In this episode of the Happiness Hive Podcast, Catherine chats with long time friend Jennifer Harkness. Jen shares with us her inspirational story, having had a very similar journey to Catherine growing up with the loss of a parent. From grief and loss to a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, listen as Jen opens up her world of positive mindset and passionate outlook on life.
In this episode you’ll also hear:
– whimsical anecdotes form Jen’s childhood to the darkest day of her life
– where Jen gets her strong resilience and determination from
– how Jen was eventually able to release all her the emotions she harboured
– the pivotal moment everything changed for Jen as a teenager
– why Jen believes the most empowering thing you can do for children is listen… and so much more!
Join Catherine’s membership The Happiness Lounge here
Connect with Jennifer Harkness here:
This podcast is produced by Nikki O’Brien from Quintessential Being
Hi, welcome to the happiness hive Podcast. I'm Catherine Bowyer, and I am completely fascinated by people and what motivates them. I've spent the past three and a half decades specialising in mindset and human behaviour. And I've helped 1000s of people to create happy and amazing lives. And now I am super excited to be chatting with women from around the world who I have secret. And to be honest, not so secret crushes on their women who inspire me. I'm intrigued as to how they do life and what makes them tick. I want to find out the magic formula that makes them who they are. And at the end of the episode, I'd love for you to say, I'd like a little bit of what she's having. The conversations are real and raw. They're full of passion, inspiration and lots of fun, and nothing is off limits. So grab yourself a cuppa or pop on your trackie and go for a walk and join us for today's chat. There may just be that pearl of wisdom you need to hear. So let's shimmy on over and get started. I am really looking forward to today's chat with my gorgeous friend Jen Harkness. We were just chatting. I think we met just before my wedding, which is nearly 28 years ago. So we met I knew Jen's mom, I used to play golf with Jen's mom and another girlfriend. And I met Jen through her mom. And it's been beautiful because we've reconnected in the last sort of five or six years. And it's just been really, really lovely to reconnect with Jen. And Jen has a really like just such a inspirational story. And we have very similar journeys from growing up. Jen's dad passed away when she was young. My mum passed away when I was young, and were a member of that club Jen, that's not a great club to be a member of, but we sort of share some very lot of similarities. So welcome. Welcome to today's podcast. Chad. How are you?
Thank you. I'm excited. I'm a little nervous. I was very honoured as you know, and you asked me, I thought you were crazy. But now I'm very on it. And I'm really excited about it. Just like chatting with you anyway.
Yeah. Do you know what I love you? Do you have such an inspirational story. And it's really the thing I love Jen about you is just your mindset, and how and how you, you have such a positive mindset and outlook on life. So let's go back before we dive into that, that mindset stuff, but what was life like for you growing up? Do you want to just share some of that with your?
Yeah, life for me was fantastic. As a small child, I have all those memories of sitting on my dad's lap, you know, driving the car down the street. And as you did, yes, children, they could have to steer the steering wheel. You know, my dad used to come home from work. And my mom used to tell me he was very tired, wasn't until I got older to realise that he was very, maybe had a few white bees before he came home. My mom and dad, you know, would sneak up the corridor, they had three kids would sneak up the hallway for a bit of a cuddler, I would pop along as a five year old and jump up on his arm. And my mother used to say drove her nuts because I was always wherever my father was I was. And my grandmother used to laugh because as a three year old, he'd come home from work and he was a construction worker. And he come home dirty. And he'd sit beside the fridge. And if there was leftover lamb or something in the fridge, she would sit there and have that as the skin to cut it up and have as a snack. And my grandmother used to laugh and say, issues here the idea of the car and I would run into the kitchen and sit beside the fridge because I knew he was going to be a snack. From nought to nine. My life was very normal. We live by the coast and we went to the beach. And you know, my mom and dad were very normal people. And then one morning, and I was nine that will just changed. We got a we were visiting relatives. And as we left, I remember seeing those men coming across the road. And I thought this is an odd place for these people to be their friends and my father's and they just said to my mother basically daddy's gone. The moment the world just and we got put in a car and taken I got I don't even know where my siblings were to be honest, I can't remember it. But I think my brother was there. My sister must have been. And that was sort of like the darkest day of my life. And it was very confusing on in 70s. Yeah, like it was the day that my world changed. Yeah, safety, the security and all of those things. In the end, it was the day I didn't even know the funeral was on. I think my brother and sister went to school, the day of my father's funeral wasn't anything my mother had any control over. She was 34 she just lost the love of her life. And she had three children in the 70s to raise it was not you know, everybody took over for the better of everybody else and and I was sort of the oldest I was kind of told to look after the other kids and um, you know, so life changed and I became had a very, I guess. I was very sad. You know, it was very angry as I got older I got very angry because I thought, you know, no one ever listens and everybody was my bad dad's best friend. My dad had a huge personality and was very well liked man and everybody was his best friend and everybody was looking out for me, he would you know, and I'm thinking my father would never have asked you to look out for me like, Who do you think you are sort of thing. And he was my world. My mother was an incredibly strong woman. And I think you know, you know, think the Universe picks people for a reason. They were brought together for a reason. Not the greatest reason, obviously, but one other was an incredibly resourceful woman. She had to go back to work. And my mother and father had a really lovely, even though it wasn't a long relationship. They met in New Zealand, who was a garbage truck driver. It was over there. She was waitressing. And, you know, I think she went she met him. She said in turn his head shaved because, you know, he had maggots in it or something. Fell in love with him. And he wrote poems. My father was a rigger and attract and a crane driver. He used to write my mother poems, how beautiful because she lived in Sydney. And he said, I had this issue, you know, she was the love of her life and life change too. And as a child, I didn't see her life was affected. I saw my life was affected. But you know, she had three kids to raise on her own. She's done an amazing job, because we're all amazing kids. But she was very strong, determined woman and her and I battled for a long time because of the strength. Yes, she had the strength that I had. No, she was probably tired anyway, but I was an angry teenager. And it was, you know that that anger with me stuck around for a long time,
I think. What did you get? Do you know what that's almost like we could have been twins growing up. Because when my mom passed away, it was just kind of like she's gone. And it was never explained this to really what that meant. And there was no counselling. So what year for me that was 77 or 7819 7875? Yeah, so there was no counselling, there was just that get on with life. And I'm like you gen two very strong, very independent, but God, I was angry. I was just, I didn't even know I didn't even have a label. I didn't realise I was so angry until, you know, quite some years afterwards, it was just harbouring all these emotions. So
and I think as a as a as a girl, losing her dad, like the infamous, I had a brother and the emphasis was very much about him losing his dad and I. Yeah, and this is again, no criticism of the people of the time it was they didn't know any better. But it was all important that the boy lost his dad, but the girl lost her protector. Yes, I have another sister. You know, my sister has memory of my father because she was too little. But we lost our Protector. Yeah, we lost the guy that was going to kick the boys up the bum. If they came and picked on us, you know, then that meant that was our safety net, I guess. Yes. Yes. Yeah. So yeah, we lost that we lost, we also lost that interaction with how to actually interact with a man like how to form those relationships, which later in life affected me greatly because I've never had that confidence. Yeah, I really, I've never grown up with a man in my house, except from annoying younger brother, you know, who didn't become a man until much later in life. And I liked him so that I didn't like it. But you know, that sibling stuff. It's
interesting, actually, that's really interesting about losing the male role model in your family and the flow on effects, for me losing the female role model, and those flow on effects as well. So it's interesting, isn't it about how that sort of shapes us as even into our adult years?
My main role model was my mother who was an incredibly Yes. Yeah. credibly strong. Yeah, she, you know, you know, uh, you know, she's an incredibly strong woman, and she's 81 now and, you know, she's still that strong role model to Yes, next generation, you know, she does not miss one of my granddaughter's swimming lessons who's seven months old. She's there every week to watch they and that's, she's just an incredible Yes,
she is. Yes. She wasn't quite as good as golf as me I used to enjoy
I think she would argue that point. Oh, terrible. We will all do that. I remember growing up you know, there used when I was about 32, my mother apologised to us for not giving us the life which we should have had. And we all looked at her as if to say, do you need to be certified? Like are you crazy? When we moved to Canberra? We were the only people we knew had a single income. We had a two story house and a swimming pool. We thought we hit jackpot. We had no idea. Wow. We didn't know you know, she just we never were hungry. No. My mother's always been house proud. We always Yeah, we always had food on the table. You know, she said Do you remember when the fridge broke and we will live it out of an sp we'd like we would notice the wave taken you know, we had no idea Wow. When I think back at the strength that she must have had no, there's lots of times pulled from that, that I've needed to pull from that in my own life. You know, moving forward. I think she got through so much. Without help, you know, there was no,
it was it was a very different time was a very different time. And
yet she just determined to stay at home. My sister was 14, I think before my mother went back to work full time. Wow. So that was 10 years she did you know, she battled. And she really struggled with going back to work full time. She felt like that was not the right thing to do. But it was the right thing for her to do. And and I'm glad she did for her because it set her up now she's comfortable in her retirement. Yes, yes. Yeah. Now she's having a good time in her retirement and she's still enjoying life. And, and I think that she retired and didn't even move back to work until she was 78. She's just an amazing a woman. And she's, my grandmother was an amazing woman, her mother was an amazing woman. And so the strength sort of comes
in the strength is there. And that's one thing I see with not one thing, that's one of the things Jen that I see with you, there is a real strength about you. And it's a strength of character. But its strength in that, like you have the kindest, kindest heart that I have ever seen in anybody that you are about. Not only yourself, like you're a strong, independent woman. But that sounds like that's part of your, you know, generational, intergenerational elements as well. But you've just got the kindest, most beautiful heart, always there for other people. And we'll talk more about that in a minute as to some of the things that you do for other people. But I think that's just part of who you are, as well.
So back in the back in the day, yeah, back in the 80s. You know, you can have seven years actually, you can have your children charged with uncontrollable and my mother had had enough. And I know, she was dealing with an angry teenager and to other teenagers. You know, she was tired. And I was just I was just the squeaky wheel. I wasn't really doing anything that bad. But I was a naughty teenager. Yeah. You she basically said to me one day, you either going to counselling, or I'm taking you to the police and charging you with uncontrollable. And at the time, I'm like, Oh, I'm too scared of the police. Like I was not about getting in trouble. So I said, Can I take the other option? Wow. It's a pivotal moment in my life where my life changed again, because I sat down and I said to the counsellor, she said, What have you got to say? And I said, What's the point? No one ever listens. And she said, this is your our Utah? Well, I talked and it was almost like, instantly, I just went, thank you. That's all I needed to do was Gosh, and I had this big, the whole of my weight lifted off my shoulders, I felt walked out of the you know, feeling 10 kilo lighter. And we moved to Canberra after that. And I felt like this is a fresh start. And yeah, it was it was a really big moment. But it changed then. So I was 15 When I came to Canberra, but that that then changed, you know, sort of other things that I chose to do later in life, because I knew what it felt like to be heard finally, and I wanted to do that for some other kids. Yeah. So when I was 18, I went to Barnardos to do a French programme, a kids programme, a French programme it was and I was 18. And they said I couldn't do it at 18. I was too young. And I've said, Well, why can you just
explain what Benardos is because there'll be people I speak to this
is Dr. Bananas, originally years ago was a very different thing to now. But it used to take in foster children. And now it runs a whole heap of programmes. And one of the programmes that runs was for children who not necessarily have children who are troubled, but they might be in a family where there's challenges and they are getting ignored or, you know, put aside because there's other challenges the family got to focus on. So it's just it was just a, it was like a big sister on the programme. But I was too young, and they wouldn't let me join. And I was determined, I decided that I wanted to start at 18. So that was that I didn't care what the mother's rules were. So I've had a few discussions with them. And everything. They said to me, I said, but what if this, either so anyway, and they said, All right, we'll give you a try. So I was given a nine year old, which is ironic, because that was exactly the age father died. Wow. And I was given the nine year old boy at the time, and that relationship started lasted for 10 years. I mean, I don't see him now. He'd be like, in his late 40s. But that was his journey in life. And I didn't need him to come back into my life yet, but I just know thank you for me. So he's, he's married or was married in a relationship. He's got four kids. He's he's a good dad. That was my reward. Yeah, beautiful. Yeah. And I did it again one other time for another child. And again, she was nine. It was just ironic. That is very ironic. And she's still in my life. Now. She's now 24. And very much part of my life. Yeah, so that was kind of because I knew what it felt like to be hurt. You know, once it was it's a powerful thing for a child to be finally. And you know, I'm very conscious. I've got two daughters, and I'm very conscious of hearing what they've got to say because it's so empowering. Yeah, it's amazing.
Isn't that? Some things I'm thinking about my son sort of trajectory in life as well. And almost, you know, having been through challenging traumatic moments, they do shape and define you, even though we sort of say, Don't be defined by your past, but they still, it's defined me who I am. And how I choose to live life. You know, I was like you, I was angry, man, I was angry. But then I decided that's not how I want to live life anymore. And a very defining moment for me was about disguising, I can either live in this doom and gloom and continue to, you know, just hate on the world and hate on myself. Or I can actually change the way I think about things and do things differently. And just looking back that, for me, that was probably in my mid 20s, in all honesty that I really went, you know, what I want things to be different, not happy with how it's going at the moment. So I was very, very conscious there. And very conscious around others who have, you know, had shitty things happen in life, and how they're sort of sprinkle a little bit of that, you know, helping them to feel good about themselves in the lives that they're living.
And I think that truly the biggest turning point in my life, following on from all of that was the 24th of March 1989. You know, when I had my first daughter, yeah. Because that was like, you know, pure Well, I found that there is more pure love than that when you have a grandchild, but at the time, that was just like, amazing. You know, this, this first child and they've, you know, had another daughter, three years later, and they will be the two. In my mind the two things that were the greatest things that ever happened to me. Yeah, yeah. It was wonderful. Yeah.
So you're a grandma now,
I am a grandmother super nice, gorgeous grandchild and I feel for other people's children because every conversation I have the second or grandparents tell me the same thing, but that they haven't seen mine yet. The light, but she's just like, she just brings love to everybody. Everybody's you know, she's in the room. And suddenly no one's got there's no, I'll hear their iPhones. They're looking at Charlie doing blowing bubbles. And she knows we're watching. She's seven months old. She knows. Yeah. Yeah. You know, there's just, it's just beautiful. It's just children are just such a joyous thing. And she is just divine. Like, we all love her. And I can give it back when I'm tired.
Do you think it's appropriate Jen to put because my kids don't have kids yet? Do you think it's appropriate for me to kind of pressure them into just asking? You know, it's in case they're listening kids in case you're listening.
You might have Furbabies apparently, that's just as good. But yeah, that is the thing the world is changing. And I love the fact that people can choose not to do that. Absolutely. There's no pressure like I love that.
Please, before anybody writes in and tells me not to put pressure on them. I absolutely don't
just say what you want to do now like if you don't choose to get married, you don't have to get mad. No definite things about a relationship or life now don't just doesn't define how you're going to live your life. You're not losing if you don't buy a house and have children. No, no doubt about the world now a bit more accepting. So that's good.
So Jen, do you think you'll you're because I do see you as being very resilient. And you do have a positive outlook on life? Do you think that where's that kind of come from? Is that come from? You know, the traumatic events of the year dad passing away? Or is that just who you would have been anyway? Do you think
my mother my mother just grabbed me once as pigheaded. I didn't know what that meant. I thought she was telling me I had a head like a pig. But I've always been stubborn. Like I was a child. So I think I had that in me anyway. Like, I think that strength was there anyway. Yeah. Yeah. I was also the oldest. So that might have made a bit of a difference as well. But I don't know. I think the fight came from survival. I don't know. I don't know. Like, I just, I've watched my mother. From the age of nine. Yeah, being strong. And I think it's just naturally happened. And then when I had to be strong, myself, and I, you know, had had two children. I was married for 24 years. And you know, marriage is never perfect, but we had a lot of good years. And when that ended it kind of like I had to redefine who I was. So you always have I think I've had a few moments in my life where I've had to decide who I was. But girls were older then. And then suddenly, I wasn't needing to be their mother. So suddenly, I'm now me on my own again. Who am I like, I'm no longer working for the family. I'm working for me. I'm no longer planning for the family. I'm planning for me. And I hadn't done that everything I've ever done was for the family. You know, every win was for the family. It was never my win. So I didn't I took that I struggled for a little while with,
with some of the things that you Did you recall because there's a lot of women at various stages of life that would be looking for that same? To answer that same question, Who am I? Like even me with the kids, you know, having left Canberra, and that empty nester, and it's like, who am I in the, at that stage of my life? And you know, things that I'm still the same person, but I am showing up differently. So what were some of the things do you remember going thinking about?
Well, it was interesting, because your friendship circles change to Yes. get invited to the dinners, because you're no longer part of a couple people don't take. So it's a really neat. Look, I was really lucky at the time, I had a fantastic job that I really loved. And I was the people I were working with were people from the Pacific. And they were really humbling and grateful and just beautiful people. And I think I was incredibly lucky at that stage. Because I would drive to work with people in the back of the car, I put a guitar in the back of the car, and later we'd sing to work, you know, it was beautiful. Yeah. And I had that interaction with people that were just really humble, who, I don't know, I got so much from it. But I studied for two years. And then every now and then I have a moment and I put a Dell on and I bring a girlfriend and say I'm listening to Adele, and she'd say step away, step away from Adele. It was a struggle, it was really hard because the girls were getting older, they had their lives and I didn't want to be a problem to them. I didn't want them to feel like they had to come and, you know, be with mum every week, because she didn't know what to do. But eventually, I just got on with life. You know, I just kind of figured out I had to get on with life, I had some really lovely friends. And I had friends in the same situation. And we kind of just, you know, experimenting with life again, as you know. And then I just kind of got to a point where I enjoyed that freedom of not having to be committed to being home after work, I could go wherever I wanted, I could plan whatever I wanted to do, mainly no further than, you know, five mile radius, because I didn't have the money to do it. Because I did live on a new budget because I go from two to one, and then we'll get all that stuff. So it was a massive change. But what I have always money has never been a driving force in my life. I've had money and I've had no money and it doesn't matter. Yeah, well, it's gotten through, you know, and I look back and I think well, that was 13 years ago, you know, 13 years ago, who told me that I'd still be doing what I'm doing. I'd say you're mad, you know, like, there's no way in the world. So I had to redefine I had to find a new life and, you know, then things just sort of happened, you know, I was lucky enough to get a gig overseas and go work overseas for two years. And that was a new chapter in my life. And I was you know, I could be me free from everything.
Almost starting from a fresh again, like you said, when you move to Canberra, that was an opportunity to start afresh and then the redefining yourself and having that opportunity to live overseas is that renewal, you know, that renewal process.
And I'd got to achieve something that I've been wanting to achieve. My father was a diver loves the diving. And so I took up diving and I absolutely became obsessed with it. We became if people talk about how they get out of the bed in the morning and meditate or you know, do whatever the routines are luxury chambers, the weekend was diving, that was my meditation, you know, that was my Zen moment, if you want to call it that was just the most peaceful environment I could be in. And I did a lot of that for 12 months, I dived a lot, a lot.
That's yeah. You know, that's really interesting. When you say that Zen moment that brings up diving is not my Zen moment at all. I remember, God it was probably 100 years ago, during the conflict resolution training. And they said they were doing this meditation and just visualise that you're that you're diving underwater and you're surrounded by all this what I'm sure you would find very, very peaceful and cathartic. I actually had a panic attack in rotation, because that does. That just freaks me out on so many levels. Just confinements sorry, that Boston in the background. So that's even just the differences in what, what, what arouses in places, but you were able to do that. And I know you talk about that.
It was really a really important moment. Yes, I'm in my life. And it also got me through another, you know, another point turning point in my life, I guess, because it sort of came after that. The next big turning point in my life after my marriage ended, you know, with two years later when I was was it two years now who was four years later, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and I you know, that was another huge my life. I'd had a friend diagnosed so I kind of knew about Parkinson's, so it wasn't kind of confused about what it was was being me How old were you? Jin? How old 48 at the time? Wow.
Is it common for people with Parkinson's to be diagnosed so young,
they say about 20% is the rough figure in Australia, we say about 20% of the population under the age of 50. When they're diagnosed, wow. So you know, the youngest daughter, who personally that I know is 32, that is a friend of mine. So that's and that's, that brings a whole heap of different challenges like with Parkinson's, when you're diagnosed after 60. It's not going to be different, the challenges are going to be the challenges in terms of your health. But the extra challenges, you're still paying a mortgage, you still got a career when you're under 50 people raising children, so it was a guy and then had to go well, now who am I again, you know, now who am I? Now? I've got the big pee over the top of my head, you know? And is this my life? As you know, I was terrified that five years time because the doctor told me I had five good years left in me. Oh, gosh. You know, I was after 554 What was it?
How long ago was that? That was nearly eight years ago. Yeah. So the doctors saying you've got five good years.
Yeah. So 53 I had myself pitching in a, you know, mobile thing in a nursing home because I live alone. And I wasn't do that. Like it was terrifying. I've thought this was awful. I've since learned you do not let people define
No, no, no
I think there's been studies into that, where doctors have said the prognosis is, you know, six months, 12 months that people are actually that they've listened to that they've allowed that to get into their whole psyche and being like, yeah, maybe that's another conversation for another day. But that that's not cool.
And it's it's time wasting so yeah, you know, from from my experience of being diagnosed with Parkinson's, I, I'm just as angry about the fact that there was no way to go. Nobody told you what to do. They just said, Go and honestly, I remember standing at the register at the counter where I when I got diagnosed a band you I'd already had to go to the doctor for smiling when he told me I had Parkinson's. I said to my future when you're going to diagnose someone, do you think he could wipe the smirk off your face? I was so angry with him. And he also had a really awful haircut. It was like that terrible haircut for there was so much money. I wanted to tell you, but I just told him about smirking. I thought yeah, that's terrible. Yeah, no, but I walked out you know, I'm standing at the at the counter waiting to pay and you know, they taking my card off me and tapping and giving me receipts and I'm blubbering, not even an offer of a ticket a tissue not sit down, do you want a glass of water and yet nothing and it was just such a horrific experience. But like I said, I had a friend who who was who'd been there down that road with for years before and I'd done a lot of reading on her behalf. So I kind of knew what
was what it was, you know that the synth, what were the symptoms, what
it really basic stuff, I had frozen shoulder for a long time I was being treated by with the character, the chiropractor, and then I had a twitching thumb, and then I had a twitching finger. And then I had a twitching muscle in my forearm. And then it just became a tremor. And then it went to my leg and fatigue, huge fatigue. But that's not always the case, because not everyone gets a tremor. So know when you get a chair, it's much easier to diagnose because doctors will be looking for it when you don't have a tremor and you're young, it takes years for a lot
of pain because there's a lot of the symptoms that could be other things.
I don't want to just say you put down that that road straight away, but I had a tremor in my left arm and I had a tremor in my left leg. That was a fear. And as soon as I started medication that all sort of went away. So that was that's one of the indicators, you know, if medication works, then you know because there's when you when you're diagnosed with Parkinson's. Dopamine is the the thing that controls everything in your body, in your brain and your movements, your cognitive stuff, your every system in your body that you can think of it's controlled by the dopamine in your brain and how your brain functions. And you know, by the time you're diagnosed, they believe you've lost about 86% of your dopamine. Wow. Yeah. So naturally over time we lose dopamine, that's common, right? So by the time we're older, we will lose it but with Parkinson's you lose it much quicker. And it affects everything. So, yeah. So I took I had this wonderful, you know, Michael J Fox was the only person that had Parkinson's and he wrote something that I thought was really interesting about Parkinson's you said two things that I that I kind of grabbed on to and then I had this like palmi affirmation thing that I found and I posted on my mirror from day one on the walked out the door. I've still got it on my bathroom mirror. I don't read it. I just have to see the colour of the paper and I know what it means, but I live it now so don't need to read it but it's still there. And basically he said three he said two things. One was acceptance. The sooner you accept something, the quicker you get on with things and acceptance doesn't mean you like it. No I raised you to live your life. And I went, he said words like that. That's how I translate it now and I went powerful, because that's exactly what I did. You know, about five days after I went back overseas after being diagnosed, I was walking on a walking track, crying, thinking my life's gonna be over. And then I remember getting to one corner and just said to myself, you've got to be kidding, you have not got time for this crying get on with it. And I stopped. That was the last time I felt sad about having it and I, I accepted that I had it I didn't, like I didn't like I still wasn't ready for for the programme for the progression or seeing other people who were who progressed along late, but I'd accepted I had it. And that gave me the freedom to then live my life and kind of I'd like to use humour for everything. So that was really great. And I allowed people around me Do not go said to sort of people around me that they have permission to use humour with me as well. And at first, I'd say was that appropriate? And I'd say yes, I've told you to do it. You know, one friend gave me a mouse pad that said, ready said his shirt Ready, steady shake. My daughter gave me a shaky easter egg, you know, like,
I think to their Gen. It's about normalising something and not hiding it. I think that is so incredibly powerful about acceptance. So with the, you know, the diagnosis that you were given, doesn't mean you like it, but you've accepted it. And for me, that is like, you know, I'm I'm studying spiritual psychology at the moment. And that is one of the foundational, like, the principles of spiritual psychology is acceptance, to accept what it is, doesn't mean you have to like it. But when you accept and allow, and then you then say, Well, how am I going to move on with this, because when there's that resistance, it causes a whole lot of either internal stuff going on, or it manifests in just a whole range of shitty ways, as well. So I think that's really powerful to hear that. And I think it's also really powerful to hear about normalising it, it's part of your life, you have never hidden that you've been very, very open. And it's not a well with me, but you're very real about it. And I love I love that because it's also educating other people, you know, for our own health, but also about how to navigate that with other people,
as well. And the second thing that he's Michael J, Fox said, We have no choice about the fact that we have Parkinson's. So you can take Parkinson's out of that and put that anything, you have no choice about whether you have whatever, yet a blank, but you have a million choices about how you choose to deal with it. And that's so that leading on from the acceptance part, and that next part, that was kind of the next thing I live by. And then the third part of it was this thing I had on my wall that says basically, if you believe it's permanent, it will be if you believe you're sick, it will be if you believe nothing will ever get better, it will never get better. And so it's about that language that you use. I never refer to myself as suffering with Parkinson's. But a lot of people say, oh, you know, everyone's suffering with Parkinson's, not everyone's suffering with Parkinson's. And I even people who are suffering with Parkinson's still want to live with Parkinson's and suffering is such a negative word. And I know people suffer, don't get me wrong, I know it and I see it and it's frustrating. And it rips people down that a strong, you know, abled people or it cripples people. But if we use that language ourselves, it's I've I've looked, I've done, I've done interviews where you know, they've wanted to fill me tying up my shoelaces. I know why, because they want people to see that trimmer. That's okay. Whatever it takes is, this is how I feel about it. Whatever it takes to get that message across. I'm never going to sit there and be offended if someone uses the wrong word. I just choose not to use the word suffer. Yeah, I think the minute I suffer, I do not and I still I've got Parkinson's disease. It's a weird thing for me because I don't feel ill. Yeah, I'm not ill. I'm not sick. So you don't do that. I don't feel
it's what they refer to what do they say? You've got Parkinson's disease or you've got Parkinson's disease, Parkinson's. Dis ease? Yeah, he's so when you say disease to someone? Yeah. That's like,
that's a sickness. That's an illness. And yes, it is. But I don't. I just don't. I just don't see it that way.
Yeah, sure. And I think that's when you were saying there about you being mindful of the language that you use. I think that's just in life. Be mindful of the language, you know, what you're putting in to your mind into your body, whether that be food substances, but it's also what you say to yourself and the language and the suffering has a negative connotation. Whereas living with Parkinson's, that's what you're doing. You're living you're you're not denying it. You're not saying you don't have it, whereas I know a lot of people with health challenges they go into that denial You know, I don't want to judge people. But I think that acceptance, acknowledgement, but then, like you said before, you've got the choices, you don't have the choice whether you have it, but you have the choices in how you manage that, you know, both you and I, we lost parents when we were young, we had no choice in that. But we actually had a choice in how we managed it, whether we consciously knew that at the time or not, but a really powerful message for people is whatever is happening in life. It's about how you manage what's happening in life. And so said, you know, you hadn't had the five minute pity party. But anyway, you know what, this is not serving you. So you choose to move on from that. And I think that's really healthy as well. And it doesn't mean that I don't have days, it doesn't mean, I was going to ask that, you know, I
have I have days where I have extreme pain, then when I know that I can modify my meds and that's good. But I don't let that define me. I've got to get down and then I get up again, and I've got some really lovely people that I can confide in that I can can trust. Yes. And that's where I will go with that. That's what I do. And I've said and the reason I talk about my me and what I went through is because and when I was saying about that diagnosis thing, the thing that drives me now is that I while I'm able to I feel like I'm a good example, if you if someone was diagnosed with Parkinson's tomorrow, I would want to meet me. Yeah, not because but because I'm fantastic. Because if I want to see what I'm gonna look like, in eight years, this gives me hope. I've met a lady who was in her 70s, who was still living a very productive life. And that gives me hope. Yeah. And I think that it's not about avoiding the people that are really do have issues living with it, but you can't go down that road. Day one. Yeah, you can't. If you met, the first person you met with Parkinson's was really, really in a bad way. Where does that send your head that gives your head no ability to kind of go, I've got a good I've got a good life ahead of me. Because you don't know enough about it. You don't know that. It's not the same for everyone. You don't know that. There's plenty of things you can do to help yourself. You don't know that there's support out there. You don't know that you can live a productive life because you don't know anything about it. Got it. So if you're gonna if you're gonna get it, like I want people to find someone that they know and that's the saddest part about it. There are so many people isolated. Yes, I this is why I do what I do is because the more I talk about it, the more it normalises it, but it also means It means people can step forward and say I need help. I need to talk to someone. I will have coffee with anyone, anytime, anywhere. I will take a phone call to discuss somebody to talk to someone. I've had people a person ring me on the bus back from Sydney, wanting to talk because they've just been diagnosed.
diagnosed. And you've set up Gen a, you've got a Facebook group, don't you've for Parkinson's, you've set that up? Yeah,
yeah. So what I found was that there were people, there was another page. That was a great page, because there were a lot of people who were retired. Yes. So the question is about how you live and work with Parkinson's, what's your rights in your workplace? How does your family because you might, it might not be about you living with Parkinson's, it might be your family member who's living with Parkinson's and started at work full time. So I set up a page, basically, for people who live and work but it's turned into anything, I never return someone away. There's no tick boxes, get out of my page. It's for anyone who feels they need that positive aspect look. And it's not a huge page, I never set it up to be I didn't care if it had 200 people, I didn't care if it had 6000 people, it was about the people who needed to be there, we're there. And it's been lovely because it's become a little community. And you know, we've met face to face some people I've met face to face, some people we meet over, like being in the internet or whatever. But there's some really wonderful inspiring people living really well with Parkinson's. And I, I just that's the message I keep trying to get out to people is, you know, don't define who you are by someone else's process or progression, because that's not what's going to happen for you.
And we could even take that further in, don't define yourself by other people. Like whether, you know, if we take it out, you know, when you said before, you could we can just apply that to life. And what's next for you, Jen?
Look, I'm just working with got three years left of work that I want to make 60 to retire. Yeah. And then I want to do I keep doing what I'm doing with people with Parkinson's? Because I know it's so important. And I think the thing we forgot after the Parkinson's was a doctor diagnosed with breast cancer, which what led me to doing so much with Parkinson's because when I got diagnosed with breast cancer, they gave me so much information. They were so sure, it was so well set up and I went this is really bad. You know, there's got to be a contrast which is what drove me to, you know, again, another defining moment of who I am now, you know, breathless and whatever else but I could I could talk all day about that stuff. But at the end of the day, it was the same. I had to imply the same thing to that as I applied to Parkinson's Again, except it, yeah, you know, choices about how to deal with it. And that's what I chose to do. It was a tough 12 months, it was much harder than Parkinson's. But at the end of the day, it gave me the catalyst to do what I'm doing now, for people that were with Parkinson's, and I spend, I'll do anything people need help with, I'll listen to anybody who needs to be heard. Because I, I understand what that early days are like until you find your feet. And I say to people, you know, again, this can be applied to anything, because the sooner you get your head in the game, doesn't matter what medication you're taking, soon as you get your head in the game soon as you find out what you need to do for you. And as soon as you start that taking action for your life, because we are the worst advocates of ourselves. We don't you know, we go to a doctor surgery and the doctor will say, as my doctor did, you've got got five good years. I mean, I should have picked up something on the table of throw today. Debbie told me what
Absolutely I get, I get very, so
I'm a big, I'm a big push for tell people to be their own advocate, you know, don't take, don't go to the doctors, or take a list of questions to the doctor. Yes, he's got 20 minutes, he's gonna push you out the door, because he's got other patients said, I'm pretty sure that if you've got 10 Questions to Ask, and you don't leave that surgery till those 10 questions are answered.
Yeah, and you're really good support for people. Because often when they're in the midst of, you know, a diagnosis and life changing diagnosis, they're not thinking clearly. So what I've observed is that you're there, from your experience, to help other people to make it. I don't know whether easier is the right term, but you certainly are there to help other people in their experiences, because not everybody has the resources at, you know, the, the resources to manage things themselves. So
there's a grieving process when you go through the grieving process, and most people don't look at it that way. Absolutely. And some people are too hard on themselves, around them don't understand what they're going through. It's hard to articulate. So you know, people relationships, a stretch, because you know, suddenly the whole, that person's changed, cognitively, they've changed their moods may change. Things may change about them. And not everybody can handle it. My daughters are wonderful, but they don't like talking about it. Interested in wonderful support. And that's, that's their coping mechanism. I know. They're proud of how I handle it. I know they're very, very supportive of me. But they don't necessarily talk about Parkinson's as such, because the reality of it, they talk about the superficial stuff, but that's their way of coping. And that's fine. Yeah, that's absolutely fine. I'm not going to tell them, you know, they, they, they'll be there for me, and they'll be there for me. But that's fine. And that is my drive is to stay well. So I'm not that they had their lives. They raised their kids, they do all the stuff they're going to do whatever it is they want to do and stop that for me yet.
That's interesting, too, being cognizant of people's reactions, and not imposing. It's about navigating it together. So it's not imposing your way onto them. It's about being mindful. And I think so many things that you've talked about Jen are certainly in relation to your journey with Parkinson's, but really, they are applicable to journey in life. All of our journeys in life, they're really powerful pearls of wisdom. Where can people find you? Jen, what's your? So you've got your Parkinson's Facebook group?
Yeah. So that's called living living with Parkinson's, in Australia and New Zealand. So people from New Zealand, where else can they find me Gee, I don't know if they and
Harkness on his when he wants to connect on Facebook.
If anybody does want to connect, I guess they can contact you through the happiness.
Details. They're absolutely here. So
what's for me now is I want to get automated, which is my old caravan that I bought back on the road and go and do some holidays with her. I've got now big plans to renovate some more of her look. And the other thing for me with with about anything anybody has is if you're feeling good, don't feel bad just because other people need to see you limp. You know, if you're if you're, if you've got something that's going on, and you're having a good day, have a good day, don't worry what people are gonna say, I thought you had a chronic pain. I thought you had chronic illness or a thought, have you good day and who cares what other people think because you should be wanting to get better. You should be doing things to make yourself feel good. So don't ever apologise for I mean, I've got I remember they gave me a disability parking and I used to live for the first couple of months. I would do my people judging me for having it on days that I needed that so I don't need any more. And if you want to challenge me challenge me because it's fine. I turned those challenges into opportunities to educate.
Yeah, I think also, I see a lot of people dwelling their own sparkle? Because not wanting to sort of shine too brightly. For others I think that's the same sort of message isn't it Jenny's to own who you are and own
and the reverse of it the reverse of it too is we all have bad days as human beings. Is this part of who I am? I still get colds. Yes. Leave because I sprained my ankle. You know, like quite often trying to study Are you okay? And I'm like, Yes, I'm fine. I'm you know, just sitting too long. Like
Yes. Life goes on
like other stuff that happens in my life and I'm really lucky that I have wonderful friends read sometimes I think they'll think I'm you know, fallen to pieces or something and now I'm just singing now I'm 57 nearly and I'm you know, in my bones Creek when I go to the gym the next day, I'm in pain. Yeah. So life is normal. And this was an honour to find everything that I do the morning I can tell what Spags is and what's not defined myself by my Parkinson's. I have it. I speak about it because it's really important to get awareness out there and to get others to, because I'm really passionate about getting and that's anything that takes anything it the sooner you get help, the better. You get your head in the game that that living Yeah, miss too much if you don't do
it. Yeah. I Jen that has been absolutely beautiful. And I have loved you know, we could talk forever, part two in the in the wings. So thank you, Hudson happiness to you. And thank you very, very much. Thank
you so much. That was awesome. Love that. Thank you.
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