In honor of Stout’s focus this month on finding your voice, author and artist Lane Rockford Orsak contributes a compelling, very personal piece on his own journey to be authentically heard. Are you #STOUT enough to dive this deep?
One’s “own voice” is often most audible while in pain, or peace. In my case, it was born in personal emotional pain.
My beginning voice, generated by pure light and love, first made itself heard by screaming in Houston, Texas in 1959. It was a time of great conflict and war: my parents’ divorce and with a big brother that loved to beat the hell out of me! With a couple of unfortunate – unreported – sexual abuse incidences.
Generally, this child voice, my feeling about myself and the world, seemed to be sweet and loving. But there was inadvertently an ever-growing committee of people telling me who I was. My television-star mother casually chatting with a store clerk might offer, “Yes, Lane is the creative one, and Gary is the smart one.” The ancient sixth-grade teacher who once told me forcefully, as she was digging her fingernails into my neck, that I was an “impudent” young man. The frequent verbal attacks from my older brother, who referred to me as a “titty baby”, or “faggot!”. My father’s singular instructions for a happy life were, “Rocky, you need to be a doctor or lawyer and sleep with as many women as you can!” Schoolmates said, “You are crazy, funny, and weird!”
The overarching message I seemed to interpolate into my young brain from the collective conscious was that I was an American male living in a democracy, one nation, under God (Christian, Jesus and bible-based), and that I should try and make a lot of money. The greater the wealth = the greater the success of the individual. There was no real discussion or reward about the success of finding one’s inner voice. There soon developed an insidiously quiet and painful fear within me – one that tirelessly inspired the idea of myself as not being enough. This plagued all my life events.
The first task in finding my own voice was to ignore all the other voices telling me who I am.
Normally, ignoring others is easier said than actually realized. In my case, I had to study theater and liberal arts for six years, perform in a ballet company for two years, write a musical, live in Japan for three years, marry a Mexican coffee heiress from Chiapas, Mexico for seven years, go to therapy after our divorce for seven years, marry again, own a boutique advertising and marketing firm for twenty years, go back to therapy, and then learn that my abusive father, was in fact not my father . . .
At fifty-years-old, I began to hear and honor my true voice.
I wrote my first book, Clown White. It was my attempt to make sense of my new daddy discovery. Such pursuits are not for the faint of heart. If you find writing a resume difficult, try writing your life story! My “father revelation” rendered me utterly gobsmacked, and emotionally I was in a state of psycho-percolation (when your emotions are so dense and overwhelming, you just have to let them sift through your brain like water over coffee grounds).
I began to really look at my life with the realization that I had played out all of the bourgeois expectations of home, marriage, and success. And yet, no one is calling me to ask, “How are you – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually, sexually? How do you feel? What’s important to you? What have you learned today? What are your dreams and fantasies? What can you share today to make the world a better place? What is your spiritual connection to life? What do I need to explore?” I finally realized that it was more fruitful for me to ask myself those questions.
It is in the pursuit of my deepest connection with myself, to answer those kinds of questions, that my creative process begins to spark. After that, I have to blow, baby, blow—and feed the fire!
When I am able to stop listening to the part of me that fears not being “enough,” I can be more.
It becomes a dance with my conscious and subconscious; creating a context and contrast that allows the “voice” to emerge through the characters. Or when I paint, allowing myself to be messy or unsafe – to go outside the expected line. Then I push, push, push and give everything I have to it. I often return a week later and think, “That sucks . . .” or, “Hmmmm, not bad!” The bigger importance is that I try. I give to it. I have the audacity to create from my own voice.
Above all, I keep going. If I feel it, I say it, even if you don’t understand it now. Of course, there is great importance and responsibility about the power of words shared with people, but in one’s own artistic experimentation, it is important and powerful to release yourself from the prison of personal judgment, and try to fly in the infinite imagination that lives within.
Don’t worry, finding your own voice isn’t a death sentence, nor will it cast you into abject poverty, leaving you cold and alone, under a bridge. But you just may reassess what is truly important for you in your life, and help to find a deeper sense of self and personal happiness…it has happened for me!
Our #Stout Takeaways from Lane’s Journey:
- Tune Out Negative Voices. Your authentic voice is there inside you; it has been all along. But it is easily drowned out by the criticism, unkindness or thoughtless of others. You must be able to hear that voice inside you before you can speak it aloud. Block out the noise so that you can listen for it.
- Ask the Deep Questions. An authentic self-voice requires authentic self-knowledge. Therefore, you must be willing to dig deep inside yourself and discover your truths. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Your goals and fears? Your real voice lies in the answers to those probing whats and whys.
- Release Your Fear. It’s scary to look deeply within ourselves. We’re unsure of what we’ll find, and whether we will like it. This is especially true if others have been bathing us in negative messages. Be willing to experience discomfort; the discovery is worth making the journey, no matter how fearful taking that first step feels.
- Finally, Don’t Give Up. Finding your voice is a journey, not a task. Such deep discovery may take many small steps to accomplish. Because of this, you need to be patient and gentle with yourself in your quest.
Lane Orsak is an artist, author, and creative marketing consultant living in Austin, Texas.
Lane has always been someone true to himself even before his paternity discovery. He is indeed an authentic voice, true to himself and the embodiment of our #Stout albino peacock mascot.
His books are available for purchase on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu.com, and iBooks; and his art at www.laneorsakart.com