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Episode 93 Transcript: Giving Yourself Permission to Change with Jillian Abby

Jillian: She said, how’s that proposal going, Jill? And I said, it’s not. She said, why not? And I said, well, it’s just not good enough. And so I just thought, you know, I’m not really a writer and I’m just sharing this little story, there’s people in this group who have so much more experience or so much bigger stories or bigger platforms, like who am I to tell my story? 

So this life coach appealed to my perfectionist and said, can you submit an A proposal? And I said, absolutely not, there’s no time. And she said, okay, well if you don’t submit, you get an F. So why don’t you go for a B minus? I know it sounds like strange advice, but it just hit me to the core of like, okay, I don’t want the F I know that, so I’m gonna give this my best B minus proposal effort. 

Nancy: Hi and welcome to your permission prescription, the podcast that teaches you how to confidently say yes to you and consciously create the life you desire.

I’m Nancy Levin, bestselling author, master life coach and founder of Levin Life Coach Academy. But it wasn’t too long ago that I was a burnt out people pleaser, living my life for everyone around me and ignoring my own needs. Fast forward to today and I’ve successfully coached thousands of recovering people-pleasers to set boundaries with themselves and the people around them so they can live a more fulfilling life on their own terms.

I created Your Permission Prescription to help you do the same. Be sure to tune in for actionable coaching methods from me, interviews with other incredible coaches, speakers and authors, plus one-on-one live coaching calls and so much more. If you are ready to start saying yes to you, then you are in the right place. 

Nancy: Welcome back to another episode of Your Permission Prescription, I am so delighted today to introduce you to my guest, Jillian Abby. She has mastered reinvention throughout her life to create the most whole and satisfying journey. She left the comfort of her hometown and mine Buffalo, New York, to study abroad in Cochabamba, Bolivia at the age of 15. As an adult, her resume includes certified public accountant, licensed massage therapist, craft beer bar owner, creative copywriter, homeschooling parent and black belt martial artist. 

Her most recent role as a newly out lesbian and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community was by far her riskiest and most rewarding change. She is one of Hayhouse Publishing’s newest authors with her memoir, Perfectly Queer, being released in April, 2023 for Lesbian Visibility Week. She supports others in their self-love and understanding of the LGBTQ community through her blog site, queerabby.com, her podcast Life and Love in the Q, and via TikTok at Ask Queer Abbey. Jillian lives in Tampa Bay with her partner Jen, their wildly wacky children, Sophie and Ollie, and a rescue cat named Poe. 

Nancy: Hi Jillian. 

Jillian: Hello. Thank you so much Nancy Levin.

Nancy: I’ve been chomping at the bit to speak with you today. As I said before we hit record, I spent the weekend reading your book, and aside from both of us having grown up in Buffalo, New York, we have other similarities that I look forward to unpacking here together today. 

Jillian: Oh, absolutely. I also recently read your book Jump… and Your Life Will Appear, and I was amazed at some of the parallels in our life. So I’m excited to get into that today. 

Nancy: Wonderful. So first I would love to start with, just share a teeny bit of your story because as someone who, in your bio is everything from a CPA to a craft beer bar owner to a black belt martial artist, share a little bit of where you came from, where you are now, and maybe a choice point of turning in between.

Jillian: Sure, absolutely. So obviously there was a lot of seeking going on in my life. It was to try and feel proud of myself, to try and make my family proud and just to feel full and whole in my life. And by the time I reached adulthood, by all societal standards, my life was perfect. I had married my college sweetheart, we had been together about 20 years, again, two children, the home in the suburbs with the white fence, and the rescue cat. And then we owned a small business together that was rated one of the top mom and pop shops in Tampa Bay. 

And even still, I knew that there was something missing and I didn’t know what it was in my life.

And for me, I know for a lot of people, they have their awakening in different ways. For me, it was through Craniosacral Therapy. I had been a recipient of Craniosacral Therapy for years and it was in one of those Craniosacral sessions that I was finally able to admit and accept that I was a lesbian at 38 years old. So there was a lot of unpacking that came with that after the fact. 

The blessing at the time when I came out was that, it was just a realization and a truth about myself that I realized. But I didn’t have anyone to go to at that point. I didn’t have another partner or person that I was seeking to be with. And so I kind of had the gift of time to figure myself out a little bit more dnd then to have those challenging conversations with the people in my life who I loved, kept my fingers crossed and hoped it would go for the best. 

So it’s been a challenging several years and also absolutely amazing to me as I was preparing for this podcast today, I had to pinch myself and say, Jillian, this is your life. Like never at any point in my perfectionist approval seeking upbringing did I ever think I would be a published author and I would be hanging out with Nancy Levin on a podcast. And I mean, there’s so many amazing things that just keep unfolding in my life since I started accepting the truth and telling the truth about myself. 

Nancy: Yeah, and you know, so you know, you mentioned Jump…And Your Life Will Appear, and so yes, this first bit of really admitting to ourselves what we know to be true and then really looking at how am I going to show up for myself and live in alignment with what’s true for me. And how then am I going to share that truth with the world who may be accepting and may not be. 

Jillian: Right. And I love the fact that you just mentioned showing up for myself or showing up for yourself beause there was always felt like there was so much pressure on me for how are you showing up for others? What are you doing for others? And really, this was one of the first times in my life where I did feel like I was doing something for myself. This was not for anyone else’s benefit.

It has benefited them since then, but in the moment it actually felt like a very selfish act. 

Nancy: So before we hit record, you started to say something about writing this book – who’s going to be impacted by my story? You know, this is just my little old personal story. I’d love to hear more about that experience for you. So you joined the HayHouse Writer’s community, you submitted a book proposal and you won the contest.

Jillian: I know, yeah.

Nancy: It’s so fabulous. 

Jillian: It is. I’m gonna, there’s gonna be some secrets revealed here. But when I started writing, it was really just out of self-preservation and because my life seemed stranger than fiction at that point that I just had to write it down, I had to get the words on paper. And I wasn’t out to many people in my life at that point so I had very few people that I felt like I could verbalize and share what I was going through. 

And so I started writing and I belonged to this spiritual group of women online and they said, let’s form a little writer subgroup. And so we did and I started sharing my writing with them thinking none of them will have any interest in this. They’re all straight women, none of them identify as part of the LGBTQ community. One of the women was Mormon. I thought it’s nice for me to be able to tell my story to them in a safe space, but I don’t know that they’ll have any interest in it.

And so that tiny little group was actually really the seed of encouragement where they said, there’s a lot that we have in common here. And so they really encouraged me to write more and they are the ones who said, why don’t you try out this hey house group? And I’m so grateful I did. 

But even there was doubt that crept up all along the way. And so I would continue to write and I had a good portion of my manuscript written by the time I was preparing my proposal for the book. I am also a chronic procrastinator though. And so I got to the week before the proposal was due, my life coach said to me, she said, how’s that proposal going Jill? And I said, it’s not, it’s just not going. And she said, why not? And I said, well, it’s just not good enough. And the book is called Perfectly Queer because I am a perfectionist from in utero. And so I just thought, you know, I’m not really a writer, I’m just, I’m just sharing this little story. There’s people in this group who have so much more experience or so much bigger stories or bigger platforms, like who am I to tell my story? 

So this life coach appealed to my perfectionist and said, can you submit an A proposal? And I said, absolutely not. There’s no time. And she said, okay, well if you don’t submit, you get an F, so why don’t you go for a B minus? And it was like, I know it sounds like strange advice, but it just hit me to the core of like, okay, I don’t want the F I know that, so I’m gonna give this my best B minus proposal effort. 

And I’ve realized in hindsight that sometimes I am exceptionally hard on myself. 

Nancy: You think?

Jillian: Yeah, and I sense that there are other people out there like that too, that are exceptionally hard on themselves. But when we give it a go that we really do have something to offer. And so I’m so grateful that I had community around me to push me into putting my story out there and my voice out there. And even though the book is about my experience about coming out as a lesbian later in life, there is an an overarching theme of the fact that there’s so many of us that feel like there’s that empty piece or that something’s just not quite right, or that we know that we’re not being honest with ourselves about part of our identity. We’re masking something. We’re trying to be something that doesn’t align with who we are inside. And really kind of the whole point of the book is being able to make those hard choices and those hard changes so that we don’t live with regret so that we can live till our last day and say, I’m proud of how I did this. And I know that’s kind of like a perfectionist goal on the, I wanna be proud of this life, but you know, I’m working. I’m a recovering perfectionist, I’m working.

Nancy: Aren’t we all? And so yes, really learning that good enough is good enough. And the other thing that struck me, this idea of,it’s a memoir, it’s a very personal story, it’s your story. And in every personal story there is also the universal story. And I know as a poet, and as my first experience of really sharing my poetry with others, I had a very similar experience in terms of no one’s gonna get this, this is very personal to me, and then we realize the more specific, the more personal, the more universal. 

Jillian: Oh, I love that. And absolutely, I mean, gosh, isn’t that kind of the point of our human experience here, is just to really, not just to talk about the weather or our job or  on your grocery list. It’s finding that connection with other people and that’s really oftentimes comes from the hard stuff or the deep stuff or the stuff that’s scarier to share.

Nancy: Yeah. And I always sort of come back to that there is a deep truth, a deep knowing that’s nested inside of us. And in your book you talk about, was it third grade? You sort of had that first crush,

Jillian: The first crush I guess, yeah.

Nancy: First crush. 

Jillian: Yeah. 

Nancy: First crush on a girl. 

Jillian: Yeah. I didn’t know that at the time. I didn’t know how to identify it as such. But yeah, I knew that I looked at her and I felt different. 

Nancy: And what was it, if you can sort of pinpoint, what was it that had you reject that or turn away from that and turn toward what seemed more acceptable? Let’s say it that way. 

Jillian: I honestly, I know there’s a lot of discussion right now about how important it is for people to be seen and how that visibility matters. And sometimes it’s a hard shift and especially as a child growing up in Western New York in the early 80s, and there were not queer people on tv, there were no books that had same sex couples in them. It would’ve been like asking me as a third grader to describe if I liked sushi or not. I didn’t even know what it was. I didn’t know it was an option. It wasn’t kind of even in the frame of reference for me. 

And so I saw, as I got older and I saw my friends having crushes on different boys and I may have been more bisexual or more fluid with my sexuality, it’s really hard to go back to that point and pinpoint exactly what I was feeling. But there was a lot as I got older that I did that was almost a little bit more performative socially, I guess, where I just wanted to fit in. I wanted to belong. And none of those early dating experiences lasted very long. I think two weeks was maybe my max and it, I was usually always dumped, or we broke up because I was called a prude. And I just, that became my identity. That’s what I thought I was. Okay, I’m just a girl who likes boys, but not a ton. Not in the way my friends do. 

So it was really, it’s been interesting in hindsight to look back and say, well, when did I realize? When did I know? Because there’s a lot of social messages that come our way that don’t make it feel okay. And I wouldn’t allow myself to accept the identity. I think that was the biggest piece is that even once I knew it was out there and I had queer friends, I was fine with everyone being gay as long as it wasn’t me. 

Nancy: Very interesting. Yeah. So I’ll share this with you because this has really been up for me as I was reading your book. So I was never like the boy crazy girl at all. And in fact, I kind of was like, what’s, they’re aliens or something? And it probably didn’t help that I went to Buffalo Seminary, so I went to all girls high school, and then when I got to college, I was kind of like, there are boys here. Okay. 

And then I kind of did the thing that you’re supposed to do.But I very clearly remember, I mean, I don’t know that anyone says like losing their virginity experiences, like the greatest thing ever. But I was very much like, really this is what everyone’s talking about. And even going on, like trying to like be into it and not really getting it. 

And when I was 22, I was with a woman for about two and a half years. And so much of being with her made sense to me. And this was mid to late 80s, I guess. But I remember there was so much conversation about like, what are you? Like at that time it was like, you know, she was like, I’m a lesbian, you’re a straight woman who happens to be dallying. I don’t know how that all is gonna work. And I remember feeling like it was very person specific for me. So then I was like, I don’t know if I’m a lesbian, maybe I need to sleep with another woman to see like what that’s like. You know, 

Jillian: Let’s go for the sample platter, just in case.

Nancy: You know? I’m like, I don’t know. I don’t know what I am just person specific was kind of how I felt about it at the time. And I mean, we broke up for reasons that anyone would break up. It wasn’t specific to being, to us being two women, and then I went on to be with men and then I got married and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

But I always reflect back at that time in my life as how different it was then than it is now in terms of even what you said about like back then there was labeling. And now, not that there isn’t labeling, but there is so much more acceptance in terms of fluidity, or there is, at least there is language that we didn’t have then. You know, there’s conversations happening that we didn’t have then. 

Jillian: Yeah. First I’m just, I’m so grateful for you to share that as well. And I’m amazed too that just in my own coming out process, how many people have shared with me that whether they consider themselves part of the LGBTQ or not, have identified that they have more than just heterosexual attraction or more even than just cisgender identity. 

Nancy: Totally. 

Jillian: I think it’s in some ways beautiful, the way that our culture is evolving to realize that there’s so much more of a spectrum to what we can be and how we can love and who we can be attracted to.

And at the same time too, as you said, there’s still a lot of gatekeeping today about, you know, I’ve been told, well, you’re not a real lesbian, you married a man. No, you must be bisexual. You have children, you were married to a man. And at the end of the day, labels are nice because in some ways it helps us find our place and find our location and find others who are similar to us. And in some ways they’re hard because it really doesn’t matter what my label is, I just know who I love. I know who I wanna have coffee with every morning when I wake up. And so in some ways I feel like when I share that label of lesbian, that’s all I become to some people and they lose the other facets of my life that I have.

And I, at the same time, you know, again, in fairness, my fear around putting out a book called Perfectly Queer was that the only people who would feel like they could read this book were queer people. And it’s really, I hope that it’s not that because I think we can all locate ourselves in the story, but also there are so many queer people out there in our world that even if we can just understand a little bit more of what the process was like, or what we thought it was like, and what my experience was like again, it can be one of those points that helps draw us closer together because there’s still a lot of misconceptions. 

And I applaud you just even for recognizing that attraction in a time where there was so much negativity towards the LGBTQ, we are doing better but I know even in my heterosexual existence when marriage equality was passed in the US in 2015 and I thought, oh great, it’s all good for the gays. Like we’re all equal now. 

And now walking through life as a queer person and still seeing the challenges that the community faces and seeing how I’m treated or my children are treated, or even how our family is treated just strolling through Target, picking up groceries, there’s still work to do.So, you know, sometimes I lean into the label and then sometimes I pull back because really we should all just be able and allowed to live and love in the way that feels truest to us. 

Nancy: Amen. And so much of what you’re saying also really speaks to, in the broader spectrum, of what is it that I recognize in myself that I believe I need to hide in order to be loved and accepted? And to what lengths am I willing to go to suppress it, repress it, deny it. You know, how long am I willing to deprive myself of my fullness? 

Jillian: Yes. And I didn’t realize until far after I came out, I can’t say that far -I haven’t been out that long, but I thought once I had come out to myself and accepted that I was a lesbian, I was like, that’s it. I’ve filled in the missing puzzle piece. And it’s been incredible to watch how so many different areas of my life have improved though, not just in my relationship and my love. I was the person who was buying every single book about money blocks and you know, if you just manifest this or say this mantra, you’ll feel financial worth. 

And for me it was not having the self-worth, that was one of the big blocks that was keeping me from being able to ask for an acceptable wage or being a, there’s a lot of different aspects of my life that really changed just by finally accepting that truth about myself that I had such a hard time to accept. I mean, I’m a better parent now. I’m a better friend now. I’m a better employee and business owner, my cup is more full and so I have more to give. 

So I just, and that’s a, the key, that’s a piece that I try to get across to so many people. There are so many people who are in the closet right now or are hiding themselves, and they said,I just don’t know if it’s worth it. I think I can keep walking around like this and it’s fine. And I didn’t realize the harm that I was doing to myself by masking. And I know it’s not safe for everyone to come out and it’s not everyone’s time to like, read this book and you will be, you know, it is a, so much a process for everyone. But really, I don’t know if people realize that the harm that can happen from not being yourself from masking to try and be socially accepted, we think that’s the safe space, without realizing what it’s doing to us inside. 

Nancy: And I wanna share that in reading the book. It’s, I mean, it’s, it’s not like a coming out how-to manual, you know, it’s very personal. It’s, there’s so many beautiful moments throughout your whole life of you coming into different awarenesses. 

Jillian: Yes. I have been saying to so many people that coming out is so much more than just opening the closet door. Like this was not a midlife crisis situation where I just need a change. I’m just bored, II think I’ll try this out now. The book goes back to my childhood and then things in college. And the reason why I love the fact that your podcast is called The Permission Prescription is because I feel like permission is one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves, but also that we can give each other. 

Just letting other people know and holding space for them to feel safe, be themselves is such a gift. And so it was these little bits of permission that I was picking up throughout my life till I finally got to a point where I felt strong enough and safe enough to be able to make that bigger change. 

Nancy: Mm. 

Jilllian: So thank you for what you do. Thank You

Nancy: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you. I’m so glad that you got it together to submit your book proposal.

Jillian: Me too. So far so good. Yeah. I know, my gosh, it’s, it’s just amazing looking at the different turning points in my life. And I think that it’s something that I keep reminding myself of like over the past few years, my life has been so wildly different from one year to the next. And sometimes that’s in a good way and sometimes that’s in a hard way. But when we’re in those hard moments or when it’s like feeling like it’s time where we’re supposed to leap and we don’t know where we’re leaping to, and it’s terrifying, I just remind myself that I could have a completely different life at this time next year or in a month, who knows? I mean, sometimes we move really fast.

Nancy: Yeah. And I, you know, I always look at it from the perspective of, now that I’ve done this, what else can I do? Or what’s possible now? Because this was possible even when I didn’t know that it was. And to your point about permission, and I obviously feel very strongly about this topic, that when you by writing a book Perfectly Queer and publishing this book and sharing it with the world, you don’t even know how much permission you’re giving someone reading this book who may find themselves in a place where they don’t think coming out is possible and are then moved to be able to because of your own experience. 

Jillian: Yeah. Thank you so much for saying that. It really is my hope with the book and a large reason why I made the decision to put the book out there. And every time I get scared, I just kind of remind myself of this, is that after I came out, I was able to find some communities of women and queer people who had come out later in life.

And at the time, you know, I talk in the book about how at the time I was coming out, Glennon Doyle had not released Untamed yet. And so I thought Elton John, like in all seriousness, I thought Elton John and I were the only two people who started in a heterosexual marriage and then, you know, and Elton was the epitome of queerness and being totally living and comfortable in that queerness. And so I was like, okay, it’s me and Sir Elton in this together. 

And so I really wanted to write the book though, because I realized how many other people were out there going through the exact same thing. And not that there’s a pattern or a formula to it, it doesn’t all start at lesbian TikTok. But there were a lot of similar threads, and yet we all felt so alone. And so I just thought, well, if I can put this book out there, I hope it’s a hug to all of these people who are feeling so lonely and so strange and so weird right now, to know that, that, hey, I’m here with you. And yeah, my story’s a little bit different, all of our stories are a little bit different, but there is, again, there can be so much in common and we don’t have to do this alone. There doesn’t have to be the shame around it or the guilt or the stigma anymore.

Nancy: Hmm. So as we’ve said, the name of this podcast is Your Permission Prescription, what would you like to invite our listeners to give themselves permission for or to do or, yeah?

Jillian:  I would love to invite you all to just have permission to ask yourself questions. I didn’t realize how much in my life I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of queerness or anything else in my life. And I’m, I’m not saying that like everyone ask yourself if you’re gay, it goes beyond that. 

But as a perfectionist, I would lie to myself about there being anything wrong in my life. And so when I finally got to the point where I could get in touch with my feelings and kind of ask, why doesn’t this feel good to me? Is this supposed to feel good to me? Do I have to stay in this right now? Does this have to be a part of my life? I think that’s kind of where my self permission started, what am I doing this for? And when I think about it, at the end of the day, I know we’re, we are so raised and socialized to serve others, and especially women and mothers out there, that we’re just supposed to give and give and give. And how is everyone around us? Are they happy? How are they feeling? But we can do that so much better when we feel whole, when we feel cared for. 

So permission to just ask yourself questions and be okay with whatever the answer is. Permission to change. How about that?

Nancy:  I love it. 

Jilian: You can be whoever you want. It does, except for me, I can’t be a farmer no matter how hard I tried. Doesn’t matter how many books I read, all the succulents are dead. I tried. I’m pretty much the same.

Nancy: Jillian, you are wonderful. I’m so happy to know you and everybody go ahead and pre-order Jillian’s brand new book that’s coming out from HayHouse in April, Perfectly Queer. I love the title. 

Jillian: Thank You. 

Nancy: I love it. And where’s the best place to find you, TikTok? 

Jillian: TikTok is a great place. If you want some random jokes and humor, you can also find me at my website, queerabby.com, 

Nancy: Which is so great. 

Jillian: Yeah. So if you want kind of a preview of my writing, I have a blog page up there where people submit questions and I share my perspective. But yeah, and then you can find the book and all of the other things in my life. Because who knows what will be like a few months from now. So it’s an ever evolving page. 

Nancy: Exactly. 

Jillian: I may be a farmer by then, I don’t know.

Nancy: Stranger things have happened. Thank you for being here and for everyone listening, I’ll be back with you again next week. 

Thanks so much for listening to today’s episode. If you loved what you heard, I’d be so grateful if you’d leave a review and share your experience. Even better, follow this podcast so you never miss a new episode. 

And if you’d like some extra support or guidance, head over to my Transform Together Facebook group for an engaged community. Where you can speak your truth, receive inspiration and ask for help as you navigate life’s journey. Or visit my website, nancylevin.com, where you can find resources to help guide your path to reclaiming what’s truly important to you. 

Thanks again for joining me.