Three of Swords with Queen of Pentacles

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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.

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Justice with Three of Wands

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Tarot Illuminati by Erik C. Dunne

Today I introduce a new deck into the rotation: Tarot Illuminati. Thanks to Jacque for this fantastic gift!


 

This seems rather apropos for this time as we are three days into the New Year and all, but really the message in these two cards is applicable at any time…

The first few weeks of the new year often ushers in these specific gravity wells of enthusiastic endeavors fueled by resolutions. Queues build up behind rowing machines at fitness centers, food cabinets and refrigerators get purged of fats and sweets, friends and cousins last contacted in April or in 2009 get phoned or emailed or poked on Facebook. We commit to grand ventures that spent eleven and one quarter months in cobwebs and mothballs.

There’s really nothing wrong with lighting the fuse on that giant bottle rocket while the chrome on the new year still gleams in the sunlight. Soon enough the persisting rains that carry into March will dull the plating to the point we can no longer see our enthusiastic grin in the reflection. Strike while the iron is hot, leap while the adrenalin surge of inspiration from the new Top Gun wall calendar boils within us.

The one unfortunate byproduct of this unbridled enthusiasm carried in on the waxing days of January is that it leaves orphans of unfinished endeavors in the previous calendar year. We are in such a hurry to leave behind the flotsam and jetsam of last year’s challenges and tragedies that we jump into the grand premiere of our big new plans without cleaning up the mess we left behind the curtain of December 31, 11:59pm and 59 seconds.

Last year’s promises we made to ourselves and by association and inference to everyone else don’t simply dissolve away like sugar patched potholes in winter’s rain. Their ghosts remain to shuffle through the halls of our enterprising aims, waiting to appear when we feel our  verve dampening as we approach the final week of January. We stumble over the carcasses of last year’s abandoned endeavors with nary an interest of completing them in the light of the now lengthening days. The spectres which rise up from them remind us of our inability or unwillingness to complete what once flew as the banner of new and exciting ambitions at this time last year.

Perhaps we need to form New Year’s resolves rather than resolutions. We may do well to use the freshness and enthusiasm of the flipped calendar page, of the jubilation of our escape from the short-day solstice to finish up all that we carried into the new year with us, and put a bow or a cap or a completed stamp on last year’s labors. Let us put the finishing touches on the previous year’s plans and let the newness of this year wear off in the meantime. We will have the pride that comes with attainment and completion, which will stretch our enthusiasm further into our new projects when we are ready to take them on.

Three of Pentacles with Seven of Swords

Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler
Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

Raise your hand if you know a single person that believes all men are jerks or all women are superficial or some other unflattering generalization. We all know that person who has decried every member of the gender to which they normally date to equally and universally have a debilitating character flaw, one that prevents them from finding Mr. or Ms. or M. Right.

Have you ever tried to talk that friend down from the ledge of hyperbole using rough math? I have. I tried it on myself when I was disgruntledly single. We may have seen this broken down in a sitcom perchance. It involves eliminating each subset of the population that is not technically eligible for dating based on gender, age, relationship status, proximity or place of residence, etc. The most common number I had arrived at was an average of 150,000 dateable people, adjusting for the population of where one happens to live in the U.S.

The trouble with using this technique on the cynically lovelorn and such is that they have a poor grasp of mathematical concepts. It’s not simply that they cannot imagine finding one good edible apple in a batch of 150,000. I don’t know… I have to admit, looking through that many apples is far from appealing, especially if many of the ones I find are mealy or worm ridden or Braeburns. Perhaps our friend dated a person with the last name Braeburn, I don’t know, and they left a bad taste in their mouth much like the apple of the same name. I think they fail to understand the concept of the common denominator.

Whenever we find ourselves having difficulty dealing with a certain type of person, we automatically think it is that shared aspect that makes them untrustworthy, be it the type of job they have, their likes for a certain type of sport, their income bracket, their hair color, their political party affiliation… any number of aspects we can put into boxes and apply labels. What we become blind to is identifying the labelmaker.

We will indicate that particular class or character trait and brazenly declare that its possessors are inherently flawed with unwavering certainty. Yet we fail to see that, while not everyone shares our particular perspective, the “truth” in our perspective shares a common source. You see, I am a huge champion of the principle of the reflective property of others; as we deal with people the way we perceive and regard them tells us as much about ourselves, if not more, than it does the other people.

When we believe all X types are not to be trusted, it is due to a lack of trust in our own character. When we see all people of a particular religion, faith, political party, or sorority as being just plain wrong or stupid or greedy or any other preferred ad hominem, we are expressing a deep seated fear of being wrong or appearing foolish. The aspersions we cast on an entire subset of people stems from the grain of sand within that we attempt to disavow as an irritant, surrounding it with our mother-of-pearl to insulate ourselves from the discomfort of introspection. Yet this irritant remains locked in the pearl that we proudly display in the form of self-righteousness toward ourselves and our types. We seem to forget that in the heart of every pearl is a bit of dirty silicate sea floor grit.

I had a former neighbor tell me his vicious dog liked everyone except other dogs and people. With each exception we take with a given type of people we are avoiding acknowledging the exceptions within we are afraid to face to prevent from having to do anything about them.

Three of Swords with The Sun

Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti
Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

It’s time for me to revisit my rant about the lottery dreamers. Like in some 80s movie where the protagonist wipes the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand despite the fact he is wearing a headband ala Mike Reno from the band Loverboy, whose magnum opus hit “Working For the Weekend” plays in the background while the scene does a wavy dissolve into the dream sequence where our main character is driving a Lamborghini, mullet tails blowing back from his Oakley framed face, up the quarter-mile long curved driveway to his mansion he purchased with his lottery winnings.

Thank you society, for the make-believe ideology of the panacea of wealth, of selling us the snake oil from the inside of fashion magazines and sitcom storylines that ensures us that copious wealth will cure us of hangnails and bedwetting and ever having to wait in line at the DMV.

I know, I appear to be casting aspersions at the media and culture and modern entertainment. But I lay the blame squarely on our own shoulders. We as human being creature animals are constantly looking around to see how we can once-and-for-all permanently avoid adversity. We dig furiously in the sand or through heaped tables at garage sales looking for a lamp or amulet or candlestick that is serving as the domicile of the djinn that will grant our wish of never stubbing our toe on a doorframe. We look for anything that will guarantee in perpetuity that we never again suffer heartache or loss or trauma or a mosquito bite.

Here’s the sad truth for all of us cake-eaters: If we can find a way to guarantee we bypass times of discomfort and sadness, we will end up tossing out the times of joy and jubilation with that bathwater. Joy and sadness are a married couple that attends every party of life and holds hands on every ride. They are as inseparable as day and night or hot and cold. One simply cannot exist without the other. Much like these, pleasure and pain are aspects of duality that reside on the same pendulum.

Am I saying we should run straight into every burning building, or rub our hands and get excited about hard times? Not in the least. I’m just saying challenges and obstacles and the resulting disappointment of them are unavoidable. They will come. These abysmal lows serve to illustrate to us the dizzying highs. They let us know through their delicious contrast just how sweet life can be when the honey starts to flow again. The problem is, when we spend all our time, energy, and effort creating escape routes and practicing bugout drills, we find the space between our times of trauma where joy would normally seep in ends up getting usurped by anxiety and worry for some-aggedon that may or may not occur.

So what do we do? We take those moments of joy and we absorb them and appreciate them while they are here, as they are fleeting at best. When they finally slip away through our cupped hands and adversity comes to land on our shoulders, we will recognize that this too shall pass, knowing the sun always comes out to shine after every storm.

Strength with Three of Wands

Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler
Quantum Tarot 2.0 by Kay Stopforth and Chris Butler

Carrie Fisher was quoted as saying “Instant gratification takes too long.” For all of you folks that believe patience is that unattainable pie-in-the-sky dessert only consumable by the virtuous, this post is for you.

When it comes to personal growth, the biggest enemy of the recognition of our progress in this area is our lack of patience. So what happens when we try to hybridize impatience and growth? We engage in these exercises that bears a striking resemblance to making spiritual foie gras. We want to get from point A to point B by the magic of Hollywood editing, where in frame 17:41 the kids are chanting the are-we-there-yet litany and in frame 17:47 we are dragging our suitcases from the minivan to the mother-in-law’s front door.

The operative word here is growth, folks. Growth. Personally, when I think of growth I think of the invisible progress of events shackled to the gravity well of time. I think of imperceptible movement where progress in only evident when one closes their eyes then opens them months later.

When I think of growth I think of a plant’s journey from seed to mature. I think of a child outgrowing their clothes and their bikes and their parents. Now you’re more than welcome to stand in front of that freshly planted seed or your three year-old and say “Hurry up and grow!” but I can imagine much better uses for your time. Nonetheless, we should all know it is an exercise in futility as well as potentially lethal to try to straighten the apical coil on a seedling and prying out its cotyledons or putting little Anthony William on the rack so he can finally dunk on the pee-wee league hoop team.

Unfortunately we often feel that our growth is not occurring when we cannot perceive it. As a result we often take excessive and unnecessary actions to expedite progress. We can’t bear the idea that we are applying the prerequisite effort necessary and there seems to be no response as a result. We don’t want to feel like we are wasting our energy. The most counterintuitive truth that our impatience blinds us to is that the more we try to force progress beyond its natural pace the more we actually impede it. We dump more money into an endeavor hoping to complete it sooner only to find we go broke and completely halt all progress. We try to drum up fans or followers or customers at the expense of investing energy into making our idea or product or service or art more appealing through improving its quality.

I may be no Carrie Fisher; I may not have worn my hair in lateral cranial cinnamon rolls or was briefly married to Paul Simon, but I have my own quotes I like to throw around regarding impatience. Write these down or copy and paste them to somewhere safe:

The problem with instant gratification is it only lasts an instant.

For patient people, things go quicker; for impatient people, things take longer.

I’ll close this with a piece of wisdom once shared with me by Jeff Weiss, a highly inspirational corporate trainer, ironically enough:

How long does anything take or how long should anything take? Quite simply, as long as it takes. When we embrace that notion, we will naturally apply only as much effort as is needed, then the universe will do the rest.

Four of Coins with Three of Cups

Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti
Legacy of the Divine Tarot by Ciro Marchetti

When in Rome, right? Or should I say, when in the thick of the holiday season…

As a result, I’m going to address the thousand pound gorilla in a Santa suit that usurps the attention of all other matters this time of year. Yes, folks… it’s the holiday season. Sure, you may be a product of the Judeo-Christian system, or you’re a Pagan that wants your co-opted Yule back, or you’re having your annual Mawlid an-Nabī argument about what day is really Muhammad’s birthday, or you’re a proud secularist who is proclaiming exile from all festivities that smack of religious orientation. However for none except the Christopher McCandlesses of our society there is no escape from the Alcatraz of in-your-faceness that pins your eyes open in A Clockwork Orangeesque style compelling us to involuntarily gaze upon the ubiquity of the season that ’tis.

Let’s not pretend that we haven’t heard the chants of the lighter-than-gravity love and light police that insist that the holidays have become too commercially driven, too much about consumerism, too focused about stuffing our stuff with stuff. I myself have this compulsion to go caroling with these types singing a chorus of “Oh Avarice” at every door which stands behind a portcullis of FedEx and UPS boxes. So in an attempt to sidestep that compulsion while melting in the satisfaction of having taken a sheet of 80 grit sandpaper to that proverbial itch, I’m going to try putting it in a form of a challenge:

How many of us are concerned that giving just one gift to a recipient is tantamount to a slap in the face? How many of us going for a gift that reaches Defcon Spectacular, serving to widen our loved-one’s eyes to the level of cosmetically overworked Hollywood star? Let’s be honest, is it really about the recipient or is it about the flashy neon arrows that we get pointing to us, with our name on the marquis of “Best Christmas Ever” starring Yours Truly?

Let’s try this: Let’s see if we can come up with a gift that can in no way be purchased in order to be presented. The challenge here is not necessarily to toss a cup of water on the forest fire of consumerism; the challenge is to show ourselves that our own personal value is greater than a line item on a VISA statement. The biggest crime with the “stuff” giving paradigm of the holiday season is that we are led to feel inadequate if we can’t provide that certain someone with that certain something.

The challenge is designed to encourage us to find within ourselves our value, one that doesn’t need to be indicated with a pricing gun. If we feel we can offer nothing more than what we can simply purchase, then whatever we end up purchasing will merely contain the amount of love as the Shenzhen factory worker put into it. I believe the intent of this season is for us to shine a light on the joy that resides within each other. We do so by finding the greatest parts of who we are as people and utilizing those parts by giving of ourselves the gifts we were born with rather than the gifts that can be described as “it”.

Anyone with enough good credit can buy a certain something, one that will invariably lose its luster in the blinding light of the next holiday’s trinket. Thing 2 of this season will kill Thing 1 of Christmas past and take its place as the Best Gift Ever while Thing 3 hides amongst the packed away nativity scene laying in wait to make his move next Christmas. Truly the gifts that mean the most to our loved ones are the gifts that we end up taking with us when we are gone.

Three of Swords with Four of Swords

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

When I first drew these cards I was like, “Oh wow… two consecutive suits in a row!”. Cue Twilight Zone theme song. Then I was like “Aww…” due to the card on the left.

Here’s the thing about our friend the Tarot. The Tarot is not a party that never ends, where the flow of champagne springs from an endless fount, or the hookah of infinite hoses that has its bowl perpetually topped off, or the oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss-oomp-tss beat of the dance floor that never stops as the DJ never goes home or needs to take a restroom break.

The Tarot has it’s Pooh’s Eeyores, it’s Gulliver’s Glums, it’s college campus buddy that fell backwards into the indifferent arms of Kierkegaard and Nietzsche after an ironically inspiring introduction during Philosophy 139. Its bristly cast-of-characters features players like Death, The Tower, The Devil, Nine of Swords, Ten of Swords, et. al. to come along and slap us around and grab us by the shoulders to give us a good hearty shake. They are assigned to deliver us the most obnoxious of wake-up calls when the electronic cawing of the alarm clock fails to jolt us out of our self-imposed fugue state.

I personally believe it is not aspiring to serve as the bearer of bad news; rather, it is lending its voice to bring a message during the invariable difficult times we experience as we travel the road of life. At some point we will encounter loss, devastation, heartbreak, and trauma. The only way to avoid this is to be the first one out, and most of us don’t necessarily wish to exercise that option.

There come times in our lives when we will find ourselves enveloped in sadness and hurt, where the footfalls of time seem to occur with centuries between one and the other. We shake our fist at time and its imposing inconvenience, as we wait for him to finish writing that check with his geriatric hand in the cashier’s line at the grocery store. We just want to race through our grief as quickly as possible and get to the other pain free side well ahead of the jackrabbit.

What we fail to see is that time is actually our friend. It is said that time heals all wounds, but it is more accurate to say that time tends our wounds to ensure they do not become infected and abscessed. All the distractions and diversions that serve to numb the pain of loss and trauma only serve to postpone it until they wear off, leaving us at the upper end of the 1 to 10 scale on the pain chart and a trail of damage left behind in the wake of our denial.

The bottom line is, we grow from these challenges. The pain of loss is a great teacher, and it can provide us with tremendous wisdom if we simply allow it to run its course and exhaust itself when it has fulfilled its function. When we do, we will find we have gained the ability to hold onto our gifts for greater periods than we were able to before.