Two of Swords with Wheel of Fortune

imag1398.jpg
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

A for-sure guaranteed inevitability that will definitely happen at some point in life is where we come to a crossroads, that place of indecision. Chicken or fish? The one that comes in gray or the one that comes in black?  Date the one from Arkansas or the one from Missouri? Call an Uber or call a cab?

Of course I cited examples that could be filed under small potatoes minutia. There are the biggies like coming out of the closet, or taking a job in another state or province, whether or not to quit our job, or whether or not to deliberately disseminate our glorious bouquet of DNA throughout the universe. Those are the ones that make us lay awake at night with our eyes wide open, counting bits of ceiling popcorn.

These episodes of paralysis-inducing ambivalence on what we truly desire is not as it seems. We like to believe that our vacillation stems from the fact that we want Option A as badly as we want Option 2. Let’s keep telling ourselves that we are the flag on the tug-of-war rope with the equally covetable options vying for our final decision.

But here’s the truth: the very thing that gets us stuck between Scylla and Charybdis is fear. Fear of being permanently encumbered with the result of making the wrong choice. It’s not that we want what’s in the left hand and right hand equally, we are afraid of being disappointed with what we ultimately chose and letting the unchosen option get away, never to see it again.

It seems to me that we stand at these crossroads looking in one direction or the other as if the road will always continue in that chosen direction. The reality is no matter which decision we make, that path will lead us to another bifurcation at some point. Every choice presents us its reward through what it used to tantalize us, yet it also calls for sacrificing something else we desire.

We are never permanently stuck with the results of a decision. What we chose inevitably leads to the next mentally rending decision at some point down the road, like a set of Matryoshka dolls with another point of decision within the preceding one. We could decide to bivouac in the middle of the intersection and refuse to take a path if we find ourselves that paralyzed. However, life is avaricious for change, it insists on exacting its toll of metamorphosis, it throws entropy in the face of the static. If we think we can avoid regret by not choosing, life will choose for us and we will invariably receive neither option.

Advertisements

Two of Swords with Five of Wands

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Recently on Facebook I came across this bit of jpg profundity:

If you have to choose between me and someone else, pick them. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with someone who is going to question if they made the right choice.

I will admit, some jpg profundity does make me take pause and mentally masticate on them. Others are just so steeped in rhetoric that, although there is a call to action to “Share if you love your (insert family member here)” I haven’t truly questioned the validity of my love for them when abstaining from hitting the Share button.

However, every now and then one comes along like the one that I quoted above that has me a bit nonplussed. It was curious enough to make me say “huh…”, yet not life-altering enough for me to remember it without having to Google it for this post. In doing so, I found other renditions of this cut-and-paste nugget of wisdom, one of which states:

If you have to choose between me and her, choose her because if you really loved me there wouldn’t be a choice.

…which, as I envisioned the person stating it, made me wonder how she could type that while her hands were firmly ensconced on her hips and her lip half pinched in a condescending smirk.

This led me to examine the nature of ambivalence, further prompted by the cards I drew today. It’s often said that ambivalence is the result of not knowing what we want. I beg to differ. I think this Facebook shareable illustrates quite well that it is more a matter of having and eating cake. Our ambivalence is born of wanting two thing, but not being sure which coffer hides the bigger booty.

As much as I can appreciated the apparent romantic conviction in this quote, I’m not sure I subscribe to it completely. The implication here, specifically in the second version I shared, is that if someone wants to have something or be with someone badly enough the alternative would hold absolutely no appeal. An overwhelming desire for a person or thing should completely eclipse any possibility of that person having a desire for any other.

While that is quite often the case, it is not exclusively. As fickle human beings with frequent fleeting desires, sometimes nothing does us a greater service in helping us determine what we truly want than being presented with two seemingly equally compelling options. I like to give Abraham Maslow a run for his money with my theory of a hierarchy of wants. The idea here is that in any list of desires a person has at any one time, every single desire resides in a hierarchy. Our personal lists of wants are akin to the way Americans like their final scores in sports… without ties.

I have yet to be convinced that two desires share equal ground. Take two desires and place them on a balance scale, one will invariably weigh out over the other. Since we’ve not invented a means of gauging each half of an ambivalent heart space, we just have to have our wants go toe-to-toe, fistacuffs, mano a mano, faceoff, draw at the count of three. There’s the idea that competition creates strength in nature. Without a competing force, complacency thrives and value diminishes. Yet when two species compete for survival, the one that is meant to thrive perseveres. Nature says that the one that should be allowed to survive in her harsh domain is the one that has to prove its right to be there.

The next time we are faced with a seemingly agonizing choice and the pros and cons list between the two seem evenly stacked, we are standing before a brilliant opportunity. We are about to earn a reward far greater than we imagined, simply because the other option which caused our ambivalence actually served to help us determine what we truly wanted. We do not have to lament the one that got away, we can be thankful for the assistance that it provided in helping us land our true catch, then release it to let it find its way to where it was truly supposed to go, thus repaying the favor it did for us.

Prince of Pentacles with King of Pentacles

Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche
Cosmic Tarot by Norbert Lösche

Raise your hand if you either are a Virgo or you know a Virgo…

Perhaps I’m delving a bit into astrology, but if you are not well versed in the character of sun signs, not to worry. You will likely know the type of person I’m about to describe here or you are that person….

I’m talking about those people we file under slow and steady, that embrace the adverb of painstakingly. They are the sort that will deliberate night and day over whether or not to take on an endeavor, darting their eyes back and forth as they build out their mental pros and cons lists, vacillating between should and shouldn’t enough to burn up the bearings on any pendulum.

Once they’ve dabbed their toe into the water six dozen times before deciding to move forward, they get hung up on making sure every microscopic minutia is in alignment, once they’ve spent the better part of the century calibrating their gauges. They get lost in detail like wandering through the Queen’s hedge maze, the Minotaur’s labyrinth, an Ikea during a remodel. Some-Omnipotent-Being-or-Beings-That-May-or-May-Not-Exist forbid they make a mistake. The crippling fear of the possibility of venturing into the ever-persistent human foray of error is nearly paralyzing, therefore every step taken is akin to carrying nitroglycerin through an eggshell coated field of landmines.

Blessed are the Virgos, for they shall inherit the earth sign.

I can’t imagine what they say about us Geminis…

Let me make this declaration, however… most of my closest friends are Virgos.

The intent was not to tar and feather my mutable earth sign brethren and parade them through the town square on the way to the stockade. Thank you for standing in front of the crowd and allowing me to use you for my display; you may return to your seat. The truth is that each of us can be like this in some form or another, on some occasion or at some crossroad. We get obsessed with making sure there is not a hair out of place before heading out to the dinner party. We waffle between ordering waffles or pancakes. We are unsure to keep working at Scylla with its great wage and ogre boss or go to Charybdis for a pay cut but in a pleasant atmosphere.

The truth is we get caught on a treadmill due to our fear of making a misstep. Indecision and vacillation is merely our way of swaying back and forth on a cozy hammock, nice and safe from any chance of err. We forget that success is carved and hewn from the rocks in the road we tripped over and stubbed our toes on. The structure of every great achievement has a wall or more that was torn out and rebuilt.

At some point we have to stop proofreading the paper for the nth time, searching for that chance misspelled word we’re certain must be there. We have to shrug, hit submit, then know we did our best rather than constantly redefine what is our best. The greatest mistake we can make is not moving forward for fear of making one.

Five of Wands with Two of Pentacles

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

One of the most tear-jerkingly beautiful aspects of the internet is the fact that it is a bastion of steadfast opinions and convictions. At any time when there’s that little argumentative tickle waving a feather across your uvula you can hop online, sling your bag of world view talking points over your shoulder, and wander the landscapes of Twitter and Facebook and the comment sections of blogs and articles to scatter your seeds of stalwart convictions on all things political, social, and ethical.

Where else can we dive into the deep end of dispute, armed with confirmation bias and an absence of eye contact, or even an ad hominem or the Godwin’s Law nuclear option in case our talking points turn to tissue paper, and walk away knowing we are right? What a fantastic venue social media and forum threads provide us for wiping away any niggling self-doubt we might hold toward our own personal convictions. If we can’t be troll slayers in our own right, we can be their king.

What about when we lose power to our house and we have a low battery warning flashing at us on our smart phone? Then what? Who do we argue with then?

Whenever we find ourselves having trouble making a decision, we are essentially in a heavy debate with ourselves. This lacks much of the satisfaction of debating with others; when we argue with other people we can simply glance at the cue card displaying the right buzzwords, memes, and pundit points and deliver them adroitly with a parenthetical so there! When we argue with ourselves, however, we either hold dearly to opposing ideals or wants, or there is no driving desire to nudge us toward a particular choice.

The irony here is that our ambivalence is fueled by the same Sterno that keeps our online contentions hot. It is less about having a need to be right and more about being afraid of being wrong. We juggle one option over another in fear of choosing the one that will send us down the well of wrongness, and we lack the self-trust to be able to climb out like the proverbial mule if we end up getting buried for dead.

If we can take ten steps beyond the myopia of the moment, we can see what lies beyond our indecision. Often it’s a matter of looking at the bigger view, at seeing our greatest goals even if they are seemingly unrelated to the bifurcated path we face, and working backwards to see which choice will take us in that direction. There may be something we need to give up in the short term that has contributed to our vacillation, but it is easier to surrender when we see the greater vision.

Interestingly, our ambivalence invariably comes from not knowing who we are rather than not knowing what we want. When we see ourselves from the perspective of who we are and who we want to be, the ability to move toward a given option becomes much clearer.

Two of Swords

Two of Swords
A figure sits blindfolded at night before the sea, two swords balanced between crossed arms

At some point while on our path to manifesting our desired outcome we will find ourselves at a crossroad, at a point of indecision. We may even find ourselves completely immobilized at this point, unsure of what decision to make, of which direction would be best for our decided outcome.

There are many factors that may contribute to us freezing in place during our journey. Most commonly this is due to finding ourselves pulled between the desire we have envisioned and an opposing fear, like the flag in the center of a tug-of-war rope. We may be stalled by the fear of success, of the tremendous change it would bring or of a greater responsibility or commitment it would endow us with. We may be frozen in place by the possibility of failure, of not being able to reach the goal we have set for ourselves. Continue reading Two of Swords