positive & present

i’m continuing to focus on my instagram challenge, but today’s cards were so fascinating that they deserve a deeper dive.

day 17: where should i focus more on the present?

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the six of wands, a card of victory, escape, and release. this card appeared just last week to represent my personal intentions, and really spoke to me of hope. sometimes it takes a long time to untangle ourselves from the darkness, but that patience and perseverance will ultimately help us free ourselves from whatever we’re trapped in. my mess of wands is this persistent depression, a smothering of my inner fire that i cannot seem to reignite. the dark chaos below her brilliant wings reveals no easy paths through, no obvious tunnels or beams of light to follow out. the butterfly had to make her own way, and i imagine it was painful and difficult and frustrating at various moments. but this card is her triumph, blasting free and soaring up and out on her beautiful wings.

this fight is still my present, and it’s easy to lose in the hazy struggle of every day life. just getting dressed, doing my job, caring for my dog and my husband, staying in touch with friends feels like too much – i also have to fight off these miserable tangled shadows?

yes, the cards whisper. keep fighting.

day 18: what can use a more positive view?

the ten of wands, a card of heavy burdens, overload, giving up, too much of a good thing. all those brilliant burning fires have exhausted themselves, run out of fuel, been smothered by too many other wands, and everything has been extinguished. all that’s left IMG_0312is a pile of leftovers, energy that has burned out. this card was my weakness for the month of september, and has been challenging me this month.

feeling so drained of fire, utterly exhausted, and having lost passion and light and interest in even the most basic of activities – it’s miserable. and it’s hard to find positivity in such a dark and discouraging card, one that seems to reflect my mental state over the past three weeks. but saying yes to everything, smiling and acting like everything is fine, all to try and force my way out of depression – that isn’t the answer. i have to remember to find joy in one thing at a time, to relish those little victories, to focus on what’s positive in my life rather than letting myself drown in all the negatives. having opportunities is wonderful, but saying yes to every single thing is not.

i had a conversation the other day about wishes, and giving up mental illness and challenges if we could. and while my idiopathic insomnia and major depressive disorder are not characteristics that i love or enjoy, they are such massive parts of me and my life that it’s hard to imagine who i would be without them. if i slept normally, would i be more positive, more energetic, more friendly? if i didn’t deal with depressive episodes several times a year would i be more popular, more optimistic, more spontaneous? it’s impossible for me to know. and while the idea of not having insomnia or depression is certainly appealing, i’m not sure i would want to lose them both – because i don’t know who i would become. what if gaining hours of regular, uninterrupted sleep impacted my creativity? what if not descending into the shadows and darkness made me less sensitive to moods, and damaged my intuition? would those losses be worth it?

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both of these cards remind me that for better or worse, i am who i am. this dark depression, these murky shadows, the tangled branches and twisted thoughts and difficult struggles are all part of me. but fighting through it, trying to find those bits of light, pushing through all the pain and hurt and this aching, overwhelming sadness to eventually find freedom and space and room to breathe? that’s part of me, too. and staying engaged in that fight, finding one wand to wield rather than just burning them all to ashes, and remembering that i’ll escape eventually, are lessons worth repeating.

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intention & truth

instagram has felt easier these last few days – a bit more anonymous, a bit more concise, a bit safer. the prompts from my tarot challenge are thoughtful and focused, and i’ve really enjoyed getting to know others in the community. but today’s cards are devoted to uncovering inner truths, and i find myself wanting a bit more space to explore these meanings. i’m utterly drained, and the last few days have been very difficult, but this feels like a good way to assess and reflect.

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first up is my intentions: the six of wands. this is a new card for me, but i already love it – it reminds me so much of judgement, rising above darkness and shadows and tangled thoughts and feelings to be free, to find space and light, to move forward. the butterfly is so bright, so strong, and those tangled thorns below her could’ve shredded her wings to bits. she may be tired, she may feel worn down, but she has managed to break free and find space to spread her wings again. this is such a lovely, victorious card, recognizing what we’ve had to fight through to find progress. and this absolutely feels like my current intentions – i just want to escape this darkness, want to opened my battered wings and fly out of all of this hurt and pain and fear. i feel like i’ve been stuck here for so very long, and i’m craving escape. i want fresh air, want room to breathe, want to feel like i’m in charge of my body and mind and soul again. everything feels so dark, but this butterfly’s beautiful, colorful wings give me a bit of hope.

 

son-of-wandshow is this manifesting in my life, and what are my actions signaling? the son of wands is independent, single-minded, completely focused on achieving his goals. he’s charming, adventurous, passionate, and completely confident in his abilities. he knows that the path he’s following is the correct one, and he’s sure that his plan will work – no obstacles in sight, no challenges he can’t face, no storm he can’t weather. who needs a backup plan when you already know you’re capable of facing anything?

his confidence is staggering, and certainly doesn’t reflect how i feel right now. but that focus on doing one thing well, on following a path to the very end, on putting all of my energy into one task? that i relate to. tarot has become something so important to my days, and even when i don’t have the energy to write or the strength the share my readings, pulling a card or two and spending some time in thought and meditation has become a goal for each day. i may not accomplish a single other thing, but at least i can find some time for reflection, for consideration, for challenges. it feels like if i can just listen to the cards, even for only a moment, it gives me a much-needed break from the darkness swirling in my mind.

i love that both of these cards are wands, that both cards feel independent and strong, that both cards are focused on a single purpose. i’m longing to break free of my darkness, and i’m using tarot to help me find my way out. and while both of these characters are finding their own way, and i still feel pretty lost in those tangled branches, the son of wands gives me hope that by focusing my energy on self-reflection and understanding, eventually i’m going to find a way to escape.

let’s go

today’s card is one that always brings me a bit of anxiety, and a lot of expectation: the two of wands. and while this is not a welcome card for me, there’s so much to unpack and sort through as i consider the why.

traditionally, the two of wands is a card of determination, IMG_0304willpower, potential, embracing power, taking a big step forward. horizontal lines indicate stability and power, but all those colors of the rainbow remind us of the limitless promise here – all that energy can be focused just about anywhere. there’s so much possibility here, taking the fiery energy and opportunity present in the ace and harnessing it into something concrete. having the fire and the passion to get excited about something is a great start, but without channeling that energy into something specific, it can fizzle out, fade away, or simply get lost. we have to be willing to reach out and grab those wands, point that colorful, vibrant energy towards something, and get going.

for some, i imagine this is a really exciting card. new ideas! a call to action! potential for greatness! but for me, i simply see pressure. there’s so much expectation when starting something new, so many challenges to get things right, that i’m afraid to even start.

i’ve written before about the stories that we tell ourselves, the way that we view our personalities and strengths and experiences, and how that often looks very different than the way others perceive us. i think that’s a fundamental part of the human experience, that no matter how self-aware we strive to be, we will always see ourselves in a specific way that may not align with the way we appear to the world around us. my view of myself has always been fairly specific, both in terms of what i am and what i’m not: hardworking, but not ambitious. creative, but not a creator. passionate, but not goal-oriented. interesting, but not unique. i am someone that can help people achieve their goals, craft their art, support their dreams, but i don’t have lofty ambitions or life-long objectives of my own. i’m artistic, but i’m not my own artist – i can contribute and complete, but i don’t have enough ideas to actually start something.

…which makes a card like this, that’s all about learning and building and focusing, feel impossible. what could i make, say, create, that hasn’t already been done a hundred times? why would my struggles, my lessons, my thoughts matter to anyone? how could i express myself that wouldn’t feel redundant, or simply ridiculous?

the answer is that i don’t know. i’m more comfortable in a supporting role, but this card is not about comfort. this card is about taking all those swirling ideas, those niggling fragments of inspiration, those random scribbles in notebooks and hastily-written, half-finished stories, and channeling them into something real. whether or not anyone sees it is not the point – the purpose is to actually make or do or say the thing, to craft it into something that matters. the point is the process, the journey, the attempt. simply making the effort isn’t the first step, it’s the third or fourth in an long series – and it can be the hardest one.

i’m not sure where this is going yet, but what’s clear is that it’s time to get started.

feet in the flames

these past few weeks have involved a lot more spreads than usual, so i wanted to get back to basics today with a single-card reading. the cards had bigger plans though, getting right in my face with an intense draw: the devil.

the-devili’ve worked with this trickster before, and his general meanings are difficult. addiction, inner demons, bondage, materialism, negativity, enslavement, a prison of our own making – this card speaks to inner darkness, the temptations and wickedness that lives within us all. often this card is seen as a wake-up call, a harsh reminder to examine our own failings and make some serious adjustments. we all have secrets, challenges, inner desires that we’re ashamed of, but often the easiest way to overcome these difficulties is by acknowledging them. it seems impossible to ignore something as dramatic as feet in the flames, but as humans we’re very good at ignoring negative things, even when they may be hurting us.

and this could certainly be the message for me today. i’ve been in a weird head space lately, disappointed with myself, feeling isolated from friends and family, craving a new project or start to get me motivated and energized. i feel lazy, slow, uncomfortable. i hate the idea of blaming outside forces for my problems (“the devil made me do it” is the ultimate way to avoid taking responsibility, don’t you think?), but i think my inner devil has been having a field day with my sluggishness, my lack of motivation, my feelings of discomfort in my own world and head and body.

but is that all? a clarifying card is in order, as it so often is with major arcana cards. and my second pull has me reconsidering what the devil might be telling me: the nine of cups, a card of finding pleasure, reveling in contentment, and enjoying harmony.

IMG_0340i don’t see this card often, but when i do it’s paired with a difficult card, like the tower. it’s a lovely card, a reminder to enjoy life to the fullest and appreciate the present, but it often feels like a snarky reminder that my life is just fine, thank you very much – i have people that love me, a good relationship with my family, a fairly strong marriage, a job that i love, a safe place to live, plenty of food and clothing, enough money to occasionally buy frivolous things… i could go on, but you get the point. what do i really have to complain about? why the depression, the darkness, the moodiness and struggles and sadness?

as a clarifying card for the devil, i see something completely different: enjoy what you have, and stop taking everything so damn seriously. indulge a little. find something that brings you happiness, even if it’s just for a moment. beth writes about how the devil is not always bad – he can encourage us to live a little, embrace a bit of wickedness, let go and find pleasure in what we can.

i like fire. i’m not afraid of the dark. but i also feel stuck in a rut, tired and cranky, sad and defeated. perhaps it’s time for something new, something fun, something that’s just for me to help pull me out of this weird place that i’m stuck in.

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adding spirit

tarot is built on four suits, each representing an element that shapes who we are and is central to the world around us. heart, mind, body, and soul – each suit in the minor arcana explores the highs and lows of our experience as humans on this earth. my course this week is all about exploring these elements within my cards, and connecting them to each other and to me personally.

while beth has a number of exercises for us to follow this week, i want to include this five element spread from the wild unknown, allowing me to add in the major arcana and connect more deeply to the various elements in the deck.

1. earth

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this card represents my foundation, my home, and my sense of stability: the six of pentacles. though there is darkness around, this branch is flourishing, finding a way to grow and blossom even after difficult times. i may not have all resources available to me all the time, but making due with what is present is something that gives me courage, strength, and pride. there’s beauty in both giving and receiving, and it’s important to me that i don’t simply take and take and take without paying things forward. i feel the most grounded when i am able to give back, help friends, be strong for those that need me. and while my career is never going to make me wealthy (and may never fully support me financially, which keeps me incredibly humble when i compare my earnings to those of my husband), doing something that i love and believe in helps me to flourish personally in ways beyond riches.

 

 

2. water

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the three of cups represents my emotional self, my relationships, and my creative and spiritual flow. as someone that’s fairly private and doesn’t always trust others immediately, this is a lovely card to see and an important reminder – i may not have a wide circle of friends, but those i do have know me truly, allow me to be myself completely, and will stand by me through thick and thin. my relationships keep me centered and healthy, and when i remember to rely on my friends and family, when i gather my strength and trust them with my pain and my darkness and my secrets, i’m always better off. it’s not a weakness to ask for help or admit when i’m overwhelmed. and while it’s not easy to ask for support, i need to be better about doing it.

 

3. fire

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this card represents my sense of self, my soul, that inner spark that keeps me moving and motivated. the seven of wands is a card of independence and strength, a light in the darkness, a bold flame that knows what it’s burning for. i’ve always been different, rarely fit in or feel normal, but this card stands fiercely and proudly. it reminds me that knowing who i am, and not being afraid of what makes me different, is an important part of growing up and being strong. this little flame may stand alone and apart, but she’s sure of what she wants, knows she cannot be silenced, believes in her calling. when i stay true to myself, even if i’m alone, i am always stronger. my inner spark is often restless, feeling that i should be burning brighter or harder or larger – i have trouble being present, acknowledging where i am with calm and purpose. but this card feels so still, though the flame is crackling and lighting up the darkness.

 

 

4. air

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the daughter of swords is straightforward, intelligent, and embraces simplicity: an inspiring card for my air element, representing my relationship to change and inspiration. i love to travel, love to explore, love challenging myself to grow and learn in new ways. but i don’t like a lot of fuss – i always prefer to keep things drama-free. and while my scorpio nature means that i keep a lot of secrets, enjoy mysteries, and am often hard to read, when it comes to travel and adventurous i like to know what’s going on. i’m currently on vacation with my husband and his family, and the lack of planning and communication, the utter disorganization, the clear differences in the purpose of the trip, are driving me a little bit crazy. i want to know where i’m going, want to experience as much as possible, and don’t want to waste any time trying to organize those that refuse to be organized. i really identify with this child of the air: let’s not make this any more complicated than it needs to be.

5. spirit

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i’m a bit surprised to see the empress in this final position, representing my relationship to spirituality and the infinite. my birth card is the high priestess, a card i love and admire deeply for her intuition and spirituality, but the empress is far more grounded. she’s deeply connected to nature and the earth, embraces her senses and her body, understands the world around her on a visceral level. she is nurturing and wise, strong and kind, always extending open arms and caring words to those in need. and while i’m not sure that this is who i truly am, in this very moment i’m feeling extremely connected to the world around me. i’m in a beautiful place, craving time in nature, wanting to enjoy food and the landscape and everything around me with all of my senses. i just want to be, which is not always easy for me. california always feels like home to me, and i want to soak it in for as long as possible, enjoy this feeling of freedom and peace.

 

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this is a spread i want to revisit again and again, as it seems to give a really lovely insight into where i am right now, and how the elements can speak to my current state. these cards all feel calming and affirming, reflecting my current feelings of independence and solitude in the face of community, a desire for action and directness during this long and emotionally draining trip, and a craving for nature and exploration in the last days of our vacation.

i’m a bit behind on my week two exercises, but plan to do another spread tomorrow. if you’re following beth’s course too, please let me know how it’s going!

 

aces & elements

a little bit of sleep has offered some clarity, and i’m ready to dive into week two of my tarot course and focus on the elements in the minor arcana. first exercise: aces!

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the suit of cups is one i talk about a lot in this space, both because as a scorpio i’m deeply connected to water but also because they tend to pop up for me frequently. the ace of cups is colorful and beautiful, overflowing with light and possibilities. this card represents the beginning of something emotional, a new relationship or connection, the start of a personal, perhaps spiritual journey. cups speak to matters of the heart, whether we’re dealing with others or with ourselves. water ebbs and flows, can be calm or rough, is soothing and restful but can also quickly become overpowering without warning. it’s easy to get ourselves in trouble with this suit, since emotions that start as beautiful and intriguing can quickly swirl out of control – passion can turn to hate, love can turn to obsession, anger can turn to rage. water resists control, has a mind of its own, is heavy and strong and difficult to contain, can sneak in through cracks and tight spaces to take us by surprise. i’m always reminded to keep an open heart when i see this card, to remember that all emotions have value and that it’s important to stay receptive to whatever may come, but also to hang on and try not to get swept away.

ace-of-swordschanneling knowledge and mental clarity is the element of air, represented in tarot as the suit of swords. this suit is for the intellect, the power of facts and justice and communication – everything that takes place in our minds. the ace of swords is both powerful and terrifying, with its strong blade and illuminating bolts of lightning. the sword cuts to the truth of the matter, revealing what is inside with unerring certainty. this is a difficult suit for me, as i’m prone to depression and self-harm, but sometimes this kind of harsh clarity can be necessary. it’s easy to get lost in the tangle of our own minds – to become so focused on our own version of events, our fears, our desires, our insecurities, that we lose sight of what is really true. air is clear and strong, and can often be taken for granted, but when we abuse it or pollute, it quickly becomes difficult to see through and can be impossible to see our way forward. we must respect the power of truth, the wisdom that comes from experience, the necessary but difficult certainties that shape who we are. and as this ace can show us that a burst of clarity, a flash of brilliance, a bit of unflinching honesty are all on the horizon, it reminds us to be ready to see what’s real.

ace-of-wandsfire, passion, inspiration, power – the suit of wands represents the element of fire, and the ace of wands is one of the most brilliant, energetic cards in the deck. this card speaks to a flash of brilliance, a fresh new idea, a spark of energy that pushes us forward into an exciting opportunity. this is the ace i see the most, full of fire and creativity, but often stresses me out with its expectations and drive. the suit of wands speaks to everything that moves us, to motivation, projects, ideas and sparks, but also of burnout, overextending, pushing ourselves too hard and too fast. fire can burn low and slow, all sizzling embers and quietly glowing coals, but can quickly rage and flame into something that’s impossible to control. it can burn fast and hot, cutting through everything in its path and leaving behind a wasteland – or sometimes, space for something new to grow. this ace is a spark, a flash, and gives us the energy and power and passion to push forward, to do something that speaks to us deeply. wants speak to what defines us, what makes us unique. fire is our soul.

ace-of-pentaclesrepresenting the element of earth, our bodies, careers, homes, health, and the world around us, is the suit of pentacles. everything sensual and physical is wrapped into this suit, that which grounds us and keeps us connected to the material world. the ace of pentacles speaks to growth, to resources, reminding us to be practical, methodical, and consistent. unlike some of the other suits, earth is firm and strong, not easily changed or altered. growth takes time and energy, requiring patience and strength and foresight. this ace speaks to prosperity, reminding us to commit to the process and put in the work to achieve our more worldly, physical goals. whether it’s seeking a new job or building a family, finding a safe home or staying healthy or developing a new craft or seeking healthier habits, pentacles encourage us to care for ourselves in a material sense. so often we overlook resources, ignore what’s right in front of us, or get so caught up in dreams and relationships and knowledge that we forget our physical selves. pentacles are a beautiful reminder to take a walk, to reconnect to the world we live in, and to take pleasure in our senses and our bodies.

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each of these aces is so powerful, filled with promise and opportunity and passion, and connecting them to their elemental energies has certainly opened my eyes to the depth of each suit. there’s a richness to tarot, layer after layer of new meaning and promise, and i love the feeling that i may not ever fully master this – tarot will always be teaching me.

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.