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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seeking october

september has been a difficult month. my depression has dominated these past weeks, culminating in some very serious self-harm issues that terrified me. i've felt so alone in these dark days, wondering why i'm still struggling, trying to find any beams of light that may help me. but september has also shown me how much i've grown, even though i'm feeling so low. making the effort to see a therapist regularly (and not skipping a single appointment, no matter how terrible i'm feeling) has made a difference. reaching out to friends and family to be honest about what's happening has made a difference. telling my husband when things are getting desperate has made a difference. and i truly believe that working with tarot, pushing myself to connect with the tarot community, and reading even on difficult days has made a difference. it's been a really hard month, but i'm still here.

i haven't been particularly consistent with this instagram challenge, but i've really enjoyed mixing the prompts in with my regular readings. and as i look to october, hopeful that the fiery colors and crisp air and cooling waters and rich earth will help bring me back to center, it feels like there's room for a few cards of reflection.

27. where & how are my fears holding me back?

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the world, a card of completion, balance, and wholeness. an interesting card for fears and hesitation, but this sense of peace, unity, and fullness is something i struggle with. the dark parts of me, my depression and insomnia, my struggles, my jealousy, my shadows - they are just as much of a part of me as my better qualities. i may not be a perfect person, but i am a complete person, and the light and dark sides of me are both important.

i pulled the fountain for my theme card for september, a card from the fountain tarot that also represents a firm sense of self, contentment, learning to simply be. we are connected to the universe in a unique way, but we are also complete in ourselves. learning to accept who and where i am, understanding that all the parts of me combine into something that is whole even when it feels broken, has been a real struggle this month. there are so many pieces of myself that i despise, and i wish i could shed them, leave them behind, or turn them into something better. but these reluctant feelings, this desire to change the core of who i am, is driven by fear. if i can learn to accept this broken self, and see the cracks and flaws as signs of strength and perseverance rather than as fundamental failures, perhaps i can find new strength in myself.

28. what can use more of my time?

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the nine of cups is a lovely card of contentment, quiet, and letting things be. the circle of cups is not yet complete, but there is a stillness, a gentle pleasure to this card that feels incredibly soothing. this card always feels like permission to relax, to enjoy the moment, to be grateful, to indulge in the small things that help us find peace and rest. it's a card of self-care, of relaxation, of generosity.

i often struggle with self-care, finding it difficult to fully rest into any one moment. i may treat myself to a bubble bath or an at-home facial, but i find it hard not to still check my email, read about whatever latest hideous thing our idiot-in-chief has said on twitter, worry about friends and family, wonder how i can boost my career, and on and on and on. i may try to take time for tarot, but i find myself irritated with any interruption, constantly distracted, feeling like the whole thing is ridiculously self-centered. several doctors have all told me i need to adopt a regular yoga practice to help my severe major depression and idiopathic insomnia, and i find it impossible to do this as it somehow feels like a selfish indulgence. i feel like i don't deserve anything, like i shouldn't waste money and time and energy on things that only benefit myself, like i don't do enough for others to also indulge myself. but depression takes everything away, and finding ways to physically and emotionally tell myself that i am worthy, that i am valuable, that i am important - that can have a huge impact on recovery.

29. what should october leave behind?

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i love the daughter of swords. i love her honesty, her directness, her agility, her intelligence. she assesses situations calmly, considers the best solution in a straightforward manner, and refuses to play games. she doesn't make things more complicated than they need to be - rather, she has a gift for boiling issues down to their more simple, basic principles. she trusts her instincts, relies on facts and reason, values the truth above all. why would i want to leave her behind?

perhaps it's simply to make way for growth. the daughter is the youngest member of the court, often called the page or the novice, and while she feels like a pure expression of the suit, she still has much to learn. being so analytical, so focused on truth and facts, can definitely be taken too far - and applying so much mental energy to something as nebulous and complicated as depression hasn't been super helpful for me. reading articles, talking about it nonstop, being unable to see anything through any other lens - even my tarot readings always come back to my mental illness, rather than any of the other things going on in my life.

in this context, i think the daughter of swords is asking me to make room for some other approaches. it may be time to get out of the sky and get back in touch with nature and the earth, to let myself feel all of these messy, water-logged feelings, to acknowledge the bits of fire that will hopefully start to spark again. it's time to get out of my head and learn to trust my own instincts, even if they aren't always based in the element of air.

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comparing this with my three cards from the first day of september, there's a lot of similarities. my theme card is reflected in this fears card, reminding me to embrace all the pieces of myself, even the ones i'm not proud of. my strength was guarding myself, staying safe, and here i'm also encouraged to take care of myself, to remember the good, to find healing in stillness and quiet and solitude. and my weakness was burden, exhaustion, which i appear to have countered by swapping passion for prudence.

here's hoping for a more balanced, energetic, positive october.