exploration without expectation

at the beginning of every year i purchase a tarot spread from carrie mallon, one of my favorite readers and someone whose website and card descriptions have helped me from the very beginning of my tarot journey. i love getting these readings, hearing someone outside of myself look at cards and paint me a picture of where i’ve been and where i’m going. and while i generally keep these large spreads private, the intensity of this year has caused me to reflect on the themes that carrie explored with me in a new light, and to consider the ways that i’ve seen them manifesting.

in looking through the notes that i took during the reading, i was struck by one idea in particular: exploration without expectation. that theme has come up for me a few times this year, as i looked at various potential futures, listened to deep inner longings, processed loss and healing, and embraced both movement and boundaries. i’ve tried to take more chances, participating in workshops, studios, and retreats. i’ve applied for new positions, submitted more writing and tarot work, launched a patreon, rebuilt my website, started writing tarotscopes, adjusted my pricing, tackled lengthy study challenges, and committed to writing every single day. i’ve started casting small personal spells, and have been considering how that work differs from prayer, tarot reading, meditation, and other daily rituals. i’ve dealt with two deaths in the family, moved across the country several times, and had to adjust both of my businesses to accommodate these shifts. and just this week, i hit a five year milestone that has shaken me deeply.

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so much has happened in my personal life this year. and yet, exploration continues to be a theme: releasing the expectations that so often creep in, letting myself be messy and unfinished and raw, taking chances without knowing the outcomes and allowing that be part of the magic. i’ve failed plenty of times, been rejected, started things without having any idea where they’re going. and yet it’s been a year of significant growth, as i push myself harder, put myself out there, let my dreams for my future begin to have more sharply defined edges. i’ve been brave, and strong, and found deep reserves of personal magic. i’ve refused to let the possibility of failure keep me from trying. and while i’ve not always succeeded, some of those risks have absolutely paid off, giving me opportunities and inspiration and connections that have helped me grow in unexpected and beautiful ways.

“you can be both really scared and really ready.”
- carrie mallon

my theme words for this year were try and engage. i think both words speak deeply to examination and observation, a willingness to try even when we aren’t sure where it might go, and a desire to be present and engage with our choices no matter where they lead us. exploration isn’t necessarily about forward movement or progress - rather, it’s an opportunity to find new perspectives, consider all possibilities, open ourselves to potential. nothing is assumed. we ask questions, reflect on both the obvious and the hidden, challenge what we think we know or understand. and while engage speaks to participation, being in the moment, committing to a path forward, try simply asks for effort. together, these words capture my desire to challenge my own capacity for creativity, and give me an answer every time i want to hesitate or overthink. when it doubt, just try. and if that little spark starts to grow, engage.

there’s so much space for growth in these words, just endlessly overflowing potential. and as challenging and often overwhelming as this year has been, it’s forced me to keep evolving. the richly transformative energy of this summer, the powerful eclipses that push for release and intention, the intensity of planetary shifts and aspects - everything is building on itself, making room for learning.

this morning i drew the world card, one that often feels like an end i’m not ready to see. do any of us ever feel whole, complete, perfected? this archetype speaks to the evolution we’ve experienced, the transformations we’ve accepted, the paradigm shifts that alter our entire perspective. i don’t feel finished, but i do feel changed. this year has shifted so much, forcing me to adjust the ways i see myself, the hardships i can endure, the growth i keep finding. and as i continue this path of exploration without expectation, as i keep trying, learning, engaging, i hope i can remember how far i’ve come, and how far i can still go.

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yule & winter solstice

it's been a busy few months - completing #nanowrimo in november with a series of personal essays around tarot archetypes, leading a major arcana instagram challenge (follow along with #decembermajors), and beginning to plan projects for the new year. we're planning a temporary move to san diego, i'm working on several new tarot projects, and i'm hopeful for what the future may bring. with yule upon us and the holiday season in full swing, it feels like the perfect time to take a step back from all the madness and do a simple six-card reading. i love this spread from sarah knight, which combines the reflection and magic of yule with celebrations of our present and hope for our future.

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release: what do i need to let go of as i move forward? ace of wands. a card often associated with incredibly high energy, the ace of wands is bursting with inspiration, movement, and power. there's excitement here, a feeling of momentum and potential and adventure - but if we don't do anything with it, the idea can slip through our fingers, or stop feeling quite so exciting. i spent a lot of time this year coming up with ideas and then running out of energy to do them, losing excitement for things i had been previously infatuated with. i need to release the intoxicating sensation of beginning something new, and instead work to focus more on following through with current or older ideas. starting things is exciting, but finishing things has power and weight.

increase: which aspect of my life needs more energy now? six of wands. i've been through a lot of challenges, and this year was a tough one. but rather than dwelling on what i've lost, this card serves as a reminder of how far i've come and how much i still have to look forward to. this is a card of power, self-worth, lighting our own fires and pushing forward with confidence. i'm much better at building up others than i am at being sure of myself, but the cards are asking me to put more energy towards doing the things that make me happy and strong. it's time to be proud of who i'm becoming, of what i'm good at, of what i love to do.

decrease: which aspect of my life needs less energy now? strength. while this is a lovely card of maturity, patience, and restraint, in this position it can be seen as a literal weakness - i struggle to put myself out there, to take chances, to reveal my own wildness. i am much more likely to be holding a camera in a corner of an event than be on stage or speaking with confidence. and yet, when i've taken risks this year, even when they haven't paid off they have still taught me a lot. those chances have brought me to some really cool places, have helped me build some wonderful relationships. restraint and maturity are really good things, but if i use them to hide behind i'll never get all of the places that i want to be. it might be time to be a little bit louder, to be a little bit more confident, to be a little bit more willing to put myself out there.

induce: what do i need to bring forth in my life at this time? two of pentacles. i tend to be a bit obsessive, especially when i'm working on a new project - i constantly research, plan, organize. i get consumed by the next big thing, blaze through it quickly, and sometimes wonder how it went by so fast. this is a card of balance, hard work, juggling multiple things. and while it is often a kind of warning to not try to take too many things on, in this position it's asking me not to focus too much on any one thing, and instead bring multiple passions into my life. i've been focusing really hard on tarot and writing since finishing my first marathon - but i haven't been running, practicing yoga, taking many photos, or reading new books. i miss the other passions in my life, and i need to bring them back so that i have a bit more balance and energy.

celebrate: what should i give thanks for at this year's end? ten of swords. this card often pops up for me in positions of gratitude or personal strengths, and it always makes me laugh - the depression and insomnia that have dominated my adult years is summed up nicely in this rather gruesome card. but while the darkness that i carry has created a lot of challenges for me, it has also served to strengthen me, to force me to be honest about who i am and what i need, and has pushed me to care for myself in ways that i might not have otherwise. it's given me inspiration to write, and ways to connect with others in a way that feels deeply authentic. i try to be aware of when i'm indulging in self-pity or being overdramatic, but i also know that my mind can be a scary place where things feel bigger than they actually are. i am grateful to still be here, breathing, writing, connecting with people. this card is a constant reminder of where i could be, and where i have been. i'm so thankful that i don't have to live in this card every day.

activate: what should i be calling into my life for the year ahead? six of pentacles. growth, prosperity, and generosity - next year is a time to enjoy the things i've created, and continue to give back as much as possible. reciprocity is an important part of this card, and i think in this context it can act as a reminder to value myself and what i can create while also working to serve others. i've pitched a project that i'm really excited about and it's been well-received, which gives me hope that next year i'll be able to connect with others and do what i love in a new and beautiful way. but it's also important to know when to ask for help, to remember humility, to be kind always. next year has a lot of space for growth and giving, and i'm so excited to see what 2019 will bring.

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how do you celebrate yule? i'd love to hear about your rituals for the holidays, the solstice, and the new year. bright solstice and blessings for the new year!