Wrote this poem two years ago after doing a session with Joan Maggiacomo on Sacred Contracts which was fascinating. She’s a local women (South County) who as a spiritual director is trained in the work of Caroline Myss. It seems appropriate today, and I want to dedicate this to MJ Yeager Rudd- now eat your breakfast!
Could we imagine the possibility
of our own stark beauty
as we crawled inside
spinning the gossamer silk around our better selves?
inside that fierce embrace of awful darkness
our ugly parts cast shadows on indifferent walls
while the tiniest ray of light flickers and dances
in deeper places
discovery, illusive in this desperate mine shaft
Having ingested the bitter taste of our defeat
we pause exhausted until the empty becomes the
horned, thorned and naked
we face the mirror of
our greater image
the new wings
of our purpose unfold hesitantly
with the shiny vernix of the newly born
but helpless to deny the faintest
whisper on more compassionate and gentle wind
calling us to begin again…
we take flight.
Why is it so hard to look at ourselves in the mirror and see our own inherent beauty?
I was talking to a couple of friends of mine yesterday about the difference between America and other cultures. In America we have a “standard of beauty” which is vey narrow AND very much an illusion.
My girlfriend remarked yesterday that her friend had come to visit from France and everywhere they went the woman said… “where are all the women with short hair?”
It made my friend sit up and take notice to the fact that here… we do not celebrate our differences, and we look at those who really make a statement with a short haircut or a really different style as bold or brave (or weird).
Here (America) we work hard to “fit in” aka: be someone we are not. not be noticed. not stick out. not to be remarkable.
Fascinating don’t you think?
Robyn was recently approached by a woman who loves the project and follows it. She wondered why we only photograph beautiful women? Robyn responded….
“because that’s all there is to photograph…. would you like to be next?” and said that the woman became flustered and kind of stammered her way through some excuse until a distraction came by so she could gratefully and hurriedly excuse herself…. (where was she going anyway?… back to that place where she is unworthy and unrecognizable?….ooooh please come out… there is sunshine and light out here!) and we further discussed it.
Most people who see the project from a distance do not realize that eighteen women have put themselves into the project (they were not handpicked and ps: most of their albums are in our face book gallery)
They decided to show up for themselves, and take a stand.
They decided to be seen.
… and it’s YOU the viewer who made them
You have the SAME EXACT POWER to deem yourself the same.
I want to reiterate: no one NEEDS the project.
You are already *perfect* exactly as you are.
You are already beautiful.
You hold the power to release yourself at any time.
However, if you’d like to do the project and see what comes up for you… all are welcome.
MJ Yeager Rudd is a remarkable woman. Like all of the women we’ve been honored to photograph I continue to marvel at the powerful impact of this project. I never dreamed that the original afternoon of the project’s accidental conception(as Robyn and I played around with our camera’s intent to capture each other on film in our own silly way) that it would lead to such a revelationary journey that had the power to touch women so very deeply and unexpectedly, and that it would further unify them in what I believe has become an incredibly powerful and important conversation. Who are we?
My initial experience of MJ was that she seemed…. well, kind of detached. This particular photo shoot struck me (as a photographer) in a different way than the other women I’d photographed so far. Not knowing anything of her story or not having previously collected her interview I wondered and worried if we would “get” anything for her through the process. I worried extensively that out of all the women we’ve worked with, that somehow the project just was not resonating with her, and we’d failed her. Little did I know.
She sent in her interview just the other night as an excerpt and insight into her her life and how The Revelation Project has impacted her. I thought this interview was incredibly vulnerable, and honest. I wanted to share it with her permission on Parentables because I wondered if her story of courage might impact others as much as it did me…..
Ok- all this damn revelations are making my head hurt!
Here’s the latest. You know how you’ve heard a quote over and over again and you think you understand it but finally it makes sense? Here’s the quote:
“The longest distance to travel is from your head to your heart”
Robyn gave me homework last week and it was “take a vacation from THINKING and instead FEEL” (oh, ha, never mind the rant I started in my head about “how easy for you to say” and “I’m sick of your Yoda, patience grasshopper bullsh*t” and ” I have things I have to get done, and someone’s gotta worry about the bills, and …and…and…)
Can I tell you how CRABBY that made me? It messed with my whole “operations system” of being ( ok- that description right there should tell you something). It was like she hexed me because then i could not do anything properly! I had writers block, was unable to really communicate openly or honestly, and just FELT (like) crap ALL WEEK LONG.
OUT OF CONTROL
etc etc etc….
and then aha! I realized that I was COMPLETELY in my head about what she had told me to do, and that it was my THINKING that was dictating my feeling INSTEAD OF… my feeling dictating my THINKING!!! I have had it all backwards!
My biggest problem since well before my divorce was the NUMBNESS i felt. I had curated an amazing array of protective mechanisms that were the drunk persons equivalent of BLACKING OUT.
I have been going through the deep THAW – pulling my heart out of the deep freeze…. holy shit, I think we’ve got a pulse!
learning to untangle and rewire the system of my inner world.
Learning how to FEEL again, and to let THAT be my guide vs. thinking my way through things.
Once I understood that my access to breathing was my friend I started to understand ( another revelation?) that this is why the Yogic spiritual practice is all based in the breath as the foundation with which to BUILD your inner world, and your relationship to SELF.
OOOOOOH! (boy do I feel like a dummy!- ooops! there goes my head again!)
Ok- now I’m like the lawnmower that’s been unused all winter long and I’ve somehow managed to pull that starter cord from hearing just a hint of a rumble to finally a real hard TUG (like a defibrillator!)
VVVVRRRRRRROOOOOOOOOM! and away we go!
(Can anyone relate to this or am i just visiting crazy-town?)
At the core
Regardless of what you do or you don’t
What you say or keep to yourself
What happens or what never occurs
In spite of what ever anyone does
Or any outcome or event
There is you.
In the center.
(I finally understand)
And nothing you do or anyone else does
Will ever change that .
So you might just as well be at peace.
Since whether you are or aren’t won’t change the essential you.
You know, that being in the center?
(this is a poem from my brother Jim Grady)
I love this poem because he sent it to me when I was in the very deepest part of my depression, and it gave me this insight that- oh yeah… no matter what happens to me – inside I am still me, in the center- perfect (as the universe made me) and that peace is a choice. The Poem has brought up lots of discussion for me, so if you want to join in the conversation – please do. What do you think he meant by this?
I’m trying out Ping.fm to use as my central location for updating all of my social media networks.
Until I was in my very late thirties If someone had asked me about my education and what I was like in school growing up, I would have laughed and told them that I was a failure. Now I think differently.
I think looking back that school failed ME. Grades were simply not the measure of my intelligence or abilities. If they had been I would be challenged to believe on paper that the poor grades (F, D, C-, C+) somehow told the larger story of who I am. Inside I am vibrant, imaginative, kind, and lovable. I have a great work ethic, and a vision and instinct (when in my zone) that allow me to see an opportunity, act when I am inspired, and speak my truth (the latter more recently). I wish that I’d been taught instead the value of developing and honing skills of self- reflection. How to learn, apply, and retain information as an individual and how to deepen my learned experiences through INSIGHTS (AKA: REVELATIONS). Grades can’t tell the more important and essential story which is that knowledge ≠ wisdom. I think wisdom is gained through other experiences such as:
How I treat someone when the going gets tough?
Who I am when the world, community, friends or family do not agree with my decisions or perspective?
How I behave when I am angry or sad?
How I clean up my messes in life and take responsibility for my mistakes?
How I act when I am successful?
How I communicate toward others and how often and honor and respect their thoughts, idea’s and feelings?
How willing I am to be vulnerable, exposed, and afraid?
How willing I am to own my own greatness, call my own shots, and live from a place of truth- no matter what the outcome?
After college I held my degree for a few minutes in my hands, and since that time I’ve never really laid eyes on it again. Who it mattered to, I’m not really sure… but somehow I got that it mattered. Since that time no one has challenged that I’ve had an education. They simply assumed I did, and I imagine they assumed I’d had one of the best ( and I have). What did “Bachelor of Arts” degree really mean to them- or to anyone? Most people I talk to have no idea what they learned in college academically. For all I know employers, colleagues and clients made up their own assumptions about what degree I earned. No one has ever asked and if they did I’d tell them I made it through my entire school experience and four years of college just by the hair of my chinny chin chin. What a waste of time all those years comparing my personal triumphs, trials and accomplishments to a grading system that considered my very real and significant developments and dignity not.
I never once felt inferior since graduating- certainly not to my friends with pedigree’s such as Boston College, Yale, and Columbia, ( I make it up that I even had those friends, ha, I might have- It just never mattered for me to ask, nor have I been asked!) It’s amazing how much “meaning” we attach as a society to grades and status- oh what an illusion. Throughout my career and my life I have continued to “pass” and learn and grow. My education is never “finished”, the difference now is I do not hold myself to anyone else’s standard but my own, and I’ve fired myself from self judgement, and instead gathered all of the iterations of myself to myself and held them close and safe to tell them: ”we are as successful as our failures have been (A+) and that experiencing and allowing failure has proven to be the biggest accomplishment in our collective lives”.
Seth Godin is one of my favorite thought leaders (thought marketers) in the world. I look for his daily emails/ blog posts because they really make me stop and think. He listens to his own voice and speaks from his heart and head and most importantly from his failure. This morning his post was short and powerful… this is what he said:
What do customers, friends, the socially networked, users, neighbors, classmates, servers, administrators, employees… maybe even brands… want?
do what I say
miss me if I’m gone
I really got that. The measures we are brought up believing as most important are, in the grande scheme of things, nothing more than the least. At the end of the day, all we really want as individuals striving toward wisdom is to love, be loved, be acknowledged, be seen, touched, discovered, heard and cherished. Grades are mostly irrelevant.
Every woman that walks through the front door for the Revelation Project presents a new challenge and kicks in a spot of anxiety for me at the beginning. Each brings her own combination of anticipation, expectation, hope, and excitement along with a lifetime of experiences that have made her uniquely her. When Meredith walked in my usual pre-shoot anxiety went into overdrive because she was so clearly uncomfortable at first and out of her element, however, I also felt the clearest and purest desire coming form her that seemed to say: ”HEY, I”M READY!” In addition the pressure went deeper as it was Meredith’s birthday, and she had given herself the gift of The Revelation Project *sniff*
The challenge of photographing each individual woman is that Robyn and I do not always know *who* is walking through the door (although Meredith and Robyn were friends in high school!) or what they are carrying inside so part of the sesssion is about the un-veiling and revealing of them to US, and then part is about revealing themselves to THEMSELVES ( isn’t that cool?)
Meredith’s body language communicated that she was taking a great risk by coming to share herself with us and be willing to look at herself anew. But she was also clearly up for the challenge, and welcomed a fresh perspective. Meredith’s shoot validated for me that the more a woman seeks transformation the more she can be transformed. She did not in any way look or project the same woman who had walked in at the beginning. It was March so “In like a lion and out like a lamb”,… yeah, that was Meredith. Happy Birthday Girl!
Here is her interview:
TRP: Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Meredith: I am a 37-seven year old single woman. I am a compassionate human being, avid indoor gardener, cat petter, art admirer, and bug saver (not squisher). I have an open heart and cry easily.
TRP: Are you a mom?
Meredith: Yes, to the most incredible four-year old boy, who is my sunshine.
TRP: What is the biggest challenge that’s ever faced you as a woman?
Meredith: My life was progressing as I always thought it would: college, world travel, serious relationship that led to marriage, thoughts of home ownership, and a baby. In my mid thirties, everything changed and I found myself back at square one. My biggest challenge is to find the direction that I want to go in, but now as a single parent with a child to raise.
TRP: What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to our gender?
Meredith: There is an image of perfection that many women feel they need to measure up to and feel less worthy if they can’t meet that unrealistic image. Women will sometimes judge each other on surface issues based on what they see rather than what they know, leading to isolation rather than being supportive of each other.
TRP: What’s your idea of a great “girls night?”
Meredith: Any gathering of women with no children in tow, and a great glass of wine.
TRP: Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was a good idea right now?
Meredith: After viewing photos of the first few women in the project, I could see the joy and happiness that was brought out from the women in their pictures. I needed help finding that joy and happiness within myself that has been buried for a good long while.
TRP: What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?
Meredith: I was extremely excited about what I would find inside of me, but being the center of attention terrified me. I was hoping that I would be able to see the same light inside of me as I had seen in the other women.
TRP: How did you feel during the shoot and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed or open to the process?
Meredith: Initially I was unable to relax. The utter acceptance and non-judgmental support I received from Robyn and Monica, along with their hilarious banter and down to earth approach allowed me to completely open up to the experience.
TRP: Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot
Meredith: Nervous, excited, anticipatory.
TRP: Three words for after
Meredith: Joy, acceptance, anticipatory
TRP: Three words for when you saw the results
Meredith: Insight, happiness, completion
TRP: After you left but before you saw the results – did you have any thoughts about the experience? What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?
Meredith: I felt worthy of the attention and love that I received and a strong sense of connection to women as equals. I could hardly wait to see the results.
TRP: When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
Meredith: I saw that there was still a lot of happiness inside of me. I realized that I am not a size two, that I have developed wrinkles, that I have a much wider smile than I knew. And I felt beautiful that I am not a size two, that I have developed wrinkles, and that I have a much wider smile than I knew!
TRP: Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
Meredith: A good friend said, “Now you can see yourself as I see you”. Another said it was nice to see me smiling so much. There were also a lot of compliments and praise for the beautiful photos.
TRP: What are some words you would use to describe how you were feeling throughout the shoot?
Meredith: It was a cathartic experience that allowed deep emotion to come to the surface. I felt comfortable in my own skin, accepting myself just as I was internally and externally.
TRP: Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
Meredith: I am not alone; I am not abnormal; I am not a “messed up person” for the challenges that I have faced in my life. I realize that I like myself and I have the right to what I need and want.
TRP: Did you feel empowered? Why? Why not?
Meredith: Yes. I know that I am good enough today, right now.
TRP: Since the shoot happened almost four weeks ago now can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?
Meredith: The insight I have gained about myself has not left me. What I realize is the importance of connecting with other women.
TRP: Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?
Meredith: This was am important experience for me because without it, I don’t know how I would have discovered these revelations on my own.
TRP: Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
Meredith: This is an incredibly important way for all women to empower themselves, accept themselves and find their own beauty, inside and out.
TRP: How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
Meredith: They will be used possibly as gifts, but mostly as reminders of my own self worth.
TRP: What is your favorite song and why?
Meredith: Lately, “Thank U” by Alannis Morrisette, now I know why…
TRP: If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
TRP: If someone were on the fence about doing it is there anything you would tell them about the experience or say to encourage them?
Meredith: I would totally tell them to do it because we all need to be reminded how beautiful we are, how strong we are, how worthy we are and that we are perfect exactly as we are. This experience illuminates these things and allows you to see this same light in the women around you.
first met Meg a few years ago through her sister who was working with me as I was pitching venture capital companies for a bright idea I had about saving the world. I had this amazing business coach who was directing me on how to build a board of advisors, and I wanted Meg to be one of them. From the start Meg was “game” – and that’s how I’ve tended to look at her. It would not surprise me if she played varsity sports all four years and was considered MVP or if she was named “most likely to be a team player” in her high school year book. Hell- I would not surprise me if she graduated valedictorian of her class. That’s kind of what I mean… I don’t actually know these things about her… it just would not surprise me at all. She’s just comes off as “Meg” – what you see is what you get and what you get is someone who’s on your team in a huge way- and who comes across as likable and non threatening. When you learn that she’s got all this amazing experience, know how and respect with absolutely no arrogance you think… how does she DO THAT? I mean. My head would be so huge it might literally pop off my body. Not Meg. Meg is Meg is Meg. I’m thinking that when women are really taken seriously as a presidential candidate that we might consider Meg. Yeah, Meg for U.S. President.
Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi, my name is Meg; I live in Newport, RI with my husband and son.
I’m a writer and editor, and I work for Parentables http://parentables.howstuffworks.com/ , a parenting website, and TreeHugger http://www.treehugger.com, a blog dedicated to environmental news and culture.
What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?
I had seen the outcome of a few prior shoots, so I was really excited to partake. But I tried not to psyche myself out by pretending it was “no big deal.” Luckily, my computer also melted down on the morning of the shoot, so I had a good distraction from my vanity (read: insecurity).
How did you feel during the shoot and was there anything in particular that made you feel more or less relaxed or open to the process?
Monica and Robyn are really approachable and down-to-earth, so that made me feel like I was on equal terms with them – and their cameras. And there wasn’t a big fuss about hair, make-up, and wardrobe, so there wasn’t this intimidating this is a big dealfactor. It felt more like hanging out with friends.
Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot?
Giddy, giggly, anxious.
3 words for after
New. Best. Friends.
Three words for when you saw the results
Hey, that’s me!
After you left but before you saw the results – did you have any thoughts about the experience? What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home?
I felt like I had just been out clubbing all night with my good friends. Like we had really lived it up for a while – grabbed the bull by the horns.
When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
Me: “I am outrageously laughing in every single picture. I should really take myself more seriously!”
Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
Mom: “That doesn’t even look like you! When did you hair get so curly?”
Husband: “These are beautiful.”
What are some words you would use to describe how you were feeling throughout the shoot?
What the hell is my “sultry” look? (I need to work on that.)
Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
I confirmed that I laugh and act goofy when I’m nervous. But I think I also conquered a little bit more of fear about being in the center of attention.
Did you feel empowered? Why? Why not?
Yes. Even if you’re not the kind of person who craves it, it’s pretty cool to know that someone is spending the time and energy to put you in the spotlight, and to know that you can be in control of it and that it’s okay to let yourself shine.
Since the shoot happened almost four weeks ago now can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?
For me this was probably, above all, a confidence building exercise. I don’t think I’m a weak person and I’m not unhappy with where I am in life, but I certainly have obstacles that I want to overcome and plenty of character flaws… Participating in the Revelation Project gave me a chance to reassess where I am and where I want to be and, ultimately, to ask myself not only “Where the hell do you think you’re headed?” but also “How do you want to get there?” That’s powerful stuff.
Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?
For sure. I’m always up for a challenge, and for me, putting myself in front of a camera for two hours isn’t easy. So facing that fear was part of the experience – but a good part.
Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
Absolutely. Participating in the Revelation Project isn’t just about getting your portrait taken. It’s an opportunity to reflect on who you’ve been, what you’ve become, and where you want to go. And if you pay attention, you might even capture a glimpse of your own pure awesomeness.
How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
I’ve already used them professionally http://parentables.howstuffworks.com/author/meaghan-oneill , and I might use them personally. I’m not sure if I’m quite to the point of hanging large-scale photos of myself on the wall yet, but we’ll see.
If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
It was fun, exhilarating, and totally worth it. Also, when I first looked at the photos I thought, “Yeah, these are decent.” Then I went to choose a headshot and realized that I couldn’t decide which one I liked best. That’s a really nice feeling.
Can you recommend a great song or album you think other women who have donethis project might like?
I’m sort of in a Chrissie Hynde state of mind right now – she’s cool, confident, passionate, uniquely talented, and she hangs tough in a guys’ world without losing her femininity. Oh, and she’s like, approaching 60 and still totally rocking and gorgeous. That’s who I want to be.
What is the most challenging thing you have faced as a woman?
The hardest thing about being a woman in our generation is that we have so much choice, but at the same time so many expectations. We’ve benefited enormously from the women before us that worked their asses off to break through the glass ceiling. You can be a mom, a daughter, a wife, a boss, an employee. But there’s a lot of pressure — both self- and society-imposed — to do all of these things well all at the same time.
I think sometimes we forget to check in and see if we’re hitting the right balance — and to say no to something if we’re not. A wise woman once told me, ”You can have it all; you just can’t have it all at the same time.” This is a woman, who, at different times in her life, has been a professional ballerina, an artist, and a stay-at-home mom, then became an M.D. in her fifties. I try to remember to live by those words. Cutting yourself is a break is some pretty good medicine.