On Creative Divinity, My 22 Year Old Self & The Sun + High Priestess
CW: This is an essay on trauma from rejection by a parent for being trans.
There’s a lot of layers when it comes to trauma. From the child perspective, there’s a lot of ‘covering up’ or trying to protect the parent even when certain traumas and/or abuses manifest out of the enmeshment. “My parents did the best they could”, “mom didn’t mean it like that”. We can talk about intention vs. impact all day, we can look at it from all angles and still unhealthy behaviours are being perpetrated and the child is left with shame and most likely, a fragmented self. The part that splits becomes disowned in order for the conscious self to cope, this is an incredible skill of the human brain to ensure survival after trauma.
I’ve been doing a lot of work around enmeshment, which is a lot of inner child and inner teen work. At the suggestion of a sweet friend, I got myself some pink Mangano calcite to hold while feeling around in the dark for wounds I’d dissociated from. It’s potent! Memories I’d cast off as “standard" parent/young adult conflicts have come back into my conscious mind as actual trauma I need to deal with.
When we get to a point in our healing where we want to integrate the fragmented, or split selves, into our conscious selves, we have to approach with empathy, compassion, and love. The disowned parts didn’t split off because it’s fun to do so, it’s an intense survival tactic that stems from pain. The thing that’s interesting for me at this moment in time is that I’m finding a lot of my fragmented selves are ready to come back home.
I guess I’m taking this as an affirmation that through personal trauma work I’m creating a safer space for my fragmented selves to come home to. It feels exciting and humbling to be able to hold space for these splits of myself — splits that happened because it was safer to split off than it was to stay conscious.
We all have these fragments and the fragments have their own fragments. If you’ve ever heard someone say that working through trauma is like peeling back layers of an onion, then yes, that’s how I feel about it except there are hundreds of onions.
For a long time I thought the only parental trauma I had was around my mom, but through deeper inquiry to my obsession of approval from my dad, I realised that there aren’t such clean and clear boundaries with him either. There’s a missing narrative around him, which makes it harder to heal wounds with him. Many trauma survivors don’t have a cohesive narrative around the initial trauma(s), making the conscious understanding of trauma unbearable and confusing. We get these invasive little moments thrown at us (usually at inopportune times) and have to juggle triggers in order to understand anything. It’s exhausting.
With visualisation work, I’ve been able to better support myself when these invasive memories come flooding in. I’m able to send my current self to comfort and affirm the self that the memory is pointing to. I’ve been really focused on childhood and as of late, teenagehood, but I haven’t really looked into my early twenties at all. Early twenties, for me, were full of joy and expansion and also covered in shame, discomfort, depression, and guilt.
The other day when I was in savasana at the end of my yoga practice, I was overcome with the need to return to a specific moment between my dad and me when I was 22.
Here’s the short: my mom had just outed me as trans to him and he was letting me know how he felt about it. Not only had my false trust in my mom led to (yet another) betrayal, but this time, my father was standing in front of me telling me how I’d ruined his dreams for me. He told me I destroyed everything he ever wanted for me.
There are different kinds of violence. There are physical violences, mental and emotional violences. In terms of physical safety around being trans, I am incredibly privileged.
For some trans folks, coming out to parents/others is not an option at all. I came out to one of my parents thinking that would be ok and was outed to the other. I didn’t get kicked out (I didn’t live at home anyway) and I didn’t get cut off (I was essentially financially independent by then).
In terms of violence, I experienced very little (also, I’m white)(I don't want to go into the depth of societal colonialist violence against trans people), but what we know about trauma is that there is a spectrum. To be wounded and to carry pain, one does not need to necessarily experience terror. Rejection, abandonment, betrayal cause us to feel shame, guilt, fear, anger and thus, fragment.
When I returned to this moment the other day, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t thought about that memory or that I am only unconsciously affected by my father’s rejection (I’m very consciously affected by it too) and it wasn’t as if the effects of his silence and judgements hadn’t already begun when I was a child. It was that there was something different in this memory: a part of the memory that didn’t happen in real time was happening now. As I laid in savasana, I found my 22 year old self, left alone after my father’s harsh words, crying. I put my 30 year old arms around my 22 year old self and just held me. I held me as I cried and cried and cried.
This crying 22 year old had been disowned by me in 2010 in order for me to not feel the true depth of pain of that moment. That is how we protect ourselves. The disowned part sacrifices itself so that the conscious part can keep going.
In real time 2010, I don’t remember what I said to him in response, but I ended up at my hometown Starbucks. At that time, I had been living in San Francisco for over two years and had come out as queer and trans and realised that performing poetry gave me a sense of worth that I never knew possible. I was studying creative writing at SFSU but spent most of my time writing in cafes and parks and performing at 16th and Mission and other open mics around the city.
I was writing about Archangels being trans, I was writing about me being trans, I was writing about magic and gender and people were holding space to hear me. There was belonging in San Francisco, there was belonging in the small circle of friends I’d made who were dedicated to their crafts and who saw me for who I was. As trauma survivors, to be seen and to belong is an incredible gift, an incredible sense of humanity.
While holding my 22 year old self as they cried, I noticed a commotion in the other room of the visualisation. Another 22 year old aspect of me was sitting in the living room, my parents bombarding me with accusations on my identity, how could I do this to them. But it wasn’t just me as a 30 year old observing, the room was filling up with fragmented selves of various ages, all of them there to support the 22 year old. From infancy to adult, it was like The Team was here. Could I feel the support of all my selves retroactively? Yes.
I came out of savasana with a feeling of gentle discovery; a memory that had gone unresolved for so long and now so many aspects of me were holding space for healing.
It was later on in the night that I grabbed my favourite deck of late (After Tarot) and asked to be reminded of how I felt after hearing my dad tell me I ruined his dreams. I was sure I’d pull Ten of Swords or The Tower, Nine of Wands or some card denoting my feelings of worth being stepped on. I must have felt such pain and agony after he said that! Enough hurt to cause me to fragment, I thought.
But it was The Sun. The Sun, for how I felt after being outed to my dad and his unloving response. The Sun? Of course! In our Fool’s Journey, The Sun follows the deep subconscious wound of The Moon. The Sun shines the light to encourage the new consciousness to come forth from the depth of the subconscious. The Sun is the epiphany, The Sun is the renewal and ultimately, The Sun is our sense of self.
The Sun links us to the intuitive strength of the child self — the self that learned to survive by fragmenting. The Sun asks us where our empowerment lies and how we might tap into the inherent creativity we’re born with.
I pulled a second card, one to support The Sun — The High Priestess, our intuitive channel, the scope of interior knowledge. The truth is on the table.
I went deeper — how did I embody The Sun + The High Priestess? Creative Divinity.
When I left the house and went to my hometown Starbucks in 2010, it wasn’t just to have a coffee. I took my laptop and wrote a poem, a poem that I would end up memorising and performing all over San Francisco.
Under my name on YouTube are pages of videos, most of them are of me performing poems, some of them are me hosting my open mic. Persevered on the internet is this particular poem I wrote in 2010 and as I watched it, totally embarrassed by my exaggerated poet voice, I cried. My 22 year old self had created four minutes of healing words that my 30 year old self needed to be washed in. Was the poem good? Not by my standards for my writing now. But was it beautiful? Hell. Yeah.
In itself, creativity is a sacred act. It doesn’t matter your concept of religion or spirituality, to create something, music, weavings, baked goods, poetry, human beings, is to aid in the expansion of the universe. To form out of nothing, says the dictionary. To make something from nothing.
This whole essay is a love letter. A love letter to my early twenties self, who encompassed a great strength, a strength that has brought me to tears as I sit in my bed here in wintry Melbourne.
The 22 year old self who was grappling with what it meant to be out as a queer and trans person after growing up in a town of zero visibility. A self that was trying to find the identity and outer expression that felt comfortable. The 22 year old who had only been Nic Alea for a short while; who didn’t care so much for academia, but for the discovery of poetry as medicine, as the antidote, as a balm for the traumas of past and present.
It was an ars poetica a different me wrote that reminds me now how creation / words / poems / art / music / expression are the remedies in this world where trauma and dysfunction are the norms. We are re-defining and evoking brand new vocabularies of our own making.
Our craft (The Sun) and our channel (High Priestess) help our consciousness remember what has been buried. Our art creates a safe place for our fragmented selves to gather and worship. Our art exists outside of linear time.
I’ve written so many poems I can’t count. I’ve performed so many times I can’t count. Each one of those poems I’ve written comes back around to hold me as I continue to grow, this time it was a poem whose words were reminding me to write, to write, to write.
Cover photo: Gaetan Pautler via Unsplash