Your charms have left me
Beaten into submission
Head bowed in defeat
A few weeks ago while chatting with someone about the low self-esteem of a family member I was struck by a thought – the way we dress, carry ourselves and interact with others shows the Universe how to treat us. If we slump, wear ill-fitting or worn clothing and try to act invisible we are telling others we are not worthy of their time. This can often result in others ignoring us or treating us with thoughtless cruelty. As shallow as it may sound, we judge books by their covers all the time and a book that has a torn and frayed cover and yellowed pages sends a very different impression than one with crisp, clean pages and a new cover.
This makes me consider how I present myself to others. My style of dress is decidedly casual. I find that when I try for more dramatic or flowy pieces I feel as though I’m wearing a costume. I gave up wearing certain colors (black, grey, navy and classic red) a long time ago for a variety of reasons. One of the primary ones is that I realized that these colors have become de rigeur for those who try to proclaim themselves as chic Manhattanites, as a native New Yorker I decided that I don’t need to wear certain colors to prove my bona fides. If my personality doesn’t prove my birthplace then nothing will.
I also have a bit of a swagger when I walk. I have patterned my walk on my father’s. I didn’t realize this until my husband pointed it out to me. When I thought about it I realized that I was trying to project an image of a tough customer – someone not worth treating as prey. When I was younger I was raped and afterwards I tried to make myself invisible, unnoticeable. That just seemed to make things worse. It was as if I had put a sign on my back saying “easy mark”. I drew all sorts of inappropriate and even frightening attention. Once I decided to carry myself as though I was a 6’2″ bruiser (my father was a large, imposing man) I found that this behavior dramatically decreased. Despite working in some rather sketchy areas as part of my job, I was never threatened or harmed. I unconsciously seem to have tapped into creating a glamour – I sent out energy that gave predators the message that I was a risky target.
All of this is my rather long way of explaining what I mean about showing the Universe how I will be treated. When I acted as though I was a frightened mouse too afraid of my own shadow I became prey. Once I showed the predators that I might be dangerous, they stayed away. I walked with a brisk pace, appeared alert to my surroundings and make sure I held my purse in a way that would make it difficult to snatch. I also carried pepper spray or something I could use as a defensive measure in case the glamour failed. Perhaps when we are bullied or treated badly it is because we are sending out subtle signals that the bullies of the world pick up. I remember a Simpsons episode in which Lisa discovers that “nerds” send out pheromones that attracts the attention of bullies. Who knows, perhaps this is what happens. Maybe when we lack self-esteem and consider ourselves different and worthless freaks we send out some kind of signal to the bullies of the world. If we start to change our perceptions of ourselves and show it in our dress, behavior and attitude, we will find that the Universe begins to treat us differently too. Channel your inner Queen of Wands! Show the world that you are confident, strong and worth honoring. It certainly can’t hurt to try.
What do you do when you learn something about a family member that is so horrific and shocking that it shatters you? How do you pick up the pieces and move forward again? How can you repair the collateral damage it creates in your life? Can you ever again be in the presence of that family member? Do you share this information with other loved ones? I don’t know the answers to this litany of questions but I am about to start exploring my way through this thorny, nasty thicket.
The other day while talking with a childhood friend, she revealed something quite disturbing about a relative. I had often suspected that there was some shady and extremely negative in this relative’s behavior. In fact my hubby and I had even shared our suspicions with each other on several occasions. I genuinely thought I knew this relative and that nothing, no matter how vile, could surprise me. Well I have been proven wrong. My friend shared a past incident about this relative which completely shattered me. It left me feeling ragged, raw and reduced to tears. I still feel physically ill. It revealed a darkness and depravity of which I had not believed this person capable. What makes me even sadder is that my friend holds herself responsible for what occurred and I can tell it’s destroying her up inside.
Without getting into details, because in this instance they don’t really matter, I feel the need to focus on the soul sickness that results from these types of incidents and how I plan to begin the healing process. What surprises me the most about this situation is that I understand how my friend feels. When she shared the incident with me I felt shame and blame – guilt by association. Have you ever experienced something like that? You learn something about a relative, something which you could not have prevented even if you knew at the time, but feel as though you carry some of the blame? I feel as though I should have done something to protect this friend. I had an idea of the damage this relative was capable of inflicting on others, I knew my friend was in a vulnerable state at that point. Yet I did nothing to try to stop them from hanging out together. In my mind I realize that even if I had tried to prevent it, the odds are it would not have worked. My heart and my soul are finding this harder to accept.
So as an effort to start my healing process, and maybe help my friend with hers, I asked the Arianrhod (The Moon) from the Dark Goddess Tarot for guidance. I needed to know how to deal with having my illusions (or delusions) about this family member destroyed. Arianrhod sent me The Sphinx (4 of Earth). Her message to me was that it was time to face the harsh truth of this matter because trying to run from it does no one, especially me, any good. So I asked The Sphinx for some advice on facing this harsh truth. She offered me Temperance reversed and the Queen of Wands.
The message these cards had for me struck my spirit immediately. Temperance reversed is telling me not to lose sight of the fact that my inner spirit is pure and carries no taint of blame. However, it also reminds me that a purification and cleansing ritual might help me and my friend feel better. I need to look deep within myself and embrace the reflection that shines back. She has nothing to do with this family member’s actions and behaviors. She couldn’t have stopped any of it but maybe she can help my friend find some healing too. The Queen of Wands reminds me of my warrior spirit. She is fierce in defense of those she loves and merciless to those who harm her loved ones. In this instance the harmer happens to be someone that is a family member and was once loved. That betrayal makes it so much worse but she is strong. She has survived harsh and painful experiences before and she can do it now. The pain will recede and she will emerge from the fire feeling stronger and tempered. That also ties in with Temperance’s energy and reminds me that what doesn’t kill us does make us stronger. I know it’s a cliché but that doesn’t make it any less accurate – at least for me. If I let this beat me than that family member has won. The damage caused all those years ago will finally prove fatal. I refuse, defiantly and assertively, to let that happen.
I’m sharing this in the hopes that anyone else out there who has gone through a similar shattering revelation or experience can find some support and comfort. You’re not alone. Don’t take the shame, blame and stain of the offender into your own soul. We are not our brother’s, sister’s, father’s, mother’s or anyone else’s keeper. Their actions and behaviors do not reflect upon us. Don’t let it make you soul sick.
I’ve learned much to my dismay that these types of people are rather sociopathic and very manipulative. They find our weaknesses and exploit them. There is no shame in being vulnerable, we’ve all been vulnerable at some point in our lives, especially as children. Don’t let it define you or damage you for the rest of your days. Fight it, explore that darkness and let yourself come out healed and whole on the other side. Remember that their darkness is not yours to carry and believe that you are worthy of love, forgiveness and wholeness.
Today I drew an ogam to see what I needed to consider in my daily reading. I drew Saille/Willow. In her book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, Erynn Rowan Laurie wrote “I have come to see this fid as an indication that the ancestors are sending messages in some way. It might be through the voice of falling water or through song and music.” So I decided to see what insight or advice my ancestors might have for me today. I drew the King & Queen of Swords reversed and The Tower reversed.
At first I just didn’t get this message. I was trying to see how the reversed King and Queen of Swords might represent aspects of myself. The Tower reversed was another puzzler. It puzzled me. Then I visited my former employer’s website and realized that some of the people I consider responsible for my termination, those who betrayed me, are still employed and doing quite well at the agency. I suppose I was hoping they’d be gone and I’d learned that they had flamed out in an explosive display of incompetence and ineptitude. I was greatly disappointed.
Then I started to reconsider my cards in light of this knowledge. It struck me that the King of Swords is FU, the former executive director who terminated me. The Queen of Swords is AC, my former immediate supervisor who I am sure undermined and denigrated me (but subtly, oh so subtly – she has mastered the art of killing with kind words). The Tower is the termination itself – that seminal, traumatic moment that is still impacting me no matter how much I claim to have healed.
The fact that all these cards are reversed tells me that my ancestors are telling me it’s time to really put it behind me. It’s in the past. Nothing I can do or say will change any of it. If I let them beat me and keep me down, then they’ve won. If it’s one thing I know, it’s that I come from a long line of fighters. We fought for survival. We fought to endure the curve balls life threw our way. We fought to prove our detractors wrong. I may have not been able to fight to keep the job but that doesn’t mean I need to let them win in my own mind.
Obviously I still have some issues to work out regarding that situation. I think it’s complicated by the fact that I haven’t been able to return to work. My new career is caring for the in-laws and somehow that’s not enough to wash away the sense of failure. I will heal and I will triumph again. I just need to allow myself to feel these things but not get stuck in the emotions. All that will do is make me angry and sad – neither of which is helpful in the long run.
So I need to listen to my heart, nurture my inner dreams and desires and allow myself to simply feel what I feel. That should be easy. Actually all smart-aleckyness aside, I think the Queen of Cups is reminding me that one way to chase away gloominess is to focus on things that bring me joy and make me happy. It sounds rather easy and in reality it should be but sometimes the easy things are the ones we lose site of the most.
So what brings me joy? Reading, cooking, fashion (or perhaps style is the more accurate term), dancing. I’ve been focusing on my wardrobe. I desperately need to update it and it’s also time to release certain pieces I know I’ll never wear again (such as the two suits I bought when I thought I’d be pursuing a very different life path). I want to simplify things and find a few good pieces that will last me rather than lots of cheap crap that wears out quickly.
I’ve also realized that some of the things I love (my Tarot decks) need some pruning. I had manage to acquire a number of decks that are lovely to look at but with which I feel no connection. I can admire their loveliness without being touched by it. In some cases I never really connected with the deck and I’m finally admitting that and in other cases it’s just that my tastes have changed. Regardless of why, I get a sense of freedom and lightness when I release these decks to the universe (or someone else who will love them). I’m just too burdened down by stuff. It’s time to unburden myself a bit at a time.