Someone’s parent or teacher or pastor or guidance counselor probably gave them this advice at some point: It was something to do with making clear logical decisions by setting aside one’s emotions. Yeah, I don’t know about that.
That’s all fine if you want to don a lab coat and tote a clipboard around (or is it a laptop these days? Probably a tablet, I’d guess…). Decisions devoid of an emotional influence are best made with control groups and data sets.
I am an advocate of making emotionally-based decisions. Before you start pecking at me like a bunch of territorial crows, let me flush this out: I believe how one feels about the outcome of a decision, paired by one’s truest desire, provides for the absolute purest compass for the direction to take.
I’m not talking about that kind of flailing-wildly-in-a-state-of-panic type of emotion. That’s what comes to mind for many people when referencing the idea of deciding by feelings. I would be so bold to say that fear and panic are more reactions than emotions. They are more byproducts of the klaxon of the adrenal medulla figuring out how to get the heart out of a box on fire. The ensuing actions we take due to panic are rarely based on any thought whatsoever during episodes of an epinephrine surge.
The clearest decisions we can make are the ones that trace directly back to what we want. This is actually the trickiest part, as our truest desire is often layered and stacked and dogpiled with several other subsidiary wants. Many of these are based on what we think we are supposed to want, gifted to us by cultural expectations, social mores, and all things obligatory. We will find many of these lesser wants battling it out, vying for psychological dominance.
At some point, we need to strip away all of the little wants that are in essence superfluous in the background of our true desire. We have to distill down to the single most emotional intention that catches that glint of light in our solar plexus. We have to identify what we want most as it is left standing on its own after clearing away all the emotional flotsam and jetsam, leaving only the purest of aspirations. It is from here that we make the best, clearest, and most focused decisions, and these are the decisions that yield to us the greatest growth and success.
At some point in our lives… actually, at several points in our lives, we will hurt. We will feel loss or betrayal or heartbreak, maybe heartache. Sometimes it’s quite literal pain, the klaxon of neurotransmitters doing their job to warn the mind of our physical welfare being compromised.
Funny how we deal with these different aspects of pain in different ways, although in the simplest of terms, pain is pain. Pain hurts. When it comes to a cut or a burn we’ll readily bandage it or ice it, with fleet of foot reaction and response. Yet for some of us it gets a bit grey as to how we deal with physical pain that’s not visually discernible. Perhaps we tell ourselves it will go away soon enough. In many cases we’ll slip ourselves an analgesic and bypass the option of examining the cause of the pain.
Then we get to emotional pain, which may be the trickiest of them all. This is where all the crazy-making occurs. We may deny we’re hurting. We may suffer our sufferings, wanting the heartache to simply go away. We might put on our best game face or pull up our big girl panties or nut up and soldier on, believing we are bigger than the personal ache. We may even lash out at every and anyone that crosses our path.
In all actuality, the healthiest thing we can do is regard emotional pain the way we would address physical pain. For this example let’s consider a pain which has as its source some physical trauma. The pain serves as an immediate identifier of the source and location, we then apply a bandage or ice or some other appropriate treatment to mitigate the injury and prevent the damage from exacerbating.
With emotional pain we all too often try to push it away. We don’t seem to regard psychological hurt and trauma as serving as a warning the way we do the throb of a cut or burn or sprain. Physical pain is an indicator that a part of our body needs to be addressed and rebalanced. Emotional pain actually serves the same function, but it is pointing out the part of our life that needs to be redressed.
Just like our body cannot begin to heal until we’ve treated the trauma, nor can our mental hurt and emotional injury heal without addressing the traumatized area of our life. The best thing we can do is to acknowledge the pain, look it square in the proverbial eye and own it. We need to see our heartache as serving a function, as a way of asking us to examine the source of the pain, to be okay with the emotional discomfort and anguish even though we may despise it.
Emotional trauma is one of our greatest teachers when we allow it to do so. As long as we acknowledge it we can let it be our vehicle for something rewarding on the other side. If we continue to try to push it away or force it to abate, it will persists and mitigate our healing. We don’t have to like it, we just need to accept it and it will serve us in a positive way that may seem contradictory, but is profoundly healing.
Either way, someone said it. Likely someone military or game or sports oriented, like George Washington or Lao Tsu or Guy Lombardo… or is that Vince Lombardi?
The idea here is that if you are constantly pressing an aggressive offense onto your opponent, they exhaust themselves in their defense so that they have no time or energy or provisions for a counterattack.
Enter American Football. The adage in today’s 21st century gridiron is that it’s the defense that determines the outcome of the game. In other words, an excellent defense against a good offense is more likely to win than an excellent offense against a good defense.
Are you confused yet? You should be.
Enter David and his warped-ass concepts, birthed from the carnival of his cognizance and conceptualization…
Much to the condescending contempt of colonels and coaches everywhere, I would dare to say these two sides of the coin of conflict are indistinguishable. Offense and defense may seem different on paper, but the only true difference is no greater than the color of the chess pieces on either side of the board. If you’re in an offensive position you are simply exercising proactive defense. If you find yourself on the defense it is because you are offended.
Let me take this one step further, a step away from merely waxing philosophical and toward practical and functional: whichever side we believe ourselves to be on during any melee, skirmish, scrimage, or campaign, it would behoove us to not purely consider ourselves merely on offense or defense. Each side must acknowledge and embrace the other aspect in all engagements, or we will lose whatever battle we are embrawled in.
As offense, we need to be ready to defend ourselves at a moment’s notice. When we are on the attack, the assailed will fight back. During our attack we constantly need to parry against defensive countering. On defense we cannot simply brace our shields and hope for the best. We must counterstrike each blow to drive back the aggressor.
This concept is not restricted to sports and military and fisticuffs. It benefits us to apply a well balanced mix of offense and defense in any challenging situation. Any time we need to apply energy to get through an obstacle or we need to steel ourselves against an adversity life decides to throw at us we need to apply this principle. A purely aggressive or defensive position in any endeavor leaves us vulnerable, no matter the power of our onslaught or the thickness of our fortification. Like all other things in life, balance in the mode we take toward our conquests assures us the strongest position.
I see in my mind the young hero having come back from some great war, sitting on the top of the back seat of an open convertible, grinning and waving to the cheering throngs, ticker tape descending in twirls and flutters onto the pavement around him.
On a whim he snatches from the air one of the thin strips of paper snowing down from the surrounding stories above. He stretches it out before his eyes and reads the text printed upon it:
You will soon have a regular job.
Fast forward to our one-time hero, the top button of his collared shirt loosened along with his tie, the crown of his head barely visible across the sea of cubicles, the sound of office phones chirping intermittently amongst the cadence of computer keyboard clackety-clacks.
On Saturday morning he pushes his lawnmower across the quarter acre lawn then douses the dastardly dandelions with the herbicide that is the second cousin thriced removed of the gas compound used to smite the enemy abroad. He is only a half hour away from drinking a mountain spring filtered canned beer in the maple’s shade while listening to the symphony of the surrounding cicadae.
We often see the lives of these people of greatness in the form of highlight reels, their grand achievements of a lifespan ranging from 24 to 94 years distilled down into vignettes of accolades and awards and recognitions. Yet the gently rolling hills and slightly dipping valleys of daily living comprise the majority of our lifes between those dizzying zeniths of grandeur.
Life is an iceberg. The great milestones such as seeing children born or being handed a diploma or traveling to every continent, the parts of our lives that the world gets to witness in all its magnificence, is only a fraction of who we are and how we spend out time. The vast majority of our lives stays invisible to the world, suspended below the surface. The passing days and the mundane repetition of daily living can feel cold and dark and lifeless as we feel like we’re endlessly drifting through frigid waters.
However, when we dare to dream, when we entertain visions of ticker tape and confetti dancing in the air around us, when we imagine inhaling that oxygen deprived air as we stand atop that alpine peak we’ve successfully reached, that cold deep stagnancy becomes a sanctuary of tranquility.
The Zen saying before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water shows us that the mundane span of time that comprise the largest percentage of our days transforms into peacefulness when we puncture the tapestry of our lives with grand visions and exhiliarating aspirations. The pursuit of those wonderfully lofty goals is what gives meaning to the mundane.
Is this another one of those what’s coming in the year ahead readings? Yes with an if / No with a but…
If you are one of the wonderful listeners of our podcast Menage a Tarot then I’m sure you’re already aware I don’t care to do predictions with the Tarot. If you do not or have not listened to our podcast… you know now.
I see Tarot as a way of seeing the influences that are floating around in the air of probability like dust particles dancing in the sunlight through a window. There are energies that create eddies of influence based on the culmination of current events, the way the amount of traffic on the road or a Miley Cyrus song on the radio can influence our mood. I don’t believe anything is set in stone, though I do believe a train can be headed in a certain direction that will be tricky to stop or redirect at it’s current speed.
Okay, enough of the disclaimer. Here we go.
Eight of Wands – 2016’s energetic influence
2016 is the year when we see endeavors come to their fruition, when imminent closure becomes the word of the day, when we are close to saying we’ve arrived. This may be things we’ve been working on for a few months or several years. Even if we don’t see definitive endings in this year we will certainly see the signal that things are wrapping up soon.
Karma – mid March to mid June (spring)
The roosters are coming home to roost. Or is the chickens? The chickens are coming home to roost. I suppose because chickens roost rather than roosters? You’d think roosters roost based on their name. Maybe they do. What do I know, I grew up on a block with a cul-de-sac.
Spring of 2016 is when the piper comes around and asks for his check. Events come around that make us say “Did I deserve this?” Good or bad, up or down, whatever big chunks of circumstance that come around seemingly out of nowhere, it’s the universe’s justice system meting out sentences. Whatever groundwork we laid in 2015 or even further back based on how we treated others or the decisions we made and actions we took will pop up out of the ground or fall from the sky during this time. Even if the reaping doesn’t readily occur we will see the chickens on the horizon heading back this way to settle into the coop, whether we’re ready or not. Nonetheless it has to occur to create the energetic space for the rest of the year ahead.
The Lovers – mid June to mid September (summer)
This time of year will present a nice ripe opportunity for us to get our big projects and endeavors wrapped up, to finally see our plans come to fruition. Now here’s the caveat, because there’s always a caveat and nothing is free: These plans won’t just fall into place. They need to have a safe place to land. That means that we need to have our house in order. We need to lay out the logistics with our head and find inspiration and enthusiasm with our heart. Nor can we attempt to stamp it finished without getting the one person closest to us to sign off on it. Without the approval, cooperation, and accompaniment of our bestie, the wheels will never touch ground and our plans will simply become carrots on sticks.
Queen of Swords – mid September to mid December (autumn)
If we paid attention in the summer and found completion with our closest advocate in some manner or another, we will have the clarity and strength to wrap up the self-work that is due as we roll into the autumn. There will be a particular type of fullness that we will have attained through traveling to the end of a given road abreast with our number one ally, which is just what the witch doctor ordered to ready us for finishing up our solo endeavors. If we brushed them off during the summer and told them we’d meet them in the fall to complete our plan, we will find them absent as the cool air drifts in with the falling autumn leaves. We won’t find ourselves going it alone, we will find ourselves going it lonely.
Seven of Wands – mid December 2016 to mid January 2017 (winter)
If we haven’t found closure or completion by the time winter comes around, it will be that much harder for us going into it. The heaviness of the cold season with its short days will add another 50 pound bag of flour to our load in getting things wrapped up. The naysayers will seem to come out of the woodwork and they’ll have their tongues cocked for clucking and their mighty pen-swords armed for trolling our efforts. All our energy will be spent fending off energetic saboteurs rather than completing what should have been done well before Old Man 2016 was delivered last rites. We will carry our unfinished endeavors into 2017 like returning home with suitcases full of luggage to unpack from a canceled trip.
What has been in play in 2015 will get a neat little bow in 2016, or it will throb and pulse in our vista until we give it the attention to enable it to culminate into whatever finale it is yearning to reach. We need to either let them finalize or willfully stitch them up. We can only carry into 2017 the endeavors which we began near this new year’s end, as this is the year the window on our long standing plans will close.
It’s perfectly safe to say our decisions, choices, and actions have an effect and impact on our world. What we say and do affects those in our social circle, at our jobs, in our culture, and our society at large without exception. Interestingly, we often make decisions based on how we think people will view us, or how we want people to perceive us, while in reality the perception of others toward us has less impact on our lives than most of our non-ego related choices.
Am I saying it’s not important to care what people think of us? I know you want to fire off examples which might prove otherwise such as going out in public without having showered in three weeks or getting that neck tattoo of a demon with an erection. Those are cases where one might be displaying indifference or flaunting disdain for public approval so they don’t count.
I’m talking about how much energy we expend to gain the approval or avoid the judgment of the throngs of strangers that we pass every day, none of which will mention us in their wills and testaments. Yet we worry about how we look or what we are driving or what social class we might be representing. Are we doing our culture proud? Are we saying things that are relatable to the cool kids?
Again, I’m not saying our projections designed to influence others’ perceptions of us have no effect. I’m saying that being perceived as Ms. or Mr. Wonderful or Glamorous or Successful has much less impact on the shaping of our culture than how we regard others. We may be surrounded by our steel cage of entitlement as we drive to our destinations but every errant maneuver of our vehicles that leaves a wake of frustrated drivers impacts the world far more than showing we can afford a new BMW.
Perhaps we need to embrace a greater level of self expression that does not bear the intention of gaining approval. Perhaps if we give ourselves permission to make choices that reflect the elements of ourselves we find titillating, we would be much less starved for the approval of others. We would then focus our actions on giving others the respect and consideration they would like to have.
Several days ago I decided to whack at a hornet’s nest with a pencil metaphorically. I climbed into the den of honey badgers otherwise known as the comments section on a political Facebook post. Armed with my chosen weapon of presumptuous arrogance I decided to adroitly illustrate the lack of compassion of the people who held a perspective in contrast to my own.
Somehow in my self-righteousness I forgot the adverse effect of telling a person who is politically moved that they don’t give one-tenth of one percent of a shit about people and their well being. Most people take a particular political, ethical, social, or moral stance on a matter because they believe their view aligns with what they believe is best for the society at large. So after shaking the hornet’s nest like a meth head with a Magic 8-Ball I watched what started out as what originally barely passed for a discussion disintegrate into my debate mate slinging poo ladened ad hominems like chimps behind bars.
Shy of imprisoned apes I cannot defend nor condone the hurling of misplaced epithets in the form of insults, derision, and name calling. Granted, I did shove my No. 2 pencil into the paper thin side of the hive. I made my statement, and as I firmly believe, no one says anything without an underlying intention. We choose the specific words we extricate from our minds with a specific purpose, with a desired effect. Often that effect is the intent to shape and contort the perspectives of other human beings to either match our own or to deter them from maintaining theirs. Our emotional fervent blinds us to the fact that we are running on the treadmill of futility.
My mother on many occasions would offer me morsels of sage advice based on her own experiences. She wanted to spare me from traversing the landscape of error-strewn regrets that she had stubbed her toe on along the path of her past. My father, on the other hand, never gave anything resembling advice that wasn’t wrapped in an off-colored joke. His philosophy was that mistakes were the great Socrates, that wisdom was most purely imparted through trials and tribulations, the semester’s final in the form of a hard knock from the school of the same name.
There’s a strangely beautiful balance in that approach to watching people walk toward the field of landmines. The danger of the protective coddling, repeated warnings, and the unending doling out of unsolicited advice is that it sends the message that we do not have faith or confidence in others we think are making mistakes in being able to learn from them. Our warnings on how wrong people are in their perspectives also renders us unable to recognize that their truths are valid for themselves, no matter how ludicrous they may seem to us.
At the same token to shrug and say let them learn the hardway does in no way shape or form let them know we care and that we are concerned for their future, their successful outcome, and their well being. While the parent of the Millennial approach of over protection and insulation sends the message of a lack of trust in their ability to survive mistakes, the throw them in the lake and they’ll learn to swim approach almost conveys an indifference to whether or not they survive.
Challenging another’s perspective or process is in essence the hostile form of giving unsolicited advice. When engaging in a sharing of personal or political or ethical opinions, we would do best to find the precise wording that conveys our perspective without condescending or attempting to invalidate the opinion of an opposing party. This provides those within earshot the choice to either bank or dismiss our opinions. Some lessons can only be learned through trial by fire. We must allow people to walk through the flames if this is what they choose and be there to help them heal on the other side.