Jane Kelleher was photographed for The Revelation Project on June 16th, 2011 and came to the shoot with a little extra support in the beautiful form of her friend Cathy. I usually just try to “be” with whatever “is” the morning of the shoot- trusting that whatever the weather, the emotions, the need, or people who attend- all will be “revealed” and BE as it should be. This morning was no different. I wanted to make sure Jane got the full experience – and somehow Cathy was a part of that for her – which made it just perfect for all involved. Photographing Jane was like watching a classic, brilliant, beautiful, black & white film… the light that day just seemed to pop into each and every aspect of the shoot making many of the photographs feel timeless and radiantly beautiful. If eyes are the windows to the soul… then just look into Janes. Her’s are deep pools of wisdom and reflective happy light- light of a woman who has finally found the path to her own heart and is at home. Amazing work Jane. Keep inspiring us…
PS: Jane included her own choice of quotes which you will read along the way…
TRP: Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?
”I would love to live like a river flows.
Carried by the surprise of its own unfolding.” ~John O’Donohue
Jane: I was born in Ireland, spent some early childhood years in New York, and then lived in a few different countries (Kenya, Ireland and England) before coming to settle in Rhode Island 16 years ago. I have two amazing children who are the absolute BEST things I have ever done in my life! Daniel, 22, is at college in Amsterdam, and Niamh, 19 is at college in North Carolina. I am officially an empty-nester, apart from my adorable little schnoodle Millie.
Life has taken many twists and turns along the way. But with that ever-elusive hindsight, I can now see there is a reason for every single thing that happens, even if in the moment itself, a reason seems impossible to find.
We moved to Rhode Island In 1996 for my husband to follow his dream and open an Irish Restaurant. Sadly, it was one of those businesses that just did not make it, and it finally closed after a long and agonizing 2 year death spiral. We lost everything – all of our money, and much of our hopes and dreams – and we had to start over again from scratch. It was a very difficult and painful time, for everyone, particularly my husband.. Much as we tried, things would never be the same again.
After a little while, my career as a computer consultant started to take flight and I worked extremely hard to get us back on a stable financial footing. I became the main family breadwinner. Finances started to improve, but my marriage was foundering. . I was 3000 miles away from most of my family and friends. I do have one wonderful sister in this country (in Massachusetts) but as I hunkered down in the safety of my turtle shell, I subconsciously withdrew from her as well. There were many times I felt very much alone. I lost my faith in God and in others.
I felt utterly responsible, and sometimes hopelessly incapable.
I was a mother, a wife, a worker, a daughter, a homemaker, housekeeper and friend. I was a juggler with 20 balls in the air and I was determined to show everyone I could do it, and with style! From the outside, it looked like I had it all, and that I was, in fact a master juggler (oh my!). But inside, I was slowly dying. I did not dare to stop and look inside; to try and connect with ‘Jane’ again as she slowly and quietly disappeared. I just forged blindly on, hoping things would improve. Not knowing that I was the only one that could make that happen.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” ~Albert Einstein
I knew, as a Mom, that my main purpose was to give my children roots and wings. And this I did, and did well. My children grew up – beautiful and confident and strong – and started to head off on their own life journeys. But for me, years of stress and self-imposed isolation began to take their toll. Both my parents passed away (in Ireland) after long and terribly debilitating illnesses. I felt terribly alone and lost. There was a moment nearly 3 years ago, when I suddenly realized that nothing was going to change, unless I did something different! And so I did. I asked for help. And that began my journey of self discovery. I experienced a gradual awakening of my spiritual connection to a higher power. I stopped imagining that I was in control of the universe (because, after all, I was doing a pretty lousy job!). I started to just let go of my regrets about the past, and my overwhelming worries about the future, and just live in the moment. One of my favorite paradoxes is that the moment I admitted that there were things I was powerless over, I became empowered.
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” ~ Anaïs Nin
And so I started to do the inner work. I have learnt so much about myself – my defects as well as my strengths.. But even more than that, I have re-discovered my inner strength, my love of life, and my faith.
I am now surrounded by friends who actually know me, and love me anyway. I feel like I have slowly learned to BREATHE again. I have also started to live my life rather than run away from it. This discovery process made me finally recognize the need to do something about the deeply unhappy marriage I had been living in for many years. In February of this year, I finally found the courage to stand up and say that our marriage was sadly over. The divorce process was painful and slow, and much worse than I expected – breathtakingly sad, exciting, frightening, and often shocking. I lived in a heightened reality, with hyper-exposed nerves and emotions abounding. But underneath it all, I actually felt more hope for the future than I had in a very long time. And I knew, in my heart, that although this was going to cause some pain to others (my husband, my children) and to myself, it was the right thing to do. The only thing to do. The divorce was finalized on December 29th.
At the beginning of 2011, as I started this phase of my journey, I bought myself a little angel that I hang on my dashboard as a daily reminder. She says “You are Loved”. And today, I know I am. Because I have learned to love myself again, and that is a really good start!
I began the year in fear. Fear of confrontation. Fear of the unknown. Fear of taking charge of my life, and the inevitable consequences. I ended the year so very gratefully, in faith. Faith that everything happens for a reason, and that I am no longer alone.
TRP: What is the biggest challenge that’s ever faced you as a woman?
Jane: I have had many challenges in my life, all of which are easier to see as opportunities for growth from a distance.
At the risk of sounding selfish, one of the biggest challenges I faced was during this past year, in finally having the courage to take charge of my own life. I think as women, we are conditioned to be caretakers and people pleasers. One thing I have learned is that it is deeply dishonest to not be true to yourself and live to your fullest potential. There are moments in life where you just have to put yourself first, even if it seems against your very nature.
In a year full of milestones, I also turned 50 in May of this year, and threw myself a ‘surprise’ birthday party that I only-a-little-bit-jokingly dubbed “Fifty and Freaking Fabulous”. Instead of fearing being 50, I was honestly ready to embrace it and it turned out to be the very best birthday. Friends, love, laughter, and dancing. Oh, and chocolate. Does it get any better than that?
TRP: What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to our gender?
I feel that we all struggle with an unrealistic ideal of ‘Perfection’, in all aspects of our lives. From Motherhood, to beauty and body image…..we are our own worst critics. Our self-esteem takes a battering when we are constantly subjected to what the advertising world considers to be beautiful.
I know that for me, when I feel good about myself on the inside, it starts to manifest on the outside too. I am far from ‘perfect’, but today I aim for progress, not perfection!
TRP: What’s your idea of a great “girls night?”
Good friends, dancing, fun and a whole lot of belly laughter. And this happens on a regular basis, because today I go out there and make it happen! I have amazing girlfriends in my life today that enrich it in every way possible.
TRP: Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of The Revelation Project was a good idea right now?
Jane: A friend told me about it, and I was immediately intrigued by the concept. I was already in the process of moving forward and establishing my new life. It did not seem a coincidence that this fell into my path at that exact moment. Serendipity, perhaps?
I was a bit hesitant at the idea of being in front of a camera and feeling rather ‘exposed’. However, I decided to grasp the opportunity that presented itself. It seemed like it was just meant to be, and so I let it!
About the shoot:
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?
Jane: I used to be a perfectionist. The first revelation I had in this whole process was that this particular character trait (defect?) had begun to disappear! I was pretty surprised the morning of the shoot to realize that I had NOT behaved in my usual manner. I did not panic because I really had a few (?) extra pounds to lose. I did not care that I had not had my hair done in a while, that my ‘all-natural’ color was in urgent need of a root boost, and my week old manicure was looking a bit shabby. I had not even thought about what I wanted to wear for the photoshoot, or even pulled out clothes to make sure they fit and/or were clean! This might sound as though I did not actually care about the forthcoming photoshoot. But the truth was that I was simply LIVING my life. I was so busy with work and friends and divorce and therapy and a whole pile of inner-self-improvement projects.
My very stylish friend Cathy helped me pull together a bag of clothes. I gathered up some jewelry, and shoes, added a last minute selection of a couple of hats, and we headed south towards Wakefield on a beautiful early summer’s day. In my beautiful convertible. Top down, smile ON.
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?
Everything about the shoot was perfect. Truly. From the moment I arrived, I felt very comfortable with both Monica and Robyn. I had invited Cathy to come along with me. The running joke of that day was that she was my personal stylist, but in reality, she was my support, my cheerleader. I was so glad she was there, and that I got to share the whole experience with her – before, during, and after.
TRP: Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot?
Jane: Excited, enthusiastic, READY.
TRP: Three words for after?
Beautiful, empowered, ALIVE
TRP: Three words for when you saw the results?
(Or …….Astonished, Emotional, Grateful)
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?
Jane: We drove home via Narragansett, stopping to enjoy the sunshine and the gorgeous day. I was surprised at how relaxed I had been during the photo shoot. How easily I was able to smile, and frolic and flirt and laugh and dance with two women who had been total strangers until 3 hours previously. How fun and freeing it had all felt.
I felt liberated, and beautiful in a way I had not felt in a very, very long time.
TRP: When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
Jane: I was truly moved, and found myself shedding a few tears. I looked at the pictures, and was overwhelmed with love and compassion for that girl, that woman, for myself!
I was also amazed at the artistry behind each picture, and how wonderfully the photographer had captured my spirit. I could see the real Jane in each shot.
TRP: Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
I had such positive feedback and I was really moved, especially by the people who really understood the purpose of the photoshoot. I was afraid there would be some people who would view it as simply a vanity project, but the people who really know and understand me knew what it meant to me, and I was really grateful for that.
TRP: What are some words you would use to describe how you were feeling throughout the shoot?
At the beginning of the shoot I was a little bit nervous and tense. I usually (used to?) hate having my photo taken. I had spent years not really feeling good about myself, and did not like it being documented by camera! But the girls soon made me relax. I enjoyed the opening ceremonies; the sage burning and the setting of intentions! Then we got down to the girly stuff, and Monica performed some incredible magic with makeup and hair styling. We huddled over the dressing options, and made some decisions. Once I stood in front of the camera, I somehow suddenly felt transformed. And it truly was all due to Monica and Robyn. They made me feel relaxed, and I just enjoyed it and began to throw myself into the whole process. I smiled and laughed, and flirted and danced.
And then I put the big black hat on…….. Oh my, I had so much fun with that hat!
Robyn stopped at one stage to share an image of me on her camera with Monica. They both seemed to like it. Very much. Of course, being nosy, I asked to see it too. And, to be honest, I felt as if my breath were taken away. I saw the image and my train of thought went something like: “Is that really me? But, she is Beautiful! Oh my God. Is that really me? Really? Wow.”.
When the shoot was over and all my bits and pieces were packed up in the car, and I said my final goodbyes, I realized how utterly exhausted I was. It was as if I had emptied myself out on the floor of the photo shoot. Emotionally and physically.
TRP: Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
I learned that I can allow myself to be seen. For who I am. Without pretence or fear.
TRP: Did you feel empowered? Why? Why not?
Jane: This whole year has been about self-empowerment! The Revelation Project was the fabulous icing on the cake. I could actually dare to be beautiful. To be confident. To be me.
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?
Jane: My immediate answer to the question as to changing how I viewed myself was going to be ‘No, not that I can pinpoint ’, but after further reflection, I realize that it has most definitely altered the way I view myself, on a very subconscious level. The way I picture myself in my head is literally defined by these pictures….i.e. when I think about myself, I mentally pull up one of the many images from the photo shoot. And since I feel good about each one of those images, I am drawing on a positive feeling about myself. It is the gift that keeps on giving!
TRP: Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?
Jane: Without doubt, this was a very positive experience. It boosted my self-esteem and confidence, and helped me to see myself through other people’s eyes and not through those of my harshest critic – myself!
TRP: Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
Jane: I think the Revelation Project is a wonderful experience for anyone that actually wants to be revealed. We all have images in our minds about how we appear to the outside world that are sometimes not really consistent with how other people see us. I think everyone should do this, but only when they are ready. And by that I do not mean wait until you lose that last 5 pounds, or your bangs grows back …..I mean do it when you are emotionally ready. And I know that for me, this is the year that I was ready.
TRP: How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
Jane: I really only want to keep them for my own personal use.
I am a computer professional, and I am pretty darn sure none of those pictures showcase the computer nerd in me, nor would they look remotely suitable on my business card!
TRP: What is your favorite song and why?
* “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”, by Eva Cassidy. I have loved this song since childhood. I adore this particular version. Her soaring vocals and powerfully raw emotions move me every single time I hear it.
* and “Some Enchanted Evening ” because my Father always used to sing it to my mother….and I guess I am a diehard romantic!
TRP: If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
Jane: It was the best gift I could give myself this year! Thank you to Monica and Robyn for making it possible.
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?
Jane: Get off the fence!!! If you are thinking about it, and if you can do it, then just do it!!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~Mark Twain
￼Thank you Jane. XO (& Thank you Cath. XO for being there- we all need a Cath)
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