I had the pleasure of getting to know this courageous woman through REVEAL 365, a photo journaling workshop we offered a few years back. She left an impression on me with her images, insight, and honesty. I am in awe of her commitment to her own self-development and healing. Linda Toole-Erickson is a woman of strength, depth, & fierce love. I am honored to share her interview with you.
What in particular made you feel like being part of The Revelation Project was important to you at this time in your life?
I found the Revelation Project during my recovery from domestic violence. I had come to a point where I wanted to have my voice heard and shake off the stigma that I felt was taking over my identity. The photo shoot came a couple years later.
Who are you now?
I have been at a crossroads. I have been trying to figure out where I am supposed to leave my mark. I believe we as women are forever evolving. I guess I am at the rewriting my story phase.
What are the biggest challenge’s that have faced you as a woman?
I want to be enough. You know, pretty enough, good enough, etc.. When I was little I was sensitive. My parents looked at that as a flaw or as a weakness. As an adult I have faced a domestic abuse situation, and the stigma and shame that came along with it. I have done a lot of soul searching through counseling, reading, conferences, and meditation. I feel stronger and wiser. I have learned that stigma is societies view not mine. Victims of assault and the ways that they are treated needs to change. I am choosing to be a survivor and not someone who has gotten stuck in a victims role. Its a constant choice I make everyday, and it is not always easy but its not bad for a sensitive chick like me.
What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore in relation to being a woman?
Not looking at flaws as flaws but rather as parts of our essence. That we are enough. Finding a way to get together to build each other up, NOT tear each other down to get ahead. Celebrate each others successes. There is a need for women groups to establish support systems. I think if we had more of a solid foundation of support we would be more daring, more productive and more alive.
What frightens you?
Being silenced!! I have dealt with abuse, and more recently suffered a stroke. A stroke at 51 with no known risk factors WTF! When it first happened I was pissed,afraid, and felt silenced. Something however simmered inside and I found myself rising up and flipping into recovery mode. Evolution needed to strike again. This time I was on a quest to redefine myself. I was going to evolve onto a new me. I started with the obvious physical needs, then started working on emotional, and started reaching out to others. I do not expect to be fearless but I do expect to get there eventually. I am overflowing with gratitude, I feel strong and what frightens me is going away because I am not allowing fear to have so much control. I will never be done evolving, growing or learning.
What is your CALLING; in other words, in what way is your heart and soul compelled to make a difference and serve in your life, why is it personal?
I have been through a lot in a short time frame. I have had my voice stolen from me. My passion is to find a way to help others find their own voice, and to not feel so alone in the process of discovery. I am still in the discovery phase of how to do this.
How do you keep yourself inspired by life?
By opening myself up to change. By never wanting to stop learning. By being as authentic as I can in the moment.
Have you ever hit “rock bottom” and if so what did it teach you?
I have and I learned that it is never really rock bottom. YOU CAN RISE UP AND START OVER!
and I learned that there is never really a rock bottom. You can RISE UP and START OVER!
What would the little girl you were, think about the woman you have become, and what would you like to say to that little girl now?
Never give up. YOU ARE ALWAYS ENOUGH!
About the shoot:
What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and did you have any expectations?
I have always been a pretty private person. So there were nerves. Revealing myself was going to be the ultimate growth experience.
How did you feel during the shoot? What in particular helped make you feel present, relaxed, safe, and open to the process? Was there anything lacking?
I felt shy at first, and kind of awkward. The pre-shoot conversation was definitely helpful. I felt like I could express without judgement. I noticed the respect given to each one of the hosts and was like "wow this is big".
Please describe in three words the way you were feeling before the shoot:
Apprehensive, Shy, Excited
Three words for after:
Amazed, Free, Empowered
Three words for when you saw the results:
Terrified, Humbled, Empowered
What were some of the things you thought about on the drive home; How were you feeling?
I drove with Kim so I kept looking at her camera bag. I wondered what her lens saw. Letting go of control of how I was perceived was big. I felt beautiful for the first time in a long time.
What was it like for you to wait for your photographs to be revealed and what was the conversation going on in your head?
As I waited for the photos to be revealed, I just wondered what they saw. Did I express myself or did I hold back. I tried not to think about it too much.
When you saw your images for the very first time, what was your initial reaction?
It didn't seem like me at first. I noticed right away the stages of the day. Shyness to Playful to Bold. I loved the bold, it was so freeing.
Please share some of the feed back you received from those who saw your photographs?
My family was shocked by the bold. They are used to my shy side so those resonated the most with them. My husband who was my boyfriend at shoot-time took it all in and had favorites in each area. My daughter was shocked by the bold. Friends were super supportive. I did have a friend tell me which ones were the most flattering, basically pointing out my flaws. It didn't bother me because that was not the point of the shoot.
What are some words you would use to describe how those comments made you feel?
I had armored up in preparation I think so when the comments were good the armor came off when they were not the armor went up.
I basically didn't let it bother me. I had stepped out of my comfort zone and just let myself go. I focused on the process not the product of the experience.
What did your Revelation Project reveal to your SELF?
That I am multifaceted. I am learning to express and protect all sides of me. I think I have kept so much of myself hidden for so long that it was a relief to reveal. Now I am out there and I am ok with that.
Do you feel more connected to who you are becoming since your shoot, and if so, what conscious changes have you made in your life since the shoot?
I feel more empowered to seek change and to assert myself more. I feel more inspired to peel back all the layers and find out who I aspire to be.
What is the number one REVELATION you take away from your TRP experience?
Everyone has a story unique to them. We are constantly evolving as women and growth is a good thing. I realized that repairing myself from pain or disappointment does not mean I am broken but instead on a journey of self discovery that I hope never ends.
Has it altered the way you view yourself and interact in your relationships, and if so in what way?
I discovered a side of myself I call that Sassy Bitch. I like her. She is bolder and speaks her mind. I have learned from her to speak my mind and to advocate for myself and others and to embrace my Sassy side. The shy little girl has become stronger, braver, and has evolved. She now has a voice that can not be silenced.
Do you think TRP is relevant and valuable for other women? Why?
It is a wonderful tool for self discovery. It brings women together. United we stand as a group to be reckoned with. Our voice is stronger together.
How will you use the photos moving forward; professionally, personally, or as gifts?
I don't know. I have used some as Facebook profile pics. I used one to express my disappointment, fear, and uncertainty about the election.That one post was met with quite an exchange of words with many. I chose that picture because it was me at my boldest, and I found it to be quite provocative. I needed to get words out where there were none. Photography is an art form that can be a useful tool of self expression. I regret nothing.People heard me ROAR.
What is your favorite song and why?
Rise Up by Andra Day It is full of hope and fierce power. Every time I am presented with a challenge it is my go-to song.
Please sum up your TRP experience in one sentence.
I have been awakened to the possibilities of my Life's Journey.
Are you wanting to reveal more in your life? We invite you to consider stepping in front of the lens of our camera for our "Reveal You" photo shoot, or enroll with one of our talented co-active coaches in a REVEAL Life Coaching Package for this next phase of your journey.