Greeting Andrea Willets at the door was a bit like greeting a big sky sunrise. Have you ever seen one? If not you’d never forget it, it’s a vision. If I use the same analogy then Andrea’s “day” (or in this case our 3 hour session) was like witnessing something magical… Solar eclipse? Meteor shower? Something epic was happening… I just wasn’t sure what it was. There was a knowing in her eyes, and yet- she’d never been here before, or had she? Being in her presence is like having back stage tickets or front row seats to her very own life narrative, UNEDITED. It did not take me long to realize that she did not need a translator or a mind reader or to be coached, coaxed, or otherwise encouraged. She lay it all out on the table… **GASP** really? !!!
If it’s true that some of us carry a dominant archetype or “gift” within us, then her own is aptly being lived and expressed throughout her life as “COACH.” Andrea has cultivated a gift within her and embodied it’s very nature by making coaching and building inspirational and transformational workshops for women one of the central themes of her life. While we photographed, her eyes spoke of wisdom and a deep “knowing”, and her glow touched and warmed all of us that day, and continues to do so. In Andrea’s photographs and in her reflection I found a synergy with this project. Soon (unknown to me at that time) she would become the fourth member of the TRP team and join us as TRP’s very own resident coach. We welcome her with much love and appreciation for all that she brings.
TRP: Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am single, divorced, 52 years young, mom of 3 amazing children. I am a certified professional co-active coach, performer, inspirational speaker. I am a producer/facilitator of experiential workshops and leadership trainings, and Co-founder of The Revelation Project.
With all of that being shared; blah, blah, blah… who am I really?
Who I am is a wiser woman who is in the free fall of her life…and this is a good thing. Although this is NOT a comfortable place (not for the faint of heart) it IS a rich, gritty, heart pounding place. I have arrived at my life’s front door, ringing its bell everyday, making damn sure I am present to all of my story, to feel it and know it; the good, the bad and the ugly! I am finally celebrating my “humanmess” and not pretending something different, camouflaging my soul’s truth. And I welcome this wild ride with all my being.
TRP: What are the biggest challenges that have faced you as a woman?
Carrying childhood shame into my adult life. I had to learn how to keep a shame-filled experience from defining me and busting through the myth that my shame meant I was unworthy of love and acceptance. All of us carry wounds… somehow I finally understood that the only way out of the pain was to go into its fire and dance with it. The fires raw edged smoke that threatened to swallow me whole was just an illusion, created from my own self loathing and fear. That inner dialog that continued to drive my life’s experience and how I defined myself had to go. It went something like this, “I am too needy, too much, too sensitive, too wounded, too hungry, too desperate…there will never be enough of me to love, or for that matter too much of me to love.”
The second greatest challenge was saying, “No More” to a marriage that left me feeling lonelier than if I had actually been alone…and trusting that my children will heal, my husband and I will heal, and we will find a different way of being a family. One of the catalysts for my own healing was going back to school and becoming a certified co-active coach as well as participating in a year long intensive leadership program. My “Sorry, No More!” show was born out of a leadership experience and I began to develop workshops for women that brought humor, poignancy, and vulnerability to the stage. As a child I was a chronic apologizer and continued the addiction into my woman years. I refer to myself as a “recovering apology addict”. In the process of finding my “no” space, I realized that I could also say no to withholding happiness and self expression from myself.
The most courageous thing we can do is take responsibility for our own lives. And when I did, I began to trust that the people in my life (my kids, family, friends, wasband, colleagues) would be ok, while I walked the path of recovering and beginning again. For so long I had worried that my decisions and mistakes would break them, disappoint them, wound them…but I soon realized that so much of life’s richness exists in the layers of recovering from life’s messiness.
TRP: What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to being female?
Our sexuality and how it defines us.
I believe our deepest vulnerability lies within our relationship to our own sexuality. As young children we are exposed to many conflicting messages around sexuality and do not feel comfortable or safe enough to ask questions about it. Unfortunately our sexual selves get collapsed with our self worth. We give this self worth away in our everyday lives in order to fit in which actually results in a “de-selfing”. The paradox is that we give pieces of ourselves away in order to be loved, but each time we give of ourselves without sourcing from a place of self love, our everyday self expression gets bruised and then buries itself deep inside the cavern of our soul for fear of being found out, “I’m not enough.” We actually get further from it; it being love.
TRP: What frightens you?
What most frightens me is the feeling of loneliness.
I love my alone time, but it’s a completely different experience than feeling lonely. In order for me to feel a sense of belonging, I need to be part of something bigger than myself. I think the most natural and primal instinct of the human spirit is to connect with other human beings. We need to belong, to be touched, to connect emotionally, and to be sought lovingly.
I often say, “We are not meant to journey alone.”
I would like to share a story about a dear friend of mine that was walking the streets of NYC and came upon a homeless man sitting in an alley begging for loose change. My friend did not have any money to give, but what he did have was the capacity to connect human to human, with compassion. He knelt down in front of this broken man and said, “Hey, I see you and you matter.” but the man would not make eye contact, and so Michael asked him, “Please, look at me.”
And the homeless man shyfully looked into Michael’s eyes and Michael said again, “YOU MATTER!” This story has always stuck with me because of the powerful connection that gets created by witnessing and acknowledging another human being.
TRP: What is your “Life Mission?”
My personal life mission; to live a life of creative self expression with full permission and without shame.
My calling; to create conscious connection within those I work with and to empower them to connect more effectively with others.
My quest; I am especially committed to TRP’s mission to empower women to know and reveal their greatest and deepest selves without apology.
This I believe; that there is “enough” of everything vital to sustain everyone on this planet and that we are meant to serve one another for the highest of good.
TRP: How do you keep yourself inspired by life?
I am inspired by people. I am inspired by their stories and the tenacity of the human condition. As a coach I am constantly humbled by the sheer courage of those who not only survive, but heal, forgive and thrive. I am deeply honored to be able to create “safe space” for people to show up transparently and authentically.
Collaboration is another way I get inspired. To be a part of something bigger than myself. I get so lit up and filled up by co-creating with others.
And last but not least, what fills my soul is nature and the animals. I find my deepest self in the quiet and beauty of nature. I find my best self with my dog “Nash”.
TRP: Have you ever hit “Rock Bottom?” Can you tell us about it? What did it teach you?
How many times? I remember sliding down a bedroom wall into a heap of hopelessness, feeling so broken, lost, invisible, abandoned, afraid of never being found by the love of my life, afraid of death and the hole it leaves by the person that left, the dog that died, afraid of settling, afraid of being different, afraid of being found out, afraid of never being enough.
So I went to bed for a while; tunneled into the cavern of my lost soul, licking my wounds…until one day I stepped down the ladder from my nest of refuge, and asked for help. And I began again, slowly re-redefining the rubble of my heart and soul.
It is not about getting rid of the pieces of my life that have smashed and bashed my heart and my soul. It is about taking the rubble and mixing it with a combination of courage and self forgiveness, and rebuilding something different. I can never dismiss, erase any part of my story. It is the trail that led me to now, this very moment. Now that is something to marvel at. It is my birth rite to honor all of my story, but I get to define it, it does not define me.
I have finally figured out it’s not about getting it right, it’s about how we recover as we are daring to live life from our personal truth and vulnerability…
TRP: Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was a good idea right now?
There was a huge f’ing TRP road sign that was posted right smack dab in front of my life one day that said:
“go this way” and it pointed me to the The Revelation Project. I believe timing is a key element in our life’s journey. I am always looking for the signs. They are there, we just have to be open to them, become aware, wake up and notice and… trust. I am at a cross roads presently, growing my coaching/leadership business, peeling another layer of divorce off my back (nearly 7yrs now) and wanting to bust myself wide open…again, beating my chest, a Wild Woman howling the call for more. I am both terrified and electrified– it’s the perfect storm!
About the shoot:
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 loved the pre-shoot interview because it got me thinking about where I am, where I see myself going and what I want. I did not have any expectations of the project. I was feeling wide open to allow it to happen to me. I was excited, in a state of anticipation and curiosity. I also knew that I was “raw” ready – able – willing, to show up with all of myself. Vulnerable, questionable, intuitive, happy, fierce, tender, wild at heart; raw for the creative process of expressing SELF.
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?
There was a gradual momentum to the shoot. I started out feeling a bit shy and excited. I was thinking, “How much permission do I give myself to step out of my comfort zone and just be a rock star (I’ve always wanted to be a rock star, no kidding). So this was my edge, how far was I willing to push myself out of the box? What is the TRP team thinking…am I doing it right? What if I run out of time…I really want those feathers in my hair…finally asked near the end of the shoot…the feathers…ah yes, I found my wildish self, my wild woman.
It was all about being fully expressed, and not only through my own vision but by the TRP team as well; Monica, Kim and Terry Lee. They were able to see something beyond my personal vision. And because they did not know me, they actually had the ability to see me differently. I had to surrender in order to be more fully expressed. It was an extraordinary experience revealing layers of myself that were teased out of me, as Monica, Kim and Terry Lee fluttered around me like butterflies creating from everything. Magic…
Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot
It’s not so much what I felt (though there were gully-whompers in my stomach) but that I was holding an intention for myself and felt challenged to;
Three words for after
Three words for when you saw the results
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?
I felt so incredibly connected to myself and the TRP team. I had drunk the TRP cool-aid; I could do anything, achieve anything, be anything. I was seriously on top of the world. I was singing like a rock star in the car at the top of my lungs. This feeling has stayed with me. The other day I felt a bit off center so I spent some time with my images and I got my mojo back.
TRP When you saw the results can you tell us your first impression?
Wow.. tears of gratitude for being seen. My friend Juli Mancini (another TRP woman) called me within moments of the photos being launched. It was perfect synchronicity in that single moment, because Juli so got me… she was with me in that initial, emotionally charged intimate moment. I am so grateful for her witnessing.
TRP: Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
Again and again acknowledgement, affirmation of how the images captured my essence. I felt truly witnessed and seen. Women are so thirsty for this type of validation and permission to shine. My male friends were also affirming. I got one call from a dear friend that I had not spoken to in awhile and he said, “I just have to speak to you in this moment after seeing your photos…” It felt beyond great, it felt______ I can’t even express it, I am at a loss for words…. so unlike me.
What are some words you would use to describe how those comments made you feel? Witnessed, Free, Flight, Soulfilled, Glorious, Unique, Wild, Possibility, Passion, Loved.
TRP: Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
Yes, there is always more… to discover, more to express, more to be revealed about myself, always. I consider myself a fairly evolved, conscious, empowered woman, and yet when I am sitting in the hot seat of self examination I recognize just how much I don’t know, and how much stuff there is to navigate and I am humbled. The hot coals I must crawl over to reach my soul, brush fires to eradicate my ego, sludge to be shoveled off my shame, stones to be lifted off my spirit, so that I may return to the expansiveness of my truest self. My pain and all my glory will always be dancing with one another. Without my pain I would be without bliss, the yin and the yang, the light and the dark. Without heartache there would not be love…
TRP: Did you feel empowered?
Simply put, yes immeasurably.
TRP: Since the shoot happened – can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?
There is a lasting impact… And I find myself going back to the images when I am needing to be reminded of what I am made up of, who is inside that is at the helm of my life… With a good hard stare at my reflection in those images, I am liberated from that place of self deprecating dialog. I summon my Wild Woman and she is back.
TRP: Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
Yes, yes, yes! It helps remind a woman of her primal essence, to wake up her soul-voice, and to claim the sacredness of being a woman. We are reminded of what having unconditional love for ourselves feels like. Recently a friend pointed out to me that love by itself is unconditional, but once you put it in a relationship, the relationship makes the love feel conditional. The Revelation Project gives a woman back her unconditional love, even if it is for an afternoon… Priceless.
TRP: How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
All of the above, and most importantly, when I am in my quagmire of self inflicted shame, I get to reflect on those images of Wild Woman and be reminded, there is more to me… so much more.
What is your favorite song and why? Ooh that’s a tough one… today it is “Change Is On the Way” by Shawn Colvin, off of her new album All Fall Down.
“…nothing stays the same, I feel like change is on the way…the sky will fall, peace will come, I will get over you… I feel like change is on the way…” – Shawn Colvin
I love this song because it speaks to one of life’s laws that I lean into most, and that is that change is constant. Nothing ever stays the same. I value this law more than any other, because this is where possibility exists, never ending possibility…
TRP: Why do you think this project is important?
It reminds a woman that she matters and there is nothing more important than that!
If you could sum up the experience what would you say?