She especially likes "lives with dents". And Sid Vicious does not hang at her walls as a poster anymore, but maybe he was a step on her ladder of knowledge. As an author and an artist, Jennifer Sonntag has pictures like these and a lot more in her head. They sometimes also help her when she is nervous. Read more as she shares some of them with us at REHACARE.com!
Name: Jennifer Sonntag Age: 36 City: Halle an der Saale, Germany Occupation: Certified social pedagogue, author, anchorwoman Impairment: Gone blind through retinitis pigmentosa; writing of books about the topics of love and being blind; anchorwoman of a celebrity talk show about self-determined living with disability
When did you last laugh heartily and what about?
Jennifer Sonntag: Yesterday I laughed about myself after I confused body lotion with shampoo. Being blind and being in a hurry do not mix well…
What have you always been wanting to do and why have you never done this so far?
Jennifer Sonntag: I have small romantic dreams that have nothing to do with publicity and prime time. I used to think life would feel very exciting through modeling, writing, TV appearances, or public speaking. But these things are not my personal means to reach happiness. I am blind and sometimes I feel totally crazy to wish for and dare very normal things. They become way out because one needs to find creative solutions to overcome barriers. The simplest things feel like extravagant hobbies, like sports challenges. I would really like to have my own, wicked witch's wild herb garden with a warped hut and everything I need to live my "dark passions". But gardening is not easy for blind people. It is comparatively easy to write books and interview celebrities.
Cycling is also overwhelming since I cannot do it alone. The joy-rides with my seeing partner in our parallel tandem mean more quality of life and learning to trust to me. I cannot do this very well because I am a control freak. Also, now and in the future, we want to turn the erotic texts from our book "Liebe mit Laufmaschen" ("Love with a dent") into sensual charcoal drawings, together with other artists. This is also not the easiest hobby for a blind woman. I have not touched drawing utensils since I have gone blind because it painfully reminded me of losing sight. Now I try to approach the topic "sensually" by experimenting with different techniques.
Which person has influenced you most?
Jennifer Sonntag: I am constantly developing so there are always different people. Music and its heroes have always played a big role for me. I stumbled over a lot on my way from punk to gothic. Luckily, I have outgrown Sid Vicious. Some people surely have been heroes one given time in my life, because they helped me climb the ladder of knowledge, but I do not have their posters on my walls anymore. People who inspired or influenced me are often those who have written books or about whom was written. They were and are often unconventional and a little unfathomable (symbolically speaking) women with dents in their lives, because the perfect never appealed to me. In this regard, "being influenced" is always also an active process, because I decide for myself who is relevant to my "inner light switches". There are for example artists like Brigitte Reimann, Anais Nin and Frida Kahlo who left their marks on me. In real life, I look for people who are somewhat weird and somewhat different and who have something meaningful to say.
In my family, there were my parents and my grandmother, all of whom strongly shaped my understanding of safety, trust and reliability. As regards my partner, I appreciate him communicatively, creatively and emotionally. Even when passionate relationships often burn oneself, too. But to me, nothing is less impressive than boring people. So this supposedly is the price to pay.
You have the chance to become the German Federal Commissioner for the Disabled. What would you do first?
Jennifer Sonntag: Wine testing in the Unsicht-Bar ("Unseen Bar", German bar with no lights to create the sensation of eating, drinking and meeting people without seeing for people who can see; the staff are blind people). I would invite all kinds of people with disability to talk about the things that move them, totally uninhibitedly and unpolitically.
No, seriously: Demanding tasks would wait for me and first of all I would need a good overview and thorough training. And then I would already be in the middle of research and details because I would want to avoid superficial politics at all costs. They can cost a lot of money and by very pointless. I would expect ringing ears because my screen reader would read a gigantic agenda first and I would plan to do too much at once. So, my first action should be to boil a calming tea? I have great respect for this job! Verena, you are doing great!
Your life is made into a film: Who would represent you?
Jennifer Sonntag: I like authenticity and dislike cinematic idealization. Even though I am very camera-shy, I would put my own butt on the line for this. Except if Mark Benecke was available…
I would like to be ...
Jennifer Sonntag: I am often totally satisfied with being myself. This is not meant to sound stuck-up, but rather self-critical. So many people dream of having somebody else's head or body but still have not understood their own. This is a little bit like wanting to colonize other planets while we still do not fully grasp Earth. I would like us to appreciate, nourish and care ourselves, and lovingly embrace what we think are our shortcomings. Otherwise, we simple miss out on life. We are very lucky, because in front of our mirrors, we can be whatever we want to be. I learnt this as a blind person. This does not mean that we lose touch with reality and straight-out belief we are another person.
There are imagination techniques that are supposed to make us feel more secure in certain situations. It is my little secret who I am on the inside when I am very nervous before public speaking. Else, no one would take me seriously anymore. It would often help me to put on the role of someone who is able to laugh about himself and the world. That would like to be someone without ever-revolving thoughts, like Spongebob Squarepants. But on the other hand, this inner self is too unsexy for me.
Which questions would you like answered the most?
Jennifer Sonntag:How can I stop stupidity and injustice? Why do we know so much, yet still so little? Why do we not look into our inner mirror more often? Why do we take so little responsibility for our education? Why are we so ignorant? Why is it so difficult to enjoy the beautiful and firmly seize the bad by the collar? Why does our road have so many potholes and where does it lead anyway? Why does it all feel so good sometimes, yet hurts so much at other times?