Steampunk Strength

I took today off(ish) – I still had a lot to get done, but I let myself focus on the things I wanted to do.

One important project was to get started on tidying up my bedroom so that I can set up a small desk and have a space to write, where I can close the door and have some quiet to work even on days when the kids are here. Right now my office space is in the dining room, and that’s fine when the kids are occupied or not here, but it doesn’t work when they’re loud or need attention.

As I was organizing things, I came across the Steampunk Tarot.

I bought it over a year and a half ago and had never opened it. I bought it at a difficult period in my life and it never felt like the right time to open it and use it. I bought it for the wrong reasons – it was supposed to be something that would help me bond with my partner, at a time when he was still unsure whether being with me was the right thing for him. I bought it out of desperation, and the hope that I could, by offering enough fun bonding activities, force the connection.

I should have trusted that the connection wouldn’t need to be forced, and I should have known that forcing it wouldn’t be the right way to approach it anyway.

Thankfully, even though I bought the deck for the wrong reasons, I never opened it and tried to use it the way I had first intended. Instead, it sat in its cellophane for a long time, until today.

Today, it felt right.

I was here, at home, alone. The house was quiet. I cleared off some space on the kitchen table, opened up the deck, and shuffled.

It felt really good.

The cards felt good.

The steampunk design felt good.

It just felt like the right time to meet this new deck.

When I was done shuffling, I cut the deck and drew a card.

Steampunk strength

From the book (edited):

“Thank you for your kind aid. Instead of devouring you, I will serve you.”

Core meaning: Calm control and healing that brings strength.

Cards from older tarot decks show a human wrestling a wild lion. This expressed the idea that people had a wild, or evil, side of themselves that must be constantly fought, repressed, and controlled or it would take them over and utterly destroy them.

This woman suggests a different tack. She believes the lion that stalks her is simply a symbol of her shadow self. In Jungian terms, the shadow self is comprised of all the parts of ourselves that we dislike, don’t value, and are ashamed of. These parts, she says, are not bad in and of themselves; rather, they are aspects of ourselves that have been wounded.

She counsels that we approach our inner monsters with compassion, because that makes it easier to determine what caused the damage in the first place. Once we identify the root cause, we can remove it, just as she has extracted that gear from her lion’s paw. Yes, it hurts, and yes, it is scary. The lion will probably roar – you may even get scratched or bitten. But it must be done, for only then can healing begin. From this healing comes strength.

What we hid from – our anger, our fear, our emotional needs [I would add, our trauma] – we now welcome and learn how to express in our lives in a healthy and useful manner.

When confronted with the Strength card, you are well advised to tap into your deepest inner strength and express it with calm compassion. The infinity symbol in this card represents your connection with all aspects of yourself. In this card, it creates amazing strength. Find that connection; feel that strength.

This was both exactly what I needed to hear, and exactly what I have been talking about recently. It felt like such a lovely confirmation.

I’ve spent a bit of time with the book and it just feels so good. I love steampunk aesthetic, and I love the ways in which steampunk culture has the potential to envision inclusive and socially just past-futures. (That said, I don’t love how a lot of steampunk culture ends up being very colonialist, white supremacist, heteronormative, transantagonistic, and misogynist.)

I’m so glad I found this deck today, and had some time to spend with it. I am pretty excited about seeing what stories we can tell together, and I love the reminder to find wholeness and integration, to make space for my monsters and to find strength in healing.

Business communication spread

I picked up Sasha Graham’s book 365 Tarot Spreads, and today’s spread is a 9-card business communication spread.

Since I’m continuing to navigate the early days of my new business(es) (check out my website! support my Patreon!), it seemed worth doing.

1 – What is my vision?

The Fool. Yes!!! This is my heart card. And it feels so right for my work now – leaning into vulnerabilities, finding creative ways forward, navigating new stories and helping other people find their way through self-care and self-storying. Transitions, and the beginnings of journeys. Courage. Willingness to step forward, to take risks, to fail and to try again. Yes.

2 – What opens my perception to hear others?

The Hanged Man. Staying still, looking at things from new perspectives, letting myself be present with the discomfort and with experiences that are outside of my normal. I like this.

3 – How do I present myself in the best way possible?

Six of Cups. Reaching back into my memories, engaging my sense of playfulness, sharing my history and building community. Grounding myself in my roots (and finding my roots – I also read this as an invitation to explore my own cultural history as well, and to mine my memories for richness and depth when it comes to self-care strategies and narratives).

4 – How do I maintain clarity?

King of Wands. Stay focused on moving forward, ground myself in the fiery energy of the wands and be confident in my approach. I read this as a reminder that I do have the skills that I need, and that clarity comes when I stop doubting myself and hesitating.

5 – Do I adequately express enthusiasm?

The Hermit. I think this pairs with the King of Wands, and is a bit of poke at my deep reluctance to do any real marketing or promotion. How can people find me, and work with me, if I’m hermiting away for fear of failure? There are times when The Hermit is a great card to sit with, but here I think it’s a reminder to not engage so much of this hidden and inward-turned energy.

6 – What helps me negotiate?

The Wheel of Fortune. Flexibility and an awareness that things change. I read this as encouragement when it comes to my growing focus on the Patreon rather than the standard services-for-payment business, because the Patreon is much more in line with my socialist leanings and my desire to make my work freely available, so that people can find it regardless of their changing circumstances. It’s also a reminder of why sliding scale is built into everything I do.

7 – Am I following up in the best way possible?

Four of Wands. This is such a sweet and encouraging card – especially in the Shadowscapes deck, in this position, in this spread. The leaping gazelles are graceful and coordinated, and the card’s focus on peacefulness, restfulness, and stability is really encouraging. Often, I feel like everything is chaos and struggle right now. This card suggests to me that even though there is chaos and struggle, for sure, I am doing the best that I can in this situation, and my ongoing efforts are coordinated and there is some grace underneath all the flailing. This is a sigh of relief.

8 – What stands in my way?

Queen of Cups. This card means so much to me, and in this position I really had to stop and reflect on it. Are my emotions standing in my way? No. But, given how immobilized I have felt at points in the last few weeks, I think my desire to master my emotions is standing in my way. I need to embrace more of The Fool’s energy, and allow myself to be early in the journey. The desire to not move forward unless I can move forward with mastery is getting in my way.

9 – How can I use communication to grow my business in the best way possible?

Hilariously, Seven of Cups. I read this more as the deck sassing me over my lack of a clear focus, and perhaps as an invitation to embrace that lack of clarity and just be open with my potential clients about the false starts and uncertainty – about both the lofty visions and the confusion.

I find it interesting that this business communication spread didn’t include any swords or any pentacles. Nothing about airy element that governs communication, and nothing about the earthy coins that look at material positions and possessions.

It’s all Cups and Wands and Majors – heart and hand and the journey. Feeling my way forward!

Stay with the trouble

stay with the trouble spread

One of my favourite spreads is this three-card spread.

The first (top) card is the situation, or me within the situation.

The card on the left is the wrong path, or what I should be careful of.

The card on the right is the right path, or what could be helpful.

When I pulled these cards yesterday, I had a super intense reaction of joy to the Knight of Wands. Finally I’m away from the fives! Finally it is my time to act! To move forward confidently and assertively! The embrace action, and the forwardness of a Knight!

(Note, that card’s on the left. I am not great at left/right. It took me a solid minute of delightedly imagining myself charging forward before I realized my mistake.)

Once I did realize my mistake, I was a little bit crushed. More than a little bit crushed.

But my approach to tarot has always been that the cards offer a conversation, a map, an invitation. They do not dictate absolutely, and they do not close doors – they offer ways of seeing, ways of knowing, ways of moving forward.

I try to approach every tarot spread with some openness, some reflectiveness.

If, after breathing with it for a moment, I really had felt like the Knight of Wands was the right path, my personal approach to tarot leaves the option open to switch those cards around. I have had very positive experiences with shifting the narrative in a spread by moving cards around, drawing new cards, and engaging in the conversation.

But, sitting on my “read as soon as possible” bookshelf is Donna Haraway’s book Staying With The Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. As I looked at the Five of Wands – yet another five, my third in three readings, challenges everywhere – I thought about Haraway’s book. I wondered if there is wisdom in staying with this trouble.

This morning, after another night of staying away and thinking about gender things and parenting things and oppression things, and dreaming about my dogs who have been gone a long time – after another difficult night following weeks of difficult nights – I pulled Haraway’s book off the shelf.

Trouble is an interesting word. It derives from the thirteenth-century French verb meaning “to stir up,” “to make cloudy,” to disturb.” We – all of us on Terra – live in disturbing times, mixed-up times, troubling and turbid times. The task is to become capable, with each other in all of our bumptious kinds, of response. Mixed-up times are overflowing with both pain and joy – with vastly unjust patterns of pain and joy, with unnecessary killing of ongoingness but also with necessary resurgence. The task is to make kin in lines of inventive connection as a practice of learning to live and die well with each other in a thick present. Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places. In urgent times, many of us are tempted to address trouble in terms of making an imagined future safe, of stopping something from happening that looms in the future, of clearing away the present and the past in order to make futures for coming gnerations. Staying with teh trouble does not require such a relationship to times called the future. In fact, staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salcific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.

Donna Haraway, Introduction, Staying With the Trouble

“Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places.”

Oof.

Right in the feels.

And so, this spread that suggests staying with the trouble, that keeps me in the fives of the deck, ends up feeling right in an uncomfortable and hopeful way. Make trouble. Stir up potent response to devastating events. Settle troubled waters. Rebuild quiet spaces.

The ideas of settling troubled waters and rebuilding quiet spaces echo back to that Five of Pentacles earlier in the week. Find ways to bring peace, quiet, and calm to my home base. Set boundaries around how much the trouble agitates at home and in my relationships. Find connection, and create quiet spaces within which that connection can flourish.

And the idea of stirring up potent responses to devastating events calls back to the Five of Swords, and the idea of choosing the fight and knowing the cost.

The way forward, the right path, is the Five of Wands. Staying with the trouble.

And myself, at the centre, The Magician. Intention. Will.

As Beth at Little Red Tarot says,

Begin, now, with what you have.

A phrase I’ve been banging on about lately. This Magician doesn’t have much in the way of material resources. Yet they have everything they need. This is a perfect, poised moment, having gathered their personal resources – the four elements hanging from those wings – they now reach for the fifth. This is the moment of asking, the very moment of intention setting. You can already see the magic happening – that green ball or energy, levitating between their hands, the lemniscate glowing above their head. Something exciting is about to happen… because The Magician wills it so.

In this card, I read an invitation to maintain balance – to keep each of my many selves present. Not to get lost in one specific fight or one kind of “trouble” – to keep each element in balance.

And I also read an invitation to stay focused, and to remember my power. To draw on the resources I do have, rather than getting lost in hopelessness thinking about the resources I don’t have. To be creative, inventive, intentional in my actions.

To stay with the trouble, but to keep an untroubled space within myself.

To be with it, and not to be it.

It feels useful, and helpful.

It’s a narrative I can work with.

It’s a map to self-care that I can read, a way forward that makes sense to me.

Still in the fives, but recognizing the potential that comes with that challenge.

Five of Pentacles

We got a response from the speech therapist that works with both my stepkids.

It wasn’t good.

By, “it wasn’t good” I mean that it was hostile in a way I was unsurprised by and yet totally unprepared for, threaded through with a kind of viciousness that I find confusing and terrifying.

I am a genderqueer adult with a strong community around me – I have the resources to withstand the invalidations and aggressions. What about the gender non-conforming kids that she works with? The autistic community overlaps with the trans and gender non-conforming community in significant ways – some studies suggest that autistic kids are as much as 8 times more likely than the neurotypical population to be trans.

From the email:

I recognize and am in no way naïve to the fact that gender identity has unfortunately become a political and opinion based forum.  We need to be extremely careful that we are not drawing [child’s] IPP and [child’s] progress and [child’s] program delivery about a “hot-off-the-press” issue, into this uncharted reality, when there is long-standing evidence and solid research supporting the ways children (his age culture) with Autism (his ability culture) can and will be expected to participate in elementary school (his peer culture).

What she means is that acknowledging the existence of non-binary gender in speech therapy sessions would be “drawing his program delivery into a ‘hot-off-the-press’ issue” in the “unfortunately political and opinion based” realm of gender.

There is no acknowledgement of the fact that I am non-binary and am in his life. There’s no acknowledgement of the fact that he interacts with non-binary people on a regular basis even beyond his relationship with me.

She refers to me as “currently acting as a step-parent.”

It was… well. It was a thing.

I drew a card before sitting down to try and draft a response.

It was the Five of Pentacles.

I wanted it to be Wands, or Swords. I wanted permission to be sharp, permission to be fiery in my response. I wanted the deck to say “Yes! Attack! Go forth, righteous Social Justice Warrior!”

Instead, the deck said, “it hurts, doesn’t it?”

Instead of unleashing my anger, the deck laid open space for my pain and my grief.

For the loneliness, the isolation, the fear.

For the deep anxiety that pre-dates her sharp “currently acting as,” the knowledge that no matter how much I love these kids, no matter how much I love their dad, my tie to them is tenuous. If something happened to my partner, there is no guarantee I would be able to maintain a relationship with them. Would they remember me once they got old enough to keep in touch with me without facilitation? There are no guarantees. If we broke up, even less so.

Stepparenting is a difficult liminal space to inhabit.

The Five of Pentacles acknowledges that anxiety at the core of my home life.

It acknowledges the pain of invisibility and invalidation. The struggle I have felt ever since I came out as genderqueer – the way my gender identity is not ever legible except to those people who are either informed or are outside the binary with me, and even then, not always.

The Five of Pentacles was not the permission I wanted, but as I process the necessity of responding gently and non-confrontationally, responding to her attacks with a conciliatory and soft tone, I appreciate the gentle validation of how much this hurts. Maybe it is not the time to go forth as a warrior. Maybe it is the time to feel the pain and come up with strategies to move forward as a family unit despite these hostile (and unavoidable – switching providers is not currently an option) professional relationships.

Sometimes you want to fight, but what you actually need is to cry.

Start, restart, start again

Almost every day I add “tarot reading” to my to do list, and rarely do I follow through.

Unlike any of my three day jobs, or my coaching work, or my editing work, or the work I’m doing for the Patreon, the tarot is just for me, and because it’s just for me, it’s the easiest to abandon. Like stretching, eating well, and getting enough sleep, my tarot practice (and my connection to any sense of ritual and inner work) is the first on the chopping block when I run out of time and energy. And I am always running out of time and energy.

But it’s important to me. This practice, this connection. It’s important to me. And so I start again. Restart. Restart. Restart. Stall out and start again. (I love the coaching, editing, and, especially, the work I’m doing with the Patreon. I love it. But I need this, too. I need the inner turn and the ritual, and the insight that the cards offer.)

I was going to do a draw a day for the first 21 days of the year, and didn’t. And then felt ashamed and didn’t do any. Didn’t want to come back to this space and see my failure.

But restarting is not failing. It’s just one way forward.

So, another card today.

Just a single card.

A card for where I’m at right now.

I pull out my Fearlessness and Confidence annointing oil, that I bought in San Francisco over a year ago and have never used, and dot it on my hands. I put some peppermint and eucalyptus in the diffuser.

I shuffle my cards for the first time in a month and a half. (My Shadowscapes deck, of course.)

The Five of Swords.

Mmmhmm. Looking at the fae creature in flight, looking back defensively, black swans on either side, I think – yes. Indeed. Fighting. Choosing your battles, and choosing how you fight them.

Beth Maiden at Little Red Tarot writes, “Whilst this card can tell you that, if you fight hard enough, you can win your battle, it raises questions about your motivations….  this card asks ‘is this fight worth it? What are you trying to achieve?’ – and questions whether I should be entering into this battle at all. It suggests to me that it may not be a fair fight. Someone – perhaps myself, or my opponent, won’t be playing straight.”

I’m fighting a lot lately.

I’m fighting my own exhaustion, all the time. And that’s a fight that I should lose – I should be letting myself rest more. But there’s just so much to do.

And, more sharply to this card, I’m fighting my stepson’s autism therapy team, in this ongoing year-long struggle to have my non-binary gender recognized and acknowledged in speech therapy sessions where pronoun drills are common. It is exhausting. It is overwhelming and discouraging and depressing.

I look at this card and wonder if there are ways to approach this issue that involve less fighting.

Not giving up, of course. Gender is not a binary and pretending that it is doesn’t actually do my kiddo any favours, because he knows that I’m genderqueer, and he knows other genderqueer people too.

But maybe I can find a way to move forward with a little less defensiveness and fear.

I don’t know.

The card feels right – that is how I feel right now. Like I’m clawing for every scrap of victory and I’m exhausted by the fight and I’m defensive and afraid and vulnerable and weakened.

I’m going to have to sit with that for a while and see how it feels, see if any new ways to move forward present themselves.

The question Beth presents – “at what cost?” – associated with this card feels relevant. I need to sit with that.

Interestingly, I just wrote yesterday about the difficulty and fear associated with making choices that turn away from an option in order to fully pursue other options. That feels relevant, too.

 

The Lesson from 2016: Justice

Today’s question was, what lesson did I learn in 2016?

The answer was Justice.

In the Shadowscapes deck, she is a flame-haired creature with closed eyes, broad black and white wings, a long white feather in her left hand and scales surrounded by butterflies in her right. She is balanced on long, twisted branches, and there are red threads at her waist and holding the scales. The crescent moon is behind her. Her left wing is twisted, maybe broken, but she doesn’t seem in pain. She seems at peace.

I had a complicated response to this card, and this image.

That broken wing… I’ve never noticed it before. I’ve drawn this card at least a dozen times in various readings – probably many more – and I’ve never seen that broken wing. But tonight, it’s the first thing I noticed.

And the first thing I thought, when I saw the card? “Make your choices. Think them through, and act on them.”

That’s the lesson – make the choice.

Act.

Make the choice.

Do the thing.

Take the step.

Accept the consequences.

I know that Justice is not The Fool, or maybe she’s The Fool after the fall (is that where her wing got broken?). So I know she is not the beginning of the journey. But that’s what I associate with the card – the idea of choices, acting on them, being true to them, accepting the consequences of them, knowing that actions have impacts.

And that wing. That broken wing.

So, in this card, I also see peace with the damage that results from those choices. Acceptance. That red thread of connection. The butterflies – they come completely undone during the transition from caterpillar to butterfly. The pain and the damage is real, and permanent.

2016 was a year of undoing. Unbecoming. Doing. Becoming.

There is damage.

There is a lot of pain.

There is a lot of peace, and joy, as well.

In 2016, I moved out of the home I had purchased less than a year earlier with my anchor partner. I moved in with someone else – someone I fell in love with when we were only supposed to be friends, and I thought we would only ever be friends, until he fell in love with me too and his monogamous relationship exploded, shattering along fault lines that long pre-dated me, and then ended.

And wow, the feelings attached to that, and to the fear that maybe I am a monster? A homewrecking whore, like I’m sure I’ve been called? I know how I behaved, and that I stayed true to my principles. I know that adults have agency and that I did not undermine or destroy their relationship. (Gulp back the desire to list all the ways in which I was supportive of their relationship despite my own desires.)

I know that the choices I’ve made are the right ones for me, and that I didn’t push him towards his choice to leave. I know that this new life fits me so well that even despite all the stress and the change and suddenly step-parenting two young neurodivergent kids, my fibro is better than it has been in years.

But still. That broken wing.

The airy/swordsy feel of this card.

The pain of it.

The way it says, “make the choice, and know the consequences.”

The way this year has hurt – moving out, and causing pain there. Pain on both sides. The relationship survived the transition, but there was so much pain. (Polyamory does not make you impervious to relationship pain.) Seeing the pain caused to all my partners as I struggled with this transition and hurt them in my flailing. Seeing the pain of that other relationship dissolving over the last half of 2015, and the echoes of that through this year. Knowing that his ex did not want to be his ex.

That broken wing.

But the card is so peaceful, despite that.

And when I take a deep breath and check in with my deeper self, I am at peace with these choices and their consequences in my core.

This is the right thing for me.

I can’t make anyone else’s choices or speak for their lives, but almost a year into this it seems like it is better for him and for his ex, and even for the kids who have so many more loving adults involved in their daily lives on both sides of the equation. (Which is not to minimize the difficulty of coparenting or the stress on the kids – but they are thriving.)

Anyway.

The lesson from 2016 is a difficult one.

Justice.

As Beth at Little Red Tarot writes,

“There’s another lesson in this card – it’s not just about accepting the consequences of the past. Justice also teaches us that we have the power to shape our own destinies. If today I am facing the consequences of yesterday’s decisions, then tomorrow I will face the consequences of today’s. So what am I going to do? Closely linked to the themes of the Swords suit, Justice encourages us not only to understand the consequences of the past, but also to think things through today, so as to help create the future we desire.”

It’s a lesson to take forward, to remember.

Where I am now is so right for me, and my choices as I go forward will shape the future I end up in.

New Year’s Tarot Challenge

A friend is doing a daily tarot draw for the next 21 days, and I’m taking inspiration from him. Doing tarot more intentionally, mindfully, and regularly is one of the things I included as a hoped-for practice in my 2017 Quest for Wholeness: Embracing my Inner Social Justice Druid Bard. (Listen… if I’m gonna be the rockstar self-care and narrative coach that I know I can be, I gotta just throw myself fully into this narrative thing. 2017 is going to be epic, as my bestie, Jiminy Stealth Cricket, noted earlier today. High fantasy metaphor epic!)

But it’s so easy to set intentions and it’s so hard to follow through with actions. Today was a trainwreck. The kids and the adults in the house are all pretty heavily burned out from the holidays and there was much whining, and wailing, and weeping. Mostly whining. Do you know what’s not particularly conducive to a tarot spread and really connecting with your inner self? Toddler whining. Wailing. Weeping.

So the day is ending and I have spent it chasing children and desperately trying to get work done in the snatches of time I can find, and I sort of wanted to say “fuck it” to the tarot thing but I didn’t.

I lit a little candle, and put down a couple of my favourite stones, and shuffled my cards.

I pulled the Knight of Cups as an answer to “What is the theme of my journey in 2017?”

img_0069

I love it.

Moving forward with passion, wholeheartedness, courage, and intuition. Letting my emotional self and my heart guide me.

And the image in this card resonates so much for me. The logo I’m working on for my coaching business is a curling wave, and the idea of “navigating your story” is one that keeps coming up in my brainstorming sessions. The unicorn is so lovely, strong, hopeful. The cup is glowing, full of promise and potential.

It may not be an easy journey – given my fear of water, I doubt it will be. But it was never going to be. But it’s a good journey. This card feels good. It feels right. It’s a reminder that all these deep feels I’m swimming in lately are productive and promising.

Knight of Cups. (I also think that this card has a pretty sweet “Social Justice Druid Bard” feel.)

Onward!