I’m starting a new thing.
It’s taking over Louis Tuesday.
Because blow me, Louis. You made me mad.
I have this deck of tarot cards. It’s a Rider-Waite deck I got when I worked at Waldenbooks. When Waldenbooks still existed. This was before Amazon. Almost before the internet. This was when you still had to choose between using the phone or going online.
Dark days indeed, my friends.
Anyhow, I’ve had this deck stashed in my desk for circa one million years. And I’ve decided that I’m going to resurrect them.
I never really learned to read them. Well. Let me rephrase that. I never learned to read people. Not as a mystic. Because I’ve always had really strong feelings about people who claim to be in touch with the other side in order to (a) swindle and (b) provide false hope to desperate people. Cold reading is great. It’s a great skill to have, just in life in general. Being able to read others’ emotions and nonverbal cues is beyond useful. But not if you’re going to use your power for evil.
Anyhow, I always just felt really drawn to tarot. I have a degree in storytelling, remember, and tarot is basically a 78-piece set of illustrated flash cards for Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I’ve also always been drawn to things that appear to connect with seemingly unrelated other things. What I love about tarot so much is that it marries storytelling and psychology.
I don’t consider the tarot a divinatory tool because I don’t believe in the standard, paranormal use of the word divination. No one can see your future, you guys. Any more than you can. The ability to predict outcomes and circumstances is nothing more than a well-tuned intuition mixed with a stiff shot of coincidence. And intuition isn’t paranormal. It’s just a part of your guts.
That being said, it can be really difficult to calibrate intuition. We’re told from an early age to ignore that feeling in our guts and instead to use our intellect, to rationalize. Which is good. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a big fan of thinking things through.
But sometimes you can chew a bone forever and never crunch through it. Sometimes you have to just give up the effort, or your jaw will go numb.
I think the cards are a great way for getting out of a perseverative, ruminative rut in thinking. They help me, anyway, to remove myself from the conundrum at hand and take an altogether different point of view. They help me to rethink my approach. Basically, they help me to see things in different ways.
I mean, they did. Until I started my heavily science-spined undergraduate degree and got a little ashamed of having them. I’m still not sure I can convey to you clearly enough that there is no invisible hand in the sky, guiding my own hand as I choose a card from the deck.
Like, it’s just me, picking a card, and using what it presents to take a different perspective on an old issue.
But there doesn’t even need to be an issue. That’s what I think people don’t appreciate about tarot. It doesn’t have to be because you want to play “he loves me he loves me not.”
The images on the cards, the stories they tell? They’re archetypes.
Okay. Yes. Jung is a little hoo-hoo for me too. Yes, Jung was a mystic. Yes, he was only slightly less esoteric, only a little less down the rabbit hole, than Freud. But the writer in me loves both of them because damn, you guys. Material for days, with those two.
I’m at a weird intersection of psychology and writing, where I knew as soon as the coursework started getting less theoretical and more practical I did not, DID NOT, want to practice any aspect of Psychology except maybe research. Or teaching. But I also find myself constantly evaluating my life, not to mention life in general, through that lens. It’s become my worldview.
Tarot just seems like a natural default for me. Especially when I run up against a big-ass brick wall that I cannot write my way over, which is precisely what this situation with my husband has become. It’s not writer’s block. Writer’s block is where you can’t un-procrastinate yourself. Procrastination is one element of my issue in writing about my marriage. But it’s because I know that there’s the wholly other element that I don’t know how to combat and that’s the fact that my brain shut right the hell down the day I opened the door to find armed officers in riot gear standing outside it.
Jesus. Just picturing that image, what I saw when I opened the door. I’m not always aware of how emotionally charged it is, because I’ve stopped trying to write about it at the moment, but shit. I’m ready to start crying right now.
And as soon as that emotion starts the anger kicks immediately in.
So stupid. My brain is such a bitch.
Anyhow. I need to hack my brain. Because this whole dissociating/emotional response thing isn’t working for me. It’s no good. I dig it not.
But just continuing to bang my head up against it isn’t going to change anything. That much has been proven true. So I’m trying to find other ways to trick my brain into letting me write about that day. I’m starting by getting the affidavit that was filed after the arrest. It contains a lot more information than the statement of probable cause in the warrant that was left for me, like a parting gift, on my coffee table in the middle of a home that looked like it had thrown up all over itself.
Like the world’s shittiest consolation prize.
I’m wondering why I’ve never tried writing this essay, at least writing my way into this essay, by simply sitting down to it as I would any other affidavit we’re breaking out in the paper.
Like, come on moron. It’s the first answer I should have come up with.
We’ll see. I’m picking up the affidavit this afternoon.
But also, while I’m sitting here, treading water, I’m thinking it may be beneficial to whip out those cards again and just pull one a week. Just decide to focus my energies on a card a week, to noticing what it says about life and the human condition in my own life each week. To get my mind focused elsewhere in an attempt to bring it back to this issue freshly oriented.
So. Here we go. Swinging back around, finally.
We made it kids.
I’ve been looking for a feature to replace Louis Tuesday. And Tarot Tuesday seems like a good feature.
So here we go. Today’s Tarot Tuesday – this week’s card – is The World.
An Saoghal, in Scottish Gaelic.
Because if you’re going to learn one new thing you may just as well learn two.
So Tarot and Gaelic. My two new projects.
A bit of disclaimery: I’m only pulling from the major arcana because they are the only archetype cards. The suit cards are more about specifics. Getting down and dirty in actual life events. The 22 cards of the major arcana (which I refuse to call trump cards because fuck that repugnant bag of orange dicks) are the plot points of the hero’s journey. They’re the universal lessons for every person to learn. They’re the big picture.
And they’re great for general philosophizing.
Which is a thing I
enjoy doing. Can’t stop doing. Am programmed to do.
So. The World.
Actually, the last card in the major arcana because the first card, The Fool, is numbered 0 to denote that he’s above and outside the rest of the deck. He’s the traveler. He’s the querent.
He’s you and me, boys and girls.
The world is the culmination of the entire painful journey to enlightenment.
Not a bad card to pick, of a morning.
And also wildly relevant to the genre of narrative nonfiction – personal essay and memoir.
I mean, I still don’t believe that there’s some unseen hand in the sky picking my cards for me, but it’s a fun coincidence, nonetheless, that I’d pick a card that’s so easily applied to the writing I’m trying to accomplish. Sometimes it can be hard to wrestle the card you choose into submission to the issue you’re trying to examine through it.
Not this one. The World is all about the conjugation of the personal and the universal.
Basically, the entire mission statement of memoir.
For Jung, the card would have been the ultimate depiction of an integrated and liberated self. Here is a woman who has completed a journey. Here is an individuated self. For Jung, the (hero’s) journey of individuation is the ultimate effort that every human being goes through. It’s the cognitive purpose of our lives. Whether or not we succeed is irrelevant. The fact is that, for Jung, we are born with a complete, intact sense of self. We are born whole (mostly), and the process of maturation, what we experience as we move through life, adds a new layer of being.
Through experience we become conscious.
For Jung, a person has layers of identity. The self is composed of conscious and unconscious being. The center of conscious being is the ego, which acts as liaison between the world and the self.
It’s like a circle in a square.
Much like this card itself.
The laurel wreath surrounding the woman represents the separation between conscious and unconscious being. If the self – containing both the conscious and unconscious being – is the card, and consciousness is the laurel wreath, then the woman in the center of the card is master over both domains. The fact that she’s not clothed represents authenticity. She stands before you exactly as she is, with no subterfuge and no attempt to disguise or mask anything about herself. Those are the efforts of ego, and she has transcended them. The four figures in the corner – the bull, the lion, the eagle, and the angel – represent the four elements of earth, fire, air, and water. Stability, creativity, intellect, and emotion are all equally represented, functional, balanced, and calibrated.
All of the ways in which the woman interacts with and experiences the world – all of the disparate elements of ego – are equally valuable and potentiated.
This bad bitch got her shit together, y’all.
In literary nonfiction, the entire goal is to take the personal and make it universal. The idea is that each of our lives, all of our experiences, are opportunities to learn. And there are certain lessons that we’re all supposed to master. Men, women, children, adults, introverts, extroverts, mathematicians and artists. Everyone has certain things to learn, and all of our experiences are potentially helpful in learning those lessons. But some of them are useful to more than just ourselves. Some of them represent a big-ticket, universal truth that we’re supposed to learn as human beings, no matter who we are or what else we do here on earth.
This card is the epitome of the happy marriage between the personal and the universal. It’s about taking the accumulated wisdom of humanity from the unconscious, polishing it, and making it marketable in conscious life.
That’s what every good memoir in the history of this genre has done.
This is a good card.
I’ll take it.
I’ll take it to mean that I’m on the right track. And I’ll choose to interpret that the shittiest day of my life – the day my husband was arrested – was a galvanizing event because it stripped me bare of all my attempts to disguise what I knew, in my heart. Which was that he was not for me and I needed to be enough for myself.