Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Lovers and The 2016 Election

November 20, 2016: The Lovers by Mary Allen   

My card of the month in this 2016 election month was the Lovers.  Right before I picked it, about a week before the election, the image of Donald Trump passed across my mind and when the card I turned over turned out to be the Lovers, I thought that was a good sign, a sign that my candidate, Hillary Clinton, was going to win the election.   Having that card on my mantle in the days leading up to the election made me optimistic—I pictured myself being happy and relieved on the night of November 8—and I kept thinking that the only possible interpretation of that card had to do with me loving what she stands for, my values, my democracy.  I even thought of that card when it started to look like Trump was going to win the election, I kept thinking that there was still some hope because, after all, I picked the Lovers.

We all know how that story turned out.  So now I’m trying to figure out what, on a deeper level, the Lovers could have been talking about.  Of course, there’s always the possibility it could be talking about something in my own personal life instead of the public arena.  And there’s also the possibility it could be talking about… nothing, that is, as we sometimes say when the cards don’t seem to be talking to us at any given moment or we hate what we think they’re saying, Oh well, it’s just a deck of cards.  But I don’t think so.  There’s nothing in my personal life right now that’s even close to being as compelling to me as what’s going on in America and if there was ever a time the cards were going to talk to me, I think, this would be it.  So how I can interpret the Lovers in this moment?

To me, this is a huge moment in history, much bigger than what we usually think of as politics.  Probably opportunity as well as danger, as the Chinese symbol for crisis tells us.   So maybe the Lovers is about the opportunity this crisis represents.  Maybe what’s really happening here, on a larger spiritual plane, is that this current crisis in our public lives in America—it is a crisis, I don’t care what anyone thinks, we have a guy who insists there’s no global warming becoming the head of the EPA, white supremacists being appointed to key positions where they can make decisions and influence the whole country—but maybe all that is somehow bringing us to the opposite of what it looks like now.  Maybe on a deeper level this is what we need in order to truly become the Lovers, with the king and queen finally getting married, with women getting equal power with men, with everyone, white, black, brown, gay, trans, anything, becoming included in the cosmic love, becoming equal members of the couple with everyone else. 

It doesn’t look like that’s happening right now.  In fact, it looks like just the opposite is happening.  It looks like instead of being a time for the Lovers it’s a time for Haters.  The Haters are in ascendency.  (Stephen Bannon, about to move into the White House as Donald Trump’s right hand man, has actually said he celebrates hate, and DT himself got where he did by playing on his supporters’ fear and hate.) But maybe this will be a kind of healing crisis, where even though we don’t know it we’re getting what we need, where we’re getting real, bringing the poison to the surface, seeing what happens if we ignore the poison or coast along without worrying about it.  Maybe we’re getting motivated to go deeper, fight harder, to get to where we need to go, so that everyone can get behind being the Lovers instead of the Haters. 

December 14, 2016: A Short Note from Tania Pryputniewicz 

Mary and I decided to shift our Tarot Card of the Month writing lens to write about current events this month. We spoke for a moment, our usual, “Hello, love you, talk to you on the other side of writing,”  and hung up to write. And don’t you know I didn’t--couldn't yet face--writing a thing about the election.  I know I’m not alone, as a writer, in terms of having this stunned response to the results.

I loved what Mary wrote so much and I feel blessed to have her words during this month in which I lost mine. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Taking Stock at Tarot for Two: Five Years of Tarot Card-of-the-Month Writing

October 28, 2016: Tania Pryputniewicz’s Five Year Card-of-the-Month Retrospective

What a blessing to hear Mary’s sleepy little voice all the way in Iowa! She is drinking the rest of yesterday’s tea and I am here with my thrice-heated coffee and whipping cream ready to celebrate five years of our Tarot Card of the Month practice. We decided to take stock—neither of us realizing we were at the five-year mark—but just instinctually coming up for air with our process to see if we want to shift our focus in some way. We asked, which cards have we gotten and written to over the years? Might we want to narrow our engagement, for example, with just a pool of Majors? People cards?

I set aside this morning after kid drop-off to sit at my computer and go through my entries. But the universe played a joke on me, or maybe it was the Tarot herself, and the power clicked off in the house just as I sat down. I forgot about the scheduled power outage—Power Company note magneted to the fridge, drifting as magneted fliers do to the bottom beneath The Space Night poster along with the template for clipping Box Tops for Fifth grade, the notice about the Rummage Sale and the photo of me and and a dear mom friend at the taping of American Ninja Warrior in Los Angeles.

With black blank screen staring up at me, powerless, I reached up on my shelf, past the Eiffel Tower postcard and one of Mary’s early author photo possibilities and moved aside the adjoined postal stamps of Electra and Ironman flying in a tiny red frame that I gave my husband for Valentine’s Day. Behind it sits the red “Tarot with Mary” folder so used and worn that its seam has long since broken apart. The folder halves act as flimsy, frayed bookends for a two-inch stack of looseleaf Tarot pages.

I have to pour through the handwritten entries individually to make my list, some entries undated. How could I not date certain entries? I must have been in a rush to lift the grief out of my skin and onto the page, to relate it to the healing aura and colors of the card in question, knowing that Mary, on the other side of 25 minutes would listen to me read out loud, would laugh at the funny parts, would let out a sigh at the sad parts, wait for me to finish, and then repeat back to me her favorite phrases in my exact words. That she would then read me her writing and give me the respite of coming out of myself long enough to listen to her, her joys, her pains, and to take notes and capture the phrases of hers I fell in love with as she anchored her life and lived experience of hope to her card of the month.

Over the years, 21 times a Major fell, 7 times I drew people cards, 6 times I chose a wands card, and an equal number of times I drew cups and swords (5 times). As a Capricorn, just as I’d expect, of all the suits, disks fell the most (8 times). Only once the Ace fell, the Ace of Cups, my third entry, during a hard time in my marriage. It followed closely on the heels of the Ten of swords (during a period of trial separation). I remember thinking, what is that Ace saying to me? And yes, I had to learn to love myself, by myself again, in order for the marriage to thrive. Into that dark time came Mary’s voice and the birth of our ritual of card pulling and card writing, one of the most tangible practices I can think of for experiencing the kind of self-love the Ace of Cups promises.

All the way from that first Ten of swords to this month’s Star Card, I see that no cataloging of which cards fell can convey the blessing of shared inquiry with Mary. Our friendship, fertile and rich from the years we lived in Iowa City, picked up again after a ten-year quiet period. We began again to walk the heartland, just not geographically anymore. These days we walk the heartland of the spirit using the Tarot to lift us up. So many pages of writing and hours of phone calls later, I am overflowing with gratitude. I’m thinking of the Star card—with her mediator body of blue and lavendar holding up to sky one cup and spilling out of the other cup the watery starlight of her visions. With Mary I’ve been to heaven and hell and always returned to this body, this life, on the earth we share with renewed hope and strength to face the month until our next appointment with the Tarot.

October 28, 2016: Mary Allen’s 5 Year Card-of-the-Month Retrospective

We decided last time that this time we’d take a retrospective look at all of our cards of the month so far.   It seemed like a good idea; we’ve been doing this for a while.  Then we realized this morning that we’ve been doing this for almost exactly five years—we started on October 6, 2011—and it seemed like an even better idea.

So this morning I read through most of my card-of-the-month writing, beginning back in 2011.  I was sort of shocked to realize I was still with my former long-time partner (we were together for nine and a half years) when I picked that very first card (the Ace of Wands), then interested to see how I got the Five of Cups (disappointment) a couple of months later, on the morning of the very day I found out he was maybe with someone else, and how I got the Seven of Cups (debauch) a month later, after he and that woman had gotten together and he and I had broken up. 

It felt sort of good to look back and see how I used the cards and writing about the cards to search for meaning and healing in all that, how I moved through it and out the other end and then moved on to future cards and months.  It was interesting to see my life through the lens of the cards over the last five years, passing through two devastating losses, the loss of that partner being one, and through various phases of other relationships and with myself, of happiness and optimism or worry or misery, of my own healing or lack thereof.

Some months were more interesting than others:  the writing was better or the connection between the card and the month was clearer or what happened that month was more interesting.  The month I got the Prince of Wands (male figure in a chariot, sun rays all around his head, everything in shades of gold and red) and my friend JoAnn and I were on vacation in the desert and I had a near encounter on a hiking trail with a swarm of Africanized bees, just like the little black bees flying around Prince of Wands’ head.  

There was the month I got the Moon and my sister died—my second big loss during the five-year period, by far the more devastating one—and I wrote about her going to the other world and me traveling to the underworld of the flu and my own grief afterwards.  There was that month when both Tania and I picked the Death card and I decluttered my house, refinanced a bunch of debt, and found a dead rabbit beside my shed, and when my friend John’s father died. 

There was the time I got Lust in December, a card Angeles Arrien tells us has to do with luster, or radiance, then I went for a walk on a short cold day in the middle of a series of short gray almost lightless days, and the sun came out and every leaf and blade of grass and piece of mica in the sidewalk were glowing as if illuminated by a light from within.  The time I had the Ace of Wands and my fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and I lay awake for hours afterwards and decided to put my short pieces into a collection.

There were certain cards that came up more than once, some I never saw at all.  Overall I got 18 major arcana cards, 12 people cards (the Queen of Cups, the Princess of Cups, and the Princess of Wands came up over and over), 5 aces, and more cups than any other minor arcana.  I got the Sun once, the Star twice, the Chariot three times, the Hermit twice, the Devil a couple of times, and— just once— the Universe. 

I feel as if I should make some kind of final statement about all of this, but I find I can’t really think of anything to say.  What is there to say about life itself, the way it keeps going on, when even the big moments, the Universe, the Chariot, the Sun, the Star, just lead to other mostly smaller moments, to worries and disappointments, the seven of wands, the five of disks.  And then those pass too and we move on to something else. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Hermit, The Seven of Swords and Fortune’s Wheel

September 16, 2016: The Hermit by Mary Allen

I had a vision involving my card of the month this month.  Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out what to say about the card of the month because I’m not sure exactly where the card and the month intersect—I don’t really know what the card said about the month—but this month I don’t have that problem.  This month the problem I have is describing the vision.

Let’s start with the easy part:  The card was the Hermit, the ninth major Arcana card.  In the Thoth deck the Hermit is an abstract figure:  All you see that’s person-like is a hand and a head.  The rest of the card is full of symbols:  a large paper-hat-shaped crystal, a peacock-feather background, something that looks like an egg with a snake wrapped around it and something that looks like a sperm heading directly ward the center of the card; Cerberus, the three-headed dog guarding hell, down in the corner, one dog head looking back at the past or at whatever’s coming from behind, the other two looking forward. 

The face of the Hermit is featureless, turning to the side, and the hand is holding a diamond-shaped crystal lamp that contains a small glowing sun.  It’s that sun inside that little lamp, held by the hand in the rough center of the card, that seems to be the focal point of the card, and it was that lamp that I saw during the vision I had this month.

I had just been traveling around in the deep dark waters of my earliest childhood via EMDR (it stands for eye movement desensitization and reprocessing; it’s a kind of therapy that helps with symptoms of PTSD and other inner disturbances; I do it once a month with my friend who’s a therapist and once a month with my regular, paid therapist; on this day I was doing it with my friend).  There was deep trauma in my early childhood which is stored now in my unconscious, in the very bottom of the basement of my mental house, under some trap door that in regular life you could never get open.

It’s only through the agency and the miracle of EMDR that I can go there at all, how I got there on this day, how EMDR works, is too much to write about now.  What I want to say is that at the end of my time down there, when my session was almost over and it was time to start coming up from below, my friend suggested I might picture a container inside myself where I could store those painful feelings until I needed to take them out again.  Maybe a container with a lock on it, she said, using an image she’d learned in her therapy training, a good image that works to help many people. 

But in that moment it came to me that I didn’t want an interior container with a lock on it, I didn’t want or need to keep those feelings locked away, that was the problem I’d been having all along.  And a vision of something started forming in my mind—if mind is a word you can use to describe the vast airy mysterious world of consciousness that lives inside of us or that we live inside and that isn’t inside or outside of anything.   In that moment in that place I started seeing something, some image started forming vaguely inside me. 

It was familiar but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Some small vessel full of light.  Light that would illuminate the feelings I had just dredged up from the deepest darkest place inside me, the subbasement of the unconscious underneath a trap door.  A vessel that would hold the energy of those feelings, not keep them locked away somewhere but transform them, turn them into a glowing warmth inside me, starting somewhere around my solar plexus and spreading out, filling me with their light and healing.

It wasn’t until I was on my home that I realized that what I was seeing in that vision was the light in the lamp at the heart of the Hermit card.  And then I was stunned by the synchronicity of it—by the way that life collaborates with dreams and the unconscious and the tarot cards, maybe even the ordinary details of the everyday world itself, to talk to us about out deepest selves and about our healing, as if life has a mind and a consciousness of its own that’s just waiting for us to ask it a question.

September 16, 2016: The Seven of Swords and The Wheel of Fortune by Tania Pryputniewicz

Sometimes Mary and I pull Tarot cards we respond to negatively—so we select again. Why not? Even though I’m a Tarot seeker committed to equanimity, I get a wrinkle in the spiritual cape like anyone else when I get certain cards on certain days.

Which is what happened this month when I drew “Futility,” also known as the Seven of Swords in the Thoth deck. We see a central sword starting to fracture under impending tips of six other swords. But notice: the six sword tips are not actually touching or fully breaking the main sword. It is an apt metaphor for how imagined trouble creates fractures in mindset such as feelings of failure or hopelessness.

Not wanting to spend the entire month in a “Futility” narrowed state, I pulled The Wheel of Fortune as my back-up. I felt immediately cheered reading Angeles Arrien’s promise for this card that “expansion and abundance come with the willingness to change and keep things moving by taking risks and being open to new opportunities” (The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols, Arcus Publishing Company).

Still, I kept my Seven of Swords out of some kind of Tarot allegiance. And both cards spoke to me this month. It started when I got my latest Social Security statement detailing my life earnings. Or not detailing them—years of zeros stared up at me starting sixteen years back (when the first of my three children came along) with a few $500 to $1000 per year earnings sprinkled in there.

I know better than to reduce my worth as a person to my earnings, but I couldn’t help but do the math. The lifetime sum of money, which I started earning at the age of 16, averages out to earnings of just under $400 a month. I hamster-wheeled through my past, reviewing what seemed at first a futility of repeated tasks that have only slowly started to yield financial gain: years of journaling, editing, making art, blogging about writing and motherhood, teaching poetry, blogging, and Tarot writing online, in person, and at writing retreats, editing and publishing poetry, and making poetry movies--all in disparate sequences that prioritized my children, my marriage, and my mental health.

I’ve often felt frustrated trying to figure out how to earn more while keeping the family mobile as peacefully as possibly balanced. But something shifted me out of Seven of Swords angst and into The Wheel of Fortune this month, just as the cards suggested. In part due to the obvious—that I live a privileged life and have a partner lucky enough to persist in a career he loves and secure enough about his own views of parenting that he encouraged me to stay home with our children, and also due to conversations with other mothers. And a conversation with my brother. He listened to me vent on the one hand and then he listened to me talk passionately about the latest group of classes I’ve designed and he said, “You are a fabulous mother. And you are so much more than only a mother.”

All the at-home prioritization is a soul investment you can’t see mirrored in a Social Security statement—a document not set up to account for the cost of childcare for three children, the acting-as-a-taxi time, the doctor time, the food preparation and shopping, the emotional and psychological cost of supporting the wage earner…all those blessed and chosen hidden costs which are truly the cost of presence.

My poet friend said, “You take a pen to that Social Security statement: Next to all those so-called zeros, you write in what you were doing all those years! All those hours of time with your children! Make up your own Social Security statement. You’ve been investing in creating socially creative and responsible adults.”  

My shift from Seven of Swords thinking to Wheel of Fortune blessings might also be prompted in part by the Paragrams in my purse, those 1x2 inch cards you can get in a tiny envelope for free at the Self Realization Fellowship Garden just down the block from the Encinitas Meditation Garden with excerpts taken from the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda… which I keep right next to my little red Pocket Pema Chodron….

…which means when I’m sitting in my battered, dusty, blue van waiting for my son to race out of the house in time to catch the school bus--and out he comes with tennis shoes in one hand, back pack unzipped and listing last night’s math homework, bowl of oatmeal in the other hand, milk sloshing out across the van carpet as he slides in--I use those twenty second not to lay on the horn or yell, but to select a Paragram and read it. Or to open to Pema, to read how we are perpetual children ourselves, that all of us eternally long to fall back into our mother’s protective aura, perpetually not feeling “ready” to risk. Pema says we get stuck in wanting to wait to feel fully ready to risk (Awakening Loving-Kindness, Shambhala Pocket Classics).

But we’ll never be ready…so we just need to keep jumping into the fray.

There must be plenty of other mothers and stay-at-home fathers sharing this stymied mix of heart-centered joy/satisfaction of doing right by the kids and low self-esteem that gradually creeps in when we are not earning (or at least not earning as much as the primary wage-earner).

I can do my tiny part to change the culture of how we view stay-at-home moms and dads by changing how I treat myself: I can stop being cruel (goodbye Seven of Swords) about my long list of zeroes…stop seeing them as evidence of a Fool choosing not to earn…and see them instead as reminders of the repeated choice to stay within arm’s reach of my children during the years they needed me.

And I can welcome the Wheel of Fortune: the children blossoming in their independence. From under my son’s door, I hear the lovely strains of his guitar music. On my kitchen table, I see the intricate fern spiral designs taking form inside of my daughter’s Medusa drawing. And under my palm for a second before he’s off to shower, heat radiates up from the sweaty forehead of my youngest just back from skateboard practice.