a reading for a-camp

tomorrow i fly to ojai, california for a queer lady summer adventure called a-camp. hosted by autostraddle, a cultural website for queer folks, it's packed full of hiking, sing-a-longs, rainbow wars, whiskey tastings, dancing, movies, campfires, and friendship. this is my first year attending, and i signed up without knowing a soul - an uncharacteristically brave move, i must admit. i've been longing for a queer family of my own, and recently have been pushing myself to attend more events, connecting with people at meet-ups from nancy podcast and queer book clubs and even an inclusive, incredibly welcoming church service. a-camp feels like a massive, scary step, but i'm incredibly hopeful that it will bring me some lasting friendships, connections with local queer women, and a sense of belonging.

time for a holiday tarot spread.

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  1. your spirit in going: maiden of cups. i'm taking on this adventure, armed with intuition, a desire for connection, and a hope for the future. i'm trying to be as open as possible to this new experience, even though i'm anxious and intimidated by what may happen in the next week. i do feel a bit like a child, unsure of my place and hoping i don't embarrass myself or stand out.
  2. what to pack: five of cups. i should bring my lingering pain, feelings of loss and betrayal, sense of isolation? yes - because rather than ignoring the emotions i've been sorting through for the past few months, by acknowledging these feelings i can learn to release them. there's healing to be found at camp, if i'm willing to reach for it, but i won't find it by trying to leave my pain behind.
  3. what not to pack: two of pentacles. i've been juggling a lot, busy with local friends and new social events, multiple work clients pushing for more of my time, helping my partner through a difficult work period, worrying about several family members. this trip is a time for me, and an excellent opportunity to unplug, disconnect from the real world, and let some of that stress go.
  4. the spirit of the holiday: ten of cups. this trip is all about community, connections, and inclusivity - and so is this card! there's so much love and healing here, positive energy, overflowing joy, true happiness. this card gives me so much hope for true, lasting friendships being built at camp, which is exactly what i've been craving.
  5. the highlight: the magician. action, self-reliance, endless potential - this trip will include some powerful creative energy, the beginning of a new cycle, and help me learn to make my own magic. a sense that anything is possible will be a big part of this adventure. alchemy and manifestation are at my fingertips. something new, something powerful is being created. i am powerful.
  6. your souvenir: the world. completion, unity, actualization, interlocking energies, success, duality - this is a huge card, full of promise and celebration. it's a beginning and an end all at once, a sense of clarity and empowerment, a knowledge that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. this adventure couldn't be coming at a better time - and it seems that the universe feels the same way.

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honestly - wow. i'm a pretty cynical person by nature, and these cards are so positive that it's a bit overwhelming. the ten of cups and the world, all in one spread? it feels impossibly big to hold, too much joy and completion for one reading. and yet, this trip has felt full of magic and potential since i first signed up, and seeing cards this uplifting gives me such a sense of peace about going.

everything in me is telling me to be careful, to stay guarded, to keep my expectations low. i don't want to be disappointed if i don't come home with ten new best friends, a whole gaggle of nyc queers to call my own, a circle of intuitive tarot readers that want to stay connected - i want to be able to go with enjoyment, and take what i can. but these cards are giving me permission to hope for more, to be open and generous and bring my true, whole (and broken) self to this.

very grateful for tarot today.

reclaiming my masks

today is the beginning of the last quarter moon, a time of releasing burdens, acknowledging struggles, and forgiving ourselves. i've been reflecting a lot on the challenges of last year, and the cards i drew today feel very encouraging, both in light of 2017 and in the face of a new year. IMG_2883.jpg

what to accept: three of pentacles. cooperation is not a dirty word. finding a community, learning from and leaning on others, discovering strengths and weaknesses - combined power is how we get shit done. collaborating with friends and neighbors, strangers and new acquaintances, gives us fire and energy and passion. it can give us that push towards a new goal, and help us actually reach it. this is a time for finding others with similar passions, and seeing how we can work together.

what to forgive: ace of swords. there's so much potential in this gorgeous, powerful card - but truth can be brutal sometimes, can cut through what we think we know to the beating heart of the matter. this past year brought a lot of difficulty, but it also forced me to be honest with both others and myself about what i need. i may not flawlessly execute every idea, and i may not always express my truth well, but i'm trying - and i need to forgive myself for the mistakes that were made.

what to learn: five of cups. there is a place for grief. there is a place for sadness. there is even a place for loss. but learning to let go is something i've struggled with my whole life. as a scorpio (and a half, honestly, i'm such a scorpio it's ridiculous) i find it nearly impossible to put hurt aside and forgive graciously and fully. my sadness and pain and anguish run so deep, they're a part of me. but honestly? maybe that's okay. maybe i can find strength in it. maybe the pain will make me better, more empathetic, more kind.

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like so many others, i felt that 2017 was an intensely difficult year. i vacillated between checking the news obsessively and working to ignore it, finding myself constantly drowning in the political horrors that seemed to occur by the minute. it was a tough year for all of us, but especially women, people of color, lgbtq+ folks, immigrants, muslims, the disabled community, the lower classes - basically anyone that wasn't a rich, straight, white "christian" man woke up with a feeling of dread each morning, wondering who would be on the chopping block.

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personally, 2017 was also a major struggle. i worked hard last year to open myself up, to shed some of my protective layers, to be more honest and real with the world. i came out to friends and family, even those that i worried would shun me. i attended my first pride, and pushed myself to find a place for myself in the queer community. i began working with a therapist, had several sessions with a psychiatrist, practiced yoga, started a tarot instagram, and gave myself permission and space to find new ways of healing that resonated.

but being open comes with a heavy cost. i've worn masks my entire life - not out of choice, but out of necessity. growing up bisexual in a very conservative church plant, with a pastor that was vocally anti-homosexual in our church and community, meant that i had to hide in plain sight. navigating a lifelong chronic sleep condition means pushing myself daily to perform normal activities, to stay alert, to remain focused - often while simultaneously accepting advice and judgment from well-meaning friends and strangers about a form of insomnia that most don't really understand. and suffering from major depressive disorder means i face a daily battle between being honest about how hard things are and locking the darkness up inside, where it can only hurt me.

in 2017, i pushed myself to remove some of the masks. not all the time, not with everyone - just with a trusted few, when it felt safe and right and accepted. and at times, it felt amazing. when my conservative family members accepted my bisexuality with open arms, when i walked into queer public events and nobody told me i didn't belong, when i opened up to my therapist about the Things i never talk about - it was such a relief to stop hiding, even for a few moments.

IMG_0296unfortunately, i also learned a devastating lesson in 2017 - my masks are absolutely necessary almost all of the time, and especially when dealing with my depression. reaching out for help is hard, but stretching out a hand and finding that no one is there? it's impossible. i made the mistake of being honest about how tough my depression was, and it scared friends and family away to the point that i thought i'd lost everyone. when i finally emerged from the darkness, i found myself terribly alone. and if i'm being perfectly honest, i still feel that way. i've apologized, made amends, acknowledged my errors, but i know now that i can't be my whole self with anyone, that i have to wear masks to protect others, that i don't have a safety net to fall back on. maybe i never did.

2018 offers so much promise. i have new goals in mind, new things i want to accomplish, new ways i want to push myself. but i'm also giving myself permission to lock certain things back up, to smother them in heavy blankets, to hide again. my depression is a dark, scary part of me, and while i wish i could find relief in sharing it, i know that it's too much of a burden for anyone to bear. i have to hope that the practices i've put into place, and a lifetime of experience wearing masks, will keep me safe this year.

in the meantime, i will greet this new year with strength, humility, and a hope for something better. and if you're reading this, i hope you find those things too.

 

reverence & gratitude

it's been a truly incredible few days. my letters were received with love and kindness, and now i can proudly say that i am out to my entire immediate family. it's been years in the making, and i feel such a profound sense of relief, release, and rest. i was able to celebrate my first pride weekend with the knowledge that i'm living honestly and truly. the-empresstoday's card is nurturing, holistic, and compassionate: the empress. and she's a beautiful reflection of the energy i feel today.

i love this card. the ultimate earth mother, she is creative, gentle, strong, warm, sensual, comforting, and free. she's completely unapologetic for being herself and taking up space - there's such an easy confidence about her. the empress knows her value and her worth, is sure of her place in the world. she gives of herself, openly and honestly, and thrives when she can comfort and nurture others around her. unlike the high priestess, that lives in mystery and shadows and stillness, the empress is utterly grounded, deeply connected to nature and the world around her. she is filled with love and generosity of spirit, with no rules or expectations or judgements. she is a warm embrace, a long walk through a beautiful forest, a cozy spot by a roaring fire.

the empress embodies the strengths and spirits of all four mothers in the deck: the fierce determination of the mother of wands, the insightful tranquility of the mother of cups, the experienced and wise perception of the mother of swords, and the patient compassion of the mother of pentacles. she pushes us to use all of our senses and abilities, to open ourselves to possibility, and to step fully into opportunities. but because she also represents sensuality, fertility, and cultivation, the empress can remind us to be aware of what we're nurturing, and who (or what) is nurturing us.

after pushing myself hard to be open and honest with those i love, the empress speaks to me of peace, rest, and contentment. today is a day for love, calm reflection, and kindness, of nurturing myself.

embers & flames

my letters are written, and i'm sending them in just a little while. i've been awake for hours, full of crackling energy and nervous anticipation. it's pride, and i'm about to finish coming out. i asked for a card to meditate on, to give me energy and strength, and was given one of my favorite cards in the deck: the mother of wands. IMG_0315

i've loved this card since i first started with tarot, but she took on new meaning for me a few weeks ago as i was gathering the courage to come out on social media for the first time. most of the people in my life already knew, but making that public declaration felt like such an important step, and helped to pave the way for me to finish coming out to my family. she represents charisma, confidence, passion and strength and ferocity. she knows what she wants and will do what it takes to get it. she is so powerful and fearless, and she inspires me to be brave.

fire is such a beautiful, changeable element. it can flare up quickly, burn low and slow, spread so fast it's unstoppable, smolder and spark. it has many faces, can sometimes show instantaneous energy and flash, but other times creep up and spread until it's out of control. this queen knows when to let the embers build slowly and when to let it rage with smoke and flame, and loves all of its forms. i think i'm slowly learning that it's okay to shine brightly, to let myself crackle and glow, to embrace the heat even when it's scary.

and as i prepare for my first pride celebration, even as the rain comes down, i know it's okay to burn.

confidence & courage

i'm still struggling with writing letters to my family, and i've been obsessing over it all week. i decided today to do a larger spread to help me find confidence and courage, in the hopes that i can finally finish this difficult task. this spread is from beth at little red tarot, and while it was designed to help build personal confidence on a more general level, i'm going to use it for my specific situation.

1. the root of my insecurity & fear

four-of-pentacles

the four of pentacles, a card of possession and control. this is not a card i've worked with before, but its themes are clear: brilliant threads hold the pentacles in tight formation, letting nothing else in. energy from the outside bounces right off, closing off the spaces between. the lines are so rigid and stiff that they do create a lot of security and protection, but perhaps this is simply an illusion. everything cannot be controlled - no one has that much power, even when we think we do.

it made me nervous to only have one card in this first position - after all, coming out as bisexual to my conservative brother and religious in-laws isn't exactly a simple scenario, and there are many reasons for my fears and worries. but ultimately, control is a big part of this - i have to give them part of myself, hand them my heart with trembling hands, and hope that they don't crush it. i have no control over their reaction, their feelings, their potential for anger or fear or sadness or betrayal. it's taken me a long time to get this point, and they deserve space to think and feel and react too. but once i reveal my truth, all i can do is trust them not to destroy it.

2. how to overcome these feelings

ten-of-cups

a colorful card of harmony, light, and positivity, the ten of cups radiates energy. every cup is giving and receiving, sending out beauty and taking in love. this is a card of completion, of balance, of wholeness, and it reminds us to stay open and joyful, sharing our blessings with those around us and seeing the good everywhere.

i'm not typically known as a positive beacon of colorful light (my power cards below back me up on this), but the sense of karma and balance here is impossible to deny. and remembering how much i love the people in my life, how i try to offer kindness and support to those that need it, makes me hopeful that if i can continue to be positive and loving, i will receive that back. with only a few exceptions, when i've come out (which for me is always scary, every single time, to every single person) i've been accepted with open arms. friends and strangers alike have made me feel like i belong, and remembering their generosity gives me strength too.

3 & 4. my main sources of personal power

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seeing the devil and the hermit as my cards of personal power is, frankly, hilarious. these are some big, powerful cards, and while i imagine plenty of others might be horrified by them, these boys feel just right to me.

let's start with the devil. i think it's easy to recoil at the sight of this card, but i'm not afraid of his energy. as a scorpio and a water sign, there's always a bit of darkness, mystery, wickedness present in me. i don't seek out evil, but i definitely live in the grey areas, trying to see all sides, working the angles. and the devil can help us to challenge our assumptions, look at things differently, try to avoid snap judgements. temptation doesn't have to be bad, as long as you understand it. making your own choices can be a strong path, one that may look wrong to others but feels right for you. and indulging can be a beautiful thing, as long as it doesn't take over.

i can also see this card as a reference to difficulties in my life, from my very conservative, religious upbringing to my severe depression to my challenges as a married bisexual woman to my unusual sleeping problems. i've definitely had my feet in the fire, had to resort to deception and denial in order to keep myself safe, had to make impossible choices that weren't always the right ones. but it's made me stronger IMG_0361and more powerful than i was before. and while no one chooses to go through difficult things, the end result can be something wonderful.

my second strength is the hermit, a card i love. i'm definitely an introvert, someone who prefers intimate gatherings to giant parties, someone who prefers a book and a glass of wine to a loud venue, someone who needs a lot of personal time to recharge and consider. the hermit trusts his own inner light, relies on it to reveal the path he should follow. and while i do need the love and support of others sometimes, i've had to face most of my challenges alone. no one can make me sleep, or not hurt myself, or change my identity to something more "acceptable." no one can take away my past hurts or my present fears or my future challenges. just like now - no one else can come out for me. i have to do this myself, on my own strength, in my own way.

 

5. how to tap into that power to build confidence

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the fool, another card i haven't worked with before. represented in the wild unknown as a baby bird, eager to take his first steps away from his secure nest, and speaks of new beginnings, spontaneity, potential, and inexperience. this bird is excited but naive, with no idea what is ahead. she exists entirely in the present. the future is limitless, sparkling with possibility. as carrie mallon says, "this card speaks of pure, unbridled potential. in order for that potential to take shape, risks are required. taking a leap doesn’t necessarily guarantee a favorable outcome. but if you never leap, you remain stuck on the precipice, never fully immersing yourself in all that life has to offer."

there's a lot to unpack here. but something that i immediately noticed is that the devil and the hermit are both stationary, whether standing in flames or retreating into a shell. they're self-aware, sure of themselves, sometimes to their detriment. the fool, however, is moving forward, even if it's into a completely unknown place. she's about action, taking that big leap, being open and ready and saying yes. she may be young and inexperienced, but she also isn't shackled by fear or expectations. if i can look to that trust and love and beauty from the ten of cups, and channel the strength and assurance from my power cards, perhaps it'll give me what i need to take that big step forward.

6. something i can do right now

ace-of-pentacles

so what do i do? the ace of pentacles is all about new beginnings and growth, planting a seed and letting it take root. this card reminds us to stay grounded and consistent, to commit to the process, to activate the resources we have and the ones we may have forgotten.

aces are always brimming with potential. and this ace of the earth, with its stable growth rings and blooming branches and tough outer layer, speaks to me of strength and balance. i need to remember that my letters are the start of something, rather than the end - i'm beginning a conversation based on truth and honesty, and need to keep faith in the process. i have resources - supportive friends, a wonderful therapist, an online community, and my beloved cards. they can give me strength and courage, and help me remember why i'm doing this at all.

this is a fascinating, complicated, challenging spread. but it reflects so much of who i am, what i need, and why i'm pushing myself to come out to my family. i'm grateful for the wisdom here, for the honesty and difficulties presented by the cards.

time to write some letters.

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