Just take the freakin’ compliment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Vision Tarot - 7 of Wands

Have you ever done a burlesque act? You know what I mean, done a song and dance number to hide the truth about yourself from someone else? It’s probably a defense mechanism you’ve developed to protect yourself after feeling hurt of victimized at various points in your life. I do it all the time. I joke about the pain and difficult experiences I’ve gone through to deflect questions I’m uncomfortable answering. I don my “tough broad” armor to repel any attempts to breach my defenses and get to the heart of me.

I realize this can be counter-productive simply because it’s creates situations in which I’m isolated and feel abandoned but that’s my own doing. I create self-fulfilling prophecies in which I don’t let people in because I’m afraid to trust them but then when I need them no one is there because I pushed them away. In my script, however, I’ve been “abandoned”. It’s screwy and I own it but I’m also taking steps to change this pattern. Quite frankly I didn’t even realize how often I do this until I was reading several blog posts by Sheila O’Malley about this tendency in the Dean Winchester character on Supernatural. As I was reading her analysis something clicked in my brain and I realized how often I do exactly the same thing. I think Dean and I might both be like Charles Durning’s character in Best Little Whorehouse in Texas – dancing my little side step.

Druidcraft 7 of Wands

This can be diverting and a very useful survival tool for brief periods of time. Over the long haul it can eventually create more problems than it solves. As I mentioned, when you are constantly burlesquing people don’t know when to take you seriously. They aren’t sure what is a true issue versus a humorous skit. I’ve done this myself, I make my pain into a comedy routine so people are never sure how serious the pain is. Hell, sometimes neither am I. Don’t misunderstand, I’ll never completely give up the burlesque act because it also serves as a filter – people who are repelled by the burlesque act probably aren’t folks I want to incorporate into my life anyway. Those that are willing to stick around will eventually see the more serious me. In fact they may quickly grow to regret that. Either way the point is that there isn’t anything wrong with putting on a burlesque act. I think it can be healthy and a powerful survival tool. It only becomes problematic when you can’t stop the act; you can’t allow anyone beyond those defenses. It might seem safer but I imagine it’s a lot lonelier too.

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.

Mansions of the Moon Tarot Moon

Mansions of the Moon Tarot

Mansions of the Moon Tarot
ZADOK (dahogue@nctc.net)
Self-Published

The Book says: The three-faced goddess Hecate and her associations with the Moon. The Moon stands for the collective unconscious.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: Here again is an image of a guardian and a guide, but also a sentinel and protector. Hecate is the guardian of the crossroads. She may not tell you which crossroads to take but she may be willing to help you illuminate your options. The presence of Cerberus is both ominous and reassuring. He is a frightening sight to behold and yet one of his tasks is to prevent those who are not ready from entering the Underworld. Perhaps he serves the same function here. If we are not ready to face certain truths that will be revealed during this journey, Cerberus will chase us away from them. Just as Hecate will aid us in our journey – not by being sympathetic and allowing us to turn in fear, but by forcing us to face the truths we avoid and helping us learn how to handle them. She is not a warm and fuzzy type goddess but she can be benevolent and healing.

This card reminds me that sometimes we need to work in the dark, turning over rocks and facing whatever lies beneath. Hiding from the truth doesn’t change it or make it go away, it weakens us. Hecate’s torch can help illuminate some of those shadows and make the unknown just a little less fearsome. To me this card is about looking with the dark center of our heart and facing it. It’s time to do away with self-delusions and the fantasies to which we cling. Now is our opportunity to look that darkness in the face and see what is revealed. Only by going deep within ourselves can we find the truth about who we are.

Exploring behind the mask

The other day I got a writing prompt from Psyche’s Call that asked me to consider what hides behind my mask. Of course I would deny I have a mask – I like to claim that I’m as deep and mysterious as a babbling brook. Of course that’s bullshit. We all have masks we hide behind and roles we assume according to environment. At the same time I clearly have a bit of resistance to seeing mine so I decided to ask the Tarot.

Transformational 9 of Wands

I used Arnell Ando’s amazing Transformation Tarot (one of my favorites for this type of work) and asked “What hides behind my mask?” I drew the 9 of Wands. In a traditional RWS based Tarot deck this image would show someone pausing for a moment of respite after having survived a clearly exhausting experience. This figure on this card is more contemplative and less worn out. There is a serenity and calmness to this card that I initially did not understand. Looking at it for a few more minutes finally gave me and insight. What lies behind my mask is someone who does have depth, who does love considering the interconnectedness of things. If you only know me on a superficial level or fall for the burlesque show I often put on in public venues, you might miss this. It’s an aspect of myself I closely guard and only share with trusted friends.

That made me wonder why I feel the need to maintain this burlesque act, to wear this mask. As with most masks, it’s a protective device. In childhood I learned that being a “thinker of deep thoughts” is not conducive to a peaceful childhood. I got teased a lot (in face sometimes I still do). I had friends who used to mock me for using “dollar words” rather that speaking the common tongue. I was proud of my knowledge and intelligence (maybe vain and arrogant could apply as well) and used as many “big words” as I could. To reduce the teasing I became aggressive. If perceived mockery or bullying, I struck back quickly. This often created additional problems that I preferred to avoid. So I learned to become more of a joker, a verbal fan dancer. I distracted others from my more sensitive, contemplative side by acting like a somewhat outrageous, opinionated, and over the top character. That character is a part of who I am but it’s not all that I am, not by a long shot.

A friend recently commented that she has learned to accept that she is different from the majority and her definition of success might be very different from theirs. I am the same way. I realized a long time ago that I don’t need to find fulfillment from my job. I have many other avenues for personal satisfaction and spiritual fulfillment. What I need from a job is that it not be overly stressful, time consuming or aggravating. I need a job that doesn’t take away from my true vocation and spiritual path. It may be that they will dovetail nicely someday but if they don’t I’m okay with that because I have become comfortable with who I am as well as the masks I wear. This is not the only one but it’s the only one I’ll share right now.

Blue Rose Devil

Blue Rose Devil

Blue Rose Tarot
Created by Paula Gibby
Published by Soul Guidance

The Book says: Yes, we create our own Devils. We, ourselves. Without any help from anyone else. We can do this trick with no hands. All we have to do is experience a willingness, no matter how fleeting, to give up. To abdicate responsibility. To refrain from thinking. That desire to offer up those gifts that are our most magical and filled with light (our Inner Power and Free Will) creates the vacuum for the Darkness to come in. An invited guest that, once firmly and comfortably ensconced, is very difficult to oust. These days we call it “selling your Soul to the Devil”. And nothing could be more true. Many a rational mind will repel from such a notion. The idea that we each create our own personal Devils or Dark Spaces, is an unattractive idea. It is far more comforting to entertain the notion that Darkness/Evil/The Devil exists as a separate Entity that wreaks havoc upon innocent travelers who have the misfortune to fall victim to him or his followers. But as much as we may like this to be so, it is not. This does not mean that we cannot fall victim to the Darkness of another being, another traveler who has forfeited himself to his darker nature. We certainly can. However, no matter what we may suffer at the hands of another Fool’s “Devil”, it is nothing compared to what we suffer when we succumb to a Devil of our own making. In the first case, we can lose much. We can lose life, limb, a loved one, our sexual innocence, our property. We can lose little or we can lose much. But what we do not lose is ourselves. We do not lose our own Souls. We know this because spiritual “forward progress” can still be made. The Journey may become more difficult or the path may divert into a harsh terrain not previously envisioned or anticipated, but the Soul can continue forward. If it wants to. And that is the key. For even if you think you have observed an innocent Soul succumb to the ultimate Darkness because of the pain or evil inflicted by the Devil of a fellow traveler, this is not the case. Think again. For what has in actuality occurred is that, as a result of that victimization, the innocent Soul experiences a loss, translating to an emptiness, translating to a fear, translating to a need of such proportions that he now creates his own Devil.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card is one of attraction that seduces and imprisons, losing yourself in the false enchantment and false promises of an illusion. The masked man is the dream lover who seduces us from reality and promises a happily ever after that will never arrive.  He is the male counterpart to the Spider Woman we saw in last week’s Transformational Tarot Devil.   It is a trap into which we fall.

The image of this Devil reminds me of Charles Boyer in Gaslight – a seductive, sociopathic husband who tries to drive his wife insane. This is the abusive lover who undermines our self-esteem and cuts us off from our friends so we are isolated, vulnerable and dependent upon him. It is the parent who cuts away at our sense of self-worth and confidence so that we feel unable to break away and create our own life. This Devil is everyone in our lives who is supposed to love and nurture us but who undermines us and creates a sense of helplessness and dependence.

The key to liberating ourselves is realizing that we allow ourselves to remain in this trap. We accept the false illusion and give up our power. We allow ourselves to become or to remain weak, convincing ourselves that we will be happier this way. Anyone who has ever given up their dream to maintain the status quo or who has forced themselves to conform when they have wanted to rebel has been trapped by this Devil.

What is important to remember that we can climb that fence, break down that barrier and reclaim our power if we so desire. We have all seen or heard of amazing stories about people who have overcome amazing obstacles to achieve happiness in their lives. One example who always stayed with me is Liz Murray, the young woman whose parents were drug abusers, one (or possibly both) died of AIDS, she and her sister were homeless and yet she still managed to stay in school, get good grades and get accepted to Harvard. What a tribute to the human spirit and our ability to overcome anything.

For every abused child who becomes a child abuser there are hundreds who do not fall into this trap. For every child raised in poverty who becomes a life-long welfare recipient, there are hundreds who manage to get decent jobs and live productive lives. So while poverty and hardship are indeed major obstacles, they are only permanent traps if we allow them to become so.  It is our choice.  In the words of Sarah Connor in The Terminator movies “no fate but what we make”.  We can only remain imprisoned if we allow it.

Transformational Tarot Devil

Transformational Devil

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

The Book says: Passion at it’s most primal level. Erotica and sensual pleasure. A tendency towards mischievousness. Obsession, temptation, blind impulse. Feeling out of control. Dependence upon another that can lead to misery. Self-destructive tendencies. Ignoring one’s inborn code of ethics. Lack of Balance. It may indicate an inability to trust. The seeker may be experiencing limitation in a current situation which narrow the perception of options. On the other hand this card can imply an attempt to break the chains of psychological bondage. Separation, divorce. It could also indicate pleasure in the subjugation of others: sadomasochistic tendencies.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This is the Spider Woman, the dark lady who lures you into her web and traps you before you even realize what has happened. She seduces, entices, attracts and repels. Her confidence and aura of self-control and power is a powerful bait. She is the Black Lady of whom Cher sings (“Black Lady sang and danced and lit the candles one by one”) She is attractive and soulless. able to capture you in her web and suck all your energy, all your life force. She is the eternal vampire who takes and never gives. As Billy Joel sang “she’s so fascinating that you stand there waiting while she comes in for the kill”. If she doesn’t direct the demon’s actions then at a minimum she approves and possibly enjoys them.

She could just as easily be male. Think of the lonely hearts con man – a sociopathic charmer who can smile as he empties the bank account. This Devil is the dominatrix who teaches you to beg for her abuse; the addiction which holds you in its thrall; or the lack of self-esteem that keeps you captive in a lousy situation. But the key to overcoming this Devil is being willing to say “Stop”. We only become her victims if that is what we want. If we are finally able to wake up and see how we have become trapped then we have the potential to break free. It may no be easy or fun but it can be done. But first you have to take the initiative

Wheel of Change Devil

Wheel of Change Devil

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

The Book Says: When the Devil is a part of your reading; you are in the midst of an intense situation. Perhaps you are experiencing (possibly in excess) the pleasures and pains of living, in yourself or in those around you. Possibly, when you draw the Devil, the situation calls for more emotional engagement. Maybe it is a time to examine your attachments and learn the lesson of moderation. Look around you and really see the part you play in the natural world.

TarotBroad’s Buzz: This card explores the wildness and untamed energy of The Devil. This is the god of the wild woods who invites us to come dancing beneath the brilliant moon. His wicked grin promises fun and merriment, freeing yourself from the strictures imposed by society and everyday life. His drum will transport you to another place and time; a world free from the expectations of others and daily responsibilities. But be warned because once you have “danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight” you will never be the same. It may become easy to walk away from life’s burdens and lose yourself in his wild dance.

Think of Dionysus’ Maenads and their divine madness. They would lose themselves in the worship of the god and attack any who invaded their revels – be it son, husband, father or lover. For this god of the wild wood is a demanding and possessive god. He can take over your life and you can lose your will in his celebrations. He can liberate your spirit or enslave your soul. He is one of the guardians of the mysteries of drunkenness and madness. It is in his honor that rebels and pioneers in the 60s explored mind-altering, psychotropic drugs and how they affected their perceptions of the world. But we must be cautious of crossing that point of no return and losing ourselves in the heart of madness. This Devil is our guide to the brink of self-revelation and freedom, but if we are not careful we can become prisoners of his revels.

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