Three of Swords with Queen of Pentacles


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.


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.

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.

Three of Swords

A heart is pierced with three swords, suspended in a rainy sky.

One of the greatest obstacles we encounter in creating the life we want for ourselves is disappointment. When we don’t receive what we desire or we experience less than optimal circumstances, we may believe we are incapable of creating the results we desire. We may feel we are deserving of disappointing outcomes, or that our circumstance is due to our flaws.

Yet manifestation often lies in the heart of the heartbreak. Initially we may need to endure a period of mourning, we may have to push through our grief, we have to endure through the anger from what seems to be life’s backlash. Yet it is deep within this thorny scenario that our opportunity lies.

In every episode of pain is a great opportunity. The experience we are enduring is the pain of growth, of a trial by fire, of the rending away of an old way of life that is no longer functioning for us. The anger and grief of unwanted circumstances are unavoidable, but when we resent the pain itself we can become bound by it. When we embrace the thorns and allow them to pierce into our own flesh, when we acknowledge the necessity of the intense discomfort through the transition, we can see the true value of the gift of personal growth. We recognize the experience not as a punishment, but as a birth into a greater life with a greater wealth of opportunity.