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.

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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.

The Alternative Tarot Course Weekly Reading, Week 1: The Reader’s Reading

I’ve started taking Beth Maiden’s Alternative Tarot Course. I’m still in the first week, but I’m loving what I’m learning so far.

Beth gives a weekly reading as a part of each of the eight weeks of the course. The first week of the course material is all about you as the reader, your relationship to and beliefs about tarot, so it makes sense that the first reading follows this theme. The basic premise is that you draw six cards (laying them out however feels best to you) in answer to the following six questions:

  1. About you in general: what is your most important characteristic?
  2. What strengths do you already have as a tarot reader?
  3. What limits do you feel as you start this course?
  4. What key lessons can you learn on your developmental journey with tarot?
  5. How can you be open to learning and developing on this journey?
  6. What is the potential outcome of your tarot journey?

I did this reading with my Wild Unknown tarot deck. I shuffled the deck and drew the cards one by one, laying them out in pairs:

1 2

3 4

5 6

I resisted the impulse to look up meanings, instead working off intuition and memory for my reactions to the cards. (I did look each card up in the guidebook afterward to see if there was anything further that might be helpful.) Here are my results:

  1. XVI. The Tower. This was interesting, as it was definitely not a card I would have picked for myself on my own. It rings true, though. I have been through a lot of major upheaval, much of it sudden, in the past decade (particularly in the past six years), especially in terms of my identity and how I relate to the world. At this point, though I am definitely a creature of habit and can be greatly upset by relatively minor change, I am able to handle major change with a much higher level of calm than a lot of people.
  2. XX. Judgment. This made me happy – far from being a dark and guilt-inducing card, I see here the ability to, on the one hand, treat myself gently and with grace when I need it, but on the other, to shine light into dark corners so that they can be dealt with. I also see the ability to see the bigger picture of a situation, if I take the time to look around, and to remain clear-headed. From the guidebook: “No more blaming yourself or others, no more excuses.”
  3. Two of Cups. This one was tricky as a limitation, as I usually think of this as a pretty positive card. However, I did see a few things: I want to feel a connection to my cards all the time, and that isn’t particularly realistic. I am also in the honeymoon stage of my relationship with tarot, and I need to remember that all relationships worth maintaining do take work and dedication to maintain. There’s also something in this card that reminds me of my relationship with my partner, and the fact that I want to be able to share what I am learning about and from tarot with him; however, while he respects and supports the fact that tarot works for me, it’s something he has a hard time taking seriously, and I want to respect that.
  4. XVIII. The Moon. There are all sorts of valuable lessons to be learned here. I can learn to confront my more vivid fears and anxieties. I can be better attuned to the inner voice of wisdom and rationality, particularly in the moments where it is telling me to be cautious when what I want to do is rush headlong into a situation. This card tells me that I will be able to learn to explore the darker corners of my mind without fear, or perhaps in spite of fear.
  5. Ace of Pentacles. I will learn the most if I remember to ground myself regularly, to focus and put time and energy into this study. I need to allow new growth to spring forth from the parts of me inclined toward spiritual things – parts that have been dormant for quite a while.
  6. Nine of Swords. I won’t lie: I was extremely upset when this card came up here…so upset, in fact, that I almost scrapped the whole reading. I mean, come on, twice in one week? But that’s not a good attitude to go into this with, so I stepped back and let myself think about it for a while, and then I realized why this was the right card for this position: if I focus on tarot and meditation, I will have better control of my anxiety, and I will be able to deal with it head-on. The better equipped I am to deal with it, the less power it will have over me. From the guidebook: “You’ll be battling with yourself, so turn to others for help. Find joy. Reach out.” I’m choosing to read this card as the message that tarot (and perhaps the online tarot community, as well) will help me deal more productively with my points of inner darkness.

The final exercise for this first week of the course is to pick a card from this reading to carry with me for the duration of the course. I’m going to give myself a day or two to contemplate the reading, look back on it, see what cards come up in my personal readings that might point me in one direction or another. Right now I’m leaning toward one of the Major Arcana that popped up, but we’ll see.

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Wrestling with AnxietyBrain

I don’t think I’ll be posting personal readings here often, but this one was interesting.

Today I had to schedule a minor surgical procedure…minor in scope, but major in that I am transgender, and this operation involves letting medical professionals poke and prod at my butt. There’s not exactly a long and glorious history of good treatment of trans people by medical professionals in situations where our unconventional genital configurations are even tangentially involved, so I am (I think understandably) very, very anxious about this. I have been putting this off for months because of this anxiety, but the time has come, and now that it’s been scheduled (for a scant 12 days away), I have been fighting AnxietyBrain in a major way.

I decided that some tarot-driven meditation would be a good way to start bringing my brain back around to some semblance of calm and groundedness, and I decided to go with a five-card spread to tackle the question of how to best deal with this intense anxiety. A five-card spread, as I generally do it, goes from top left, down to the bottom, to top right, like this:

1. The question.

2. The situation/background – how we got here.

3. A strength or weakness I’m bringing to the table – or, often, something that is both a strength and a weakness.

4. This card can be more ambiguous, but the two basic categories it tends to fall into are outside influences or internal struggles surrounding the issue.

5. The answer.

Despite the fact that it made perfect sense, I was almost surprised that I drew the 9 of Swords for the first card. Obviously, the card of nightmares and anguish perfectly matched my extreme anxiety, but in the nine months that I’ve had this deck, I am reasonably certain that I have never once pulled this card. Of course, that makes its impact that much more powerful – I really am a writhing ball of anxiety right now, and the horror this card conveys feels like an accurate reflection of my brain today.

I was puzzled for a moment by The World showing up in the second position, but then it came to me: The World is all about wholeness, and the point of this surgery is to deal with a recurring problem in such a way that it is able to heal from the inside out, finally preventing it from coming back, and leaving my body whole again. I am not going under the knife for no reason, and it is good to be reminded of that.

The Ace of Pentacles changes meaning for me on a regular basis, but today it revolved around being grounded – something that is both a strength and a weakness in this instance. See, on the one hand, I have a firm grip on reality, which generally allows me to remain calm and level-headed. On the other, I have a firm grip on reality, which means I’m well aware of the sorts of horrors my trans siblings have faced in medical situations, which is causing me to panic now.

The 2 of Pentacles is all about balance, and that’s something I am struggling with in a big way – balancing my anxiety and the rest of life, ultimately. I have a full time job (thankfully, and I am lucky enough to have an incredibly supportive supervisor AND department head), and other responsibilities, and I need to be able to juggle those despite feeling like I’m seconds away from toppling headlong into the abyss when AnxietyBrain attacks.

The 3 of Pentacles (it’s fascinating that these three ended up all in a row – the deck wasn’t in any particular order, and then I shuffled it several times further before starting) is the obvious answer that I’m really bad at reaching on my own – teamwork. My partner is taking the day of my surgery off work to come with me and advocate for me, and he’s just generally wonderful and supportive and wants to help however he can. My instinct, when I get super anxious, is to go to ground and shut myself off from everyone, even people like him who I know are safe and who love me, because I feel toxic and I’m afraid of infecting the people around me. Ultimately, though, that instinct is wrong and unhealthy – if I am not open and honest about my anxiety, it festers and gets so much worse. I need to let my partner help me if I want to get through this without totally losing my mind.

Sometimes, at the end of a five-card spread, I’ll pull a sixth card, which may or may not have bearing on the rest. This time around, it was the 2 of Cups, which perfectly confirmed the answer: I have a wonderful, supportive partner who is the love of my life, and I need to lean on him just like I would want him to lean on me were our roles reversed.