Don’t Tell Me To Look For The Silver Lining

On Negativity: Part One, Don’t Tell Me To Look For The Silver Lining

Dandelion & Queen of Swords (Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot, U.S. Games copyright 2013)

I’ve been away from my blog for quite a while now, mostly due to attempting to get a handle on my depression and some recent trauma. I’ve done a lot of thinking about trauma, emotions, conflict, positivity, and negativity. Here is “Part One” of organizing these thoughts.

I know there is a lot of popular talk about the power of perspective and choice in how we feel. The ole, “You can’t control what happens to you, but you can control how you react.” I get it, and I agree with it to a point for “smaller” life happenings. However, like most advice I’ve gleaned from Tarot since I began practicing, I believe this adage is best understood as having positive and negative aspects, a time and a place.

I have had a life full of trauma. I’m not looking for pity – it’s just a fact. And I am not interested in anyone telling me that I can work through all that trauma with the “power of positive thinking.” Fuck that shit. The power of positive thinking is for:

  • Choosing to not complain when my husband doesn’t replace the trash bag.
    “I can do it myself!”
  • Brushing off repeated spam calls or a rude cashier.
    “Some folks just getting paid beans to do their job, and maybe they’re having a bad day. No reason to make it worse or let it consume my day!”
  • The neighbor’s dog escaping their yard (again), coming onto my porch, and sticking its face in my glass of iced tea.
    “What a cute, friendly dog!”

The power of positive thinking is not for trauma, abuse, and betrayal. Maybe it does work for some folks, but I am not one of those folks, and I don’t think folks like me should give ourselves one more thing to feel bad about because we say, “No! There is no silver lining, this didn’t happen for a reason, and I’m sad and pissed and devastated and messed up. Things are not okay, and I won’t act like they are!”

Because of my background, I have a strong, visceral reaction when I hear any of the following:

  • Turn the other cheek
  • Everything happens for a reason
  • Look for the silver lining
  • You control how you feel

“Turn the other cheek,” says to me, “Your feelings are worth less than your abuser’s. Keep taking the abuse.” I am fond of explaining that a person only has so many cheeks.

“Everything happens for a reason,” says to me, “Your pain and suffering is inevitable, unavoidable, and what god / goddess / the universe / source / etc wants for you.” No, actually, my trauma-level pain and suffering would be quite avoidable if certain people had not abused me.* And I am worth more than being treated like trash! Period.

“Look for the silver lining,” is like a hybrid between “the power of positive thinking” and “everything happens for a reason.” Surely there’s some lesson so shiny and pretty that this was all worth it! Nope. There’s not.

“You control how you feel,” is another way of saying that there are good and bad emotions and that you should only “choose” the good ones. No and no. Our emotions communicate important information to us about what is going on, and even the uncomfortable, painful ones are important to honor and acknowledge. Those are the ones that tell us, “Hey, something’s not right here.” That a boundary is being violated, that the rug has been pulled out from under us, that maybe just because something has “always” been one way doesn’t mean it should keep being that way. These emotions, such as fear, anger, and sadness, are our bodies waving flags at us: “Hey! Some evaluation is needed here!”

The loveliness of positivity gets a lot of press. And that’s, well, lovely. But I think it is incredibly important for people who are survivors of trauma and abuse to also hear that positivity is not always the right answer. Because when this advice is given to survivors, it can feel an awful lot like, “Shh, nobody wants to hear that,” or, “It couldn’t have really been as bad as you say.” And that further alienates and isolates us, making it more difficult to heal and feel like valuable, worthwhile people.

I am the Queen of Swords. I have been to hell and back, and I don’t want any pithy advice that (surely unintentionally) invalidates my emotions, experiences, and understanding of self.

*I am definitely aware that abusers can be people who have been abused themselves. At the same time, I do believe that once we reach adulthood, we must do everything in our power to do the difficult shadow-work and not pass on that legacy. Are there structural / cultural issues that need to be addressed that would empower, assist, and encourage people to better heal and recognize their behaviors? Without a doubt! Sometimes “everything in our power” isn’t enough as individuals to heal / change / grow. Community and access to resources are so important. Perhaps that’s a post for another time.

Weekly Meditation: 28 Nov 2016

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Three of Pentacles & The Empress (The Wild Unknown Tarot, 2nd ed, HarperElixer copyright 2016)

A meditation for the week of November 28 – December 4

May I remember that caring for loved ones often takes a village.

———

This meditation hits home for me this week. My sister had her first baby on Wednesday, and today Mr. Donkey and I found out that a different family member is in the hospital in serious condition. Through joy and through sorrow, it takes a village.

Weekly Meditation: 22 Nov 2106

Raccoon & Shark (The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit by Kim Krans, copyright 2016)

Raccoon & Shark (The Wild Unknown Animal Spirit by Kim Krans, copyright 2016)

A meditation for the week of November 22 – November 27

This week, may I carefully weigh what parts of myself to share with others and what parts to keep hidden away.

———

In Kim Krans’ guidebook for this deck, each of these cards speaks to what is hidden and what needs to be brought into the light. Sometimes we hide parts of ourselves or our feelings from fear of rejection or retaliation. Sometimes we hide parts of ourselves in self-protection. And these are not always bad things. Take this week to decide what parts of yourself should remain secret (or sacred) and what parts of yourself might be good to share with others. You can share with the whole world, or you can share with a select person(s). And if they are worthy of your time and love, they will be grateful for the insight into who you are — whether that is a magical aspect of yourself or a part of yourself you struggle with.

This message is particularly poignant for me this week, and I will certainly be meditating on this at great length

Weekly Meditation: 14 Nov 2016

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A meditation for the week of November 14 – November 20

No matter the trials I may face this week, may I remember to remain connected to those I love and who love and support me in return.

———

This last week has been very intense, to say the least, for many people. As these emotions bleed into this week or as new trials arise, remember that you are not alone. Turn to your (chosen) family and your friends. Ask for a shoulder to cry on or a night at the movies. Share your joys and fears, and ask for help if you need it. Or if you are able to, provide help to someone else who may be struggling.

Tower moments can leave us feeling isolated, dazed, and fearful. But there is always someone to reach out to. If you feel unable to reach out to someone you love, call a crisis hotline. I have the National Suicide Prevention Hotline listed on my Resources page, but many more are available <3

Weekly Meditation: 7 Nov 2016

Ace of Wands & Page of Wands (Cat's Eye Tarot by Debra M. Givin, U.S. Games copyright 2011)

Ace of Wands & Page of Wands (Cat’s Eye Tarot by Debra M. Givin, U.S. Games copyright 2011)

A meditation for the week of November 7 – November 13

Have I been stuck in a rut lately? Might a new interest or hobby add a new spark to my life? This week, may I allow myself to explore something new and see what excites me.

———

And here the wands make a return to our Weekly Meditations! But this week’s message from tarot asks us to think about whether we have something in our life that excites us. Would a new interest help to add a little spark, a little pep to our life? Is there a topic you’d like to learn more about? A spiritual practice you’d like to adopt? A hobby you’d like to give a try? A place you’d like to visit?

For me, this week’s message speaks to my brand new bullet journal. I am officially jumping on the bullet journal bandwagon and spent a good bit of time this weekend getting it organized and figuring out what might work for me. I have felt stuck in a rut and like I wasn’t prioritizing things that give me that spark in life since I’ve been a bit overwhelmed lately. I am very excited about this new organization tool in my life — and it will not only help me to prioritize things are important to me — but it is fun! And so adds a bit of spark on its own 🙂

Weekly Meditation: 1 Nov 2016

Four of Swords & The Moon (Circle of Life Tarot, Llewellyn Publications copyright 2008)

Four of Swords & The Moon (Circle of Life Tarot by Maria Distefano, Lo Scarabeo copyright 2007)

A meditation for the week of November 1 – November 6

Shhh. This week may I remember to slow down and listen to my body, mind, and spirit. What kind of rest or refill do I need?

———

I had to smile when I saw these cards. Such a welcome message! I took Sunday to rest, and I worked like a dog yesterday during the day so I could enjoy Halloween evening with Mr. Donkey and our visiting trick-or-treaters. (Hence this meditation being a day late this week! I needed to unplug.)

The last three weeks’ meditations have been so wand-heavy. This week’s cards urge you to stop and listen to your inner voice: what does you body, mind, and/or spirit tell you you need? Do you need rest? Do you need to engage in something (or with someone) in order to refuel or refill yourself? Take a nap, go for a walk, meditate, read a book, or cuddle a loved one (human or animal!). Your health — physical, mental, and spiritual — is incredibly important. Treat yourself and listen to  yourself like someone valuable.

Weekly Meditation: 24 Oct 2016

Camel, Seeker of Branches & Jaguar, Eight of Branches (Animal Wisdom Tarot by Dawn Brunke & Ola Liola, CICO Books copyright 2013)

Camel, Seeker of Branches & Jaguar, Eight of Branches (Animal Wisdom Tarot by Dawn Brunke & Ola Liola, CICO Books copyright 2013)

A meditation for the week of October 24 – October 30

I am one person with a finite amount of time and energy available to me. May I take my tasks one at a time, one moment at a time. I may have much to do, but this steady approach will see me through.

———

Wow! Another Eight of Wands this week, only rather than being paired with the Ace of Wands like last week, it is paired with the Knight of Wands. I can’t lie — I am not feeling very Eight of Wands-y. Or knight-like. I am exhausted! I would welcome a stretch of days with a rest from my responsibilities. However, reality has something else planned for me; there are things to be done and deadlines looming.

I think that the main message for this week is the message that the camel gives in the companion book for the Animal Wisdom Tarot: “Small steps lead to great distance” (51). It’s cliché, but sometimes we would do well to remember that we can only tackle one thing at a time, one day (or moment!) at a time. Two weeks ago, we were reminded to let go of things we don’t actually have to do. This week we’re given advice for when that long list simply must be done. One thing at a time, my lovely friends! One thing at a time.

Monday Meditation: 17 Oct 2016

Ace of Wands and Eight of Wands (Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy, U.S. Games copyright 2011)

Ace of Wands and Eight of Wands (Joie de Vivre Tarot by Paulina Cassidy, U.S. Games copyright 2011)

A meditation for the week of October 17 – October 23

My passions matter. This week, may I honor myself enough to put time and energy into what excites me, drives me, and makes me who I am.

———

Ace of Wands & Eight of Wands

What gets your engine revving? What makes you smile just thinking about it? Where can you get lost for hours while feeling that only 10 minutes have passed? Have you been honoring your passions lately?

If the answer is no, this week’s cards urge you to honor that part of yourself! Our passions matter, but when we are feeling overwhelmed (as last week’s meditation spoke to), it’s easy to let what we get joy out of fall off of our “to do” list.  For most of us, our passions don’t pay the bills so we become hyper focused on work or on other obligations. It doesn’t feel like real work, and fun is for “free” time, right? Wrong. Our bank accounts need filling, but so do our souls.

Do you enjoy sewing? Making yourself something pretty. (Or spooky! Halloween is right around the corner!) Do you like reading? Hit the library or bookstore. How about dancing? Put a record on or go out with friends. Whatever it is that floats your boat and puts a smile on your face matters because you matter. Your soul is hungry — feed it! ♥

Monday Meditation: 10 Oct 2016

The Tarot Donkey   October 10, 2016   Comments Off on Monday Meditation: 10 Oct 2016
Animal Wisdom Tarot: Goat, Shadow God of Liberation and Scarab Beetle, Ten of Branches

Goat, Shadow God of Liberation and Scarab Beetle, Ten of Branches (Animal Wisdom Tarot by Down Brunke, illustrated by Ola Liola; CICO Books copyright 2013)

A meditation for the week of October 10 – October 16

When I am feeling overwhelmed, may I take the time to evaluate what is within my control and let go of things that are not ultimately beneficial to me.

———

The Devil & Ten of Wands

We’ve got a couple of heavy cards this week, but they deliver an important message for us to meditate on: we have the power to lay down some of our burdens. This is easy to forget when we feel so very overwhelmed. It is important to take some time out and to evaluate what is, in fact, within our control. Are you loading yourself up with too many “obligations”? Are you spreading yourself too thin?

One lesson I have had a difficult time learning is that some things, if left undone, will not actually bring my world to a screeching halt! Don’t be afraid to push back a deadline, to reschedule a meeting, or to say, “You know, I thought I could take on x, but I am overwhelmed and will not be able to do this for you.” Or to say no to begin with. It is okay.

Occasionally, there are just time periods where each thing on our plate is quite important and does need to be taken care of. But, truly, most of the time we are taking on more than we need to. Rather than hurting yourself mentally, spiritually, and/or physically, let some things fall off of your plate. Focus on what really matters.

A Fool Stumbling Through Life

The Tarot Donkey   September 4, 2016   Comments Off on A Fool Stumbling Through Life

Oh boy! I’m ready to return after an extended hiatus. Life has thrown me a lot of curve balls, and even though most of them have been good it’s been quite a job adjusting to my new life.

Mr. Donkey and I have moved back to our hometown, bought a house, and started new jobs. I was planning to stay home and work on my tarot business (which is close to being born!), but I was offered a teaching position that was too good to pass up. So now I’m teaching full-time and trying to carve out a new routine, including maintaining my daily tarot practice which is so central to my spiritual and mental health!

Framed, stitched image of a boy with a walking stick. He looks up at the clouds and stands in nature.I found this little picture at a thrift store this summer, and the moment I saw it I thought of the Fool. I have hung it in my new office right where I can see it whenever I sit at my desk.

This little Fool reminds me that even though much of my life has changed that I can approach these changes with enthusiasm. He gave me a good pep talk on my first days in the classroom — it’s been so long I was nervous! I was getting ready to leave my office and my stomach was tied up in knots. I looked over, and this Fool said, “Hey, what’s the worst that can happen? Just go in there and have fun! No reason to be serious.” And it was great advice! My tummy relaxed, and nothing terrible happened.

I’ve also become a Big Sister through Big Brothers Big Sisters. I’ve only met with my Little a couple of times, but so far I’m really loving the experience.

Some changes have been not-so-great. A tenuous situation has collapsed, and I’m hurting. While this is really unpleasant, I’ve decided that there’s a small silver lining: I’m not judging my feelings or being hard on myself. My feelings are valid, and I am treating them as such.

In the world of tarot, I’m setting the following goals for myself:

  • Daily posts to my Instagram account
  • At least one post weekly to my blog
  • Open shop by Halloween

The Wheel of Fortune keep rolling along, and this Fool is doing her best to keep up and to make the best of this journey!