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.

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Gloom Fairy

I'm a genderqueer, queer, poly, kinky, sex-positive, sex-radical feminist and activist and student.

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