love you, it's despite this truth that you thought was too horrible to bear. - That just, that, that. - It felt like such an opportunity for healing, you know, for us to be in the messy truth and still say, I love you is so much better than to be in the pretending and to be loved. Because when you're pretending and you're loved, then you're loved for your pretense. You're not loved for your humanity. - And you can just imagine what that felt like to him. - Yeah. - That's, it's, wow, that, everyone's just gonna replay that part again and again and again and again. Because no, that's the part you want, no spoilers in that part. Just listen, because that is such a, that is such a beautiful point, Kerry. Like that is, that is so powerful. - It's what we all deserve. Right? It's like, it's what we all crave, I think, is to be able to like be our true selves and for that version of us to be loved. Not the, the version where we put on the fancy clothes or we, it's like me at my most naked, most honest, most vulnerable, if I'm still loved then, then that's real love. If I have to work or to deserve the love, then it's not based on me, you know? - Yeah, because you said in the book, before we got onto that, I was gonna read these parts where you talked about when I started talking about my family and therapy for the first time in college, my concerns and complaints were exclusively about my dad. And you talk about how different we were, how often we disconnected.
Trying To Connect & Be Close With Your Parents (49:10)
And you said like many 18 year olds, I thought I knew everything in my dad do nothing, which is so true. And then you go on to say, even as a young child, I felt that I was never who my dad needed me to be. I knew he really wanted a son and that they weren't having any more children. I got the sense that I could soften the blows somehow by being a daughter who was prettier or smarter or braver or more successful, but even that didn't work. What do you think that wasn't working? What's that part like? - I think what I was picking up and interpreting as me not being enough, was really the disconnect between us caused by lack of truth. There was always like a moat, an emotional moat between who I was and who my parents were. Like I would watch my mother interact with girlfriends of mine, friends I would be home from school and people would tell my mother everything. People were so close to my parents and I always felt like there was a little bit of arm's length. And so as a kid, I thought that must be me. It must be that I'm not good enough or pretty enough or successful enough or thin enough or whatever it is accomplished enough. And so I thought maybe if I'm better, if I do more, if I accomplish more, if I'm busier, then maybe I'll be able to cross the moat. But the moat had nothing to do with me. The moat was their own protection because I realize now in hindsight, I would say like so many people are like best friends with their mothers, they talk to their mothers every day. My mother could never afford to be best friends with me because there was a secret that she was never gonna reveal to me. You can't be intimate best friends with somebody who your fundamental truth of who they are, you're keeping that from them. So I was interpreting this emotional distance as being my fault, as being me not being good enough. But really it had to do with them trying to manage the relationship so that they could protect me from something that they thought I wouldn't be able to handle or just that would kind of destroy my sense of self or a sense of family. So it was this loving act on their part of trying to keep me okay and keep our family okay, but it did cause this break and this schism between us. And I just, I thought I thought I could fix it. I thought if I could be better, I could fix it. And it was in learning the truth of this revelation that I was able to say like, no, I'm okay, I'm enough, it wasn't about me. And now, now I talk to my parents every day. Like now it's a different, the greatest gift of this, these few years and even writing this book is that I am so much closer to my parents than I have ever been before because now there's nothing to hide from each other. There's nothing to, there's nothing we're trying to protect each other from anymore. There's no more performance, there's no more pretending. And so now the intimacy is so real. - Yeah, and it's almost like, you want that for everyone, but you know how hard it is to get. - It's work. It was, it was, you know, we went into family therapy for a while. - Yeah, that's cool. - Yeah, all four of us, my parents and my husband and I, we would, we like unpacked a lot of this together. And to be on the other side of that, it's extraordinary. You know, I talk in the book about how during the pandemic, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. And again, and this time around how I was able to be present for her and with her because there was no longer an arm's length. There was no longer this moat between us. It was the greatest gift to really be able to feel like, I now in this moment when we're faced with mortality, like I really know her and she really knows me. And I know myself now to bring myself to this relationship fully. It just, it was the greatest gift. - And it almost feels now that if you are to continue playing roles and performances that you know who you are already, so you couldn't lose yourself in a role or... - Yeah, I think they'll be, I'm excited. I've had, I've taken on different characters since getting this information and it feels like I'm able to go deeper. It feels like I'm able to bring more of myself and my truth. I'm more connected to myself and it's been, it's allowed me to really have a deeper level of emotional truth. That's what I think about when I watch certain performances you know in the last five years. I think I'm able to bring more courage, more personal knowing, more vulnerability because I'm not operating out of fear anymore. I'm not looking to these characters to fix me or to teach me about myself. I'm actually able to devote myself to them fully. And I've thought a lot about, it's so funny 'cause when you're interviewing, you'll see eventually when you're interviewing for all these schools with your kids. They'll ask you like how the kid was born or like the circumstances of their birth. Like to enter into like a preschool. You're like, what are you talking about? And why is that any of your business? They're here to learn their ABCs, right? But there's so much imprinting that happens to us in utero. And I do think it's so powerful for us to go back and uncover the story of who we are and how we came to be. It's why, you know, Street, you grew up on. It's like that like what is your once upon a time? And I thought about it a lot in thinking about my story because I think I've thought like how afraid my mother must have been. Here this woman was like carrying a baby that she had no idea. She had no idea where this sperm came from. Back then there was no fancy catalog to tell you like what college they went to or what like nothing. The two things they said to her doctor were like, we'd love him to be healthy and we'd love him to be black because if he was black, then they wouldn't have to tell people it could remain a secret. But she must have been terrified. And she knew also like as she was carrying me, she began carrying a secret that she was gonna carry for four decades. And so I was like, my twin was shame. Like I was in utero with shame. We were growing together like in this pact of secrecy. And she literally never told a soul. My parents, she has four sisters. She just told them this year, this spring. She never told her best friend. She never told anyone. They are literally telling people now 'cause they're like, listen, this book is coming out and I want you to hear this thing from me. So that fear and shame that was growing inside her, that was the soup that I was stewing in, that I was cooking in. And I think we get born with that identity and we get to navigate it. - Yeah. - You know? Thank you for sharing that part too because it makes sense with when you said you wished you were not an only child and your parents responded, you were long wished for a child, you were not easy to conceive.
Book Spoiler Alert** Understanding Your Parents Motivation (56:28)
And like that idea of just, it's that beauty if they wanted you so bad. - You see, even like my joke about my dad's, you know, his unwillingness to deal with the truth of how I came to be, right? Like it's so beautiful, not just because it's a testament of how much he loves me, but when my parents sat down across from that doctor, they said, you have two options. Looking at my dad's sperm, you have two options. You can either adopt or you can try this new thing, artificial insemination, right? And it was my dad's ego. It was their desire to keep a secret that made them choose artificial insemination over adoption. So if my parents hadn't had that ego, if my dad hadn't been navigating his pride, I literally wouldn't be here. There'd be some lucky kid who would have been adopted by them and raised by this beautiful couple and all the stuff they were navigating, but it was actually their pride and secrecy that put me on this earth. So I have to be grateful for it. I have to be grateful for their stuff, their, you know, the emotional stuff that they're navigating, 'cause it was my pathway to being on this planet. - Well, I find that I said this to you when we met the other day, when we did The Street You Grew Up On, which I really felt was such a gift. And if anyone who's listening or watching, I'm sure you watch already, but if you haven't, go and subscribe to Kerry's YouTube show because I found it to be such a gift to go back there. You've written a memoir now, so you've really gone back there. - Yeah, it's really gone back, yeah. - I've never written one, but I find the act of going back there. Like you reminded me of so many things that I completely forgot. - Yeah, it was so fun to watch you have these revelations about where you come from. - So many things that you just, your memory is such a fascinating thing in and of itself, but I said this to you that day when I saw you, and I'm repeating it now, 'cause I want my, I said it offline to you, but I want my community to hear it. I found your take on your challenges so refreshing and unique because you'd be valid in just being upset.
Having Compassion For Others Can Set You Free (58:43)
And there's nothing wrong with that. And if someone else who was, I become, it's so valid, but then when you hear someone who's seeing it from multiple perspectives, and there was also this, the most challenging part of this book to read was when you talked about the encounters you were having while you were sleeping. - Mm-hmm. - And even in this, and I'll let you explain it, but even when I was reading through it, I was just like, how is Gary, even explaining this with so much compassion and so much grace, and I was like, you just have this capacity to hold pain and compassion at the same time. And I think that that is so rare, and I just wanna acknowledge it and honor it. That's not a weakness at all. I think it's really powerful to be able to do that. And when I was reading that, I was just, you were blowing my mind. I was just like, how is it human? I really find that, you know, you read about people who've gone through some of the most horrific things in the world, and they live that way. And then, yeah, I was in awe reading that, honestly. - Yeah, I think as I'm listening to, I think the danger for me has always been in not having the anger part. - Right. - Right? - That's, it's funny, it's like the compassion comes more easily, weirdly. I don't know if it's the people pleasing or the being an only child or whatever it is, maybe it's being an artist, but the compassion part comes first. The journey for me has been allowing myself to have the anger, allowing myself to create healthy boundaries for myself, to allow for the pain and the grief at times, and then to still make room for the compassion. - That's what I felt. - Yeah, yeah, to be able to like hold space for both. And I think a lot of it is selfish. I don't wanna be a person who operates from toxicity. You know, when I'm carrying, when I'm only operating from resentment, it's poison for me. To hold space for loving myself and loving other people in all of our imperfection is for me what feels doable. It actually helps me have more grace for myself when I'm able to have grace for other people. And I talk about that, I have my children idea of like the person that causes you the most pain. That's the person that sat with you in heaven before you came to earth and said, like, I love you so much. I'm gonna be the one that hurts you, that forces you to grow. I love you so much. I'm gonna be your enemy that teaches you what love looks like. And I think we are really, really all doing the best we can. And when I'm not able to have compassion, my life is like this hose, right? And the emotions are coming through the hose. If I choke the hose from compassion for somebody else, I choke it for myself too. And I just, I wanna let it run free. I wanna let the goodness go through so that I'm able to give it to myself and others. 'Cause we're all really just doing the best we can. And that looks like a lot of different ways for a lot of different people. And it doesn't mean that in my compassion and forgiveness that I have to engage with everybody all the time, right, like having healthy boundaries is also important. But I wanna, I always wanna leave myself open to grace 'cause I need it for me too. - I love that idea of how when we're choking our life or someone else with compassion, you're actually blocking it from yourself. And that's what I meant. It was not a naive compassion that I was reading of. It wasn't a, it didn't come across as a people pleasing or, oh, I'm just protecting. And it didn't feel like that. It just really felt like a realized version of that. And that's even harder. - I think some of that too honestly comes from the acting because you're taught early on that you, to play a character, you can't judge your character. Like when you're playing a bad guy, you can't think of it as a bad guy. It's what my, some of my favorite stories and my favorite narratives are these like origin stories where the villains, like Cruella and the Joker, like these stories. - Mine too. - I love that because I feel like it's really true that hurt people, hurt people. And villains come from somewhere. And so as an actor, you learn that when you're playing a character who does something awful, you better figure out why. You better figure out what it is that caused this person to make those choices because it's not gonna be real if you don't do that. You're just gonna be like some arch stereotype of a bad guy. If you wanna be a human being who's doing something awful, figure out the why. What's at stake? What is that person afraid of? What is that person needing? What is that person longing for? How was that person abused? And so I've had to learn compassion even just for my characters. Or maybe I'm drawn to playing complicated characters because I really love to cultivate compassion. I don't know, but it's definitely a part of kind of the culture of how I approach my life and my work. - It sounds that you're such a seeker of the truth in spiritually, in your life, in your work.
What Does The Next Chapter Have In Store For You? (01:04:13)
What is it that you're seeking now at this point in your life? Like what is it that you're trying to learn or be curious about? - I think this next little chapter, which is like beginning right now, I'm learning to be in my truth publicly and to see what that feels like and what impact it has on me and my family. Because it's so new for me. I've been so private as a person in the public eye. I've really not talked a lot about myself. So I'm really trying to be curious about what this experience feels like and how it changes me. I'm curious about who my donor is. So that's, it feels like another part of the quest. But I'm also aware that that lack of information also feels like information. Like the fact that the universe hasn't given me this answer of like, this is who he is, this is, it feels like an invitation to move into deeper relationship with the family I come from, my family of origin, right? Like that I have this new kind of truth with my parents, a different kind of truth with my kids, like telling my kids about my parents and how I came to be, all of that. But also into a deeper relationship with like, like a spirit father, you know, like father time, like the archetype of father, like a heavenly father, like to lean into my connection to a higher power as bringing me those fatherly things, that sense of belonging and safety and being cared for. That I'm interested in this opportunity to cultivate that in my spirit world because I don't have it in the material world. I have it, but I don't have it fully. I have these, you know, I have my dad who's incredible and wonderful and I have this mystery donor. So I have father energy, but there's a deeper security that I can seek. I think in my spiritual practice. - Wow, so beautiful. What was your intention in your career to be, was it intentional to be private?
Personal Experiences And Insights
On Being A Private Celebrity (01:06:37)
And what are you hoping that the public aspect that you said you were seeking to figure out how it's, what was the intention behind going in that direction? - It's funny because it feels accidental. I mean, really, I've always, I decided at a certain point in my career, I had been in a very public relationship. It was very public engagement. And when that ended, I was like, I don't think I want to give this much information to the press ever again. And my husband and I were of the same feeling. When we met, we were very private. The whole time we were dating, when we got married, people were like, what? Like we didn't even know they knew each other. Like very, and this was at the height of both of our careers. He was like on the cover of Sports Illustrated and I was on this hit show and we wound up somehow having this very secret, private courting and marriage was so beautiful. I remember when I called my parents to tell them I was pregnant, they were like, so you'll tell people like when the kids in college, like they were like, I was like, probably. So it just, it has felt like a way to protect the people that matter most to me. But my parents have always been a part of my public identity because, you know, I didn't need to protect my relationship with my parents and they're not children. I keep my kids off social media because I feel like they should make decisions about how they, and there are a lot of ways to do it. There's no right or wrong, but for us, I feel like my kids should be of an age where they know how they want to enter that social media space. I don't want to make those decisions for them. But my parents are old enough to make those decisions. So I kind of started posting more with my parents 'cause I was like, I gotta post something, right? Like, so I would post my dog and post my parents and I was doing these dad jokes with my dad and my dad became a bit of a celebrity on my Instagram. And so then when I got this information, I was suddenly like, oh, I am complicit now in a lie. 'Cause I'm out here perpetuating this truth. That's not my whole truth. And so suddenly I was like, I didn't want to keep a secret the way my parents had kept a secret. 'Cause I don't feel like there's anything shameful about this. I don't feel like there's any reason to not talk about it. So part of the telling of the story was like, this is a way for me to be corrective and just not feel like I'm perpetuating a lie that I didn't even know I was lying when I was doing it, but now I want to just be transparent. So we'll see. I don't know. It's very new for me to be this open. But I guess I also just, there's a saying that we're as sick as our secrets. And I want to offer healing to my parents and to our relationship by not having it be in the dark, by speaking the truth of our journey and of my journey in particular. One of the things that's been really wonderful about as I've shared the book with people is that people immediately tell me their family secrets. Like immediately it's so funny. And so I've realized like all families have them and people feel less alone when they read the book because this person who has been so private and I really have kind of maintained a certain level of Hollywood like, this is who I am. And I'll let you in only this much and to let people in more to allow that level of vulnerability helps me feel less alone. But I think also is helping readers feel less alone. - Yeah. - And I believe that for sure. And I love that that's what's happening as a response to the book because how beautiful it would it be if every friend who picked up this book and shares it with their friend is now able to open up about something that they've been holding onto. - And let go of shame. And to let go of secrets. And that's what I want for people to, and also I think it's important to see, to see where we are as a family, right? To know that we're closer than ever, that this revelation actually wasn't the fracturing of my family, that it actually was the birth of our true intimacy and closeness with each other. And for me, like a real beginning, a sense of like, I don't have to hide, I can now really do and be anything. - So empowering to hear that. - Yeah, it's very liberating. - Very liberating. - Super liberating. - Very liberating. - Yeah. - I think that's part of it too, is like if people find out that this is the real deal of how I came to be in the story of my family, like I wanted to own the narrative. I didn't want anybody else to be able to tell my story. I wanted to be able to tell my own story, to claim it and to have it, to know that it was mine, that it is mine. I'm still living it. This is definitely like Act One. There's more to do and be, but it's mine.
You Need To Trust Yourself (01:11:39)
- Yeah, there's this beautiful line that you, you say you're talking to your therapist about it and then you explain it and it says, when you teach a person to believe that their internal truth is a lie, you take from them the very thing that is most important to each of us, our ability to know and trust ourselves. And I can only imagine how much you trust yourself. Now. - So much more. - It's true, that's, I guess that's why I keep saying like I'm so curious about who I'll be on the other side of this chapter, like once this is out there because I do feel like I trust myself more now. I understand myself more, I trust myself, I feel stronger, I feel liberated. I feel like I have more capacity for compassion, more capacity to love myself, more understanding of myself, more capacity to understand and love my parents. And therefore more capacity to understand and love friends and other family members and my kids. If we are as sick as our secrets, then I am getting healthier and healthier every day. So I'm grateful for that 'cause I want to offer that to my kids and to myself and to my parents. - Yeah. - We deserve that. That's what this community is about. It's about health and happiness. And that's like to be able to know that truth can lead to that because sometimes the truth seems so scary. It's not that my parents were being mean, they were afraid, but that you can walk through that fear toward a deeper healing in truth is really what I want people to know. - Can I ask a practical question basically? You just said, how did you talk about this to your kids?
Book Spoiler Alert** Being Transparent With Kids (01:13:19)
Because I can imagine that that's scary 'cause it's a lot for them. They're still young. - But you know what? It's a lot less scary for them because my kids have grown up in a world where half of their friends are born from surrogate moms or donor eggs or donor sperm or like they have friends with two dads, friends with two moms. Like they're not up against some of the like constricting conservative ideas of who families are and how they come to be that my parents were battling 40 years ago, 40 plus years ago. So it's a different conversation with my kids. It's kind of much more normal. I'm like a, I'm just like ahead of the curve. But it's also very different. Like the conversation we had with our 17 year old was very different than the conversation with my six year old. Like super different. And that's part of it is I, and in general, and when it comes to this kind of like advanced information, we try to be led by their questions. You kind of like we offer them a little bit of information and then ask them what questions they have 'cause I don't wanna overwhelm them with information, but I always want them to know that they can ask me anything, anything, anything, anything. There's no bad answers, no wrong answers, nothing you can't ask. And that the door is always open. So, you know, like my 17 year old had more questions, my six year old had zero questions. My nine year old had a couple of questions and then was onto the next thing. But they, for them, it's not a huge deal. And also it's not a huge deal because fundamentally, my dad is my dad. Like that's the big thing is that nothing has changed there. There's more information and I'm gonna learn more about who I am and therefore they're gonna learn more about who they are, but the bottom line is my dad is my dad and that's not changing. So, they have that security. - I love that, that's beautiful. Kerry, we end every on purpose episode with a final five. But I wanna ask you before we do that, is there anything I haven't asked you about that's on your heart, that's on your mind that you really wanna share, that you wanna dive into, that you wanna talk about that? We haven't covered today for whatever reason so I just wanna give you the floor and ask you if there's anything that you really wanted to share. That doesn't have to be.
On Spending Time In India (01:15:35)
- Was it surprising to you how much time I spent in India? - Yes. - And we should talk about that. - Yeah, yeah, sure. - I had no idea. - Uh-huh. - And I was like, yeah, you've definitely been private because I feel like India is such a big part of my work and my heart and my spiritual home that I love when people have spent time in India. - It's such a special place. It lives so deeply in me. I really want to go back and I wanna bring my family and even my husband is like, I have to go because it's so much a part of you. I do feel like, you know, when I talk about the street I grew up on, it's Pugsley Avenue and the Bronx but I also feel like Kerala raised me. You know, it was the first place I lived when I left the cocoon of college, right? When I was really into like, college is over, you're like for real and adult now, you're on your own and I walked into that in India which is like the most magical of places. So I'm really, really grateful for that place and I hope that I can spend more time there. - How many times have you been back? - Only that one time. - Oh, that was the only time I've ever been. - Yeah, yeah, I would love to go back. Do you go back often? - I go back every year. - You do. - And where are you? - So I'll go to the ashram that I spent time in which is in Mumbai and then two hours outside of Mumbai. - How long do you stay there? - I'll be there for, it varies. Like this time I'm going for, I'm going to another pilgrimage this year in West India and that's for around a week to 10 days and then in January I'm going back to the ashram that I was in for like two weeks. - Wow. - And so it varies sometimes to go back for three weeks, sometimes it's been a month. - And do you just like set aside that time a year ahead on your calendar? - I try to, yeah, I try to make it a time that's always in and that it's a time to completely disconnect. So I won't be on my phone. We prep content in advance so that I don't have to think about the podcast or social media. I just want to be fully disconnected. - Does your wife go or do she feel good? - Yeah, she comes with me, yeah, she comes with me. And it's really fun, we love doing it together. - Oh, that's so beautiful. - It's a really beautiful way of just both of us getting a reset and if anything, she makes us do it even more than I do now where she's like, you know, she loves it. And it's such a, we sometimes take our family, we take our parents. - Really? - Yeah, it's really beautiful for them as well. We just feel like doing more spiritual things together as a family is just so deeply bonding in a different way. It's so important for our like connection. - Yeah. - So we find that taking her parents in mind is a big part of it, yeah. - Is it hard for you to transition in and out of? Like when you get there, do you miss the secular life? And when you're leaving, are you like, okay, I'm done? Are you like, oh, I wish I could stay longer? - I think one of the greatest, greatest, greatest skills that monk training gave to me was the ability to just be where I am, be okay with it and then move when it's done. And so I find that as long as I know why I am where I am and as long as I know it's intentional, then I feel very grateful that I can wake up and just feel I'm where I'm meant to be. And I think that was all because of the way we were trained where you weren't nowhere was more home than anywhere else. And that's like a really interesting training because most of the time we're trained to be like, "No way your home is, no way your roots are." But this was almost like, well, if your roots were here, then you were always at home, that if you were aligned here, then you were always centered and grounded. You didn't need an external thing. Now that doesn't mean today that I don't like having, I love my home here and I love feeling grounded here. And yes, do I feel more happy when I'm here than in a hotel room, sure. But I don't feel I wake up without purpose in a hotel room if I'm there for a reason or when I'm touring this year or whatever it may be. And so I think I look at purpose as my home or at least as a mindset and an approach. So I feel like I can kind of switch back on and off. - I've never done a book tour before.
On Going On A Book Tour (01:19:50)
Do you have any advice for me? - Well, I'm excited watching your book tour. I was trying to join you. My schedule was nuts. And I was, it looks amazing. You've got so many amazing guests joining you. - I do, I do. - I can't wait to hear the conversations that come out of it and the things that other people share. I'm hoping you should ask every person to seek a family secret. - Family secret. - 'Cause that would be amazing. You can't imagine the healing. But my only advice, which, I mean, you've done, you've been on set for months and you've, I mean, you don't need my advice. But for whatever it's worth, I, there were two things. The first, and one's external, one's internal. - Okay. - So the external is, my health was my number one priority because it's so easy to fall sick when you're traveling down the house. - And practically what did that mean? - And practically that meant having a routine, even though it wasn't my routine here. - How much did the tour routine? - Yes. So I slept at 2 a.m. Because I'd get off stage at like 10.30. I'd do a meet and greet. - Me and aunt. - I'd be amped. I'd eat at midnight and then I'd sleep at 2 a.m. I'd wake up at 9 a.m. So I'd get seven hours of sleep. I'd then go on a walk around the city that I was in with my team. - Wherever you were. - Yeah, with my tour manager or with my team, whoever was with me, we'd just go on a long walk. Get like 10 to 20,000 steps sometimes. Like just really get active. - Yeah. - And be in the place, 'cause we weren't really in a place for longer than a night. So I was like, not that I wanted to see the city, but I was like, I want to be outdoors. I don't want to be in a gym or, you know, I don't want to get lost in that. - That's great. - So that was really great. And then I would eat breakfast at nine and then lunch at 12 and then I wouldn't eat again. And I would just, I was allowing myself to just be on stage at night. And in the sense of like, I was like, I don't need to achieve more. Because I was starting off like being on stage, we'd start a meditation at 3 p.m. And then I wouldn't get off stage until 10.30 and finish till midnight. So it was just like my nine hour work day started at 3 p.m. And so allowing myself in the morning, I don't need to rush to meetings. I don't need to be on a million phone calls. I just need to focus on being present because then I can give people the best experience and honor that experience. So it was a very like disciplined approach. - That's good. - And really to take it all in. Like I'm sure there's going to be tears. I'm sure there's going to be laughs. I'm sure people are going to want to hug you after this and share their story. And it's like, I look back and I think of like when, and it's what you were saying that as your life becomes more public, there's, as you know, better than anyone, there's scrutiny, there's criticism, there's whatever. I found that the love I got from my community when I was traveling was enough to keep me afloat for all the times and all the other. - It fills the world. - It fills the world of all the other stuff that comes and goes. You get to see people's eyes and you get to see someone look into your eyes and say, this book. - Change my life. - This book's going to change my life. - And people are going to say that to you. Like people are going to have their stories of what you've discovered and just getting to hear that from people and see people say it. People have been fans of yours for so long and you've probably never heard them say it in this intimate way. People have loved your characters. - Yeah. - Not you in this way. - Yeah, that's so true. - In this way. - That's so true. - And so just taking it all in and allowing yourself to be present with it. So the external thing is the discipline of the health and the internal thing is allowing yourself, I think sometimes we're so aware of like ego and worrying about whatever it may be and being modest. And I was just like, you know what? I'm just going to soak up all the love. Just taking all the love. Like whenever I allow myself to just really receive the love and I need it too. I need to be nurtured by love. - Wow. - Why am I deflecting it or whatever? Just take the love. - So funny when you say that because when I was reading your book, which is just like a full on study of love in all of its forms, I felt like in so many ways, it was like my memoir is like your book in the wild. Like it's so many concepts that you talk about in terms of forgiveness or partnership or vulnerability. Like it's what I'm expressing of how I was grappling with that. Like if only I had had your book when I was like 12 to help me walk through life, but it's really fun to see how usable your book is so, like it's so spot on in giving people what we need in life. - That's so reassuring. Thank you. I mean, I could only dream of having it connect with the real life story as much as that because, yeah, thank you. That means a lot to me. Thank you. I really received that. That's so special. - Yeah. - I, you know, just, I mean, I think that's kind of like the perfect match in the world where we need, where it's like the, we need the human story of what it really looks like because it's messy and it's uncomfortable. And then hopefully we can all extrapolate lessons from it. - Yeah, and get a toolbox. It's like, like if you get triggered reading this book, get Jay's book and then you'll have a toolbox to help you grow and heal. - No, and I would say the other way around, I feel like people need to see the messiness of what it looks like. And I don't shy away from that, but I think when you read about it and you see like, oh, this is what the uncomfortable conversation looked like. It's what the revelation looks like. This is what the work looks like. Like I think we need both sides because sometimes we have a romantic view of what growth looks like and what having the revelation conversation with your family looks like. And we know that that's not true. - Right, right. - And I would love to, I love how much time you spent in India for sure. I was, I was definitely surprised. What would you say, what would you say then in that regard was like, obviously talked about the gift of your yoga training, talked about the gift of you referred to it many, many times.
On India Being A Healing Place (01:25:28)
What was the, what surprised you about India? - I think the thing that was most surprising and impactful for me about India was how drenched in God, everything is. You know, like I grew up in communities where there's like a liquor store in every corner, but in India there's an altar on every corner. There's just, you know, when you walk into someone's house, there's an altar, there's a puja room, there's a, there's like, you can't escape God if you wanted. The very way you say hello is like an acknowledgement of the God in each other. So that was really powerful for me in a time when I was really seeking God in my healing. And yeah, I just, I found it impossible to escape a sense of spirituality in India. And it's not an easy place, right? Like people are not, it's not like everywhere you turn, everybody's comfortable and things are easy. So it is this combination of like, life is hard, life is vibrant and chaotic and like the, everything's so pungent, right? Like the sense and the colors and the, it's so filled with life, like real material life. And yet every single inch of that is also connected to God. And that I feel like is something that I try to live in my life. Like to live life fully, like out loud and big and in truth and to go after whatever it is that the Dharma is leading you toward, but to not have it just be for self or for material this life, to have it be about God and with God and for God. And that, it feels like that's so much of what I learned there. Yeah. - I mean, I don't think, I don't think there's any greater gift that a place could give you. That's pretty spectacular. - So special. - Yeah. - So special. - Yeah. And it's, I'd love to show you my temper from after it. - I would love that. I would love that. - Yeah, it'd be beautiful to show it to you. - Yeah, that'd be great. - But no, I hope Gary, this has been a serving and an offering to your offering to the world. I really mean that because I really believe that this book for you is not a, it's not a celebrity memoir. Like, you know, it's so, it's so human. So it's so truth-seeking. And so I really hope that this has served you and served your offering in the world. And, you know, I'm excited for everyone to read it, to connect with it, to share it with their family, share it with their friends and hopefully uncover, discover and recover from family secrets that may be holding you back in whatever way. And being able to have the grace to hold the supposed paradox with that, you know, compassion and empathy. - Amen. - Yeah. - Amen, thank you. - It's my open intention for you and your book tour. And I wish you nothing but so much impact and can already see everyone smiling and the faces and the lives being impacted and changed based on the work you've done, sir. - Thank you so much. It's such a privilege to be here. - Oh, so grateful. I still have to ask you the final five.
Closing Thoughts: Kerry Washington'S Final Takeaways
Kerry Washington On Final Five (01:29:02)
- Oh, yes, okay. - I know you tried to dodge them, Carrie, I saw that. - Oh, I should have prepared you. I'm like, such a fan, I should have prepared. - You distract me, but I hope, yeah, I hope we got, if there was anything else that you wanted to know. - This was amazing. - All right, I wanted to be honest with me anytime. Okay, so, all right, question one, Carrie, what is the best advice you've ever received ahead? - The best advice I've ever received or heard is to pray. When I learned to pray and meditate, to me, there are sort of two sides of the same coin. You know, like it's the talking to God and listening to God. You know, whenever in my life I'm reminded to pray, it's never a bad thing. It's always a path to goodness because it's always an act of surrender and an invitation to help. And the act of prayer for me, end of meditation, is really for me about picking up a tool of humility. Because when I'm not making room for spiritual practice, it's like I think I'm in charge. And so the prayer helps me remember and the meditation helps me remember to be part of something greater, to not be trying to control and run everything, but to connect myself to something bigger. - What a great answer. We never had that before in the show. What did, how did you learn how to pray? And for anyone who struggles with prayer because they think they have to have the perfect words that they don't know where to start, like what would you suggest for someone? - It was part of my first time I ever got on my knees, really, to ask something greater than me for help was when I was really struggling with my eating disorder stuff, which I talk about. And that was the first time in my life that I was like, I can't fix this. Like I don't know, I do not have the tools and I don't know where to go and I don't know what to do. And I'm gonna need somebody or something to step in and help me out. And that was my first experience with prayer. And then there's a really beautiful book. I think it's one of the most important books that I've read in my life called The Artist Way by Julia Cameron. And that book taught me a lot about bringing spiritual practice into my creativity and into my life as creative practice, but prayer through journaling. And I think there's no wrong way to pray. And honestly, my prayer looks like all different kinds of ways. Like I think like any relationship, my relationship with the spirit is always evolving and changing according to where I am. And sometimes it's like sitting on the pillow with the candle and the incense is like, that's it. Just like sometimes date night is like that perfect, elegant five star, you're dressed up. He's in a suit, it's a whole, right? Like sometimes the ritual is that. And sometimes it's like, I'm in my car, I'm at the red light, I'm like, all right God, like I'm gonna need you to step in and take this day on. Sometimes it's just singing gospel music. Sometimes it's doing some sun salutations. Sometimes it's like just saying God, God only God 107 times in a row. Like whatever it is, it can be so many different things. Sometimes it's just swimming, but that just making room for seeking other, something greater than me. - Beautiful, what a wonderful, do you pray with the kids? - We do at night, we do prayer requests and gratitude together as a family. - I love that. - Yeah. That's so special. - Yeah, it is really special. It's really fun to watch that. - Watch the kids come up, yeah, what are they? - It's great, you know, you never know. I mean, sometimes there's gratitude is really profound. I'm grateful that a grandparent is feeling better or I'm grateful for this family trip and time with cousins and sometimes it's like, I'm really grateful for pickles, you know? What? Okay, you know, like, that's cool, that too is God, right? So like, it's really, it's fun. And also the prayer requests, it's just our kind of family way of remembering to think outside yourself. And sometimes the prayer can be for yourself, I really hope my ankle feels better, I really, but it's also a way to remember to include other people in your seeking, you know? - Beautiful, I love that. All right, well, that was just question one. - Yeah, I know. - Question number two, what is the worst advice you've ever heard or received? - I think about this book that I talk about in my book that I stole from the library when I was a kid that was called A New You. - That you missed the dude again and again and again and again. You know, this idea that it appears in like magazines for young women and there's this messaging out there that to be loved, you must be something other than who you are. You know that to be loved, you have to be prettier and you have to know what colors are right for you and you have to know how to sit and how to walk and how to stand. And I'm all about having good manners and being appropriate to a situation, but the idea that you have to be on somebody other than who you are to be deserving of love is messaging that is damaging. I think it was definitely damaging for me and I think for a lot of people. - Yeah, and it gets so ingrained. - Yes. - And it sounds so obvious, but it's not and it's so subtle and so-- - Oh, yeah, I mean, even from a young age when you hear kids saying like, "I need those sneakers or else I'm not gonna be cool." Like it's these messages, these, I think consumerism has a lot to do with it, this idea that you must have that lipstick or that mascara or that facelift or those pair of jeans or whatever it is in order to be good enough and it's just not true. It's just not true. You are lovable. And by the way, love sneakers, love lipstick, love mascara, like you can have those things, you can play with those things, but the idea that to do, you must do those things to be lovable, to be worthy, that's where the wrong messaging gets implanted. - Yeah, to quote TikTok, I don't know if you've seen this new TikTok, which I love and the sound is telling you how to dress to impress a man. - Oh, I love that one. - Yeah, everyone's like doing the opposite. - Yes, it's so great. - So great, yeah. - I haven't done that one, I should do that one. - Yeah, I saw someone do it with their door to the other day and they got it, it was so cute. - So good. - Yeah, it's really cool. Anyway, but that idea definitely, I love that great answer. All right, question number three is, how would you define your current purpose? - My current purpose is to, hold space for my scary truths and other people's scary truths and to create community in that. - That's really powerful and that's amazing. - I think that's it for now. - It sounds like a good one. - For Q4, that's the purpose for Q4. I'll get back to you. - Your purpose is really good. - Yeah, I love that, I love that. It's so nice to put it into words though, isn't it? - Yeah. - Even to think about it, it's like, yeah, that's great, I love the answer. All right, question number four, we talked about what you're trying to learn now. Is there anything you're trying to unlearn? Is there any beliefs that you're trying to unlearn or values or ideas? - I think I'm working to unlearn the belief that I am not enough. - I think I'm working to unlearn the belief that I am less important and less deserving. - Where does that still come from? Where's that hiding? - I think there is, you know, when I think about the word sacrifice and that sacrifice does come from sacred, and I think for some reason, as an only child, as a young person, I understood that there was something sacred about sacrificing my own need or desire or truth even to make space for someone else's journey. I've placed so much value on other people's sense of joy and goodness and safety that I've been willing to sacrifice my own sense of joy and goodness and safety. And I don't regret it. I think it's not wrong to care about how other people feel and want to do what's right for other people. I'm just learning to let myself be one of those people, to include myself. It's not like now I wanna do whatever I wanna do and to hell with whoever it hurts, but it's like I need to be as important as the other people I'm considering that I deserve that. That's new for me. - Yeah, one of the greatest lessons I think I've tried to learn is that, again, the world is trying to do either or. So some of us think the answer is just take care of yourself, who cares about what anyone else thinks. And the opposite is we'll just sacrifice, just serve, just surrender and give yourself over to everyone. That's the greatest gift. And something that I've learned that has really helped me is that actually taking care of myself in order to serve others is the complete picture. That taking care of myself is not selfish if my intention and reasoning is so I can go out and do more, give more, be more for others. But I can't do more, give more and be more for others if I'm giving everyone the leftovers of. - Mm, that's right. I have to give from my overflow. - Correct. - Yeah. And similarly, I've also learned that sometimes giving to others is a way that I can be giving to myself. - Absolutely. - Because I can, like my giving to others can be how I build hope and community and belonging for myself. There can be this dialogue between the two. So just to not forget myself, the equation is so important. - Yeah, and that when you give to someone, I also notice it this way that when I give something to someone, often I feel like I'm the one doing the giving, but actually the fact that there's someone there to receive it. - It's such a gift. - It's a gift. Because if there was no one for you to give your gift to, then it would feel incomplete. And so the fact that even someone has a challenge and opportunity, a moment that you get to give something to someone, we have to see that good for ourselves. - That's right. - As opposed to this feeling of like, oh, I did this for all of you. - That's right, that's right. - Yeah. So yeah, that's beautiful. I love that. All right, fifth and final question, which we ask to every guest, you should have practiced, Karik. But if you could create one law that everyone in the world had to follow, what would it be? Take your time. - One law. - Your answer's so far been fantastic. A plus plus for everything. - Oh, God, oh God, so much pressure. One law that everyone in the world had to follow. I think it would be required compassion and empathy training. When I think about all of the like, ills of society, all of our kind of social evils come from us not being able to care for each other. You know, even when you think of like really mentally ill folks that it, that there is, I don't wanna say that 'cause some of it is biological, but I feel like there could be so much pain that's avoided. We could stop so much transfer of generational pain and suffering. We could prevent so much abuse if we could just give people empathy and compassion training. It would impact how we legislate, how we interact with one another, how we care for each other in society. I think we need that so badly right now. In our families, in our schools, in our businesses, in our government bodies, we just need so much more empathy and compassion. - I love that. Yeah, that's beautiful. - And there would have to be a special chapter on having it for yourself too. - Yes, yes, yeah. - For sure. - Yeah. - For sure. - Yeah. - Everyone, the book is called "Thicker Than Water". Have a right here, Kerry Washington and memoir. Make sure you go and order your copy. We'll have the link in the comments and the caption. So you can go and grab your copy right now. Kerry is also going on tour. So if you don't have your tickets yet, make sure you go and grab your tickets to see her life. She's got phenomenal guests joining her as well. So make sure you go and check that out. And of course, please, please, please tag Kerry and I with moments of this episode. - Yes. - That resonated with you. - And we'll repost and respond. - Yeah, please let us know what really stood out to you, what you're gonna practice. Maybe you've been inspired to share something with your family member. Maybe to ask questions to your family as well, to understand more about your origins and where you came from and who you are. So I hope you're leaving this feeling empowered, liberated and strengthened in your pursuit for truths. And again, I wanna thank you Kerry for your generosity, your openness to share, your vulnerability and this new friendship that we're building. - Yes, I'm so excited. - I'm very grateful for us. - Thank you. - Thank you Kerry. - Thank you so much. - Thank you. - What a treat. - If you love this episode, you will enjoy my interview with Dr. Julie Smith on unblocking negative emotions and how to embrace difficult feelings. - You've just got to be motivated every day. And if you're not, then what are you doing? And actually, humans don't work that way. Motivation, you have to treat it any other emotion. Some days it will be there, some days it won't.