Creative Forgetting

I’ve talked numerous times about my idea that everyone is creative. And this month, we’re going to talk about this creativity, but from the perspective I’ve been enduring. So it may or may not be well known, but childhood trauma causes memory loss. I have suffered significant memory loss throughout my life. But recently, as I’ve spent a lot of my time in my home, I’ve remembered some significant memories that punch through just a very small bit of that fog. Today’s topic is not about the science of that, or memory loss’ protective quality. It’s about creative forgetting.

I wanted to tie this into trauma-related memory loss because I think some of the same themes are playing out here. So creative forgetting is literally me forgetting all the time that I’m a writer. After a draining day or week, I’ll sit on my couch and watch YouTube videos of highly creatively disciplined individuals making their art.  I’m so happy to see other creating, and even making their living from the things they create. And I spend time too making lists, either in my head or on paper, of things I’m interested in. I do this to try to gain creative inspiration. I pull out my watercolors and paint. I make a pizza or pancakes. I sew. I read. And in all this, I conveniently forget that I’m a writer through and through.

Like many creative endeavors, writing is not regarded as valuable in our society, and it can be ridiculed (until those people who ridicule me try their hand at writing themselves). And I think that when you’re creative (everyone is in some capacity), but in a traditional way (like with writing), you have a stubbornness in your step. You know you’re doing something that’s highly valuable, and that people aren’t about to admit is highly valuable. But writing is traditionally creative  – gasp – and society wants automatons. By the way, when I say “traditionally creative”, I mean that it’s normally considered creative. I believe that everything is a creative act – from washing the dishes to fixing a car to investing in stocks.

For me to feel that I was worthwhile in my pursuit of writing as a full-blown career, I went to a coding bootcamp. This step in my education brought me a very interesting career as a Technical Writer. I blend my writing skills with some engineering skills – even building a full iOS application as a previous job. But there’s that inherent awkwardness in feeling that your position is looked down on. I wrote about this in I’m Not In It to Become a Developer, after someone said I’d make more money as an engineer (even though I have no interest in being an engineer).

So I was thinking – what if I keep forgetting that I’m a writer because I myself have integrated some other people’s beliefs about the worth of writing? I know the worth of writing. I know it’s a significant industry, a competitive industry, a powerful industry. I know that celebrities and politicians inevitably write a memoir or a self-help book. So then why the creative forgetting? Perhaps because the value of my writing has not been validated. Perhaps because my writing has not sold more than a dozen copies. Perhaps because I operate behind the scenes, most extremely as a ghostwriter. Or affectionately, as gutter, which I call the process of totally breaking down a piece of work and reassembling it.

This all isn’t about a need for me to gain attention about writing. If you snug up close to each sentence, it’s evidently a practice in thinking about why I keep forgetting that I’m a writer. Partly, it’s because I’m not reminded. And that’s not going to happen. Nobody’s going to remind me that I’m a writer. The other part of it is that I’m met with a lot of media that asks me to explore myself. Whenever I read something on Instagram or otherwise about exploring myself, I keep getting caught off guard. Thoughts course through me – do I not know myself? I look up and there are six stacks of books in front of me, and a 17 Penguin edition book collection of Victorian and contemporary Horror classics. Do I not know myself? Or is this self-care shit getting out of hand (*closes Instagram*)?

So then memory loss comes into play. Writing is how I define myself. So then is forgetting that I’m a writer a from of temporarily rejecting my identity (and myself)? And I should clarify that when I say I forget I’m a writer, I mean that I may have some free time on the weekend, and it’s not the first or second or third thing I think of doing. Of course, this could all have a lot to do with the pandemic. We’re all at home (or should be because of COVID) and there’s not a lot of external stimuli.  But what I’m trying to get to is that whatever your passion and your craft and your skill is, it is valuable. It is so valuable that for you to grasp its significance would terrify you. So please, whatever society tells you, what you do matters.

Remember who you are and keep reminding yourself every day so you don’t walk around in a daze. So you don’t wander into odd hobbies along the way that you’re not really interested in that keep distracting you from your deep work. But funny enough, if you’re a writer like me, you know those weird winding roads you take enrich what you do. Just don’t get lost there. Do what interests you, find other avenues, but remember who you are. Know that your forgetting is not forever. I recently reread a story about a girl named Vasalisa in Women Who Run With the Wolves. In this story, a little girl goes through a mini hero’s journey of developing or recalling her intuition via the external symbol of a doll. It’s a worthwhile read to understand the steps involved in building trust in the self.

What is inside of you cannot be lost or forgotten forever. Leave yourself a paper trail if you need to while you explore so that you don’t forget. What you do is an expression of a wealth inside of you. It cannot be crushed, but it can be artificially diminished by what society says, by stumbles and falls, by a whole lot of other factors. But it’s all yours and your only job is to keep remembering and keep returning.


Buying a Couch Changed My Life

I’ve spoken about the home in indirect and direct ways before. It sounds like a bit of an exaggeration to say that buying a couch changed my life. But there’s a bit to it. For some backstory, I grew up moving around a lot and going to a lot of different schools. Not only that, but I grew up with an American mother and French father. So I spent nearly a decade living in France, during which I was considered the American girl. It didn’t help much when I moved to the US, since I was the French girl here. I was always the outsider. Even at home. I spent a significant amount of my childhood in my room alone. I parented myself, and eventually, I played parent in a lot of ways to my own mother.

I come from a very dysfunctional and abusive background – I won’t get into all that here. But I want to set the stage for showing how I was able to overcome some of this through creating sacredness in my own apartment now. When I was a teenager, I shared a room with my mother (it’s as bad as it sounds, worse even). Every few months, she would go through massive purging, in which we would get rid of a significant amount of items. A lot of it were things we realized, if just days later, that we actually really needed. So I really got into the habit of deep purging.

I continued this self-enforced deprivation for a long time. When I was in college, there was a point where I was doing laundry two to three times a week because I had so few clothes. And this may work for some people, but in combination with fears around never feeling like I had enough, this was a toxic cocktail for self-loathing enforced by significant material deprivation.

I’ve previously talked about minimalism in the following articles: Clearing Out (written while in an abusive relationship) and Why I Failed at Minimalism. And for a while, I considered myself a minimalist. I realize now that I used it as an excuse not to settle down anywhere and do the healing work I needed to do. After all, that shit was terrifying. I would have to look at nearly two decades of abuse that lingered and messes with every facet of my life.

I came to a point where minimalism (or deprivation under disguise of a social phenomenon popularized by Marie Kondo) was an excuse to keep moving from place to place. It was an excuse for home never being a satisfying place to be. It was an excuse for home to be sterile, frantic, unwelcoming, and even frightening – replicating the “home” of my childhood.

Probably the most significant, clearly identifiable turning point in my adulthood – and you may laugh – is when I bought a couch. My friend and I went to Home Goods in February – yes, I bought my first ever couch at the age of 29. Before that, I just had a desk in my living room. I would joke that I lived like a frat boy. Picture a nearly bare apartment with some IKEA furniture – but without a TV or gaming console. Books instead.

So my friend and I were in Home Goods and I could not figure out for the life of me which couch was “good” or “comfortable”. My friend put the most wholesome peer pressure on me – “buy the couch, it’s okay”. I sat on it in the corner of the store with her for a good ten minutes, not saying anything. My brain was short circuiting. Who the fuck was I to own a couch? What gave me the right? My brain went blank save for the nasty little voice. It reminded me that I’d had a roommate in college who burned down our apartment. What if that shit happened again? Why bother getting a couch?

Being up at the cash register was another good ten minutes of brain fog. But I bought it. I bought the fucking couch – and this heavy chonk in my living room feels very grounding. The first night I had it home, I was afraid to sit on it. I remember the delivery man looking at my stunned face after he’d set it down and going “you should enjoy it.” He didn’t know what saying that meant to me.

My gorgeous couch now sits in my living room, and I sit on it with my cats. I fluff up the pillows every single day and look over at it so many times throughout the day (including when I’m on work Zoom meetings) that you’d swear someone was sitting on it. It’s light grey and makes me think of a couch a nice older woman would have. It’s respectable – not the gothic couches I had all over Pinterest boards. But better because it’s in my own apartment and I used my own money to buy it, and the style is going to age well.

So when I say buying a couch changed my life, I mean that it was a significant symbolic statement to the universe that I’m ready and willing to settle in. Not to settle in a location, or to settle down. Not to never move again. No – it’s symbolic for settling into myself. This big bulky anchor acts like it – reminding me daily of the power that comes from waiting, studying, harvesting only that which is ready to be plucked.

And come to think of it – my three card Tarot spread for today ties in perfectly with this conversation. I drew Judgment, the King of Cups, and the World. When I saw this trio, I thought of the advantage I now have of mature (King of Cups) discernment (Judgment) over each piece of my life and myself (The World). Through liberating myself to settling into the symbolism of placehood, I’ve opened myself up to personal growth in a way I never had before. I’ve given myself an investment that only I could give myself. Nobody was going to do that for me. My parents abandoned me far before the age that I could properly develop my identity and self-esteem. So part of my recovery was giving myself the little space of home that I never had.

Why a couch? Why did it take a fucking couch to get me to this place? I have some theories – but maybe I’ll explore that more another time. For now, I can say with a sense of humor that a couch changed my life.


I’d Be Woman and I’d Be Free

I walked outside on cemented sidewalks, cracked and directive. I walked down streets lined tightly with buildings, metal fences, and defensive closures. I came to the park and led my feet through the grass where there were walkways to otherwise take. 

I listened to the same sound of my feet coming to the ground again and again. I thought if I let go, I might fall. If I let go of the things in my mind, they might all come tumbling down and be soaked up into the earth. And then I might be free. 

I thought if I let go, it’s disintegrate and sink right into the earth, and I’d be comfortable there. But when I cling to those thoughts, I have my identity. I have my wounded heart. And if I let go, I don’t know who I’d be. The earth is more than willing to take those thoughts. It pleads. I walk and the trees around me whisper for me to give them attention, and to release. 

I, undignified, hold the hurt. When the earth comes to me, as she does more and more frequently, she soothes me and tells me that she knows I have suffered. She sends me poetry through words so vivid that I write them into existence. She sends me written messages and funny little coincidences. She sends me numbers and overwhelming impressions that it’s all going to be okay. 

But I resist and I keep all of those thoughts within me, and they make me sick. They make my body weak and my mind foggy. They set me into trance and prevent me from using the creativity inside of me. When the earth comes, she magnifies the parts of me that I want to let out. 

I’m the woman who wants to run through the woods in the daytime and dark. I’m the woman who wants to breathe wild literature into existence. I’m the woman who wants to speak the absolute, moving, changeable truths I feel moving in my rib cage. I’m the woman who wants to build, with my hands and with my heart. I’m the woman who wants to breathe flames and pour coins and move water. I’m the woman who wants to breathe into the mind of my other. 

I walked outside on cemented sidewalks, and they told me where to walk, where to stop, where to refrain from stepping foot. They told me, “this is the way everyone else will walk too.” I walked down streets tightly lined with owned spaces, feeling the restriction of fences and walls integrating into my own body. There, in the park, I kept my thoughts and didn’t let them go. Without them, I’d be woman and I’d be free.


Using the Tarot for Self Exploration

In previous articles, I spoke about some of the ways to incorporate spirituality into the day-to-day. One of my methods is using the Tarot to hone in on insights. Social isolation has given me the opportunity to develop a deeper relationship with this tool. Every morning, I journal and consult the Tarot for information about a specific question, from clarification about my dreams to elucidation about happenings in my life. There are different types of exercises with the Tarot that I do that help to ground me and learn to trust my inner guidance.

Reading Narrativizations of the Major Arcana

One of the most potent ways that I have worked with the Tarot is through learning about the story of the major arcana. The major arcana is comprised of 22 cards (including the Fool) that correspond with archetypes of human life. This sequence starts with the Fool (0) and ends with the World (21). Each card shows a part of the human growth journey, through the initial naïveté of youth and ignorance all the way through the integration of the self. Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom and Motherpeace are great resources for this type of study. They go through the imagery that appears on the cards, as well as histories and philosophies of the card meanings. Since Tarot decks have different imagery, it’s important to grasp the fundamental insight of the major arcana from a variety of sources. I regularly work with more than four decks. They each have different imagery for each cards. So I am able to apply my knowledge of the archetype mixed with the visuals distinct to the deck that I’m working with.

Learning to Trust My Own Interpretation

I was initially drawn to the Tarot because I saw it as a tool that provided external guidance. That, of course, I could not wholly rely on. I had the same belief of the Tarot that a lot of people have – that it’s a fortune telling game. However, the more I work with it and get to know my deck collection, the more I have come to terms with the Tarot being a tool of reflection.  That is, I see in it what my subconscious mind cannot quite openly express. As I learn to trust my own intuition again, I have been working steadily to rely less on the description booklets that come with decks. Instead, I sit quietly with the imagery for several minutes until I see a story arise. Once I see a story, I speak it out loud and I also write in my journal about the reading.

Moving Out of the Fear Mindset

When I first began working with the Tarot, I was misinformed about cards like the Tower and the Devil. I assigned them the meanings that they seemed to be associated with, or I relied on the booklet meanings. These were often morose and unhelpful. I sought out books and online resources that could explain the cards in a way that weren’t so straightforward. The Tarot is not always so literal. So it was not helpful to see a card depicting great bodily tragedy and tie that into my life. Of course there is always the chance that the card can have a literal meaning. But that is highly unlikely. I learned to work with the Tower as a card representing emotional or spiritual upheaval, which makes more sense in the context of my life experience. And I learned to read the Devil as a card about sexuality and repression.

Spreads for Self Exploration

With learning to trust my intuition more, I have challenged myself to create my own spreads. The traditional Celtic cross and past-present-future spreads were not resonating with me.

Multi-Deck Three Card Spread with Clarifiers

The most common spread I use is choosing two to three different decks and over-hand shuffling until I have three fallout cards from each deck. In the following, I used the After Tarot and the Fountain Tarot.

I glean three different messages that create a story from one deck, then use additional decks as clarifiers. So in the example above, my base deck (the deck I choose the base the reading around) is the After Tarot (on top), and the Fountain Tarot (on bottom) clarifies each of the cards that it sits below. This method has given me some very clear and precise readings.

Single Deck Three Card Spread

Normally, a three card spread would involve positioning past, present, and future cards (in that order). I find that I don’t work well when time is described too rigidly by the cards. I rarely ask questions that have to do with timelines, due dates, and cutoffs. I often ask for clarification about things that are happening, or dreams.

In the above spread, I used the Ember and Aura Tarot (indie deck) and asked for some guidance about reframing a belief that I’ve been carrying that is not serving me. I read all three cards to build a story about how to form a new belief that benefits me and helps me move peacefully in the world and in my relationships. I can use this as a journal prompt or simply sit with the cards.

Every time I do a spread, I write down the cards and my interpretation in my journal. I also take a photo of each spread in case I want to revisit it later.


Building a Body of Work

In the first decade of my adulthood, I have often come back to the idea that I was lacking a body of work. I have realized that the body of work comes over time. That may seem like an obvious statement. But it is not so obvious. I listen to podcasts and read books by people who have been working on their body of work for decades. The disparity in my thinking rested in that I did not see the correspondence between accumulation and expertise. There are a couple of points to further look into here, accumulation and the building of a body of work.

First, let’s look at accumulation. Now, depending on what we find to be our calling or great interests, we can look at accumulation in more than one way. Accumulation can also occur without a direct gain of knowledge (let’s talk about this in another blog post). Let’s take writing as our first example. I have been working on building a body of work for my writing since I was about seven years old. Most of that time was spent unknowingly doing such. But let’s say my body of work started about 4 years ago, when I started this public blog. In the past few years, I have been accumulating blog articles.

These blog articles demonstrate a few things, including: I am interested in writing outside of being paid to do so, and I have the diligence to continue studying beyond structured schooling. Now, this is my public accumulation. It is for the sake of releasing information into the world that I think is interesting because it offers thought alternatives. Of course, I also have a decent body of private accumulation of writings. These live in about 10 journals that I’ve filled up. I used to get rid of all of my private writing. But since becoming more comfortable with my process of self-exploration, I have kept all of my private writing.

In addition to accumulating public blog articles and private journal writings, I also have a professional body of work. Now, this is owned by companies, so I don’t show this work in a portfolio. It is often enough in the professional world to simply give companies and other professionals a good understanding of what body of work I have written for pay. Aside from professional work, I have also created a body of work comprised of two novels, one of which is now published and available on Amazon.

This may seem like a lot of work. And it has been. I write every single day. But I would not have it without accumulation. I remember starting my blog and believing that it was too late for me. I wasn’t a traditionally published author, so what place did I have carving out my own little plot on the internet? Who was I to put my name on a website URL and publish my personal thoughts? I did it anyways. And shortly after I started my blog, I gained the courage, through discipline and letting go, to begin writing my first book.

I used to feel that I had to qualify what I spent my time on. I asked myself the value in all that I was doing. But I felt that contributing to this blog and writing books was what I was being called to do deep inside. Writing is my complete release and my raging freedom. I don’t have to publish everything I write, and I definitely keep most of my writing private. But what I do put up is my public accumulation, my contribution to my body of work. The ego was not the part of me that wanted to attach a body of work to my name. The ego was the voice making me question my place in the world, when I have a good idea of it.

So the first part of building a body of work is simply accumulating. It’s not releasing daily content. It’s not putting monetary pressure on the things you love to do most. It’s diligence over the duration of time. There is no need to be an expert now. There is no need for perfection. At the end of the day, when I am finished my professional work, I am still a writer. I will continue to write and create private and public works. There is no incentive beyond the feeling I get that I am fulfilling what my soul most wants to do, which is get words onto a page.

Building a body of work is the more calculated form of accumulation. A body of work shows a personality behind the work. An accumulation can be bits thrown to a wall. For a writer, it can include a drawer full of poems written on napkins, old grocery lists, photo-collages meant to be book covers. Accumulation is disorderly, contains mediums that are extraneous to the main themes of the work, unedited. It’s private, primal, un-curated, insecure, weathered, worn, hyperbolic.

The calculated body of work takes many forms for a writer. For me, it’s these blog articles because they show the themes that I like to work with in my writing. This blog is my outlet for alternative thoughts that I can’t otherwise speak into existence. It is here whenever I absolutely feel the urge that I need to get a thought out. The calculation rests in that I sensor my thoughts in this medium. This is not done to distort the message or manipulate the reader. It is meant to create a more understandable narrative. If I were to use a completely uninhibited stream of consciousness, the articles would become crowded with distracted thoughts that only I am able to make connections to. We all form strong mental associations to words and images, but it’s not useful for me to speak about the formations that I make as they are highly personal and amoebic.

The body of work gives other people a lot into the workings of the creator’s mind. With writing, you can learn far more about me from the words on this page than what I am saying directly. The more material I create and publish, the more you can make your own ideas about how I think and live my life. This idea of who I am lives uniquely in your brain as your perception. Although I can mostly control what goes into my body of work, I cannot fully control how my work is interpreted. The body of work does that for me. A consensus of my writing is made outside of me, based on what I have released.

The value of a body of work is immense. Consistency and perseverance are required. There is romance is the daily toil. One must accumulate, and simultaneously build a body of work. One must work in private, and also show something – not everything – to the world.


Capture and Freedom

To me, capture is the sense that I cannot fully express my individuality. And freedom is full expression of self. Navigating the world that we live in with a sense of freedom is unheard of because we live within the bounds of systems that rely on us to have needs. I was visiting my bookshelf this morning, mourning for the loss of a great many books that I gave away in my minimalist adventures. I found that there were unread books that I still stirred a great interest in me. Since we are in social isolation, I find it very rewarding to remind myself that I have far more tools that I thought I did. I don’t need to rush out to a book store right now. I have a couple of hundred books waiting to be read for the first time, or revisited.

So on to capture and freedom. One of the books I revisited this morning is OSHO’s Love, Freedom, Aloneness. I own several of his books and I enjoy OSHO’s perspective immensely. Lately, this book is highly pertinent. Coming into this world as a child without a solid family system has always weighed on me and made me feel less-than. As I go through this social isolation without a single other soul for support, I find that it’s more important than even to understand that there is nothing innately wrong or bad with being alone. I have known this, of course, but to read literature about it solidifies and validates my experience. Eventually, I would like to validate my own experience and philosophies without relying on books like these.

As an additional point, I have always found that I much prefer to be alone than to be in company. And our modern society views this lifestyle as dangerous and anti-social. So I have spent a considerate amount of my time masking this need for aloneness with relationships that were wholly unsatisfying, draining, and damaging. We are washed with so many pieces of information that tell us that we need to have this relationship, and that relationship. When  force myself into society’s mold, I feel suffocated and it takes me months to regroup and recharge after a stint with “normalcy”.

The chapter I was drawn to during today’s reading is called Solitary and Elect. Here, he speaks of the requirement for society to have needful citizens. Without needs, society would not be possible. Further, he says “you need to be needed; you have a deep need to be needed. If nobody needs you, you feel useless, meaningless. If somebody needs you, he gives you significance; you feel important.” This is a common web I see in workplaces, where an individual may start a position with the goal (conscious or subconscious) to make themselves indispensable. This is done through means of excelling, or more covertly and irresponsibly, through means of creating output in a way that cannot be duplicated with ease except by oneself.

He talks about therapy too, in that we pay someone to listen to us so that we can feel worthy of being listened to. Unfortunately, those raised with improper attachments who recognize that they are deprived of a listening ear end up paying a lot of money for something that others receive for free. Of course, there are some more complexities to the therapy example as we look more deeply at attachment theory. But on a base level, when the community improperly socializes a child, they grow increasingly needy for lack of attention or shut off that mechanism entirely and become distant and wholly uninvolved.

OSHO speaks of meditation as the disturbing to intimate relationships because it brings in spirituality, which he refers to as religion. Note that I am going to use the term spirituality instead because oftentimes, when people think of religion, there is a connotation of organized religion. In a relationship, one would rather have they partner be a drunkard than a mediator. With spirituality, “the fear is that she or he is trying to become sufficient unto herself or unto himself”.

Rather than enjoy the bondage and capture, because it feeds our ego, the alternative is to choose solitary life. This does not mean being alone. It means rather than one is happy whether or not someone is walking by their side. “He never waits for anybody and he never looks back,” he continues. In aloneness, one is whole. The capture is in relying on others to feed the ego. The freedom is in being fine with or without a person and circumstance.

Achieving this state of freedom has been highly complicated by people, naturally. They have words on a page to sell. It is important in this process to understand that there is no escape from society. The imperative path for me to take is allowing myself to be drawn towards the things that I find a natural affinity to. It is not admitting capture; it is living in semi-bondage and recognizing my worldly limitations, while growing in mind and meditative practice. Freedom may surely not be attainable, but we can all work within society to cultivate attitudes of non-attachment and aloneness.


Weaving Spiritual Practice Into Daily Life

In my last post, I talked about how I use Tarot to aid with my memory and constructing my personal narrative. All of this is work is done in the context of my ordinary life. During social isolation, I have allotted myself more time for my spiritual practice in the mornings, while taking a lunch break, and in the evenings. This has allowed me to increase my knowledge and comfort with some of the tools I use, as well as deepen my comfort with some of the practices I have been using for a long time to self-soothe and re-center.

Journaling

The spiritual habit that I engage in the most is by far writing. At the moment, I keep a vegan leather bound journal by Magic of I. My other go-to is squared Moleskine paper cover journals in dark blue. I have a stash of those ready since I write a significant amount. Every morning, I begin my day with at least a paragraph. I have very vivid dreams each night, so I try to write them down before I forget them. Then throughout the day, I return to my journal and make addition entries when I feel that there is something worthy of noting, when I feel anxious, or when I have a bit of extra time.

I write about anything that is happening in my day and how I feel about it. I will also jot down any triggers or sudden memories that arise. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I have been having a lot of memories flood in recently about my past, and it’s important that I record them so I can acknowledge the memory and perhaps dig into it a bit more.

Tarot

In addition to writing in my journal in the morning, I also make it a habit to work with Tarot. I generally am drawn to the Angel Tarot, the Rider Waite, or the Herbal Tarot for these readings. My questions are loose and I generally just try to get a feel for the day, including anything what I should pay attention to or watch out for. These readings serve two purposes – deepening my knowledge of Tarot and working on my self-awareness.

I pick three cards (and sometimes clarifiers), write them down in my journal, and then work on a short narrative about how the cards tie in together. After my morning reading, I often revisit Tarot at least one other time during the day or night. With my second reading, I may draw some accompanying oracle cards to draw out a more robust message. Oracle cards also help me to soften up a reading. Tarot can be a harsh truth-teller at times, so it’s not a bad idea to work with oracle in the same reading. This is especially if you haven’t been working with Tarot for long, like me.

Planetary Positions and Moon Phases

I work with the Magic of I 2020 planner to determine if there are any astrological events that I should be paying attention to. For example, we have currently entered Taurus season. I take this into account when I interact with people at work and in my personal life. During this time of the year, I am reminded to focus on comforts at home and enjoy the pleasure of food. Since LA doesn’t have drastically contrasting seasons, it is easier for me to work with the astrological periods for rebalancing and shifting my focus.

One way that I work with planetary positions is by consulting readings in correspondence with my own astrological birth chart. With this, I can highlight parts of my life that I should be paying special attention to. If anything these readings, which I obtain through the app Co-Star, are points that I can think about. I can choose whether the message is applicable or not, and this helps to ground me. Seeing myself as impacted by gravitational circumstance really helps to differentiate and remind me that I must let go of what I cannot control.

Maintaining a Home

There is something profoundly healing to me in maintaining my own apartment. I grew up moving a lot, and never feeling like I had a home. I never felt grounded. So I am working this year on creating a feeling of home in my apartment, regardless of how long I will actually be living here. This means that I light candles, burn incense, care for my plants, make delicious meals and baked goods, and put artwork I’ve created on the walls.

It is remarkable how much of a difference in mentality I have now that I feel more settled in my apartment. To show my thankfulness for all that I have, I take care of what I have. I don’t neglect it. I make my home into a living space. My two cats help me immensely with that feeling. They instantly make me feel like I’m home, but those extra items of comfort add to it all. And I’ve learned that feeling like you have a home is not a luxury, but a necessity. Home can look like a lot of different things, and for me, I’m still figuring a lot of that out.

Music

I play music a lot of the day; it’s very healing. If I’m particularly stressed, I will even have some nature sounds on during a conference call when I’m muted. Throughout the day, I listen to a variety of music, from Classical to R&B to pop to alternative. I have a variety of different playlists of Spotify, each with a different sound for a different mood and time of day. When I am not listening to music, I like to have speaking as background noise. I don’t have a TV, but I put on YouTube videos of people talking about things that interest them. That’s been a big saver during social isolation since I live alone. It’s nice to hear another human voice speaking.

Music is spiritual to me because I use it to obtain slightly altered states of consciousness. If I want to get into a deep mode of writing, I have a playlist for that. I crank up the volume and put on my noise cancelling headphones. I know just those songs that are going to push me into that state of creativity. I’m not sure if I’ve managed to train my brain to respond that way to the playlist, or if they inspire creativity on their own merit. I expect that it’s a combination of both.

 


Tarot, Memory, and Personal Narrative

I will start off by saying that I’m thankful to the many people before me who’ve opened up about their occult interests. Because of them, I’m able to speak openly about my usage of Tarot and oracle cards to deepen my self knowledge and help to narrativize my life journey.

I kept this side of myself under wraps up until pretty recently partly because of the fact that I work a “normal” office job and didn’t want this interest to impact my professional life. But the new atmosphere of self exploration has really enabled me to come out with some of my alternative interests, and I am happy to share them.

I was first drawn to Tarot about four years ago when I purchased the Aquarian Tarot deck. I don’t remember where I got it, probably online. But it sat in my room for a long time. I had the learned false understanding that Tarot was evil and that it was somehow tampering with fate or the future. When I cracked open the pack, the cards themselves were intimidating, as the symbolism was difficult for me to grasp. There are 78 cards in each Tarot cards, each of which has a distinctive meaning. I jumped in too deep and too quickly. I started with laying large spreads, or card formations. I relied heavily on the booklet, not realizing that I could learn the cards based on imagery and intuition.

The Aquarian deck wasn’t around long. If you’ve stuck around my blog, you’ll know I’m a failed minimalist who used to compulsively purge items. It was a couple of years before I purchased another deck. This time, rather than dive straight into Tarot again, I stumbled onto oracle cards. These decks generally have fewer cards, and they do not follow a specific formula like Tarot does. Oracle cards tend to be easier to read, providing a word or sentence with accompanying imagery. These decks usually also come with a booklet of thorough descriptions for each card.

When I became comfortable with reading oracle cards, I moved back to Tarot by purchasing the Rider Waite Smith deck. This is the most widely used deck and recommended to beginners. The imagery can be frightening at first, especially when you see cards like the Tower and the Ten of Swords. But I was able to soften how I view the cards after learning the symbolism more in depth. I am now very comfortable looking at the deck’s imagery.

I learned Tarot by sitting with the cards, working with them daily, and reading a good amount of literature on the meanings of the cards. The beauty of Tarot is that it encourages you to trust in your remembrance of the meaning, and also to engage your inner trust to bring the messages together. Tarot is a lot like writing in that it takes seemingly disparate concepts, figures, and abstract symbols, and requires you to weave a narrative. It connect concepts, and enables the reader and the answer-seeker to work in collaboration to strengthen their conceptualization of the matter they have brought to the table for questioning. One of my favorite things about Tarot is that it is not an absolute. It’s rather a practice in seeing possibilities, living in the flow of life, and reawakening trust in self.

Tarot and Memory

I have had a weak memory for my whole life, and I believe this has come from continuous and prolonged childhood neglect, abuse, and trauma. There is research indicating that if you do not receive the proper emotional attachment to a parent figure in infancy, it will permanently damage your brain. Many resources discuss how devastating your childhood can be on the remainder of your life. Every adult relationship is impacted. There are ways of healing, and it takes time for some. Others unfortunately never see themselves as the lovable and completely whole, unique people that they are.

With the outbreak of COVID-19, I have had a lot of time to myself to sort through painful memories. Part of this recent recover of memory seemingly has to do with the fact that we are all socially isolated. However, I have socially isolated myself on and off for my entire adult life. So I believe that part of the reason for the influx of memories has to do with my deeper and more consistent engagement with Tarot and oracle cards.

I have been reading Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, which walks you through the Major Arcana. This is the first 22 cards of a Tarot deck that represent various stages in a human’s life on Earth, from the Fool to the World. These archetypes can stand for stages like motherhood (the Empress), the influence of institutions (the Emperor), intuition (The High Priestess), Death, and so on. These are universal archetypes that all of us go through. When I look at the images and see them as part of a greater order and story, I am able to form some sense of the experiences that I have gone through. I feel connected to humanity through the pain and beauty that has entered and left my life.

More personally, I have been able to connect details of my life to cards, as they spark a connection for me to explore. Sitting with the Star card, which is associated with Aquarius (also my astrological Sun sign) has triggered memories from my childhood that involve the feeling of the card. If you have not seen it, it shows a naked woman pouring water into a body of water and onto land. She is the calm after the storm. She rests in nature and I view her as unbothered. When I was a child, I was unbothered and connected with nature when I kept a diary of the plants I encountered at my local botanical garden. Memories like this help me to construct a more composed collection of instances that can help me with strengthening my sense of identity.

As someone with my background, it is important for me to have daily rituals like using image association to trigger memories. It enables me to collect data about my identity, which without kindling, would lay a path for me to remain a shell of a person like I was expected to be as a child. When I look at images, remember something, and then write it down, I solidify my place in this world. I encourage myself to take up space and to work towards expressing myself more fully.

Tarot and Personal Narrative

I have been working with Tarot daily in conjunction with journaling. This is the most effective way that I have found to lean into my spirituality, while remaining grounded and practical. I find that the combination enables me to whirl the world of symbolism and mystical messages into the tactical act of writing pen to paper. The practice feels well rounded to me, as it employs color stimulation, meditative awareness of visual details, and engaging the analytical act of writing down concepts and self-reflective streams of consciousness.

The diversity in stimulus boosts my ability to formulate my personal narrative. As I learn more and more that it’s okay for me to have and express my personal identity, I find that it’s more and more important to work every day to connect the neural passageways that reinforce to me that I’m multi-faceted, hold a range of emotions and beliefs, and can continue to learn and grow. I quoted Orwell in my last article in saying that the true way to destroy someone is to undermine and dismantle their understanding of their own personal history.

Tarot has helped me slowly build up my own conception of where I came from, what my past looks like, why I’ve done certain things. Importantly, it’s also provided contrast with my past self in encouraging journaling as a counterpart to picking cards. In this process, I have been able to record my process of identity construction, and can track progress. Journaling in accompaniment of Tarot has also given me a historical document to reference when I am in need of clarification for timelines and recollection of specific details.

Writing my personal narrative has been the most effective technique so far during my process of healing, and will continue to be an important part of my life. It is the text that will never see the light of day, but perhaps it is the most important body of literature that I will produce. That’s since it’s the one place where I am able to be fully, completely myself. And in that, I will one day be able to provide public-facing writing that may have an impact on others.

But back to Tarot. It is far from evil, as I’d previously thought. It is an incredible tool for the process of diving into the self, including the good parts and the not-so-good parts. The Tarot is non-judgmental. It’s simply a representation of the parts of life that make us human. It’s neutral. It requires you to come up with a lot of your own answers. It pushes you to get to your own core to tap into the things you already know. It doesn’t condescend. All the imagery is laid out. It doesn’t put a time limit on your session; you can walk around with the same card for days.

Tarot is a tool for the self, the whole self. It reminds you everyday that you’re perfect just the way you are, and that things are happening because that’s just life. And it’s okay. Life is moldable, malleable, inevitable, and incredibly, insanely thought-provoking and transformative. Life doesn’t pause. And I hope more people feel open and vulnerable enough to engage in self-healing practices that they feel drawn to. A lot of people are suffering in the world, and we can make the biggest difference by caring deeply and profoundly for our individual wellbeing.