Hollye. Hollye. Hollye. One of my life’s regrets is not meeting Hollye Jacobs sooner… Preferably the day I was born so then we could have been lifelong best friends. Hollye is my kind of girl. She is so adorable it’s disgusting, she is so smart it’s embarrassing, she has Mid-Western values, loves chinoiserie, worries about her darling daughter as much as I worry about Grace, has a supportive loving husband, has a potager garden, drinks green juice religiously, has a fierce work ethic, uses proper grammar, and is always, always a lady even when she drops the occasional (necessary) F-bomb. Despite her fairytale life, this chick is as real as it gets.
The most interesting characteristics about my dear Hollye, surprisingly, are her flaws, which, in my book, are her greatest attributes. You see, Hollye may look perfect on the outside but circumstances have deepened Hollye to be one of the most soulful, fearless, giving, intriguing women I have ever been lucky enough to call a friend.
Why, you ask? Not that a disease defines a woman… but with Hollye her disease became her life's mission… To help other women. Hollye moved to Santa Barbara from Chicago to enjoy “The Good Life”. Then… BOOM! A lump. BOOM! A diagnosis. BOOM! Chemotherapy. BOOM! Double mastectomy.
Like so many of us, Hollye could have crawled into a ball and climbed into her 600 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets and dealt with her breast cancer privately but, no… Hollye took her experience and her knowledge and wrote a best-selling book, The Silver Lining, and has a brilliant website, The Silver Pen, guiding other women through every scary step of a breast cancer diagnosis. Hollye did this with honesty, optimism, inspiration, dignity, and selflessness. And that, my friends, is why I admire this woman as much as humanly possible. I think you all will agree…
Proust Question for Hollye: What is your greatest regret?
Hollye’s Answer: What Do I Regret? In a word: Fear.From the time I was a little girl, fear has been the one constant in my life. It was the monster under my bed. It was the bully on the playground.
My childhood was consumed with feelings of worthlessness, loneliness and emptiness.
Ouch, I know. Trust me, it hurt just as much to write it as it did to read it. To add insult to injury, when I tried to express my innermost thoughts & feelings, I was told by the adults in my life that I was “ridiculous” and to “get over it.” You know what I did? I believed them. Quickly I learned: don’t tell, don’t talk, don’t feel.
In an attempt to prove my worthiness, I spent an exorbitant amount of energy trying to get love from adults who couldn’t (I’m choosing to say couldn’t rather than wouldn’t) love me. The concept of self-love was considered shameful and even downright laughable.
My world taught me that if I looked pretty enough, if I achieved enough, if I scored high enough, if I behaved well enough, well then, I might – just maybe, possibly – make it through another day. I internalized this message with gusto and practiced these beliefs on a daily – make that hourly – basis.
So, I became an incredibly well dressed overachiever. In high school, I was the first girl on the boys’ soccer team. I was the President of the student body. I was the “Most Improved” on the swim team. I was a state rated Orator on the Speech and Debate Team. I was awarded the Best Dressed Student.
I was this. I was that. But somehow, nothing was ever enough.
Fear – of not having enough, doing enough, being enough – became my constant companion, my confidant.
For as long as I can remember, I have had a voice in my head that beckoned – demanded, really - that I do more, pursue more, seek more. The voice is insatiable and carries the Tony Duquette-esqe the mantra: More. Is. More.
This philosophy has persisted – with vigor – into my adulthood. I have two undergraduate degrees and three graduate degrees, but feared that I wasn’t educated enough. In my 20s, I worked two full-time jobs: one selling couture clothing at Ralph Lauren and the other working in the Intensive Care Unit at a hospital, but I didn’t feel like I was working hard enough. I ran three marathons, but feared that I wasn’t fit enough.
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In an attempt to help others through the process, I wrote what became a New York Times bestselling book, but feared that wasn’t enough. A f’ing bestselling book!
For the record, I acknowledge my absurdity. I know that I have been my own accuser, judge and executioner. I fully own the fact that my self-judgmental energy has created a prison of my own making.
Last fall, when I saw myself reflected in the cherubical face, words and actions of my 10 year-old daughter, I was scared s**tless. My first thought was that this cycle has to STOP. NOW. WITH ME.
I cannot and will not – knowingly – allow her to live with fear. What I believe in my heart of hearts is that the very best way to ensure that the seeds of this fearful way of life are not planted in her is to model a health-FULL way of living myself, one that is free of fear.
So, last fall, I made the conscious decision to stop living in the problem – fear – and start living in the answer – freedom. This is not an easy process. Ha! In fact it is incredibly difficult. I regret living a fearful life for the majority of my life (to date), but the silver lining is that I believe that it IS possible.
These days, I am about progress, not perfection.
Hollye, you are remarkable. Thank you!Ellie’s Question: What is your favorite charity?
Hollye’s Answer: Dream Foundation. http://www.dreamfoundation.org/