the stories we tell ourselves

today’s card is a perfect reflection of how i’ve been feeling about a situation in my life: the eight of swords. and while this is not an easy card to see, it does offer a number of challenges for me to process as i work through this problem.

eight-of-swordsthe wild unknown depicts this card as a butterfly, curled up tightly into herself, dangling from a sword and surrounded by many others. she has no space to fly, no room to breathe, no obvious escape route. this card speaks of powerlessness, feeling trapped, and crippling self-doubt.

but those swords represent mental energy and conflict, that double-edged blade of creation and destruction. how much of this situation is real, and how much of it is in our minds? are we so busy seeing ourselves as the victim, drowning in feelings of fear and isolation and pain, that we can’t see that these bindings have been built only in our minds, and not in reality? if we can find a way to step back, see clearly, and reevaluate, would a solution for escape become obvious?

for the last few months, i’ve been struggling deeply with changes, anticipating a loss that feels inevitable. i see no way forward that does not lead to this suffering. and i’ve been mourning this loss, though it hasn’t yet happened. it feels completely unavoidable to me, like the wheels were set in motion long ago and now i simply have to follow this unchangeable path. there is no obvious solution, nothing i can do to alter what will happen, and i hate feeling so out of control when i can see what’s coming.

but what if my mindset is wrong? in her meditation on this card, carrie urges us to reconsider the stories that we tell ourselves, to look deeper at the situation and evaluate the personal power that we might be unconsciously surrendering. and i’ve always found it fascinating, the ways that we view ourselves versus how the world may see us. i have a very specific view of myself, that probably completely contradicts how others see me, and the complete truth of who i am lies somewhere in the middle.

but the narrative i’ve built around this particular situation could be a carefully constructed trap. i know how i think this all plays out, but perhaps by seeing this future and feeling that it’s inevitable, i’m limiting myself only to that outcome. what if there is a way out that doesn’t involve loss? what if i’ve spent so much energy crafting my own bonds that i’ve missed an obvious solution?

we need stories, narratives, a way of viewing the world and our place in it that connects us. those threads are essential, and how we see ourselves and our paths can impact everything. but focusing on only one outcome, viewing those threads as set it stone rather than flexible and shifting, can be incredibly limiting. if we can’t grow and change and learn, can’t be broken and rebuilt to be stronger, then what is the point of any of this? and if i can alter this situation, can shift my path to go somewhere new, why wouldn’t i try?

finding resources

i’ve been hesitant to return to tarot for the past few days, after drawing such strong, intense, dramatic cards on my last reading. i’m still not sure what steps forward to take, what kind of transformation i should be seeking, but i’m continuing to ponder these lessons, and have reached out to a much-admired reader for a personal reading to offer more clarification. in the meantime, i don’t want to stay too separated from my cards. i don’t want to withdraw into fear, or refuse to listen, or ignore what other wisdom my deck has for me.

with that in mind, i was pretty tentative in my drawing today, and received a lovely and welcome gift: the mother of pentacles.mother-of-pentacles

calm and strong, alert and aware, kind and supportive, this mother is nurturing, loving, compassionate, practical, resourceful, and confident. she knows who she is, what she’s capable of, and how she fits into her world. her child rests against her, completely at peace, and while she’s watchful of any danger, she does not look afraid – she is simply doing her job, caring for her family, and ready to tackle any issue that arises.

while i find all of the mothers particularly strong and admire each of them in different ways, there’s something so empowering about this queen of the earth. she knows that she has rich resources and powerful tools at her disposal, and is so deeply connected to the world around her. there’s no doubt, no stumbling, no indecision – she can handle anything that comes her way, and can care for those around her as well as her own personal needs.

i find this card both encouraging and challenging today. i have reached out for additional help in seeking my next steps, both by continuing to see a therapist that i really trust, and by looking for answers and insight from a more experienced tarot reader. i’m trying to rely more on my friends and family, being open with my fears and struggles rather than pretending everything is fine. but i can always do more, both for myself and for those around me. my partner is struggling deeply with his work, my friends need support, my family deserves the truth about some difficult issues – and i do have the strength and the resources to help, even if i can’t always see it. i can be better, stronger, more resilient. i can care for those around me in a more honest, compassionate, practical way, while still finding ways to care for myself.

death (of the ego)

it’s been a difficult few days, and i’ve missed my morning readings. i hoped to find some clarity and calm, but instead have pulled some major, serious cards that will require a lot of processing. my card for today is death.

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rather than using more traditional imagery like the grim reaper cloaked and waiting, the wild unknown uses simple remains of a small bird. we see the literal decay, the end of life, and the change from what was a living creature into something completely different. death doesn’t have to be literal in tarot – rather, it can be a phoenix rising from the ashes, becoming reborn, changing and altering into a new being. something in my life needs to come to an end, to make way for a new chapter.

this could be a difficult card, and it’s not one i was expecting to see this morning, but there’s something so simple and final and real in this card. there’s no fighting it, no postponing it, no ignoring it – death just is. there’s a sense of letting go, of beautiful surrender, that’s unavoidable. and while i’m not completely sure what ending i should be seeking, it’s clear that i can’t pretend it’s not necessary.

hoping for clarity, i instead pulled another huge card: the devil. i’ve worked with this IMG_0367wicked one before, but as a clarifying secondary card, i think his meaning can change. i would love to read this combination as surrendering negativity and temptation, that it’s time for me to let go of the bad stuff to make way for the good, but i have a feeling that the cards are saying more than that. is my depression a crutch? do i cling to it in order to avoid dealing with my issues? have i been letting myself drown in pain and sorrow because it’s easier than seeking a solution? are there toxic people or things in my life that i’m ignoring? or is it me that’s toxic?

in researching this pairing of death and the devil, the same phrase kept emerging: the death of the ego. rather than some impending tragedy or sudden shift, death is a natural but unavoidable reality. but in tarot, death can be a choice. i can change elements of who i am, can choose to be different, can let go of my specific perception of myself and instead seek to discover who i truly am. but the devil can show fear, the temptation to run, and represents those negative patterns that we can’t escape. fear is such a strong motivator, and can be a huge barrier to change. and i have such strong, miserable patterns that i cling to, whether i want to or not.

these are big cards, strong energies, and it’s a lot to take in. but the cards are not holding back here, which means i need to be brave enough to listen to what they have to say.

 

time to soar

i had a few moments this morning before i have to head off to work, and thought i’d pull a quick card for some advice for the day. naturally, rather than something familiar and lovely like the six of cups or the two of wands, i pulled a new card from the major IMG_0372arcana: judgement. and this requires a bit more unpacking, but it was definitely worth the effort today.

a strong, brilliantly white bird soars high above, rays of black and white energy streaming from her wings. below, bats or dark birds seem to follow, straining behind her. they grow into a tangle as we get lower on the card, until they are completely indistinguishable from the darkness below.

judgement is a strong word, and as someone from a very religious, fire-and-brimstone style background, my first instinct was fear. but the main word that the wild unknown uses for this card is forgiveness, which completely changes my feelings on this card. suddenly i see the bird not being consumed by the darkness below, but rather rising above it. perhaps instead of the bats coming up to consume her, they’re inspired by her brightness and following in her footsteps.

there’s so much to consider in this beautiful card (and i absolutely adore beth’s take on judgement on her blog), but i love the idea of letting go, of seeking truth, of not only forgiving those in our lives that can drag us down but also of forgiving ourselves. i blame myself for so much, carry so much guilt with me through my days, and seem to dwell on every terrible thing i’ve ever done. i am also absolutely one of those people that is still embarrassed about silly, thoughtless things i’ve said or done years and years ago, that probably no one else remembers but me.

this card is so close to the end of the major arcana, with only the world left in the cycle, and is an incredible symbol of how release and forgiveness is very necessary for completion and happiness. i can choose to soar into that light, to release everything unkind and stressful and judgmental. maybe it’s time.

weekly reboot

i have a very busy week and a half approaching: theatre photography, pre-event work for an upcoming festival, a friend’s birthday, a few fun evenings out, a half marathon, and my parents coming into town for the weekend. with so much going on, i wanted to do a spread for the upcoming week, to help me know how to approach it and carry me through. i don’t anticipate having time for my usual daily readings, though i hope that i can fit in a few here and there.

with that, i chose a simple three-card spread from jessi huntenberg, called the reboot spread. the spread is designed to help find ways to integrate self-care and make useful concessions when you’re overwhelmed or coming through something difficult. i found my cards challenging and not as clear as i would’ve hoped, so if you have additional insights i’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

1. what’s the most important task for me to prioritize this week?

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at first i was a bit startled to see the eight of cups, but in the context of my fading depression and the long few months i’ve had, this card actually seems pretty empowering. representing moving on, changing direction, and abandoning what’s broken, i think this card is giving me permission to set aside my depression and hurt feelings and focus on what’s in front of me this week. it’s time to chart a new course, leave those broken cups behind, and find a new path.

this isn’t always easy, and even with something dark and unwelcome like depression, it can be hard to move away from it completely. you get so used to living with it that finding the strength to push it away and walk back towards the light feels completely impossible. but i know that i’ve been finding my way back, and this card encourages me to keep going and pushing myself.

2. what task can i drop or put off until i’m feeling more up to it?

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the son of pentacles isn’t a card i’ve worked with before, and i’m always delighted to get to know another card in my deck. incredibly hard-working, steadfast, focused, calm, and quiet, this son is known for his stamina and determination. he trusts his intuition, pushes through trials and struggles, and chooses work that he deeply believes in. he is utterly focused on the road ahead, his eyes unwavering, his goal fixed.

this card is beautiful in its imagery and its message, but is a bit confusing to me in this position. perhaps it is simply telling me that it’s okay to not know the final destination or every career and life goal, but instead to focus on these next few steps. every job i take, every event i work, every image i create helps make me better and more experienced at what i do. and though this week will be hectic and possibly overwhelming, everything keeps me moving farther down the path. i might not have a “fantasy job” or a super specific dream for my career, but all of these things are bringing me in the right direction – and it’s ok for that to be enough this week.

3. what self-care practice do i need to engage with to help me get back to center?

four-of-cups

the four of cups might seem like an odd form of self-care, but it does resonate with me quite a bit. fours are inward-focused, offer structure and stability, and can encourage us to act or break free. the wild unknown guide defines this card as greed and selfishness, but it can also be viewed as self-preservation, protection, or finding that oh-so-necessary emotional stability.

i have a tendency to overexert myself when it comes to helping others, and it can get me into trouble. it’s easier for me to focus on assisting my friends and family than dealing with my own problems sometimes, but that’s not always a healthy instinct and can later fester into feelings of isolation, frustration, or being taken advantage of. focusing on my own emotions or needs does usually feel selfish to me, but only when it’s me doing it – when i encourage my friends to do it i am positive that it’s warranted, healthy, and useful. i believe this card is encouraging me to focus on my needs this week – a lot of what i’ll be doing will be working for others, helping others, or doing kind things for others, so it’s important for me to take time out to care for my own needs, rather than seeing self-care as selfish.

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hard truths

while this blog is named after the daughter of cups, a card i hope to grow into and evolve from, today i pulled a card that i identify with very strongly: the daughter of swords.

daughter-of-swordsfrank, observant, insightful, detail-oriented, and judgmental, the daughter of swords doesn’t miss a thing. this owl is watchful and honest, careful and clear, with no room for bullshit. she’s surrounded by the night sky, with glittering, colorful stars behind her, but her grip is on the blade of the sword rather than the handle. perhaps she’s not comfortable wielding it just yet, but this could also be a warning that the sword of truth can be sharp and double-edged. she’s a student of justice and truth, prefers to keep things simple and straightforward, and deals with situations head-on, though she isn’t unkind. she relies on her intellect and her powers of observation to get through tough situations, and those around her trust her to be truthful and strong.

paired with yesterday’s card, today’s drawing feels like it’s showing me how to approach the world again. i’ve been withdrawn, hesitant, unsure of how to shake off the last of this long-lasting depression. my legs are a bit wobbly. my head is still spinning. it’s so very tempting to continue to hide, to rely on others to tell me what to do, to pull that cloak of darkness back around myself and shy away from the light. but that’s no way to live, and it’s not the person that i want to be. i am stronger than that.

this daughter may not have all the answers – but she’s looking for them, and she isn’t afraid to be herself at the same time. she knows she’s not as adventurous as her older brother or as wise as her more experienced parents, but she also knows that her wide eyes and hungry mind will go a long way towards reaching her goals. and if i can lean into that hard truth, and not shy away from what’s in front of me, i can reach mine too.

choosing to pause

today’s card is one of my favorites, and a welcome friend in this moment: the hermit.

IMG_0361solitary, wise, strong, careful, and extremely aware of personal needs and challenges, the hermit doesn’t do anything without thinking it through. he cherishes stillness, embraces reflection, and thrives in the quiet moments. he will not be rushed, and does not push himself to simply get things done – rather, he knows when it’s essential to be thoughtful and considerate. he knows that things worth doing are worth doing well.

this card encourages us to be still, to breathe, to mediate. there’s a lovely sense of time and space here, a deep awareness of the need to be quiet and simply listen. there’s so much happening in the world and in our country and in our day-to-day lives, and so little time set aside for honest reflection. and without those quiet moments between all the loud conversations and dizzying adventures and hard choices and everyday stresses, how do we keep hold of ourselves?

i’ve written so much about my depression in this space, and my cards recently have been pushing me to act, to seize opportunities, to find new adventures and exciting beginnings and fresh starts. and i have pushed back mentally, saying to myself, not yet. i’m not totally in the clear. i’m not safe yet. the fog is still surrounding me, though i sense it’s starting to clear. but cards like the hermit, and the seven of wands, and the empress – they give me permission to stand alone for a bit, to be myself, to find a way to bring a bit of light into that darkness. there’s beauty in a pause, in a breath, in choosing to examine what matters. and i’m not afraid of stillness, not when it’s a choice instead of a trap.