I learned that I really do not feel comfortable in my own skin often and I should because I AM beautiful inside and out. I learned that I have to be true to myself and be me. I should not change who I am for anyone
Ruthann Wright Dowling.
Unassuming. Kind. Real.
What you see is what you get, AND… so much more.
I “knew” Roo for a time before i really met her in person. She was this wonderful voice of support and encouragement as a reader of our blog- a void that can get kind of lonely sometimes as a challenged writer. She would leave thoughtful comments about our content and at some point- signed herself on to do the project. Once she signed herself up- all kinds of roadblocks ( kids sick.. kids sick again… and then kids sick) had us reschedule more than a couple of times! The issue for Roo is that when her kids are sick- we are talking TWO SETS OF TWINS! What do you think those odds are? When she arrived months later for her day with TRP she came from over an hour away. I was really moved by her determination to do this thing- regardless of the obstacles that tried to stand in her way. When i think about it… this is very much a part of her spirit. What i’ve loved learning about Roo is that she’s eager to participate in life, and to contribute to those around her. She’s always got time for her “peeps” and from the looks of her commitment to our project – was really also determined to honor herself in the busy hubbub of her life. Throughout her shoot – I was present to how many times she accepted the challenge to stray from her comfort zone. We don’t create this challenge to intimidate- we do it so that the participant can FEEL herself- her edges and boundaries and the places that dare her to explore herself a little more deeply. Ruthann was able to access this vital place, and I will leave it to her interview to tell you the rest. Love you Roo- you are really just a solid, deep, and generous person- I am honored to know you.
Q. Would you tell us a little bit about yourself?:
A. I am a middle child, a people pleaser, a mom of four, a daughter, a wife, and a friend. I value my friendships to the core. I am funny and silly and spontaneous at times and I am vulnerable and stressed and wound too tight at other times. I am human.
Q. What are the biggest challenges that have faced you as a woman?
A. Becoming a parent has been the most challenging, and at the same time, rewarding experience for me. Switching my role from Roo to Mom was, and continues to be, a difficult transition for me. I never anticipated the isolation that I would feel in motherhood. At the same time, I have made some of my best friendships since becoming a mom and each and every mom that I talk to regularly is a light in my life.
Q. What are some of the issues that you think are important to explore as it relates to being female?
A. Understanding the many roles that women play daily and being sure to take the time to nurture each and every one of those roles.
Q. What frightens you?
A. Loaded question. I am a daughter of a worrier who is the daughter of a worrier. I try to let go of that which is out of my control, but that is far easier said than done. What frightens me? Cancer, heights, airplanes (though I will board one for a tropical weekend), the idea that we never know if we have tomorrow, how we will afford to send our kids to college, guns, any one of my children ever being in danger, mice, and vomit! So, see, aside from saving money for college, the rest of those things are really out of my control, but I still worry!
Q. What is your “Life Mission?”
A. My mission is to be the best mom I can be, the best wife I can be, the best friend I can be. I want to experience and enjoy life to the fullest all the time. I want to inspire my children to be honest, kind, and thoughtful individuals who understand the meaning of words like justice, equality, kindness, thankfulness, and love.
Q. How do you keep yourself inspired by life?
A. I look at my kids and I see the sparkle in their eyes. When I am having a crappy day, I try to look at one of them and really look into their eyes. I kiss their soft cheeks and remember that THIS is what life is all about right now. And while they can manage to make me crazy, they also inspire me to be a better person, to model kind and appropriate behavior and to let them feel love. Time flies by so I am trying to enjoy these “moments” more often and to stay in the present more often.
Q. Have you ever hit “Rock Bottom?” Can you tell us about it?
A. Rock bottom for me was in my early 20’s. I had just lost my dad to cancer and I was behaving really stupidly, participating in reckless behavior to sort of numb the pain. I was never completely out of control, but I was not thinking clearly. I am thankful that somehow I snapped out of that phase fairly quickly in the grand scheme of things.
Q. What did it teach you?
A. That whole time frame of my life taught me a lot about myself. First, I realized that I really was not taking care of myself. At the time, I thought I was, but I wasn’t. It also taught me about my limits. I grew up very fast in those few years. It made me understand better that taking care of myself should always be at the top of my priority list.
Q. Is there anything in particular that made you feel like being part of the Revelation Project was a good idea right now?
A. The whole idea of the project inspired me. I am a mom, who like all other moms, is busy and tired and often being pulled in many directions. My children are growing up and the time is really passing by right before my eyes. I want to slow myself down a bit and be less distracted and enjoy all the beauty of them as they blossom before my eyes. I have started saying “yes” more. And what I am saying” yes” to are such small things, 5 minute things, that might mean the world to my children. What I have found is that when I say yes and participate in whatever they are asking of me, I find that these moments mean the world to me too. They are small “moments in time” in this crazy household of chaos and noise. They are perfect. They are simple. They are flipping through a catalog and talking about all the fun stuff we see, playing a round of old maid, going out for a frozen yogurt. They are awesome.
About the shoot:
Q. What did you think about the approach of the upcoming photo shoot (before you got there) and what were the results you were expecting?
A. I had no idea what to expect other than I was going to be the center of it all, not an easy place for me. I had no real expectation at that point. I was just doing something fun for me and I was looking forward to it.
Q. 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?
A. At the beginning of the shoot, I was so nervous. I am always behind the camera taking pictures of my kids. I am rarely in a picture and if I am, I am usually criticizing myself. As the shoot went on, I relaxed more and the ladies—Monica, Kim, and Terry had EVERYTHING to do with that.
Q. Can you describe in three words the way you felt before we shot
A. Excited,nervous, vulnerable,
Q. Three words for after:
A. Relieved, happy, vulnerable
Q. Three words for when you saw the results:
A. Shocked, embarrassed (still a little—sorry), excited
Q. 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?
A. On the drive home, I thought about how nice it was to be pampered a little. I had my hair and makeup all done and I felt pretty. It was a nice change for the day!
Q. When you saw the results can you tell me your first impression?
A. Wow, yikes, wow, yikes. I loved some and cringed at some.
Q. Can you talk about the feedback you received from those who saw your photographs?
A. Of course, all of the feedback was positive and a lot of women asked me about the project.
Q. What are some words you would use to describe how those comments made you feel?
A. Alive, Happy, Beautiful, Genuine
Q. Did you learn anything new about yourself from the experience?
A. I learned that I really do not feel comfortable in my own skin often and I should because I AM beautiful inside and out. I learned that I have to be true to myself and be me. I should not change who I am for anyone.
Q. Did you feel empowered?
A. I did
Q. Since the shoot happened almost four weeks ago now can you talk about the lasting impact of the experience? Has it altered the way you view yourself or your surroundings?
A. It simply reminded me to smile more. When I saw myself smiling in these pictures or laughing, really laughing, I loved them. A smile is infectious and it can change your whole day!
Q. Do you think this was an important/valuable experience for yourself? Why?
A. Yes, absolutely. It has helped me to slow down a bit, and smile and enjoy life more.
Q. Do you think it’s relevant for other women? Why?
A. Yes. Society demands so much of us. It is so important for all of us to take the time out for self examination.
Q. How would you use the photos moving forward? Professionally? Personally? As gifts?
A. I am not sure but I know I will want my kids to have some of these pictures when they are older.
Q. What is your favorite song and why?
A. Kate Bush, This Woman’s Work – On any given day, I have many favorite songs, but this song is so beautiful and always gives me goosebumps.
Q. Why do you think this project is important?
A. I think it is important because it requires each participant to go outside of her comfort zone and to really examine herself to the core. There is so much more to each one of us than what is at the surface, which is funny, because this is a photographic experience to start. So much is revealed in the pictures about each participant. They are beautiful photos and the hope is that the participant will see parts of her that she may not have seen in a long time. That is what happened for me and it felt great.
Q. If you could sum up the experience what would you say?
A. It was fun, it was empowering, it was liberating, it was tiring (try smiling for a few hours straight, or not smiling and being serious, or laying backwards with a blanket draped over you), awesome!