#TarotDaily – Temperance Rx + 5 of Discs Rx (#AllHallows)

What do you need to grieve? How might you give yourself the permission you need to do so?

I need to grieve the lack of balance in my life; the loss of freedom and the ability to pursue my interests. There is little equilibrium between obligation and desire; between what I must do and what I want to do. It’s still difficult for me to accept. I know I’m doing the right thing but it’s certainly not my preferred thing.

I just need to move forward and reconnect with people the best way I can. I know I’m on the outside of the flow but that’s not so unusual. So, I need to find different ways to accept support and friendship; to keep connected to others. Facebook would probably be one easy solution but I despise FB so much, that isn’t really an option. I do have the telephone, email, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and MeWe, but none of these are the same as spending time with friends and loved ones but it’s better than nothing.

I know what will help me grieve and move forward. The challenge now us actually doing it.

The Menendez Brothers – what motivated them to kill their parents?

 

Like a lot of folks my age, I remember the media frenzy that was the Menendez brothers’ trial. I remember how the media swarmed when it was revealed that police suspected the brothers killed their parents motivated by greed and selfishness. I remember how I snickered along with most reporters, pundits, and comedians when the brothers’ claims of abuse were revealed. I remember watching as the Menendez brothers’ tears and breakdowns on the witness stand were mocked and mimicked *ad nauseum*. It became impossible to separate out the facts of the case from the media circus and mockery that surrounded it. Few people had any sympathy for these two privileged, rich boys who slaughtered their parents because they wanted money and freedom. The brothers were convicted. The media would periodically revisit the case near an anniversary and if there was a slow news day but that was it. Another media circus would pull into town to draw their attention and feed our relentless need for distraction and amusement.

The Menendez murders recently came back into mainstream attention due to the ABC documentary *”Truth and Lies: The Menendez Brothers — American Sons, American Murderers”*. While re-watching the media footage of Lyle Menendez on the stand as he broke down while admitting that not only had he been molested by their father but that he had molested his brother, my opinion about this case changed. Along with most people at the time, I refused to even consider that the brothers had been molested. I viewed it as an attempt to justify their actions and garner sympathy. I was unaware there was corroborating evidence supporting their claims of sexual abuse by their father. Even if I had been aware of it at the time, the odds are the I would have ignored it. With the passage of time and maturity on my part, I was more open to hearing facts of the case I’d previously ignored. In September, NBC will run a program entitled Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders. I have no idea what its focus will be but based on the ads, the trial will feature prominently.

Watching the documentary made me reconsider my beliefs about the Menendez brothers’ motivation for murdering their parents. The reality is that in most of the cases with which I’m familiar, abuse played a starring role for the child’s actions. I’m not taking a stance on whether such actions are justifiable, simply interested in trying to gain some insight into what pushed these brothers over the edge and led to the murders.

Using the Dark Days Tarot, I drew three cards to acquire some insight into this situation and pulled the 3 of Cups (tilted left – which subtle impacts the cards meaning in this deck), 2 of Swords and 4 of Cups. I studied these cards for a while because I am not familiar with this deck and began to realize that despite the celebrating that appears to be going on in the 3 of Cups, its leftward tilt makes me feel that things were not as they seemed. There was no celebration and joy inside this family, it was an act put on for observers. I don’t know any more about Joe and Kitty Menendez than was revealed on the ABC documentary. It certainly made the father out to be a driven, successful, Type A personality who had a history of infidelity. The mother, Kitty, is portrayed as either complicit in her husband’s abuse of the boys or deliberately obtuse. I’ve often thought this might explain why the brothers killed their mother as well as their father. If the father abused the brothers and the mother did nothing to protect them, their rage towards her must have been just as consuming.

While I make no claims to having gained much additional insight into the Menendez brothers decision, this reading does seem to at least reinforce my belief in their claims there was sexual and emotional abuse in this family. While it might not excuse murdering their parents, it does make more sense than simple greed. I realize greed is a major motivation for many murders but killing one’s parents takes things up a notch. Even the most abused child will often cling to the abusive parent. For the Menendez brothers to be driven to take such dramatic action, I have to believe more than greed was involved. Of course, your mileage may vary and others may draw very different interpretations from these cards but this is my interpretation and I’m sticking with it.

I wasn’t raised to be a girl, I was raised to be a broad

I’m being deliberately provocative with the title of this blog post. I am a female and, as such, I was a girl when I was younger. However, I was not raised to think of myself as “just a girl”. I decided to write this post after reading an article a woman wrote about gender expectations and American Gods. This got me to thinking, pondering if you will. Why have I never felt the weight of gender expectations? In fact, I clearly remember a very vehement argument I once had with a former friend about sexism and gender in the workplace. It’s entirely possible that I have been denied promotions or suffered a lower salary because I am female, but if that’s the case I was as oblivious to it as I was to the Stations of the Cross in my childhood church. I simply plowed forward and did my job. If my behaviors upset or offended supervisors because I didn’t act in a typically female way, I either addressed it head on, was oblivious to it, or ignored it.

I have never been told that I could not achieve something because I’m “a girl”. I was never discouraged from trying or accomplishing something because “girls don’t do that”. Sure my parents tried to civilize me and teach me to behave but they also encouraged me to be independent and strong-willed. They regularly gave me the “would you (fill in the blank) just because everyone else does?” speech. I was never encouraged to downplay my intelligence because boys don’t like smart girls. I was never told I was too aggressive for a girl and should tone it down (in fact my father preferred to teach me the correct way to throw a punch). When boys touched me in ways I did not want, I punched them or kicked them in the balls. My nickname as an adolescent was “the Nutcracker”. At the same time, I accepted that if I was going to hit others I might get hit back. I couldn’t use the “I’m a girl” excuse. I was fine with this. Looking back, I was truly blessed to have two parents who never, ever fell victim to gender roles and stereotypes – at least not when it came to me. I remember one Easter my grandmother bought my sister and me matching outfits – they were royal blue pantsuits (think polyester button-down shirts and pants) with T-shirts that proclaimed “Anything boys can do, girls can do better” and a graphic of a girl in a baseball outfit getting ready to swing her bat. We LOVED those shirts and proudly wore them every chance we got. In fact, that saying became our unofficial motto throughout childhood.

I was also influenced by Greco-Roman and Norse mythology as a child. I identified with Athena, the wise virgin who owed nothing to a man (okay, I’m oversimplifying because that’s what I believed as a child). I loved Freya who was the leader of the Valkyries and free to sleep with whom she chose, even if they were dwarves. It wasn’t just independent female goddesses that appealed to me – they had to have a fierceness to them, a martial aspect as well. I loved goddesses who bowed down to no man or god. As I grew older and learned about Irish goddesses I felt a strong connection to many of them too. Once again, fierce feminine figures who were not bound to a male.

Looking back, I am also a product of my generation. I grew up in the 70s and clearly remember the hoopla that following the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. I remember how excited I was when Charlie’s Angels premiered! Yes, in retrospect it was a T&A show but as a young girl, all I saw were these tough, independent women who took on bad guys every week and triumphed. I was a fan of both Wonder Woman with Lynda Carter, Isis, and Electra Woman & Dyna Girl. I read Wonder Woman and Supergirl comic books. I remember being vaguely disappointed when the ERA was defeated. I didn’t fully understand what it was or why I wanted it but I knew that its failure was not a good thing for me. I remember having an epiphany during a religious class in Catholic high school when our teacher while conducting a cakes & wine ritual, informed us that ancient frescoes showed that women administered the sacraments in the early Christian church. I was floored! It never occurred to me that women could serve as priests. I often think that this was the pivotal moment that ultimately led me to pursue Paganism.

So, it occurs to me that if we don’t want to raise our daughters to be “just girls” we need to reinforce that message. We need to support them when they show interest in traditionally “ungirly” things or behave in non-girly ways. We also need to let them know that if they choose to pursue traditionally feminine pursuits, that is wonderful too. It’s so easy to denigrate traditional feminine pursuits, interests, and behaviors but that’s just as damaging as only allowing them to pursue these things. Some girls want to be fairy princesses and some want to be G.I. Joe. Some want to play with dolls and some want to play with toy guns. Some will do both and all of that is great and should be encouraged. For that matter, we should use the same approach with boys. I guess the important thing is to focus on what the child wants and needs and make sure to nurture and support them. Sounds easy and yet somehow we make it so complicated.

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.

When we carry shame that is not our burden to bear

Okay, deep, dark revelations time – my childhood was pretty dark much of the time. I know I’ve alluded to some things and outright stated others but to say it was a clusterfuck would be an understatement. My family was poor – I mean Mom sold blood for money poor. My parents were underage when I was born (16 & 17) and by the time they were 22 there were four kids. My father was an immature ass and bully for most of his life – at least as far as his family was concerned. We put the “fun” in dysfunctional. Only it really wasn’t funny.

I was battered and bruised physically, emotionally, psychologically and sexually. For many years I believed that this was my fault; that I had done something or said something to bring this on me. Even most of my friends had no idea what went on in my house because who the hell wants to be the freak at that age. All I wanted to do was fit in and believe me that was already difficult enough without all of that shit being exposed. As a result of these experiences, I engaged in some very risky behaviors. I drank a lot! In fact, while in high school I had a few incidences of black out drunks and can’t remember anything. I was smart enough or scared enough not to try drugs more serious than the occasional joint but I took enough risks and chances to ensure that I could have easily become a statistic.

My parents had no clue how to handle me. Even my father, who was quick to beat the crap out of me should he feel the need, didn’t know how to stop me from going in the local bar. One night, after learning that I had been hanging out in the bar (I was about 15 at the time), he brought me back down to “prove” to me why it wasn’t safe. When we walked in my father was greeted by a number of patrons (including some who were rather criminal). When they learned I was his daughter they assured him they’d keep an eye out for me. So, I pointed out to my father that I was probably safer in that bar than anywhere else in the neighborhood. The fact that he accepted my statement and started playing darts rather than outing my true age to the bartender gives you a good idea how clueless he was as a parent.

Why am I bringing all this up? Simple, because one of the epiphanies I had at the 2016 Readers’ Studio is the fact that I was carrying the shame and guilt for events that were not mine to carry. I did nothing wrong. I was blameless in what was done to me. I was a child, powerless and defenseless. Even admitting that now is giving me palpitations. I preferred to take the blame on myself because it gave me the illusion of having some control, some power in this situation. What a load of crap! I was a child. I should have been protected by my parents not needed protection from them. Even as I write this I can feel rage flood through me at how bruised and beaten that poor little girl was. It took me a long time to realize that I was still that bruised, beaten, traumatized little girl.

Those experiences made me feel weak and made me determined never to feel that defenseless and weak again. Instead, I became aggressive – each offense resulted in a physical response. That often mean I got into fist fights with boys I knew. I eventually acquired the nickname “The Nutcracker” because I did not appreciate being groped by adolescent males. Believe me, taking punches from those boys was nowhere near as painful as taking them from my father. I probably would have continued down this path of aggressive, self-destructive behavior and binge drinking but I met my husband. I realize how amazingly lucky I was in meeting the hubby. I was 16 at the time and he was 24. He could have easily controlled and abused me – I was already primed for that kind of relationship. Instead, he defended me, protected me and made me question some of my more self-destructive behaviors. He encouraged me to do things for me not because of the expectations of others.

So here I am at 50 (facing 51) and I’ve finally been able to accept that none of that was my fault (well okay the binge drinking and aggressiveness but I’m giving myself a break because I had poorly developed coping skills). I don’t need to bear any of the shame or blame for those situations. I did not ask to be abused or molested. There was nothing inherently “wrong” with me that drew these types of people to me. Who knows, maybe my light was so bright that they felt jealous and had to dim it, tarnish it in some way. I cannot understand their motivations and no longer care. All I know is that I have shed myself of the blame and shame I carried for years. I feel lighter and more hopeful. I’m a survivor; I’m strong and resilient and I won’t let those experiences define or defeat me anymore.

Death’s Handmaiden

 

As some of you out there may know, I spent the last 5 years caring for my elderly, dementia-ridden mother-in-law. I lived with her 24/7 and took care of all her needs. Although not a fun experience by any means, I will say that I learned a lot. Most of it I was unable to process until after she had passed, in fact I’m still processing. One thing I did learn is how to appreciate death. I realize this may sound a bit out there but the truth is that there comes a time when death is a blessing and this was definitely one of them.

In life, my mother-in-law was a fiercely independent and self-sufficient woman. She detested asking for assistance and would have despised what her illness did to her. Towards the end she was unable to recognize any of us (although she did still occasionally respond to my hubby’s voice); she had no control over her movements or bodily functions and no awareness of what went on around her. It was horrible to watch as she deteriorated over time and be unable to do anything about it. In her final days her doctor came for a home visit and told us that he felt she didn’t have much time left – days to months at the most. Ironically she died within two days. At the time we were arranging for in-home hospice care for her. We joked that she found the idea of strangers in her home so repugnant that she decided it was time to move on.

After she died she laid in her bed for several hours before the funeral parlor folks were able to pick her up. Although no funeral services were planned, we did want her to be cremated. The hospice agency sent a nurse so that time of death could be declared (it was actually 4:30 although legally the time was recorded as 6:30). The nurse also change my mom-in-law and cleaned her up. Now this is where things got strange for me. I am one of those people that has always refused to touch a dead body – visions of corpses sitting up and trying to grab me have always filled my mind, blame it on too many zombie flicks. Even when my father died I could not bring myself to touch his corpse. With my mother-in-law it was a very different experience.

Perhaps because I had tended her daily for the past few years (there was literally no part of her body I hadn’t seen), I was able to stroke her head and help prepare her for the funeral hearse. I helped the nurse change her and clean her. Before the nurse arrived I found myself entering her bedroom numerous times just to say goodbye and reassure her that her son, my deaf, mute & retarded brother-in-law, would be fine. There was something soothing about this ritual. It made me understand why having a loved one waked in the home makes more sense than a funeral parlor. Doing this for her made me feel like a priestess.

This experience also taught me not to fear death. Although dying can be traumatic, especially to those left behind, it is a natural part of life. If there is no death then there is no room left for new growth. Death can also be a blessing in disguise. I am often reminded of the classic Star Trek Season 3 episode The Mark of Gideon. The basic plot is that Kirk is beamed down to a fake Enterprise where he meets Odona. It turns out her planet is suffering from overpopulation and in an effort to control it Odona hopes to become infected by a disease Kirk carries but to which he is now immune. To these people, death has become a promise of relief, a surcease. For some people who suffer from a long-term debilitating illnesses or dementia, death but start to become a welcome experience.

What I have learned is that even if I have times when death seems cruel and capricious, there are also times when it is a boon signalling an end to suffering. Yes, it is a journey to the unknown but I now believe there comes a time in our lives when what is known is no longer tolerable and it is our choice to embrace this transition. Instead of fearing death and putting off the inevitable, we should speak to our loved ones and make our wishes known should certain situations arise. We should have the right to consciously decide if and when we chose to make this transition and the only reliable way to make our wishes known is through legal documents. These conversations may be painful but knowing how my mother-in-law felt about such matters make caring for her final days much more bearable.