Part 2: Irish Roots

In My Dreams I Flee

Below is a sketch inspired by the the Hays' ADDRESSING Model (Hays 2008). The sketch depicts my Irish roots, 90's childhood, Southern Christian Upbringing, and artistic inclinations. I also explore those factors in detail in this post. Exploring first the roots of a tree from a Tree of Life symbology, I drew myself asleep and dreaming. Nighttime held the container for my spiritual awakening symptoms until the most recent of years. Contact with the spiritual world as well as generational and this life's trauma would surface nightly. Without any parental or outside guidance to manage my dream world, my young self turned inward to processing the meanings and experiences.

The picture above depicts some generation influences including the Challenger explosion and 9-11 tragedies. I included those in this picture as they represent my disassociation with those events as well as my curiosity about how they define some of the questions and doubts I hold about the official, Americanized narratives of historical and current affairs that have been taught and shown to me as a child growing up with private school, conservative edited text books. If I look around at myself and peers today in curiosity as we are still being fed narratives but now through algorithms on our screens according to our "likes" and "dislikes."

Growing up in the late eighties and nineties, Disney was an escapism that was very timely for my generation. A mickey mouse symbol was placed in the picture to depict this aspect. I remember going to the Toy Story movie around 1997 with my parents and being surprised afterwards when my dad expressed he didn't relate well to animated features. I was shocked. I remember that moment as being an important awareness of our generational differences. For all the old soulness I carried even then - knowing who figures like Tommy Dorsey or Mel Torme as if I was around my grandparent's during the 40s - still I cannot separate myself from the magic of Disney and it's spell over my young, escapist, consumer in training mind.

Around 8 or 9 I was diagnosed with ADD. I was put on Ritalin. I never felt the struggle of "having ADD" at that time except the shame of being on of those Dixie cup kids at lunchtime. Their was also an isolation of being seen as needing tutoring, extra help or time on tests, having teachers meet about me after school to talk bout my work and if I was progressing. In a crook of the tree I include a pill bottle and pills.

Raised fundamental yet categorically non-denominational Christian, I am now a New Age Christian Universality...for the moment. I want to continue my spiritual studies to become a spiritual healer and chaplain of some kind.

The drawing reveals a stained glass window that reminds me of the windows of my church growing up. I draw a line into the future from the corner of the window. This line represents my continual unraveling of my Protestant Christian heritage - even my Conly ancestors from Northern Ireland were decidedly Protestant as opposed to some of their fellow Catholic Irish brethren and extended family. This unraveling extends to the future as I continue to inquire where my spirituality will take me and what purpose it serves in my greater callings in this life and beyond.

Other aspects I've included are the New York City skyline - my spiritual home. Though I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. Moving to NYC at 22 was the boldest and most progressive move I could have made at the time, and in comparison to the choices of my parents and grandparents. The role of NYC in my family line is an entire project in of itself - holding many ideologies and meanings. From my socialite grandmother who found herself invited to live in one of the most respectable hotels for girls in the late forties along Park Avenue, who dreamed of going to secretary school and living an NYC dream, to my father who was too young to be part of the hippie movement but too old to run away and join the circus of some Greenwich Village existence with folk artists and philosophers. My other grandmother swears that the wig department in Macys on 34th street is the only department store she'll go in a buy a wig from. My mother got her master's in acting and loves Broadway musicals. My uncle moved to the city before me to pursue his acting career and is still an working actor there. I moved for all the reasons I mentioned before and so many other instinctive reasons I still can't fully articulate. I just knew it was the only place in the world where I could be truly free. For some reason, it was in my blood. Of course, I did complete and make some of my own soul contracts and connections because of NYC, as well as meeting my soul partner, Daniel.

Here we are they day we were engaged in Central Park, at the same spot we first met.

Here are some of my dear collaborators from my folk music adaptation of Twelfth Night.

Here are two of my sweet kids I nannied. They were angels of purpose and growth during my time in the city.

When I chose CIIS over NYU my parents had almost nothing to say in response. My mother still interjects to tell people I got into NYU. The chapter CIIS presents for me is unlike any chapter I had imagined for myself, but is the most crucial of my life other than the gift of 8 years I was given of discovery in NYC. Now, it is time to understand and let go of the vicarious living others did through my time in NYC so that I can understand where and if it holds a place in my authentic story - or was it just part of my generational heritage expressing itself.

Perhaps there is a link between this heritage and my dreams of having to run away from some unknown enemy through the night, grabbing all I can carry and running through the woods. Perhaps that is another life I'm witnessing entirely, or lives, or just my subconscious at play and work with it's self. Either way, these dreams became the first imagery I found in the journey of unraveling this project that helped get me started. These dreams are ironically the aspect of my mental health most healed in resent years and days, as I work through more and more traumas and address more of my personal truths and meanings to myself and others.

Stowaway Narratives

My research into the reasons why Cullen Thomas Conly left Ireland led me to what is known as “The Great Hunger.” I will tell a bit more about the story of my Great Great Great Great Grandfather Cullen Thomas Conly and his reasons for leaving Ireland at the age of 16 for America as a stowaway in a cargo ship. I had previously held little awareness of this harsh time for the people of Ireland during the mid 1800s. Watching the documentary called "Ireland's Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora" by Rebecca Abbott was extremely enlightening. Another source, a book entitled "New Perspectives on the Irish Diaspora" By Charles Fanning, shed further light on the assimilation of Irish people into American society. Fanning speaks of Irish communities losing their traditional storytellers – those Celtic folk tales of fairies and changelings and the magic of the greenest land on earth. He looks at New Zealand Irish fiction writing during the 1940’s and 50’s, citing the autobiographical aspects of Dan Davin’s 1949 novel Roads From Home and a character Ned who speaks of his people becoming “aware of themselves for the [first] time heroically, as people whose past had not suddenly begun from a broken link but went back unending…" (Fanning 2000)

I thought this was all just a bit of my imagination running wild, even when I drew the picture above. But then I finally got down South and was able to through the rare, self published family genealogy book by some distant Conly cousin's of mine Garnie W. McGinty and Etoyle Conly. "An Irish Stoweaway," finding some interesting parallels to my dreams as well as epigenetic markers I resonate with in my family narrative.

Cullen Thomas Conly severed all ties with the past when he slipped aboard the sailing freighter anchored in Glen Arms harbor and his among the bales and boxes of freight, undetected by the officers of the ship...The point here is that he severed all ties with past and never made any effort to contact relatives, friends, or anyone. (Conly 2005)

I think about Edward Duran scholarship and the subsequent growing awareness of intergenerational trauma, and feel certain that even the world that my great-grandmother Sibyl Conly was born into would have been biologically affected by the traumas endured from famine and diaspora. Then to be a child during the great depression, who had dozens of siblings many of which died in childbirth or within a few years of life - and then to note the grief my great great grandmother suffered after carrying and loosing that many children.

It is worth nothing that measuring the degree of success and the psychological health of the Irish in America is part of the larger and probably un-resolvable argument within immigration studies between those who emphasize the positive – adaptability, assimilation, “Making it,”- and those who present the darker side of the story – racism, prejudice, discrimination. (Fanning 2000)

Since I only have first hand insight into my grandparents up to their grandparents, plus the legend and extended family stories from the Cullen Thomas relatives, I can only imagine some of the psychological links that I'm in inquiry about and how they might resonant into my own mental health today. I do know that my great great grandfather Dr William left my great grandmother's mother and the children at one point. He never was that involved with the family after that point, though he stayed a doctor in the area. I hold that my great grandmother Sibyl Conly may have had a lack of a comforting father figure in her life. She would eventually marry another William. William Harvey McClung was the chief of police during the 40s to the 70s and was absolutely part of the KKK. He was an alcoholic. They had a long marriage reaching past the 50 year anniversary milestone, but the absent binary definitive male figure narrative was none the less perpetuating. In this lineage, maleness appears to not be trusted or relied upon for emotional support by the binary definitive females. Sybil, her daughter Shirley and granddaughter Kay - my grandmother and mother- all exhibit an "alpha" position in their relationship to the identifying males in their life. It was my fiance Daniel who saw this most starkly and pointed it out, lovingly. This dynamic would also perpetuate into a critical relationship between mother and daughter figure in turn. Ironically, you'd think the shared femininity would bond the women of my family. While surface, external affinities were present - mainly around styles of music or clothing - natural emotional affinities have not been cultivated between the mothers and daughters, three generations down to me and my mother.

Despite my great grandfather's alcoholism - which has been said to have been mostly taken out on his son - my Nana Shirley adored my grandfather. She always said her mother was the critical one. My mom has often said how much she loved her dad Jerry as well. Jerry left Shirley in the early 80's, saying that she was never a compatible wife and that he had only stayed in the marriage for the kids. He would die about eight years later. Shirley nearly never got over this rejection and grief. Growing up, Nana always encouraged me to not date. To never get married and to never have children.

In the home video that I reference in another blog post, I refer to my parents as "mother and daddy." This might elude someone unfamilar with my personal story, or even someone who knows me well. But again, my partner noted it, and we marveled. Despite all the trauma created by a steady trend of absent or feeling father figures, there seems to be a natural affinity towards the father figure and a formal distant from the mother. I've always called my mother, "mother" - hardly ever was it "mommy." It just never felt right, the clinging quality of "mommy." Daddy on the other hand, like coming home to an old friend. Somewhere, stowed-away in me, is an attempt to reconnect and heal the father and daughter bond perhaps lost generations before in families torn apart by diaspora, disease, and famine. Yet, this leaning has been at the grave expense of the mother connection.

I believe this work we do on earth is to heal all connections from all angles, binary and non-binary alike, as well as archetypes. About six years ago, an intuitive approached me in Bryant Park in Manhattan and told me I needed to heal my relationship with my mother. That this was one of my main callings in this life. I was not ready to hear this at the time. Yet, time has allowed me to own clearly those hurts that I can now release and transmute. It is not finished, but it has started.

Healers must always hold in mind the presence of historical trauma as they navigate the world of sadness or fear that the patient brings with her into her place of ceremony or office...The trauma that patients have to deal with is of a physical, emotional, and spiritual nature. Family history is of great importance. Once the family history has been ascertained, it will facilitate the gathering of date to place the patient in the context of her tribal history. Once these pieces of the puzzle are in place, the Healer can start guiding the patient into the world of the soul wound and begin healing the soul wound. (Duran 2006)

Becoming a healer, I am dedicated to honoring and perpetuate the ceremony going on within myself so that I in turn can honor and perpetuate the ceremony for others. May we each discover those stowaway traumas, semantics, beliefs, and curiosities in our own times, in our own ways, in our own truths and may we be healed and in turn, heal.