We've all experienced it: feeling like we're trying to run up a huge dune, the sand pooling around our feet as we struggle upward. The harder we run, the deeper we dig. So on we go, lungs burning, legs aching. We feel like we have no choice but to push on.
But we often do have a choice. We can stop and look around, and decide whether or not the best route forward is up this enormous pile of sand. Maybe we really aren't going in the right direction; maybe it would be easier to go around. And maybe plowing upward through the sand is just what we need to be doing, because that struggle is trying to teach us something.
A lot of the time we hope someone else will make this decision for us. But no one else really knows the best way forwards for us—it's ultimately up to us to decide what's worth the struggle, and what's not.
FYI: I am new to the Tarot, and I don't pretend to have any competence at it. For me, reading tarot has proven to be a very effective tool for self-examination. I don't read for divination, and I don't read very often. I usually do a spread when I'm stuck and need insight. I spend a lot of time with the cards, meditating on my quandary, and then I work to make sense of the message.
I haven't written in this blog since early March. Life gets in the way, and my goal to write weekly is not one that proved realistic. But that's OK, and the bloggers I know that stick with it seem to be the ones that give themselves the space to let life disrupt things when necessary.
This Spring I helped my Mom move out of her condo into a retirement community. It was one of those life passages that we all hope will go well, and we were very fortunate that it went well for her. I think a big part of my Mom's success in life is that she's a person who can follow her instincts, and her instincts told her it was the right time to make this move. I've always admired her ability to barrel forward even if the way isn't exactly clear or smooth. She learned early how to be a survivor; but more than just survive, she has created a rich and rewarding life for herself.
If you've been reading this blog, you know that we're in the process of looking for land to build on. I had approached someone last year about the possibility of buying some land that was not officially for sale. I knew this was an uncertain proposition, and frankly the situation had a lot of old baggage attached. (Red flag, I know...) But the potential payoff seemed worth the difficulties, so I barreled on. The Ten of Pentacles is often read as bringing abundance and wealth, but it also represents family, tradition, and one's position in a hierarchy.
A few days ago my scheme fell apart. I was pretty devastated as I had put a lot of mental and physical energy into the situation. (Yeah, I know...) But what I at first thought of as a failure, a roadblock in my quest, instead turned into a powerful insight into an old pattern—a pattern that I thought had been supporting me but was in fact one that was holding me back. I saw, vividly, my place in a situation as I had never seen it before. The Ace of Pentacles reveals the seed inside the great Redwood, the foundation of our self-worth.
The thing about pattern-breaking is that liberation can bring about a renewed strength of purpose. Whether it's a physical move, or an insight into a behavior or relationship, freeing ourselves from these arrangements makes space for new ideas, new goals, new ways to relate to people. We don't have to discard the past entirely, but we can help make it less of an intruder in our present.
In the Wild Unknown Tarot deck that I use, the Seven of Swords shows a wary fox guarding her thoughts, or her truth. The lesson I have been presented with is that I must trust my own instincts and strengths, and be wary of attempts by others to derail me. At the same time, I won't let the situation make me deceitful or untrustworthy. In fact, I feel much stronger in my convictions to deal honestly and openly in my encounters with others. My self-respect is stronger than ever.
The final card in yesterday's reading is one of my favorites, and one I really love seeing in a spread: The Emperor. The Emperor is associated with Aries, my Sun sign in the zodiacal tradition. The Emperor was very welcome when he showed up in this reading, because I was feeling very discouraged and questioning whether or not I was going in the right direction. The Emperor is represented in this deck as a mighty tree growing from the Earth, reaching towards the clarity and energy of the Sun.
The Emperor in Jungian thought represents the animus, or male collective unconsciousness in a female; also, the inner father figure. In traditional Tarot, he can also be literally read as the male ruler: shall he be rigid, scheming, and autocratic—a tyrant—or shall he be wise, just, and forthright? I interpreted this card as reinforcing the message of the Ace of Pentacles and the Seven of Swords: that I should move forward with purpose and self-knowledge, dealing honestly and respectfully with others.
We spend a lot of our lives avoiding difficult situations and decisions—it's a natural impulse to avoid pain. But we also can miss a lot of what's important in life with this avoidance: the opportunities for new viewpoints, for new insights, for accomplishments and adventures. I'm glad that my Mom shows me how to barrel ahead, to embrace the struggle, even when it's not clear what we'll get out of it. It might, actually, be pretty marvelous.