Stephanie O’Brien recommended Jill to this project. They met rather serendipitously during Stephanie’s recovery at one of Jill’s yoga classes and became fast friends. Within seconds of walking through Jill’s front door, she offered me tea and set a large plate of freshly-baked scones on the table in front of me, foreshadowing her later statement of being a mother at her core. We had real talks throughout our entire time together and a great portion of it is here for you to enjoy. I appreciated Jill’s sincerity and vulnerability and I am very much looking forward to our next gathering.
Who are you and how would you describe yourself?
I'm Jill. I mean, who am I? The roles that I play? I'm a mom, primarily. That's definitely the biggest part of my heart and soul. I'm a wife to an incredible partner. I am a friend and get friendship from really amazing people. I'm a dog-owner now. I guess those are the different roles. Who I am and maybe what ties them all together is my drive to connect and maybe nurture and nourish.
What matters to you or what motivates you?
My children. I feel like that's gonna be the answer to every question (laughs). Especially as I'm watching them grow and really concentrating and trying to concentrate on staying present in the feelings that accompany that. So, right now, they matter most to me as they kind of move through their worlds and navigate that. And I think beyond my family, community matters to me. A sense of connection - authentic connection. Laughter matters to me.
What concerns you or what gives you a heavy heart?
Oooh. The world today. Yeah, like we were talking about. It's overwhelming. I've stopped watching the news; I've stopped listening to the radio on my way to work or wherever I'm going. I even just limited my news to The Skimm - an email that comes that gives you basically the highlights - in a funny way - of the news. But I even eliminated that because it weighs on me so heavily. Boy oh boy, especially after last week and the Kavanaugh hearings and the complete dismissal of Dr. Ford and millions of other women and their voices. And the children being separated from their families at the border. And just the complete lack of - I'm on a roll - human compassion and empathy and isolation. That overwhelms me right now. That overwhelms me.
It should. It's also difficult to know what to do with it.
That's the thing - I feel like somewhere in here is a call to action because we as humans are not meant to feel this so deeply and then just let it knock us out. I have to find the action behind this. I have to... because for me that's the only way I can heal or feel like we're gonna be okay. And I do... ultimately I do believe we're gonna be okay. And I hope that where we are currently is just a tipping point and everything good is going to rise from this. And this has been a mirror and now we're gonna shatter that. We're gonna come back to who we really are - to our hearts and souls. We're gonna let go of the divisiveness and the competition and the fear and the anger and we're gonna come home to peace and kindness and compassion and empathy. And maybe that's naive, but I have to believe that.
What do we mean to each other, person to person?
We're life-forces for each other. We need each other. We need community. We can't work in silos or in vacuums. We need community. We need connection for us to fulfill whatever it is we're here to fulfill. We can't go it alone. I mean, look what's happening to us - we're going alone and it... I always find it so ironic that social media is such a huge part of our lives these days and yet we're more disconnected as a culture and a society than we've ever been before. When we really have more access to each other. But the problem is that it hasn't allowed us to come together. We get to further ourselves. And I think the consequences of that have been what we're seeing politically, what we're seeing culturally, and what we're just seeing racially and socially and... you know? So, I think what we mean to each other - that was a really answer, sorry - is connection.
What does being part of community - part of this broader, greater human sense - what does it mean to be engaged in that way? With other people as opposed to burying your head in the sand.
For me, community shows up in a lot of different ways. Like we were talking about earlier, community has helped me raise my children. Community is where I find strength. And where, given the right community, I allow vulnerability and authenticity. And I think community is paramount to our survival, to our success, to our happiness. Yeah.
Why do we continue to be unjust to each other and why is it so difficult to break the cycle?
I mean, fear. Right? Fear. That is my belief - that is the root cause of every injustice we see. We fear power, lack of power... you know, when you look at the families being torn apart on the borders and the momentum behind that is fear-based. These people are gonna come in and they're gonna take our jobs and they're gonna take our resources and where does that leave us? Right? And so we can build these stories and these qualifiers for our behaviors. When you look at sex trafficking - I used to work for a company that focused in sex trafficking in India - and they can even qualify it there by temple slavery. Not all, but some religions incorporate slavery of young girls into that. I mean, we can qualify it. I think so much of it is fear-based. I think that desire and need for power stems from our own fears and sense of lack and it manifests in these horrible, crazy ways that, as they progress, I think people just qualify it in one way or another with their own story. You know? That's probably a really naive answer, but I feel like fear is the root of all dis-ease.
If we take the immigration at the Mexican border issue, that fear voice is pretty amplified and I have a hard time believing or fathoming the idea that everyone speaking out against mass immigration is doing that because they have some sort of direct "this is gonna personally affect my...". Is it affecting them personally or are they part of some collective? And is it fear that then meets some perverse solidarity? You can kind of understand the things that really personally affect you, but why are people attaching themselves to these group mentalities that actually don't really have anything to do with them at all?
I would say one, if we were rational, we probably wouldn't be facing what we're facing. Secondly, it's an interesting question because if we go back to your original question of the importance of community, does it matter what the community looks like? I wonder if people just so desperately hold on to that sense of solidarity, to a sense of community and maybe - I'm thinking out loud here, but I wonder if community maybe isn't always bright and shiny and rainbows and unicorns. Maybe there's this shade side to community, which in its essence is just a collective - a group of people where you look to define yourself and where you look to be a part of something and maybe you don't know who you are or what you believe, but you're embraced or it sounds good or maybe it's more that mob mentality where you just get swept up in it. I don't know. I appreciate the pushback, though, 'cause I think you're right - I think if it were just as simple as fear, you know maybe we'd have better answers for it.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
Mmhmm. I do have a sense pf purpose. Yeah. Look out! I do. Somebody once, not too long ago, said to me - and I love this - Purpose is the sum of your essence. Like, your essence, your soul, who you really are - putting your essence into action equals purpose. So, for me, I have this sense of what my essence is and my purpose is how I manifest that. So, when you asked who I am, I think who I am at my core is I am a mother. And not just to my own children, but I have that deep desire and drive to connect. And I love to see people realize their own strengths and power. And I believe deeply in community. And so, my manifestation of that is Gather, which is my business. Or, I teach yoga. I love that when I can bring ease and I can help to nurture people, but I also can help to lift them. So, yeah, I feel like I have a strong sense of purpose and it shows up in the various ways I choose to spend my time.
What do you want more of in your life?
Money. (Laughs) Is that a bad answer? In my life I feel very, very blessed. I feel like I'm in a stage in my life where I've been through a lot. I've seen a lot. Not at all to compare myself to other extraordinary, difficult situations, but through enough where, for me, I feel like I have what's right right. I have everything right other than that constant financial shell game - that's the one thing that does plague me. And stresses me out. Especially because I have another child in college and you know just constantly trying to figure that out. But if I can tone down that stress, there's not a lot else in my world that I complain about - my personal world - until I look outside and I read the news and then I... you know. Yeah. And maybe that's just an answer because I don't know how to tackle the immigration, which is really the one - that and the recent hearings - brings me down.
If I were to look at my life - and I do often - I feel like everything that I have brought into my life aligns deeply with who I am - that essence we talked about. I'm very abundant in so many areas of my life. I have love. I am surrounded by love and that is a core, core value of mine. And I love to give it and it fills me to receive it and I have that in my life. And yet that money piece - even though it's a piece of paper that I just pull out of my wallet or the bank - it does cause me to stop in my tracks. And it is an ongoing struggle that I have. I'm only recently talking about it. It's interesting. So, I guess now we're going public with it? But it is a stress for me. It is. And I have to believe I'm not alone in that. And if I am, it's still my experience. And it's definitely something I place too much power on because I have everything else. So I don't know why that one trips me up, but it does.
Do you have anything else that you want to put out there?
No, not really. I don't know. I guess what I want to put out there is there's such power in community and in connection. I think community is the vehicle for which connection lives and where we find that. And I think that is why we're here. And I love this project 'cause I think even if you're questioning it, what you're offering is connection. And whether it's this one-on-one or reading the other stories or hearing the other voices, you're offering connection through this community. So, thank you.
Do you want to ask me anything? I'll indulge one question.
I would love to know what it is - the experiences, the history - that led you to be inspired by creating I Heart Strangers and A Community Thread. Like, who are you? What is your essence? Because here is your purpose. Your purpose is creating community and seeing people - clearly. So, what is that? What is the essence that leads you to that?
The thing that comes to mind - you know, this could be answered differently in three hours or tomorrow with a different person - but the thing that comes to mind here with you now is that I think I'm a wounded person. Quite sad. Yeah, like a sad, heavy person that doesn't want to be debilitated by that stuff. And the way that people have hurt me and the way that I've hurt people and the ease with which that comes - the way that we can just kind of treat each other poorly - it seems like there's got to be a lot more. We've got to be able to find ways to get along. And I'm sure that I make any number of well-intentioned but bad decisions in the course of my day - what food I consume or which brand I buy or how what I said was received - so I don't pretend to have it all sorted out. But I think we just need to have more good things to look at. We need to have more encouragement and more reasons to want to come together and even if it's not agree, at least be civil. So that's a heavy, heavy, heavy way to answer the question, but I think it comes from there.