I ask myself this question a lot. The other day I drew the Ace of Cups Rx and The Empress Rx and they seemed to be addressing this issue for me. I’m one of those people who have loads of advice for everyone – ways to improve their lives, their health, whatever. Unfortunately, I am notorious for not applying such advice to my own life. I can be stubborn and hard-headed, or as my mother likes to call it – thick. I am a relatively intelligent person – or I at least have book smarts and know the answers to a number of Jeopardy questions. Common sense, however, does not appear to be on of my innate skills. Of course, life loves to throw us curve balls and I was finally thrown one that forced me to face a few issues that I’ve been trying to avoid.

I have Type II diabetes and until a few years ago I had it fairly well controlled. Once things got more challenging dealing with my mother-in-law, caring for myself was one of the things that fell by the wayside. Short-sighted and stressed, I chose to live in denial that this behavior would come back to bite me in the ass. Fast forward to July of this year (the day after my 51st birthday, in fact) and my chickens had come home to roost. I visited my doctor and got a call from his office the next day informing me that he wanted to up my medications adding an additional pill for diabetes, Lipitor and a prescription Omega 3 supplement. Now I hate taking more pills than is absolutely necessary but I also don’t want to suffer from complications due to diabetes later in my life. So I bitched and moaned and bitched some more. Then I talked with my hubby and we came up with a plan. I would give myself a specific time period to change my behaviors – eat healthier and exercise more. If there was no improvement at the end of this time then I’d have to start taking the additional pills.

It was difficult at first and I became discouraged and almost gave up a few times but I knew that if I began taking these additional pills I’d be psychologically giving up and I didn’t want to do that. So I hung in there. I’m finally seeing an improvement in my glucose levels and am definitely making healthier food choices. So I’m making progress but this made me wonder why I did this to myself? Why do so many of this do this to ourselves?

We bend over backward to care for others but ignore our own needs. We put off our own needs and try to ignore or avoid the potentially negative repercussions of these choices. Is this something we’re acculturated to accept? Are we programmed to think that our needs come last? I can’t claim to have all the answers but I will say that in my case it was simply a matter of not making myself a priority. I was programmed early on in life to do what was expected of me – to be the good student, the good daughter, the good employee. I craved the positive reinforcement and external validation. It was exhausting.

It took a long time but I think I’m finally reaching a place where my needs count too. They’re not necessarily more important than the needs of loved ones but they are as important. If I don’t take care of myself then I can’t care for them either. It’s a pretty simple concept but one that I traveled a long, winding road to reach. I’m sure I’ll still have days when I backslide but I feel more positive that I’m moving in the right direction.

#MeToo

I’ve been following the media coverage of Harvey Weinstein and resulting #MeToo campaign with a lot of interest over the past few days. It has clearly revealed that this is a conversation that has long needed to occur. Women already know just how many of us have been harassed, victimized, assaulted, marginalized and raped. Men are the ones who seem surprised by these numbers.

When I was attending John Jay College for my MA in forensic psychology, I once wrote a paper on rape & date rape. I looked at the psychological impact each had on survivors as well as how societal responses differed to both types of assault. In many instances, survivors of date rape expressed feeling more blamed and less support. They often blamed themselves and questioned whether they had “asked for it”. This mindset shows the fundamental misunderstanding we still face about rape – it has nothing to do with sex! Let me repeat that – RAPE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX! Harvey Weinstein isn’t a sex addict, he’s a sexual predator. He used sex to impose his will upon unwilling women. If rape is the result of a desire for sex then I would expect there to be no sexual assaults of those society has deemed no longer sexually viable or attractive. That does not appear to be the case.

I have no doubt that physical attractiveness can play a role in why someone has been put on a sexual predator’s radar but I don’t believe it’s because the predator wants sex. It’s because it fulfills some need in them to impose their will upon others, especially those who might be seen as a “catch” by society. I would bet that if one caught some of Hollywood’s male actors in a private moment, we might learn that they are just as harassed and preyed up on by those in power.

I will admit that by the time I completed that paper I was suspicious of all men and looked at them with rage. I’m rather impressed that I didn’t attack any men during that time period.

One of the reasons I had an interest in the topic of rape is because I have been raped, sexually harassed, hooted & hollered at as well as molested many times over the course of my life. I know how it feels to have people look at you as though you brought this upon yourself. I know what it feels like to think you did something wrong and your actions triggered the assault. I know how it feels to tell someone what happened to you and have them either disbelieve your or, worse, believe you and do nothing. I’ve been afraid to sleep in my own home because I wasn’t sure if I’d wake up to find my molester assaulting me again.

I’ve never been silent about these assaults. I might not share the details with everyone I know but I’m open about having been through these experiences. Many times I fought back, either verbally or physically. In my youth I was gifted with the nickname The Nutcracker because if boys touched me in ways I didn’t like (such as trying to cop a feel or snap a bra strap), I kicked them in the nuts. Needless to say I wasn’t very popular with the boys. When I first began working I experienced harassment from some of the men in charge. This ranged from the 60 year old warehouse manager who kissed me against my will when I was 13 to the “dirty old man” comments from a 60+ year old man when I was in my 30s (you know the type – “why don’t you sit on my lap and we’ll talk about what comes up”).

I tolerated the comments for a while because, while I wouldn’t say it was harmless, those types of comments didn’t seem threatening to me. At least not until I saw those same behaviors aimed at younger (in some cases adolescent) females. Then I began commenting. My responses ranged from subtle “jokes” about how apple seeds are poisonous and would be so easy to slip into someone’s food to statements about how “crazy” and violent my hubby could be to more straightforward comments like “you couldn’t get it up if you used a crane” or “if you touch me I’ll push you down the stairs”. These often got brushed off as jokes but they achieved the desired results. I was left alone. Unfortunately there wasn’t much I could do to stop it with other females. Too many laughed and treated it as a joke and the executive director was guilty of similar behaviors. I’d like to think that I made a difference but in truth I’m not sure.

I drew two Tarot cards from the Darkness is Light deck to get an idea what I should write my next blog post about (it has been a while since I’ve updated). I drew the 3 of Blades Rx and The Empress Rx. To me that spoke of sharing times I’ve felt betrayed, heart sore and hurt; times I’ve been left to fend for myself rather than being nurtured, cared for and protected. So here is it – as much as I hate to jump on bandwagons, #MeToo

Now that I’ve completed the Comparative Tarot essays for the Major Arcana, I’ve decided to try some different Tarot focused blog posts before attacking the Minors (if I decided to do that). I’ve been inspired by James Ricklef’s wonderful KnightHawk readings that focused on 3 card readings for fictional characters. I hope I can do this technique justice.

Three card reading for Mary Winchester of Supernatural

Dear Tarot Hunter,

I have recently reconnected with my two grown sons after a 30 + year absence. I have no idea how to communicate with them; how to interact with them. They don’t need me they way they did the last time I saw them. What would be my best way to repair this broken bond?

Mary, thank you so much for entrusting me to do a reading for you on such a sensitive topic. I cannot provide any insight into your sons’ thoughts or feelings but perhaps we can look at the current state of this relationship and see if it can be healed. I will pull three cards and see what the universe has to say.

The current state of this relationship? Page of Cup Rx – Your sons are still those broken-hearted boys devastated by the loss of their mother. You are a mother devastated at what you missed in your sons’ lives. All three of you are relative neophytes when it comes to expressing and dealing with your emotions. I get the sense that none of you are especially comfortable with introspection and examining your motivations.  This reluctance for addressing emotional issues underpins this relationship even if you never acknowledge it.

Issues that fester or harm this relationship? 10 of Wands – There are a lot of burdens still being carried by members of this family. Considering that you mention not having seen your sons in over 30 years, I’ll guess that guilt is part of this burden – you missed their childhoods. How did they cope? Perhaps there are things in their past that haunt and weigh them down too. 30 years is a lot of history – both good and bad.

How can this relationship start to heal? 7 of Pentacles Rx – Upon seeing this card the first thing that popped into my head is you all need to stop revisiting the past, harvesting that guilt, and instead work to build a new future together. Although the past will always impact your lives, if that’s all you focus on then it will taint your future together. I’m not saying to ignore the past, perhaps discussing it will bring some closure, but don’t allow it to linger between you. It could create a toxic environment that will prevent anything new and healthy from growing.

The overall message from this reading seems to be that you can repair this relationship but it will be a slow process and will require understanding and honesty. You will need to look within yourself and be honest about the emotions this situation brings up for you as well as trying to understand what it brings up for your sons. You’re almost strangers to each other but a willingness to stick it out may go a long way towards repair this fractured relationship.

As fans of Supernatural know, Mary Winchester not only disappeared from the boys lives 34 years ago, she died. Her death became the catalyst for the story arc for the first five years of the show. The boy’s father, John, devastated by the death of his beloved wife, becomes a hunter to discover what killed Mary and cursed their youngest son, Sam. John Winchester trains and raises his sons to be hunters, sometimes acting more as a drill sergeant than a father.

Mary Winchester is brought back from the dead at the end of season 11 by Amara, God’s sister, as a gift for Dean Winchester. Over the course of season 12, we watch as Mary, unsure how to deal with her rebirth and her adult sons, distances herself from the boys, but this reading takes place early in the season before any of those conflicts have arisen. It’s interesting to interpret this reading knowing both the backstory and its ultimate resolution.

If you’d like to learn more about the show visit the Supernatural Wiki

You can also watch all 12 seasons of the show on Netflix.  

Sheila O’Malley also offers some amazing recaps on episodes from the first three seasons (well she’s working on Season 3).  I highly recommend reading them!!.

 

Speaking with the Dead

I had a very strange experience last week. I’m not sure why I should be so surprised by it but I was. I had arranged for a Tarot reading with the wonderfully talented Mitchell Osborn. My reading with Mitchell was very different to they type of Tarot reading I’m used to giving and receiving. His style reminded me of a session with John Edwards. It was more as if he was channeling messages from the spirit world than interpreting cards.

Over the course of our reading, Mitchell described receiving messages pertaining to my hubby from someone he felt might be associated with show business or a comedian. Now my hubby had an uncle who worked as a teamster in the film industry but that didn’t feel right. Mitchell once again said he was getting a strong feeling of a comedian. I mentioned my brother Tom who has been dead since 1986 but was well know in my family as a clown. The 31st anniversary of his death was two days after the reading. As soon as I mentioned him Mitchell almost shouted “Yes!” I explained that Tom had died when he was 15 but gave no more details. I just shared how Tom had been a practical joker and one statement that Mitchell had offered from the spirit world sounded exactly like something Tom would have said.

For the rest of the reading, Mitchell gave me messages from Tom that I didn’t even know I needed to hear. He explained that Tom was showing him his head hitting the ground as a way to explain that he died instantly and felt no pain. What I did not know at this point is that my brother’s skull had been fractured in seven places by the attack on him. Mitchell also shared that Tom was showing his spirit standing next to his body in shock – he didn’t realize he was dead, and that he stared at his attacker wondering what had made him so angry and full of pain. This sounds so much like something Tom would think that it brought tears to my eyes. Any skepticism I felt immediately drained away.

A few things Mitchell mentioned didn’t make any sense at the time. He asked if my brother ever drove a car or liked cars because he kept seeing a red Mustang. Now, I assume my brother Tom like cars as much as any teen boy but living in NYC meant very few people we knew owned cars. My hubby was one of the few and although Tom like riding in them he showed no special attachment to them. Of course, the odds are that the longer he spent with my hubby the more likely that would change. Mitchell also asked if Tom had a girlfriend. I explained that as far as I knew he didn’t, at least not when he was killed. Mitchell said he kept mentioning “the girls that wasn’t included” but I had no idea who that might be. Once our reading concluded I immediately called my mother and shared that portion with her. We both cried at the confirmation that Tom hadn’t suffered. I think we’ve carried that burden for 31 years and never realized how heavy it was.

Now here comes the part where I got messages from Tom. I kept thinking about the “girl who wasn’t included”. It bothered me. So as I laid in bed thinking things over it hit me – Tom meant my sister-in-law Tracey who had died last year. She wasn’t included because she was not yet part of our family when Tom was killed. I became convinced that was who Tom meant. I believe he was trying to let us know he was watching over Tracey in the afterlife. I mentioned this to my family and got non-committal responses. They didn’t want to disagree but didn’t really agree either. So I went to my default divination tool, my Tarot deck, and simply asked Tom for clarification. I asked, “Who was the girl who wasn’t included?” I drew Death. That seemed pretty clear to me but I wanted additional confirmation. So I asked Tom “I want to be sure, we’re talking about Tracey, right?” I drew The Hierophant upright. This is significant because I indicated that an upright card would be a positive response and The Hierophant is my birth card. So Tom was clearly saying “Yes, you are right”. I once again shared this with my family and we all agreed this was Tom’s way of reassuring us. Even my brother Billy (Tracey’s husband) said he felt a little better after receiving that message.

To add even more layers to this, I began thinking about the car connection. Now, as I mentioned, Tom certainly enjoyed spending time around my hubby’s cars but wasn’t a “car guy” per se. Then I remembered something. Tom was scheduled to start high school the September. The high school was called Automotive High School! Then, while driving up from NYC, my hubby passed a spot where he has noticed people place cars that are for sale. This time as he passed by he saw a red Mustang! We took that as another sign Tom was around and wanted us to know it.

This was a very powerful and mind-altering experience for me. I’ve always wanted to believe that we can communicate with loved ones who have passed on but I’ve also always been skeptical. This has definitely eradicated that. It occurs to me that perhaps our loved ones on the other side are often trying to communicate with us but we don’t pay enough attention or understand the signs and messages. Going forward I am definitely planning to keep my eyes, ears, and heart open to future signs. I already know my father is good at finding us parking spots when none seem available so simply being more aware would probably help this process.

Wheel of Change Tarot – The World

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

The Book says: When the World is a part of your reading, it is a symbol of spiritual unity and attainment, a recognition of the unlimited potential of life and the ability to make use of it. Often, she tells you that you have all you need to move forward and to make a complete assessment of the present situation. She symbolizes the ability to give form to the nebulous and to free the potential you feel within. The World card symbolizes the return to a deep understanding of unity after a great and laborious assessment of the fragmentary nature of creation, as represented by the other twenty trump cards. The World is the embodiment of wisdom and knowledge; perfection, completion, and fulfillment.

Tarot Hunter’s Theories: The first thing that popped into my head upon looking at this card was the song We Are the World. That is what this card brings to mind, that we are all a piece of the same universe. We are all composed of the same elements and we are all interconnected in the web of life. We are everything and everything is us. It is like the end of the Men in Black movie where the aliens are playing marbles with the Earth and other planets. And the concept that we are really nothing more than a nail on a fingernail of the One; which may mean that our nail is the home of a universe. It is mind-boggling and amazing when one considers all the possibilities.

It also reminds me of the Butterfly Effect – the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world can create a tidal wave in another part of the world. This card forces us to realize that everything we do – whether positive or negative, intentional or accidental, impacts on the rest of our world. So we can choose to affect our world positively or negatively, but either way, we must accept that we do have some type of impact.

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.

 

Transformational Tarot
Created by Arnell Ando
Published by US Games (2006)
ISBN:1572815396

The Book says: Spiritual awakening, a card of summing up of an important matter, a clean slate, paying off old karmic debts, reward for past effort, a time of rejuvenation, sincere attempt to come to terms with oneself and to take responsibility for one’s actions, rising above the negativity in order to resolve the situation. In the reverse, this card can mean existential angst; fear of the unknown; fear of death. It could imply disillusionment.

Tarot Hunter’s Theories: This card suggests that our journey to liberty might be long and somewhat gray at times. But at the end of our journey, we will be able to see our true selves, to look ourselves in the face and to accept what we see. This card is about facing our reflection in the mirror without harsh judgments or useless self-criticism. It is about reaching a place of self-acceptance and acknowledging our flaws without negativity. To me, this card reflects the wisdom of experience and the benefits of completing that long journey towards self-knowledge and freedom from self-defeating, self-critical attitudes and behaviors. It’s about finding the truth and allowing it to set you free.

Heart’s blood flows no more

Swords of betrayal withdrawn

Move forward and heal

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.

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