So my need to be nurturing, supportive and clear-headed is challenged by my sharp tongue – ah the joy!
Okay so I’m being facetious. In reality I am well aware that my wicked tongue, sharp wits and occasional tendency to (as my mother once said) use the truth as a weapon can undermine my desire to be helpful and nurturing. If nothing else, I am usually honest with myself about my traits. Sometimes I make light of them but I’m always aware that sometimes I unintentionally hurt others with them.
I think the reversed aspect of the Queen of Swords is a reminder that I not only have to be clear-headed and calm with others but I need to be that way with myself too. It’s been a rough few weeks (with a lot of sleep deprivation) and on occasion I’ve been very critical and harsh with myself. Reality is that I’m doing the best I can. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a bit more empathetic and calm but I don’t need to be overly critical of myself either.
The Ace of Swords is also suggesting that I look from some new ideas, new ways of dealing with this situation. That would be a more beneficial use of my sharp wits than being vicious and nasty because I’m frustrated. I need to communicate with those that can help and try to improve matters. I suppose it’s time to use my powers for good instead of bitching.
Happy family versus juggling – ah the joy. This makes total sense today. The Secret Forest 10 of Pentacles shows a tree limb full of branches that has 3 large pieces of fruit hanging from one branch. They represent the new growth from the ancient tree; the future that is built upon the past. In my life right now I am the one tending this tree. I may not be the new growth anymore but I’m the one who cares for the memories, prunes the branches and gives the tree food and water. I’m the one who remembers when the new growth appeared and feel rotting to the ground.
Right now I’m bearing this weight and trying to balance it with my own life and interests. I haven’t quite achieved that yet. My stuff is supplemental, secondary. A few weeks ago Joanna Powell Colbert wrote about having to slow down to be on a dying friend’s time and that describes how I feel too. I’m not on my own schedule, I’m on my mother-in-law’s. No matter how much I try to rush things I am brought up short by her. She is on her own schedule, in her own time and no matter how much I try to rush things or speed them along I can’t. I need to slow myself to her pace; to stop thinking I can control this situation or make it meet my standards. It just doesn’t work and ends up frustrating all of us.
I think my challenge in this situation is to find other ways of creating balance and regaining some equilibrium in my life. I don’t want to lose myself. I’m the only one who can stop that from happening.
This two cards create an interesting message when combined. The Dancer of Money the Material World visually reminds us that sometimes work is as relentless and repetitious as pushing a boulder up a hill. That is a fairly accurate description of the work in which I’m engaged right now – caring for an elderly mom-in-law. There is little recognition or glory in the work. In fact sometimes there is little satisfaction in it either. It simply is what it is. It has to be done and so I do it. Day after day follows a similar pattern and there is no clear end in sight. In fact even thinking about the end is sad because it probably means death.
The Tarot of the Secret Forest 2 of Swords shows a somber image – a shadowy figure standing near the edge of a cliff with a tree in the background. I cannot tell if this figure is actually a rock or perhaps a person. My first reaction was that this was a knight whose arm was lost in a war and now he is trying to make his way back; to find purpose and balance in his life. Looking again I saw a hooded figure standing at a cliff’s edge holding a drum or shield in one hand, a sword slung across his back and a spear in his other hand. He seems armed for battle but is also hampered by all the weapons he bears. Somehow that rings true for me right now, especially in conjunction with the Dancer of Money. I am hampered, one arm is tied behind my back, handicapped in this situation. It reminds me that no matter how much I want to believe I’m in control, it’s an illusion. There are many factors the impact my daily life over which I have no control.
For some reason rather than saddening or depressing me, this message is liberating. Sometimes believing everything is within your control also creates the mindset that if I just figure out the pattern I can fix everything. That’s bull!! It’s a lie we feed ourselves or get fed via numerous self-help gurus and books. Don’t misunderstand me – there are a number of factors in my life which I control. However there are just as many which are outside my control. I have no control over my mother-in-law’s progressing senility or dementia or whatever the hell this is. I have no control over the fact that the rest of her family has chosen to abandon her when she needs them most. All I have control over is how I choose to deal with this. And I choose to be here for her and try to make this as bearable for all of us as I can. I’m not a martyr (gods forbid) and I don’t feel especially noble (especially when I’m ranting like a madwoman about something that frustrates me). What I am is someone from a long line of women who took caring for ailing family members as a matter of course.
Eventually I know this leg of my journey in this life will end or take a turn onto a different road. I have no idea when that might happen but I am sure that I will be able to face whatever challenges and joys await me on that road too. Although this road has become so familiar that sometimes I don’t see what is right in front of me, there are moments of clarity and beauty that allow me to appreciate and embrace them; to store them as a defense against the tougher times.
As The Eagles once sang “take it easy, take it easy, don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy”. That’s what I thought of seeing this card today. The Dance of Life’s 4 of Health shows someone wrapped in a red shroud standing alone in a desolate, barren, lunar-looking landscape. Barbed wire separates us from this figure. the keyword for this card is “emotional burdens”. The is a sense of isolation and despair about this figure. She is cut off from everyone who might be able to help her. Is this by choice? What experiences have caused her to imprison herself in such a way?
I don’t know about this shrouded figure, but I know in my cast it’s a combination of things. On the one hand are concrete family issues that cannot be changed at this time. I am the primary caregiver for an ailing mother-in-law. By definition, that isolates. My life revolves around her needs and her timetable. I cannot make definite plans because they may change at a moments notice due to a family crisis. In many ways it’s like having young children except she will never improve or get better. This is basically a death watch and all I can do is make sure she’s well-taken care of, comfortable and aware that she is loved for the time remaining to her. It may be years (she’s in very good physical condition) or months but that’s out of my control.
On another level this card is also referring to the self-imposed isolation I’ve managed to create. I have friends and loved ones out there but I hesitate to reach out to them. They all have their own problems and I don’t want to burden them with mine. It’s not about being a ‘rugged individualist”, it’s about the fact that they’ve all got their own issues to handle. Aside from that, there is also the fact that when I’m dealing with weight/health issues I sometimes feel anti-social. It’s not that I don’t want to be around others, simply that I feel as though I shouldn’t subject other to my grotesque appearance. (Okay, in the interest of full disclosure I must admit I don’t think I’m grotesque – fat maybe but not grotesque). It’s as though I just don’t want to talk about my issues anymore so I prefer to just avoid people and then I don’t have to think about them.
The image on the Witches’ 4 of Swords is different than the traditional one associated with this card. Instead we see a woman standing near a brick wall (perhaps the side of a castle) with 3 swords resting against the wall, a 4th in her right hand and a bunch of twigs in her left. Her expression is rather odd, as though she’s been caught doing something she should be doing. Has she collected these swords after a battle and now she is honoring the fallen? Did she gather them from fallen foes to gloat over the victory? Or perhaps she’s stolen them so that the soldiers are forced to take it easy and relax for a day. I’m not sure but to me this card is reminding me that I need to pace myself. I do need to plan and prioritize and get my head screwed on right but that doesn’t mean I can’t take some time to relax and have fun too.
Because finances are very tight right now, I’ve been limiting my visits with friends to a bare minimum. I keep running a cost/benefit analysis in my head and if it seems that a get-together will be too expensive, then I cry off. However I also need to consider the benefits to my spirit and emotions. Humans are social animals, even though of us with occasional introvert streaks. I do need to see friends. Companionship and emotional support needs to be as important as finances. So I’ll need to find a way to keep those connections open even if I can’t be in the same room with the person.
My card of the day is the 10 of Engines/Wands reversed. As soon as I saw this card the song ‘The Weight” popped into my head, especially the line “take a load of Annie”. That’s how I feel right now – as though I’m taking off a load. It’s not so much that things have changed in my life as that I’m trying to handle them in ways that won’t create more of a burden for me. I do feel rather like the survivors portrayed on the Steampunk 10 of Engines – the wreckage is all around me and I can’t do anything to change that. What I can change is how I deal with that wreckage. I can spend all my time focusing on what has been lost and mourning what will never be, or I can move forward and rebuild. I can rise up from the wreckage and create something new from the remains.
I think I’ve done all the mourning and gnashing of teeth I care to do. Enough is enough! I can feel sorry for myself and rage against the gods that this is my life. In fact I’ve done quite a bit of that. I can cry and become depressed because this isn’t how I saw my life turning out but I’ve done enough of that too. In fact I’m tired of doing both these things because they are ceasing to have any benefit (or maybe they never did and I’m finally accepting that fact). I want to pick up the pieces and move ahead. I want to focus on positive things and let go of the negative.
There are so many things in my life that I want to do – things relating to creating a career as a professional Tarot reader, my spiritual beliefs, my health and even reading some books I’ve had on the pile for some time. Instead I’ve been sulking, throwing tantrums and feeling sorry for myself. All of those things were fine as long as they were part of the process. Now they’re becoming the burden that is retarding the process. It’s causing me to become stunted and distorts my new reality. I’ve born this weight for a long time. Although I can’t release all of it right now, I can certainly release the parts that aren’t helping me and that I can release. I’m not walking away from my responsibilities. What I’m doing is shouldering them more comfortably and figuring out how to make them a bit less burdensome. It’s not about dropping the burden as much as it is about changing how I handle it.
Wow, this response shook me a bit. I have so often identified myself with the Queen of Swords that I’ve assumed she always will be. However this reading makes me wonder. As I look at the Queen of Swords from the Bohemian Gothic I am reminded of an exercise we did at a past BATS (Bay Area Tarot Symposium). Ellen Lorenzi-Prince did a workshop focusing on fears and this Queen of Swords was my guardian who protected me from these inner (or maybe outer) demons. So needless to say, I was not thrilled by pulling this card in response to my query.
However after talking to some friends and pondering this matter further, I realized I will always be a Queen of Swords. The Queen of Swords and Queen of Wands are two energies with which I am most comfortable. In fact I revel in those energies. However what she may be trying to tell me is that as I move forward her energies will not be as prominent. That is true when one considers that in the last 4 years I’ve transitioned from being a manager in a non-profit organization to the caretaker of an ailing, elderly mother-in-law. She is quite useful in dealing with government contracts or employees but not so helpful when dealing with a frightened and scared dependant whose ability to understand what is happening is severely impaired.
The Wheel of Fortune reversed appearing alongside the Queen of Swords suggests that some major internal changes are exerting their influences in my life. Moving forward it may be that that Queen of Swords energies will become more subtle and less dominant as other energies, ones more beneficial and useful in this situation, begin to exert themselves. I’m not sure exactly where this will take me but it should be interesting.
Today I drew the ogan/ogham card Duir/Dair. This card is often associated with the oak tree, strength, endurance and stability. After reviewing the various meanings associated with this fid, I came up with the question shown above.
So many of the books I referenced for additional insights into this card and its meaning offered interpretations about stress, distractions, minor crises and being challenged to adapt and grow. None of these feel right. I’m sure they’re all valid and useful at different times but in this situation and this question, they don’t offer much help or insight.
I’ll be honest, when I saw this card appear in response to my question, I wept. It was a chest-wracking, deep sobbing not some “tears running gently down my cheeks” type of cry. I wanted to throw myself on the floor or bed and just give in to it – this horrible, painful sobbing. Instead I waited until it passed and tried to calm myself down.
I asked myself this question because right now I have become the primary caregiver to an 82 year old mother-in-law who is in the early to mid stages of senility (it’s not Alzheimer’s but that’s little consolation) and a 55 year old deaf and retarded brother-in-law. We have tried seeking assistance from various government agencies but the reality is that the mother-in-law is not on Medicaid and so not eligible for any home care services (and we can’t afford to pay for it privately) The brother-in-law is eligible but has not been under a doctor’s care (until 5 years ago my mother-in-law was his primary caregiver) and without a doctor’s approval, no services will touch him. I have come to realize that even if we can get home care services for the brother-in-law it only solves half the problem. That person would not provide any assistance to the mother-in-law and so I would need to be here anyway. It is mind-numbing, relentless and thankless and yet I have to find the way to handle it. The only other solution would involve some type of institutionalization for one or both of them. If that happens, I have no doubt that the separation would destroy them. As heartless as I may sometimes sound (or even present myself to be), I can’t do that to them. And so I’m left trying to deal with this in the best way that I can while my hubby returns to work so we can afford to live.
The 5 of Wands appearing in response to this question tells me that my fighting spirit, my contentious nature is what will enable me to deal with this. I’m too damn stubborn to let myself be defeated. I make no pretence to nobility or sainthood. There are times when I resent every minute of what I’m doing and wish it would end. Then there are times when my heart breaks for both of them and I realize it’s not their fault. Neither of them would choose to live this way if given the option. For that matter who would?
This card had a very significant meaning for me today in light of some of my lightning bolt moment/epiphany a few days ago. Several years ago while attending one of Rachel Pollack’s amazing Tarot get-togethers/classes in NYC I pulled this card in answer to a question about how I behave in relationships. It was eye-opening for me because it visually encapsulates how I often feel – defensive and fighting off all comers. There have been times when I’ve described myself in almost mythical terms – as the valkyrie Brunnhilde who was put under in an enchanted sleep by Odin and surrounded by a protective ring of fire so that only a worthy man could make it through and reach her. If the man was willing to take those chances then he was a worth match and mate for Brunnhilde. In my words I have often joked that I could only be with a man who could take a punch because I’m well aware of my proclivity for defensiveness.
Over the last few days I have had some amazing insights into some of my issues. I’ve come to realize that so many things I believed were issues need to be looked at from a new perspective. The 7 of Wands reversed is a reminder that I can let some of my defenses down. Now that I can see some of the patterns that have woven themselves through my life, I don’t need to be so quick to attack. I can be selective and cautious about who I let get close to me but I can let people get close.
Perhaps now all the energy that I’ve used to maintain my protective defenses can be unleash into more creative endeavors. Once I am able to put that staff down, who knows what I can accomplish. Considering how effective I’ve been up to this point at defending and protecting myself, I have to feel that I’ve got a good chance at manifesting my creative energies into something positive and transforming. I’ve been successful at facing adversity and managing to triumph so hopefully I can now channel that energy in a way that will spark my creative juices and allow me move in a more healing and beneficial path.
I realize I’m sort of babbling a bit here. I’m still riding on the high I experienced from my “a-ha” moment and I haven’t quite come down yet. I just know that this revelation is the key to major changes in my life as well as to healing and allowing myself to move forward and focus on my passions and being creative rather than feeling defensive. I can expand rather than contract and that feels amazing. I can forge the future I want and stop worrying about someone or something dangerous breaching my defenses.
When I first drew this card I wasn’t sure what it was telling me. I toyed with the traditional meanings involving nightmares, inner demons, etc. but none felt right. Then at some point during the day when I was doing something else a thought flashed in my brain – the piercing light of hope. That was this card was reminding me – that even in the darkest, most frightening times of our lives there is a piercing ray of hope which lights a path through the darkness and allows us to continue moving forward.
Looking at the image on Arnell Ando’s Transformational 9 of Swords I can see it represented by the sword-like object held in the man’s hand which seems poised above the blindfolded maiden’s throat. On Joanna Powell Colbert’s Gaian 9 of Air I can see it in the eyes of the wise face that is hovering above the seemingly frightened woman. In both cases these objects offer a sense that hope is near if we are able to open our eyes and face the reality around us. In some ways it reminds me of a mini Tower experience. It is perhaps not so earth-shattering but still offers insight and illumination.
Lately I have been feeling as though my life has been one long 9 of Swords experience. Things have seemed rather hopeless and depressing. On some occasions I have mourned the loss of my life. Due to circumstances beyond my control, my full-time job has become caring for my elderly mother-in-law and disabled brother-in-law. On the one hand I am glad that I am able to do this for them – putting them in a facility would be extremely detrimental to both of them. However it is relentlessly exhausting and has no end in sight. There are days when getting up is a huge chore. All of this is certainly reflected in the 9 of Swords.
However what I sometimes lose sight of is that piercing ray of hope – family and friends who do offer support and help when possible. Unfortunately some of the people who perhaps should have stepped up to help have not but we do have family and friends who are there for us.
What I have come to realize is that if I allow myself to focus on the situation it depresses my spirit and causes a sense of gloom and oppression. Focusing on those piercing rays of hope and light allow me to see there is help available and that the darkness is not permanent or irrevocable. It might not be an easy process but as long as I keep moving forward and don’t let myself get sucked into that sense of darkness and hopelessness, I can make it through. Perhaps we all need to spend more time focusing on those rays of hope and light in our lives. It may not diminish the fact that there is darkness and gloom around us but it can lessen its impact on our spirits.
Looking at the two images on these cards I was struck by the idea that no one cares, no one is watching out for me or seeking to help me. The female figure on the Deviant Moon card (described as a fallen woman in the LWB) is straggling through the streets in search of succor and it seems she can find it at the church. However that one big eye peering out at her is unnerving and seems to be watching her struggles and judging her. So the question becomes – will she be allowed into the sanctuary of the church or condemned for her lifestyle and turned away? There is often help available but when we ask for it we are asked a series of questions and judged as to our worthiness to receive aid. It is discouraging and demoralizing to go through this process and be denied. How many people in the US right now are in need of assistance but cannot receive it because they don’t meet the criteria?
On the Dark Grimoire 5 of Pentacles, a lone man sites in an alley watching cloaked and hooded figures parade by him. At his side is a bottle – could it be alcohol? He has the appearance of a man haunted by his dreams or perhaps his nightmares. Are these hooded figures searching for him? Perhaps he was expected to participate in these rites but his fears and conscience would not let him. Or perhaps this is the first time he has been made aware of this group and their practices – could they hold the answers he seeks? Although there is something vaguely repellant and frightening about these figures, it does not necessarily follow that they are evil. Or maybe he is just trying to convince himself of this because he so desperately wants what they seem to offer. How often have we ignored our better judgment, not listened to our inner voice because it was telling us not to do something which we truly desired. In retrospect we often come to regret our impulsiveness and wish we had heeded our inner wisdom but it is often too little too late.
Combined these cards present a portrait of a lonely figure who is seeking answers, the way, assistance or simply shelter from the cold. Sometimes we are afraid to ask for the aid we need, other times we do ask and are denied or judged wanting and do not meet the standards imposed by those providing the aid. Looking at them reinforces my sense of being alone and helpless in an uncaring universe. However I refuse to dwell on these feelings. There are people who care and who will help if they can. Unfortunately bureaucracies are often useless in times like this (for example, how is FEMA’s arranging loans for flood victims to have lost everything actually helpful?) but where bureaucracies fail, human kindness and generosity often makes up for the lack. Maybe that is what I need to see today – there is assistance out there but I need to seek it from individuals and small good Samaritan organizations rather than NPOs and government agencies. There is often assistance, succor and support available if we look in the right places.