Monday, November 2, 2020

Tarot, my Candle in the Dark


I feel like the journey to Tarot started long before I even considered buying a deck. In 2007 really, sitting in that apartment, not long married. I remember discussing with someone the ins and outs of the faith I was raised in and how it didn't feel like it fit anymore. I felt a bit of a charge in saying that, a half formed fear that I would lose my ticket to heaven, even though I didn't believe in heaven any longer.

And from there, the trajectory of happenings continued to unravel that well constructed paradigm that my parents had so carefully built. Maybe it was the ingress of Pluto into Capricorn, this slow demolition of the framework that had held me for so long. I continued to enjoy and dread dismantling those beliefs, and felt this magnetic draw even when I was scared of researching beliefs outside of what I had known.

I think I heard somewhere that it takes something tragic, a turning point in which the old beliefs can do nothing to stay held, and that's what happened in the loss of my flute, in my desperate pleas just a few years prior that god would heal my body and allow me to do the one thing, the only thing that had ever given me solace and hope. My music could take me away, blunt the edges of a harsh world. And in those moments, my music grew hard and silent and I felt the reverberations of all the notes I had practiced and performed over the years, mocking me, sing-songy, twisting into aberrations of what harmony had come before. 

Now, in the haunting echo of those moments, I perused other faiths, other beliefs. I remember talking long hours to my brother as we deconstructed those childhood paradigms and the journey was begun. I explored several different ideas, but the pagan path continually seemed the most haunting, the one that called my heart the strongest. 

I think the culmination of this and the shattering of all that was left, the foundation demolished in one fell swoop, was the birth of my son. His advent into the world was dramatic and unearthing in a way nothing else had been, up to that point. I heard the doctor say in a booming voice as I lay in OR, a surprise C-section already beginning this tumultuous journey, "Happy Birthday, Mr. Blake". And within moments, a well meaning nurse told me my son seemed to have markers for trisomy 21. I had no idea what that meant, but something in her tone told me something was wrong, amiss.

My heart rate sped up, my own soul acknowledging the change in the room, the frantic nurses and something about their interaction with my newly arrived baby.

Those moments raced away in a flurry of pumping and bottle feedings and endless sleepless nights, breasts throbbing, my world deconstructing into a dark and many textured place where I could only feel my way through, unable to see, unable to perceive in typical ways. I seemed to spend more time awake in the dark than in the light and my journey of darkness ensued powerfully and unavoidably.

In the spring of 2014, I was introduced to a woman who would upend my world, her own interest in special needs and pagan things blending into something addictive and beguiling. I spent hours writing her, talking to her, texting her. Our relationship was too close, too something of darkness and trauma bonding. It was after a lengthy summer, and a short fall, that I came to the greatest depression I had known yet. It was so dark and I felt fear in trying to take another step. You know, people always say, take it one step at a time, or just live moment to moment in those times. And that's supposedly what I did, but I remember sobbing that I couldn't, that the idea was terrifying.

We moved in the spring of 2015, and I thought things might be better, leaving a neighborhood where I felt alone, the sun too bright, the trees dying and tornadoes ripping through at certain intervals. We moved to a place of more peace, dappled sunlight reaching through tall trees, and in a way, the mending had begun, but I was still weak, still hanging on, even as the waves of life and grief drained my heart and soul. 

However, that year for my birthday, I took a brave plunge, ordering on the very day of my birthday, a tarot deck. I felt this little shock of fear course through me, wondering if I was risking all the demon possession threatened me in my youth for touching such a thing. But the magnetic pull of that deck was more than my fear, the curiosity an undertow I couldn't stop.  But when the deck arrived, I shoved it deep in a drawer, confused by the symbols, lost in the tiny meanings of a little white book. What the hell could it all mean? I was half mad at myself for giving in to that "petty" urge.

The months went along, September, October, and the darkness grew. I remember sobbing, things with my mother having reached a desperate climax, her own control over me slipping and my need to distance from all she represented from my childhood. I cut things off with her, and my darkness grew, such poignant inky darkness. I was afraid I would not go on, not be able to rescue myself from this place. I hated myself. I hated her. I hated life. I loved my son but his need for me was greater than my ability to give. I felt desperate in his need, desperate in my own inability and pain.

It was in those dark moments, that my brother reached out to tell me about a client he had who was giving tarot readings and teaching tarot too. I remembered that deck shoved deep in my drawers and felt the call yet again to try to understand these strange symbols, to know why I loved the feel of that deck in my hands, an attraction that seemed to supersede my fears. I reached out to this tarot reader and we decided to start a mentorship in January. 

I will never forget New Years of that year, that fateful and awful January 1st. I sat sobbing, asking my partner how I could go on and his blank and emotionless look - which I am sure was him blocking his desperation, unsure how to help this wife of his who had become more than he had ever agreed to handle.  That day, I read an article about a mother who had killed herself in front of her children, her desperation and pain becoming their own in that fateful moment. Something shook me, something that seemed to say "get a grip!!" and it worked! Something clicked for me, that I couldn't do this to my son! I couldn't leave him alone and bereft in this world. He needed my advocacy and my love too much for that.

But the true light came in the form of studying the tarot, each week creating spreads, drawing cards, journaling, feeling this soul connection in a way I never had before. I worked with the cards, sensing this beacon of light, seeing patterns and understandings that had been closed off to me before. I journaled about my eating disorder. I journaled about my childhood. I journaled about my growing love and connection of my own self. The cards were the medium through which I could bring things to the surface in safe and hopeful ways. I felt held in the container of each image, of each meaning. I began to meet others online who shared that love of the cards and my connections grew not only inside of myself, but to the outside world.

Hope, faith, love...these qualities began to feel nourished within me again, tarot the tool, tarot the jewel, the shining candle that led me onward and up, out of those murky depths, out of those desperate places. I had something to live for again. Something to rise out of bed for and excite me as I wondered what cards I might turn over and what hope I might find as I connected to deep parts of myself. Connection. That's what I felt in the cards most strongly. I remember my teacher's words that have stayed with me all of these years since. "Tarot helps you find yourself" and it had. Truly it had.

To this day, I find I can share that same connection with others in reading for them, in reflecting their own beautiful selves back to them through the images in the cards. I find this love that pours through them, this medium that allows me to speak deeply in places where otherwise there would be no words. The images craft feelings and call up perceptions. The symbols illuminate and inform the journeys of myself and others. I continue to feel that joy and that spark when I pick up a deck and read once again, for myself or others. And I find myself deeply desiring to do this, to read again and connect and help and bring hope through the cards. 

My life is busy with my little guy with special needs, but he seems to understand my need to be with my cards and I find a moment or two every day to work with them, to be present with their precious gifts. He enjoys holding them, mouthing "cards" in his own way, his words shaped by Down Syndrome and this breathy sweet quality. 

My hope is to continue to read, to grow, to shift and change and connect more and more deeply with myself and others through this vehicle. Sometimes I still feel the flicker of my old beliefs, this fear that I have gone down an occult path with no return, but then I think of the joy and the hope it has all brought me and I gladly continue on, knowing, this is my path. This is where I am meant to follow; this is my hope and constancy.  I do believe Tarot saved my life. Tarot was and is my candle in the dark.

(Picture - Fool Card from the Vagabond Tarot by BohoIndieWild)