What a Weird Morning

I caught my morning bus at the top of the route, a few minutes before it was going to start out again. I was minding my own business, when suddenly I heard the older woman across from me ask, “Is that one of them permanent tattoos?” I said yes, and when she asked what it was, explained that it was three tarot cards. Looking incredulous, she wondered, “Why would you want to get tarot cards on your arm?” So I told her I like how the looked, and that they had meaning to me, and she sort of snorted and looked about ready to say something further (and presumably more insulting), when the bus driver got up and walked over to me.

He leaned over the seats in front of me, and said, quietly, “I have a question for you, about tarot. Can you tell me when my big windfall is coming? Serious question. Could you take out your cards and ask?”

I apologized gently and explained that I don’t believe the cards can predict the future. He nodded, looking sad, and went back up to the driver’s seat, and I felt uncomfortable and a little heartbroken.

(I barely had time to register what had just happened before the anti-tattoo woman started telling me all about her sleep apnea. Thankfully, she got off at the next stop.)

When I walked to the front of the bus a bit before my stop, the driver asked if he could ask me another question. I said yes, and he said, “Can the cards tell you anything? Because they can’t just be for entertainment value.” And I explained that yes, they could; that I believe that tarot cards can help us to look at situations in new ways, to see things we might not notice otherwise. He nodded, and asked me what my general method was. Then he explained that his brother had just left to return to London after a couple of weeks here (and after more than seven years away), and that it had him thinking about things and feeling sort of anxious about life. Then he said when he retired, he thought he might study Indian astrology, because he went to India once, and there was a man there who was startlingly spot-on with a reading.

Before I got off the bus, I asked him his name and gave him mine. I may not be able to predict his future, but at least I can send some good vibes out into the universe for him.

This was not a consequence I had considered when I got a tarot tattoo. On the bright side, I now know that I am able to establish boundaries in the moment. At the same time, I am realizing I will need to work on strengthening those boundaries, because there is a part of me that still feels like I should have done something more to make his day a little better, at least.

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The Alternative Tarot Course Weekly Reading, Week 2: The Four Elements Spread

I wrote last week about the first weekly reading for the Alternative Tarot Course by Beth Maiden; after not having much time to work on the second week’s exercises during the week, I worked through most of them yesterday, including the second weekly reading, which Beth refers to as “the Four Elements spread.” The basic idea behind this spread is to look at how the four elements (earth, water, air, and fire) influence a situation. There are five cards to this spread:

  1. Your situation at this moment (center of the spread).
  2. The earth of your situation (below the first card).
  3. The water of your situation (to the left of the first card).
  4. The air of your situation (above the first card).
  5. The fire of your situation (to the right of the first card).

For this reading I used the Wildwood Tarot (Mark Ryan and John Matthews; art by Will Worthington), which is a beautiful and somewhat unconventional deck. I didn’t have a particular situation in mind when I started shuffling (there have been several situations worth exploring recently, and I was struggling to pick one); I decided to just lay out the cards and see what it was my subconscious wanted me to focus on. Here’s what I found:

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  1. The Eight of Bows – Hearthfire. This lovely card depicts a community – adults at various stages in life supporting one another, creating a home and hearth and warmth and love together. They are bound by common place and purpose; they listen to one another’s stories and treat one another with kindness and respect.
  2. The Three of Bows – Fulfillment. This one was a little tricky for me to relate to earth. It always strikes me as the fulfillment of ideas – fire – and the fruition of plans – air. But I think the relation to earth is this – I have longed for community. It was why I made a brief foray back into a formal church setting. Now a do have community – a real, solid, physically present community – in our knitting friends here in Chicago. And much of our friendships centers around what we can create with our hands, which is another earthy factor.
  3. The Four of Vessels – Boredom. This is where my deck got up and slapped me upside the head. The woman depicted here has so much, and she doesn’t see it. I have been discontent lately, convinced I don’t have friends, lonely…and all unnecessarily so. I have friends, I have community. I just need to get away from my tendency to self-isolate, reach out and connect.
  4. The Ace of Bows – Spark of Life. While this card is full of fire, I am seeing it as well-planned fire – there is thoughtfulness and air here. I need to make plans, but rather than looking at this as an intimidating task, I should be excited by the idea of connecting with people I like and care about. There is so much to learn from all of these friends that I have!
  5. 21 – The World Tree. There is such growth and safety here. Fire is about beginnings, and I feel like this is maybe an indication that it is time to make these friendships (which are all with people I met through my partner) my own. We have such a strong foundation, and a common passion, and we will all continue to grow in support of one another, to learn from each other, and to spur each other on to create new and beautiful things.

Continued Wrestling with AnxietyBrain

I mentioned last week that I had to schedule a minor surgical procedure that I was super anxious about. I felt better as the week went on, but now that I’m three days away from the reality, I’m finding myself worked up again. So, rather than drive my partner nuts with my worrying and venting, I decided to take some time this afternoon to try to re-center and focus on minimizing the anxiety.

ace of stones, five of arrows, the archer

the ace of stones, the five of arrows, and the archer from the wildwood tarot, art © will worthington

The Ace of Stones is ancient, grounded, full of history. It stands tall and proud and strong. It’s been carved by human hands, a reminder that we have the power to bring about change in reality by dreaming it up and then carrying that dream forward into existence.

The five of arrows depicts and archer shooting wildly at a target, arrows flying haphazardly around and hitting nothing. It points out that unfocused energy will not only lead to frustration, but is a waste of valuable mental resources. This rings particularly true for me as a person who deals with anxiety pretty frequently as well as chronic pain, and therefore only has so many spoons to give.

The Archer is the polar opposite of the five of arrows. She is focused, skilled, and confident. She looses her arrows with purpose. The book that accompanies the deck points out that, “The key to a smooth and accurate release of the arrow is a steady and relaxed state, both physically and mentally.”

At first, I was pretty frustrated when I saw this spread, because it’s telling me things I already know – mostly that worrying is ultimately a waste of energy and that I need to focus in order to relax. But it brought in some other elements that I needed to be reminded of.

If I put positive energy out into the world, particularly about this surgery, chances are better that things will turn out okay. I cannot hope to go into this with any expectation of having any sort of power if I can’t approach from a place of calm. I need to take charge of what I can now – my mental state and my attitude, to the best of my ability – and let go of what I really can’t do anything about.

This isn’t new information, but then, that’s not generally why I turn to the tarot. I need to be more mindful of what’s happening when I let anxiety take the reins so that I can resist the temptation to hand them over. I need to be actively and consistently centering myself if I want to get better at managing this.

May Day Musings

May Day always makes me think of my grandmother.

My main frame of reference for the first of May as a child was Grandma teaching us how to make heart-shaped May baskets out of woven strips of construction paper to fill with candy and hang on the doors of people we liked. I think this has added a lot to my mental image of my grandmother as extraordinarily innocent.

She passed away last May, though she faded away from herself far before that, thanks to a drawn-out battle with dementia. It’s been many years since I made a May basket with my grandmother. But there’s still something about the joy and springiness and love of the start of May that always reminds me of her.

I decided to do a little three-card spread with my Wildwood Tarot deck – not assigning any specific question to each card, but just to give myself a broader-than-one-card picture – to help me think about what sort of energy I’m carrying forward into this new season.

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the green woman (the empress in a traditional deck), the nine of vessels (cups), and the sun of life (sun) from the wildwood tarot, art © will worthington

There is all sorts of exciting energy here. The Green Woman reminds me that my grandmother’s May Day is not the full picture – far from being all innocence, there is wildness here, Nature at her least tamed and most alluring.

At the same time, the Nine of Vessels tells me that the connection and sharing with loved ones is an important part of this season. I have plenty, therefore I should pass it around.

And the Sun of Life…I feel like I’ve been running into the Sun a lot, lately. Even when the weather outside is grey and depressing, there is brightness and life within me.

On the Bright Side…

Yesterday, I wrote about struggling with an ending, a letting go that needs to happen.

This morning, despite the fact that I’d already spent some time on my daily single-card meditation, I felt compelled to pull out my Wild Unknown deck and ask for a word of encouragement. I shuffled, and laid out three cards, and as I looked down, I was reminded that, really, the bright side of endings is that it frees up new energy for beginnings.

ace of wands, the fool, and the sun

ace of wands, the fool, and the sun from the wild unknown tarot, © kim krans

I asked for encouragement, and encouragement I received.

The Ace of Wands from this deck is one of my favorite cards; I like it so much I recently got it tattooed on my forearm as part of a tarot triptych (alongside The Hermit and the Nine of Pentacles). It speaks to me of the unstoppable urge to create, of passion and energy and the desire to make beautiful new things come into the world. It speaks to the part of me that is a writer, and a knitter, and a musician, the part that can’t resist doodling or taking photos or dreaming up stories.

The Fool is a card that I only just realized this morning has been following me quietly around all week, too (see yesterday’s blog post for the other card that’s been haunting me). It whispers to my wanderlust, drawing me on to new adventures (even if they’re mostly taking place internally). The Fool steps off from the safety of their known environment and trusts the Universe to catch them if they stumble over the first few steps. There’s a trust there, and an openness, and a wonderful sense of limitless possibility in new beginnings.

The Sun is such a lovely card to top off this simple spread. It echoes the sentiments of energy and bright prospects, giving light and life to a world that’s been a little too given to gloomy weather lately. It’s all vitality and enlightenment and joy, and that’s exactly what I needed today.

I’m still struggling to let go, but I am feeling more confident as I realize that there is so much out there that I want to accomplish, and that I can only accomplish anything if I move forward. I’m reminded that life is what happens when you’re waiting for it to begin, that change is an inevitable part of our lives, and that there is great joy and peace to be had in letting yourself get swept up by it.

(Not So) Subtle Hints

My best friend in college once described me as “about as subtle as a brick through a glass window,” and she was absolutely right. Subtlety has never been my strong suit, and it seems I am getting even worse at it as time goes on – the more I grow into and embrace myself, the more I find I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve. I am a creature of extremes in many ways. If I like you, chances are you know it; if I don’t, you probably know that, too. If I’m excited about something, I go for it 110%; if I don’t care, I find it hard to be motivated at all. Subtle, I am not.

This week, it feels like my cards are taking a leaf out of my book. I’ve been pulling some of the same cards over and over, and they all point to one obvious truth that I’ve been trying desperately to ignore: that in one persistently challenging area of my life, it is time to let go and move on.

I was doing a pretty decent job of ignoring the pattern of recurring cards (like the Five of Pentacles, or the Nine of Swords) and recurring themes (anxiety, fatigue, depression, endings) until yesterday, when I ran into the Ten of Swords not once, not twice, but three times.

When I drew my daily card for my morning meditation, it was there.

When I absentmindedly clicked on the “card of the day” on one of the tarot apps on my phone, it was there.

When I was shuffling another deck as I was killing time in a coffee shop before my evening of music classes, it practically jumped out of my hands.

In the past, in the rare moments when I encountered this card, I remember being repulsed by the imagery: such wanton destruction, such overkill. (Kim Krans suggests in The Wild Unknown Tarot Guidebook that this card can sometimes indicate a touch of melodrama – I mean, ten swords? Really?)

Yesterday, though, I didn’t feel that revulsion.

I didn’t feel anything.

I looked at the card, and I saw finality, and a point from which there would be no return. I saw the end of a long and painful struggle, and a terminal sort of peace.

And I felt nothing in particular.

And I thought, Oh.

It’s not that I’ve been generally terrible. In fact, life is going pretty well. But this one specific area of my life is making me increasingly angry and anxious; the relationships involved have turned toxic and are doing nothing for anyone involved but making us miserable. I’ve known this was coming. The road ahead has been clear for at least a week now.

I’ve reached a fork in the road, and I’ve been pacing back and forth between the two options and refusing to make up my mind, which has only increased the anger and anxiety and the sense of being trapped.

But I know which road I need to take, for the sake of my mental health and for everything else good in my life. It’s not going to be easy, but then, there was nothing easy about the road I was on. Some bridges need to burn, either for the sake of peace through separation or to make way for a newer, sturdier bridge to be built.

I know it’s time to light the match, but still I find I’m hesitating…because I don’t know what I’ll find when the embers burn down to ash. I don’t know if these bridges can ever be rebuilt. I don’t know if I care – though I wonder if I’m supposed to, and I maybe feel guilty for not caring more. I don’t know if I’ll regret the decision to cut ties, or if that potential regret could ever outweigh the horrible, festering hurt that reigns in this area of my life right now.

I think, in the end, I want to be done. I’m ready, or as ready as I’m going to be. I know it’s time to move on.

I’m just not entirely sure how.

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The Alternative Tarot Course, Week 1 Exercise: Choosing a Card for the Journey

I mentioned in my last post that the final exercise of week one of the Alternative Tarot Course was to pick a card from the reader’s reading to keep with me for the duration of the course. After spending yesterday debating back and forth, I settled on XVIII. The Moon.

the moon from the wild unknown tarot, © kim krans

There are a few reasons why this card is resonating with me in regard to my tarot journey:

  • The Moon is all about vivid fears and internal alarms: things I need to face and things I need to learn to listen for.
  • The Moon calls me to venture out into the darkness of my mental landscape despite the feeling of potential danger.
  • In many decks, this card illustrates a tug-of-war between the wildness inside of us and our externally enforced (and often internalized) domestication — the pull between lapdog and wolf, both baying at the moon out of instinct, even if the wolf retains more connection to the rest of its instincts than its domesticated counterpart. This appeals to the restlessness in me (more on that below).
  • The Moon challenges the Seeker to question everything. On the one hand, there is the message to let instinct guide; on the other is the idea that moonlight changes the appearance of our surroundings — things are not always what they appear to be after dark. There is a challenge to find balance between openness to the mystical/mysterious and a healthy dose of skepticism/grounding in reality.
  • Nighttime and moonlight tend to strip away pretense — many of the most honest, insightful conversations of my life have happened after civilization had gone to bed.

The connection to my inner restlessness has stood out most strongly to me. (I’ve used the handle “restlesscourage” in various places on the internet since high school. I’ve always struggled to put adequate words to the concept, but the basic idea is that deep-down desire to make a difference and save the day is always there, restless beneath the surface, waiting for a chance to shine. I wish I could always be courageous.) I am nearly always restless. I’m a chronic insomniac and over-thinker. My brain rarely stops moving. This is a card that calls me to lean into that restless, disquieted part of my spirit, to plumb its depths and explore its deep darknesses. And maybe, just maybe, if I am more in touch with what’s going on beneath the surface of my mind, I will find some reprieve…or at least a better appreciation for why I struggle to quiet my racing thoughts.

This decision inspired a name change for this blog: it started out (because I was at a total loss for a name) as Alyx Talks Tarot. Now, I’ve christened it Restless Tarot, which feels like it’s going to fit this journey well.

At the conclusion of the first week of the course, I feel ready, with The Moon lighting my way, to dive headlong into this study. It promises to be a wild, interesting ride.