“ Now, Voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find.” Walt Whitman
It can be a struggle to find our voice, to come in to our own. It can take a long time or never happen at all. We all need role models and stories about people who have gone through what we are going through and come out all right. That is why I love stories about late bloomers or people overcoming obstacles and finding their true selves and voice. They are so inspiring and life affirming. Like Susan Boyle who stood up in front of those “judges” with her heavy eyebrows and a bit dowdy looks, opened her mouth, and out came this angel voice.
I’ve always liked old movies on this theme as well. Those with strong women characters who have overcome obstacles. One is “Now, Voyager” with Betty Davis. In it she plays a woman who is so oppressed by her mother that her true self is almost lost. When we first see her she looks frumpy with heavy eyebrows. What is it with the heavy eyebrows? Then after having a breakdown she goes to this beautiful sanitarium and is treated by this humanistic psychiatrist, (today with our improved healthcare system, she would be given a prescription for Prozac and told to come back in a month). She then goes through a metamorphosis and becomes, what was inside all along, a beautiful woman who has sensitivity, a brain and a great Orry Kelly wardrobe. Her new self is very vulnerable and she almost gives up. But she receives support from someone who loves her for who she truly is and this gives her strength to face up to her critical disapproving mother and relatives. It helps to have support of at least one other person who accepts us for who we are becoming.
It is not just the outward appearance or physical makeover that is important in itself. The outward appearance means nothing if inwardly you have not changed. In this movie, the outward change is a symbol of what is going on inside as the butterfly emerging from the chrysalis signals inner transformation.
Another movie about finding yourself is “ Pat and Mike” with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Pat is a very talented woman athlete. She excels at golf and tennis. Spencer Tracy plays Mike her mentor, manager and coach. Pat is very sensitive to her boyfriend Collier’s disapproval. This boyfriend is her kryptonite. Every time he is watching her perform she falls apart and can’t do anything right when he is around. Mike says Pat is like a thoroughbred racehorse, very sensitive and high strung. His support of her and belief in her abilities help her to build her self-confidence.
It is so important for everyone to be able to find expression for their true selves, abilities and passions. In his book “Cancer as a Turning Point” Lawrence LeShan describes his work with many people diagnosed with cancer. He found that it is crucial for people to mobilize their immune systems in fighting cancer. To find “what is his (or her) special and unique ways of being, relating, creating , that are his own and natural ways to live…” Not doing what we think we should do but what we need to do for our lives to be fulfilling. That this gives us a zest for life and makes us glad to get up in the morning. He says, “Do not worry about what the world wants of you. Worry about what makes you come alive because what the world needs is people who are more alive.”