Calling Forth Opportunity (In the Cards)

My anxiety has been spiraling so I decided to pull some oracle and rune cards. I received the “Opportunity” card from my Inner Tree Oracle Deck (which I purchased on Etsy). The admonition that was written on the card stated “Use the ripe fruits.” This made me chuckle as I have a store of apples I’ve been thinking I need to cook. The card I chose from my Womenrunes deck was “The Wand,” which is a rune of blessing. One of the notes on it relates to calling forth, so my mind coalesced these messages into “Calling Forth Opportunities.”

Opportunity and change are intertwined, and I believe I tend to respond well to what I’m given unless it threatens health and safety. For example, I had to become highly creative in moving to remote work, and, although there were unexpected stressors, I did not feel crushed by the experience. Although I cope well when the basics of my livelihood remain intact, I struggle when my day to day seems threatened. I circle and circle again the reality that there are things that will happen to me in the future that could have been averted if I knew they were coming or if I exhibited 100% efficiency. These moments to be present opportunities, but I am wired to hold only the threat in the center of my mind. For example, I am having anxiety that my fridge might die at any moment, a fear that I think is only slightly supported by the evidence at hand.

Were that to happen, I would be presented with an opportunity to get highly creative with my cooking, to hone my food preservation skills and to shop. There would be costs, but the long-term impact on my life would be negligible. Even so, I am highly tempted to purchase another fridge as a backup, even though it may not be needed, solely so that my anxiety will dissipate. Multiple this by dozens of decisions every week, all made on a “how high can I tolerate my anxiety going” versus “what will this boost in my sense of security cost me” balancing act and you have a glimpse into what occupies my time. In unambiguous situations, there is no calculation and I am sometimes less stressed; it is the decision-making that taxes me relentlessly.

I don’t know if “what opportunities might I be missing out on by not letting this play itself out” would mean anything to my anxious self, but I did notice a shift as visions of quiche and pies formed in my mind as I saw the contents of my fridge repurposed. I don’t know that I’ll ever get to the point where I welcome or call for opportunities to present themselves to me in terms of wanting more challenge in my life, but I do want to open to the idea that they might exist in places that, up to this point, have been hidden from me. Do you call forth opportunities for change? What might that look like right now in your life?

In Search of Dreams (In the Cards)

Today’s card invited me to spend some time contemplating recent dreams and deciphering the wisdom of my unconscious mind. I had a vivid dream a few nights ago that led me to worry that the person about whom I’d dreamt had died. As far as I know, he hadn’t, but I lost an estranged family member a day or two later. It is always tempting to view situations like that as prophetic, but I have my doubts. Even that dream, though, generally held the same theme and energy as the large share of my dreams.

I am always attempting to have the moment arrive in my dreams. I will have intricate dreamscapes of buildings with spires and rooms upon rooms, through which I wander, never to find that for which I am looking. Sometimes, such as my recent dream, I am waiting for an appointment to begin, but there is confusion about the schedule and nothing lines up. Or, I will find myself driving along the highway, bland building after bland building passing by, uncertain of where I am headed.

People are, in general, not the central players in my dreams. It is always about searching and being foiled by the layout of the building or location in which I find myself, thwarted from meeting whatever unknown goal my mind has set for itself. There is a sense of time pressure in that I’m late or about to be late in most situations. The moment I am so desperately trying to reach is rarely an important or self-directed one; it is arranged in the service of keeping to a schedule or performing a work-related task.

My days are rushed and chaotic at times right now, but, underneath the hustle, there is a sense of lounging around as I don’t have to dress up or drive anywhere to perform my job. Even when life is “normal,” I schedule myself so that I am rarely under time pressure because of the amount of stress it causes me. I question why my resting mind anticipates and attempts to solve a problem that my waking mind has perfected many times over.

This of course leads me to a deeper interpretation. Am I searching for something other than the mundane? Am I trying to find myself, or to find answers to who I am? Am I seeking beyond my own limitations into the possibilities of the dreamworld?

From the scant empirical research on dreams in psychology, I do think it possible for our waking mind to influence our resting mind. So, I ask myself: For whom or what I am searching? Is the process of searching what I truly desire? What would it be like to sit instead and enjoy the creations of my inner world? What questions would you like your resting mind to answer?

Inner Complexity (In the Cards)

I brainstormed questions to my parts for a card for my In an Open Hand deck today; I have several left to create for the spring season. Today’s focus was about showing all sides of who I am. In reflecting on this theme, I was struck by the contradictions and nuances I’m finding in the unexpected expansiveness of being able to work from home.

From last August till this March, my mental health condition (PTSD) had been getting significantly worse, and I was struggling to find hope as I faced a seemingly unending series of triggers. Being able to disengage from face-to-face contact with people entirely has been a godsend to me, an experiment I never would have contemplated life would have enabled me to undertake. I’m “supposed” to be feeling lonely and anxious, but I feel calmer and happier than I have since last summer. My daily thought isn’t “when can I get back to normal life” but rather “oh shit, what am I going to do when I have to get back to normal life?”

I keep reminding myself that I’ve had more phone calls and text conversations and Zoom sessions than ever, so the feelings of peaceful relaxation may not be due solely to the change in the frequency of in-person interaction I’m having. I don’t know what it would be like if my internet and phone went out and I was truly alone with my thoughts, but I’m not convinced it would cause me immense suffering. Having to interact with people, especially in tense situations, causes me immense suffering.

The image that comes to mind is a broad path to the top of a mountain. I’ve managed to wander off of it and now the bridge across the stream it crosses has washed out, so climbing it is out of the question. I’ve meandered into a beautiful meadow filled with butterflies and tall grasses and a healing sun, and the shouts and commotion of “other people’s presence” are growing more and more distant. I’m no longer remotely convinced climbing the mountain of success through relationships and money holds any proximal or distant joy for me. I still require a sense of community, a sense of being a part of humanity, but what if I live it in my own garden and share my bounty in ways that work for me, rather than in a rigidly-defined and prescribed form?

There is still immense grief for others and the potential for my own losses in all of this; I’m not rose-colored in my meadow. I feel that finding my own place and pace is allowing me access to expressions of community and solidarity, instead of isolating me from them. Perhaps the best way I can say it is, more days than not (there was a notable exception), in the past two weeks I think I’ve come closer than I ever have to experiencing what it would be like to live without PTSD triggers constantly at the ready, and I love it and I don’t want to leave it. I never thought I’d have an opportunity to experience this side of things. I hope who I am inside can bundle the memories of this in a way that informs choices I make for myself in the future. What are you learning? What inner needs are making themselves known to you?

Inner Wisdom (In the Cards)

As I transition to the spring season of my In an Open Hand intuitive deck, I want to take a few moments to reflect on one of the parts of self to which my deck attends, namely, wisdom. I view wisdom as inner guidance that observes and responds to the needs of other parts of self. I became curious, in sitting with the concept of wisdom, as to what it needs itself.

My wise self immediately answered me and let me know, in a word, respect is what it desires. This week has been one experience after another of people (mostly senior to me), blatantly ignoring my education and insight and flat-out telling me I’m wrong or discounting my opinions in areas where I carry a great certainty that I am right. I crave the type of respect that takes time to develop, the one that evaluates another’s capacity and deems them worthy of taking seriously. I’m afraid, though, that there is often a temptation to give or withhold wisdom based on more superficial traits.

There is an entire body of work around the concept of (primarily cishet white) men asserting, without sufficient evidence, their own opinion as fact. What struck me as of late was the level of disregard that can accompany the dismissal of another’s perspective, as I found myself spoken to as though I had no right to stand on equal footing. I swear I could feel the arrogance of privilege seeping through. I knew in that moment that my wisdom wasn’t being respected; my inner needs were not being met by the person with whom I was communicating.

I get frightened when I can tell that someone is absorbing what I am sharing without any critical thinking, as though my knowledge is to be unquestioned. I want my wisdom to be held to the light, as there is always room to add in nuance and perspective. I do not want to be worshiped or for my insight to replace hard science. What angers me greatly is when the hard science I share is discounted because of the vehicle of my semi-young trans and non-binary body being the one delivering it. I believe we need to see past peoples’ exteriors and grant them a fair audience, judging what they have to say on the quality of their knowledge base and not on their similarity to us or our internalized stereotype of competent.

I find myself wondering then how I can better care for my inner wise self, given that I am likely to continue to be disrespected and ignored in the outer world. The first idea I have comes back to not wasting my energy. My capacity for knowledge isn’t related to how many cishet white men take me seriously. F*ck, that feels like a revelation! I felt something fall off of me when I wrote that sentence, the truth of it hitting me emotionally and not just intellectually. Can we please teach all children this message? Such a large percentage of the “people it is necessary to impress” in my life have fallen into this category, and releasing myself of any need for them to be my target audience is powerful. I think, then, that the next part of reassessing what my inner needs for respect might be is to ask to whom I most want what I have to say to be meaningful, a question which I think will take some time to ponder.

Buried in this entire essay is an unasked query as to my ability to show others respect. There are layers of unconscious biases I still need to uncover, but I think I have begun to move in a direction of acknowledging the value of listening to lived experience in earnestness, rather than “well, actually..” as a default. Wisdom and hard science aren’t synonymous, nor is “sounding smart” the same as being astute. Where are you at in terms of accessing your inner wisdom? Do you feel respected? To whom might you be giving away your power? How well do you listen to the wisdom of others?

Energy Drained and Recharged (In the Cards)

I am not someone who thinks of my life experiences as a universal force teaching me lessons, but I do like to reflect on what I encounter and to question my assumptions and the paradigm underneath which I am operating. Several events as of late have left me asking two questions: 1) what’s the best use of my energy if I hope to better the world in my own small way? and 2) what do I do with my anxiety about the current state of affairs? The conclusion I’m coming to is that there are people with whom my interaction is a squandered resource, but also that my anxiety might be useful in directing my energy productively. (Side note: none of my reflection here relates to my blog but rather to IRL conversations as well as posts on other social media sites).

In the past, if someone did not take what I had to say seriously, it would leave me questioning the veracity of the knowledge or experience I was sharing. I’ve come to see, though, that people often dismiss that with which they do not want to grapple. It is much easier to act like someone is over-reacting or too sensitive than it is to take their concerns, even if they do not match what you’ve experienced, as valid.

At the same time, there has to be a common base of knowledge from which everyone is working, or else people are counting in different numerical bases. I work from a scientific perspective and have had it up to here with people who believe, for instance, that drinking bleach (only a slight exaggeration) is a cure-all. It is not worth it, in my personal life, for me to try to convince people to care when we can’t agree on what the basic problems in the world today are.

As I’m living out this awareness, I keep coming to a point where I think “I could respond and explain myself again, but this isn’t worth my energy.” This is a new experience for me as I used to feel like silence was complicity if someone disagreed with me and I didn’t reassert what I know to be true, but I now know that if a person can’t take in what I’ve said, I stand to gain little by continuing to engage with them. The energy I’m bringing feels very masculine, like a “good enough, moving on” rather than a communal, connected “let’s dig in and work through this together” stance. I am tired, though, of giving mental space to people who create actual harm in the world through their anti-science and ill-informed actions. I’d rather focus on those who can be convinced to care and to act, who are open to listening and exploring their biases, as I am with them.

I’m currently convinced we are facing a global pandemic, and I don’t know what to do with the hours of research I’ve accumulated on the topic. The few people IRL to which I’ve spoken don’t even know what I’m referencing and I got no response when I sounded the warning on social media. Either I’m too anxious and I will have wasted some money stocking up on supplies, or, more or less, my worst fears will come true and “I told you so” will be a sentiment I’ll need to work on squashing. I want to have grace for people who come late to acknowledging danger and harm; I think this is where the energy reserves I withhold from them when they ignore science initially need to be used. I also need to focus on self-care and self-sufficiency in a sustainable way so that I am there for those who might panic as reality sets in.

I have never seen the evolutionary quandary anxiety disorders present so clearly as I do now. Were I living in a small group of hunter/gatherers, I’d be the person constantly testing the wind and sensing the slightest tremor in the earth. Most of my warnings wouldn’t bear out, so people might tune me out. But, when true danger arrived, I’d be the person packed and ready to go while others danced. Constant anxiety does have a survival benefit, but it alienates as much as it helps. By redirecting my energy away from people who will ignore potential calamity until death is at their doorstep, I can improve my contribution to society.

What behaviors in others tempt you into squandering your energy? Where do you fall on the “we’re all going to die now” to “everything is okay, forever” scale of anxiety? Do you see any advantages to your anxiety, if you are a highly anxious person?

Tarot by Candlelight (In the Cards)

Today I lit several candles and drew cards from the Dreams of Gaia deck. The themes of the cards I selected were to plant seeds of spirituality. I consider my spirituality to be inclusive of mindfulness and nature, with an openness to considering inner wisdom, collective interweaving and the Unknown. A web search revealed that there are apparently others who consider themselves to be agnostic Pagans, so that may be another label that would fit for me.

It is far too easy for me to lose myself in a sense of isolation and to forget the minuteness of my life on a cosmic scale. Something about seeking what the cards reveal in a darkened room helped me to reconnect with the sense of mystery that the analytic nature of my mind can dismiss. I would like to more fully integrate my practice of spirituality into my everyday life in a way that transforms the labor I have to perform from merely putting in time into an outflow of the deeper sense of meaning I, at times, know exists.

The seeds I would like to plant would be to widen my perspective. I would like to be with myself in difficult moments and, in this being-with, to know that whatever my experience may be, there is compassion for it outside of the boundaries of who I am. Perhaps that is another label that the cards draw me to in considering my spirituality, one who seeks compassion. What physical practices, such as lighting a candle, set the scene for you when you delve into your spirituality? What are ways in which you integrate spiritual practices into your daily life?

Migraine Self-Care (In the Cards)

I’m on day 2 of a migraine. I decided to pull a card and happened upon one focused on feelings of coziness and comfort in the chill of winter. It felt appropriate to explore how my self-care might be tailored to my particular health needs today.

Self-Observation

My migraines vary in their quality, intensity and duration. My main triggers appear to be dramatic shifts in the weather, hormone changes and emotional stress. I believe the current one has been brought on primarily by feeling overwhelmed; this kind tends to last longer and sometimes only lift after I process a lot of trauma memories and emotions. Starting by observing my experience and being with myself in the midst of it redirects my focus from the symptoms and onto self-care.

Dim the lights

I once happened to have an eye exam scheduled while I was having a migraine, which quickly confirmed for me that I become quite sensitive to light when I’m having a migraine. I began the day by skipping my routine of opening the curtains in my living room. I’ve kept everything as dark as I can and this reduces my pain level.

modulate my pace

Exercise has a paradoxical relationship with migraines. It can serve as a trigger but is also useful to reduce the frequency of migraines. For myself, low-impact exercise, where I get my body moving but do not increase my pulse to its upper threshold, seems to provide me with more benefits than complications.

I also need to rest at times when I’m in an active migraine phase. Too much external stimuli, such as a crowded mall with lots of smells, sights and sounds, feels even more unbearable when I’m in pain. Slowing myself down but continuing a steady amount of activity at times tends to work best for me.

eat nourishing foods

One sign I’ve noticed a migraine might be starting soon is that I will have strong salt or sugar cravings and a much harder time avoiding junk food. I ate a large amount of sushi Friday night which I think preemptively upped my salt level and warded off the worst of the cravings, although I then ate much more homemade food than I intended yesterday. Today, I accidentally made a super-spicy tofu dish, which I had to eat very slowly because my mouth was on fire. I found some research stating migraines are triggered by spicy foods and others noting spicy foods help to mitigate the symptoms of migraines; in either case, eating it certainly cleared out my sinuses quite effectively! Overall, doing as much as I can to eat homemade real food seems to be a way to keep my migraine symptoms from getting worse.

At times, extremely cold drinks that cause a “brain freeze” help to temporarily relieve my migraine pain when nothing else will. Apparently the blood vessels and nerves related to brain freezes may also come into play with cluster headaches and migraines, so perhaps inducing the phenomenon interrupts the headache. I may round out my diet for the day with a homemade ice-cold smoothie and see if I can replicate this person’s success.

If you suffer from migraines, which types of self-care do you find most useful? Like me, do you concentrate on trying to reduce the pain you are experiencing, or are there other priorities on which you find it more helpful to concentrate? Are there any foods or beverages that assist you the most in coping?

Sensory Indulgence (In the Cards)

Today’s card encouraged me to contemplate which of my senses might need some extra pampering. The two that come to mind are my sense of hearing and my sense of touch. I have felt really over-stimulated lately in terms of noises, and underwhelmed in terms of my experience of touch.

Misophonia misery

I struggle with severe misophonia, which means that certain sounds (mostly those made by other people) trigger rage. I especially cannot sounds “mouth noises” like someone chewing or breathing noisily. My dog has been having bad skin allergies and therefore biting at himself and licking his paws. I took him to the vet but his medications are not fully kicking in yet. My insomnia has been partially caused by being unable to screen out the noises he’s making.

To engage in some self-care for this sense, I am going to put more effort into having soothing music playing when I’m relaxing, as well as taking a drive to the country at some point this weekend to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Touch Hunger

Because I have my dog, I don’t feel as much of a craving for touch as I have in the past. Between my PTSD, asexuality and germaphobia, sexual touch isn’t something I desire with anyone else. I do, however, have times where I’d like a hug or to be able to let my guard down and relax around others. I’m not fully certain how to get my needs met for this sense, but I think some simple actions like a foot bath or brushing my dog’s hair might help.

Which of your senses has been overworked lately? Which might be feeling neglected? Which acts of self-care do you find particularly beneficial for each sense?

Invalidation or Acknowledgment? (In the Cards)

Today’s card invited me to consider vulnerability and sharing in confidence with others. What it led me to consider is how I can discern, both inwardly and outwardly, whether my pain and needs are being taken seriously or not. I know how to spot invalidation, experiencing and acting from a place of validation is more of a challenge.

Signs of A Validating Relationship

RESPECT

Respect includes boundaries. No one can solve all of our problems or bear all of our burdens. When someone respects me, they care enough to ask how they can be there for me, and to be realistic if there is something I need that they are unable to provide. The message “I agree you need this. I can’t provide it right now, but let’s talk about how you might get what you need” is my clearest approach to respectfully declining something I can’t take on personally.

Respect also includes holding what people share in confidence. This has been a struggle for me for reasons I’ve never fully understood. I think holding someone’s secret feels like lying to me and I have been known to gossip at times. Perhaps being forced to prove my “loyalty” by hiding the fact that I was being sexually abuse as a child has made me averse to knowing someone’s business but having to pretend to others that I don’t. I’m not a hypocrite in that I don’t expect others to hold most things I share with them in total confidence. If I have an area of providing a validating environment on which I most need to work on myself, this would likely be it.

Responsiveness

People express empathy in different ways, but there has to be some degree of caring shown in order to feel validated. People who ignore me by not responding at all when I’m venting show me that my concerns are unimportant to them. Likewise, those who listen to my needs and then immediately focus defensively on discounting my concerns and/or on asserting their own conflicting demands demonstrate to me that they only want to take, rather than to engage in a mutually-beneficial relationship. Responsiveness includes acknowledging my perception of the experience, apologizing if harm has been done and discussing ways to improve the situation with a non-defensive, open mind.

Recollection

In terms of feeling cared for, having someone remember a sensitivity or remind me that they care about a particular burden I’m carrying feels extremely validating. On the other hand, having to remind someone again and again that something upsets me leads me to believe they don’t actually care deep down. Sometimes, through dialogue, I’ve learned that they simply struggle with memory in general. Other times, repeated failures in this area have proven true as an indicator of their lack of concern for my general well-being.

Which relationship behaviors are necessary for you to feel heard and seen? What red flags show you someone might not be a trustworthy person who cares about you? What do you do in relationship to validate others?

Safety First (In the Cards)

Today’s card draw from my In an Open Hand deck invited a reflection on the safeguards needed in order to foster deep connection. I’ve become intimately familiar with what feels unsafe in relationships, so I’m hoping I can extrapolate from that into what would allow for a sense of security (as well as consider moments where it’s gone right). I believe the same principles apply inwardly in my inner work as well as outwardly as I relate to other people.

Respect for vulnerability and boundaries

The interaction that has destroyed most of my close relationships is my perception that the other person does not care about the vulnerable parts of who I am, that they are pressing past my boundaries I’ve clearly established to get to my strength, my trauma be damned. I also struggle when someone reacts to me as though I’ve crossed their boundaries, even though they either never communicated them to me or have changed them without telling me. I grow especially weary when people take and take in terms of emotional support, but then push me away when someone else (usually the person they were in conflict with that I’ve been helping them process) gets closer to them and they don’t need me anymore. Basically, I can tell when I’m being used and I refuse to tolerate it.

I want relationships where vulnerability is treated with the care and honor it deserves and where the emotional care-taking is evenly balanced over the course of the relationship. I want to be comfortable setting boundaries and having them be set with me. Most of all, I want to feel that there are more than enough resources between the other person and I so that we can both benefit from our interactions, rather than holding a sense of scarcity that makes every kindness I give feel like a kindness withheld from me (and vice versa).

capacity to own flaws and limitations

I’ve received very few heart-felt apologies about the “big” stuff in my life. I can think of several that I’ve doled out, as I know I am capable of self-examination and can take responsibility for my part in interactions. In order to be able to do this, a person must first know themselves well and accept themselves, otherwise, any feedback from others that they’ve been acting in a harmful way will only trigger their defenses.

The capacity for self-reflection is only part of the equation, as a recent relationship proved to me, as a person also has to be conscientious and able to feel guilt. I feel remorse when I know I’ve hurt someone, intentionally or accidentally, so I apologize. People who cannot feel guilt don’t and those of us on the other side of it may feel tempted to internalize their guilt. It’s as if there is a free-floating amount of remorse generated when one party harms another, and someone has to absorb it. As a result, I feel so guilty when I end relationships with people who have harmed me and have failed to apologize or change after doing so.

When someone knows themself and holds themself to a set of moral standards, they can then view mistakes and flaws as opportunities for growth. There might even be a place of gratitude for the chance to learn more fully how to be kind and caring. This is an impersonal example, but I read this article and, because I support death with dignity so strongly and because the patriarchy is so insidious, I completely missed the misogynistic murder aspect to the story until I read Twitter discourse on it. I felt immensely appreciative to be able to re-examine my thoughts and reactions before I caused direct harm to anyone by sharing my flawed viewpoint. I would be lying if I said I handled in-person confrontations as well, but I want to be a person and to know people capable of this non-defensive response to situations where we miss the mark.

support and honesty

I’ve met people who seem intent on criticizing my every flaw to make themselves feel better. I’ve also met people who flatter me as a way to get what they want from me. Neither approach is sustainable over time in terms of building trust. What I want from others and from myself is the ability to find and uplift the good, while judiciously sharing concerns when asked.

My issues with anxiety are so severe that I can lean into “well, but have you considered…doom and gloom prediction…” an approach which inevitably feels unsupportive even when my intention is to help the person avoid harm. I try now to at least ask permission before launching into such an analysis. I want the people with whom I’m close to be honest with me in their assessment of issues I discuss with them, but to couch that honesty within the context of their own biases.

In conclusion, I think I’ve managed to create a narrative to which I can return from time to time in order to assess the health of my relationships. The attributes I’ve described are not only qualities I want to find in others, they are also capacities I want to more fully develop in myself. It feels rather odd to crave guilty people, but, when I think through the relational landmines of the prior decade, pretty much all of them, whether the other person invaded my space or abandoned me when I needed support, was held in the frame of “I don’t own/accept responsibility for/feel guilty on any level” for pain I experienced as a result of interactions with the person. In some cases, I wasn’t brave enough to fully articulate what I believed the person should accept as their mess to clean up, but this was usually because their general approach to the world told me there was zero chance of them responding non-defensively. I can’t expect others to treat me in a way I cannot act, so it is my responsibility to continue to grow into the person I want in my life.

What are the behaviors and characteristics that create safety in relationships for you? What role, if any, does the capacity for guilt play? Who would you like to become relationally?