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Proust Questionnaire. Guest Blogger Hollye Jacobs

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.


  1. That was a powerful message. I am reeling. Very well said. Nothing like a kid to knock sense into us.

  2. Yikes I think I should go back to bed and try again tomorrow. Feeling like maybe crossing "accomplish stuff" off my list when I sold a bunch of tanning lotion and shampoo doesn't quite measure up. But next on the list was bang an active duty marine so time marches on.
    I think what's most interesting is that I would say my biggest regret (thus far) is the exact same thing. Partly because of that chapter in your book. At least I'm cured of wanting an oceanfront estate. Now I want a riverfront plantation. Yet my fear has often driven me in the opposite direction of productivity. What a fascinating woman and I can't wait to read more of her words. I'll wait till after vacation though as I don't want to feel guilty being lazy. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  3. Just incredible! I've always felt the same. I never feel good enough or enough period. I'm 57. I have no college degrees, I've not authored a book. I've spent my entire life trying to please others, trying to make others happy. I did all this with out ever knowing what I was doing or why I was doing it. I'm married to a wonderful man, but marriage is very hard for me. I'm not really geared that way. I'm doing it because it's what your supposed to do. I do not have children but have many pets that I adore and try to do the very best for as far as their care. I have horses too. I recently adopted a little rescue horse whose growth was stunted because he was starved and full of parasites. He's a handful I must tell you. I'm trying my best with him, but I'm running out of energy. I've tried my best to help my mother who has late stages Alzheimer's disease. I've been her truest advocate all through her journey with this horrible disease. I'm trying still to understand what she wants, what she needs as she can no longer speak. This weekend I was with her (I live 3 1/2 hours away) at her memory care facility and the emotion that came out of her has me paralyzed. She cried, she cried a lot. No one understands me or why I do what I do. Everything I try to accomplish for her is a battle because no one understands me or supports me. I'm not comfortable with conflict. That sums me up in a nutshell. So much of who I am and what I do is from living as a giant ball of fear my whole life. You are an amazing lady. I'm so surprised to hear that you've had the same insecurities as me. Much love on your journey!! xx Valorie

  4. As I read Hollye's post, I was amazed. I, too, lived most of my life in fear. Thank you, Holly, for making me realize that there are lots of us out there. You are amazing.

  5. Isn't it funny how we look at people and judge as to whether their life is as hard/complicated as ours? How much happier we think they are than us? How we think, oh - she mustn't have any regrets? I would never have thought, Ellie, that your life, before ALS, could have been filled with as much heartache and pain as you reveal in your book. Nor would I have thought that about Hollye's life. Too pretty to have problems, they are. But how we delude ourselves. Everyone has great happiness at times and great pain at times.
    Thank you Hollye for sharing your real self with us and thank you Ellie for sharing Hollye - and for continuing to be present here in our lives.

  6. i don't know if you'll read this hollye but my best friend melinda who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer 5 years ago just passed away. soon after her diagnosis, slim told me about your blog and i directed her to it. she gained much peace and bravery from your beautiful words. i know she never left you a comment but i wanted you to know that even tho you struggle with fear you made her feel brave. i'm so thankful to you for that. she was an amazing woman - just like you, an overachiever who in the last 5 years truly learned to relax and let it all go. thank you again hollye. xo

    Beautifully, written HOLLYE.I remember when your BOOK came out........YOU were ALL OVER the INTERNET.
    YOU HAVE ARRIVED and hopefully will SLOW down a bit to cherish that daughter of YOURS........because IT Goes really FAST now from about 12 to 18!!!!!!!!XO

  8. Well done, Holly. What an amazing, thoughtful woman you are...thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your message with all of us, which is truly so inspiring.

  9. God, Hollye, you just told my life story!!! Raised by two alcoholics I had all the 'isms' that come with that sort of upbringing....shame, perfection, feeling less-than, NEVER being good enough, and, oh yeah, throw 30 years of anorexia and bulimia in there. When I saw the cycle continuing with my little children I found AlAnon and since 1991 have slowly but surely chiseled away at that god awful undercurrent of fear that ruled my life. Keep working at eliminating this disease in your life and you will experience more freedom and peace than you can imagine. In the end, now I am grateful for my upbringing and the parents who did the best they could ( you can't give away what you don't have! ) because it has led me to this fabulous point in my life!!

  10. I have Hollye's book by my bed. I had a double mascetomy 6 weeks ago and midway through radiation. Your book is beautiful from the photos to the advice. I've found many Silverlinings in this journey. Some days they're harder to find as my chest is burnt from radiation and I drip with sweat from hot flash from tomaxafin. So thank you for your book and honest and raw post. You are good enough. You are enough. It's hard when we grow up without that good morhers voice in our head and that healthy support. We don't have that self love to inform our decisions. It's taken me years of therapy to understand the idea of the "good enough parent" and the "good enough wife" and the "good enough daughter." I still slip into that old habit of trying to perform or be the best. It doesn't take as long now to catch myself and I remind myself that exactly where I am is where I am supposed to be.

  11. Trying to fully digest this so I can live it. You embody it, Ellie. Thank you.

  12. Point on. I also grew up this way and was astonished, after growing up and moving away from my family, that there are people out there that engage with sincerity. I FELT people really trying to speak to my heart and they didn't care about my achievements, all my high School awards and positions and scholarships, college degrees and other successes. They wanted to meet my real personality and I didn't even know it myself. I had little else to offer outside of my badges of honor that proved my worthiness. So I went into "hiding", I think of it as a cocoon, because it was the only way to block out the call to succeed, to prove myself. I wanted to become a good person, not to be so judged by others, but to live according to my own conscience. So, anybody who knew me then would consider me now a LOSER, but now I know what it really means to be a WINNER.

    All the best to you, Hollye, and Ellie, too.


  13. Oh, Hollye, we are soul sisters. You just nailed me completely and utterly. Today I choose FREEDOM and not fear which has belittled me for my 63+ years. NO MORE, thank you for the courage and honesty of your blog, and thank you, Ellie, for sharing this wonderful woman with us all!! Love, love, love you and all that you share, I am humbled.

  14. I am right there at the beginning of the battle, Hollye, so I thank you with all of my heart for your honesty and perspective. As with others here, everything that you wrote rang true to me. I have known in my head for years now that fear was running the show but it took a major life shift to "force" me to start acting to correct that, to try and break the cycle. And to understand what co-dependency is and what it meant to grow up with a narcissist for a parent. Nothing was ever good enough and so I have learned to do something in order to be loved...and it better be spectacular, nothing ordinary allowed. It is early days yet but it feels good.

    Thank you Ellie for asking Hollye to write this. You both are much needed warriors.
    Sending you so much Love, always,
    H bis

  15. Hollye's story could be mine. I, too, have made the process (not the goal) my mission--still working on this one. It is hard, but doable. Thank you Hollye, your story affirms me. xoxox Mary

  16. Another great interview. Much of it struck a chord with me. How many of us who were hell bent on over-achievement have been brought to our knees by life's circumstances? Hollye has amazing perspective.

  17. Fear ruled most of my life too, but it took a different direction. I became the underachiever. Oh I wanted the approval of others but figured out early on, that if I quietly disappeared, people wouldn’t expect too much from me. Beside the excessive amount of wasted time...I can’t really say I regret it though. I accept it as part of my journey in becoming a more wholehearted person. I agree with the Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron who said, “If you don’t know the nature of fear, then you can never be fearless.” But with that said, I also agree with you Hollye, that stopping the cycle with us, benefits our children.

    I commend you both for sharing your struggles. Legacy Smegacy - Thank you!

  18. Always feel not good enough as a mother. I am not alone in feeling not good enough. Favourite charity Hospital for sick Children thank you Ellie and Hollye

  19. Now as a grandmother I look forward rather than backwards. The most important thing for children seems to me to show them that you love and adore them just as they are, whatever they do. They must know and feel that it's total, unconditional. I hope that if they are sure of this from their earliest days they won't experience the pain and fear so many have. Pammie