What is your favorite creative healing modality? What makes you feel alive, passionate and whole? Please describe the details of your creative process.
I love this question. I think I feel most alive when I see a great piece of art online or see someone wearing a fun piece of jewelry or see a new line of fabric. If I’m drawn to the color or the style or the piece itself, I absolutely love trying to replicate it for myself. Not copying – but I love taking an idea I’ve seen and ‘jill-izing it for myself.
I have learned so much by doing this and it’s helped me recognize and develop my own style of art. It’s also a great way to try new things and make something rather than buy something. So often I’ll see a great piece of jewelry, then dig through my stash of beads and wire and make a similar piece. It’s how I came to work in mixed media too. I took a few online classes and found myself – my style – by working with several different artists. So fun!
As to my creative process, in addition to the above, I work in spurts. I might go a week and never touch a paint brush or piece of paper, then I’ll see a color or a piece or something in nature ( I LOVE leaves so autumn is my fave) that piques my interest and I work for a solid month straight! Feast or famine, but it works for me. I take a break, then go to work on a fun project and thoroughly enjoy the process. And the mess. I’m terribly messy when I’m creating. I just shut the door of my workroom so no one can see the chaos!
Please tell me a favorite story about your childhood? What positive life principle did you learn from your parents/caregivers - that still informs your life today?
I grew up in the 60s, the child of parents born during the depression. As a result of that, they were the original do-it-yourselfers. My father was an extremely talented man and could fix or make anything. Although we were a typical middle class family, money was never thrown around or spent needlessly. When I saw something I wanted, I would show a picture to my dad and he would disappear into his shop and make it. Once, we went to the State Fair and they had a spin-art machine. Being an art lover, I flipped! When we got home, my dad took an old record player turntable and made me my very own spin art machine. I was a popular girl in the neighborhood after that!
I think the lesson I learned living that way was the early version of recycle, reuse, repurpose. It never seemed like a chore or something I was ashamed of, it’s just always been a way of life. Still is, and it’s been passed on to my own children. I think it’s definitely been a big part of me being a creative person.
Was there anything in your past that caused you pain, struggle or hardship?
If you had asked me this question a year ago, my answer would have been very different. Until then, I believed I lived a charmed childhood. My memories of childhood were wonderful and included church, long camping trips, a small neighborhood elementary school, a brother I loved, loads of cousins and family members in the same neighborhood, a picture-perfect existence.
I was popular in school, participated in all the clubs, extra-curricular activities, sleepovers, and team sports. My parents were loving and encouraging without being smothering and we lived during a time where we were turned out of the house in the morning to walk the mile to school with our friends. In the summer, we rode our bikes from morning till supper and our parents never had to worry about our whereabouts. It was a great time to grow up.The one puzzling undercurrent for me throughout my childhood was anxiety. As long as I remember, I suffered from ‘stomach aches.’ This was the 60s though, and people didn’t talk about anxiety or panic attacks. I assumed everyone felt like me. When I was invited to spend the night with a friend I began to agonize immediately. This turned into what I now realize was true anxiety and often culminated in a full-blown panic attack…all before I ever got to my friends.
I would worry, lose sleep, cry, vomit, you name it. But I would grit my teeth and go. Whenever my mother noticed my worry, she downplayed it, and while sympathetic, offered no solution, so I was left to my own devices, which means I felt guilty. In my mind, I had a perfect life, therefore had no reason to be anxious. No one told me anything different, so I believed this for many years.
Last year, at age 58, and out of the blue, in fact at a particularly calm time in my life, I began to have flashbacks. It’s a long story, but the short version is, I began to sense that something very ugly had happened to me as a child. Over a period of several days, the story tumbled out of my subconscious and into the light tearing me apart and bringing me to my knees. I realized that my father – whom I remember as being the best father ever - had sexually abused me as a small child.
I went to a wonderful counselor who helped me integrate these horrid memories into my life today. My father is dead, so I cannot confront him, but my mother is living and she denies knowing anything about any of this. My counselor says I buried these memories so deep within myself, that I literally forgot them. She says children, when confronted by that which they cannot understand or cope with, often do this. For whatever reason, last summer the memories surfaced, and have changed everything I thought I knew about my life and my family.
It’s been a very difficult thing to cope with. Most of the books I’ve read or people I have talked with remember their abuse. They lived with it throughout their childhood and had to deal with dysfunctional parents and often physical and sexual abuse. I did not. Until last year, my memories of childhood were all good, better than good really.
So having these flashbacks and realizing there were so many instances of sexual abuse at the hands of my beloved father has been a terrible blow and very difficult to integrate. I’ve vacillated between not believing or trusting my memories, and knowing in my soul they are true. It makes understanding my crippling childhood anxiety much easier though. I think it will take years to come to terms with this part of my childhood I blocked out for so many years. For right now, I just know it’s changed my life forever and I’ll never be the same again.
Describe a difficult event or circumstance in your childhood, teens or adult years that caused you to "act-out" or "act-in" in a detrimental way. How did your emotional pain manifest and limit your life thereafter?
I grew up very happy and well adjusted – aside from the anxiety I dealt with. Since I had no memory of the abuse, I don’t remember acting out in any way. I think however, the emotional pain that I buried when I was tiny manifested itself by causing the anxiety I suffered with. As a result of being so anxious, I avoided some activities….being away from home was difficult. I did not go away to college or leave home until I got married. I think the element of fear kept me out of trouble many times because everything in my life revolved around how anxious it would make me, if I could hide it and how badly I wanted to do the thing I had the opportunity to do. I did find out that I am an extremely determined person!
What has been the main theme of struggle in your life? What is the main thing that you have needed to heal in your lifetime?
By far I would say anxiety. It has been with me for as long as I can remember. My husband and I married and built a home, and when our first child was born, we realized he was not ‘normal.’ He was very delayed in reaching growth milestones, but no one could tell us why. He had seizures which made life very scary especially since he had no clear diagnosis. His doctors treated his symptoms, and sent us for therapy. All of this caused my anxiety levels to soar. Plus, this was 30+ years ago before the meds that are now available were common, so I had no help with that.
Our son died suddenly when he was three and as you can imagine, this caused even more anxiety. I had stayed home with him for three years and his therapy and care had really become my job. So now, I was 30 years old with no job and my only child had died. It was a terrible time for both my husband and I. And even after all the hundreds of tests our son had when he was alive, there was still never a clear diagnosis, so we did not know if we should try and have another child or not. That issue solved itself when I became pregnant. Three months later, a sonogram showed no heartbeat so just as I was beginning to pull myself out of the pit of grief, I was thrown back to the bottom again. Through all this, no one ever even suggested I could benefit from any sort of counseling or medication.
We were eventually blessed with two more children, whom we love and have thoroughly enjoyed, so this was certainly healing in some ways, but I would have to say the only, the ONLY thing that carried me through these difficulties was my faith in God, and family and friends’ support. There were so many instances throughout these years where I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the hand of God pulled me through. My husband and I are very close as well, but the other thread that runs throughout my life that has helped me cope in bad times, is art.
I’ve always dabbled in one sort of art or another and having that ‘getaway’ – that place I can always go to disappear into something calming and inviting – has been a life saver. I love starting a new project so trying new types of artwork is always fun and I love trying new techniques and mediums.
What is your greatest strength today?
I am usually able to see a bright side to most situations. It’s not always possible, but usually there is something to give thanks for. I think having an attitude of gratitude helps any situation seem less hopeless. I think if you make a habit of really looking for something to be thankful for – even if it’s just a good meal or a hug – you will find something to be grateful for in most any situation regardless of how dire it may seem.
I also have realized over the past year that I am much stronger than I ever thought I was.
Describe yourself as whole and healed. Who are you in your essence?
Whole and healed, I am content. I’m not crazy up or crazy down, I am content in my situation – regardless of what it is. I am enjoying my people, making my art, soaking in the countryside where I live. I have a pot of soup on the stove, a fire in the fireplace and a dog on my lap.
In my essence, I am at home. I love being at home. We live in the country so I am happiest when I am here and my sons are coming and going, my husband is close by and cows are mooing in the background all while I’m knee deep in paint, fabric, paper and glue. It’s all I need.
If the major healing theme of your life had a book or a movie title what would it be called?
This is a hard one! I think I would call it ‘It is well with my soul’
How has your past pain informed your life purpose? How do you specifically want to contribute life?
I want to live in a way to is authentic, artistic and grateful. I hope in doing so, anyone who knows me will see that through God, all things are possible even in the dark times. I want anyone who knows me to see that one can go through rough times and still find joy in life…much joy in fact, but we must participate in finding that joy, not just sit back and wait for it to find us. I want to be known as someone who appreciates everyday pleasures.
What strength-based inspirational advice would you give someone who has suffered in similar ways to you?
I’m not sure I am qualified to offer advice. I am still in the healing process and will be for a long time. That said, I would paraphrase something I’ve read online and say, whatever your circumstance in life, don’t let anyone else steal your joy. Joy is always there, but sometimes it’s harder to find it than others, but never ever ever let something that has happened to you, keep you from feeling joy in little things. I think most of the time we have to seek joy. Don’t let circumstances keep you from looking.
What famous inspirational quote sums up your life journey?
I love quotes and there are so many I try to live by, but if I had to pick one I would say this one by Louisa May Alcott is one that serves me well:
I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my boat.
Another one I love just because it’s cute and a good reminder is:
Today I will be happier than a bird with a french-fry.
Obviously, neither quote is deep, but both are so true of me. They touch on my essence I think. I’m still learning to face storms as they present themselves, but I make a choice for today…to be happy with something small.
Jill lives with her family in the countryside where she makes art, takes care of her family and animals and strives each day to be thankful for her life. Healing is an ongoing process but
there is always joy as well and she's content.