Me (on the phone with my sister): …oh hey I should do a Tarot reading for you sometime. I still have some learning to do but I’m really into Tarot I don’t know if I ever told you that.
Sister: …you’re into Tarot?
Me: Yeah! Not, like, oh wow I think these cards can tell the future or whatever. I just like the pictures.
Sister: You’re into Tarot.
She wasn’t wrong to be surprised. Anyone who knows me should be surprised that I like Tarot cards. I’m not the slightest bit mystical. I believe in exactly zero supernatural things. I literally don’t believe that studying Tarot cards gives me any more insight into my life than, I don’t know, picking an Emily Dickinson poem at random and thinking about what her words might help me understand about my current issues.
…and that actually sounds like such a good idea that I’m now fighting the urge to skip blog day and go pull together a bunch of Dickinson poems that I can consult every morning.
No, no. I made a commitment to this blog. Dickinson’s been dead a long time. She can wait. Right now I need to write about the Tarot and what these strange pictures have helped me understand about myself.
Me: am I one of those people who says, “Oh, I don’t really believe in astrology! I just like reading my horoscope sometimes! It’s fun!” and then it turns out that this person who doesn’t “really believe” once paid hundreds of dollars to get one of those super-personalized horoscopes drawn up where they tell you all about your sun sign and moon sign and star sign and meteorite sign and it’s all based on the exact second you were born and what direction your laboring parent was facing at the moment of your birth?
Me: I’m not throwing shade if someone is that kind of person. I just think it’s important to know that kind of thing about yourself.
Me: So…am I really just intrigued by the art and the history and the fact that Shirley Jackson who happens to be my favorite writer also loved the Tarot?
Me: Or do I believe in some kind of literal actual magic?
Author of one of my Tarot books: “…and then during this one reading, I could hear all these dead people talking about what I was saying and disagreeing with my interpretation of the cards and I had to ask the person I was doing the reading for to come back in half an hour so I could clear all the unwanted spirits out although this one spirit actually made some valid points so I let him stay and ended up making him my partner and he’s dead so I don’t even have to pay him.”
Me: okay yeah I’m not secretly mystical
I think I like the Tarot exactly because I don’t “believe” in it. Studying the cards is a safe way for me to tackle personal issues without admitting to myself that that’s what I’m doing. I can learn the meanings and the symbols in each card, but feel assured that this is just like gazing at paintings in a museum. I can look away from these pictures whenever I want to. That way, the “meanings” of the cards don’t seem so threatening. They’re only as true as I’m ready to admit at the time.
Emily Dickinson: Tell all the truth but tell it slant!
Me: …yeah, pretty much.
One way of getting acquainted with the cards without the pressure of trying to memorize everything about 78 cards at once is to do a one-card reading for yourself every morning. It’s surprising how memorable a card can be when it’s what you really sit and focus on just. That. CARD first thing in the day and then think about how it relates to what you’ve been doing and what you plan to go on doing. Especially if you keep a Tarot journal, which to my own surprise I’ve started doing.
I’m surprised because I’ve always wished I had the discipline to keep a journal. It’s one of those things I want to have done but don’t seem to be able to push myself to do now.
But now I’m keeping a Tarot diary. Not as regularly as I’d like, but it’s a start.
And a few weeks ago, I got a heavy-duty card to think about.
Tarot cards are divided into two major categories. There’s the so-called minor arcana, which in turn is divided into four suits. And there’s the major arcana, which has all the cards you’ve heard of – The Fool, The Hanged Man, Death, which really ought to be renamed THIS CARD DOESN’T MEAN ACTUAL DEATH since that’s what everyone says about it in this totally too-cool-for-school tone of voice because, oh, you think that Death means death? You think that a picture of a skeleton wearing black armor, carrying a black flag, and riding a pale horse, leaving corpses in its wake as it parades past the setting sun means DEATH? You simpleton! It’s just change! It’s transformation! I mean, sure, it just happens to be card number 13! So what?
Anyway. The major arcana are only 22 cards out of 78, so the fact that I’ve been getting them HALF THE TIME doesn’t mean anything. Could happen to anybody.
Emily Dickinson: Especially “anybody” who’s going through some major upheaval!
Me: That is NOT one of your poems.
Dickinson (innocently): I’m nobody! Who are you?
Anyway. A few weeks ago, I got yet another major arcana card. Kind of a scary-looking one. Judgement.
Me (looking at my Morning Reading): Well, this is going to be a fun day.
Okay, it’s hard to feel cheerful about a picture of a bunch of people rising up out of their own coffins. Especially that guy in front on the left. He looks seriously messed up, even for a corpse.
But everyone else doesn’t look upset at all. They’re raising their arms in a welcoming way. They’ve come to a place where there’s nothing to do but look back and make peace with the past. The kind of peace that can only come with accepting the truth about yourself.
Dominant color: blue.
Symbol of: clarity, truth.
“Look back in order to move forward,” I wrote in my journal that day.
It’s one thing to suspect or even know for sure that I’m autistic.
It’s another to look back and think about what that means when it comes to my past.
All those struggles. All that fighting. All that pain.
Feeling guilty. Feeling wrong.
Feeling – knowing– that I couldn’t live up to the most ordinary standards and expectations.
Having such high test scores and being such a low achiever.
Being so good with children and so lousy with everyone else.
It’s a lot to think about, a lot to process. A lot to grieve.
And now – maybe, finally – a lot to hope for.
Those people in the picture – they’re utterly uncovered. And they don’t seem to mind a bit.
There’s nothing to hide anymore. No point in trying to pretend.
Unlike those people, I have time ahead of me. And I can spend it learning my own truth and living as myself.
And funnily enough, this card feels like a chance to stop judging myself so much. Quit blaming myself for not being someone else.
“The future is not coming,” I wrote in my journal that day. “It’s here.”
And then I added: “Rise up and reckon.”
Time to move forward so I can look back without fear.
One thought on “Judgement Day”
I feel weird about Tarot. Pretty pictures! But…superstition! But…pretty pictures! and history! But…superstition!
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