Archive for the ‘ Life ’ Category

Have you ever considered that perhaps our journey through life is better reflected in a reverse journey through the Major Arcana? I know we are often shown the Fool’s journey from innocence and naiveté through understanding and wisdom but what if we can acquire those same qualities and experiences by journeying through the Major Arcana from The World to The Fool?

I’ll admit this is not a fully fleshed out theory but one day while looking at the cards it occurred to me that The World could reflect our soul’s experience prior to birth; it’s existence wherever souls go when not inhabiting a body. It is perfect, fully integrated and surrounded by the divine. Judgment is the birth itself – our emergence through a dark passage into the light. The Sun is our infancy and early childhood – when we are the center of the universe and everything we say or do is amazing and spectacular. Then we get a bit older and learn that we cannot stay the center of the universe. Perhaps more children come along or our parents need to return to work and daily reality. We yearn for the moon – that time when everything stopped for us, but that is no longer possible. The Stars are the hope we cling to as we get a bit older; as we realize that mommy does not exist just to satisfy our every whim. We also learn about school. Depending upon whether we have older siblings or friends who enjoy school we may feel existing about this upcoming adventure. We’re frightened but excited too. Then we begin school and have a Tower moment. Our reality crashes down around our feet. Not only is school not the fun experience we anticipate, but we are one of many children in the room. We do not receive the teacher’s undivided attention. We don’t get to do or play with everything we desire. We decide we hate school and cling even tighter to our parents. Like The Devil, we want to be chained to them so we feel safe and secure. We believe this will allow us to remain the center of their attention but in reality we risk becoming a burden.

When we reach Temperance we are starting to learn there is a balance, a midpoint, a blending of our needs and the needs of others. We learn ways to meet our own needs while accepting their as well. We realize our classmates are almost as important as we are; that our parents have other areas of focus. We struggle to find the way to incorporate our need to be individuals with our need to be part of a group or family. We learn there is a give and take to this dance – if we want others to satisfy our needs then we must help satisfy theirs too.

Death, well Death is almost surprisingly easy (at least to my mind). In this context, Death is the upheaval of graduating from one class to the next. Each year brings a minor death for us – we’ve finally figured out how this stuff all works. We know the teacher and have established connections with peers (hopefully) and now we have to start all over again. Graduation from junior high to high school and high school to college is even more traumatic. We go from “ruling the school”, being the big people on campus to peon. Everything we knew is now gone and we must find our way anew. I don’t know about anyone reading this but I must say the first day of high school, first day at a new school and my first day at college were all traumatic and devastating in different ways.

By the time we’ve managed to finish our academic career (if indeed we ever do), we move on to The Hanged Man. Oh, isn’t this fun?!! We finally get the hang of school, it may be stressful and somewhat overwhelming but there are clear rules and instructions along the way, and now we’re thrown into the “real world”. We have no idea what the rules are or what our role is. We’ve been completely turned on our heads and are now seeing things through a different lens. We have no safety net anymore. If we’re truly adults then we need to figure out how to do this on our own and not rely on family to bail us out. We may indeed find ourselves turned all around but sometimes that’s the only way to see a new path or find a new life lesson. I know once I completed my masters in forensic psychology I knew that I had no desire to work in the criminal justice field. My degree was useless (or so I thought). By looking at things from a different perspective I realized I could put those same skills to use in a population that might have a propensity towards interactions with the criminal justice system but were not incarcerated – “at risk” youth. So I found a job as a recreation therapist in a recreation center in the “inner city” (geez, I hate these buzz words so much!) My point is that I was able to put my degree and skill to use in a totally unexpected way and that gave me a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. Had I not looked at things from a completely different perspective and allowed myself the time and patience to explore options, I might have ended up taking a job in a field to which I was not well suited.

Justice represents when we finally feel that we’ve regained our balance. We’ve found the way to balance our needs for income and a job and a social life, with our desire to achieve, to be “somebody”. We believe we’ve taken the right steps on that road and now feel more confident that things are going to flow our way. We’ve made the sacrifices and now it’s time for us to receive our rewards. As long as we perceive those scales as balanced, we’re content. We feel that we’ve matured and can now view things from a less emotional, more rational and logical perspective. We’ve learned to weigh the pros and cons of our choices to reach an intelligent decision. We convince ourselves that we are doing the “right” thing, the just thing, the sensible, logical thing. Is that true?

Finally, at the halfway point in our journey we face the Wheel of Fortune. That fickle and every changing wheel that mocks our efforts and forces change upon us. Let’s consider it the quarter-life (it’s a thing, I swear) and mid-life crisis. It reflects that point in our journey where we realize that our path needs to dramatically shift. It’s when we start to question everything we’ve achieved in our lives and wonder if it was all worth it. It’s become immortalized in films such as The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. In fact it’s become something of a cliché because we often dismiss it as an excuse for middle-aged men to buy a new hot rod or hook up with some younger, sexier partner. Perhaps those things are distractions from the real issue – feeling dissatisfied and unfulfilled by where we are in our lives. Perhaps we can no longer ignore that we’re unhappy with the choices we’ve made; the things we’ve sacrificed. This may be when parents and spouses realize their career has consumed them and they’ve lost touch with their loved ones. The difference between this experience and the Tower is that we are more mature and thoughtful (usually) and can steer the course of our journey. We can lay in a new path and right what we feel is wrong without completely destroying all that went before. We also have the ability to understand that even though we may be feeling pretty down right now, that can and will eventually shift. That is the nature of life and of our journey.

I’m going to stop here for now. I’ll continue next week. I hope you found this interesting or insightful or it at least made you pause for a moment and think about it.

When the High Priestess parts the veil

Over the last year, I’ve given a lot of thought to the High Priestess. She and I have had an on again, off again, sometimes adversarial relationship. I have always resisted seeing myself as psychic or intuitive so I felt that I had nothing in common with the High Priestess (for that matter I’ve always had a strained relationship with The Empress too but that’s another post). Anyway, while looking at the RWS High Priestess one day I was struck by something – I’ve never really considered what lies on the other side of her veil. What is she guarding, blocking, hiding? I know it’s part of her symbolism but it was something I gave only a cursory focus in a reading. At least until now.

Now I finally have an idea what awaits behind her veil – at least for me.I thought about where I am in my life right now. Turning 50 really seems to have thrown a switch in my brain. It’s as if all the previous 20-30+ years of indoctrination and assimilation just fell away; as though the shell encasing me cracked and revealed the true me. Apparently, the true me is much closer to the 13-year-old me than I ever realized. That is what was revealed to me when the High Priestess finally parted the veil. I was finally ready to see what was hidden – the true me, the “me” I was before I tried to fit in and adapt. The feral me, if you will. Quite frankly, she’s a pretty ballsy, awesome, kickass chick.

When I was a teen, my dress code was casual. Boots, jeans, plaid shirts and casual blazers. I loved that look and stuck with it for a long time. It was fine while I was in school but once I started working I needed to upgrade the wardrobe. I’ve never done corporate or dressy well and so I adapted a style that wasn’t really my own but worked. I always felt like I was wearing a costume; like a fake and a phony. However, it felt necessary in order to function effectively at my job. When I dressed too casually, my authority was questioned. So I played the game.

Once I accepted that I would never be returning to that kind of job, I reacquired some of my old favorites – jeans, boots, plaid shirts, and blazers. Of course being a fan of Supernatural means many folks assume I’m emulating the Winchesters’ style, but no, it was mine long before the Winchesters existed. Sorry for the style tangent but my point is that I feel as though I’ve reconnected to the deepest, truest me as symbolized by this style. This is who I was before I was dressing to impress.

It’s been fun and soul satisfying to reconnect to this feral, wild woman. She hasn’t been seen very much over the last few years. Or, more accurately stated, she often showed up at unexpected moments usually connected to alcohol and it wasn’t always comfortable for all involved. She was so suppressed and oppressed that I’m surprised she didn’t throw in the towel and leave the building. Thankfully, she’s as stubborn as I am and hung in there. Getting to know her again has been eye-opening. I look forward to deepening our relationship and re-learning myself.

Perhaps this is the gift, the revelation the High Priestess offers to us. She reveals our true selves once we are ready to handle that revelation. Perhaps this is why people decide to make dramatic life changes when they reach their late 40s/early 50s. Maybe what we’ve always considered mid-life crises are actually attempts to reconnect with our true selves; to find our way back to who we were meant to be. I think it’s going to be an ongoing process but I’m looking forward to the journey.

Okay, deep, dark revelations time – my childhood was pretty dark much of the time. I know I’ve alluded to some things and outright stated others but to say it was a clusterfuck would be an understatement. My family was poor – I mean Mom sold blood for money poor. My parents were underage when I was born (16 & 17) and by the time they were 22 there were four kids. My father was an immature ass and bully for most of his life – at least as far as his family was concerned. We put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Only it really wasn’t funny.

I was battered and bruised physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually. For many years I believed that this was my fault; that I had done something or said something to bring this on me. Even most of my friends had no idea what went on in my house because who the hell wants to be the freak at that age. All I wanted to do was fit in and believe me that was already difficult enough without all of that shit being exposed. As a result of these experiences, I engaged in some very risky behaviors. I drank a lot! In fact, while in high school I had a few incidences of black out drunks and can’t remember anything. I was smart enough or scared enough not to try drugs more serious than the occasional joint but I took enough risks and chances to ensure that I could have easily become a statistic.

My parents had no clue how to handle me. Even my father, who was quick to beat the crap out of me should he feel the need, didn’t know how to stop me from going in the local bar. One night, after learning that I had been hanging out in the bar (I was about 15 at the time), he brought me back down to “prove” to me why it wasn’t safe. When we walked in my father was greeted by a number of patrons (including some who were rather criminal). When they learned I was his daughter they assured him they’d keep an eye out for me. So, I pointed out to my father that I was probably safer in that bar than anywhere else in the neighborhood. The fact that he accepted my statement and started playing darts rather than outing my true age to the bartender gives you a good idea how clueless he was as a parent.

Why am I bringing all this up? Simple, because one of the epiphanies I had at the 2016 Readers’ Studio is the fact that I was carrying the shame and guilt for events that were not mine to carry. I did nothing wrong. I was blameless in what was done to me. I was a child, powerless and defenseless. Even admitting that now is giving me palpitations. I preferred to take the blame on myself because it gave me the illusion of having some control, some power in this situation. What a load of crap! I was a child. I should have been protected by my parents not needed protection from them. Even as I write this I can feel rage flood through me at how bruised and beaten that poor little girl was. It took me a long time to realize that I was still that bruised, beaten, traumatized little girl.

Those experiences made me feel weak and made me determined never to feel that defenseless and weak again. Instead, I became aggressive – each offense resulted in a physical response. That often mean I got into fist fights with boys I knew. I eventually acquired the nickname “The Nutcracker” because I did not appreciate being groped by adolescent males. Believe me, taking punches from those boys was nowhere near as painful as taking them from my father. I probably would have continued down this path of aggressive, self-destructive behavior and binge drinking but I met my husband. I realize how amazingly lucky I was in meeting the hubby. I was 16 at the time and he was 24. He could have easily controlled and abused me – I was already primed for that kind of relationship. Instead, he defended me, protected me and made me question some of my more self-destructive behaviors. He encouraged me to do things for me not because of the expectations of others.

So here I am at 50 (facing 51) and I’ve finally been able to accept that none of that was my fault (well okay the binge drinking and aggressiveness but I’m giving myself a break because I had poorly developed coping skills). I don’t need to bear any of the shame or blame for those situations. I did not ask to be abused or molested. There was nothing inherently “wrong” with me that drew these types of people to me. Who knows, maybe my light was so bright that they felt jealous and had to dim it, tarnish it in some way. I cannot understand their motivations and no longer care. All I know is that I have shed myself of the blame and shame I carried for years. I feel lighter and more hopeful. I’m a survivor; I’m strong and resilient and I won’t let those experiences define or defeat me anymore.

I’m not shattered, I’m a mosaic

While pursuing my MA in forensic psychology, I read a textbook entitled The Shattered Self. It was offered case studies of people suffering from PTSD, which the authors argued should be considered a dissociative disorder, not an anxiety disorder (I may be oversimplifying this, it’s been a long time since I read the book). As I read the book I had very mixed feelings; very personal feelings. I could to be objective about the material covered in the book. In fact it made me a little angry. As I read the cast studies many of them resonated with me on a deep level; their experiences often mirrored my own. What made me angry was the concept that these people were somehow damaged because they had found a way to pick up the pieces of their lives and move forward. Why did the fact that they had shattered make them defective? To me, they were strong, brave, resilient people who managed to endure what many could not. Yeah, okay, there might have been some projecting going on there.

In retrospect I realize that the reason these folks had become case studies in this book is because eventually their coping mechanism felt apart and they re-shattered. They were suffering and trying to hold it together as best they could but failing. So, in theory, counseling or therapy would be beneficial. Of course because I am a stubborn bitch, I resisted even the idea that being shattered was harming me. I felt like a piece of safety glass – sure I was shattered but I was still holding it together. I hadn’t lost any pieces.

As I gain more experience and wisdom, I realize that I have also made myself into a mosaic. I replaced some of the shattered pieces with new ones that are brilliantly colored and uniquely shaped. I wear these new tiles with pride because they’re proof that I have the strength to endure and the will to keep moving forward. I don’t think I’m so special (or at least no more or less special than anyone else) because clearly the case studies in The Shattered Self prove that others have the same resilience that I do. At the same time, I am proud of the fact that I am resilient and even if I’m shattered I don’t fall to pieces on the floor.

Once again, this is something that has been incubating in me since last year’s Readers’ Studio. All three presenters (Heatherleigh Navarre, Barbara Moore & Sasha Graham, who were all amazing!) focused on shadow work. It was an awesome experience because each session managed to enhance and build upon the energy from the other sessions. Quite a lot of magical power was unleashed that weekend. As we worked through the exercises and listened to the presenters I had a bit of an epiphany. I realized that I had no problem working with the darker side of human nature because I’ve been so exposed to it during my lifetime; it’s familiar territory.

I’ve probably hinted or even outright stated this before on this blog, but the fact of the matter is that much of my childhood was exposed to the darker side of human nature. My household was one of alcoholism, abuse (emotional, psychological, physical and sexual) and poverty. Most of my childhood friends came from similar backgrounds. We didn’t realize things were screwed up because this is the way it had always been for us. It’s not until I share tales of our exploits and get horrified looks from listeners that I realize how violent, dark and different my childhood was compared to many others.

I have learned to thrive in darkness, like a flower that blooms at night. It has become my milieu; I am comfortable in its environs. What I tend to avoid is the light, the gentle, the calmer approach to things. While sitting at Readers’ Studio I realize that one of my strengths is that I can help someone find their way through their own darkness. I can embrace and accept this side of their nature and help them work through it and find their way to wholeness. I can serve as the guide across the River Styx but I prefer not to accompany them back to the light. I prefer the shadows. I trust the darkness; I know what to watch for and what to expect. The light is something unfamiliar and untrustworthy. Random acts of kindness and spontaneous acts of generosity make me twitchy and a bit suspicious (something I am working on changing).

This realization also forced me to understand that my ability to endure and survive this experiences does not mean everyone can do so. It doesn’t make those who get lost in the shadows or who fear them weaker than me, simply different. I a bit like a colorblind person who doesn’t miss color because she has never seen them. I don’t miss the light side because it isn’t something I had a lot of experience with growing up. As an adult, I’ve been lucky enough to make friends who have slowly exposed me to the benefits of the light side and I am more grateful to them than words can express but it hasn’t shifted my orientation much.

Maybe in a way, I’m like the Tarot version of a sin eater. I can absorb the darkness or shadow side that others fear so much and help them learn to become more comfortable with it too. Hmm, maybe I’m more like a dark side Brita filter, helping purify the dark side so it’s more fully appreciated.

Let’s face it – there are a lot of folks out there working the light side of the street. They try to convince us that it’s healthier and more positive. In my experience, it’s much healthier to embrace both sides. As Star Trek (yes I love classic Star Trek, Gene Rodenberry was a genius, and I plan to use examples from the show as often as possible) showed, humanity needs its darker side; messier, more violent shadow side. Without it we risk becoming indecisive martyrs, trying to harm none – that’s just not possible. I think we need to accept that every action has consequences, some good and some bad. In some ways, every choice we make has the potential to harm others. That is just how life works. If you are offered a job that means all the other applicants were rejected – someone was harmed. Get over it. Instead of ignoring or denying the shadow side, try working with it a bit. You don’t need to immerse yourself in it but try accepting and acknowledging it and learn what its energy can do for you. I think you’ll be surprised.

I have a tendency of finding some people irritating for no apparent reason. They’ve never done anything to hurt me in any way. In fact, in many cases they are more than pleasant to me and some I would even describe as close acquaintances, maybe even friends. Yet there remains something that makes me grit my teeth when I’m in their general vicinity.
This bothers me. Disliking people is fine. That’s how the world works. There are people we will dislike and people who will dislike us in return. I’m the first to admit I’m an acquired taste and I’m sure I irritate some people like a speck of sand inside a clam. I understand that. What I’m referring to is when I can’t find any reason for this dislike. Why does this person set my back teeth on edge without even trying?

I have come to realize that sometimes there is no clear, rational explanation. It’s instinctual. I’ve heard theories that sometimes another person’s scent or pheromones trigger something in us that reacts with hostility. I suppose that’s possible – I honestly try not to go around sniffing other people. However, I realize that the majority of the time I’m reacting this way to a specific trait the person possesses and it invariably is one that I possess as well. Surprise!

Sometimes I am reacting to a trait that I share with the other person. Seeing my irritating traits in others is apparently just as irritating to me. I believe this is a common reaction. What surprised me more was when I realized that what I was reacting to was/is a trait that I enjoy about myself and feel the other person is “stealing”. For example, let’s say I’m the type of person who presents a boisterous, outgoing, sometimes outrageous persona to others (just an example clearly). I have moments where I will observe something doing something similar to my “schtick” and garnering positive responses and I feel a flash of jealousy followed by a flash of dislike. If this person takes my niche then where will that leave me? Wait a minute, what did I just write?

Yup, it turns out that in about half the instances I “dislike” someone, it’s really simply that I’m jealous of them on some level. I’m afraid if they can act the same way I do then I will become redundant. I want to be the center of attention; the Sun in my universe. I will fiercely defend my position (see my previous post about my 7 of Wands approach to relationships); guard my niche. Of course, now that I realize this is my proclivity, I try to catch myself before I say or do anything embarrassing or rude. Overall I’ve gotten pretty effective at it. Sometimes I feel like an observer watching my behavior and then catching myself before I make any major faux pas. It’s not easy and I still fail spectacularly on occasion but I’m trying. At the end of the day, I guess that’s the best any of us can do – make a genuine effort to change.

Death’s Handmaiden

 

As some of you out there may know, I spent the last 5 years caring for my elderly, dementia-ridden mother-in-law. I lived with her 24/7 and took care of all her needs. Although not a fun experience by any means, I will say that I learned a lot. Most of it I was unable to process until after she had passed, in fact I’m still processing. One thing I did learn is how to appreciate death. I realize this may sound a bit out there but the truth is that there comes a time when death is a blessing and this was definitely one of them.

In life, my mother-in-law was a fiercely independent and self-sufficient woman. She detested asking for assistance and would have despised what her illness did to her. Towards the end she was unable to recognize any of us (although she did still occasionally respond to my hubby’s voice); she had no control over her movements or bodily functions and no awareness of what went on around her. It was horrible to watch as she deteriorated over time and be unable to do anything about it. In her final days her doctor came for a home visit and told us that he felt she didn’t have much time left – days to months at the most. Ironically she died within two days. At the time we were arranging for in-home hospice care for her. We joked that she found the idea of strangers in her home so repugnant that she decided it was time to move on.

After she died she laid in her bed for several hours before the funeral parlor folks were able to pick her up. Although no funeral services were planned, we did want her to be cremated. The hospice agency sent a nurse so that time of death could be declared (it was actually 4:30 although legally the time was recorded as 6:30). The nurse also change my mom-in-law and cleaned her up. Now this is where things got strange for me. I am one of those people that has always refused to touch a dead body – visions of corpses sitting up and trying to grab me have always filled my mind, blame it on too many zombie flicks. Even when my father died I could not bring myself to touch his corpse. With my mother-in-law it was a very different experience.

Perhaps because I had tended her daily for the past few years (there was literally no part of her body I hadn’t seen), I was able to stroke her head and help prepare her for the funeral hearse. I helped the nurse change her and clean her. Before the nurse arrived I found myself entering her bedroom numerous times just to say goodbye and reassure her that her son, my deaf, mute & retarded brother-in-law, would be fine. There was something soothing about this ritual. It made me understand why having a loved one waked in the home makes more sense than a funeral parlor. Doing this for her made me feel like a priestess.

This experience also taught me not to fear death. Although dying can be traumatic, especially to those left behind, it is a natural part of life. If there is no death then there is no room left for new growth. Death can also be a blessing in disguise. I am often reminded of the classic Star Trek Season 3 episode The Mark of Gideon. The basic plot is that Kirk is beamed down to a fake Enterprise where he meets Odona. It turns out her planet is suffering from overpopulation and in an effort to control it Odona hopes to become infected by a disease Kirk carries but to which he is now immune. To these people, death has become a promise of relief, a surcease. For some people who suffer from a long-term debilitating illnesses or dementia, death but start to become a welcome experience.

What I have learned is that even if I have times when death seems cruel and capricious, there are also times when it is a boon signalling an end to suffering. Yes, it is a journey to the unknown but I now believe there comes a time in our lives when what is known is no longer tolerable and it is our choice to embrace this transition. Instead of fearing death and putting off the inevitable, we should speak to our loved ones and make our wishes known should certain situations arise. We should have the right to consciously decide if and when we chose to make this transition and the only reliable way to make our wishes known is through legal documents. These conversations may be painful but knowing how my mother-in-law felt about such matters make caring for her final days much more bearable.

Just take the freakin’ compliment Part 2

So, as I thought about yesterday’s post it occurred to me that I didn’t actually offer any tips or ideas or insights that might help others dealing with similar issues. So this is just a few bullet points of what helped me. Your mileage may vary and believe me I’m not a professional so this is a very idiosyncratic list.

  • Train yourself to consciously accept compliments. This is both simpler and much more difficult than it seems. I think so many of us program ourselves (or are programmed) to consider compliments as dangerous because they draw attention to us. We’re afraid that being noticed will bring negative reactions from peers or rivals. It can lead to teasing and other less pleasant reactions. However I think we all need to say “Screw that!” in a loud, confident voice. We need to consciously stop those negative inner critics and allay our fears about the reactions of others and embrace those compliments for what they are – recognition of our efforts and hard work. They are verbal “Atta girls” and need to be treated as such – not as time bombs that might go off unexpectedly producing collateral damage.
  • Help others who suffer from the same issues. We all know people who respond in the same way to compliments – they deflect, self-deprecate and psychologically shuffle their feet. A nice, quiet, friendly reminder that they do deserve the “Atta girl” can go a long way towards healing that wound. Listen to what you tell them and then tell yourself the same thing the next time an occasion arises.
  • Remember that confidence is not the same as braggadocio. Next time you see a cocky, swaggering, bragging colleague or friend, look into their eyes or really listen to their voice. I’m betting you have someone who is just as fearful and mistrustful of compliments as you are they just process it differently. Try allaying their fears that no one will notice their hard work unless they draw attention to themselves. Help soothe the frightened beast that is convinced no one really appreciates them. Sometimes roaring is simply a way to gain attention. It’s a different approach to the same insecurities and self-doubts.
  • Considering that I use Tarot for so many things, naturally I work with them to address this issue too. There are a few ways to do this. One is a simple, straightforward reading on the topic focusing on what the roots of this insecurity are and how to heal it. Another technique that I’ve found useful is to use the cards to have conversations with yourself – your “inner child”, your inner fears, call them what you like. Sit down with a cuppa tea (or bottle of beer if that’s more your style) and ask questions. After each question pull a card and think about what the answer is. Treat it as though it’s an answer from the entity or part of yourself that you questioned. It’s amazing the results you can get from this technique because it bypasses many of our built in defenses and can reveal what we’ve been hiding from ourselves.
  • Friends and support networks are also invaluable in overcoming this. I’ve had amazing conversations with friends who will spontaneously volunteer compliments about my skills or knowledge. It’s gratifying and touching to realize that people whose opinions you value see you in such a valued way.

There are lots of other tools out there that can help with this issue. The self-help shelves in bookstores have lots of offerings (well the few brick & mortar bookstores that are left). I’m sure your local library will have some options or can borrow them for you through inter-library loan. Self-help groups and/or counseling can also provide beneficial insights and techniques if that’s your preference. The bottom line is to actively tackle the problem not let it continue to dominate your life. Yes, it can be a cheesy, over-used line in self-help circles but the bottom line is that you are worth it, you do have value. The trick is convincing yourself of that fact.

Just take the freakin’ compliment

While at Readers’ Studio, I was chatting with Elinor Greenberg and Diane Wilkes. During out chat Elinor turned to Kooch Daniels and commented that several of my blog posts incorporating Tarot and psychology were some of the most insightful writings on the topic that she had read. I immediately made a self-deprecating comment along the lines of “knowing my own bullshit”. Elinor commented “Just accept the freakin’ compliment”. That stopped me dead in my tracks. Like a lot of people, I find it easier to take criticism than praise. Why? What is there in my soul, my ego, that cringes at compliments?

I wasn’t always this way. As a child I was very much a solar baby – soaking up all the attention and praise that I could get. I was a very good student and relatively well behaved child. In fact I was often embarrassed by teachers telling my mother they wished they had a “classroom full of Debbies”. Looking back now I realize that I began shying away from praise when it began to cause mocking by peers. One incident in my junior year of high school is still seared into my psyche. I took typing and steno (because why the hell not?). During one class the teacher asked for volunteers to read the transcription we had just completed. I can’t remember if I volunteered or was selected but as I was reading it I could hear a voice from behind me mimicking and mocking me as I read aloud. I felt so hurt and defenseless. I started tearing up and knew I couldn’t let them see me cry because (as I’m sure many of us remember) high school can be quite a dog eat dog environment. Another classmate sitting next to me realized I was close to losing it and told the mocker to cut it out. I will always appreciate her defense of me. I managed to finish reading without breaking down but it really took the joy out of that class for me.

Looking back I realize that kind of thing happened a lot to me. Not as cruel as the mockery and mimicry but being teased for being a brainiac, egghead, using $100 words. Even friends would make comments about my vocabulary so instead of feeling proud about it, I ended up feel embarrassed, shamed. Even in my family I’ve heard comments like I “think too much” or that I’m the “smart one” as though it makes me an outsider. I sometimes joke that I’m a Lisa Simpson in a Bart & Homer kind of world. It’s funnier to say than it is to experience.

This is just my roundabout way of explaining why I resist compliments – because I always assume they’re actually backhanded insults; ways to mock and tease me. I hate feeling that vulnerable and exposed so I go into an offensive position – I make fun of myself before they can do it. I treat it like a joke so they won’t realize how much it truly hurts me. It’s amazing and sad to me that after 30+ years that incident still causes pain. It’s not as painful as it once was but there is still tenderness and soreness attached to the memory. It’s ironic that when I was on FaceBook I got a friend request from the same person behind that incident. Just another reason I prefer to not be on FaceBook.

I turned 50 back in July.  I have to say it’s been more of a shock than I expected.  I figured all the hype about becoming a Crone or 50 being a big transition age was just that – hype.  Once again I have been proven wrong.

The biggest shock I had upon turning 50 is the realization that I have somehow manage to shed almost 30+ years of civilizing.  I joke that the women in my family don’t domesticate well but it’s kind of true.  None of us has ever been a “traditional” female.  Quite possibly because most of us have had the unluck to marry men who have proven to be abysmal partners for one reason or other.  Clearly this is some type of familial pattern; a cycle that needs to be addressed and changed.  Anyway, I’ve gotten off point here.  The point is that apparently 50 year old me has a lot in common with 13 year old me.  Now that I no longer need to “dress for success” or anyone else’s approval, I have gone back to my favorite look – jeans, boots and plaid shirts.  How ironic that I loved this look long before Supernatural became popular.

I’ve also experienced a shift in attitude.  Not that I was ever shy about expressing my opinions but I did occasionally manage to tone things down depending upon the company.  Now I just don’t give a shit.  It’s as though that poor, weak, fragile filter that prevented me from being completely unrated was demolished, destroyed, damaged beyond repair.  Don’t misunderstand, I rarely intend to be insulting, rude or obnoxious but somehow I’m sure I come off that way when my mouth gets ahead of my brain.  At the same time I realize this is the result of not having to worry that I’ll offend someone who good opinion I might need later on.  The truth is I am a lousy diplomat.

For many years I felt as though I identified most with the energies of the Queen of Swords and Queen of Wands.  Now I realize that Queen of Swords persona was exactly that – a mask I donned when the occasion called for it.  Now I fully embrace my Queen of Wands energy but it means that sometimes I bash people into submission (or as my mother likes to say, I use “truth” as a weapon).  What I have also discovered is my connection to the Queen of Pentacles.  I can be a caregiver.  I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not my favorite role but when I have to make a choice between doing what might be sensible and/or more convenient or doing what I believe is right, then I’m willing and able to make sacrifices.

 

So, turning 50 has proven to be quite a mind-blowing experience all around.  I’ve realized that I don’t need things to be happy (in fact, much to my shock, I’ve realized too many things just makes me feel overwhelmed).  I’ve learned that I don’t want to bend to the wills of others.  I want to run my own life and follow my own passions.  I’ve learned that I’m tired of letting the perfect get in the way of the good.  I’m sure there are lots more things I’ve learned but this was a good starting point.

Just to make it interesting for any readers out there I decided to ask the Tarot what message I can offer to any others going through a similar experience.  I drew the Page of Swords from the Tarot of the Secret Forest.  At first I thought the youth was playing a cello or similar instrument but looking closer I realized he is holding a sword and shield.  The minute I saw this card I heard the phrase “relearn your own mind; stay true to your inner music”.  I’m interpreting this to mean that turning 50 gives us a chance to reconnect to who we really are without the obligations of motherhood, career, marriage and societal expectations.  We’ve been able to moved beyond all that and now we can pick up our instruments and learn how to dance and sing our true songs, our soul songs, again.
 

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