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.

 

Telling Tarot Stories

My homework from my counsellor for last week was simple, but challenging. Make a list of the things I want when it comes to my work and financial life.

What do I want out of this new career that I’m proposing to launch?

What do I want for my life, when it comes to my money?

How much money do I want to make?

(Why am I so resistant to the idea of making a “decent living” doing something I love and am good at? Why do I think it’s only good work if I do it for free or if I suffer for it?)

The whole week before, I had been rolling the questions around in my mind. Every time I came up to an answer, I shied away from it. The answers are terrifying! I want… I want a lot. And I feel ashamed of that.

So, at 1 pm, an hour and a half before my appointment (because procrastination! Because those are big questions!) I pulled out my Wild Unknown deck, and my amethyst and quartz moon set, and my blue goldstone, and my White Light and Catalyst oils, and I shuffled my cards, and drew five.

Representing myself: Father of Swords

Representing my wants, needs, hopes, and fears: Five of Pentacles, Two of Wands, Nine of Swords, Father of Cups – all reversed.

All reversed! No wonder I couldn’t get a clear answer from myself, something big was in the way. So I drew a card for that, and it was (unsurprisingly) the Ten of Wands. Yeah, of course it was.

My sense of myself in my career was clear, and my desire to use my skills to be a leader and to create change within my communities – that Father of Swords resonated so strongly. But all my desires around that, what I want within that clearly defined role, and especially how I want money to factor in… murky. Too many branches in the way, too many trees, carrying too much, trying to do too much.

So I picked the cards I felt resonated positively – the Father of Swords, Two of Wands, and Father of Cups. I read them all upright.

That left the three cards that resonated negatively, or as challenges to be acknowledged. The Ten of Wands, Five of Pentacles, and Nine of Swords.

I paired the Father of Swords with the Ten of Wands – that sword of truth and self-awareness to cut through the branches, to clear a path, to prune back the overgrowth of anxiety and self-doubt that was getting in the way.

I paired the Two of Wands with the Nine of Swords – swords and wands again, but this time the action and movement of the wands moving through the paralyzing fear of those nine swords. I loved this paralleling – in one pair, it is the self-awareness and airy quality of the sword that calms the wands, and in the other, it is the warm light and action of the firey wands that lights the way through the trapped-in-my-head swords.

Last, I paired the Father of Cups with the Five of Pentacles. Grief with the space for grief. Pain with space for pain. An open invitation to feel every feeling, to fill the cup and let it overflow, to allow that Fiveness to exist. To hold space for myself, and to create within my practice and my vision for my business the space for my clients to also bring their grief and fear, their loneliness, their lack. This, in some ways, solidifies most clearly for me what I want from my career as a narrative/life coach – not to simply clear the path for my clients, but to show them how to gently and lovingly hold space for the dark parts of themselves and their situations.

As a final piece, I shuffled the reversed cards back into the deck and left myself with a gentle, hopeful, powerful three card spread – the Father of Swords, Two of Wands, and Father of Cups. With my crystals on either side of the spread, it felt balanced – air, fire, water, with the crystals grounding and anchoring.

I wrote my list of what I want from my career and in my finances, and I felt good. Not only did the process of working actively with the cards to find the story that was right for me feel empowering and stabilizing, it was also practice in the kind of narrative coaching I want to do in my work as a coach. It felt like storytelling. Like using narrative to shape my sense of myself and who I am as a character in my own story.

It was really good.

I am really grateful for these cards, and for this practice. Although I still struggle with feeling like it’s “too woo” sometimes, and I know my evangelical family members would be horrified, when I let go of my expectations for myself and my fears about other people’s judgement, it just feels good, and right, and helpful.

I’m grateful.

And I do feel that strong Father of Swords energy so deeply. There are moments when I know that potential is within me, and I love it.

Two Readings

I’ve been doing my card of the days, but I’ve also been having a really hard time and writing about them has been challenging. But this morning I did two spreads and they were intense, so here they are.

My question was “what are the outcomes if I … ?” And I couldn’t even formulate the question. Because I didn’t know if I wanted to know what happens if I let go of my love, or if I hold on. So I drew an initial card to set the question. It was the Father of Wands. Truth, self-knowledge, awareness, just, analytical, fair. I took this to mean “hold on” so the first question I asked was “what are the outcomes if I hold on?”

I did a full circle spread – a card for each element, plus support cards between.

The Wild Unknown tarot
The Wild Unknown tarot

My physical outcome if I hold on? The Son of Swords, reversed. It will be difficult to maintain my health if I hold on. I already know this. The roller coaster and the emotional pain is taking a huge toll on my physical well-being. Remembering to eat, remembering to drink, remembering to stretch – all difficult. Breathing, finding my solid centre, grounding – all difficult. Yesterday when I was writing through what I was feeling, I said this – “There’s a particular flavour of anxiety that comes with these long stretches of non-contact. It sits very specifically in my body. My hips tighten. My lower belly feels like a threatening storm, tightening and tightening and tightening and tightening. I feel a little bit queasy. My lower back tightens, everything attached to my sacrum gets sticky and tight. It pulls my mid-back out of alignment, and my scoliosis pulls my shoulders out, and it’s just everything from my shoulders to my hips, tight and out of alignment. My breath gets tight. I find myself sighing a lot. My breath stops at my solar plexus, it never gets down to clear the storm cloud in my lower torso.” This reversed Son of Swords tells me holding on means more of that.

Emotional? The Four of Swords. Stillness, peace, rest. A hopeful card. The outcome of holding on will be emotional peace. (I might have cried a bit here.) I want to believe this so badly. I want this to be true. I want to know that if I hold on, the emotional outcome will be good.

Mental? Five of Wands. Yeah, also not shocking. Confusion, feeling at odds with myself (and with him), moving in too many directions at once. But I don’t find the Five of Wands a card of misery or doom (unlike, say, the Ten of Swords). It’s possible to get the wands working together. But it’s tough. If I hold on, I will have a lot of mental gymnastics to keep myself balanced.

Spiritual? The Chariot. This also hit me like a punch to the gut. Our connection is what sparked my spiritual journey, and apparently it has the potential to keep my journey moving forward.

So physically and mentally, holding on is going to suck. Emotionally and spiritually, it’s the right choice.

Then the support cards.

Bridging my physical and emotional – The Emperor reversed. My sense of stability, uprooted. (But I couldn’t help thinking, as I looked at the tall tree upside down on the card, of the Hanged Man, and how flipping the world upside down can sometimes be necessary for growth.)

Bridging emotional and mental – Three of Pentacles. Teamwork, determination. An antidote to the Five of Wands, or support in getting through it? Or does this refer to the many people around me who keep me balanced – I am blessed with a beautiful and generous community.

Bridging mental and spiritual – The World. Completion, wholeness. Another counter to the Five of Wands, a card that comes up often in readings about our relationship, and a card that resonates even when I don’t want it to. When we are together, I do feel a sense of calm, peace, wholeness. Then we are apart, and I feel nothing but The Emperor reversed. I don’t know how to cope with it. And this reading doesn’t promise any change to that if I hold on, only that there are positive outcomes and support available if that’s my choice.

Bridging spiritual and physical – The Wheel of Fortune. It will change. It won’t always be like this. Fuck, do I ever need this to be true.

Then I reversed the Father of Swords in the centre of the reading. What are the outcomes if I let go?

The Wild Unknown tarot
The Wild Unknown tarot

Physical – The Four of Cups, reversed. Either selfishness or self-preservation, reversed. Blocked. I don’t know how to read this, because my gut says “you think that letting go will give you peace and be the self-preserving/selfish option, but it won’t – that outcome is inverted” and I feel ridiculous for that gut reaction. This card seems to tell me that letting go won’t give me the physical peace that I crave, even though I think it will.

Emotional – The Ten of Swords. Apparently, letting go would be The Literal Worst. Rock bottom. Melodrama. And here, I imagine the cards saying “you want to let go because you want to get off the roller coaster, but you already know that’s not the right answer for you. If you try it, you’re aiming for nothing but drama.”

Mental – The Ten of Cups, reversed. I don’t normally read the Ten of Cups as reversible in the Wild Unknown deck, because the numeral reads the same right side up or reversed, and the image also doesn’t change. But here it feels important to note that even though letting go would allow me to have more harmony in my mental self, there is something inverted and blocked about that. There would be more peace, but it would be off.

Spiritual – The Hierophant, reversed. Hold on – The Chariot. Move forward, keep growing. Let go? Lose that mentorship and wisdom that I have been finding as a result of this journey, lose that opportunity to grow.

Bridging physical and emotional – Seven of Pentacles. Progress, even a sense of stability. Overlaid on the reversed Emperor, this card highlights the difference between the “easy” path of letting go and getting off the ride, and the “hard” path of holding on. Which do I choose?

Bridging emotional and mental – Ace of Cups, reversed. Love, blocked.

Bridging mental and spiritual – High Priestess, reversed. Self-knowledge, blocked.

Bridging spiritual and physical – Ten of Pentacles, reversed. Again, a card that I don’t normally read as reversible in this deck because of the way the numeral reads that same both ways and the image also stays the same. And like the Seven of Pentacles and the Ten of Cups, this card shows me that there is calm and peace possible in letting go. But then, the reversal. There is calm and peace, but there’s something off about it.

So what do I do? What do I do.

I pull one more card.

The Seven of Swords from the Wild Unknown tarot.
The Seven of Swords from the Wild Unknown tarot.

The Seven of Swords. Be cautious. Watch my back. It’s not an answer as to whether I should hold on or let go, but it’s a pointer as to how I should behave while I’m deciding.

Card of the Day: Page of Swords

I drew the Page of Swords today.

I’m not sure what to do with her. When I look at the card, the first thing I see is the pentacle-stars all around her, and it makes me think about home, about safety, about being grounded. And there’s the air of her element, she’s way up high with those swans. It feels hopeful, open. And she has that tiny little cygnet on her chest.

Honestly, I know exactly what this card makes me think of, what it makes me feel, and I just don’t know if I have the energy or the personal resources or the inner strength to feel these things and not break down. Because she feels like home, she feels like my springtime love and his little humans. She feels like peace, and calm, and home. And I don’t know why she’s showing up today, with that energy. Because I’m not there. And I don’t know when I will be or if I will be.

So a little reading. What I see in the card isn’t actually a common reading for the card at all.

Biddy Tarot says:

The Page of Swords is almost like a green light to say, “Go for it”. There are always going to be challenges with whatever option you choose and not everyone is going to be happy with your choices but when it comes down to it, you need to follow your passions and go where your true energy lies. This Page encourages you to move forward and to get the wheels in motion, despite any challenges or setbacks that may potentially stand in the way.

The Shadowscapes companion says this Page represents:

Vigilance, honesty and truthfulness, scrutiny of beliefs, a strong sense of purpose.

So there’s an element of action here, not just home. And that swords-suit dedication to intellectual rigor, to honesty and the scrutiny of beliefs.

I feel like that little cygnet is my heart, and my hope. And I’m trying so hard to keep her safe, but things are hard right now. (All those feathers falling down around the Page – her ability to stay aloft being compromised the longer she stays up there without being able to come down to safe ground.)

Anyway. I’m probably reading way too much into it. But I barely slept last night and I am feeling profoundly off balance these days. And I don’t know how to manage it.

Card of the Day: Two of Cups, Daughter of Wands, Two of Swords

I’ve had a tumultuous few days, and I couldn’t write. Or didn’t write. Whichever. Mostly moped around.

On Wednesday, I drew the Two of Cups. This was a bit of a mind-fuck, because… Because! Because of the situation that precipitated this whole journey.

Two of Cups from The Wild Unknown tarot.
Two of Cups from The Wild Unknown tarot.

Carrie over at Happy Fish Tarot says this about the Two of Cups in this deck:

The Two of Cups shows the sharing and growth that we experience through our connections.This shows a sense of reciprocity and mutually exchanged beauty.

… One of our most basic needs as human beings is to feel seen and valued. In a reading, the Two of Cups can encourage you to reach out to others. Tell someone you appreciate them, make an effort to strengthen a bond or offer a kind word. Despite the complications and conflict that accompany human interactions, this card shows our ability to forgive, bond, heal and encourage one another.

Beth at Little Red Tarot says this about the Two of Bottles (Cups):

This is love.
It’s not The Lovers, it’s not the Ace of Cups.

For me, it’s the Two – of cups, bottles, chalices, water – that really represents what love feels like when you make it real.

What’s happening is an exchange. This version of love is like, you hold this cup, this bottle, which contains all of your water – your feelings, your heart, your soul – and then you offer it to someone else. And, hopefully, they’re offering theirs to you. You offer with complete trust, with the genuine desire to connect. So you can each take the cup of the other, offered so willingly, and drink deep. It’s about saying yes, about saying ‘let’s explore this, together’, and ‘here is my heart, here is what it needs – do you think we can do it?’

So that was Wednesday. And then I ran into him at the science centre. And I wasn’t able to offer anything – I didn’t even make eye contact with him. But I texted him after, and said that I still love him, and there were FEELINGS. Feelings. There were feelings. And I thought, of course I saw him on the day I drew this card. Of course. Of course.

And I did a larger spread with this card as the base, and I’ll write that up next.

Thursday, I drew the Daughter of Wands.

Daughter of Wands from the Wild Unknown tarot.
Daughter of Wands from the Wild Unknown tarot.

And I had another of those “eff you, tarot deck, you don’t know my life” moments that I’m really starting to pay attention to. Because the Daughter of Wands, according to Happy Fish Tarot,

is a sweetly charming character. She is coiled around a blossoming wand, her body forming a figure 8, or the lemniscate symbol (representing infinity). She looks graceful and flexible, ready to incorporate into her environment whatever suits her fancy.

She is colored with red and yellow, making her stand out from the harsh black background. The tip of her tail curves gracefully, giving her an artistic flair. She is a creative and original character, someone with an infinite imagination. She lives life in her own fresh, original way – she is not bound by the status quo.

There’s an innocent confidence to this card. The Daughter of Wands moves not with a cocky arrogance, but with a quiet assurance. She has sweet faith that things will work out for the best.

…You are being asked to step forward into something that resonates with your authentic self. You have the ability to make the world a more beautiful place. Use your charm to your advantage and cultivate a belief that you’ve got what it takes to succeed.

On Thursday I felt hopeless. Discouraged. All that Two of Cups energy and still I wake up without my springtime love and with no confidence in any future for us, and I don’t want to have “sweet faith that things will work out for the best” and I don’t want to “live life in [my] own fresh, original way.” No. Fuck that. Much like my reaction to drawing The Empress a while ago, my reaction to this card was a temper tantrum and a strong desire to retreat. Couldn’t I pull the fuckin’ Hermit or something? Fuck.

But I sat with this “you do you” creative energy for the day, and I still hated it, but I started to see how the wand here looks so similar to the Ace of Wands that I keep getting. And I thought about how maybe that wand blossoms because she is willing to step into that creative, authentic energy of her self. And I thought, okay. Fine. So I expressed myself. I expressed the hell out of myself, and said way more than I probably should have, but it was the right thing to do. And just like when I closed my eyes and jumped into the Empress energy before, this also felt like a necessary catharsis. I was pretty upset after, and my friend offered to come over, and I told him what I’d done and said, and his reaction was to say “Yeah, well, that’s you. That’s all the way you.” It was what I needed to hear.

Now, today.

It’s a bit funny, today’s card, given yesterday’s card.

It’s the Two of Swords.

The Two of Swords from the Shadowscapes tarot.
The Two of Swords from the Shadowscapes tarot.

I described it to someone this morning as a “shut up, doofus” card. I know that’s a fairly flat interpretation of a card with quite a bit of nuance, but given the context it seemed appropriate. “You’ve said your thing, now be quiet and think.”

I’m not good at that. At all. I’m just better at saying my thing, and then saying more, and then more, and then more, and then a little more, and then, after that, a little bit more.

And the Two of Swords is also a card of emotional withdrawal, of defending the way in to the heart. Another thing that I am really, really not the best at. And something that feels relevant right now, today, because my heart feels wide open and I am trying, so hard, to remember how to maintain boundaries for myself and not slip back into negative patterns of behaviour and thought. So I need those swords, intellect and analysis, thought and memory, awareness of self and other. I need those. I need to be quiet, to think, to guard this wide-open heart just a little bit. To set boundaries requiring balance and reciprocity in my relationships (that’s from the spread I did last night – I’ll try to write that up today too!).

So.

That’s where my days have been at. It’s been a lot! I am thankful for tarot as a lens through which I can view this tumultuous time in my life. It gives me something physical and tangible to ground myself down into. I need that, have needed that. And I appreciate it.

Card of the Day: Eight of Swords, reversed

Ah, the eights. So much work in the eights.

I woke up early this morning. I couldn’t sleep. Anxiety and hope fluttering in my belly. I thought about forcing myself to go back to sleep, but I decided that was silly. Got up, turned on the kettle, drew my card (also checked social media and my horoscope, because, anxiety).

So the Eight of Swords, reversed.

The Eight of Swords from The Wild Unknown tarot.
The Eight of Swords from The Wild Unknown tarot.

There’s the cocoon. The keywords for this card in the liner notes are “trapped, powerless.” I like that I got it reversed. That the time of feeling trapped is almost done, it’s coming to an end. There is forward-moving energy, and this feels like such a hopeful card. The swords do, as Happy Fish Tarot says, appear to be threatening the butterfly. But sometimes you have to come out of your cocoon even if you feel like the swords are threatening. Sometimes you have to make a choice to move towards freedom, even when it’s terrifying.

From Happy Fish:

This card shows those times where there seems to be no solution in sight, no matter how hard we try to think of one. The harder we think, the more trapped we believe we are.

The imagery here draws some similarities to the Waite-Smith depiction, which shows a woman bound and blindfolded. The butterfly is bound up around itself, unable to find a way to navigate the surrounding swords and stretch its wings.

This card shows those times when we feel stuck, and worse yet, we doubt our own ability to disentangle ourselves. It can become tempting to give up our personal power and wait for another person or an outside circumstance to offer assistance.

In a reading, this card can ask you to look at the stories you are telling yourself about your options. If you seem to be stuck or entrenched in mental fog, this card can remind you to take steps towards reclaiming your personal power.

Of course, this is easier said than done! You can begin by changing your thoughts, updating your stories. Instead of focusing on your confusion and lack of clarity, train yourself to look for steps – even small steps – towards freedom. When you consciously choose to loosen your mental constraints, a path forward will begin to emerge.

I read the reversal as indicating that this process has begun. This energy is present – both the feeling of being trapped, and the encouragement to move beyond it.

I’ve used the metaphor of the butterfly a lot lately for myself and for my springtime love. I think that the traumatic break in April forced us both into cocoons, and now we each have a choice as to whether we emerge or stay trapped and powerless.

I want to choose expansiveness. I want to choose to fight my way out of this fog, out of this cocoon, to continue to grow. Shake these wings off and fly. I want him to do the same, to meet me there (and now the image of The Lovers from The Wild Unknown seems even more clear). I can’t make that choice for him, though. All I can do is make the choice for myself and trust that if we’re meant to fly together, we will. We were pretty rad caterpillars together. And they’ve shown that butterflies remember what they learned as caterpillars, despite the cataclysmic change of metamorphosis (is there anything more emblematic of the cataclysmic change than turning to goo and then reforming, mind intact? I don’t think so.).

This cocooning has been awful. Painful. Hard. But I am grateful for the opportunity to grow into my better self.

I think it’s time to come out of the cocoon. It’s time to become this new self.

Trying a relationship spread 


This spread, with the Wild Unknown tarot, made me laugh. (It comes from Barbara Moore’s book Tarot Spreads.)

So, briefly (since I’m on my phone, at my sister’s house). 

Left to right:

Why do I want him back? The Lovers. Yes. Fuck, yes. Oh, my heart. He is home for me, and this is my favourite representation of this card – the geese flying together in the same direction, growing together and helping each other soar. This is exactly why I want him back. Because we can have this, together. 

Why do I not want him back? Reversed Four of Swords – yes! Because our relationship, as it is(n’t) right now absolutely does block my inner stillness. The Four of Swords is a really important card for me, and when I saw this reversal it really resonated. I do want him back, but I don’t want the pain and uncertainty of this limbo. 

What went wrong? The Magician. I mean. Yeah! I snorted when I saw this. Because yes, The Magician is a powerful positive card, but there’s also an element of manipulation there, and a shifty side-eye from that cheetah. AND at the same time, what went wrong? Not using the positive aspects here! Not owning our personal power and making choices and taking actions that would have been positive. Hoping for the best without doing the work to make it happen. Rejecting the parts of The Magician that are good and powerful, and not moving into the balance that this card offers. The Magician is one of those cards that calls out my codependency and offers an alternative. What went wrong? Not taking that alternative. 

What to let go of? Oh, my heart. Reversed Three of Swords. Let go of the heartbreak, the betrayal. 

What to learn? Ten of Cups. Harmony and joy. How hopeful is that? That’s super hopeful. And I hope it loops around, and I can bring my newly learned harmony and joy into a new beginning with my lover. 

Hope. There is hope.