Leaving The Story That Binds You

Leaving the story that binds.jpeg

We all have those moment with a reading where a realization snap-crack-pops in our brains. In that moment things are so clear they almost can’t be verbalized. It’s the kind of revelation we hope for every time we reach for the cards, but rarely experience. I had one of those moments recently. I’d like to share it with you but, I’ll warn you, like most things that take the brain a moment to fit together, it can take a lot of words to explain…

First thing to know is that I am in the middle of an 8 week course called Tarot Counseling for Self and Others: Secrets of a Successful Tarot Practice That Changes Lives! offered by Evolutionary Tarot Consultant James Wells. The class came highly reviewed by people I trusted, and even half-way though I feel like I am getting a great value. The homework is intensive. I won’t get all the way through the worksheets in the weeks of the class, but I can tell it’s the kind of thing I’ll return to over and over. This first time through it’s certainly helping me to think like a professional. As someone who’s accustomed to reading for myself but not others, it’s been helping me to pause and examine many of my assumptions about my tarot practice, and separate the actually useful from the simply habitual.

Last week’s exercises centered on spreads, and one spread in particular came at exactly the right moment. The spread is called “Leaving the Story that Binds You” and centers on the narratives we hold on to long past their usefulness. It’s designed to help you or your client to examine and move past a situation in the past that they just can’t let go of. We all have stories like that. As I write this it’s Halloween time, and let’s be honest: events that won’t let go, labels we can’t shake, and stories we buy into – those are the real ghosts! My experience with the spread was really positive, intense, and moving. I got permission from Mr. Wells to share it for this post. In fact, it’s going to be in a book that will be published soon! I’d certainly be keeping my eye out for that.

First thing, you need to name the story. A word or a phrase that captures the idea of the story so you can fill in the blank of the first question. This move is powerful. Coming up with a ‘title’ is like figuring out Rumpelstiltskin’s name. Once you can label something, you have power over it.

Second, lay out six cards. And yes, despite the fact that I love a seven card spread, I stuck to the directions.

  1. What is the root story underlying _____ ?
  2. What is that story inviting me to learn?
  3. What is my next step in integrating this learning?
  4. What resources can support this next step?
  5. What obstacles could block this next step?
  6. What gifts can emerge from my taking this step and employing useful resources?

What’s the story that binds me? It’s a story about a girl who was fine, and then suddenly broken. This year it’s the 10th anniversary of a bad car accident that left me with broken bones and a depression I could not shake. Up until that point I had been young, naïve, and a bit arrogant. I was sure nothing bad would ever happen to be because I was a good person, and bad things only happened to people who had done something to deserve it. I was sure that I was stronger than most people, and that only weak people got depressed. Well, imagine the physical pain of broken bones compounded with the mental anguish of depression and having to question your unspoken and completely false beliefs. I can honestly say that it’s taken ten years to come to terms with all the healing and – thank goodness! – growth of that event. And, after ten years, I’m ready to let it go as a story that defines me so completely. Because after a lot of soul searching I see that I wasn’t fine before – my attitude bordered on hubris. And I’m no longer broken. I am, in fact, stronger than ever.

So, I did the reading, and jotted down some notes. I have to admit I didn’t quite grok all of the spread. Some card made a great deal of sense:

 What is the story inviting me to learn?

King of Wands, Reversed. This king is a “champion of possibility” who on the flip side is immature, and arrogant. He is here to say you cannot have all options. The rules apply to you. Bad things happen. Depression is real. You have to be strong and optimistic enough to see that as a chance to be resilient. Because the King of Wands is nothing if not resilient.

What is my next step in integrating this learning?

8 of Swords. In order to leave the ‘broken girl’ narrative behind, you merely have to step away from the prison you created with your own ideas. You create your reality – you’ve proven that by creating such a long-lasting and powerful narrative about this. You can create a reality where this was not the most important thing about you.

Other cards were not as helpful or clear. So I left the cards out for a while. I’ve found it’s helpful to circle back to the images over the course of a few days – and in this case it was everything.

A day later, I had another really frustrating day at work. I went and worked out really hard in an attempt to work out the anger but it didn’t solve the metaphysical burning in my chest.  When I came home and poured myself a scotch before I even took a shower. When my husband came home I complained mightily.

You see, I have reached a high point in my career. I am young but already have the title and the salary at the place most people covet. People know me, listen to me, and like my ideas. That should spell happiness. Right? You get good grades, go to a good college, get a good education, you work hard, you move up in the field so you are happy. Right? You’d have to be pretty stupid, pretty ungrateful, pretty short-sighted to be dissatisfied. Right? Not so fast. I am unhappy. Have been for a while. I am increasingly disenchanted with the profession as well as the day-to-day tasks. I don’t see how many more years I can take the constant crisis mode. I started out because I liked working with young people as they navigated transition. Now I spend my time in meetings, wrestling with malfunctioning software, and worried about meeting my budget restrictions. Checking my e-mail on weekends. Working 14 hour days more often than I like. And, when I do get to work with people in transition, it’s as ‘the hired help’ not a guide. I’m starting to see that I’ve got the makings of a mid-life crisis a decade too early, and all I can think about is that I’d rather be reading tarot cards for people – offering the kind of guidance I value so much.

“I got into this to help people!” I bemoaned to my husband. “And now all I do it send e-mails to cover my butt!”

“Well,” he said gently, “I thought you got into this because you were our support when I went back to graduate school, that this paid more than retail. I’ll always be so grateful that you were willing to do that.”

And with that one comment he sliced through the story I’d been telling myself so completely that it took my breath away.  I told myself a story about how noble I was. How I’d gotten into the field to be of great service to humanity and it was being sullied by the practical, business matters of the outside world. But he was right. It started as a job – a job with an upside of helping people every once and a while – that was going to pay the bills so we could build a bridge to something else.

I looked at the cards I’d left out. That 7 of Cups finally made real sense. Not only did it fit the situation of the past, but it fit the situation that currently consumes all my mental energy. And in that moment I made a connection I’d never made before.

What is the root story underlying the story of the ‘broken girl?

7 of Cups. The LWB from the Fountain Tarot puts it so beautifully, “muffling your inner voice through distraction.” You have chosen the wrong narrative. You are uncomfortable with a past narrative because it was a fantasy – completely untrue. Perhaps the same is true here. The narrative causes you frustration because it’s also false. Perhaps the reason you are not satisfied at your job is because it is a distraction from all you set out to do before you fell into this interesting and lucrative career?

What is my next step in integrating this learning?

8 of Swords. In order to leave the ‘savior-turned-paper-pusher’ narrative behind, you merely have to step away from the narrative you created with your own ideas. You create your reality – you’ve proven that by creating a narrative so powerful you believe it wholeheartedly and forgot your original intentions. You can create a reality where you are not a thwarted savior, but a human in a job that’s not always pleasant. It might free you up to move on to other things.

And just like that, I had a snap-crackle-pop that made the connection between where I had been been and where I was and how I was doing the same thing over again. Just as I wasn’t fine before my accident, I was not completely self-sacrificing when I entered my profession. And, as the cards showed, I had the power to change the damn narrative so that it no longer had any power.

I don’t know what the long-term impact will be of this kind of revelation will be, (I didn’t even get into the last three cards, after all – that would have been a HUGE post!) but I have to say that I feel 10 pound lighter all of a sudden. It’s as if those narratives had weight, and I was pulling them along behind me. And now, well now I’ve left it behind.