Monday, May 12, 2014 16 comments

The Tarot Bones

I've said it before and I'll say it again:  Tarot cards do not mean anything and everything you think they might mean. There is a foundational framework of symbolism that has been collectively accepted and agreed upon by human culture over space, time, and history.

There seems to be a certain hesitancy in social tarot groups to tell someone they goofed, they got it wrong, they missed something when they state their take on a particular card.  While there is a whole wide area of wiggle room within the confines of that framework, there is a framework.  They are the bones of tarot over which everything else rests, is connected to, grows and moves.  If you remove the bones you are left with a blob of inert, gloopy stuff that doesn't hold together very well.



So don't tell me the Ace of Swords is about passion without logic, or that the 2 of Cups is about taking a gym class with a friend.  No.  Just no.  While the Ace does contain energetic passion and the 2 is about duality and togetherness, the suit characteristics were mixed up.  Wrong.

The problem arises when someone has the cajones to say, "Hey, I don't think that's quite accurate," and are met with predictable nonsense about how tarot card meanings are not "set in stone" and can mean anything to anybody and we all see things differently but equally valid. Nope. If your interpretation isn't tied by even the finest thread to the bones of tarot, your interpretation is invalid.



The bones of the Minor Arcana are the suit and the number or member of court. That isn't too hard or restrictive.  Hard, cold steel of the Swords does not equate to illogical, firey passion of a burning brand (Wand) but to precise facts.  Flowing liquid in Cups cannot be held in one's hand like a Pentacle.  These are the basics and the basis of tarot interpretation and just make sense. 

HOWEVER --- (disclaimer time) --- There are people who read cards in just this formless, boneless way and they read beautifully.  I am not negating this style of divination.  The cool thing about this style is one doesn't even need a tarot deck.  Any image or collection of images will work.  Oracle decks are wonderfully suited for this sort of reading. There are no rules, there is no framework, one simply allows intuition to guide and bubble up meaningful connections and phrases and ideas and so forth.  It's a tremendously useful way to strengthen one's intuition and learn to trust it and hone it.

But if you're setting about reading tarot then read tarot and don't try and serve up some oracular mishmash and claim it's because the meanings are not "set in stone" and "that's the beauty of tarot."  Yes, there are some meanings set in stone and no, pulling something contradictory to those foundational meanings is not beautiful, it's tripe.  See, if a singular tarot card can mean anything to anyone then there is no way you can teach what you know about tarot.  Because you don't know anything until you are faced with a question and a card that has changed its meaning based on the situation.  You can certainly coach others to use this same talent, to draw meaning from images relevant to the client's situation, but you aren't teaching tarot.  You are helping them develop their intuitive skill.  Different.



If one does not assign meaning to any particular card, suit, number, court, etc. then fine, but that's not tarot reading.  That's divining with a tarot deck, and there's nothing wrong with that, but I'm drawing this line for reasons of clarity because I'm tired, so tired, of the argument among tarot readers that the cards can mean anything to anyone at any time.  I think maybe we confuse our intuitive flashes with reading tarot because they happen often while reading tarot.  Those flashes are cool and often strikingly accurate but they don't change the foundational meaning of the card for the next reading.  The bones are the starting point and the body that each reader fleshes out from the bones to the outer layer of skin will fluctuate and change depending on the conditions, but the bones don't change.  Your understanding of them will deepen as you learn, but they will always be what they are and placed where they belong or the tarot reading will not run, walk, or move.

Sometimes we'll get stumped on a card because what we know about a situation (the flesh) or what we are getting intuitively (also flesh) does not appear to fit well over the bones. Good tarot readers don't discard the bones because the flesh doesn't seem to fit.  A good tarot reader digs deeper to see how the flesh connects, finds the sinews, ligaments and muscle fibers that latch to the bone.

Get digging.  Find the connective tissue. That's tarot reading.



 
Saturday, March 08, 2014 10 comments

It's Your Own Damn Fault

http://cynfulpaintingdujour.blogspot.pt/
Regret. Cyn McCurry
 When I was sixteen I did a really dumb thing.  (Who hasn't at sixteen?) See, when I was fourteen I was diagnosed with severe scoliosis and was promptly fitted with a Milwaukee brace, a neck to pelvis contraption that I wore 23 hours a day.  My tummy had not seen the sun in two years and I went with my friends on a day trip to the beach, fell asleep on the sand, and woke with a very red belly.  I shook and shivered on the way home but couldn't tolerate the scratchy, wool blanket I was given to wrap up in.  It hurt my skin.  I passed out once on the way into the house.  My boyfriend stayed with me until my mother came home and explained to her what happened.  I was crying in pain and my mother snapped, "It's your own damn fault!" 

Yes.  She was right.  However, her being right didn't help.  It never helps me to point out this obvious fact that my suffering is my own doing.  That's right, it NEVER helps.  It hurts.  It comes under the category of if you don't have anything nice (or helpful) to say, don't say anything at all.  That's because my default is to blame myself for everything that happens to me. This is why I don't say certain things out loud because I am sure that someone will say, "Well, it's your own fault."  I miss my kids.  I miss them with everything in me.  I hurt tangibly and physically sometimes because I miss them.  I made the heart-wrenching decision seven years ago to be the one to leave the family home when their father and I divorced.  I moved a two hour's drive away.  It's still close enough to see them and they have spent time with me, but that pain never lessened or went away.  Now that they're older and have less time to spend with their mom, it's harder to arrange time to see them. We talk on the phone and on Facebook, but, well, you know, not the same.  This pain is my fault.  I know this and beat myself up about it on a regular basis.  Yes, I know that's not helpful. 



There are people who don't take enough responsibility for their choices.  These are the blamers, the ones who point their finger at everyone and everything else for their pain.  Stuck in victim mode, their misfortune is always the result of something outside of themselves.  Saying, "It's your own damn fault," to them only helps if you first acknowledge their pain and accept that they are hurting.  It's difficult to show compassion to someone like this, but it's absolutely necessary if your goal is to speak a harsh truth to them.  They have to know first that you care, that you have their best interest in mind and you're not just another outside force causing more pain. 

On both ends of the spectrum, whether one takes on too much responsibility for the painful situation or not enough the most helpful advice is to focus on right now.  Before someone can take steps in a positive, forward moving direction, they have to release themselves of the blame, both directed at themselves and others.  The self-blamer believes that if she can isolate the actions and circumstances that caused the pain in the first place she can avoid the pain in the future.  The other-blamer relieves themselves of the responsibility to make changes and keep doing what they're doing because they aren't in control.  One assumes too much control while the other assumes too little.  Regardless of their locus of control, neither has the ability to move forward. The fear of pain keeps them stuck. 

In my tarot practice, I focus not on what will happen but on looking for ways to view the situation as it currently is and on steps one can take from here forward.  Taking responsibility for the choices we make in life is one thing.  Regretting them is something that happens often because once choices have been made they can't be unmade and they come with unknown and unintentional consequences.  The last thing anyone needs when they cry out in pain from shooting themselves in the foot is the reminder that they did it to themselves.  They already know that.  They're already kicking themselves with the uninjured foot.


Sunday, February 02, 2014 17 comments

Not You Again?





Recently a tarot reader wrote to me asking about how to discern the meaning of cards that keep showing up in one's readings.  It will happen from time to time when reading for oneself where the same card or cards will reappear no matter what the subject or question.  It would be fine if we knew what message these nagging cards were trying to convey, but we often don't.  Their reappearance becomes more of a frustration than anything else and they seem to block us from figuring out the rest of the reading, too.


So what to do when these naggers show up time and time again?  I think just the fact that they're being repetitive can cause a kind of "block" to our understanding of them.  If a card or series of cards shows up once, we have no problem interpreting them, but once they start becoming frequent visitors we start to wonder what else they're trying to say apart from the original reading.  The more we try to figure it out, we tend to over-think.  Over-thinking usually blocks us from hearing our intuition and the situation gets frustrating as we pour over the individual card meanings, looking up definitions, and searching tarot websites for clues. One meaning leads to another, and another, and another....




I've experienced the best results from simply doing another reading on what the recurring cards are messaging.  You'll want to remove the repetitive cards from the deck before laying out your reading because the last thing you want is for tarot to answer with those same cards, which is what usually happens.  What does the 2 of Pentacles mean for me in these readings?  The 2 of Pentacles.  Thanks a lot, tarot.  In the case of multiple recurring cards, I would do a reading on each and one for them together.  A short, two or three card spread asking a direct question is best such as, "What does this card mean for me now?" is best.  It is also helpful to have a position in your reading for "The card does not mean this," which will help rule out some of the various things your mind has been mulling over.  Most importantly, do not over-think these readings and go with your initial intuitive meanings that come to you.

Another option is to consult another trusted tarot reader.  I often receive feedback after a reading that the cards I pulled were the same cards the client had been seeing repetitively in their own readings  but my more objective view was able to see what they had not. 

Do you have another way to figure out those nagging recurring cards?  I'd like to hear your suggestions!
Sunday, November 03, 2013 9 comments

Healing Without Wholeness



heal (v.)
Old English hælan "cure; save; make whole, sound and well," from Proto-Germanic *hailjan (cf. Old Saxon helian, Old Norse heila, Old Frisian hela, Dutch helen, German heilen, Gothic ga-hailjan "to heal, cure"), literally "to make whole."
I struggle with this.  I have been on this quest for most of my life, the quest to "become whole."  I laid down my sword in this battle recently.  I'm done.  No, I haven't reached "wholeness" or at least I don't think I have.  I remain scarred, broken, and wounded.  I'm just tired of the search and the work for something I now think is unattainable.  
 
I question the idea that we come into this world whole and if only the best things happen to us we would remain so.  Some of us enter life already injured, mentally or physically, or both.  Some who endure deeply wounding experiences are incredibly resilient and move forward in living their lives to their fullest.  Others, to whom nothing horrible appears to have happened, feel crippled by even getting up in the morning.  Many of us are combinations of both, depending on the day.  

Physically, I've been mostly healthy, but the places in my body that have been made un-whole bear the evidence.  There are scars and small fractures where the experience left its mark.  There is no such thing as putting something back the way it was before.  It works much the same way with emotional injuries.  Healing is, at best, mostly.  Not whole, not complete, not ever.

One of the most compelling things about Christianity for me was its focus on healing.  I embraced the religion in the aftermath of a deeply traumatic and abusive marriage and the promises of healing in the Bible gave me intense hope. But looking back at my time within that religion, I can't say for certain that healing came, at least not specifically through practicing the religion. Time, love, experience -- these things helped greatly.  Therapy helped a lot more.

whole (adj.)

Old English hal "entire, unhurt, healthy," from Proto-Germanic *khailaz "undamaged" (cf. Old Saxon hel, Old Norse heill, Old Frisian hal, Middle Dutch hiel, Dutch heel, Old High German, German heil "salvation, welfare"), from PIE *koilas (cf. Old Church Slavonic celu "whole, complete.") The spelling with wh- developed early 15c.
According to the dictionary, the whole is all there is, every part, member, aspect.  It is the complete sum, amount, quantity of anything.  Something that is whole is not divided. It is undiminished, integral, complete, unimpaired, perfect.




So I needed a different definition since it became clear this kind of return to emotional Eden was not going to happen.  I am now inspired by people who, though damaged and decidedly not whole, live in peace with themselves and others.  Who, despite not having much to offer, are generous and outreaching.  Not because they don't hurt, but because they understand hurt.  These people are patient with others because they understand that living broken makes us walk with our own peculiar limp. They're not offended when their efforts to embrace are rebuffed because sometimes just touching raw, wounded people can hurt them.  These people have not erased their injuries but incorporated them into themselves as part of the package. 

For me, wholeness is better described by acceptance.  My spine, for example, is crooked.  Extremely crooked.  It looks something like this but more pronounced:





My spine will never be straight.  I will never know a pain free day.  It hasn't stopped me from dancing, working out, hiking, running -- well, ok, sometimes running hurts.  I have learned that strengthening the muscles around my spine helps reduce the pain tremendously.  I am not on pain medications.  I have some limitations, but I work around them.  I accept that my spine will forever be crooked, I accept that I will never be "whole."  For me this works a lot better than trying to become whole in reality.  It is a kind of "wholeness in spite of not whole."  This is the same approach I now use in terms of emotional wholeness.  Healing, then, is not a quest to return to some untarnished state but to move forward with acceptance of one's broken pieces.  Where there are limitations, find a way to work around them.  There are days when my back hurts so much I can't do the things I planned.  Those days I am gentle with my body and rest.  So it is with emotional hurts, even those from long ago that, for some reason, have flared up with an unintentional trigger experience.  Give yourself time and space.  Don't berate yourself for not having healed yet.  Who said you will?  Who told you that there would come a time when you would never hurt again from that injury or damage?  Maybe so, but maybe not.  Instead of hoping for some future time when it won't hurt ever again, find your way through the pain now.  Do things that strengthen the muscles around the injured parts.  Be kind to yourself and rest.  Tell that nagging voice in your head to sit down and shut up because it is what it is and you are who you are, broken parts and all. 



Sunday, October 06, 2013 23 comments

Back To School with Tarot?



So my car died.  The transmission was being stupid and every day it was being a little more stupid.  My mom bought herself a new car and gave me her older one, a PT Cruiser.  If I had won the lottery, the PT Cruiser is not the car I would have chosen but it is very nice and it certainly beats a dead car.  So I'm extraordinarily grateful to my mother.  In the process of registering the car, I had to produce my birth certificate to prove I am my mother's daughter but the problem was I couldn't find it.  I tore through some boxes of stuff in storage and found not what I was looking for but a whole slew of old tarot journals from when I was learning to read.  I didn't realize how many notes I'd taken, how many readings I wrote down, card meanings, musings, etc.  Many.

I'm frequently asked how to learn to read tarot.  Several people have asked if I offer classes.  I can do that.  One of the roles I play at my day job has been as a trainer.  I can teach adults the stuff I know.  But tarot is different.  Some people thrive in a classroom setting and there are some wonderful readers offering wonderful tarot courses and  classes, but I'm hesitant.  Because that's not the way I learned tarot.  I realize not everyone is an autodidact, a self-taught person, but I learn best when I research and practice on my own.  Besides, I'm not sure I can teach anyone how to read tarot exactly.  I can teach the history of tarot cards and I can show how to lay them out in spreads and I can hand out a set of acceptable meanings, but that's not reading.  Besides, you can get that within the little booklet that comes packaged with almost every tarot deck.  So what would a class really offer that one can't get on their own?



Maybe I'm being dense.  Learning tarot in a class is much like learning anything else.  If I took a class on cake decorating but then didn't practice on my own at home, I wouldn't get any better at creating rosettes.  If I took a language class and yet continued to use the translation dictionary, the words, the subtle meanings and the natural flow of speaking and understanding wouldn't embed itself in my brain.  Maybe this is why I don't take classes unless they are a means to an end such as earning credits toward a degree. If I have a passion to learn something, I just go do it and learn as I go.  I have thoroughly enjoyed taking classes, don't misunderstand.  I love learning new things.  But learning a skill is different and learning tarot is more different still.

While there is a right and wrong way to bake a cake and pronounce a word in another language, there is no right or wrong way to read tarot (or pronounce it, for that matter).  While I can equip you with the basics, you must take it from there.  You will need to work with your cards every day several times a day.  You will be thinking about them even when you're not working with them.  You will be reading about them, talking with others about them, writing about them and yes, reading, reading, reading them.  You will make discoveries and apply them to your readings.  You will study the cards, research symbols, colors, numbers, and incorporate what you find.  Or not.  Maybe you will find whatever you find in the cards.  Maybe you will develop your own set of meanings and symbols and use those.  No one can teach you these things.

Because the language of tarot comes from your own conscious and subconscious connections and experiences, every reader speaks a different dialect of tarot.  When I read for someone who also reads tarot, I am often asked how I arrived at a particular card meaning.  I don't know?  I can only tell you what I know about the card itself but how the connection came to be made between that and what I told you in the context of your reading is a complex domino effect of associations that happens so quickly in my brain that I couldn't begin to unravel it for you.

The first tarot reading I received was so mind blowing for me that when I began the process of learning tarot, I wanted to read like THAT.  I wanted to be able to read those cards like a story, connecting them in a way that not only made sense linguistically but made sense in the life of the one I was reading for.  Just as learning a language is best done by immersing oneself in the culture and environment of the language, so it was for me with tarot, too.



That said, I've been thinking about offering something, though, along the lines of teaching tarot. Just because I learn best on my own doesn't mean everyone does.  I'm not against a tarot class, per se, but maybe a kind of tarot mentoring or coaching would be more beneficial?  For those who might be interested in a tarot class, what would you be looking for?  What would you want to accomplish by taking such a class?  When the class was over, what would you expect to be equipped to do? 


Saturday, August 24, 2013 8 comments

Get Lost

It is good to feel lost... because it proves you have a navigational sense of where "Home" is.  You know that a place that feels like being found exists.  And maybe your current location isn't that place but, Hallelujah, that unsettled, uneasy feeling of lost-ness just brought you closer to it.  
~Erika Harris

DruidCraft deck by Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington, Published by Connections 2005

Looking out of the car window in the dark, nothing looked familiar.  I could hear my mom mutter under her breath.  One of us would inevitably ask the question, "Are we there yet?"  and then the snapped answer, "We're LOST!"  Gasp! Oh no! Our eyes would widen as we scanned the foreign land around us.  How will we make it home?  What will happen to us in this dangerous, unknown place?  "Lock the doors," Mom commanded.  We quickly obliged, then slunk down into the seats, not wanting the people of the outside to see us.  Sitting ducks.  Inevitably, being lost meant wandering through the "bad" parts of town.  Anything could happen.  We could run out of gas.  A gang of rabid squirrels could attack the car.  We  could keep going round in circles and not get out of there, wherever there was.  It's a scary,  frustrating thing being lost.

Those were the days before GPS, before Google Maps. There were no cell phones.  Mom was a single mother and had no back up partner to call from a pay phone at a well lit gas station.  Being kids who didn't know how to drive or how we got to where we were in the first place, we were no help.  To the contrary, I'm sure we made her feel even more vulnerable and our nervous questions added to her own anxiety.  She had to figure it out on her own and though my mother has many talents, a sense of direction is not one of them.  I remember hanging over the front seat during one of these "adventures" and making the observation, "You know, Mom, whenever we get lost, we always end up home eventually."  This made her laugh and relax a little.  "Yeah, " she said, "We do.  We always do get home."

The thing about getting lost is that it just happens.  You can't make it happen, I've tried.  I've intentionally taken wrong turns, driven until the road ends, went places I had no idea where they went to, and still mostly knew where I was.  It's pretty much an exercise in bullshit trying to get lost, so I'd end up back home not feeling at all satisfied.  When you're truly lost it happens in what seems like a blink of an eye.  You're in familiar territory then all of a sudden you're not.  Nothing looks right.  It dawns on you that you have never seen that building, that road, that sign.  Uh oh.  So you try very hard to listen to your intuition to guide you out and you feel very strongly you need to take that turn, go that way.  So you do, and keep following your gut.  And you end up going in a big goddamn circle.  Now you've lost faith in yourself, your inner compass, and you really don't know how to find your way home.  Now it's at least an hour later and it's dark and you can't see the road signs. Not that they'd help you because you don't know the names and you don't know which one you're supposed to take.  One leads to a cul-de-sac, so you just turn around.  Another leads to a dead end.  Yet another ends up in someone's driveway.  You're getting more hopeless and frustrated but you know you can't stay where you are.  You don't belong there.  You begin to feel like prey.  Don't act lost, you think, someone will smell your fear.  Someone will take advantage of you.  You try to act like you belong there even though everything inside of you feels like a gnawing, nagging desperation that knows you don't.

What to do?  Might as well pray. Got nothing to lose. Please, God, show me the way home and I'll never get lost again!  Then you look around and keep your eyes peeled for a sign.  Nothing.  Crickets. A beautiful night sky blinks in starry silence. Fuck it.  Go.  This way.  Then that way.  Keep going.  Stop, get more gas.  Ask directions.  Get laughed at as they tell you the highway exit you've been looking for is a mile away.  That way.  Feel relieved and stupid at the same time.  Laugh at yourself.  Turn the radio back on, relax and go.  As you drive into familiar areas, you relax even more, turn the volume up and start dancing in your seat as you feel the stress of the evening leave your body as you sing along with the radio at the top of your lungs.  You know where you are.  You're home.



“Getting lost is just another way of saying 'going exploring.”
― Justina Chen, North of Beautiful 

Getting lost is an unnerving experience for many.  For others, it's an adventure. It's a matter of perspective and circumstances.  For my mother, the responsibility of four young children added to her stress because she felt responsible for our safety and well being, too.  If you're on your own and have no pressing external obligations or responsibilities, no one worrying about you being dead in a ditch, you're less likely to freak out.  If you have a lifeline like a cell phone or a GPS in your car, you're also less likely to panic.  If your internal compass leads you in the right direction the first time, it's all good.  But I don't consider those kinds of circumstances truly lost.  You're simply misdirected, misaligned, out of your way.  Being truly lost is to be without lifelines, directions, internal compasses, and sometimes even hope.

It gets harder and harder to literally get lost these days. The world is a smaller and smaller place and increasingly interconnected.  With all the franchise and chain stores in the strip malls and shopping centers, most towns look a lot the same.  While you may not know where you are, at least things look familiar.  Pull into the McDonald's and use the free WiFi and figure it out.  Get on Facebook and ask your friends. Google it.  Get instant answers.  We're not able to get lost these days it seems, except inside, except in life.  There isn't a roadmap for your inner journey.  No GPS for your life.  Your Facebook friends can't direct you.  That friendly guy at the gas station? Nope. And the stars just stare and blink, still silent.

And it's not even that you're stuck, but maybe running in circles.  There are plenty of roads, but not a clue which one to take. All the familiar storefronts are here, but it doesn't feel like home.  We can divine tarot for direction, but ultimately even that advice must resonate with your internal compass before you agree to take it.  Ultimately, in life as in being lost on the road, we just say "Fuck it" and go. Any direction different from the circles you've been going. Because it doesn't really matter which way you go as long as you go.  Because there's one thing you know: here is not home.  It may not feel like it, but this is a good experience.  Even as a child I knew we would make it home. Somehow.




I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.  ~Douglas Adams








Saturday, August 03, 2013 7 comments

When Tarot Says Wait

Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.
   -Khaled Hosseini,  A Thousand Splendid Suns 


 Tarot is a master of dilemmas.  One of the finest uses for tarot is sorting through the angles and what if's and projecting possible outcomes.  It's what makes it such a great tool for brainstorming and decision making.  So when the advice the cards give is to wait it can be extremely frustrating.  We've been waiting, hence the stalemate of the stubborn problem, and we decide to give tarot a go at the situation and even tarot is being stubborn! At first you might think tarot is being obtuse.  Like, no shit Sherlock, I already know I'm stuck, give me a freaking answer already!

There are several cards in the deck that indicate waiting.  The Hanged Man is probably the most obvious as he's got no other option.

Ambre Tarot by Florence Magnin, Phage Press 1994

In some ways, as frustrating as any kind of waiting can be, this kind of waiting is one of those "Oh well, may as well make the best of it" kind of times.  And with this card you really do make the best of the waiting time and come away from it better off.  What's more, you don't have to do much externally.  (Well, you can't anyway.) All the good stuff happens internally.  Your focus and perspective takes a major shift so when the waiting is over, you're all set to move forward.  Getting this card as a signal to wait is a bit easier because you already know if you're caught up like the guy in the card and there's nothing you can do.  It's nice to have this acknowledged by a tarot reading so you can accept the situation and get to the internal business rather than struggle against the ropes.  

The 4 of Swords is another kind of waiting.  



 
Fenestra Tarot by By Chatriya Hemharnvibu; Published by US Games 2006


The waiting in this card can be either self-imposed or externally demanded.  It indicates a time out either due to illness, imprisonment, a short retreat, even spending time catching up on desperately needed sleep.  Like the Hanged Man, it involves gaining perspective, indicated by the swords, as the mental blockade becomes less impenetrable during the time spent in rest.  This card advises stepping back and waiting so your mind has an opportunity to settle and in that time you will be better able to go back and deal with the issue.  With waiting, time seems suspended and that can be the most frustrating part.  Waiting is always less frustrating when we have something to do.  But doing isn't always active or physical, it can be mental doing that occupies the time. However, this card says we shouldn't even be doing that.  Stop tossing the problem back and forth in your mind for a while.  Let it just be and go take care of yourself.  Stop obsessing. 

And then we have the 2 of Swords:


DruidCraft Tarot By Stephanie Carr-Gomm & Philip Carr-Gomm & Will Worthington; Published by Connections 2005
 
 If ever there was a dilemma card, this one's it.  It's not always indicative of indecision.  Sometimes it can be a conscious choice to remain neutral in a situation.  In terms of waiting, however, this card advises to take that neutral stance until a truth of some kind reveals itself that will undoubtedly break the stalemate.  That revelation often comes as the 3 of Swords, an unpleasant truth, but necessary to understand clearly before one knows what to think and do.  

Active waiting is another kind, somewhat better to deal with, but still frustrating to get in a reading.  The 7 of Pentacles can represent this kind:

Pamela A tarot deck

In the situation represented by the 7 of Pentacles, you've already put so much time, energy and investment into the situation but you're wondering if you should expend any more.  It may be starting to look like it was all a wasted effort and if you continue you may just be throwing good resources after bad.  Or maybe when you started you felt more positive about the whole thing but now, you're just not sure it's what you really want. And it's turning out to be a lot more work than you bargained for, too.  This card is full of doubt and wishful thinking.  Still, there's stuff you can do in the meantime while you're waiting for the situation to ripen.  Until something indicates it's time to go in a different direction, you can keep tending to the situation as you have been.  I wouldn't invest any more additional resources if you can help it, but just watch and wait to see if things turn out well (or not).  This means you'll still be busy, which makes the waiting somewhat more bearable.

Fours in tarot often show stillness, a time of unmoving stability.  The 4 of Cups is interesting because cups, emotions, are often anything but still:


Hudes Tarot By Susan HudesPublished by US Games 2002

Here's the kind of waiting that one does when you're just not feeling it.  You had hoped for more and you didn't get it.  There's disappointment and feelings of hopelessness.  These emotions have a way of dragging you down so you don't even want to keep trying or hoping.  Just fuck it, you think, I should just forget it.  But you can't.  So you wait until something happens to engage your emotions or passions again.  Waiting through this card can feel awful, so the advice would be to try not to be so pessimistic and look around you for opportunities you may be missing that would fill your cup again.  Take time to just sit with your emotions (or lack of them) and accept that we all go through times like this.  I definitely wouldn't make any decisions during this time.  Probably unwise.  So wait it out.

I really hate the next one, the 8 of Swords:

Robin Wood Tarot By Robin Wood; Published by Llewellyn 1991

Stuck.  So goddamn stuck.  I always get the sense that this woman didn't get into this predicament by herself.  While her own thoughts may be keeping her there, she's been hoodwinked and tied up, too.  It's as if someone has deceived her and she is now realizing she has been deceived but doesn't know what to do about it and can't find her way out of the deception.  The advice here isn't about waiting for rescue, because that isn't going to happen.  The waiting in this card is less about standing still any longer, but waiting on your own senses to engage and give you important clues how to release yourself.  This woman can use her sense of smell and hearing to gather crucial information.  She can smell the sea and hear the waves and know not to move in that direction.  She can feel the sand under her feet and take tentative, careful steps across the sand, feeling her way forward.  This card can also indicate you've been accepting of your victimization and it's now time to take some control.  This card can reveal why you have been waiting but it doesn't exactly advise to keep waiting.  It does, however, advise that whatever you decide to do, do carefully and calculatingly.  

Usually the 4 of Pentacles is viewed in a rather negative light, as a miserly, greedy, stubborn kind of energy.  But in terms of advice and waiting it can mean not these traits but something different:


Housewives Tarot By Paul Kepple; Published by Quirk Books

This is mine and you can't have any.  It's telling you to not give any of your stuff, your time, your resources, your attention.  Be stubborn and stick to your boundaries.  Don't give in.  It's not so much about waiting as about taking a stand and refusing to be manipulated or  victimized.  So if you're wondering what you can do about a situation and this card comes up as advice, don't do anything.  Don't give anything. Let them come to you, and even then, don't budge.  

While waiting is hard, really hard sometimes, when the advice is clear that waiting is the best course of action, er, non-action, we can at least use the time wisely and productively by following the other clues in the card's advice.  If we need to take a break from the situation, do that.  Take a long drive, go to a movie, whatever it takes to get away from the anxiousness of waiting.  If the card says just keep doing what you've been doing, then do that and try not to stress over what if's.  If you're supposed to start taking baby steps, take one.  Doesn't matter which one, just move in a direction.  If you can't actually do anything, try to see the situation from other perspectives.  A change of mind and understanding can actually be the key to getting unstuck.  Waiting is always difficult, but with something to do it seems to pass more quickly. 
Sunday, June 02, 2013 12 comments

The Cougar in The Lovers Card



 Although we don't really know what is happening in the scene in the Marseilles "The Lover" card, some have suggested it may be an allegorical choice between two women, one older (Virtue), one younger (Sensuality).  The card can indicate the need for guidance in decisions, taking into account what you believe in, your moral standing, before moving forward with a choice.  As far as literal romance goes, we expect he'll choose the younger.  Did you ever wonder what if he chose the older woman?  How might that go?

I am happily partnered with a man who is 16 years younger than me.  Does this make me a "cougar?" Maybe.  I mean, it kind of started off in a cougar-like fashion. Mike was the first younger man I'd ever considered being romantically involved with, but I wasn't looking for long term at the time. I met him nine years ago.  He was handsome, sexy, charming and 25. I was 41 and just wanted a fun fling with that sweet young thang.  So I kissed him. Right on the mouth. But falling in love? Not on the agenda for either of us.  During the course of that "fling" we unexpectedly connected on a really deep, loving level.  We've been in a committed relationship for six years now.


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For anyone considering this kind of relationship, I gotta warn you, it's not all the stuff of steamy fantasy, although that is one of the perks.  Some think being with a much younger partner would make you feel younger.  It decidedly does not. If anything it makes me feel older.  I mean, there he is in all his youngness and, by comparison, I'm not. He'll talk about coming of age in the 90's when I had already had two marriages, four children, and a mortgage.  I graduated high school when he was still using fat crayons. When I get in an oldies music mood and turn on some obscure classic rock song, he'll surprise me and sing along.  He smiles and says, "My dad used to listen to that."  Nice.  When I am moody, he doesn't blame it on PMS, he blames it on perimenopause.  Needless to say, a host of insecurities can rise to the surface and cause problems if not dealt with.




Insecurity: He will probably leave me for a younger woman.

Truth: He might, but so could any guy.  How is age a guarantee he won't? Plenty of men do this whether they are older, the same age, or younger.  Trust is an issue in relationships, period.






Insecurity: He must have mommy issues and I'm the cure.

Truth: I see women in their twenties "mothering" grown ass men all the time. I'm careful not to nurture too much but not because he's younger than me.  Because its my nature to do so and then resent the hell out of it.  I have learned a thing or two from my past relationships, so I check that impulse.  It has nothing to do with his age and everything to do with my own unhealthy patterns. But even if he did have "mommy issues," so what? Who doesn't bring their issues into relationships?  We all have them and the trick is to find someone who fits into your particular emotional curves. In this scene from the movie Rocky Paulie asks Rocky why he wants to be with his sister, why Adrian?
Paulie: [talking about Adrian] You like her?
Rocky: Sure, I like her.
Paulie: What's the attraction?
Rocky: I dunno... she fills gaps.
Paulie: What's 'gaps'?
Rocky: I dunno, she's got gaps, I got gaps, together we fill gaps.


Insecurity: He's embarrassed by my age when we go out together.

Truth: He brags about my age to his friends and anyone who will listen.  Stop it, I shush him, but that's because I'm usually the one thinking I look foolish with this younger man, not the other way around.  He tells his guy friends they should find an older woman to settle down with and proudly states our age difference. This is new to him, too.  He's never been in a relationship with an older woman and while he struggled with the idea at first, he says its the best decision he's ever made.  I do present as younger than I am, and I won't deny that's part of what attracted Mike to me. I'm comfortable with my age but I'm also fine with letting people think I'm only slightly older than him. No such luck as he usually lets that cat out of the bag. I don't really focus on "looking younger."  If I did I'd exercise a lot more than I do.  If you're going to be with someone a lot younger than you, confidence in yourself and satisfaction with who you are is key.  Then again, that's key in any relationship, isn't it?



Insecurity: He's so immature.

Truth: Yeah, in some ways.  And so am I in some ways.  Nobody grows up in a linear fashion. One of the things that attracted me to him was his mental and emotional maturity, the way he thinks through issues and leaves room for change.  When he's being stupid and immature, I roll my eyes and let it roll off my shoulders.  Thankfully, he does the same for me.  Sometimes we'll call each other out on it.  Nobody gets defensive. How we deal with each others immaturity is actually quite mature.


Insecurity: I'll tire of him eventually.

Truth: How is this an age thing?  I might get tired or bored with any partner.

Other things, not age difference, are more likely to doom our relationship, things that most couples struggle with such as stress, finances, and the fact that he avoids doing the dishes. We both have so much baggage, issues, and past stuff that could potentially create impasse, but we navigate through all that with honesty and courage. As far as interpersonal relating goes, it's the most equal and emotionally healthy relationship I've ever had. I'm not saying age isn't an issue here.  It is, but it's just one among others and frankly it's a much lesser issue in the whole scheme of our relationship. 

There were those who thought Mike was my mid-life crisis boy toy and I was his cougar/MILF experience. Mostly the negative comments and cautionary concern came from people my age and older.  Younger men and women in their 20's and 30's have been very supportive and affirming.  The older folks have experience and wisdom, but love doesn't listen to that.  There's just no rhyme or reason to love, there really isn't.  I'm as surprised as anyone that this man grabbed my heart and I his.  The heart apparently does not count the years lived.  It is more concerned with the immediate and present and sees beyond, under, around and through.  


Ginny & Mike

Saturday, May 04, 2013 3 comments

Fear: Taming Our Overprotective Guard Dog

“What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?”
                                                                ~ Toni Morrison

Original image: Album cover by Alfatec, Brainphobia


Fear.  It is one of our basic, instinctive, primal responses.  Fear is necessary to survival and so our brains are hard-wired with this complex response to real or imagined threats to our safety.  Fear demands a response, any response, immediately.  It prompts our entire body and mind to react and react now.  

To produce the fight-or-flight response, the brain releases chemicals that activate the release of approximately 30 different hormones that get the body prepared to deal with a threat.
The sudden flood of these hormones cause changes in the body that include:
  • heart rate and blood pressure increase
  • pupils dilate to take in as much light as possible
  • veins in skin constrict to send more blood to major muscle groups (responsible for the "chill" sometimes associated with fear -- less blood in the skin to keep it warm)
  • blood-glucose level increases
  • muscles tense up, energized by adrenaline and glucose (responsible for goose bumps -- when tiny muscles attached to each hair on surface of skin tense up, the hairs are forced upright, pulling skin with them)
  • smooth muscle relaxes in order to allow more oxygen into the lungs
  • nonessential systems (like digestion and immune system) shut down to allow more energy for emergency functions
  • trouble focusing on small tasks (brain is directed to focus only on big picture in order to determine where threat is coming from)
­All of these physical responses are to help you survive a dangerous situation by preparing you to either run or fight for your life. (Source: How Fear Works)

Each of us find different situations threatening, so what produces these responses in one person may not in another.  When we see someone reacting in the throes of fear we may not immediately understand why they are so uptight and anxious just as others don't always get why we're freaking out.  We can understand why a survivor of trauma fears similar situations to the original event, but our minds are so good at fear that we can fear things that have never happened to us.  Therein lies the immobilizing power of fear.  It holds us back from doing things because we imagine the outcome as dangerous.  We can even interpret fear as intuition -- and sometimes it is, hence the confusion -- and refrain from something simply because we are afraid.  It's very difficult to move against the onslaught of all those physical chemicals and consciously choose not to react immediately, but that is precisely what we need to do when we are in fear's grip and we are actually not in any immediate danger.

Time permitting, we should examine the source of the fear and determine whether it is real or imagined.  Imagined fears aren't necessarily less real.  I've never been bitten by a lion, but I am pretty certain I shouldn't waltz into the lion's enclosure at the zoo.  There are risks we shouldn't be willing to take.  But so many perceived risks have good odds of turning out well, but our brains want to protect us so fear takes over.  While I appreciate my body's concern for my well-being, it can get out of hand and smother me with its protection like an overprotective guard dog.  So I need to determine whether I am responding to something from a place of fear or a place of curiosity and confidence.  Fear holds us back or makes us run willy-nilly in the opposite direction while confidence moves us forward and gives us the inspiration to try new things.



Tarot readings can help sort this.  We can ask if we are responding in fear and if so, what is that fear based upon.  Is it helping or hurting?  We can examine alternative responses and then make conscious, not reactive, choices to a stressful or confusing situation.  Because fear can wear many disguises such as anger, apathy, and sadness, sometimes we don't even recognize it as fear.  Fear is not weakness, it just is.  We simply need to acknowledge it and pat it on its head, thank it for its protection, but not allow it to dictate our decisions.

Here is an example of a simple reading on fear:

Deck: Original Rider Waite

What do I fear in this situation?  The Emperor.  I fear losing control, of having the ultimate last word on what happens in my world.  I fear giving up that control to someone else who may or may not have my best interests at heart. 

What is a more confident response?  Knight of Cups.  The Knights are pretty courageous guys.  They move towards their goal in spite of their fear and this one does so for the cause of love.  Despite the very real danger of heartbreak, humiliation, and emotional pain, this knight recommends putting yourself out there for love's sake and to do so from a place of love, not fear.

What is likely to happen if I choose this response?  The Tower.  This card can by itself provoke fear in many, but take a deep breath and another look. It represents a breaking down of false fronts, walls, and artifices that shouldn't have been erected in the first place. In this reading it shows that the very thing that is needed, courage and love, will break through lies, deception, and ego.  From there, things may be lost and rebuilt, but it must happen and will happen regardless.  It will clear the air and bring much needed change.  Maybe it won't be pleasant, but it will be worth it.  Will you maintain control? Probably not.  Your fear is justified, but the Tower shows it is necessary to release it and lose it to gain much more.

Scary?  Sure.  But acknowledging the fear and seeing what is likely to happen when the situation is approached with courage produces confidence which then prompts us to move forward rather than remaining stuck in unhealthy patterns and behavior.  We can also likewise determine if the fear is worthy of heeding, if approaching the situation in confidence would actually be foolhardy.  Either way, we are consciously choosing our actions rather than merely reacting.




Sunday, March 17, 2013 11 comments

Luck O' The Irish





“Luck enters into every contingency. 
You are a fool if you forget it -- and a greater fool if you count upon it.” 
                                                ― Phyllis Bottome

Today being St. Patrick's Day, I was thinking of the ironic term, "The Luck of the Irish." Historically, to be Irish is certainly not very lucky.  I suppose if it weren't for bad luck the Irish would have no luck at all.  Just like Irish humor tends to be wry, ironic and a wee bit dark, the phrase is actually meant to point out one's unlucky experiences and its earliest roots can be traced back to Ireland before any immigration to the United States.  In coming to the US, the Irish have withstood not a small amount of racism over the years and when Americans used the phrase it was because they couldn't believe the Irish were actually smart enough to succeed on their own merits, such as when they frequently struck gold in the American West,  so it must be luck.  So while the Irish use the term ironically, Americans tend to use it literally.  It's like an inside joke, and now you get it.

For some perspective, Cracked.com has a great piece on this called "6 Reasons the Irish Aren't So Lucky." 

Luck in the tarot is Fortuna, better known as The Wheel of Fortune, and just like the Luck of the Irish, it isn't always good luck that is portrayed. The name Fortuna may have its root in the Latin fero, meaning "to bring, win, receive, or get" or Fortuna's name may derive from the Etruscan Goddess Voltumna, whose name encompasses ideas of turning and the alternating seasons.




Her temples were virtual casinos in Rome where Fortuna, the lot distributor, reigned and was honored through dice games and roulette.  However, everyone knew of her fickle and capricious nature, so there were no guarantees if you left an offering that she would bless your fate.

In reading for clients I often stress less fate and more direct control over the circumstances in one's life.  However, I cannot deny the reason most people want a tarot reading is to gain a bit of an edge over Fortuna, to glimpse into her plans, if she even has any.  I am not convinced she does.  While some are happier with the notion that "everything happens for a reason" I really don't believe that.  I think we make reason and sense of things in hindsight, after the fact, because we have a need to believe there is an orderly parade to Fate's decisions.  I think Fate can conspire with other forces, most of which lie within ourselves, to bring about good fortune.  We often say, "But if that [insert Bad Luck Thing] didn't happen, I wouldn't be who I am today."  True enough, but I am not certain that it was Fortuna's plan to assist your growth.  It all depends how you use the Bad Luck Thing in your life.  We can, like the Irish, persevere and overcome with strength and humor, or we can let it beat us under the crushing weight of the Wheel. Therein I believe is the true "Luck of the Irish." It is the ability to turn our fates to good no matter what Bad Thing may happen.

“When anyone asks me about the Irish character, I say look at the trees. Maimed, stark and misshapen, but ferociously tenacious.”  ― Edna O'Brien


 
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