I don’t like killing anything. Except maybe time. Though that might be me confusing being good at something with enjoying it. The struggle to understand that things which have not, in the past, been given validity, comes into play here. Giving the self space to do nothing but rest, for example. That isn’t often seen as a valid use of time. Unearned downtime. Unearned anything, for that matter. All things must be earned! Must have measurable value within a paradigm which not only celebrates, but depends on such things to maintain it’s belief in itself. Except that belief, like the intrinsic value of anything, has been ascribed according to skewed perspectives. Someone’s thumb has been resting on the scales, but that’s nothing new. People have been talking of the imbalances of the world since time immemorial, there is no epiphany to be found in this.
But I’ll come around to it, give me a moment, I’m a bit rusty.
My mum died, and everything stopped. Or would have, except it didn’t. There was this need to keep going to keep moving to keep breathing to keep doing whatever it took to keep from understanding how much larger that was than anything I’d felt before.
I dropped into a space where everything I wrote had to be amazing because tribute, or everything I wrote had to be sad because depth of feeling/experience, or everything I wrote had to be honest because historical accuracy. And I didn’t feel very amazing or sad or honest or even attached to feeling anything in particular so I didn’t write anything. I held my candle against the blaze that is other artists and their interpretation of how grief looks, and the outcome was exactly what one might expect when you try and draw comparisons between two people who have little in common besides perhaps knowing how it feels when the balloon you’re blowing up suddenly deflates and pushes all the air back inside. You’d think it would be easier to breathe with all that sudden extra air, but no.
And then the blazing summer passed, and the fall was glorious I think, and then winter settled in, which on the prairies usually means blasts you in the face like the wharbagarbl dog.
And now it’s cold, and the air hurts my skin if I’m outside for much longer than a few minutes, which is perfectly alright with me. I don’t want to go out.
I want to go in.
I’ve spent the past year looking to the world for focus and reason, for rhythm and rhyme, for work and stability.
I’ve looked for loopholes to healing, shortcuts to wisdom, and ways to wyrd while trying not to let it get weird.
Which is just silly.
Weird is what I do, who I am, how I work. I can play it straight, but that only lasts so long. And to be fair, I’m not talking about existing in the normal world, within parameters set up by people who don’t have any real grasp of the bigger picture beyond the bottom line. I can play that game all day long.
I sought to fit this, my own thing, my own art, gift, talent, whatever the heck it is (because it very much is) into something that would pay. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a lovely notion, and I do not discredit the possibility that it could pan out at some point. But somewhere along the course of things, I decided that I could write what and how I liked provided that some (largish) percentage of what I produce would, in turn, produce a certain level of (excessive) wealth. And so my focus turned outward, trying to align my wordsmithery with a merit best measured in spreadsheets, instead of sagacity.
The idea of it became so dear to me that I devoted a good portion of time to research on how and where to level up, on contests and call-outs, on tempering what already existed to fit themes and wordcounts, which is all lovely, but none of it moved me forward in any way. I started a project, then started another, then researched monetizing my art, looked at platforms and possibilities, all the way well aware that none of this was me arting, expressing, writing, digging, delving or doing the work. Out of a desire to do everything, I did nothing.
In the back of my brain was a reminder that January First was on the way, that great tabula rasa clean slate date and I could start anew, and write every day, come up with prompts that I’d follow, rise with the dawn and exercise, change all of my ingrained habits with one tick of the clock, make it special, make it shiny, make it really really impressive! As one does.
Spoiler alert, I did not make it shiny in that way.
I had a lovely chat with my sister, the clock struck 12, I heard the evidence that some people braved the -whatheheck and set off fireworks, we pulled a couple of cards (she got the star, I got the moon) and then bed.
I woke up into a new year that looked like the old one (why don’t we have new years in the spring anymore?), made a cup of tea and threw down a handful of cards onto the carpet.
What does it look like, this 2022?
There are stories everywhere.
One of the places I love to find stories is in cards. These, specifically, are the Vertigo Tarot cards (Copyright, 1995 DC Comics), with art by Dave McKean and text by Rachel Pollack.
This is a story of what has been, and what’s to come, and the best part is that it’s all open to interpretation, nothing is written in stone. All of the cards are interesting and paint quite the story, but it’s the card in the future setting, right in the center of the photo which speaks the loudest to me. The 10 of swords. A devastating card in many ways. Swords = pain, and 10 is a heck of a lot of pain all at once. But the nice thing about it is, 10 is also the end of a cycle, so things are coming to a head, and making space for other things. Swords also = intellect, which can be painful in its way. Learning new things, letting go of old ideas can suck. But the figure in the card is ultimately content.
There are many things I do which make me happy but in ways that are perhaps to my detriment. If it makes me happy, how could it be to my detriment, you ask? Because they offer a softness, a distraction, a something that isn’t swords in any way. They don’t cut away what’s unnecessary or seek to hone skills, sharpen wit, eviscerate ego. They are comfortable, and they are darling to me, and I need to kill them. They might be dear to me, but they are doing nothing to advance the story, and in some ways might be hindering it. So it is time for them to die. I shall kill my darlings.
I have collected all this pain, and with it temerity, a certain swagger that it’s not too much for me to handle. How dear to me, this belief that I can carry it all. And so I shall kill it.
I’ve built my intellectual fence (Six of swords in the center) where I tried to make order out of the chaos in my armored dreamer’s heart (Knight of Cups – what a dichotomy to have a mission minded steel enclosed messenger knight who is aligned with water, with flow, with dreams, constantly struggling to reconcile the imaginative heart at her center with the responsibility and structure the world insists upon).
I’ve been supported by the lovely dark places that call me out the way the Moon (XVIII – below center) calls the tide, and danced on that fine line between creativity and madness.
I’m reaching for the level of craftsmanship that comes from mastery (eight of pentacles center top) through practice and time spent.
And I’ve come from a place where I learned the value not just of being charitable to others when it’s possible, but also having the courage to ask for help when it’s necessary (Six of Pentacles past position left).
And the direction I’m moving is to one where the dreamer rises above the pain into the realm of pure intellect. The swords cut me free of attachment, leaving me free to finish the cycle and move into the next phase.
Which begins anew at the bottom of the column to the right.
Ten swords traded for one. A burden of pain, of too many ideas cut down to something simple, manageable. I can hold it in my hand, much like a pen which, as everyone knows, is mightier than.
That’s a lovely place to end it, for the sake of honouring the story, the next card (Judgement – XX) is how my environment affects me.
And yes, I live in fear of judgement, and indeed hold myself back a lot of the time because of that fear and how it might manifest in the comments section (never read the comments section). But here, represented by a brand new human being lifted, raised above the mundane by supportive, loving hands, much the same as when we follow our own paths and find ourselves beyond morality and fear, to places ecstatic. A celebration of the liberation that comes from having passed through difficulty, and seeing ourselves clearly as a result.
The penultimate card, that of hopes and fears is a fitting one, and I get this one in this space often enough it’s become a comfort in some ways. The Tower (XVI) means exactly what it says. It’s all coming down. Entropy, personified. If one can personify a metaphorical building and apply certain laws of physics (2nd) to it’s existence. And a nice balance-y reminder to my previous fears of atrophy.
I’m terrified that if I try, it will all come crashing down, but I’m sure the Snavely Whiplash moustache stroking self-saboteur in me has equal hope for the outcome because that would reinforce its melodramatic gothic narrative that we were always doomed to failure. However, the flip side of the card, is that I am hopeful it will all come crashing down, because sometimes we need things to be razed to the ground in order to rebuild something more functional and healthy.
And where it ends up?
The Empress (III), who in this deck is represented by Titania, as some will know as Queen of the Fae. She represents all that is wild, all that is nature, all that is fertile and life and growth and unfettered abundance. Structure falls into disrepair, but nature abides, adapts, and does just fine.
She does not need to rule the world, to be in charge of anything.
She is the world.
So the lesson, the moral of this tale?
My simplest takeaway is that this story is about forward movement, and that’s about the best thing I could hope for.
I was talking to a lovely person about grief, and how it’s this all encompassing lump of yuck that fills a jar so completely there is no space for anything else. And as time goes on, the lump of yuck doesn’t get any smaller or less yucky, but the jar gets larger. We grow around it, and learn how to make room for other things, eventually incorporating the yucky lump into the all that comprises who we are. Like the irritating grain of sand which turns into a pearl.
And just like that, it turned out to be shiny and impressive anyway.
I hope you had some cake, and didn’t crack a tooth on a tiny king.