Jillian Manus talks life challenges with Diane Dwyer in prelude to Peninsula Volunteers Authors Salon

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on February 3, 2017

All the hallmarks of a “good girl chat” were present last Tuesday afternoon when Atherton resident Jillian Manus (pictured right) sat down to discuss struggles, successes and new directions in her life and career with broadcast journalist Diane Dwyer (left).

The event kicked-off the Peninsula Volunteers‘ 26th annual  Authors Salon, which will be held at the Sharon Heights Golf & Country Club on Sunday, March 26, 2017, and feature authors Joyce Maynard, Frances Dinkelspiel, Mark Shaw, Jan Ellison, and C.W. Gortner (moderator). Tickets are $150 and can be purchased by calling Cathy Duhring at 650-326-0665.

Jillian has weathered numerous ups and downs in her lifetime, enough stories to fill a slumber party weekend rather than a conversation lasting a little over an hour. Diane framed the chat by saying: “Jillian’s life is remarkably interesting with careers in banking, as a literary agent, and now VC. We’ve decided to focus on three themes — sisterhood, pain, and self.”

On sisterhood, Jillian spoke about her “Broad Squad” and about her fellow Peninsula Volunteers gathered in the audience. “We have a commitment to each other and to the community. When I was in the hospital recovering from a fall and learning to walk again, one of the things that sustained me was the letters, cards and jokes, the outpouring of this tremendous sisterhood. I thank God for all of you!

“My friends and love are the two things I need most every day…the PVs represent that. That is what we should be doubling down on.”

Regarding pain, Jillian reflected back during the time she was a patient at Stanford Hospital. “Every morning they’d come and scrape the bottom of my feet and I’d feel nothing. I didn’t sleep because I didn’t want to wake up and realize this is real, not a nightmare.

“I have an incredible connection to God. I’m half Jewish and half Christian, which makes me incredibly guilty!..I sat [in the hospital paralyzed] and said, ‘Ok, God, here we go. I’m going to make a deal with you. If you can get me out of this wheel chair, I’ll never complain about pain again. I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all.

“It was an ah-ha moment to me. I feel the pain, embrace the pain, and figure out how to redirect it. If I didn’t feel pain I wouldn’t feel happiness. If you don’t hit that part of your heart, you won’t be able to connect to other people’s pain.

“We’re always saying ‘life is fine.’ It’s never fine, let’s be real. It’s ok to be vulnerable, to show the cracks. I didn’t know what love was until I was 55. I embraced my vulnerability and fell in love. It’s ok to say ‘I’m not fine.’ It’s ok to say ‘I need help.'”

As for “self”, Jillian reflected on why women are so hard on themselves. “Don’t be your own worst enemy” she admonished the audience (of mostly women). “Instead talk to yourself about being good and smart.

“The fact is life is one big challenge, sprinkled with joy. I start each day with the mindset that I’m going to make this a good day. Evolve every day. Learn something new every day. If you’re going to take anything away from this talk we’re having, be good to yourself!”

As this point in the conversation, Diane brought up what she called the “elephant in the room that lives in a big house that is white.” She continued: “You’ve been a Republican fundraiser, I’m curious, where are you going now?”

“It’s tumultuous,” replied Jillian….Here’s the thing. I was and I am a Republican, socially-inclusive, fiscally responsible. Inclusive and responsive – that’s the ‘We Party.”

“Here’s what I say about Trump: it’s very hard for parents. If you’re a bully and mean and hurt people and are abusivie and don’t pay your taxes and if you lie, you’ll become President.

“God willing. I hope he gets his act together. I hope that democracy continues, the land of the free and the home of the brave. Whatever happens, we will have a president who is not a role model for our kids. Where this all lands, who knows. We are throwing the country up in the air and seeing where it falls down.”

Photo by Irene Searles

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