Random Vignettes from my Life Story – 16


I was recently sent this photograph by my friend and fellow artist Mary Ellen Bilisnansky. It has triggered all sorts of emotions – some of which I will share in this vignette.

It shows a very different me with the artist/inventor Remo Saracini, who along with many other interactive creations, is best known for inventing the Walking Piano that became a hallmark in the major motion picture BIG – starring Tom Hanks.

In the early to mid eighties Remo had a huge studio in a converted bank in Philadelphia. It was Mary Ellen Bilisnansky (at that time a good friend and well known ‘wearable art’ artist) who introduced me to Remo which lead to our having a large fashion show/party in his studio, which is when this photograph was taken.

Before I talk about the ‘acting out’ element that the first picture has triggered…here is another photograph of me taken in the late seventies/early eighties. It represents a time when I was happily married and enjoying my family. At the same time my career as an artist was underway. Along with exhibitions, my work was represented by Newman Galleries and other galleries in Philadelphia.

I am at heart a country girl…most happy when surrounded by nature and animals...and of course paint and canvas.

So what do I mean by ‘acting out’?

Acting out as I understand it is a ‘defence mechanism’ – a way of venting painful emotions such as fear or frustration. Emotions that are trapped with in us – like my black box. (see vignettes 13 and 14)

I am quite clear about my own frustrations at that time. Outside of the confines of family and very close friends, I wasn’t taken seriously or listened to and anxiety continued to plague me!

My appearance was key to the way people responded to me….not my work, or what I had to say….but rather my outside appearance. This really hurt and upset me to the point that I began to exaggerate my dress and appearance (acting out)

Me, my husband Bill and Mary Ellen Bilisnansky in costume for a ball at the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts.

‘A Typical Saturday Night with the Reeds…….’ many would have seen us this way….lots of parties and always seeming to be having fun. For me dressing up was a disguise…..I was able to hide behind the costumes.

However all wasn’t as it seemed. Big cracks were beginning to appear for the whole family. Bill who was a brilliant historian continued to struggle for success in the business world – somewhat like trying fit a square peg into a round hole!

Jarrod was a fully fledged teenager exhibiting his own version of ‘acting out’ and Christie (almost nine years younger than Jarrod) was seemingly unaware of what was happening. Of course now I understand that everything is interconnected...which means that all of us were affected in so many ways.

My Father (age 62) died very suddenly and so I had to return to the UK to look after my Mother and oversee the funeral. This was devastating, but at the time I didn’t have the vocabulary to express the deep trauma within….All of this was building up.

I became very ill land had to have a hysterectomy – and so it went on….

As a family we were experiencing a ‘perfect storm’……

Meanwhile my friendly doctor continued to prescribe Valium.…….

It was as if a huge wave was coming in – threatening to engulf us………. Although Bill’s family were American and mine English…we both came from families that believed in the ‘stiff upper lip‘ theory and so we continued to battle on and bottle it up!

The oncoming wave……watercolour

After my Father’s death and my recovery from surgery I knew something had to change. We simply could not continue the way we were. In 1986 I checked myself into the 30 day rehab to detox from Valium and for the first time in my adult life received real help. This was the beginning of a new way of being – a new life. (see vignette 14)

Very sadly Bill and I were divorced. To this day I believe that had we received the help we needed individually and as a family this might not have happened.

In this picture a couple of years after rehab we are at Christie’s graduation. Divorced but still a loving family.

30 thoughts on “Random Vignettes from my Life Story – 16

  1. memadtwo

    Too many don’t get proper help–we are not taught how to recognize the need, or how to ask for it. I’m glad you were able to battle your way through. (K)

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      You are so right…I imagine right now there are so many – millions who need help but just don’t know where to get it – or are too fearful to ask for help…. I am so grateful that I was able to as you say battle through. Janet X

  2. Timothy Price

    It’s amazing to look back on everything one has gone through and actually survived. Wonderfully poignant reflection on you life. The “Oncoming Wave” is beautiful.

  3. Writing to Freedom

    Thanks for your courage to face and share those challenging times Janet. I can relate to much of what you went through coming from a family with repressed emotions and alcoholism. Gradually I’ve learned to embrace and face my feelings and challenges. Relationships are still hard for me.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Brad for sharing your experience. It takes time to regain trust and to face our feelings. I can concur that relationships continue to be a challenge for me so much so that I stay away from them. As I said to someone else…the more we share about these issues the more people can realise that it’s OK to not always be perfect!:).

  4. pilcherje

    Sending you, Janet, a virtual hug…that is real. That you’ve shared the tenderness of your experience(s) reminds me of what I must do…complete my story as I still ponder a penny in a shoe for good luck, and why on earth we celebrate a new year by counting backward. Thank you for your honesty.

  5. VJ

    So insightful, Janet. Good for you for recognizing and taking steps to get out from under the valium. I think we all had ‘acting out’ periods.

  6. Emma Cownie

    It’s interesting what we can see with the benefit of hindsight (and therapy) … you think things are going OK but there’s a big wave of “stuff” coming that’s your way. I have discovered too that emotions can only be postponed, never cancelled. Interesting you comment on how you were judged on how you looked rather than what you had to say in life – I think most young women suffer from this to some extent. Getting older is a blessed relief for many women. Lol!!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you Emma for this comment. “Emotions can be postponed, never cancelled…..” What an excellent quote.
      Getting older has been a blessed relief for me – I can assure you of that. How sad that so many of we women have to feel this way but it is the truth. I am just glad that I survived long enough to enjoy these latter stages of life.

  7. snowbird

    Wonderful to share these deeply personal insights with you. I’m so thrilled you got help and finally felt you could be yourself. Love and hugs.xxx

  8. Ka Malana - Fiestaestrellas.com

    Thank you for sharing your life! Interestingly, I grew up in Allentown, an hour North of Philadelphia. In the 80s we were not too far from one another! What we receive from these sharings is beyond words. Also, I loved the movie Big when I was little and even now… That piano 🎹 was such a key feature to the movie! Sending you so much love!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Isn’t it amazing how everything is interconnected….One of the ‘bank jobs’ I did through my agent Bonnie Paul was a large painting for a bank in Allentown. I can’t remember the bank, but it was definitely there:). Such a small world. Although I had painted professionally since 1972, it was only when the anxiety was removed that I was able to fully go for it:). Thank you so much dear Ka. XX


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