Saturday, February 26, 2011
I can quite honestly say, with the exception of being out on my own and in an apartment (matter of time, and a short time at that), my life looks nearly exactly the way I dreamed it when I was 7. Well, okay, besides the apartment and the private island I lived on all alone. And the making my entire living being an author (actually, that one showed up when I was 8 or 9 and stuck to this day - but I was always just a little behind my peers in some ways), but the big dreams I had as a 7-year-old have been accomplished. I've traveled to see some of the places you hear about in fairytales. I've seen a real enchanted forest. I got to go on some of those super secret Canadian fishing trips that you had to be "old enough" to go on, but they talked about for the rest of the year. I learned to ride horses. Disney finally made a "Rapunzel" movie. I'm single. And I am entirely free of my parents' toxic marriage (and so are they, thank God). My battle cry has been "freedom" from the moment I could grasp the concept. Free of other people's schedules. Free of other people's ideas. Free of other people's rules. Free of other people's responsibilities. Free of other people's dysfunction. Free. Which is basically where the "my own island" concept came in. I would have been a Utopian, if I had enough faith in people even at 7 to believe it could work. But I knew I could control my own actions, and make my own peace, as long as there wasn't anyone else around.
Those who know me well might smile a little when I say my big dream when I was 7 was to just be left alone. I wanted that all the time. I wanted to read my books, write my stories, piece together my paper dolls, play with my My Little Ponies, and be left utterly and blissfully alone until dinner. I think my mother would say there's a lot of that left in me. I imagine there always will be.
I used to attack my life with absolute focus. Yes, even at 7, there was a Life Plan. I was absolutely, positively certain as long as I stuck to this plan, I would be happy and successful and, above all things, free.
It was a very simple plan, but I glommed onto it with the kind of focus one applies to a game of chess. As a chess player, I have a 3-game limit to my attention span, play my best when I have only 3 pieces left on the board, and, weakest of my weaknesses, I have difficulty shifting my plan when circumstances change. If I cannot execute my plan, my game completely falls apart. It works much the same in the macrocosm of my life.
My plan was:
1. Survive elementary, middle, and high school.
2. Attend college.
3. Move out of the house.
4. Become the happy person I know must be inside me somewhere.
Phase 1, of course, went fine. With the idea that college was going to somehow make everything magically better, including me, I managed to get through eleven more miserable years of school without making an attempt on my life. I was the Little Engine that Could. I was getting to that summit, and it was going to be all downhill from there.
Yeah... I think we can all see where this is going...
Like my chess plans, Phase 1 of my Life Plan was the only one I was able to execute the way I'd planned it. Oh, I went to college. I even went away to college, which accomplished Phase 3. I even enjoyed some of it, especially my last semester in Spain. But it was not the "magic wand" that turned the taciturn, depressed, awkwardly intense girl into a strong, sassy, social butterfly. Yes folks, something to tell your kids when they leave home: No matter where you go, you take yourself with you.
Not that they'll understand it. It's something you have to live to believe. You don't get to leave yourself behind when you enter a new phase of your life.
It took me all of six months at college to realize, to continue the journey, I was going to need real help. The professional kind. I also had to ditch my shopping list life plan, because no matter how many clubs I considered joining (I made 5 of what I'd have called "attempts" at the time, but what would be termed today as simply "showing up"), how many awkward attempts I made at making friends, or how many bags of Skittles and Jelly Bellys I washed down with about a thousand cans of 100% all calories included Coke, I did not magically become a happy, healthy, socially well-adjusted person.
Ten years of therapy, two long periods living outside the country, one particularly memorable four-month breakdown on my aunt's floor, five billion calories, and my parents' divorce later, I have managed to chisel a new me out of the old one. That is to say, as my grandfather (God rest his soul) used to say of all people, I did not change - I became more who I am. At 7, and 17, and even well into my 20s, I had no idea who that was. I knew all the parts of myself I didn't like: I was an overweight, mercurial, antisocial, stubborn procrastinator with the self-esteem of a limp dish rag and fewer actionable goals than a pet rock.
How was this sort of person supposed to be the kind of "free" I'd dreamed about?
The answer was as simple and complex as this: Freedom comes from within me. I wanted so badly to be free of my situation that I failed to notice that what really had me trapped were the ideas, expectations, and judgments I made of myself.
I spent several years looking at this "me" that I was and this "me" that I wanted to be, measuring them both against what I really thought, how I really felt, and what I really wanted. It's a never ending process - I'm finally old enough now that I actually understand what it means when people say you don't always want the same things you wanted years ago. When you're a teenager, you think that means some old fuddy-duddy grown up just gave up on their dreams. Didn't want it badly enough. Didn't work hard enough. You can't imagine a situation where what you want and need would change. These would be the same years when dating a whole month constitutes a long-term relationship.
It took a long time, but I finally figured out that, were I to meet the "me" I wanted to be on the street, I wouldn't like her. I also learned the "me" that I was wasn't so bad after all.
So, I am still a mercurial, antisocial, stubborn procrastinator who is much less overweight, vastly less depressed, with many actionable goals and a healthy self-esteem. Because I actually respect and honor that I am not a bubbly, carefree, social butterfly. I kind of like this darker, edgier me. She's a girl I could stand to have coffee with. I'd probably want to drown Miss Mary Sunshine within 5 minutes of meeting her. And to think, I wanted to be her!
The scope of my 7-year-old dreaming was not quite wide enough, and I'm grateful that my life hasn't gone to plan because it's allowed me to get a broader perspective on a lot of things. I've done much of what I wanted to do, and become much of what I wanted to be in my 7-year-old's dreams. But the fact that it wasn't a straight path has allowed me to not only pursue those dreams, but also develop new ones my 7-year-old imagination could not conceive.
I hope your journeys lead you in many new and surprising directions, that you love your beautiful selves just the way you are, and that the 7-year-old you who wanted a pony learns that she can have the whole ranch. And ride them, too.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
(((Is that crazy woman talking about her decks having personalities again? Funny, I think she might even use it as a subject for a future blog...)))
I say it's ironic I chose it (or it chose me or we mutually chose each other for the current Card a Day cycle) because like many of my nearest and dearest deck, it is not a particularly traditional deck. And here I was thinking I was going to start down the path of traditional study. I actually giggled when I chose the Six of Cups the other day and went to look it up in the guide book. (All decks have guide books. Mine collect dust, deepest apologies to those who write them. I know it is a lot of work. I simply haven't been interested in having the expert comment on my relationship with my decks. Until now.)
If McGinnis finds this, she'll get a little giggle right now, too. For those of you who don't know (and many do not know the New Star - it isn't exactly mass-market produced), the "guide book" that comes with the New Star deck... is actually... a journal.
Yep, much to my chagrin, inside the New Start Journal is really, truly, and exactly A JOURNAL. There are images. There are phrases. And then there is blank space. Every page in there describes the image upon the card in 3 sentences or less - and is just descriptive of the image itself. It doesn't tell me what to think about it, what others have thought about it, or any detail about the minute symbolism. It gives you a phrase, and then encourages you to put down your own thoughts.
Why, oh why, would the Divine want me to begin my faithful traditional Tarot study by choosing such a deck with such a guide book for the traditional Card a Day ritual? Heck, the New Star is even a bit Thoth-y - like my Tarot of Transformation, it has kept the original order of the Major Arcana (the Rider Waite swapped Justice & Strength). And I was really pretty sure I was heading down Waite road. I'm honestly not sure if I've dead-ended & need to U-Turn or if the Universe is trying to tell me that a little more off-roading is in order.
Or, maybe, the Universe is trying to remind me to have fun. Every time I think of cracking out my Astrology for Dummies or the Complete Idiot's Guide to Numerology, I cringe. I cringe! Why? Because I got about five chapters into Astrology for Dummies and three chapters into the Complete Idiot's Guide to Numerology and then re-read those same chapters, and re-read those same chapters, and realized I was so bored, that I physically could not absorb the information. Especially in Astrology for Dummies. I didn't think it was possible to suck the life out of a subject as charged as astrology is. I was wrong.
The Six of Cups in the New Star deck is tagged "Pleasure" at the bottom. I've always found it a difficult card to read (actually, many of the cards in the New Star show an image that seems to be either opposed to or a strange shade of the word below it - at least to me - which I find endlessly fascinating) because it shows a scorpion looking about ready to strike surrounded by (I looked it up) opium jars. Before I looked it up, they were just jars. I did a little more digging into the Six of Cups today (I went to my visual encyclopedia or - "What does the Waite image look like for this?") and googled some, and figured out the card is usually about simple joys and innocence and innocent simple enjoyment. Pleasure.
Honestly, that word, that concept, gives me the fidgets. I do a lot of things that I like, don't get me wrong. But I rarely do things that I enjoy simply for the sake of enjoyment. Most of the time, I am going from one purpose-driven thing to the next purpose-driven thing, and everything in between that is either sleep or "power relaxing." Opiates - TV, easy reading (nothing too deep), movies, computer games. Whatever will numb out my brain enough to get it to stop racing a mile a minute, jumping from task to task to task. But enjoy? I guess if I'm honest with myself, I never expect to derive pleasure from... well... anything. I don't gear my life toward pleasure, and do not make my life choices based on whether or not the results will be pleasant, or innocent, or simple. Pleasure is the very last thing (well, no, dating, dating would be the very, very last thing) I make time for. Or perhaps "room" for would be more apt.
I have a sneaking suspicion life is not supposed to be about a series of purpose-driven tasks.
My Card a Day ritual has been very much leaning that way. The cards I'm pulling make me think about what I really want out of life.
It also makes me ask, what do I want out of a traditional Tarot journey?
Decisions... decisions... decisions...
Sunday, February 20, 2011
That said, I suppose I should begin by saying most Catholics feel they have Mary on speed dial. I have Kali. Don't underestimate the power of divine intervention from the creator/destroyer goddess. Kali sits on my Divine Committee (Divine Committee? What is that? Here, buy this book: http://www.amazon.com/Psychic-Tarot-Using-Natural-Abilities/dp/0738719757/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1298259464&sr=8-1, it'll tell you all about it) along with the Sleeping Goddess (the manifestation of my High Priestess) and a falcon-winged angelic presence who seems to have a Native American energy about him. If I'm in bad trouble, I'll ask for help from Kali and the Sleeping Goddess both. If I'm in serious danger, my angel shows up. Needless to say, I don't "see" him often.
Today, I went to a book signing. To sign books (see above link - you know you want this book). In a snowstorm. Now, going there went fine. It was the return voyage that was really a bad, bad situation.
It was white, completely white, and my wipers iced up, and I could barely figure out where the road was, much less see it. So, I remembered what Nance told me. Sometimes your guides need to be reminded that you are mortal. She also says you need to ask for what you need.
I don't often pray. If Kali needs me, I will quite literally be dragged (energetically speaking) by the back of the neck to my Tarot of Transformation for insight. I have to say honestly it is the first, and only deck I have ever owned that chose me. It was her, seeking me, white, Christian, American me. Imagine getting a sense of an impatient goddess stamping her foot and saying, "It's about time!" That's about how our first meeting went. (I should also add that I am the only one who knows this story who has ever been surprised by it. Apparently, everyone else thinks I'm just Kali's type of person.)
But, today I did pray. I threw it right out there in the Universe: "Help! Okay, I did the signing, I know you all wanted me to help promote these wonderful ideas in the world, but now you need to help me get home alive!"
I don't always expect I'll get Divine Intervention - especially since I believe if you have the ability to exert some control over your situation, why on earth would you expect Divine aid? I could have pulled off the road. I could have tried to maneuver my way to a gas station. I remember passing a hotel. These are all lovely, sane choices provided me by the Divine. Anyone ever hear that joke about the man who's caught in a flood, is clinging to the chimney of his house while the water rises and rises, and rejects a man on a floating door, a man in a boat, and a helicopter's help because "God will provide"? The man goes up to God in heaven and demands to know where He was. God rolls his eyes and says, "I sent you a door, a boat, and a helicopter. After all that, you're on your own."
Of course, by now you know I did not choose any of the saner choices provided to me. I was determined to get home. And for whatever reason, God smiled on me today, I felt the goddess energy rise around my car, the snow died down, my wipers de-iced, I didn't lose control of my car though other vehicles were spinning out and having fender-benders ahead of me, and I got my poor, icy, long-suffering Prius into my garage in Hastings without incident. This would have been a perfect opportunity for Fate to smack me with the "you're-being-an-idiot" stick by having me wind up knee deep in snow in knee-high boots and a skirt, waiting for a tow. Instead - mercy. I am so unused to mercy that you could have knocked me over with a feather when I got home safe.
I am incredibly grateful.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Another question that came up today was, "Do you read the cards every day?"
That one does not have an easy answer. Do I crack out one of my decks and do the daily Tarot devotional that most readers do? I do not. I also do not write every day, which is a no-no for a writer.
But then, in my case, the "truest" question would be, "Do I read energy every day?"
Yes. I read energy every day. I do a mental check-in in a nice, quiet space with the Divine. If I feel a niggle, I will take out a deck and lay cards. If I get a peaceful, keep-on-trucking response, I let it be that. Most of the time, I get the keep-on-trucking response. So, for myself, I do not often lay cards.
Also, I have a lot of the imagery from the decks I work most closely with burned into my brain. I don't need the deck to be present to get an answer or sign from its pictures. Quite often, a picture from the Tarot of Transformation especially with pop into my head when I am pondering a difficult situation. I trust that as insight from the Divine just as I would trust it if I had pulled the card from the deck with my hands.
That said, I'd like to develop a card-a-day habit, I just haven't. I'd also like to designate a set time to write every day. I haven't.
To every thing there is a season, and hopefully this spring will be mine.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Yes, ladies and gentleman, that screenshot of Windows Media Player looks exactly like the Burnout Spread I'd laid not 3 weeks earlier at Nance's house.
How does one lay the Burnout Spread? Simple. Choose a card that signifies you (consciously or unconsciously, I always choose unconsciously by heat or cold - but fielder's choice). (I also call this the Falling Star Spread, because the first time it came to me, I drew the Star. Reversed.)
On the upper righthand corner (and I do mean on top of) of the Significator, lay a card for one area/activity/problem/situation of your life that is drawing a lot of your energy. On top of that card, staggered much like one of the pink lines in the picture above, lay another aspect of that one issue. Then another. Then another. As many as needed until you feel there are enough cards to thoroughly explore that one issue. You may pause at this point to delve into that issue, or -
Move onto another area/activity/problem/situation of your life that is sapping your energy, focus, and attention. Lay a series as you did for the first issue starting in the lower righthand corner of the Significator. Draw cards until you feel there are enough cards to illustrate the complexity of that situation. Delve into the information that has been revealed, or -
Think of another area/activity/problem/situation (I had 4 the first time I laid this spread. You may have more, or fewer, but do try to cover the major areas of energy drain in your life. Family. Work. A special project. An illness. Whatever it is that you are putting most of your energy into).
Whether you want to pause at each bolt of burnout flame the moment after you lay it, or wait to have a full overview of where all your energy is going, do remember to thoroughly explore every ray you have laid. If you do not immediately see opportunities for change, or better energy management, ask yourself these questions:
Is this something I need to give energy to at this time? Do I have to give it as much energy as I am in order for it to work, or can I cut back? Is this issue finished, and do I need to let go?
Does this situation need more energy than what I've been giving it? More of my attention? If so, what other area of my life can I cut back on to give this situation the energy it needs?
Does putting my energy behind this change the situation? Am I pushing against a brick wall, or can I actually effect change here? (Hint: My grandfather, God rest his soul, always said, "People don't change, they just become more who they are." I take this to mean that throwing energy at changing anyone but yourself is a terrible waste. You can help. You can advise. But you are not meant to walk the path for them.)
Does this activity serve my life? Does it feed my energy, my journey?
Ultimately, if you find yourself laying the Burnout Spread, you already know you need to cut back somewhere or you're going to go out in flames. Take a real, honest, good look at what you've laid out before you and try to see where healthier choices can be made. Let yourself stew on it for a few days. See if you can get any ideas to surface, no matter how radical or impossible they seem. Envision what a healthier you, with a healthier life looks like and try to think of what would need to change for you to get from Point A to Point B.
You may just surprise yourself with your own ingenuity.
And, for my sake, take a bubble bath, read a book, light a candle, and take care of yourselves.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Also, HUGE, HUGE, mad KUDOS and GRATITUDE to Janet Waller of the Har Mar Barnes & Noble. She organized the great event and had cookies and water and coffee and a gazillion chairs (and there were STILL people who had to stand - I haven't seen so many people at one signing since I saw Laurel K. Hamilton at Uncle Hugo's - seriously, seriously overwhelmed) and she was just so sweet and organized, I would totally recommend anyone who has a book to book a signing with her. It was just such a lovely experience, which had everything to do with her.
(((Clever segue... no? Okay, I'm just moving on, then.)))
Last night, during the exercise, one of the women present drew the Three of Swords. When it came my turn to sign her book, she asked me about it. I told her something Nance posted on Facebook recently - when her cat died. About how the Three of Swords was a kind of pain so deep and personal that it was hard to describe. Nance actually said it was a loss so painful that it feels like three swords literally going through your heart, but I guess something different flew to my lips in the moment.
I remember my own Three of Swords encounter. I really, sincerely, and deeply feel for the woman. Shortly after my grandfather's death, I drew the Three of Swords. And yeah, it feels just like three swords going through your heart. But I think it is also a close, personal, piece-of-myself-going-with-it kind of loss as well.
It's a powerful card. Just one I don't hope crops up too often. In anyone's life.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
God, I have been so foggy the last couple of weeks, what is going on?
In the readings I did in the podcast, I was in the zone. But as soon as I step away, I keep dropping the ball in other areas of my life. I have lists. And lists. And lists. And I keep forgetting things here and there. It's maddening!
I am so nervous I'm going to forget the core of the Tarot system I love in the middle of the Tuesday book signing. Four weeks ago I would have said it wasn't possible. I am a true believer of this way, and I could recite these in my sleep. But it doesn't stop me from being nervous.
The podcast was fun and fantastic. Thanks Dax of the Tarot Guild for having us. I hope everyone listening enjoyed it as much as I did.
And don't worry, if I go astray during the Barnes & Noble signing, Nance will wrangle me in.
Saturday, February 5, 2011
People who say they are under attack. Of the psychic/metaphysical kind.
Oh, they might not say "attack." They might say something along the lines of, "I just keep picking up other people's emotions" with a shrug and a helpless smile. This would be the second thing out of their mouth. The first one would be a very self-satisfied, "I'm an empath."
Yeah, you, me, and 99.9% of humanity. Most common 6th sense ability on the planet Earth.
That said, the part that concerns me is not that people feel the need to advertise their sensitivities. It's that there seems to be some sort of badge of honor for having bad boundaries with energy. "There are psychic vampires!" "Dark spirits follow me!" "A demon has inhabited my aunt!" It's like a bad Japanese Godzilla sequel with all the helpless flailing.
If you don't want to be "under attack," then shut the door. No one should have their shingle out all the time. It's not healthy. If divine energy is not reaching you in a loving way, then start structuring some better boundaries. This is not some sort of affliction. This is a system of communication you are co-creating with the Divine. If the form of communication isn't working well, then you are perfectly within your right, and yes, even have the ability, to change it. You don't have to be a cork on the ocean. The universe will at least give you a boat.
One of the responsibilites associated with actively reading energy is to also have good boundaries. You don't wander up to people and give them unsolicited information. You don't read people who haven't asked you to. And in my experience, people with bad energy boundaries are not only constantly afflicted, they are constantly sharing unsolicited information. It's a domino effect of bad. If you have bad boundaries with the Divine, then it is hardly surprising you also have bad boundaries with people.
Loving communication with the Divine is such a wonderful thing, why would someone choose to stay in a state of such fear-based bombardment? And why, oh why, would you talk about it like it's a good thing?
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
I tend to put a four-way divide in my Lives:
1. Family Me
2. Office Me
3. Author Me
4. Tarot Me
Naturally, there is some overlap (Psychic Tarot being a big one), but experience has made me careful about how I mix and match. I talk very little about Tarot at Christmas. I talk very little about claims adjusting in my Melanie A. Howard author blog. (I actually talk very little about claims adjusting period - I find it gets my logic brain very wound up and excited, but start going into detail about it and eyes start glazing within the first 30 seconds, unless you happen to be talking to another claims adjuster.)
I'm probably over-cautious. But the last thing I want is to be facing a firing squad of parents who have just found out that the woman who writes the source material for little Jimmy's research papers reads Tarot. Those parents who burn Harry Potter books. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind fighting the fight if it comes to my yard. But you're not going to see me in a Tarot pride parade. It's not because I'm not proud. It's that I don't see what the fuss is about. I read Tarot and believe more along the lines of Interfaith. You go to church on Sundays and believe in transsubstantiation. I don't see where we're so different that I need to shout at you to prove it, nor do I see what it has to do with the price of beans in Wisconsin. We live together, we work together, we respect each other (except for a few gun-toting yahoos who everyone agrees are crazy), and we believe whatever we wish. I don't seek to convert anyone. I simply want the freedom to follow my path, and I respect that you're following yours.
Yet, I can see myself falling into one of those very sticky situations where I have to defend myself because people are just plain ignorant. No, I did not place a hex on Jimmy's book. No, there is no spellwork woven into the pages secretly sucking his subconscious over to the "dark side." Why are the books about snakes? Because Capstone asked me if I'd write books about snakes. What's woven into the pages? Six or seven articles from herpetological journals, four or five herpetology and field guide books, two encyclopedias and more than twenty university articles and a splash of creativity and a bucket of elbow grease. Being Baptist does not make the mechanic's guide you just wrote shine with holy light any more than me being a Tarot reader makes the Stock Cars book I wrote hum with the transformative power of Astrology. They're books about cars, that talk about cars.
I hate having to worry about what happens when Tarot especially spills into other areas of my life. I love Tarot. I love what it teaches. I hate getting caught in its misconceptions. And I hate that I have to postulate what could happen to my children's book career because I participate in a loving practice that is anything but a "dark art." Will it ever cost me a promotion at work? Will it cause trouble for my family? I don't like having to worry about these things.
Of course, the fact that I am such a worry wart means I am most often pleasantly surprised by the world. Last night, I started teaching a Creative Writing Class through Hastings Community Education. I have three lovely students and was amazed they were all there because last night it snowed in true Minnesota style. It being the first class, and me working in Eden Prairie, it was clear to me that contact information was going to need to be exchanged in case snow prevented all or one of us from meeting. So, I opened up my purse to get the business cards...
... which are all Way-Ward (Tarot) business cards. I haven't had Author Me cards printed in a long, long time, and haven't carried them for maybe two years now. I looked at them a moment, took a deep breath, and decided to hand them out (they do have my contact info, after all, and it's a lot easier than trying to read my chicken scratch).
And wouldn't you know, two of my three students knew something about and one had even had positive contact with Tarot. The third did not seem terribly concerned at all. Those are the moments I am so relieved I could faint. They're also the moments I tell myself I'm worrying over nothing. The world has, and is changing. It's never fazed anyone at the office that I read cards. Just about anyone you talk to one-on-one will freely admit they saw a "reader," Tarot or psychic, at one time or another. My family has decided to roll with it and are truly happy and proud of Psychic Tarot's release.
These days, it seems like I'm the one with the problem. I feel like the kid from Sixth Sense: "I see closed-minded people all the time." Whether they really are closed-minded or not.
Another thing I really like about Tarot is that it invites you to work on the world - starting with yourself. I think some self-work is in order.