If I had to choose one thing that most impressed me about Jen Powley and her book, Just Jen, it
would be her unmitigated honesty. She cuts no corners, softens no edges. Ms. Powley presents her memoire of her struggle with progressive multiple sclerosis in blunt detail as she faces again and again the recurring question, What now? The sense of touch has gone, fine motor movement gone. What now? The leg muscles have quit, no more walking. What now? Urinary control, bowel control have left the building. What now? In each case, Jen strives forward, forever adjusting to the absence of abilities that are forever departing, growing outward into new realities even as she grows downward, deep-ward into newfound strength of spirit and soul. So many of us who are living with debilitating disease experience this ironic sort of liberation from self – a shift outward to others, a heightened appreciation, a communion of mutual struggle in so many forms.
Many times, one may find a book that kind of tries to tread lightly around the many crippling effects of MS – as if our feelings need to be spared, or perhaps false hope is better than hard facts. This sort of thing, though well intentioned, does us no favors. The phrase “Give it to me straight, Doc” comes to mind. And Just Jen does just that. It is what it is.
And people are what people are. Though separated from the crowd by her increasingly deteriorating condition, Jen does not allow us to forget that she is, that all of us are, just as fully human as anyone else. We love, we desire, we crave relationship. We are strong, weak, ambitious, fearful, sexual, absolutely equal in humanity despite this rebellion of the body. Those who do not have to deal with a disease like MS tend to distance themselves with the employment of an underlying belief, though most often on an unconscious level, that those whose limitations make them different have somehow become limited as human beings. Ms. Powley will not allow us to rest in that mindset, and it is this
connection to the essential, irreducible equality in humankind that undergirds her memoire as surely as a great tree’s deep root system.
We connect. The light goes on. We learn. We grow.
[Just Jen will be available from stores in May and can be ordered at the website below.
Published by Roseway Publishing
an imprint of Fernwood Publishing
32 Oceanvista Lane, Black Point, Nova Scotia, b0j 1b0 and 748 Broadway Avenue, Winnipeg, Manitoba, r3g 0x3 www.fernwoodpublishing.ca/roseway]