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?

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.

the horror inside

it’s finally come for me: the nine of swords.

as someone that’s battled insomnia and depression for most of my life, i knew when i began tarot that eventually this card would find me. and after almost a year of reading, i’m a little shocked that this is the first time i’ve ever drawn it.

IMG_0296this card is the definition of horror. disgusting, confusing images crowd this card, dark and twisted, and it’s difficult to even tell what is happening. the longer you look at it, the more revolting and upsetting it becomes. symbolizing dark visions, anguish, and the nightmares that keep us up all night, this is a card i’ve been dreading. it seems to represent everything that i hate about myself, everything i fear, all in one hideous image.

there are certain weapons against depression that i can wield during the day. they don’t always work, but when i have tasks to accomplish, a mile-long to do list, or deadlines looming, i can usually force myself to set the darkness aside for a bit and get things done. and daylight offers other comforts – friends, television, delivery food. even at my worst, daytime is always easier.

but the middle of the night, oh. that’s when it’s always harder. everyone is asleep, darkness reigns, and the world is silent and still. it’s just me, alone and anguished, trapped in the endless upside-down. once those bad thoughts start, once i fall down that rabbit hole, it can be absolutely impossible to stop, breathe, and remember who i really am. problems become unsolvable, friends seem like enemies, and everything seems utterly hopeless. i’ve had a few nights like this in the past few weeks, and they never get easier.

is there any hope in this card? carrie notes that while the nightmare itself is a tangled mess, the swords themselves are orderly and evenly spaced, attacking the beast from all sides. swords are all about mental energy, and it’s important to note that this entire hideous thing is in the mind. as beth states, this is mental self-torture. it’s completely self-created, self-inflicted. this whole ugly thing is inside my mind.

i decided to give myself the gift of a clarifying card this morning, and the energy couldn’t be more different: the ace of wands.

bold as hell, crackling with wild, fiery, passionate energy, this energetic card is all about ace-of-wandsexciting adventures, fresh creativity, and flashes of brilliant inspiration. where the swords are dark and tortured, pushing all that negativity inward towards a secret nightmare, this ace pushes inspiration outward. those colorful beams of enthusiasm seem to go on forever.

the message here seems clear – put your energy outward today. find that fire, share your enthusiasm, spread positive energy, and perhaps you can conquer the hideous nightmare waiting at midnight. make the day bright and strong, and the night won’t seem quite so dark. i keep stabbing myself with those sharp edges, letting my mental swords cut me down – but the brilliant fire of those wands can help.

the monsters never seem quite so bad in the light.

standing up

it’s been a long, hard few months. after yesterday’s post got much more personal than i usually am in this space, i spent a lot of time reflecting on where i am, where i’ve been, and where i’m going. depression is a long, winding road, with no real destination or end in sight. it’s a tough path to travel. but sometimes there’s such beauty to be found in darkness, and a poignancy to pain that can reveal harsh, but essential truths. while this isn’t a journey i would choose, it’s one i must take, and all i can do is keep my eyes and ears open to the lessons i can find along the way.

after so much introspection, i’m rather delighted by today’s card: the magician.

IMG_0353a new card for me, and one of self-empowerment, stamina, strength, and spirit. the wild unknown book describes the magician as “a card of boundless, expansive energy,” and indeed, the card is vivid, almost pulsing with light. the wildcat is strong, graceful, courageous, and wields the energy of all four suits with ease. he’s aware of his surroundings, but not afraid of them. there’s beautiful potential here, an anticipatory feeling of stillness, readiness. the magician is poised, awake, aware. he knows that he has the tools needed to conquer any situation, and the fortitude to know which skill will be needed in order to succeed.

after so many weeks in the dark, knowing that i’m still probably going to be drowning for a bit longer, this is an immensely empowering card. all about action, the magician knows what to do and how to do it. there’s no self-doubt, no confusion, no hand-wringing or gnashing of teeth or hiding in a corner. there’s such bold, quiet confidence here, such beauty and power and intensity. and while i may not feel that in myself at this very moment, pushing myself to find actions that i can take to find my own beauty and power and intensity feels like good advice.

i think it’s okay to not always be okay. but remembering that action is possible even when you feel completely and utterly powerless can be a beautiful reminder of what we are all capable of. the tools are right there – i just need to find a way to grab them and wield them with grace.

to spite the face

both of today’s cards are difficult, involving swords and the self. i’m in a tough mental place right now and the cards are certainly reflecting that. let’s start with my first pull: the five of swords.

five-of-swordsself-destruction, internal battles, personal suffering. fives are often centered on the self, and can represent challenges, even a personal hell. swords, the suit of air and mental agility, can push this card to represent a real disconnect, a severing of the heart and mind. something is missing, whether it’s simple indecision or a more complex issue of communication. am i hiding something from myself? denying an issue that everyone else can see? am i being my own worst enemy?

this is a tough card today, as i wrestle with my anxiety over our move, sore muscles from a tough run in the cold yesterday, and struggle to decide if i should head to the doctor sooner rather than later for a breathing issue that’s developing. i’m having trouble making any decisions, and really just want to sit at home all day and play video games. i want to be selfish, want to ignore the bad stuff and just get lost in my imagination for a awhile. one of my resources described this card as “cutting off the nose to spite the face” and it rings very true for this card – making a hasty, poor decision that ultimately hurts everyone, and hurts the decision-maker the most.seven-of-swords

my clarifying card gave some similar messages: the seven of swords.

i’ve pulled both of these cards recently in larger readings (the five of swords in a reader’s spread, and the seven of swords in a clarifying reading for a recurring card), but haven’t pulled either for a single-card daily reading recently. sevens are about personal attainment or practical advice, showing us how to achieve our goals. the seven of swords can point to secrecy, self-preservation, staying on guard. this fox can also speak to selfishness, but it’s purposeful – he knows that there’s a lot of danger ahead and is prepared for anything. he’s waiting for the other shoe (or one of those swords overhead) to drop.

i’m in a pretty foggy state of mind, still completely exhausted, not feeling well, overwhelmed and frustrated with myself and my situation. i think my cards are reflecting that – i want to just retreat, ignore everything happening, indulge in self-indulgent behaviors and ignore all those swords hanging over my head. the temptation is there, surely – but i need to be stronger than this. i need to be an adult, honor my responsibilities, and find ways to take care of myself through these difficult days.

stalker cards

the nine of wands keeps coming up for me – this is the third time i’ve seen it in two weeks. it seems to describe this move so aptly, and it feels like it’s haunting me. i even dreamed about this card the other night. i can’t seem to escape it.

nine-of-wands

when a card is recurring like this, i think it’s tempting to blow it off or find a way to explain it all – yeah, yeah, i get it. especially with a card like this, in a situation like this: we’ve been working towards this move for months, it seems like every stage gets more complicated and difficult, and this card signifying the end of a long journey and perseverance seems rather… obvious.

many of my resources talk about stalker cards, and the importance of giving them their due. when a card continues to show up in different readings, it’s trying to tell us something important, make us see something that we’re missing. and while the meaning of this card seems fairly straightforward to me, i’m also a very new reader – there’s always more to learn, additional insights, new information and hidden meanings that i need to spend some time parsing through.

with that in mind, i decided to do a simple three-card spread to gain additional insight into this card, and what i might be missing.

1. what is the importance of this card in my life right now?

seven of swords. seven-of-swords
secrecy, protection, remaining aware of surroundings, staying on guard – this card fascinates me. so many possible meanings, so many layers. this card can speak to deception, to procrastination, to avoidance, but i’ve always seen a fox under tremendous pressure, trying to remain aware of the dangers and protect herself. even in a position of rest, she’s got one eye open, a sword at the ready. she knows about the swords overhead – she’s looking forward, staying aware of any new dangers she hasn’t seen yet.

i see a lot in this card, particularly in this position – i think i’ve been extremely afraid of this move falling apart, and haven’t wanted to completely commit to the process in case it doesn’t work out. with someone taking over our sublet, our application to a new place pending board and management approval, the owner of our new apartment also trying to get approved for her new place – it’s so many moving pieces, and i don’t want to be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out. but being so guarded and protective of myself, being so aware of all of the potentials for this to go wrong… it’s making me slow and overly cautious. i’m putting off tasks that i could easily do now, simply because it moves me closer to the end. and while protecting myself isn’t completely foolish, it’s also working against me.

2. what is preventing me from hearing the message of this card?

five-of-wandsfive of wands.
scattered, unfocused, lost, confused, overwhelmed. this is absolutely the best card in the deck to describe my current frame of mind. i’m practically in a daze, can’t pay attention to details, and feel utterly exhausted. i keep missing pieces and forgetting to do things, putting things off and never coming back to them.

i’m so concerned with what might go wrong, so overwhelmed by the possibilities and making contingency plans, that i’ve completely lost sight of what it would mean to actually move. i can’t envision my goal. my limited energy is pointing in a million directions.

3. how can i release any blockages?

three of pentacles. three-of-pentacles
focus, collaborate, find discipline. the only card in the spread with any hints of color, it seems to point to both my dealing with the nine of wands as well as how i need to make this move happen at all. by harnessing my skills, leaning on the abilities of others, and working hard, i can both understand the deeper meanings of this card and also get everything on my enormous to-do list completed.

my recent cards have been pointing to focus and structure, from the fiery energy of the ace of wands to the stable, disciplined presence of the emperor. teamwork has been the key to my tarot studies, both in relying on the wisdom of more experienced readers and also getting involved in forums and speaking more with friends about what the tarot is teaching me. by continuing to harness that energy i’ll find a deeper understanding of the nine of wands, and will also be able to accomplish my goals.

overall, this was a really helpful spread. my fears of failure and my overall exhaustion are keeping me from the main message of the nine of wands – to stay calm, and to focus on one step at a time. it feels like i keep getting close to my goal only to have another setback, another complication, another delay – but if i can stay focused on each small task, rather than worrying about everything that may go wrong, and if i can lean on my husband and my friends and my family to help me get through this, this move will happen just the way it should.

career spread

after today’s daily reading on blockages, strength, balance, and hard work, i felt motivated to do a longer spread focusing on my career and professional development. as a fairly new tarot reader, longer spreads are very intimidating – i often struggle to find connections between the cards, and to understand the full picture rather than focusing on individual cards. with that in mind, i’m posting this spread here along with my limited understanding of it – but i’m also sharing it in a forum or two with the hopes of gaining additional insight. i hope to update this as i continue to work through meanings.

img_0450

in general, i do think this was a helpful spread, with a lot of overlapping themes and advice. while i am still a bit uncertain about how to jumpstart my stalling career, i feel encouraged with the overall picture this spread has given me.

1. a source of strength within your situation

four-of-swordsfour of swords.
stillness & mental power. rest, quiet, calm, and finding ways to take time for yourself even when there is pressure and stress in the situation. when i was younger i found it very difficult to remove myself from bad situations, or give myself space to work through what was bothering me. but as i’ve gotten older i see more and more that i need a lot of room to think, to recover, and to think through issues and decisions. this card seems to be telling me that this has become a strength for me, and that my ability to deal with difficulties in healthy ways and seek quiet spaces to reflect and recover is something that will continue to serve me well in this situation.

other readers have suggested that this card can indicate a future lifting of pressures, and that those swords dangling overhead aren’t permanent. this card can also represent patience, and not getting hung up on the inconsistent nature of my work. stay calm and persistent, whether i have tons of clients or a slow week.

2. an action you can take to build on this strength

daughter-of-cups

daughter of cups.
this card is near and dear to my heart – not because it’s who i am, but because it’s who i’m working towards becoming. full of creative energy and capable of surrendering completely to her artistic, emotional side, the daughter of cups has an open heart, a kind soul, and a beautifully harmonious spirit. combined with the strength of finding mental space and rest, it seems that i should keep myself open to emotional discovery and experiences, even when i’m finding respite in quiet thoughts and meditation. i can have boundaries and respect my need for stillness, while still enjoying creativity and the beauty in artistic pursuits. for me, this card encourages me to continue finding ways to care for myself, through yoga, meditation, reading, writing, and tarot. as a photographer, my work can also be a way to retreat into art, and it’s important not to lose that.

this card can also be asking me to pay special attention to emotional issues and changes, and potential focus on keeping my work simple and sweet.

3. a source of weakness within your situation

six-of-swords

six of swords.
this card indicates processing a difficult situation, recovering from a harsh lesson, moving forward in spite of pain or confusion. it can also represent an unawareness of the future, but a determination to move forward anyway. as a weakness, this is a bit confusing, but since i don’t have really strong, solidified goals for myself in terms of my career, perhaps this is simply acknowledging that not having a strong endgame is a weakness. as mirrored in a later card, i do struggle with wondering if i should give up freelancing, so perhaps this is also highlighting that i don’t feel completely secure in my choice to work for myself.

fellow readers were particularly helpful with this card, suggesting that i consider my true level of commitment, how much time i’ve spent moving in any one direction, and that too much time dwelling in the darkness can cause us to miss the light ahead. i’ve certainly been considering trying new types of photography to gain more work, so this card may be telling me to stick with what i know and focus on improving, rather than expanding.

4. an action you can take to improve this weakness

four-of-cups

four of cups.
this card so often speaks of apathy, discontent, and selfishness – and it’s also not the first time this card has show up for me in a position of advice in a larger spread. this card confuses me in this position, since it doesn’t feel like as much of an action as a state of being or an emotion. but i think perhaps this card is encouraging me to be a little bit selfish. if i want to be a freelancer and keep doing what i love, maybe it’s okay to be focused on myself. but i need to identify what’s making me discontent and apathetic, what i really want out of this work, and to go get it. reconnect with what matters and what i love, and go deeper within to find it.

i gained a lot of insight into this card through other readers, who encouraged me to be less hung up on the creator’s words and instead remember that fours are generally inward and reflective. others thought this card could be telling me to strongly consider my skills and what sets me apart, or that i need to stop considering changing work and instead focus on what i truly want.

5. opportunities available to you

seven-of-pentacles

seven of pentacles.
contemplation & uncertainty. this card represents stepping back, assessing progress, being aware of where you are and where you’re going. i’ve achieved a lot in my career, and this is the time to reflect on it and learn from my progress.

in practical terms, this seems to indicate reviewing my previous clients, updating my portfolio to reflect my work, and looking at how my eye has developed over the years. i’m self-taught, so every shoot is an opportunity to learn and develop and grow – this card encourages me to reflect on that journey, as well as looking to how i can continue to improve my work and my style.

others agreed – this card is pointing towards my existing clients, and encouraging me to be supportive and respectful, seeing how i can grow and learn with them.

6. how you can approach these opportunities

mother-of-cups

mother of cups.
insightful, psychic, magical. this queen is deeply in touch with her emotional self as well as the emotional needs and states of others, incredibly intuitive, and both kind and compassionate. while she usually signals a need to reach out to others and care for their emotional well-being, in this position it seems that i should be aware of my own feelings. since this card relates back to the previous card and assessing my professional progress, i feel that the mother of cups is encouraging me to listen to my heart, remain open and aware, and let my intuition guide me forward. while pentacles are earthy, grounded, and practical, cups are all about emotion, which could mean that while freelancing isn’t always the most financially realistic option, it’s certainly what my heart has always encouraged me to do.

as with the previous card, remaining compassionate, sympathetic, and kind with my current clients – as well as seeing if there’s additional work i can create for them that would help in new ways – is something to be working towards.

7. something which threatens your situation

eight of cups.eight-of-cups
this card isn’t confusing to me at all – i understand exactly what it’s telling me. throughout my career i’ve always faced a lot of doubts. can i really make a living as a photographer? do i have the skills, the talent, and the ambition to do this? am i capable of doing what it takes to become a success? is there enough work for me in this field and profession? will i ever be good enough?

this card is all about knowing when to walk away from a difficult situation, and as an echo to the six of swords earlier, these broken cups reflect my constant feeling that i should make the more “responsible” choice, give up freelancing, and take a full-time job. even when i have a lot of work and am loving what i do, i worry that it’s a flighty, foolish dream, and that eventually i’ll have to grow up and work a 9-to-5 somewhere.

8. a way to deal with this threat

nine-of-wands

nine of wands.
the last card of this reading, and one i got just days ago in a daily reading, this card indicates persevering, moving forward, and not giving up. another that doesn’t seem as complicated to interpret, though i want to keep diving into the nuances this card presents.

the passion is there, i’ve come so far, and while the journey hasn’t always been easy or pleasant, i’m getting closer to the end. this card seems to know that i’ve been stuck and stagnant, confused, and considering giving up (again) – but it tells me instead to stay focused, and that the struggle will be worth it.

 

the overall theme here seems to be that i do love my rest, and that i am weary and confused and scared to continue, but that i need to evaluate how far i’ve come and keep my eyes forward. it’s been a challenging road, but i’m following my heart and doing something that i love. by acknowledging the past, i can learn from my own work and continue to make opportunities for myself. i need to stay open, follow my intuition, and persevere. with the insight other readers have given me, i do feel encouraged that i’m on the right path, and that i simply need to commit and stick with it, rather than constantly feeling guilty or second-guessing my decisions.