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.

Confession is good for the soul

For some reason today, I’ve been pondering the benefits of confession. The other day I posted a blog entry about a shattering revelation I learned. Prior to writing the post I felt sick to my stomach and couldn’t sleep. Once I posted it I felt relieved and better. It was a cathartic experience. It also made me realize why they say confession is good for the soul.

Dark Goddess Devil Tlazolteotl

 

I was raised Roman Catholic so after a certain point confession was expected to be part of the ritual of faith. I hated it! Being forced to attend confession every month just meant I made things up. As a child (and at the time I was between the ages of 10-14) the worst things I did were smart mouth my mother, curse and other assorted venial sins. Most of the times my friends and I would exchange notes before confession so we could beef up our offenses. This entire process defeated the point of confession. We felt no relief or healing from it. It stressed us out because we felt judged and harried to find sins to confess.

Even with friends and family, I have resisted discussing matters that most bothered my spirit. Whether they were things I’ve done or things done to me, I feared that others would negatively judged me. Fear and shame held me prisoner for a long time and allowed a lot of things to fester and become toxic. It’s only in the last year or so that I’ve been able to appreciate the benefits of confession (and forgiveness too for that matter).

Part of my inner labyrinth journey through the Dark Goddess majors has helped in this process. It has allowed me to face some of my fears and acknowledge some of my strengths. This journey has dredged up some issues I’ve tried hard to avoid but which clearly needed to be addressed. Burying them failed. Nothing went away, it just leached into my soul and poisoned me. As traumatic as this latest revelation has proven to be, at least it had the benefit of helping me understand how sharing or confessing can be healing. It allows us to lance the boil; cauterize the wound so that healing can begin.

The parts of my journey where I met Tlazolteotl and Kali proved especially beneficial to this process. Tlazolteotl is the Aztec goddess of corruption and filth as well as forgiveness and purification. The image on the card sums up her energy quite nicely – you must purge before you can purify. That’s what this sharing, confessional moment has allowed me to do. I’ve purged the ugliness and horror of what I learned and as a result I was able to begin healing. Kali, the Dark Goddess Tower, helped me learn that destroying external elements in my life was freeing not terrifying. I resist change with all my might but in this case Kali helped me embrace the fact that the destruction of the image I held of this relative would ultimately prove freeing. I allowed me to release a burden I hadn’t even realized I carried and continue on my journey with a lighter, more healthy spirit.

Dark Goddess Tower Kali

 

If you have any secrets or dark memories that are festering in your life and poisoning your soul find someone to tell. Don’t keep things hidden in the darkness. Bare your soul, dig at those repressed or ignored memories and expose them to the light of day so they can be detoxified. Ironically enough it turns out the Catholics are right – confession is good for the soul. The beauty of it is that you don’t need a priest to hear it and convey Yahweh’s forgiveness in order to benefit.

Inanna Witch of Earth

Have you ever wished for someone to die? I don’t mean that quick thought that flashes across our mind towards someone we hate or who has hurt us; that “I wish you were dead” moment. I mean hoping for the death of someone you love; someone who is suffering? I’m in that position right now.

Someone I care for deeply is nearing the end and there is no making her better or improving her condition; merely a slow, steady deterioration. On a daily basis I find myself hoping that that she just won’t wake up one day. The reality is that her death is inevitable (aren’t all our deaths actually inevitable?) and probably much closer than I realize. Unfortunately the lingering slowness of her departure is draining me and my hubby and can’t be fun for her either.

Every time this thought crosses my mind I feel awful. I’m starting to consider myself a horrible, heartless person but the reality is that I completely understand why some people believe in euthanasia. People babble about quality of life and how we don’t have the right to take someone’s life. Why? If someone is going to die anyway (and once again, death is inevitable for us all) then why not limit the suffering and misery such a lingering process brings?

Modern medical technology can extend the body’s life span but it can do very little for the mind. Alzheimer’s and dementia seem to be even more prevalent now because people live longer but not necessarily healthier. Perhaps this is the end result of our relentless pursuit for longevity. We refuse to accept that we are meant to die, ignoring the fact that very often the extension of our lives often results in lingering, miserable existences in our old age. As a result of this tendency, I am left in a position of hoping that someone I love will go to sleep and not wake up.

This makes me feel awful, hateful and horrible. What kind of person must I be to hope for such a thing? My opinion of myself is not exactly very high right now. It’s not that I want her to die, it’s simply that I realize she’s going to die eventually and if the remainder of her life is in this miserable, dependent state I’m sure even she would prefer it end. This is not who she was when she was 5 years ago and that woman would not want to linger like this. I realize I may not have this choice but if I do, I will gladly accept a shorter life span in exchange for being in control of my mental faculties. Is that too much to ask from life?

BoS So Below 10 of Swords BoS So Below 9 of Wands

So, my relationship with my body has been tolerant at best and downright chilly at its worst.  I have somehow managed to disconnect myself from my body.  My physical self does not seem part of my spiritual self.  There are a variety of reasons for this, none of which I’ll go into here, but I can’t say I blame this disconnect on pop culture, Catholicism or any of the other pet bugaboos.  Yes, I played with Barbies growing up, in fact I still do, and I never felt the urge to look like Barbie.  I just wanted her exciting, jet set lifestyle.

Anyway, I am starting to realize that my neglect of my body is catching up to me (oh who am I kidding it caught up to me a long time ago).  I can’t ignore it anymore and it’s starting to get very pissy about my neglect.  New things are starting to act up.  My body seems to have decided that it will up the ante and find new ways to misbehave to try to get my attention.  So I realized I need to try to reestablish the lines of communication with my body.

This is the second time since I began using this deck that I’ve drawn both these cards.  They obviously have a deeper message for me and I’ll have to explore that at a later date.  Right now I want to hear what they say about my question.  The 10 of Swords reversed says I’m “reliving heartache by refusing to let go” and the 9 of Wands reversed shouts that I’m “giving up too soon” (according to the LWB).  I get it – there are still unresolved issues I need to work on and until I can reach some detente about them I’m subsuming my heartache by indulging in behavior that hurts my body.  I also need to try sticking with the plans I have made.  I’m pretty good at making plans but lately I’ve been lousy on follow through.  I let the least little thing derail my efforts and use my stressful responsibilities as an excuse to just give up.

I don’t want to be a quitter and I don’t want to keep reliving things that cause me to engage in unhealthy behaviors.  I need to start loving my body.  I need to stop beating myself up about past events.  And I need to just take those baby steps to create a healthier and happier life for myself.  I can do it if I stop focusing on how louse things are and how worthless I am.  If I want to manifest something better than that’s where my focus needs to be.

Hidden Realms 8 of CupsHidden Realms Ace of Pentacles

That companion book for this deck describes the 8 of Cups being about trusting  your instincts and not letting logic brain distract you from continuing your journey.  For me I think this cards message is that I’m not there yet.  I’m still working on trusting my instincts and intuition.  I’ve gotten better over the last few years but I still have a ways to go.  A friend offered that perhaps there was some issue I still hadn’t been able to let go and leave behind and that is holding me back.  That certainly makes sense but right now I’m not seeing what that might be.

The Ace of Pentacles, my little hedgehog, has decided to show up again.  Once again he serves as a reminder that the quieter, less visible path to creating new wealth and manifesting a new life can be just as powerful as roaring in the sun.  He also points his little nose towards the figure in the 8 of Cups so he is suggesting that whatever that represents is the key to moving forward in a new career and finding new prosperity.

I was still unclear about the message of this card so I pull a clarifier and received The Magician.  He looks like a youthful, self-indulgently sexy Sirius Black.  He is a figure of promise and power, magic and manifestation.  He bares his chest to show that the way to my heart’s desire is control and will.  If I will it to be so and am willing to exert the self-control necessary to focus my energies and channel them, I can make things happen.

This card initially just confused me more.  I wasn’t getting the message until I laid the cards side by side.  Then I realized the man on the reversed 8 of Cups is looking behind him, the hedgehog on the reversed Ace of Pentacles is looking towards the 8 of Cups and The Magician is looking directly at me.  If I read them together they tell me “stop looking behind you, let go of past success and wealth.  The future is in your heart and will”.  Okay, that might not be so earth-shattering but at least I’m starting to get it.  What remains unexplored is the past and how it might still be impacting me.

In many ways I’ve worked through some of it but I used to think that I’ll never fully forgive or forget.  However if I want to thrive and triumph I need to find the path to do both those things.  In order to put the hurt and pain behind me and free myself for potential prosperity, I need to accept and embrace those experiences.  They helped make me who I am today and even if they were unfair, biased and not based on any professional lack on my part.  None of that matters.  I had given so much of myself to that job that it tore my heart out when I was fired.  Intellectually I understand that it was driven by personality issues between “he who must be obeyed” and me.  In my heart I just feel hurt and betrayed, like a little kid left out of the game.  The only way I can truly lose in this situation is if I let it keep me down.  Screw that!  I won’t let anyone else do that to me and I won’t do it to myself either.

Tarot of the Crone 5 of Swords Tarot of the Crone 2 of Cups

The pile of crystal point on the 5 of Swords reminds me of a kids’ TV game show that used to feature 3 adolescents competing in various physical activities.  The final event was scaling something called the Agrocrag (or Megacrag depending on which variation).  This image reminds me of that Agrocrag – a pile of geometric shapes that needed to be approached with caution.  The tip of this pile of crystals point directly at me.  It suggests I need to be pierced or have something punctured.  It reminds me of a spear point.

I think what needs to be pierced is my retreat into a world of the mind.  I don’t actually live here most of the time but it is a well-honed and well-used defense mechanism.  Intellectualization and rationalization are two of my most effective mechanism for avoiding actually doing stuff.  I can think of loads of reasons why something shouldn’t work or why I shouldn’t bother to try something new.  It’s a brilliant method of staying stuck in a rut.  If I want to take a more active role in my life then I need to get the hell out of that rut and puncture that fear of failure, ego-driven approach to life.

The reversed 2 of Cups seems to be a heart cracked open and pouring love down on me.  I am surrounded by it and awash in it.  I get such a gentle, warm and nurturing energy from this card (I think the coloring of Ellen’s Cups in this deck makes it one of my favorite versions of the suit).  It reminds me of a prayer I learned in Catholic elementary school about the “most sacred heart of Jesus”.  It included the line “take it and place it in your open, broken heart” (or at least that’s how I heard it).  At the time the imagery creeped me out (it was right up there with the line “if I should die before I wake” in another prayer), but looking at this image I feel as though that open broken heart is not damaged at all simply loving and giving.  It is healing me and allowing me to grow stronger as a result.

I have always considered myself an extrovert but today I took an online Myers-Briggs Personality test and the results were ISFP.  To say I was surprised to see that I scored higher (although not by much) on the introvert scale was something of a surprise.  Then I read the description and it did click.  Especially this paragraph “This personality trait is connected with ISFPs’ love of freedom – ISFPs are very independent and fiercely resist all forms of control. People with this personality type are the ultimate “free souls”, seeing nearly all rules, guidelines and traditions as self-imposed limitations that make life dull and boring. ISFPs live completely in the present, refusing to dwell on the past or prepare extensive plans for the future – they take things as they come, experimenting and adapting their behavior as necessary.”

I love this description so of course I’ll embrace and accept it (I have the same reaction to any and all descriptions I’ve ever read of my Leo sun sign).  Reality is that depending upon my mood when I take these tests and how I chose to interpret the questions I have received different answers in the past.  I’ve always viewed myself as an extroverted introvert.  I do believe I’m more introverted but I have a well developed extroverted side.  As a result I tend to avoid “touchy-feely” stuff, at least I used to be this way.  Recent developments in my life have forced me to become more fully acquainted with my nurturing, caregiver side – my inner Queens of Cups and Pentacles if you will.  I fully embrace and embody my Queens of Wands and Swords but those Cups – ewwww!!!  The Queen of Pentacles and I have always been on a cordial, friendly footing even if we’re not always on a first name basis.  The Queen of Cups – oh please I’d rather have root canal than enter her realm.

Even as a child reading Greek mythology I was more drawn to Persephone, Athena and Artemis.  I avoided Aphrodite and Demeter – mothering and sexuality, NOOOOO!!!  I wanted to be a Valkyrie not a mermaid.  Now I’m a Work At-Home Caregiver (a WAHC if you will) and have learned that patience, kindness and nurturing are the order of the day.  Becoming overly excited or trying to be logical and intellectual in this situation is a waste of time and effort and a surefire path to frustration.  So now that I’m learning to be less judgmental and harsh with others maybe I can learn to be less judgmental and harsh with myself.  By Freya’s necklace!!  Is is possible I’m a deep diver pretending to be a noisy, shallow stream?  Or maybe I’m both depending on day, mood and situation.  What a conundrum!!  I am complex!

If I want to take a more active role in my own life I need to stop hiding behind crystalline walls of logic and intellect.  I need to topple that pile of crystal points and allow the love, tenderness and caring pouring from the 2 of Cups rain down on me and gently wash away those fears and doubts.  It’s time to turn things inside out and stop seeking the answers in books.  I need to trust my heart, find other loving, caring people to help support me and accept support from me.  I need to love those that come to me for answers and offer them compassion and kindness blended with some logic and reality.  It’s about balance – both aspects have their benefits and it’s time to allow them to blend into a marvelous, beautiful and healing whole.

Dark Goddess Hag of Earth

The Hag of Earth reversed – this is the second time this week I’ve drawn her staring, pitiless gaze.  Today she speaks to me of secrets hidden and denied over the years.  Familial secrets, community secrets, those deep, dark secrets that impact everyone even they are unaware of its existence.  It makes me think of tales told in my community about neighbors whom “everyone knew” were living in dangerous circumstances (abusive husbands being the most prevalent) and yet no one did anything.  I often believe that the tellers feel guilty about not helping in any way and tell the tale in an effort to make it seem less serious.  At the same time the guilt leaves a scar on the person’s psyche and on the community’s psyche.  The Hag of Earth observes these actions or lack thereof and records them on our souls.  She does not judge or shame, simply watches with her pitiless, blank eyes.

The Cailleach, old woman of the mountains who drops stones from her skirt to build them.  Her blue skin and red hair combined with having only one eye in the center of her forehead give her a strange, frightful appearance.  She seems to move lightly across the mountainous peaks, her stone-filled apron no real burden to her.  She is the crone of winter, cold and darkness.  Although she often uses those stones to make the mountains higher, I think in this instance she is removing some of the boulders for me.  She is clearing the way to help me move forward on my healing journey.

The Hag of Earth tells me that my tale is recorded in the very stones of the earth.  I can choose to ignore it but that will not make it go away.  Denial is not the way to heal from this situation.  The Cailleach on the 8 of Earth reminds me that the stones must be moved in order for me to progress.  She can help take them away but I must decide to move ahead once the way is clear.  She Who Watches sees the scars on my psyche, even if I try to deny or ameliorate their impact.  The Cailleach can help me remove the boulders upon which these scars are inscribed but I need to ask for her help and actually do the work once she had cleared them.

That scares me – I’ve had these scars for so long I’m not sure I can let them go.  They are part of me and yet they aren’t.  They are the me I am now.  If those scars had never formed who knows who I might have become?  Maybe removing those scars, healing those wounds, will allow me to find out the answer to that question.  These darkly divine ladies offer the terrifying vision of hope.  Hope and the possibility of healing can be frightening and overwhelming, especially to somehow who has abandoned all hope.  I think these two tough ladies are showing me that I can heal – it might not be easy but it can happen if I’m willing to do the work.

Dark Goddess Hag of Fire Dark Goddess 5 of Air

So my guides for today are the loa of the cemetery and a barbed woman.  That doesn’t sound especially helpful or hopeful, at least not initially.  Upon further reflection (and if this deck does nothing else it encourages further and further reflection) it occurred to me that these powerful, somewhat frightening figures of the darkly divine feminine offer interesting insights.

The Hag of Fire, Maman Brigitte sits upon a headstone with a rooster at her feet.  She stares at a flame that dances above her skeletal finger.  She is reversed today suggesting that whatever issue she is addressing is within me, possibly something from my past.  Considering the other messages and issues I’ve gotten from other readings from this deck, I’m guessing it’s a combination of the two; a revisiting of childhood issues that have not been resolved.  I get the sense that I need to dig up this grave upon which Maman Brigitte perches.  I need to strip away the burial shroud and reveal the bones of the issue.

When I first read Harionago means “barbed woman” I thought it appropriate and even chuckled a bit.  After all even on my best day that term could be used to describe me.  I also can appreciate a woman who stings men who laugh at her (then again I’m a Medea aficionado too).  In fact I have a feeling that to some who knew me as a teen, I might very well have embodied Harionago.  I was sharp tongued and very quick to sting anyone who insulted or hurt me in any way.  I was an open nerve sensitive to the least little insult.  Unfortunately the victims of these stings were often not truly the cause of this sensitivity and defensiveness.

Looking at these two figures in combination it struck me that what I need to get to the bottom of, to bare the bones of, is not only what happened to me but what I did to others as a result of this abuse.  There are people I hurt while trying to deal with what was going on in my life.  I think sometimes what I find it difficult to accept is what I did to others.  I understand that what was done to me was not my fault and there was nothing I could do to influence, control or stop it.  However I hate that because my head was so screwed up and my priorities so out of whack, I damaged others.  That’s the sore spot that has never healed.

So moving forward I need to look at how I can make amends.  Some of the issues are stupid “kid stuff” and n many cases I have apologized but I’m not sure how sincere I was or if I fully understood the potential harm I caused these folks.  It’s all well and good to say I’m not really responsible because my psyche was damaged and didn’t appreciate the pain it inflicted on others; the victim became a bully in some ways.  That’s all well and good but it’s also a bit self-serving.  If that is what is bothering me then I need to find the way to heal the situation so I can live with myself.  I don’t want to be a barbed woman anymore.  I want to be able to face the skeletons in my past and feel that I’ve done my best to put them to rest.

Dark Goddess 9 of AirDark Goddess Hag of Earth

I was reading an interesting article about the Black Madonna in the book The Moonlit Path in which the author describes how tube worms living over thermal vents in the deep ocean transform the toxic emissions into energy.  He compares this to how the Dark Madonna can force us to transform the toxins in our own lives into something useful and beneficial.  This made me wonder about the toxins in my life that I haven’t transformed yet.  Toxins that are still festering inside me and poisoning all they touch.

Then I looked at the two cards I drew from the Dark Goddess Tarot.  The 9 of Air shows a Banshee, an Irish spirit that wails in warning at the impending death of a loved one.  She is a fearsome figure who cannot be bargained with because she does not cause the loss, she simply mourns it.  As I looked at this image it struck me that she was that part of my spirit that wails and mourns the childhood innocence I lost.  She is the piece of my soul that has not recovered from the loss of trust and faith that childhood abuse caused me.  In fact I don’t think I even realized that was the case until I looked at this card and pondered her message.  She is stripped bare, a mere wraith with no visible signs of femininity.  Yet she is powerful; a harbinger of loss and sorrow whose message cannot be denied.  Her message to me is shrouded in mist but becoming clearer.

Hag of Earth shows She Who Watches, a reddish stone face carved into a pile of rocks.  At first I didn’t understand her message, her blank staring eyes didn’t connect with anything for me.  Then I considered it further and her very lack of expressions spoke to me.  She is the one who observed and recorded the abuse and chaos I suffered as a child.  She is the one who watched and validated what was done to me.  She reminds me that none of this was in my imagination.  None of it was my fault.  I was a child deserving of protection, love and support.  Nothing I did brought any of this on me and nothing I did could have stopped it.  She could not take me in her arms and comfort me but she did record it for me.

Considering this powerful message made me cry.  I have long thought that I left this behind me but obviously I did not.  I may have moved on but I haven’t healed.  There is still much I need to release from my past in order to restore a sense of wholeness to myself.  I don’t need validation or recognition from anyone else and even if I got that it would change nothing.  These dark ladies have ripped open the wound and caused the blood to flow afresh.  Now it’s up to me to allow the poisons to drain away and bandage it up once the toxins are gone.

Ghosts & Spirits 6 of Cups Ghosts & Spirits 9 of Cups

What lovely cards to receive today!  Upon drawing them I thought “Don’t let memories of the past get in the way of enjoying the present”  This is especially appropriate for me at this time of year.  Christmas has always been a rough time for me.  As a child, Christmas often proved to be a stressful family holiday filled with fighting and bitterness.  As an adult I carried the memories of those negative past holidays and they tainted the present.  Then over the years I lost family and friends (many much too soon) and the holidays just reminded me of who was no longer with us anymore.  It tends to put me in a nasty funk.  Even decorating the house or putting up a tree made me cranky and tearful.

Over the years I’ve gotten a bit better about this but  not much.  Very often by the day after Christmas I want to tear down all the decorations and put away the tree, leaving no memories of the holiday to linger.  Each yet I get more put off by the ridiculous and often dangerous antics of people seeking amazing discounts on Black Friday.  The fact that so many people have no problem curtailing their Thanksgiving festivities to go shopping says a lot about our consumer culture and our familial relationships (at least that’s my opinion).

These two cards, one with an pale eerie ghost and the other with a soaring, kindly spirit, offer insight into some of my issues.  The ghosts of Christmases Past lingers in the air like a stale cigar.  Its vaporous influences may not be seen but they are felt.  Their pale, ectoplasmic fingers wrap themselves around my heart and won’t give way.  The only way to break free of these influences is to be aware of them and fight them.  Instead of focusing on the sadness of missing loved ones I can focus on the fun and joy they gave when they lived.  In some ways I suppose I dishonor their memories by letting them become a source of bitterness, sadness and unhappiness.

The North Wind can help me clear away all those cobwebs filled with sadness and sorrow and help me fill those spaces with light and laughter and joy.  If I don’t allow myself to make newer, happier memories then how can I stave off the sadness?  What happy memories will I have in the future?  In truth, remembering only the sad or painful memories just deepens those wounds.  If I want to heal I need to release them to time and replace them with  joy-filled, laughter-filled new experiences that can be a bulwark against their ghostly pull.

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