Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Not About You

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."  
-- Jesus, Matthew 6:1

When we are doing something that is intended to help someone else the most important thing to remember is that it's not about you. If you respond to that statement, "Well, of course it isn't, silly, I know that." I'm telling you it's harder than you think.  Our ego is strong.  And smart. And cunning.  And it will sneak in self-congratulatory shit when you're not looking.  

I read a really thoughtful article the other day on the dilemma of "Good White People" in the fight against racism.  The comment section was full of irony, full of "good white people" making it about themselves and then noticing they made it all about themselves and trying to figure out how not to do that.  It's hard. The main idea is that no one should feel the need to be congratulated for being a decent human being.  You just be one as a matter of course.  There are ways to bring important things to the attention of others without also saying, "Look at what a great person I am!"  Sometimes we do this with good intention, but it still reeks. 

I saw this today: Spiritual Molestation in Chik-Fil-A which I feel really nailed how I have always felt about people doing this sort of thing in public.  What made this worse was the underlying coercion of food under condition of prayer.  We might say, "What's the big deal? Even if you don't believe, prayer never hurt anyone."  True.  But to say that one will only help IF the recipient will oblige you is not giving, it's a negotiation.  This kind of negotiation is sometimes appropriate but when we are holding something as crucial to life as food as a bargaining tool, we need to be very careful.  If the manager of this restaurant really wanted to help this guy he had several options, none of which included making a display of his own faith for others to applaud.  He could have asked the guy to meet him around back and take out the trash in exchange for the meal.  He might have been able to offer him a job if he showed up every day to take the trash out (and get fed).  The manager could have prayed for him silently without drawing attention to himself.  I understand God can hear silent prayers.  

I also saw this today on why this woman stopped "being a Voluntourist," that is, stopped going on aid missions to third world countries and started coordinating aid efforts that didn't involve her actually being there.  The part about the workers coming behind them and tearing down their shoddily laid bricks and relaying them properly (and safely) in the night so the volunteers wouldn't know really brought the point home that these programs are too often set up in a way to be more about the volunteers feeling good about themselves than about the people they are trying to help.  

Those who read tarot for others have that "helping others" gene.  We truly want to facilitate growth in others and support them in their struggles.  That's often the foundational impulse behind what we do.  Like any other helping profession it can attract narcissists who get off on various twists of gaining attention, power, and ego stroking, but most of us just want to help.   However, even the genuinely motivated ones among us can fall into the "About Me" trap.  When we focus on whether or not we did it right, had the right answer, or found the correct interpretation.  When we worry too much about the feedback from our clients.  When we promote ourselves as super intuitive or act like our readings aren't wrong, the client just isn't in a place to accept the truth.  Stop it.  It's not about you. Yes, you are the one the client is looking to, but you know better.  It's not you, it's them.  It's their issue, their struggle, their dilemma, their questions.  You're helping only if you understand this and take yourself out of it.  The dialogue is between themselves and their understanding of the cards you have done your best to translate for them.  You are the interpreter.  The conversation is not about you.  This subtle but important shift in focus will make such a huge difference in the impact of your readings.  By impact I don't mean "accuracy," although that will likely be perceived as such, but by the real and actual help provided by the reading. 

All this stuff about helping in a certain way gave me such food for thought because I find myself in a situation now where the last thing I want to do is bring attention to myself for doing something "good" when really, I feel that it's the only human option.  My sister was diagnosed with leukemia in 2014.  Chemotherapy put her in remission for almost a year.  Then she relapsed.  The next step is a bone marrow stem cell transplant.  Of her three siblings tested, I am the match. In all honesty, I wasn't thrilled with the news and felt like an asshole for not being thrilled.  It's not like giving blood, it's a much bigger deal.  And the hospital where this will be done is 1000 miles away.  There will be missed work, FMLA paperwork, travel time and costs, hotel costs -- all of which our mother is generously financing because it's not covered by my sister's health insurance.  Not to mention the procedure itself will require me to be injected with a drug originally meant for cancer patients that disrupts my own bone marrow and causing bone pain for several days and having to sit immobile for six hours or more to have the stem cells harvested.  So yeah, it's not nothing.  But it really IS nothing when compared to what my sister has endured and will have to endure as the recipient of the transplant.  Cancer has turned her life and the lives of her husband and children totally upside down and inside out in ways I'm sure no one but they understand.  She recently started a GoFundMe drive in an effort to defray the monster costs of all of this.  In my attempts to get the word out to others to hopefully increase donations, I have mentioned my participation in this effort as her donor, but I have tried not to make it about me.  Because it's not.  Even though it is a little, ultimately it's not.  And I know people are just being kind and supportive when they laud me for the act of donating, and I thank them genuinely, but I cringe a bit at the comments that I am "being an angel" or that I am "so awesome."  Thank you, and I mean that, but no, I'm not.  I don't really see any other option except to be a shitty human being that would deny her the best chance she has to live.  And to be honest, I felt weird about posting the GoFundMe thing because I didn't want to bring attention to my part in this but it seemed the best way to get donations for my sister.  

I've been taking a break from reading tarot for others until the transplant is over.  Just because it's not about me doesn't erase me from the equation.  I must still be aware of my own needs else I become useless to others.  Making it not about you doesn't mean nothing is about you.  You are about you and you need to take care of you.  Always remember the flight attendant adage -- "Place your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others."  

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Your Mind is Mission Control

If I keep putting quotes like this out there, I'm liable to put myself out of business.  But if one person, upon reading that quote by Marcus Aurelius decided that rather than trying to control the outcome of a situation by force of tarot and made some mental adjustments that allowed them to be at peace with whatever, I would feel that I had done my job well.

Knowing what to expect and expecting to know are two very different things.  Miles apart, in fact.  No matter how well prepared one may be for a particular possible outcome, when it happens it still comes with all its attending emotional baggage and camps out with you for however long it wishes.  Therefore, knowing via tarot that the guy you've been seeing is likely seeing someone else on the side doesn't help the heartbreak or anger.  We also can't expect tarot to provide all the solutions.  It does help with many things -- a kind of psychic weather prediction or roadmap, a projection into what is probable and likely -- but not definitive.  And it can't make your decisions for you.  It can be quite informational but what you do with that information, how you choose to form your thoughts about that information will make all the difference in the actual outcome of any given situation.

Getting a reading on a situation is great for exploring.  Possibilities, options, directions.  A reading can reveal our own attitudes, intentions, and confirm our own intuition, but in the end how we choose to think about the information is what will impact our own outcome no matter what the external outcome of the situation turns out to be. Keeping tabs on your ex may be interesting and satisfying to that part of you that can't seem to let go -- out of love or vengeance, no matter -- but if the reading shows they are happily going about their lives, shouldn't you do the same?  We can go back to the reader a month later and ask what the ex has been up to OR we could choose to think differently about the information and use it to release ourselves to our own lives.  Going back to the reader is satisfying on some level, but it's a futile action, keeping watch on others (outside our control) or situations (outside our control).  We become mere observers in our own lives rather than actively creating and participating.

Many readers will refuse to read on the same topic/person/situation on these grounds. They believe more readings won't help, it amounts to spying, and/or the repetitive readings may enable someone in a kind of tarot dependence.  I don't really subscribe to all of that and I will read on the same topic/person/situation multiple times for a client because They Aren't Done Yet.  When they are done, they will stop.  When they are able to choose their thoughts more effectively, they will stop.  Some people require only one reading for this and others require multiple.  Each person is at their own level or ability to control their thoughts about any given situation.  The more emotionally triggered they are, the harder that is to accomplish.

So we get that we can't control outside events or other people.  What if the problem is we cannot control our own thoughts?  Marcus, dude, it's not that easy. It's really not easy but it is crucial to one's well being and happiness.  I suck at meditation because I can't control my thoughts.  They scatter like a herd of cats being chased by a herd of puppies.  Then I learned this ---

Some situations will never feel okay.  One may never feel "at peace" with a particular outcome.  But one can accept it and move on.  It's a choice, a conscious decision. We make mistakes. We fuck up.  Bad things happen that are our fault, but if we allow guilt, regret, or fear of making the same mistake again to control our choices and decisions going forward, we will simply have different regrets to obsess on later.  I think regret is an inevitable constant in life, so we just have to learn not to let it control us.

When we experience something we feel feelings about it.  Most of us believe those feelings are what inform our thoughts about the  experience -- and they can.  However, feelings actually reside in the brain  and how we think results in feelings not the other way around.  How we perceive an event or experience is a kind of thinking and feelings are a kind of thinking.  So the real process looks like this:

Ever wonder why, no matter how many times you tell yourself you will not do something, no matter how many thoughts of inspiration, encouragement and willpower you think you end up doing that thing you specifically told yourself not to do?  That's because our actions come from our feelings.  BUT -- our feelings come from our thoughts.  Sometimes it takes a while for our feelings to catch up to our new or different thought process, but we will finally see our actions in alignment with our thoughts if we force ourselves into the rather uncomfortable process of re-directing of our thoughts.  Thinking about things a different way than we are used to, seeing it from a completely different angle. Eventually we will feel differently about the situation and once that happens, actions happen in accordance to the thoughts.  But it can take a while.  You know, like this:

Monday, September 07, 2015

Laboring for a Living Wage

Non-tarot post ahead.  I may or may not get political.  As today is Labor Day, it's a good time to remember what the hell we're supposed to recognize amid the sales and barbecues. Since we collectively seem doomed to repeat history due to our societal amnesia and reluctance to read more than the blips that flit across our various screens, myself included, I did us all a favor and looked it up.  Given the current political climate, I think you'll see why this stroll down memory lane is ironic and a little eerie in its similarity.

If we ask most anyone what Labor Day is for, we'd probably get an answer that says it commemorates the American worker.  That's only part right, though. It was meant to honor not just the individual worker, but what workers accomplished together through activism.  In fact, in the first 20 years since the first Labor Day observance, even though roughly half the states officially recognized it, most employers assuredly did not.  Therefore, Labor Day was pretty much a general strike more than a leisurely day off.

Most of us know the labor movement fought for fair wages and to improve working conditions.  It also led the fight against child labor and for the eight-hour workday and the New Deal, which gave us Social Security and unemployment insurance.  The driving slogan was "8 hours of work, 8 hours of rest, 8 hours for what we will."

Even tarot has an opinion. It always does about everything. I can't help but notice that the principle card for "work" in tarot is 8 of Pentacles (coins).  Eight. 

 The employers and the government didn't just say, "OK, hard workers, you've earned some quality of life, here you go."  These advancements in humane conditions in workplaces were fought for in the streets in bloody riots, strikes, marches, and other collective actions.  Employers fought back with strikebreaking, blacklisting, vigilante violence, and by enlisting government force to their side by paying for lobbying for and getting local governments to pass anti-sedition laws that severely curtailed the free speech of those at the Labor Day gatherings.  President Grover Cleveland deployed more than 10,0000 troops to break the Pullman strike in Chicago.  Protesters were arrested, jailed, injured, and killed. Since 1850, according to one estimate, over 700 people died as a result of anti-union violence during strikes.

While these protests are similar to the recent Occupy Wall Street protests, the main difference seems to be focus and purpose.  The Occupy movement has identified a broad number of specific concerns and calls for a general overhaul of many aspects of our economic system.  The Labor Movement was focused primarily on working conditions.  I think maybe it's easier to raise awareness and ire about focused issues rather than broad, amorphous Change.   Unions won in the end and with them the luxurious working conditions we now take for granted.

Recent anti-union sentiment has diminished the pull and members of these organizations as well as internal strife being their own undoing.  Recently the governor of  Wisconsin wrote into law the seven-day work week. Contrasting that, we also have the Raise The Minimum Wage movement gaining momentum along with local organizations of workers that aren't unions, per se, but where workers in a common industry will gather and organize activism.

Wherever you may stand on these issues these facts remain:

One cannot live on $7.25 an hour.  Being below the poverty line qualifies one for federal assistance in the form of SNAP (food stamps), Medicaid, and possibly other benefits depending on one's family situation.  If we want to reduce the taxpayer burden of welfare, workers need to earn a Living Wage that allows a family to pay for rent, transportation, food, utilities, and clothing without having to rely on welfare.  Across the country, costs of living varies, but the average living wage -- which is the bare minimum one can earn to meet one's basic needs -- is around $12 an hour.  This issue is a true working class issue and one worth considering today, on Labor Day.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

What Your Brave Is

There are generally two types of courage. "Physical courage" is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while "moral courage" is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. Which tarot card represents courage?  Strength, of course.  Strength illustrates both inner and outer fortitude, strength, and bravery often emerging from the most unlikeliest of sources. It is a fairly obvious depiction and one that we associate easily with Courage.

But have you thought about others?  Courage is displayed throughout the deck.  The 7 of Wands displays a kind of crazy, madman courage in the face of overwhelming odds and besides, he's not ready. He didn't have time to put on proper footwear.  The 5 of Pentacles shows the inner strength to persevere when one is at the rope's frayed end but to keep going despite hardships and challenges.  The 8 of Cups shows the courage to strike out on one's own, leaving behind what once was cherished. 

“There are so many ways to be brave in this world. Sometimes bravery involves laying down your life for something bigger than yourself, or for someone else. Sometimes it involves giving up everything you have ever known, or everyone you have ever loved, for the sake of something greater.

But sometimes it doesn't.

Sometimes it is nothing more than gritting your teeth through pain, and the work of every day, the slow walk toward a better life.

That is the sort of bravery I must have now.”    

The 8 of Pentacles is about the everyday courage it takes to do what has to be done, again and again.  The 7 of Swords shows someone taking a lot of risk into one's own hands, for better or worse.  The 6 of Swords sets out to unknown shores in the hope of something better. All of these actions take courage in varying degrees and measures.  

Stories.  We all have our stories, our moments, however brief, of striking courage that surprised ourselves most of all.  We look back and wonder at our own bravery, or foolish recklessness, because sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.  Sometimes we don't even recognize it as bravery.  We were just doing what had to be done and didn't feel any special commission that stated, "This is bravery, right here."  It was just necessary and we did it.

“Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.”  

Bravery isn't usually on display.  It rarely is and that's why we have such high standards for it and don't recognize it in ourselves.  We have a Hollywood expectation of bravery.  We think that once we do something rash exhibit courage that it should be a game changer, that all will be set right because we finally did what we were afraid to do.  That's bullshit. There are times in life when we must find the courage to keep going every single day.  That's no better or worse than any other kind of bravery.  It's made of the same stuff.

We need to understand that we're not going to understand someone else's brave.  What may come easy to one is a daunting struggle to another.  My experience of a similar or even the same event is not your experience.   I come from a family of introverts, of which I am one just less so, who thought I was brave to dance in front of an audience, speak to large crowds, and tell off a judge (and gained his favor in doing so).  These things come easy to me so I don't see the bravery.  Sometimes I can look back and see it, but never in the moment.  Some of the most courageous things I've ever done were done where no one could see, and even had they seen they probably would not call what I did courageous.  Dragging myself off the sofa to take a walk in the midst of a debilitating depression was brave.  Leaving one life behind for another while everyone, even I, disapproved was brave.  Someone else's brave may be leaving the house determined not to re-check that the stove is off.

My sister was recently diagnosed with leukemia.  The chemo made her feel much worse than the disease and she had to go through four agonizing rounds that made her guts raw, her body weak, and took away her beautiful long hair.  There were times she said she had frightening thoughts of dying, but overall she tried to remain positive.  She told me, "It's just a ride.  A crazy ride, but we'll get through it."  I don't understand this brave.  Were it me, I'd have my funeral planned, written long letters to my loved ones, taken videos to leave them, and cried and cried in mournful self-pity.  I once had a biopsy (benign, of course) and did all these things.  My sister is now in remission and cancer-free.  Brave, not just to face the disease but also to take control of her wellness.  She might say no, it was not brave, just something that had to be done.  But that's what courage is made of: doing what needs to be done.

 “To try to be brave is to be brave.”
~ George MacDonald

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Lazy Tarot

Photo by NikBoiv / CC BY 2.0 
“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” 

~Bill Gates

 Confession: I am a lazy tarot reader.   I don't do a lot of things commonly recommended.  I am not against these practices at all.  I don't do them because, for me, they are too much work and don't yield any tangible benefits. Mostly, too much work. For example, I don't:

  • Cleanse decks
  • Use a classic Significator 
  • Use astrological associations
  • Use Kaballah associations
  • Do anything about "energies" (no smudging here)
  • Use Reversals
  • Look at the "Shadow Card"
  • Ruminate on a reading
The first book I read on practicing tarot provided an elaborate simple ritual to perform before reading.  I tried it, thinking the author certainly knew more about this stuff than I did, and I didn't notice anything different after doing it so I stopped doing it.  I tried "cleansing" decks by the light of the moon and the only thing that happened was they became dew damp.  Then I read you can cleanse them by laying them all out on the floor and swishing them around.  I tried that but concluded it was just a version of 78-Card Pickup.

I'm not an astrologer and feel that trying to learn a whole 'nother vast metaphysical art to overlay tarot is just too much work.  If I wanted to learn astrology, I would, and maybe someday I will, but not today.  Kaballah, same.  I've tried using various stones and crystals and noticed nothing different, so whatever floats your boat is fine, no rocks in my boat.  I don't "ground" myself other than one deep sigh breath before beginning a reading.  Oh, maybe I do "smudge" -- I smoke a cigarette.

I don't turn the cards physically upside down to read "reversals," I generally get a sense by the position, the cards next to/around it, and the question asked whether the card's meaning is "reversed."  I forget to look at the bottom card in the deck, so the Shadow Card remains in the shadows.  Sometimes other tarot readers have said they will leave a reading out on a table for days to think about it, ruminate over it, journal it to go back to later.  I don't.  I have journaled specific readings but I always forgot to go back to them, so what was the point?

I do:

  • Shuffle, a lot
  • Use a Sort of Significator
  • Use symbolism: colors, numbers, elemental, suits, objects, etc.
  • Use history
  • Pay attention to patterns
  • Listen to random observations my mind blurts out
  • Use common sense
To completely randomize a deck of playing cards, dealers at casinos will shuffle a deck around 5-7 times.  This is assuming you're good at shuffling and not leaving whole chunks of the deck unshuffled.  Depending on the questions being asked, I might shuffle the deck between them, leaving the already-drawn cards on the table.  If I'm clarifying a card, I will shuffle.  I randomize those cards like nobody's business.

Most of the readings I do include a card that speaks to what the client is thinking, feeling, and/or how they are approaching the issue at hand.  This is a Sort of Significator, and I use it because it gives very useful information for the client to use when formulating a plan of action.  They can see whether their approach is helpful or not based on what the reading reveals about the other factors and influences.

For me, symbolism is absolutely key in interpreting tarot.  Symbols are the language of all humans in all of history.  Language itself is symbolism and vice versa.  Connected to this is my understanding of history, culture, and the human experience.  I notice patterns in the cards.  Numbers, suits, colors that appear repeatedly or in a progression or order mean something.  Sometimes my mind will say something really random, like an idiom or lyrics from a song and I've learned these random phrases are hugely significant to the reading.  I always use them. There was a time I ignored them and was routinely surprised when the client gave feedback that included that exact phrase! When I started speaking them I found my client's feedback often confirmed that phrase played a key role in the situation.

Finally, I use common sense.  When the Lovers card appears in a reading that has nothing whatsoever to do with romance, I do not imply the client will fall in love in the middle of updating her resume.  While it is possible she may meet a charming person at a job fair, it just isn't sensible to talk romance when she's trying to find out her best option to advance her career.  Not ruling it out, just saying, keep on topic.

The practice of tarot reading is so unique to each reader.  What works well for one is cumbersome for another.  I have been known to spend untold hours researching symbolism and cultural history in my pursuit to understand tarot card meanings.  Many readers would shake their head and say, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"   But I love it.  I love the research and the richness of history and how people lived in times before, how that relates to the images we see now, the connections, the gaps, all of it.  Others feel and experience a very tangible difference when using cleansing rituals or objects.  Some can't help but see the astrological or Kaballistic connections and feel they would be remiss if they didn't include them. Whatever you do or don't do in your reading process matters only to you.  

But seriously, lazy is good.  Keeping what works efficiently and either re-working or tossing out what doesn't makes sense in everything we do.  Time and effort are both valuable resources.  Be lazy and enjoy what you do.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Worrisome Worry

I should never leave a health-issue-related blog post for months without a follow up as several people have written to be sure I haven't succumbed to whatever-it-was.  Sorry about that.  I tend to withdraw from social interaction when I'm dealing with stuff, like cats hide when they're hurting or sick, me too.  UPDATE:  Nerve compression is all but gone.  I am left with some lingering muscle spasms and twitches but no pain.  (Yay!) I'm still working on another issue that will need some outpatient surgery in about a month and that has me worried, still, about finances.  All the tests and doctor visits at the end of last year took all of the HSA money and I still owe hundreds of dollars, not counting the upcoming procedure, which I expect will be a few thousand.  I am genuinely worried how to fund necessary health care.

Worry is something I'm very good at.  If medals were given I'd have a trophy wall dedicated to worry.  Logically I know that worry is harmful and doesn't solve anything.  I have much improved in the area of worry-control and find I can tame it faster, but I think it's just a natural by-product of my over-thinking mind. Also, worry has actually served me well at times so it's hard to let go of it.

I read this and completely related:

You have mixed feelings about your worries. On one hand, your worries are bothering you—you can't sleep, and you can't get these pessimistic thoughts out of your head. But there is a way that these worries make sense to you. For example, you think:
  • Maybe I'll find a solution.
  • I don't want to overlook anything.
  • If I keep thinking a little longer, maybe I'll figure it out.
  • I don't want to be surprised.
  • I want to be responsible.
You have a hard time giving up on your worries because, in a sense, your worries have been working for you.
The Worry Cure: Seven Steps to Stop Worry from Stopping You by Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D.

 I have found solutions to problems this way.  I have come up with plans to deal with unknown outcomes, if they happen.  I have figured stuff out this way.  So it's hard to completely let go of worry because it has worked for me.  And since one of the most common reasons someone requests a tarot reading is due to worry, I bet I have plenty of company in this problem area.

One suggestion I've read is to postpone your worries to a set "worry time."    This one doesn't work for me but it may work for others.  I do a different but similar thing: I distract myself by telling myself I can't spend time on the worry-of-the-moment right now and I'll deal with it later.  So while I don't set aside a certain time, I do push it away for "later."

"If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry.  If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.  There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever." -- Dalai Lama XIV
One really helpful step to do is to parse out whether the worry thing is  actually solveable. If it's an imaginary "what-if?" it's probably not worth your time.  Unfortunately, these are precisely the kinds of worries that so many dwell on.  If you are able to take action on your problem right away, then it is probably a productive worry.  If not, then it's unproductive.  Recognizing the difference helps because action on a problem reduces or eliminates worry and for the ones you cannot act on, such as "What if my child is in a terrible accident someday?" you can more easily let go.

Worrying itself feels productive but it isn't.  When we are worrying our emotions are somewhat suspended because the worry keeps us in our heads and distracts us from feeling. While we are thinking about how to solve the problem (or so we tell ourselves that's what we're doing) we're avoiding the underlying emotions. Who wouldn't want to avoid feeling anxious, sad, or other negative emotions?  However, suppressed emotions don't go away and tend to fuel even more anxiety to the point that we end up worrying about why we're feeling what we're feeling!  Crazy.  It can be helpful to tell yourself to just feel whatever it is you're feeling, then cry, get angry, feel sad, have a brief pity party.  This one is hard for me, but I'm working on it.  

For the solvable worries, brainstorming possible solutions and/or doing a tarot reading can help tremendously.  The problem you're worrying about is often real and the steps toward a solution are very real and actionable, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Doctor Google & Tarot

MaricorMaricar Studio

I've been really out of sorts for a few months.  This blog and many other things have taken a back seat to some sudden onset health issues I've been dealing with.  It has been stressful but I'm finally taking action and I'm finally starting to feel more like myself again.

It started in June, more or less.  I'd had a pinched nerve in my upper back a few years ago and it went away on its own.  It took six weeks but when it was gone, it was gone. Until a few months ago. This time it didn't go away.  Instead, after four weeks it changed.  It became much sharper and sent more than a dull ache down my right arm.  Shocks of nerve pain were constantly traveling up into my neck, down my arm and to my fingers.  Walking hurt. Working hurt. Cooking hurt. Cleaning hurt. Driving hurt. I lived on anti-inflammatory meds and rest.

I delayed going to the doctor because insurance. I have it, but it's not affordable. High Deductible Plan with only $500 in my Health Savings Account.  I know that nerves cannot be seen on lower cost x-rays and that I would need a pricey MRI.  I didn't know what kinds of medications I would need to pay for out of pocket.  I also have to pay for non-preventive doctor visits out of pocket and I also have another pressing health issue I must see a doctor for which will likely lead to more imaging tests and lab work that, again, I must pay for out of pocket.  My pocket is not that deep.  My rent is being raised $50 a month starting next month and I still don't know how that will be adjusted for in my no-wiggle-room budget.  In addition to the pain and ongoing symptoms and concern for my health, I was also very concerned about my finances.

And then of course, there's Doctor Google.  I was pretty sure I was dying of cancer by the time I had researched my symptoms.  Possibly three or four types of cancer.  And maybe a rare genetic disorder, I'm not sure.

Driven by pain and worry I scheduled my appointments and said fuck it to the finances.  About a week before my appointment, the pain subsided a lot.  The nerve shocks still occur when triggered, but the unrelenting pain is gone.  Sweet relief! The doctor prescribed predisone which gave me heart attacks indigestion, and x-rays that ruled out fractures and tumors and referred me to a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon said I don't need an MRI  yet because the treatment for nerve compression is focused on pain management and I seem to be progressing.  I have another appointment with another kind of doctor in a week for something entirely unrelated, so I'm still concerned about Doctor Google's diagnosis about that, but at least my overall hypochondria health worries have been reduced.

The Thinker in the Dark - A5 by
Hartwig HKD Creative Commons License

This is why I don't read tarot for health issues: Anxiety.  I may have pulled a few cards for my situation over the last few months but the swords cards always made me think I was going to have surgery and the pentacles cards made me think I would have to pay a lot of money.  I pulled one before my visit to the neurosurgeon and it was the King of Swords, which cracked me up because that's a surgeon card if there ever was one.  It was like tarot saying, "Just go see the doctor."  Which is probably what I'll tell you if you ask me for a health reading.

Pamela A. tarot

I will read about how you can make the most productive use of your time while you are dealing with health issues.  I will ask tarot for advice how you can focus on self-care.  But the advice will be general to your health issue and specific to you.  I will not attempt to, nor should I, diagnose your issue.  We may discover, for example, that stress is contributing to your issue, but stress will not be the issue.  If the Death card appears, I will tell you that something will end, hopefully your health issue, and you will need to adjust to something new in the way of living life after that -- and we'll draw a card to see how to navigate that.  I will not tell you that Death means death in a health related tarot reading.  I will not give you a prognosis because how foolish and irresponsible would that be?  The last thing anyone needs is a reading that echoes Doctor Google.  I will interpret the cards in light of what you can do today, tomorrow, in your present and immediate future to aid in your recovery and wholeness and this is often how tarot readings work anyway.  It approaches your situation from a holistic view.

There really are very, very few things I won't read tarot about.  Sometimes I will tell a client that the proposed reading is a waste of their time and money and allow them to reconsider, but I will usually read on whatever my clients ask. They know their pressing questions far better than I.  Health issues, both physical and mental, are different because they usually need the attention of a professional trained in that discipline.  I am a tarot professional not a health professional and that is where the line is drawn.  Besides, more often than not when health issues have played a part in the reading the cards recommend seeing a physician or mental health professional.  I often see Kings, Queens, Hierophants, and Hermits in those readings.  Kings and Queens often represent professionals, Hierophants often symbolize established institutions such as traditional medicine, and Hermits can be counselors and therapists.  So if you ask me about a worrisome health issue I will tell you to see a doctor and we'll read about how to cope in the meantime. 

As for me, I'm firing Doctor Google and seeing real ones. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

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

It's Your Own Damn Fault
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

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!
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