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.

Judgment – Blue Rose Tarot

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

 

The Book says: It means everything. It means that we exercise all the abilities we have learned. All the time. In our minds, in our hearts and in the very depths of our souls. It is called living aware.

Think back, fellow Fool. Think back upon the journey. Think of the Magician. What is the Magician?

He is everything.

Everything.

That is his magic. But magic is nothing without an audience. Without application. And so, he has much to do. He must walk that Cosmic Playground and spread that magic everywhere. Wherever it is wanted. Whenever it is needed. [He is all the players in the Major Arcana] And it is by being one, two or any and all of those things at any given time; by living with full and open awareness…evaluating, knowing when to act, when to be silent, when to listen, when to teach, when to love, when to surprise…but always making that determination, judging the moment, judging our actions with the noblest, most laudable and loving of intentions…by applying, living and sharing all of those things with everything and everyone in the Cosmic Playground who comes to him with open heart and an inquiring mind; it is then that a Hero completes his final lesson, establishes his legacy…And fulfills his destiny.

TarotHunter’s Theories: The first thing that struck me upon seeing this card is that it represents the spirit soaring high above the mundane world. It has managed to rise above the darkness and pettiness that surrounds it and find its connection to the Divine. It vividly shows that we can rise above our own selfishness and limited view and find our inner stardust. As science and song have suggested we are made of star stuff, we are one with the cosmos. And perhaps in order to find that connection again we need to allow ourselves to move beyond our own limitations. 

The human spirit is an amazing, glorious, incredible gift that we are given. And if we allow ourselves to fully explore its potential we can achieve wonders and work magic.

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.

Showing the Universe how to treat you

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.

DruidCraft Queen of Swords

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.

Wheel of Change Queen of Wands

 

Blue Rose Tarot EmpressHave you ever found yourself looking at the Empress card and feeling irritated and resentful? I have. I often receive gentle (and not so gentle) nudges from her reminding me that I need to care for myself as well as others in my life; that sometimes I need mothering too. That triggers a host of negative associations – I actively resist being mothered.

I suppose I can lay the blame on my familial dysfunction (isn’t that always the easiest answer). My mother could be passive-aggressive and veer between smothering and deliberate obtuseness. My father was just aggressive, demanding and harsh. Let me be clear – I knew they both loved and supported me but on their bad days they could each be quite awful in their different ways. My father set a high academic standard for me and I rose to the occasion. Unfortunately, while quick to criticize if I didn’t do well, he was not so quick with positive feedback when I did. My mother preferred to stay out of that quagmire altogether. If I complained to her about the unfairness of my father’s expectations and treatment (he once gave my sister $10 for getting a B average report card while my A- average was criticized – “why the minus?”), Mom would shrug and comment that’s how my father was. I’m sharing this to explain why I find criticism or punishment easier to accept than nurturing kindness – it’s just what I became acclimated to receiving.

Mythic Empress

One of my biggest struggles has been learning to accept kindness, support and praise without brushing it aside or downplaying my accomplishments. It’s an uphill battle. I still find it very difficult to accept kind words from friends. I brush it off, make light of it. Accepting that I may be worthy of praise or comfort sits awkwardly in my psyche. I’m no one special – anyone in my place could do this. Maybe that’s true and maybe isn’t. I’m not sure. What I do know is that it’s still a part of myself that needs work. I’m not criticising or denigrating myself, simply acknowledging a truth. Even the Tarot has pointed out that this is an area that could “use improvement”.

So if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, know that you’re not alone. I will bet there are plenty more of us out there resisting praise the way toddlers resist nap time. We can change, improve our self-image so we feel deserving of praise and kind words, but for now we’ll probably keep squirming a bit. For those who have friends & loved ones like me, be gentle with your praise and positive feedback. We’re more used to cruel than kind and there can be quite a learning curve.

Bohemian Gothic DevilBohemian Gothic 6 of Cups

The other day I pulled these two cards as my cards of the day. I found myself looking at them from a different perspective because of past readings and exercises. It suddenly struck me that my antipathy for change has an almost addictive quality to it. I’m addicted to the past because of the memories (both real and rose-colored) I have. The “good old day” were never always good but time has washed them in a patina of gold and rose.

The truth is who the hell wants to sit around and remember lousy times? Who wants to dredge up unhappy, painful memories? That’s what therapy is for not reminiscing. Unfortunately reminiscing can also become problematic when it becomes a crutch, an addictive behavior that allows us to avoid facing current realities. Of course this also creates problems down the road because if I’m so focused on the past then I ignore the present and in the future will have fewer good memories from which to reminisce. It’s a vicious cycle! It’s like plowing and sowing seeds in the same field because they’ve proven fertile in the past but not giving them time to rest and regenerate. Eventually your harvest will become smaller and smaller before the field becomes barren. I don’t want my life to become barren.

So, how can I combat this? It’s not easy simply because I am in a nice rut and feel so little motivation to get out of it. However I have noticed that taking the time to consider the things I’m grateful for in my life can help. I did keep a gratitude journal at one point but it just became one more thing I had to do so I let it lapse. However that doesn’t mean I can’t take a few minutes every day and focus on areas of my life that are good. My life doesn’t suck. It may have sucky moments but overall it truly does not suck. What I need to do is find ways to keep this uppermost in my mind, especially when things really do seem pretty sucky.

Hobbies, friends, books and escapist television programming all help but at the end of the day it’s my choice, my decision to focus on the positive. I know it’s not easy because I seem to go through this cycle every few months but I like to think I’m getting closer to shortening my “life sucks” cycles. Coloring, Tarot cards and music help me de-stress too and that definitely helps elevate my spirits. I know I can do it, I just have to keep trying and not give up. I will not be defeated even by me and my inner demons and self-doubts and moments of wallowing in self-pity. I’m stronger than that. I just need to remind myself of this fact sometimes.

Wheel of Change Sun

Wheel of Change Sun

Wheel of Change Tarot
created by Alexandra Gennetti
Published by Destiny Books, 1997
ISBN #0-89281-609-0

The Book says: When you have drawn this card in your reading; it is a time of recognition for you. You have just been able to see the independence of something against the complex background of the world. Perhaps this is something inside of you, but it need not be. You realize that because you are now able to see that the individuality of all people is the issue and that any relationship is between two separate individuals. We are each traveling our own path and experiencing a brief moment called life. It is a learning journey, and the light of the sun is the light within each of us that grows brighter and then dimmer as we travel. The Sun is a metaphor for the recognition of individuality, both our own and others. When the Sun is part of your reading, it is a time of new beginnings, and like the winter solstice it is a time when the warm light within you grows stronger.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card is reminder of the possibilities of new beginnings and the potential present in every child. I worked with children on a daily basis and it was wonderful to see the untapped possibilities present in each of their faces. Their Sun energy shone so brightly and so strongly that you believed they could accomplish anything. These two children, standing together holding hands, would almost be a perfect symbol for unity and racial harmony. They represent hope for a bright future and the youthful joy and exuberance symbolized by the sun. They are also a reminder that each time we begin a new project or pursue a new path in our lives we are tapping into this solar energy. Think about how excited we become about new opportunities and new interests in our lives. On a smaller level, I feel this way each time I get a new deck of Tarot cards. There is the excitement of getting something new, the joy of becoming acquainted, the new sense of inspiration and enthusiasm. When we gain new insight into our lives or to a situation, we are feeling the Sun’s energy.

The Sun is so full of hope, joy and exuberance that it brings a smile to the face. Have you ever walked outdoors on a warm sunny day and turned your face to the sun, just enjoying its warmth and light? Have you ever watched a sunrise or sunset and just been awed by the gorgeous colors streaming across the sky? Whenever I feel myself shining and bristling with confidence and energy, I know I’m channeling the Sun’s energy. The Sun represents our chance to dazzle others with our brilliance and revel in our accomplishments; our time to enjoy our place in the spotlight. We should all experience moments when we are truly the center of our own universe.

This card is also a reminder that although we all need to work together for certain goals, we are individuals. When we join forces we do not meld into one being; we are separate but joined like pieces of a puzzle. I can also see this being the key to equality in our lives. We don’t all need to be the same, we just need to accept that each of us has a value and worth. Even in any relationship in our lives, we do not truly merge with that person or those people. We retain our individuality, our separate beliefs, attitudes and ideas. If we don’t we run the risk of becoming too dependant or getting involved in an abusive relationship. The Sun is both a symbol of hope, a sense of self and future possibilities.

Blue Rose Star

Blue Rose Star

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The book says: For now, each star in that vast dark canopy is also sending out threads of light, connecting with each other until there becomes a limitless glittering web extended over the entire stretch of sky. And the Fool comes to understand that these are souls that are in other stages of their journey. They represent souls that have traveled these earthly paths before and moved on, or they are waiting their turn to once again play the Great Game. And in the meantime, they look down over the souls traveling along the paths…and they send their love down to them.

And then, another vision, for now the threads from the sky above and the waters below extend towards each other…glittering sky web to shimmering watery web…until they are joined, as one. And gradually, for the first time in this new place, the Fool hears something. At first he cannot identify it, but then, almost overcome with weeping again, he realizes what he is hearing.

Millions upon millions of soft voices chanting as one. Chanting a great song of life, of existence, of love.

The miracle of the Universe lies in our infinite diversity. The blessing of the Universe lies in our infinite unity.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: To me this card symbolizes grace, beauty and hope. There is a mystery and magic about it bringing to mind a child dancing among the snowflakes of the first snowfall – happy, gleeful and awed. The dancer seems oblivious to her surroundings and is solely focused on her dance. She reminds me that even in the darkest night there is a gleam of hope and beauty to be found. She represents the wonder and amazement we feel when we stare up at the night sky and see it is dappled with glorious white stars. She is there when we wonder if there is life on other planets and when we wish and hope for something better in our lives.

The star dancer doesn’t grant these wishes for us, she glides and dances teaching us the moves we need to manifest them on our own. She is a light in the darkness, a guide light which we can follow but she cannot offer guarantees. The truth is that while we can follow the Star’s light only our own perseverance and determination can ensure whether it guides us to the place we want to go.

There is also something pure and innocent about the star dancer. She is a young child putting on a performance in their room completely unaware that grown ups are watching. Perhaps we must be careful not to startle her. Her magic may lay in the fact that she is so self-absorbed that our expectations and needs don’t impinge on her consciousness. She is able to create her magic because no one has ever told her than she cannot. She is full of potential and wonder, sure she can be or do anything she desires because of this purity and single-mindedness. Once faced with the outside world she may begin to doubt herself too but right now she is our shining beacon calling us to regain that child-like innocence and wonder. She helps us reconnect with our ability to believe in ourselves with such purity and focus. She shows us how to be shining stars in our own lives once again.

A true reflection of myself

For two days in a row I drew The Mirror card (The Hanged Man in traditional decks) from the Wildwood Tarot in my daily reading. The image shows a mermaid seeming to hold the moon in her hand while the other clutches a mirror to her breast. Her eyes are closed and she can see neither but she seems aware of both on a deep, unconscious level.

12

Looking at this image I consider what it might be trying to tell me. Considering the questions I asked both day, the key element is one of changing perception, altering mindsets, looking at things from a different angle. I also get a sense of trusting your heart, your instincts, your unconscious. She speaks to me of looking at yourself and changing how you view the reflection. This became especially appropriate when I had a profound epiphany today (I do love profound epiphanies). While looking in the mirror the thought flashed across my brain that I looked beautiful. Not pretty, not nice but beautiful. I have recently gotten a haircut and was wearing a new shirt but that wasn’t why I felt this way. It was because I was in a wonderful mood. I felt fabulous inside and it was visible outside. I finally realized the meaning of the expression “true beauty comes from within”.

The truth is that my physical being changed little. I’m still overweight, fairly worn-out and wore no makeup. I know I’m attractive enough but that’s never been a major priority in my life – call me ugly I’ll shrug it off; call me stupid and them’s fighting words. Seeing myself in a different light today, truly believing I am beautiful, was powerful. How many of us go through life believing we’ll only be beautiful and acceptable if we meet some arbitrary norm. If we lose weight or dye our hair or fix our nose or get that new outfit. It doesn’t matter what the variable is, the commonality is that we believe some external factor is what will make us beautiful. In truth we already possess that quality if we can see it and believe in it. Of course the irony is that it takes maturity and wisdom to actually accept and embrace this fact. The expression “youth is wasted on the young” was coined for a reason.

That brief look in the mirror has convinced me that my attitude and mindset dramatically changes how I see myself and how I present myself to others. If I stop staring in the mirror looking for flaws and instead let myself be bathed in the radiant light of the moon, I’ll find it easier to let my inner beauty shine through. Maybe we should all stop focusing on our flaws and instead change our perspective and celebrate our gifts, embrace our inner loveliness. We all have the potential to be radiantly beautiful if we believe in ourselves. I’m going to start off taking one step at a time, day by day.

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