i was nervous all day. sweaty palms, shaking hands, afraid to say anything i hadn't already practiced at home. i'd never been in a space like that before, filled with other tarot readers who all had at least ten years of reading and experience and age on me. i have built all of my tarot and intuitive work around writing, being able to sit quietly and take my time, crafting thoughts and words into perfect little sentences. i have always been so careful about what i was willing to share, and this experience was the polar opposite. those moments when i was stuttering and sighing, trying to get my ideas across in a way that was both clear and concise - it felt like i was completely exposed. with theresa and danielle asking thoughtful, probing questions, with the eyes of my fellow attendees on my flushed face and twisting hands, there was nowhere to hide.
it was exhilarating, terrifying, overwhelming: an empress brought life and beauty, powerful images of nature and details of the world she inhabits. a hermit shared the deep internal work she's been doing, struggles and strength and the magic she has found and lost. my high priestess self struggled to articulate the darkness and shadows that i so often find myself inhabiting. and two more high priestesses led us, bringing vision and wisdom and experience to our small but fierce group. we could've worked for days, sharing images and words and stories. the vulnerability was tangible, the magic profound.
and yet as incredible as the experience was, i can't stop asking myself, what am i so afraid of? why is being surrounded by other readers, trying to verbalize the thoughts and feelings i usually only share in writing so challenging for me? what do i lose when i stumble through words quickly instead of taking the time to say what i mean, or when i choose instead to not speak at all? and do others lose too, when i hold my tongue?
the wise women in the room were kind and patient with me, telling me multiple times that my vision is essential, that having confidence in my work is its own spell, that the high priestess card that inspires me is already within. they had such faith in me, were moved by my insights, celebrated my work. i wish i'd taken more notes, because their praise and challenges moved me deeply, but my mind is one that focuses solely on the negative, on my mistakes and missteps. i worry about what i've already forgotten.
sitting in that room, looking at some of danielle's past images and listening to theresa dive deep into the light and shadow present in every card, i knew i was where i was supposed to be. that even in my discomfort, i was learning.
after two photo walks, one more open-ended and the other asking us to share interpretations of our birth cards, i created a simple image of an empty chair, grounded and stable on land but facing the deep shadows and open water beyond.
i created this photo with the intention of holding an empty space for my priestess to fill, a permanent place that i could step into whenever i wished, a seat to breathe and ponder and separate myself from the rest of the busy, loud, endlessly moving world. and yet the women immediately saw a presence in my empty chair, certain that the high priestess was already there with her wisdom and knowledge and endless vision. what is she looking at? danielle asked me. what does she see?
and yet i couldn't answer, because for me the empty space was the magic. i wanted a seat that felt like mine, separate and intentional, but these other women brought their experiences to my photo and saw something so different. their perspectives shifted the way i see my own work, and made me consider deeply the intentions we bring to creation. how much of what i had put into the photo was deliberate, and what was made simply through instinct? is my inability to see the high priestess taking up space in my work indicative of my own lack of confidence? or do i simply hold her in a different way?
later i shared an image of the surface of water, with thoughts of what lies beneath and reflections and what we cannot see when the sun shines too brightly. i loved the texture of the water, the round shapes of the plants, the giant fish slowly circling below but invisible to my camera's eye. danielle immediately pointed to the shadow lurking above, asking, who is she?
i didn't see that shadow when i took the picture - but it didn't change the fact that she was there anyway, quietly waiting.
writing has always allowed me to share exactly what i want to - no more, no less. i can choose exactly the words i mean, in the precise order. i can take as much time as i need to articulate my thoughts, and can share slivers of emotion without letting anyone see the full picture.
when i started publishing my writings on tarot, those bits of vulnerability felt massive. i was so nervous every time i published a blog post or shared an image on instagram, sure that i was saying too much. and even as the years have gone by and i've become more comfortable with these mediums, i've also learned how to hide more effectively. even when it feels like i'm leaving it all out there, it's remarkable how much i have learned to keep secret. the skill to hide in plain sight that i learned as a child is now fully developed, and so often i perform without even realizing it.
i will never be someone that is comfortable revealing large pieces of myself. i value my privacy too intensely, crave solitude too viscerally, need so much time to process emotions and decide what to share. but this weekend's conversations highlighted just how much work i do alone, and the profound value in speaking my thoughts aloud, with my own voice, to others in a shared space. that kind of vulnerability, as terrifying as it can be, is an essential path to growth and understanding. and without it, i can get lost in my own shadows.
the high priestess does not appear out of thin air with the full weight of all of her knowledge and wisdom and experience. rather, she looks deep within and gives herself the space to see who she truly is. even as she learns and grows and shifts, she is already and always the high priestess.
she is me. and i'm finally starting to see her.