"The worst thing about being a woman and having cerebral palsy is plucking your eyebrows. That's how I got pierced ears."
I found that quote by Geri Jewell a couple of years ago when embarking on a big project which is moving slowly towards completion. I found it tremendously funny and quiet affirming. I use a lot of humour in my presentations and like taking the micky out of attitudes and situations. There is much that is difficult in life but I refuse to be willfully woeful.
One of the most important books that I ever read was 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Viktor Frankl in which he documents his time in a concentration camp and his observations about life, about power and about attitude. He acknowledged that others could control the 'outside' of his life but that he alone controled the 'inside' of his life. That he could chose to find purpose and meaning in amongst extreme oppression and violence was an indicator of the breathtaking fact that we belong, ultimately only to ourselves. No one can own us and no one can claim us. We are not our disability, our gender, our race ... we are simply and powerfully ourselves and have the most powerful choice possible - how we think, what attitude we strike, where we find purpose. Frankl's book, never out of print, is always nearby.
So when Joe and I sat down yesterday to begin watching the DVD box set of Deadwood and Geri Jewell came on, playing a char woman in a brothel, I was surprised and pleased to see her in the role. Referred to as the gimp and punished for dragging her leg, the character bears up playing at servitude but with strength in the eyes. Watching her, I remembered this quote from her and, of course, smiled. I knew that Geri's life had been a difficult one, she was the first person with a disability to have a recurring role on a television programme and was a respected stand up comedian. But work didn't fly to her and she faced many hardships in her long career. I didn't know that she was in Deadwood and it was wonderful to see her and to be reminded of the incredible talent that she was.
Seeing her in a serious role made me think a little differently about her. People get stereotyped in my mind - Geri Jewell is a comedienne and therefore when I think of her I think funny. I get this in a limited way too. I was doing a workshop in England only a few weeks ago and one agency wouldn't send their staff because I was the 'sex' guy ... even though I wasn't speaking on sex. OK, people get a view of you and it can be hard to break.
So I went on to the computer and popped around to find something more about Geri and I found a new quote. One that I'm putting in my memory banks. It is, of course, relentlessly optimistic and positive as many of these kinds of quotes are ... but it does give another view of Geri and a sense of how she personally controls the inner's response to the outer.
Smile at least 20 times a day, laugh at least 15 times a day, and have faith 25 hours a day! Go forward in your lives and fear less...
As we move ever close to New Year's eve when the dreaded tradition of making resolutions begins ... I've got one squireled away.
Thanks, Geri ... for both these quotes but also for a life lived with integrity and for a talent yet completely discovered.