embers & flames

my letters are written, and i’m sending them in just a little while. i’ve been awake for hours, full of crackling energy and nervous anticipation. it’s pride, and i’m about to finish coming out. i asked for a card to meditate on, to give me energy and strength, and was given one of my favorite cards in the deck: the mother of wands.

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i’ve loved this card since i first started with tarot, but she took on new meaning for me a few weeks ago as i was gathering the courage to come out on social media for the first time. most of the people in my life already knew, but making that public declaration felt like such an important step, and helped to pave the way for me to finish coming out to my family. she represents charisma, confidence, passion and strength and ferocity. she knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get it. she is so powerful and fearless, and she inspires me to be brave.

fire is such a beautiful, changeable element. it can flare up quickly, burn low and slow, spread so fast it’s unstoppable, smolder and spark. it has many faces, can sometimes show instantaneous energy and flash, but other times creep up and spread until it’s out of control. this queen knows when to let the embers build slowly and when to let it rage with smoke and flame, and loves all of its forms. i think i’m slowly learning that it’s okay to shine brightly, to let myself crackle and glow, to embrace the heat even when it’s scary.

and as i prepare for my first pride celebration, even as the rain comes down, i know it’s okay to burn.

confidence & courage

i’m still struggling with writing letters to my family, and i’ve been obsessing over it all week. i decided today to do a larger spread to help me find confidence and courage, in the hopes that i can finally finish this difficult task.

this spread is from beth at little red tarot, and while it was designed to help build personal confidence on a more general level, i’m going to use it for my specific situation.

1. the root of my insecurity & fear

four-of-pentacles

the four of pentacles, a card of possession and control. this is not a card i’ve worked with before, but its themes are clear: brilliant threads hold the pentacles in tight formation, letting nothing else in. energy from the outside bounces right off, closing off the spaces between. the lines are so rigid and stiff that they do create a lot of security and protection, but perhaps this is simply an illusion. everything cannot be controlled – no one has that much power, even when we think we do.

it made me nervous to only have one card in this first position – after all, coming out as bisexual to my conservative brother and religious in-laws isn’t exactly a simple scenario, and there are many reasons for my fears and worries. but ultimately, control is a big part of this – i have to give them part of myself, hand them my heart with trembling hands, and hope that they don’t crush it. i have no control over their reaction, their feelings, their potential for anger or fear or sadness or betrayal. it’s taken me a long time to get this point, and they deserve space to think and feel and react too. but once i reveal my truth, all i can do is trust them not to destroy it.

2. how to overcome these feelings

ten-of-cups

a colorful card of harmony, light, and positivity, the ten of cups radiates energy. every cup is giving and receiving, sending out beauty and taking in love. this is a card of completion, of balance, of wholeness, and it reminds us to stay open and joyful, sharing our blessings with those around us and seeing the good everywhere.

i’m not typically known as a positive beacon of colorful light (my power cards below back me up on this), but the sense of karma and balance here is impossible to deny. and remembering how much i love the people in my life, how i try to offer kindness and support to those that need it, makes me hopeful that if i can continue to be positive and loving, i will receive that back. with only a few exceptions, when i’ve come out (which for me is always scary, every single time, to every single person) i’ve been accepted with open arms. friends and strangers alike have made me feel like i belong, and remembering their generosity gives me strength too.

3 & 4. my main sources of personal power

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seeing the devil and the hermit as my cards of personal power is, frankly, hilarious. these are some big, powerful cards, and while i imagine plenty of others might be horrified by them, these boys feel just right to me.

let’s start with the devil. i think it’s easy to recoil at the sight of this card, but i’m not afraid of his energy. as a scorpio and a water sign, there’s always a bit of darkness, mystery, wickedness present in me. i don’t seek out evil, but i definitely live in the grey areas, trying to see all sides, working the angles. and the devil can help us to challenge our assumptions, look at things differently, try to avoid snap judgements. temptation doesn’t have to be bad, as long as you understand it. making your own choices can be a strong path, one that may look wrong to others but feels right for you. and indulging can be a beautiful thing, as long as it doesn’t take over.

i can also see this card as a reference to difficulties in my life, from my very conservative, religious upbringing to my severe depression to my challenges as a married bisexual woman to my unusual sleeping problems. i’ve definitely had my feet in the fire, had to resort to deception and denial in order to keep myself safe, had to make impossible choices that weren’t always the right ones. but it’s made me stronger IMG_0361and more powerful than i was before. and while no one chooses to go through difficult things, the end result can be something wonderful.

my second strength is the hermit, a card i love. i’m definitely an introvert, someone who prefers intimate gatherings to giant parties, someone who prefers a book and a glass of wine to a loud venue, someone who needs a lot of personal time to recharge and consider. the hermit trusts his own inner light, relies on it to reveal the path he should follow. and while i do need the love and support of others sometimes, i’ve had to face most of my challenges alone. no one can make me sleep, or not hurt myself, or change my identity to something more “acceptable.” no one can take away my past hurts or my present fears or my future challenges. just like now – no one else can come out for me. i have to do this myself, on my own strength, in my own way.

 

5. how to tap into that power to build confidence

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the fool, another card i haven’t worked with before. represented in the wild unknown as a baby bird, eager to take his first steps away from his secure nest, and speaks of new beginnings, spontaneity, potential, and inexperience. this bird is excited but naive, with no idea what is ahead. she exists entirely in the present. the future is limitless, sparkling with possibility. as carrie mallon says, “this card speaks of pure, unbridled potential. in order for that potential to take shape, risks are required. taking a leap doesn’t necessarily guarantee a favorable outcome. but if you never leap, you remain stuck on the precipice, never fully immersing yourself in all that life has to offer.”

there’s a lot to unpack here. but something that i immediately noticed is that the devil and the hermit are both stationary, whether standing in flames or retreating into a shell. they’re self-aware, sure of themselves, sometimes to their detriment. the fool, however, is moving forward, even if it’s into a completely unknown place. she’s about action, taking that big leap, being open and ready and saying yes. she may be young and inexperienced, but she also isn’t shackled by fear or expectations. if i can look to that trust and love and beauty from the ten of cups, and channel the strength and assurance from my power cards, perhaps it’ll give me what i need to take that big step forward.

6. something i can do right now

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so what do i do? the ace of pentacles is all about new beginnings and growth, planting a seed and letting it take root. this card reminds us to stay grounded and consistent, to commit to the process, to activate the resources we have and the ones we may have forgotten.

aces are always brimming with potential. and this ace of the earth, with its stable growth rings and blooming branches and tough outer layer, speaks to me of strength and balance. i need to remember that my letters are the start of something, rather than the end – i’m beginning a conversation based on truth and honesty, and need to keep faith in the process. i have resources – supportive friends, a wonderful therapist, an online community, and my beloved cards. they can give me strength and courage, and help me remember why i’m doing this at all.

this is a fascinating, complicated, challenging spread. but it reflects so much of who i am, what i need, and why i’m pushing myself to come out to my family. i’m grateful for the wisdom here, for the honesty and difficulties presented by the cards.

time to write some letters.

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keep your head down

today’s card is all about focus, determination, craftsmanship, and innovation: the eight of pentacles.

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confident and skilled, the spider is constantly pushing herself to create new, intricate webs, never giving up. if a web is broken or damaged, she fixes it. if it’s destroyed beyond repair, she creates a new one, that’s stronger and more beautiful than the one before it. she is constantly honing her skills, seeking mastery of her craft. detail-oriented, determined, focused, and devoted, she is constantly challenging herself to do better.

this card is all about balance and devotion, understanding that hard work and drive can achieve so much. there can be joy in every stage of a process, learning to embrace every single aspect of a project or craft. and while there’s always plenty of things to distract us, sometimes the best thing we can do is keep our heads down, stay focused, and put all of our energy into making something strong and beautiful.

this is a challenging card for me today, as i have a quiet work week planned. my to-do list is completely finished, every task that’s been wiggling in the back of my head completed – all that’s left is writing difficult letters to my family, which i’ve been putting off for weeks now. pentacles are so connected to the earth and possessions for me, all about stability, material things, wealth and careers and property. but eights are goal-oriented, all about achievement, getting things done.

son-of-wandsmy clarifying card is the son of wands, a card that’s been popping up a lot lately. this son has no fear, no self-doubt, but pushes forward with confidence and strength and passion. i don’t want to force the cards or miss something, but this feels like it could speak to my still-unwritten letters. after all, finishing coming out during pride month was the goal that i set for myself, and while i’ve taken the first step i have stumbled over the others. the son has such purpose, such fire, and he and his mother have appeared so many times this month. it feels like the court of wands is pushing me to push myself, to finish the journey i started years ago.

yes, it’s scary. i might destroy the fragile webs i’ve been building all these years, damaging relationships that are so important to me. but if i can keep my head down, focus on the task at hand, use the skills and intuition and empathy that i’ve been developing – perhaps i can build something even stronger.

every which way

after so much beauty and strength in yesterday’s draw, today’s card initially feels a little discouraging: the five of wands.

five-of-wandsthese wands are laying haphazardly, each pointing in a different direction, with none of them touching or overlapping. the lines behind them reflect the chaos, moving in hard angles and with erratic spacing. all of this suggests a complete lack of focus, confusion, distraction – the eye wanders, unsure of where to look. rather than working together to move in one direction, they seem to be fighting each other, defensive and contrary.

i’ve been enjoying pushing myself in different directions in my photography, but it can also bring up worries about talent, ability, and stretching myself too thin. am i good enough to try all of these styles and specialties? can i make a living doing all the things i like, or do i have to choose just one? this field is so competitive, and with everyone posting images every single day from their cell phones, some good and some downright terrible, it’s impossible not to feel threatened or like i have to prove my worth and value every day.

daughter-of-cupsi pulled a clarifying card to offer additional guidance, and found an old friend: the daughter of cups. and while she can represent many things, in this context i see her quiet confidence in the full spectrum of the suit of cups. she knows that water can be clear or murky or choppy or still, bright and illuminating or dark and mysterious. even when she doesn’t understand every facet of herself, she still trusts that every emotion has value, and believes in her own instincts. knowing that she doesn’t know everything does not bother her – she finds it comforting that there is much she does not understand. there is power in wonder, in the unknown.

confusion is not always bad, as it forces us to focus on what matters. and second-guessing my career choices doesn’t make me weak, as long as i don’t allow it to stall or consume me. but these cards feel like they’re pushing me to rise to a challenge, rather than give in to distraction and fear. i am capable of riding out these difficulties, as beth from little red tarot says. this tension can make me stronger.

 

protect yourself

i’ve been seeing a lot of swords and cups in my reading today, and i think it’s a perfect (if very on-the-nose) representation of my current mental state – my emotions and fears at war with what my mind is telling me i must do. today’s card is the seven of swords.

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like the four of swords, this clever creature is completely aware of the swords over her head – but unlike the lamb, channeling her power and setting boundaries for herself, this fox keeps an extra sword hidden, waiting for something big to happen. perhaps she’s aware of a threat in her midst, and doesn’t trust those around her – or maybe she’s the one with the secret, and is wary of being discovered. either way, she is on edge, keeping an eye on everything.

this card often reminds me of the seven of cups, another card that can speak of secrets, illusion, and deception – both speak to internal issues, whether they’re mental or emotional. and having seen both suits so many times in recent readings, it seems fitting to mediate on them both.

IMG_0338last week i wrote a post about coming out, and struggled with whether or not to share it on social media. this blog is not private, and i rarely write secret posts, but it also doesn’t get a lot of traffic – i write mainly for me, and while i occasionally send posts to friends, rarely share it beyond that. as i work through how to come out to some remaining family members, i’ve been wanting additional support from those that already know, along with those that don’t but will be strong allies. but i’ve been putting it off, worried that no one would care, that it wouldn’t mean anything. i’m out to almost everyone in my life – surely posting that on a site like facebook, where my connections are friends and real people i’ve met, shouldn’t be that scary. right? if i can write things that are available to strangers on the internet, surely people that care about me are less intimidating?

but oh, the fear is palpable. just considering posting this publicly (along with writing this post, right now) feels self-indulgent, self-involved, self-serving. sharing a post about my sexuality, as brief and broad as it is, feels like a huge personal step for me. and perhaps it’s the seven of swords speaking – this secret i have is impacting so many relationships, so many decisions, simply because i haven’t shared it yet. but the seven of cups looms too – is my brain pushing my heart to do something it’s not ready for? do i only think this is an important step, when it actually wouldn’t matter to anyone? will i feel better when it’s over, or simply obsess about likes and comments and fear nasty private messages?

i’m honestly not sure. but the phrase i keep seeing in blogs and forums about this card is act consciously. what’s more important – feeling calm and at peace with myself, or getting attention and support from others? do i want to tell people for them, or for me?

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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.

 

days go by

and again, weeks and weeks have gone by. i’ve been drowning in depression, and every time i think the tide is coming in and i think that i might be able to reach dry land, another current catches me and i’m pulled back under. depression ebbs and flows, but my compass has been completely shattered in the storm – i usually have a better sense of how long i’ve been treading water, when i’ve reached the eye of the storm, if i’ll get a glimpse of the horizon soon. but this time around i spent so much energy pushing it away, trying to hold it back, that now i’m utterly lost at sea.

i’ve been struggling in particular with my history of self-harm, and have gone down the terrible rabbit hole of comparing my struggle to that of others. any therapist, self-help book, or rational human will tell you that this is a terrible idea, that recovery is not a race, that everyone copes differently. but when i see the love and support given to friends of mine, whether they’re surviving sexual assault, dealing with crippling anxiety, recovering from eating disorders, or learning how to embrace life after a failed suicide attempt, i can’t help but feel ugly and lonely and wrong. why is it easy for me to extend kindness and sympathy and generosity to others that are struggling, and yet impossible for me to offer myself the same courtesy? my laundry list of issues are long and growing longer by the day, and yet when i see someone that has but one item on my own list, my heart aches for them. why can’t i ache for myself? why do i constantly listen to that nasty voice in my head, the one that says that nobody cares about me, that i have to be strong and not burden anyone else, that people only like me because of what i can give them?

my therapist is kind, my husband is supportive, and the few others in my life who know the ins and outs of my struggles have been wonderful. so why this need for me? why does my heart swell with envy when i see a friend post about her suicide attempt and get endless comments and notes of support, of love, of encouragement? people telling her she’s brave, she’s strong, she’s a fighter, she’s powerful, she’s an inspiration.

i tried, and failed, twice. what does that make me? (the voice in my head says, “it makes you a failure.”)

i brought all of this to the cards today. and they didn’t let me down: i pulled the tower.

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not for the faint of heart, this card. and though the instinct is to recoil, to cower in fear, to weep and beg and sorrow, perhaps this card and this depression are markers of real, internal movement. the tower signifies a permanent evolution, irrevocable change, a deep, significant transformation. there’s no going back to what we were before – we have to move forward into that wild unknown, whether we like it or not.

and perhaps the cards are simply urging me to learn from my darker past and stop being so afraid. step into the light. reveal the scary. shed that skin. if support is what you need, stop being afraid of rejection and simply ask for it.

naturally, steeped in fear and desperate to be wrong, i pulled a second clarification card: the nine of cups. a card of satisfaction, of pleasure, of contentment. it’s all about enjoying what’s in the present, reveling in stable, calm energy, and indulging in the things that give us joy.

could there be a stranger pair? i’m not sure. but what i see is that upheaval is necessary, that change is a’comin’, that the very foundations of my world are altering. and yet, there is peace to be found. there is serenity in knowing that this evolution is extremely necessary, and that i have been stagnant for far too long.

there’s a lot to process here, with many truths that i’m not sure i’m ready to see. but i’ve let the cards be silent for far too long, and i know in my bones that it’s time to listen. maybe that means that there are others in my life who are ready to listen too.

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