Ep. 14 Jeanette Bennett: Sharing the Stories of Struggle Can Progress Your Healing And Others!

Ken Krogue: Hello everybody, Thom Harrison and Ken Krogue with Eternal Core. Today we’ve got Jeanette Bennett from Utah Valley Magazine.

Jeanette Bennett: Yes. Hello.

Ken Krogue: Good to have you with us today. Thanks so much.

Jeanette Bennett: I’m excited to be here with both of you.

Thom Harrison: Thank you so much for coming. We appreciate it.

Jeanette Bennett: Thank you.

Ken Krogue: Tell us about how you got into the whole media world.

Jeanette Bennett: Okay, so I grew up in southeastern Idaho, and my older sister played school, and I played journalist. It was my childhood game. I would pretend to predict the weather, and I had a chart on the wall. And I would make little newsletters for my sister’s school, pretend school. I just loved the idea of telling stories and sharing those stories with readers. So in high school, I got a job with the local TV station and got a taste of the broadcast world. And then, as I went to college, I just always had jobs. I was making my way through school. And I always got jobs related to journalism. So I worked at the college papers, at the different schools that I went to, and was the editor. In fact, at BYU, I was the editor of The Universe, which is the most ostentatious title ever at a job in The Universe.

Thom Harrison: Now you can become the editor of the pluraverse.

Jeanette Bennett: That’ll be my next goal. That’s my bucket list item. Right. And I worked at the New Era magazine and the Deseret News. And I just loved the idea of grabbing information, figuring out how to assimilate it, and share it with people in an interesting and creative way. And the entrepreneurial part of me didn’t come until I became a mom. So I became a mom 21 years ago. I didn’t know how to let those two worlds collide, of motherhood and this career that I had started. I had finished a bachelor’s and master’s in communications. And it was the entrepreneurial side of me that came out to solve that problem of how could I keep writing, and keep producing, and also take care of this baby boy that I loved so much. So, shortly after he was born, we started our publishing company. I say we, it’s my husband and I, and of course now a staff and everything like that. But it was really motherhood, and that need to create and also be there for him and the other kids that came after, that led me to start the company. And it’s been a wonderful journey.

Ken Krogue: How many employees now?

Jeanette Bennett: So we have about 14, and then other freelancers as well that are mostly previous employees of ours that are home raising their families, that contribute in offsite ways.

Ken Krogue: Now Thom has a bit of a background in broadcast journalism.

Thom Harrison: That was my first degree.

Jeanette Bennett: Okay. In broadcast journalism?

Ken Krogue: He’s got that big, deep voice.

Jeanette Bennett: Yes, you do. Wow. Okay.

Thom Harrison: Yeah, I was during the era in the sixties of the disc jockey. So I had a show in Hollywood, and it was quite a fun experience. But, I came to the realization that I think I wanted to do more than just speak into a microphone and do commercials, you know? So I decided to go back to college and boy did I go back to college.

Jeanette Bennett: Wow. So you’ve had different chapters of your life, it sounds like. Well, that’s great. Well, it has been just my passion. Like I said, from when I was a little child, my older sister became a teacher. So sometimes I think what we enjoy as children, those can be clues as to who our core soul is. And that was the case for me. So I’ve enjoyed it. We produce a lot of magazines and digital content as well. So it’s been a fun journey of doing a lot of interviewing of people and basically listening. I feel like I’m a professional listener, and you learn a lot when you listen.

Thom Harrison: Right.

Ken Krogue: Well, you have a good way of pulling stories out of people. We had breakfast with Jeanette, and our team here at Mobaliz, and she started sharing some of her story. You know, we told her about Eternal Core. She’s going to be one of the MC’s helping moderate some of the panels at our show at the end of March. And you started sharing a pretty amazing story. In fact, you did a Ted talk about it. Do you mind walking us through that core story that you’ve been through.

Jeanette Bennett: Yes, I will. So when I was 10, I was growing up in southeastern Idaho. Both of my parents were from California, from the bay area. So my two grandmothers who lived there, and when I was 10, both of them passed away for different reasons. One grandma named Lola passed away from cancer. She had battled cancer for about three years. And my other grandma Lois, she took her own life, which was a confusing thing for a child to navigate. In fact, when my parents gathered us and told us that grandma had passed away, they didn’t explain the reason. It was just, “Get in the car. We’re going to California.” And there was a lot of whispering and different feelings involved from the other grandma who had passed away from cancer. So we arrived in California and all the cousins were trying to figure out what had happened. We really were not told the story. In fact, it was a few weeks later, when I overheard my mom on the phone telling a friend, telling one of her friends how grandma had passed away.

Jeanette Bennett: And that inadvertently taught me a couple of things. It taught me that we shouldn’t talk about these things and that there was shame involved with her mental illness. And it sent me on this lifelong quest of trying to understand maybe what grandma went through, what she felt. And I became more aware than I would have been otherwise about whether people were happy or not, and what was really going on beneath the surface. And it’s become an interest and a passion of mine. So my Ted talk, I actually started off by telling the story of Grandma Lois and how she passed away, and how I became, like I just mentioned, really interested in happiness and the different facets of that. So for this talk, I cataloged some of the things I’ve noticed that happy people talk about as I’ve listened to many through the years, through a couple of decades of being a journalist.

Jeanette Bennett: I’ve come up with some common patterns, conversation patterns, that I believe happy people use in their day-to-day conversation. For example, happy people talk about their dreams, you know. Happy people talk about the future. Happy People talk positively about other people. They see other people’s successes as something to celebrate, and not feel competitive with, and not let that make them feel less than. Happy people just love to celebrate other people. So those were some of the things that I shared in my Ted talk. And it continues to be an interest of mine. And now that I have five kids that are in different stages of life, I’m interested in what’s going on in their mind. How they’re processing the things that happened to them—their disappointments and their successes and their friendships. So it’s been an ongoing quest of mine to really get to know people and understand the things that they’re going through.

Ken Krogue: Well, that’s incredible to move from an experience at 10 years old, dealing with someone who took their own life that you loved and cared about deeply. That’s become a big topic today.

Jeanette Bennett: It really has.

Ken Krogue: You know, dealing with suicide and awareness. There’s been a lot of press recently, a lot of stories going on. But you chose, as a happy person, to take a path to examine, perhaps a solution, perhaps the way to address it.

Jeanette Bennett: Yes. And I think part of that is just communicating about it. I think that was the first barrier that had to come down is that we can talk about this. It’s not something to be ashamed of. If we’re struggling with depression or whether it’s one bad day, or a period, or a season of life of depression, let’s talk about it. That’s solution number one I think is communicating about it. So I’ve had other close family members that have dealt with anxiety and depression. And my daughter lost two very close friends to suicide. So we’ve, this has been an ongoing discussion item.

Jeanette Bennett: And it’s not like I have all the solutions, but I do think talking about it, taking the shame away and saying, “Let’s really get real about what we’re facing here.” And I think we can do that and still be positive. You know, I think we can still say, “Everything’s going great,” but then we’ve got to be real about what’s actually hard for us. I don’t think my grandma was able to do that in a way that was helpful to her. I know, as a grandchild, I didn’t know that she was struggling. And my parents, I don’t know that they knew everything that she struggled with too. So that could have been really helpful for her is we could have been a support system. So I think that’s step number one is let’s get real. Let’s talk about it.

Thom Harrison: Yeah. My most significant other in my childhood was my paternal grandmother. My father was an alcoholic or working alcoholic. In the morning, he would put two eggs in a blender and put two cups of whiskey, and that was his breakfast. He died at 48. It was interesting, my grandmother, never talked about anything negative about anyone in their family. When she wrote her history, it was all brightness and light, you know. And I remember as a child thinking, “Wow. There were a lot of things going on in this family, that no one’s willing to talk about.” And then, when she died, after I returned from an LDS mission, I read for the first time… My grandmother passed when I was about 15 and a half, almost 16. So after the mission, I came back and it was the first time I read her history.

Thom Harrison: I found it fascinating how that generation only spoke about positive things. There was all this trauma and none of it was even mentioned, ever, in her history. And I thought, “Well that’s interesting. It’s not honest, but it’s interesting.” And I think that was one of the things that really drove me into being a mental health professional. Because, I really wanted to understand why that takes place, what that’s all about, and why people present this just, pie in the sky idea of their lives, when her life was really quite difficult. I think if she would have been more honest about it, then people would have rallied. But that was something that you just didn’t do in the 50s and the 60s.

Jeanette Bennett: They must’ve been so lonely then, not being able to share that burden with other people.

Thom Harrison: Her husband was a bishop of the LDS church for a very long time, close to 20 years. He was a bishop in Star Valley, and then moved to California, and was one of the first bishops down in the Los Angeles area. He died fairly young also of prostate cancer. So she lived a good almost 20 years without him. But, you know, I find it fascinating. And that’s one of the things I would like to talk about at the conference is the transition, but the importance of being honest in your history. The importance of being able to speak about those things, and not have to trash people, but to just speak honestly about that process. I think, still today, we do a lot of speaking, but do we look at ourselves? Can we really honestly look at our history and look at what we’ve gone through? For me, it’s been very important to do that.

Jeanette Bennett: I think so. One of my favorite people to interview are 50 and above, because they’ve processed what’s happened in their lives. And when they can process it, and share the lessons they’ve learned, the patterns they’ve seen, and they can see where one path led to another path, those are the best interviews. I mean I love to interview the 20-year-old American idol contestants and things, but they haven’t really processed what’s happened. And they’re still pie in the sky, which is so fun, and there’s an energy about that. But, the real gift, the real wisdom, comes when we can process our story.

Thom Harrison: That’s beautiful

Jeanette Bennett: And share it. We need to be better about sharing our stories.

Thom Harrison: All of my six children, they’re adults now, and I used to think, “Boy, when my kids become adults, isn’t it going to be wonderful? To have this wonderful relationship with them?” And then I realized, “No, they’re all individuals. They’ve all made their choices.” And I still have a relationship with them, but I have to drop that conceptualization of what I thought it would look like and look at what it truly is.

Jeanette Bennett: Right. I have two young adult kids, so I’m just entering that phase. I have two in college, two in junior high, and a first grader. So I’m starting to see what you’re describing. That we all have to make our own choices and live our own lives.

Ken Krogue: Now, you tried to name… I mean you named your daughter after your grandmother. Talk about that for just a minute. That’s a beautiful story.

Jeanette Bennett: So my daughter, who is six, she’ll be seven soon. She’s our baby. She’s our family mascot. We all just adore her. She’s so much younger than the others, and we’re just having a blast with her. So I had my four kids and life was going well. And I was serving as a young woman leader, and running a business, and feeling like the family was probably complete. But I kept having some recurring thoughts that maybe that wasn’t the case. And I trained for this half marathon that I was running, and it was a half marathon to raise money for cancer. Well, Lola, so not the one who took her life, but the other grandma named Lola, she died of cancer. And they gave us a sticker we could put on our back during the race where we could run for someone, a survivor, or someone who had passed from cancer. So I decided to put her name on my back. Well, half marathon, are either of you runners?

Thom Harrison: I used to be.

 Ken Krogue: I ran the St. George Marathon, Once is enough.

Jeanette Bennett: Okay, good for you.

Ken Krogue: I was in the Clydesdale division, where you just are glad you finished, but I did.

Jeanette Bennett: And see, a full is twice as long as a half. I’ve never done a full.

Ken Krogue: And twice as crazy.

Jeanette Bennett: Yeah. But on the half marathon, about halfway through, just my mind was getting bored. I was getting tired and everything. So I thought just mentally what I’m gonna do is I’m going to think about Lola, my grandmother. Everything I could remember about her, everything I knew about her. So I started to remember, “Okay, she graduated in English. I graduated in journalism. We would love to talk about words. And she was a musician, and I’m also a musician.” So I thought, “Oh, we would love that.” And then I thought about her children, and her family started with two boys, two girls, which is exactly what I had at the time. So I was thinking about her family, and mine, and the bedrooms, and the kids. And then I had this very powerful experience where I felt like… In fact, I felt like I left the race for a moment. And she, my grandma Lola, said, “You still have your Mary” was the message. And the way that I understood that, she had a fifth child, baby girl, much younger than the other four. “You still have your Mary.”

Jeanette Bennett: So when I hit the ground again in the race, I processed that for the rest of the race of what that could mean. Then, when I got home from the race, my daughter, who she’s 18 now, she was 11 at the time, she said, “Mom, I had a dream this morning.” It was, she says, “It was a birthday holiday. I don’t know if it was Christmas or my birthday.” “It was a present holiday” is what she said. “And my present was a baby sister.” So I had her tell me everything about this, because her dream happened about the same time I had been in the race that morning. Well soon, I found out I was expecting, and it was on that daughter’s birthday. That was the due date. And I felt that it would be a little girl based on the experiences. So we named her Lola, after my grandma, who I had had the experience within the race. And she was born on another great grandma’s birthday, my husband’s grandma Fern. So, my daughter’s name is Lola fern. And it’s an old lady name for this little beautiful child.

Ken Krogue: But those names are coming back. It’s fun to watch.

Jeanette Bennett: Yeah, the old names come back.

Ken Krogue: They’re really coming back. How beautiful.

Jeanette Bennett: So it was a precious experience and a bonding experience for me with my grandma. And she said it in a way I would understand. “You’ll still have your Mary, your youngest daughter.” So she’s been a wonderful part of our family. She’s the glue to our family. We all love and adore her.

Ken Krogue: You mentioned a minute ago that you’ve worked with young women a lot. I mean, I think 10 years with all the different… And you’ve engaged in an amazing adventure, where you’ve actually taken a group of young women back to the United Nations. Can you tell us about that?

Jeanette Bennett: Yes. So, a few years ago, someone who I had interviewed for Utah Valley magazine, she’s on the left there, Ann Takasaki. I had done a little write up on her. She and I were having a conversation about something else, and she said, “You really need to talk to this woman who’s going to be taking a delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women,” which is one of the United Nations events. And I immediately felt pulled to this. So I contacted her, and I started going to this annual meeting in March in New York, Commission on the Status of Women. And kept feeling like I should bring some young women there to help experience that. It’s a very divisive environment about women’s issues. There’s a prevailing feeling that for women to get equality, they need to be a lot like men. Which means, don’t get married and have children. That makes you unequal.

Jeanette Bennett: There were a lot of things that didn’t really match my experience and my beliefs. So I thought, “Some young women back here would bring such a light. And they could learn so much. These people could learn a lot from these young women.” So I started down that path of figuring out how to do this. And I put out a call to see if some young woman would want to apply for the opportunity. Well, a lot of applications came in. That became a hard chore, to whittle 100 applicants down to 8. We selected eight to go with us. This was 2017 that we took these eight girls here. And I put in to have an event, to host an event, and had every reason to think we would be accepted and on the agenda, especially because the United Nations loves young people.

Jeanette Bennett: So I thought that would work. So we picked the girls, booked the flights, planned everything out, got their email, “You have been rejected from the schedule. You’re not having an event at the United Nations.” Well, I didn’t know what to do with that email right off, because I didn’t want to tell these girls or their parents that what you have signed up to do, go and speak at the United Nations isn’t going to work. So wheels were turning, and what we decided to do, and some doors that kind of opened, was for us… Across the street from the United Nations, there’s a hotel called the UN hotel. It’s basically on the campus, but it is across the street. And we booked a room there and planned an event.  The downside was we’d have to do all our own marketing. It wasn’t going to show up in anyone’s schedule. It wasn’t going to be in the App or on any printed schedules. So we decided we’re going to take that on. We’re going to do our own event. We’ll make it great.

Ken Krogue: Well you’re pretty good at that. You’ve done that a little bit.

Jeanette Bennett: I know, but this is in a new city with people from around the world. How do you get the word out?

Ken Krogue: So only one arm’s tied behind your back.

Jeanette Bennett: Yes, exactly. So we’re back there at the UN, and the night before our event, it’s a beautiful blue-sky day. We started getting alerts, “There’s going to be a storm come in.” Well it seems very unlikely. The skies look beautiful. This hadn’t been in the forecast previously, but sure enough, a storm rolled in throughout the night. The next morning, the UN was closed. They closed the UN for the whole day. But, we had rented a room across the street that was not closed. So we had… part of the subway was closed. So we trudged through the snowstorm and made our way there. There were all these people in town, who had no other events to go to, that came to this hotel. So the girls were out on the sidewalk all that morning, and in the lobby telling people, “Come on upstairs at 10,” you know. We’re going to have this presentation.

Jeanette Bennett: So we had a room full of people that were wowed by these girls. And they each took a topic, faith-related topics: faith, divine nature, individual worth, choice and accountability, good works, integrity and virtue. They took a UN approach to it, using statistics and data related to why service, why knowledge empowered women, opened doors for them. The young woman who spoke about virtue, talked about the benefits of two parent families. So there was a research twist on these young woman values that they had grown up learning about. So they knocked it out of the park. All eight of them did. We had a room full of people that were really impressed with them. So, it was a really awesome experience. And we’re still close. We were there, it’s March, and so we were there on Pi Day 3/14. So we continue to have a reunion every Pi Day with these girls and we catch up. But they’re all doing great things with their education and their service opportunities and things.

Thom Harrison: It’s always fascinating to me how, when someone closes a door, the Lord always opens a window.

Jeanette Bennett: It’s really true.

Thom Harrison: And creates things that we initially think, “Oh no, this is a bummer, this isn’t going to work.” And then, he says, “Behold, the majesty of the Lord. Let me show you what I have planned.” And then it turns out much better than we ever even hoped it to, so what a wonderful story. 

Jeanette Bennett: Thank you.

Thom Harrison: In my seven decades on this earth, I’ve seen that happen many, many times, where a door has been slammed and barred, but the window was open. And what happens from that is far better than anything. I think that’s a wonderful metaphor for mental health. That many times people think, “Okay, all the doors are closed for me.” But sometimes, that’s how the spirit works. To say, “This direction is not where I want you to go. This is where I don’t need you to go, but let me show you this. And if you’ll just trust, I will open up five other doors that have just been slammed in your face.”

Jeanette Bennett: That’s beautiful. That’s beautiful. And I think we can see, looking back in our lives, how that happened for us. How a door was closed, but a window opened. So the trick is just when we’re in the middle of it, to trust that what’s happened in the past, that God did have a better plan. That is also going to occur now in this difficulty. When the snow storm was rolling in, I had those moments of panic of, “Oh no, now I’ve brought them all here.” And then, when I started to see what he was actually doing…

Ken Krogue: That’s amazing.

Jeanette Bennett: I was overjoyed. I couldn’t believe it. The thing is that the day they closed the UN, all those sessions were rescheduled for the next week or something. If that had happened to us, we couldn’t have flown back to do it. It would have created a huge problem.

Ken Krogue: So he said, “You need an audience, I’ll bring you an audience.”

Thom Harrison: “I will create a space and an audience, and it will be better than what you even thought it would be.”

Jeanette Bennett: In a way, I couldn’t envision. I mean, closing the UN. I didn’t even know that was a possibility. People have flown in from around the world.

Thom Harrison: Well everything shuts down when there’s two inches of snow back there. They’re not Utah.

Jeanette Bennett: No, they’re not, or Idaho.

Ken Krogue: That’s for sure. Well, when we were talking earlier, you mentioned that you’ve got to know Clay Olsen and Fight the New Drug. He’ll be speaking at the show, and Tim Ballard is going to be there.

Jeanette Bennett: I love it. It’s so great. 

Ken Krogue: You know, as you’re driving up by I-15, you’re seeing billboards of the opioid addiction epidemic. And, you know, we’ve been talking earlier about some of the challenges our young people have. Well all, I mean up and down the boards, with different forms of addictions. You get to interview a lot of people. Is that becoming a stronger theme in the stories and the things that you’re finding out there in the media?

Jeanette Bennett: That they’re having to overcome some addictions?

Ken Krogue: Addictions and challenges

Jeanette Bennett: Absolutely. And the people who are willing to open up about their story and what they’ve learned, people flock to those stories. Those are some of our most read stories. People want to read and learn from other people I think. And there’s getting to be less stigma about sharing the stories. And we need to be able to open that up even more, because we learn so much from those stories. Now it’s usually the people who have overcome it, and have a happy ending, who are ready to share it, but even those who are struggling through it. I love it when people are confident enough and vulnerable enough to admit what they’re struggling with. It’s a really powerful connector.

Ken Krogue: Well, and you use the word vulnerable. I know, Brené Brown, that’s a theme that’s just had massive appeal. About vulnerability, being willing to share. You know, when I had this car accident that I’ve been through about three years ago, crazy things happened to me. But it was only when I was willing to talk about them that all the rest of these different projects started really taking flight. So do you find that millennials particularly are really drawn to vulnerability and authenticity in the media, or do they still mask it a little bit?

Jeanette Bennett: I think they’re very much drawn to it. They’re growing up in this world where they’re inundated with messages with social media, digital forms, every App imaginable. And I think they get tired of the polished facade. They can spot those pretty easy. And they want to really connect with someone who’s being real. So I think that younger generation, they are demanding that. They want that. Which means that they are and will be more open themselves, I think.

Thom Harrison: Well one of the main aspects of Eternal Core, God-centric mental health is we’re asking people to share their core stories. And we all have a core story. I don’t think there… I don’t know any uninteresting people.

Jeanette Bennett: I don’t either.

Thom Harrison: We all have this amazing internal core, but I think over the years, we’ve been frightened to share those. And that’s one thing about this whole process is to learn to find a community where you can share stories. And you can find that there are many other people who’ve had very similar experiences you have. If you come together with those individuals, you can find ways out. We can learn from one another and grow. That’s one of our major goals at Eternal Core is to help people be able to express those stories, come to Eternal Core and share them with an entire community. Because, it’s in relationships, we heal.

Jeanette Bennett: I like that.

Thom Harrison: Often, I think people believe that, “No, it’s just gotta be this private process,” you know, “Just between me and my doctor.” But, it’s in a relationship of community, that we heal so much more than just keeping those things inside and pretending that we are not dysfunctional. We’re all dysfunctional. We all have our difficulties. We all have our weakness.

Jeanette Bennett: I’m involved in the United Way here in our community. And the big push this year is everyday strong to help, especially our school-age children to thrive. So of course they need their physical needs met. But, above that, next to above that, after their physical needs are met, their basic need is connectivity. That’s one of the really important things that our youth, all of us, but especially our children too, they need to connect with people. That’s one of our major human needs. And, like you said, people need to share their stories. Sometimes people don’t know how, you know. Sometimes when I interview people, they’re nervous. They’re not opening up. Even famous people do that to me sometimes. I think it’s because they’re used to, “This is the facade I show the world.” And they don’t want me to come around.

Ken Krogue:        They don’t want the privacy opened up.

Thom Harrison:                  Well, it’s so dictated to them by everyone that’s around them. And they say, “We have to present this.”

Jeanette Bennett:            “This is the brand that we will show”

Thom Harrison:                  Right. Well, when we present the brand all the time, our true self, our core self is left out. And that’s when, often, addiction comes in or other things come in to try and replace that process.

Jeanette Bennett:            That’s really true. One thing that I found of people who are able to share their stories is that they have gone through that process of understanding them themselves. And journaling is a real key for that. That can be done in a variety of ways, but I think it’s really important for all of us to write down our thoughts, or even taking pictures or snapshots of text conversations or something. Something to document our lives, helps us process as we’re looking back. And I think it’s really important.

Ken Krogue:        Well, let’s talk about documenting our lives cause we have a cool new idea.

Jeanette Bennett:            Cool.

Ken Krogue:        We have a partner of ours, a business partner, that’s been working on an App. It’s called Lifey App. Now, when you take a photo of yourself, that’s a selfie. So, a self video, is a lifey. We’re going to… Actually, as part of the community for Eternal Core, we’re going to ask all of us, everyone involved, to take their core story. Sort of like you shared today, the story of your grandmother. Those core stories that have shaped and become junction points in our lives. And we’re going to share those core stories online with our fellow community members, and see if we can help others through the adventures of life with the stories we’ve been through. So this is Jeanette Bennett. She’s been years involved with young women, with media. She’s been a force for good here in our community. She’s joining us at Eternal Core March 29th and 30th. She’ll be moderating a couple of the panels. Thank you for joining us today, and sharing just a bit of your core story. We’re going to look to hear a lot more.

Jeanette Bennett:            All right. I look forward to it. Thanks to you both.

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