Practical Tarot: Knowing When to Rest

Sleep, from Ashley Snow's Intuitive Mandalas app (an Indie Goes app available on Google Play)

Sleep, from Ashley Snow’s Intuitive Mandalas app (an Indie Goes app available on Google Play)

This comment may get some eye-rolling from the skeptics, but I’ve found that tarot and oracle cards get more accurate the more you listen to them and act on their advice. The universe is like your mother: if you don’t listen, she won’t stop dispensing advice, but if you DO listen, she’ll be happy to say much, much more. I have found that some very interesting things happen when I treat my card pulls like spiritual GPS, on those occasions when I follow their advice as closely as I do the directions I get from Google Maps.

This is a prelude to saying that if your cards are telling you to rest, to paraphrase something my daughter said the other day, “you better had.”

A few days ago, I downloaded Ashley Snow’s Intuitive Mandalas app (made by Indie Goes) onto my phone. At the time, I was feeling very tired in the middle of the day and contemplated a nap–though I always feel guilty about napping when I could be working. I asked the Intuitive Mandala app for advice, and got this card: Sleep. So, I did.

Easy Does It from Doreen Virtue's Archangel Raphael Healing Oracle Cards

Easy Does It from Doreen Virtue’s Archangel Raphael Healing Oracle Cards

This morning (several days later–no, I didn’t sleep for days like Sleeping Beauty! several normal days intervened), I still felt unusually tired. I pulled out a deck that I thought I had retired: Doreen Virtue’s Archangel Raphael’s Healing Oracle Cards. Shuffled and pulled: Easy Does It.

Maybe this is a good time to mention that my daughter has been home all week from school with a sore throat and a bad cold.

This evening, I went from thinking I was fine, to rapidly increasing cold symptoms, within about five minutes. Sore throat? check. Seemingly on fire between one moment and the next. Sniffles? Check. WTF? Check.

Knowing I was sick, but curious to see what the cards would say, I pulled out Barbara Moore’s Steampunk Tarot, asking for the situation and advice. (Is it okay to ask the tarot to confirm something you already know? Or is that stacking the deck? Please. I am not a magician and don’t have the dexterity–or the lack of a conscience–to pull any card I want out of the deck!)

The Empress and reversed Knight of Pentacles, from Barbara Moore's Steampunk Tarot

The Empress and reversed Knight of Pentacles, from Barbara Moore’s Steampunk Tarot

Situation: The Empress. Confirmation that I am a mother and this came from my child. Plus a little added layer of “rest, please,” since in the Steampunk Tarot the Empress is reclining regally on a bed. Advice: reversed Knight of Pentacles. How about stop working for right now? In case I hadn’t figured out that that’s what rest means!

So, here I am working and writing this post instead of going to bed…but that’s next. Moral of the story: listen to your cards. Which raises a question…which card would you interpret as “please go and indulge in some chocolate, stat?” Please comment below! :-)

Save Rachel’s Rats! One Teenager’s Fight to Save the Rats Who Act as Her Therapy Animals

Here in the Milwaukee area, five rats are helping one teenage girl battle anxiety — but now her rats are in danger because they accidentally got into some poison. Can you help by contributing to her veterinary bills? Here’s a link to updates on the rats and the chance to donate to their care in return for art work by a budding and very talented artist! Remember, these rats, to her, are therapy animals, and she may really need them. She is literally taking them to the vet one at a time as she manages to raise the money to do so. Please help her out with a donation, if you can.

http://www.gofundme.com/ovshfo

Literary Lenormand: Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Silver Borne, by Patricia Briggs. From my local library!

Silver Borne, by Patricia Briggs. From my local library!

I have to get this post up IMMEDIATELY so I can start reading this book! Must find out what’s going to happen to Mercy Thompson this time.

Okay, so this time I decided to do a nine card spread, and pulled:

My nine card Lenormand spread on Silver Borne (and what will happen to Mercy Thompson in the course of the story).

My nine card Lenormand spread on Silver Borne (and what will happen to Mercy Thompson in the course of the story).

Mice     Rider     Dog

Snake   Tower   Crossroads

House   Clover  Clouds

Based on the first column (Mice/Snake/House), I think that something will be taken from Mercy’s home, through some sort of trickery or deception. She still has a friend in her house (reading the corners now, Dog/House), though I would expect so based on the ending of the last book. There are a lot of doubts about who could have stolen the item (corners again: Mice/Clouds). (Then again, those Mice could be anxiety, rather than theft, I suppose.)

Based on the second column, I think Mercy might be imprisoned at some point in the story (Tower) and/or that she feels isolated from her friends (Tower/Dog). Clover/Rider, though, makes me think she will be fortunate (Clover) to get a message (Rider) from a friend (Rider/Dog), and that message will lead to her having to make a choice (Crossroads) and/or to freeing herself from imprisonment (Tower/Crossroads). Unfortunately, the betrayer may also have some luck (Snake/Clover). Travel also seems possible (movement from House to Crossroads).

By the end of the book, I think Mercy will have some doubts as to who her friends really are (Dog/Clouds, with both knighted by Snake). Perhaps it isn’t clear who was responsible for the theft (if any) but it seems to have required a betrayal along the line by someone, somewhere. Reading more literally, maybe those clouds are a forecast of rain by the end of the book! Or of driving along a road in the rain with a friend (Dog/Crossroads/Clouds), probably the same friend who lives in her house (corners: Dog/House). Or, on the other hand, maybe Mercy is metaphorically in the doghouse, and her assumed betrayal of a friend leads her to be isolated or imprisoned (Tower).

One thing is certain; I don’t think Mercy’s life is going to become any less stressful any time soon (corners again: Mice/Clouds). When will Patricia Briggs ever write a novel in which Mercy peacefully works on cars the whole time? :-) And, why, oh why, doesn’t the Lenormand have a vampire card? (Oh, wait, maybe that’s the Coffin–but as you can see, it doesn’t turn up in my nine card spread above. Nor does the Scythe, which I almost expected to see, given the events of the past few books in the series.)

Now (in the interests of full disclosure), the cover copy says Mercy will be trying to return, in this book, the book that she borrowed in a previous one, but that when she tries to do so, the bookstore from which she borrowed the book turns out to be locked up and abandoned, and that Samuel (her beloved werewolf friend who lives with her) is struggling with his wolf. It’s possible the locked bookstore could be the Tower, but I’m not convinced of that yet. But I hope to find out soon…very soon!!! In case you’re wondering, this series is rather addictive. Which is why I checked out the book that follows this one at the same time…you can see it peeking out from under Silver Borne in the photo–it’s River Marked (which I might write a Literary Lenormand post about, if I can resist diving immediately into it after finishing Silver Borne!).

If you have read this and have comments about my forecast above, please feel free to post in the comments below. I don’t think you will spoil the story for me–I typically devour a Mercy Thompson book in about two days.

3/28/15 update

Sorry to be slow in updating this post–I have to admit that I wound up diving straight from this book into the next one in the series (but will only cover events in Silver Borne below). I love these books. For one thing, I love that trying to do cartomancy related to these novels has me thinking about thiings like, “what card WOULD represent a vampire? what card WOULD represent a werewolf?” If the Coffin represents vampires, and the scythe (for Mercy) is the tool she uses to cut off their heads, then the absence of these two cards from the spread above is appropriate, because this book did NOT focus on vampires.

There is imprisonment in this story (the Tower); as an aside, my one criticism of Patricia Briggs is that I wish she would use hostage-taking as a device a bit less often. Please?

Anyway, moving on:

Yes to the deception (the Snake), right from the start. Mice plus Snake is a major theme throughout the book. Deception, from people close by (in the house, not in her house but in Adam’s house next door). The deception does lead fairly inevitably to major decisions being made (the Crossroads). And, in re Deception, fae glamour. A double dose of the Snake!

Yes to the House. By page 10, Mercy is in her house and considering her relationship with Adam. However, by the end of the book, there is no more house (It burns down in a fire). Is that forecast by House/Clover/Clouds? The house was burned pretty much down to the grass (Clover), but I would expect the Clover to be a bit more positive. The Clouds card shows a ship at sea….representing moving away from the house after the fire? Possibly.

Yes to the dog in the house, though I would have expected a werewolf to be represented in the Lenormand by the Fox. But in this case…Samuel does masquerade as a dog at one point in the book. And is also a good friend (again, the Dog).

Reading the center vertical line: Rider/Tower/Clover. A message sent, related to imprisonment, and imprisonment where? Underhill. Under a great grassy meadow. I’d say yes to Clover here!

Overall I’m pleased with this reading. I think it hit the main points of this book’s plot fairly well. And as a learning exercise for figuring out what the Lenormand means when it says certain things….I am finding this very educational.

5 Anxiety Remedies for Stress Hives For Those Times When Xanax Just Isn’t Going to Cut It

I have never considered myself an anxious person. In fact, I spent the first 40 years of my life utterly convinced that anxiety was a problem for other people, but not for me. Then I figured out (okay, my current doctor figured out) that the hives that I break out in on a fairly regular basis are not, in fact, caused by food allergies or sensitivities–thank goodness, because I was running out of foods to try eliminating from my diet!–but by stress, a/k/a anxiety. no hives

The proof is that if I take anxiety-reducing medication such as Xanax–and for me it usually only takes a very tiny crumb of Xanax to be effective–I immediately start to literally feel the hives receding. Which is totally spooky and totally cool. Imagine if you had a mosquito bite (which itches about as much as my stress hives) and could watch or feel it getting smaller and smaller over the course of 30 minutes. That’s what I’m talking about.

I should have guessed that stress was the issue, since my mother breaks out in hives whenever she gets worried about me or my brother (like the many pre-cell-phone occasions when I did not get off a plane that I was supposed to be on and she had no idea where I was). But, it didn’t occur to me that there might be a connection until much later.

As an aside, I went to many different doctors, both alternative and Western, including an allergist and a dermatologist, before I started dating my now-husband, who dragged me to see his doctor/friend, who barely even looked at me–it was a slow day and he literally diagnosed me standing in the waiting room next to the receptionist’s desk–before saying, “that is neurodermatitis and it is probably caused by stress; I will write you a prescription.” I was skeptical because I often turn out to be allergic to Western drugs, but he was 100% correct. (My husband’s response: “looks like SOMEONE has an anxiety problem.”)

So why would anyone ever need an alternative to Xanax? (Aside from the fact that it’s a controlled substance and is very addictive? Aside from the fact that it treats the symptom and not the underlying source of the anxiety?) Because Xanax is so incredibly relaxing that if you take it during the day, when you are trying to get stuff done, you are quite likely to find yourself asleep instead. (Don’t take it and then drive, EVER.) Particularly if you are supersensitive to drugs, as I am. I can break those pills in half and then in quarters until the cows come home, but I can never get them small enough to not knock me out. I can fight the sleep for a couple of hours with coffee or Red Bull if I have to, but it will still get me in the end.

So here are my alternatives–and you should find at least a few of them helpful even if you have never reached the point of having to resort to Xanax!

1. A nice hot cuppa. Personally, I find even black tea to be very soothing, although the National Institutes of Health note that it has been studied as a remedy for stress and found to be ineffective. Maybe my tea is more effective because I add a drop of peppermint oil (using a food grade essential oil, which is fairly easy to find on Amazon), although that too, the NIH claims is ineffective for stress (though it admits a strong beneficial effect for people with irritable bowel syndrome). Several of my favorite herbals, however, DO recommend peppermint for its soothing, anti-stress effects. Billie Potts writes in Witches Heal that peppermint is a good remedy to have on hand for shock; while Lalitha Thomas writes in 10 Essential Herbs that peppermint is very soothing to the nerves and has a sedative action for many people. You may find this surprising if you know that some people also use peppermint tea as a substitute for coffee! Maybe the answer here is that coffee is a natural antidepressant, and some people–no matter what they may be telling themselves–drink coffee not really to wake up but rather to shake off the mild depression that otherwise threatens to paralyze them first thing in the morning. (If you drink massive amounts of coffee all day, ask yourself whether that might be your real reason.) Want one more source for peppermint? Here it is, from David Hoffman’s The Herbal Handbook: A User’s Guide to Medical Herbalism: “As a nervine it acts as a tonic, easing anxiety, tension, hysteria etc. In painful periods it relieves the pain and eases associated tension. Externally it may be used to relieve itching and inflammations.”

Lalitha Thomas writes in 10 Essential Herbs that clove tea is also extremely helpful for anxiety and tension, but that it also tends to make people sleepy. I haven’t tried clove myself. To my amazement, she also recommends garlic, saying of it “I was very skeptical when I first learned of this nervine effect of Garlic, yet it has proved itself repeatedly.” Hey, it’s worth a try, and I can’t think of any negative side effects.

Some people will tell you to drink chamomile tea for stress. That’s all well and good, and I personally love chamomile; it DOES help me with stress, though it also makes me sleepy (just like Xanax, though not as severe), and scientific studies show that chamomile is beneficial for the skin; the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (which is a nice resource to know about when you are researching this stuff) has studied it for generalized anxiety disorder. The problem with chamomile, though, is that many people are allergic to ragweed and to other plants, like chamomile, that might fall into that category. That’s a pretty strong contraindication if you are prone to hay fever. If you know for sure that you are not allergic to chamomile, you can find it in many forms in addition to tea, such as tinctures and capsules. A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial at the University of Pennsylvania has shown that this can be helpful for patients with mild to moderate anxiety.

You can also find valerian, the herb that Xanax (a relative of Valium) is closely related to (if not actually derived from–if you look into this you’ll find that Xanax is made in a lab but does share some chemical similarities with valerian), in a tea or tincture form, or in capsules. In fact, Celestial Seasonings makes a tea that is a chamomile-valerian combination (with a warning on the label telling you not to give it to anyone under the age of 18). Valerian has thousands of years of history behind it; it was used in ancient Greece and Rome, was written about by Hippocrates, and later was prescribed by Galen for insomnia. It’s being studied for use in relieving anxiety, but NIH claims the jury is still out (how that can be the case when valium works the same way valerian does, I don’t know–both are believed by scientists to increase the amount of GABA in the brain). The University of Maryland Medical Center disagrees with the NIH on this one, saying that valerian has been used to ease anxiety since the second century and that valerian is approved in Germany for use as a sedative. My experience and that of people I know is that it does help, but some people think the cure is worse than the disease in this case, because most people think valerian tastes absolutely awful, especially if you take it in the stronger tincture form rather than as a tea. If that’s true for you, and valerian tincture ends up being the thing that works best for you, my advice is to just put a dropperful of it into orange or cranberry juice. It won’t be that bad!!

There are lots of other herbal remedies that you can look into for anxiety. Phyllis Balch’s Prescription for Nutritional Healing recommends not only the previously mentioned chamomile and catnip, but also several others, including passionflower, which you will find as an ingredient in many herbal teas that claim to reduce stress. It’s a good idea to carefully research any herb that you are considering using for stress, and consider consulting your doctor before using it, unless it’s one of those herbs that are so common that you already are aware that it’s safe for you (as might be the case with herbs that are commonly used for cooking). The University of Maryland Medical Center also mentions lemon balm (in addition to several of the previously mentioned herbs).

It’s interesting how so many of these herbal remedies will make a person as sleepy as Xanax will! Sometimes I wonder if nervous tension is the only thing keeping some of us awake at all!

So, now that’s move on to some anxiety remedies that are NOT for ingestion and that will NOT make you sleepy (that latter point is an important one for those of us who are really trying not to sleep through our entire lives).

2. Aromatherapy

My two favorites here are lavender and ylang ylang. Lavender is very soothing; while ylang ylang reduces the tendency to panic. Citrus oils, believe it or not, are also somewhat calming. According to Valerie Ann Worwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils & Aromatherapy, lavender actually seems to be helpful in reducing the effects of clinical shock. (But if you are suffering from shock or know someone who is, please bear in mind the basic first aid principles for treating shock: have your patient lie down with his or her feet raised about a foot higher than the head, to increase the flow of blood–and oxygen–to the brain, and keep the person warm and comfortable–there’s a reason why police put a blanket around people at crime scenes, and shock is that reason. Be sure to call a doctor, as well.)

For hives specifically, though, I strongly recommend a lavender salt scrub in the shower. You will be amazed at the soothing effect this has on your skin (assuming you don’t have any open scratches or anything of that sort, in which case don’t do this, as it will sting!). Trader Joe’s makes an awesome lavender salt scrub that costs about $6 if you buy it in the store (strangely, it costs more than twice that if you search for it online; WTF?). Origins makes a very nice salt scrub too, but it seems to range from $30-40 for about the same amount and same quality (in my opinion) of scrub. I will sometimes make a homemade version that is nice as well. Here’s how: I take the empty salt scrub jar, fill it with epsom salt, add olive oil, and then add about 30 drops of lavender oil. Then I close the jar, and give the whole thing a few good shakes. Ah! Skin relief, just waiting for my next shower! Don’t discount this method, because it not only soothes your skin, but also gives you the benefit of aromatherapy in the shower.

For my hives, personally, though, salt scrub isn’t enough, so I also buy large containers of lotion (anything cheap, super mild, and not tested on animals) and add my favorite essential oils to them. The thing is, hives need a double-pronged approach: yes, you have to face your anxiety and deal with it, but at the same time, you also MUST attack the problem at skin level with plenty of moisturizing and soothing, because dry skin (which is a real issue in a cold winter), will make those stress-induced hives itch so much more than they did already. So: salt scrub in the shower, followed by slatherings of aroma-infused lotion (lavender, please, because it will ease the burning and redness of those hives), are an absolute necessity.

3. Crystals

Citrine and rose quartz, one in each hand, right up against the point where your heart meridian reaches your palm. You’ll be surprised at how effective this is. Like many other anxiety remedies, citrine and rose quartz together can knock me right out. Sigh. But hopefully that won’t be the case for you! For more information about these crystals, see Judy Hall’s The Crystal Bible.

You can also turn to the biggest crystal of all: our planet. Go outside in nature. Let the air whisk the anxiety out of your aura. Plant your feet on the Earth. It helps.

4. Meditation

Do I really have to explain this one? Take time to slow down, stop, and follow your breath. Go up to the search bar on this website, and search for meditation, and I think you’ll find a lot more information about it! But this post is getting very long as it is.

5. Oracle cards

This is the time to turn from tarot to oracle cards, if you’re trying to do divination around the source of your anxiety. Why? Because oracle cards will give you a sense of gentle perspective that will help to ground you. Those times when you are feeling anxious are not the world’s greatest times to do tarot readings for yourself–the anxiety will cast a cloud over whatever cards you draw, and it will be extremely difficult to interpret cards and images clearly, or even to truly hear the interpretation being given to you if you ask someone else to read for you. But oracle cards may get you through the anxiety, and then you can always do tarot a bit later, when you are feeling calmer and more grounded.

A final comment: why isn’t alcohol on my list? Well, here’s the thing. I’m absolutely not against drinking if you do so in moderation, which I do. And I do find that sometimes a drink will soothe my hives without knocking me out the way certain other remedies will. So it’s a possible go-to remedy, yes. But, an acupuncturist once told me, and I believe this is true, that sugar increases heat in the body, and heat leads to hives. Alcohol has soooooo much sugar in it. Thus, I regard it as a potential remedy that must be used with EXTREME care. The last thing you want to do is end up itchier than you were to begin with! So you want to use mindful observation — and this is true with any other remedy, as well — to see how it affects you and in what amounts. Channel your inner scientist! You can do it! :-)

What are your go to remedies for anxiety? Please feel free to list them in the comments!

Literary Lenormand: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Leaving Time, Jodi PIcoult

Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

The library tells me have a scant week to read Jodi Picoult’s new novel, Leaving Time. The clock is ticking, and I’m only on page 8! Seems like the perfect time to continue learning the Lenormand, doesn’t it?

Leaving Time is about a woman’s grief over the loss of her mother, a scientist who studied elephants but who then disappeared mysteriously, and her search to find her. Or so I gather from the jacket copy.

Asking the Lenormand what will happen in this book, I drew: the Stork, the Fox, the Garden.

Stork, Fox, Garden, Lenormand

The Stork, the Fox, and the Garden…and notice, as well, the Queen of Hearts on the Stork card. Is that Alice, our protagonist’s mother?

The Stork: my guess here is that, through flashbacks, we will early on find the story of the protagonist’s birth and/or early childhood. But storks also have to do with migration. Do elephants migrate? I have no idea! But that’s another possibility here.

The Fox: Two things here: work, but also some kind of trickery. I think we’ll learn more about our elephant scientist’s work (honestly, though, I could guess that from the cover copy). But there’s also something mysterious, something tricky, going on. And, again, to be honest, I could guess that from the jacket copy as well. But that’s not the Lenormand’s fault! :-)

And finally: Not the Coffin, which would make me think that the protagonist will discover that her mother has died. But instead, the Garden, a meeting place–I think she will find her mother, and they will meet. I am inclined to think they will meet in person, but perhaps not–perhaps the meeting is a meeting of the minds, since I can also tell from the cover copy that she reads her mother’s journals. But I don’t think that’s going to be it. The Garden involves people in groups, public and private occasions, Rana George tells us (I’m referring to her Essential Lenormand as I study the Lenormand). I have this idea that Jenna, the protagonist, may find her mother giving a scientific talk in some public forum–though that also makes no sense, because surely she would have been in touch with her daughter if she were able to. Maybe I’ve just watched too many movies!

So, I have a week to read before handing off the book to the next person who has requested it from the library, and will post an update below after I finish. So if you’re reading along with me–either finish before me, or don’t come back to this page until you have! as you might find a spoiler. But feel free to post comments if you are reading along–this is my “on the record” prediction of what will happen, so from the point of view of this as a learning exercise, you won’t spoil that by telling me what happens.

3/2/15 about 2 a.m. update…

Just finished after reading all day and half the night…this is a very good book. I won’t spoil it for you. However, these cards are accurate, but my interpretation of them above is not quite right. An unexpected ending! What a surprise, from Jodi Picoult! (Maybe SHE is the fox….) :-)

Who Is the Devil?

“Do you think it’s possible to sell your soul to the Devil?” A friend asked me recently.

Wow. That raises so many other questions! Who is the Devil? Is there such a thing as a devil? Who am I, and do I have a soul, and if I do, what would constitute a sale? How would the purchase agreement be set up and who would adjudicate any possible disputes that might arise? And what would the Devil do with my soul anyway? Is collecting souls his hobby (you know, like the Tooth Fairy with teeth)? Moreover, I’m interested in the converse: if I can sell my soul to the Devil, does that mean I can also buy a soul from the Devil? Can I buy the Devil’s own soul? And what would I do with it? What could contain a soul, anyway?

I’m willing to go out on a limb and say that I don’t think a body can contain a soul. I think souls tend to lurk around in the vicinity of our bodies, but, to stay inside all the time? I just don’t see souls being able to be imprisoned like that. I think our souls go on walkabout from time to time. Maybe a lot more often than we think. Do the following words sound familiar to you? “What am I doing in this room? What did I come in here for?”

Okay, maybe that’s not a good example. Maybe our brains go walkabout as well.

The Devil

The Devil–in a multitude of decks!

Be that as it may. Let’s get to the tarot-related aspect of this question. Who is the Devil? There’s one in every tarot deck!

No matter what deck you use, though, people tend to become concerned when they see The Devil. And I think what’s so disturbing about this card is not that it seems so negative, but that of all the cards in the deck, this is the one that people most commonly think represents an actual person in their lives — and on some level, some people are afraid that they themselves might be, in some sense, the Devil.

Personally, I think it’s time we made peace with the Devil. Look how miserable he is! Poor thing.

Here’s the the thing about this card: it’s not so much a person, as a place. Where does the Devil reside? In Hell. In those moments when you feel that you or someone you know could maybe be the Devil, at least a little bit, consider that those are the moments when the person in question, whomever it might be, is dwelling, at least partially, in Hell. That Hell could be anger, it could be fear, it could be stress of all sorts, but what makes it Hell is not the negativity of the emotion that is connected with it. What makes it Hell is that you feel like you are trapped there for all eternity and it will never ever ever get better. And furthermore, you feel that must deserve it, because who goes to Hell without deserving it? At least, that’s the Christian doctrine that many of us grew up with. So we get stuck in Hell, we think we can’t get out, and we think it’s all pretty much our fault anyway. At that point in time, life basically sucks.

But like so many things in life, Hell is an illusion. No, hear me out on this. The SUFFERING of Hell is NOT an illusion. When you’re in Hell, you do suffer. I would never presume to suggest otherwise. But the whole being trapped there for all eternity and thinking it’s all your fault and feeling like you should, while suffering, be sure to feel guilty as sin about it….that’s an illusion. It’s just not true. Number one, there is a way out. Somewhere. I don’t know where it is, for you. But you sure are not going to find that way out if you’re sitting in a fetal position concentrating as hard as you can on how badly this sucks (like the person in the Gaian Tarot’s Devil — or Bindweed — card). Still, if that’s what you’re doing, you also don’t need judgement from me or anyone. Curling up in a fetal position is not a bad first step. It’s really fine. Maybe that’s the time that you need in which to regroup. Maybe you’re in shock (which can be serious, by the way). So I’m not saying, don’t do the fetal position thing, because that’s fine and it may be just what you need. It may calm you. It may encourage you to breathe. It may become a meditation. It may, truthfully, for you, turn out to be the actual way out — it’s possible.

But if it isn’t. That’s when you might need to work with the situation gently, applying good humor and patience wherever possible. If curling up in a fetal position regenerates your patience and humor, then by all means, repeat as necessary. Nobody said you had a deadline for getting out of Hell. Sheesh, if you’re there, might as well explore the place.

In fact, maybe exploring the place is the thing that you most need. Maybe that’s what you “deserve” — NOT the suffering, not the overall suckiness of the situation, but the chance to learn by exploring areas that are not your favorite destinations. What if even those moments of being “trapped by the Devil” were good for you? What if those moments were necessary (and they are in the sense that all things have a cause, and really a long line of causes going back through beginningless time)? What if your time in Hell was necessary for your overall well-being? How would it affect your outlook if you simply decided to operate on that assumption?

These are questions, and lots of them, and I don’t have answers for you. But if you think you’re the Devil, and you think I’m going to run away screaming from you, think again. I plan to make you a nice cup of tea. And if you think you’re going to get my soul, think again about that too. My soul can’t be contained. Even I can’t lock it up! So I’d say you’re in no danger, ever, of selling your soul to the Devil. I don’t think it can be done. I don’t think the Devil could hold your soul for a nanosecond. I think, truthfully, that your soul goes where it wants. If you’re not in touch with your soul at the moment, don’t blame the Devil, just go find it. Begin the Fool’s journey, even if you have to set out with literally nothing but your faith. Just go.

Am I My Brother’s/Sister’s/Parent’s/Spouse’s/Child’s/Friend’s Keeper? Or Why I Don’t Believe in Co-Dependency

If you have a loved one who sometimes behaves in ways that other people view as a problem, you are likely, at some point, to be labeled as “enabling” or “co-dependent.” You’re especially likely, in my opinion, to receive this label if you are a person who doesn’t believe in trying to control other people’s actions, and who especially does not believe in trying to control the behavior of another person who is actually an adult of sound mind.

Six of Pentacles; Six of Cups. Uh-oh, is there enabling going on here?

Six of Pentacles; Six of Cups. Uh-oh, is there enabling going on here? No, I don’t think so. What I see here is generosity, love, and forgiveness.

According to PyschCentral.com, if ANYone in your family is dysfunctional in ANY way, you are probably co-dependent. Excuse me? Talk about guilt by association. Let’s just blame everyone who in any way has ever associated with someone who behaved in a way that society doesn’t appreciate.

Of course, it is true that some people do have a hard time saying no to a loved one or setting boundaries around another person’s behavior in order to live their own lives. I think this is actually true of almost everyone at some point. When we find ourselves at such a point in our lives, we can certainly benefit from learning to work on boundaries for our own protection so that we can live our own lives. But let’s look at the language that’s being used here: “enabling,” and “co-dependent.” Do you see how the very language of this diagnosis is centered around another person, NOT the person who is being accused of being co-dependent? 

And let’s consider the source of the label: it’s one thing if an individual comes up with this idea on their own: “oh, I wonder if I am setting appropriate boundaries with my loved one? I wonder if I should continue to put up with being treated in a certain way?” When you notice that something is a continual challenge in your life, and you choose to address the issue, that is very empowering, and notice: that’s you taking action in your own life to make a difference for yourself.

Are the Queen of Cups and the Queen of Swords really at odds with each other? No, I don't think so. The Queen of Swords will enforce those boundaries that we need. But she wouldn't allow herself to be bullied -- she can tell when words like "enable" are embedded in bullshit. And she would never turn her sword against the Queen of Cups just because the Queen of Cups is so loving. Moreover, if she saw that the Queen of Cups had turned upside down, I think the Queen of Swords would find a way to lend a hand, rather than simply flinging  psychobabble at her.

Are the Queen of Cups and the Queen of Swords really at odds with each other? No, I don’t think so. The Queen of Swords will enforce those boundaries that we need. But she wouldn’t allow herself to be bullied — she can tell when words like “enable” are embedded in bullshit. And she would never turn her sword against the Queen of Cups just because the Queen of Cups is so loving. Moreover, if she saw that the Queen of Cups had turned upside down, I think the Queen of Swords would find a way to lend a hand, rather than simply flinging psychobabble at her.

However, when a third party labels another person as enabling or co-dependent, notice that the emphasis is usually NOT on the supposedly co-dependent enabler but rather on that person’s relative/spouse/friend. What’s happening here is NOT empowering for the supposed co-dependent at all. Instead, it’s a way of using that person to try to manipulate the behavior of the person who is regarded as dysfunctional or as being “enabled.” It’s simply a way of treating the “co-dependent” as a pawn in a game of power politics: if I apply pressure on you, maybe you’ll apply pressure on this other person, and something will change. 

Frankly, I don’t appreciate it. I think it’s an appalling displacement of responsibility. No one can control the actions of another person. I can’t. You can’t. No one can. You have control over your own actions and your own choices — not those of other people. If you act like a jerk, that is your responsibility. But if someone else acts like a jerk, I just do not see how that is your fault. Not even if you do the jerk’s laundry or make dinner for him/her.

Not even if you gave birth to this jerk. Not even if you married this jerk. I mean, I suppose a third party could say, “well, if you hadn’t given birth to this person, he/she wouldn’t be here now irritating other people!” or “if you hadn’t done this jerk’s laundry, he/she would still be at home looking for clean clothes and not bothering others with his/her generally obnoxious attitude!” But that, to me, is a bit of a reach.

When you do laundry for a loved one, when you put food on the table, when you provide a roof over someone’s head, when you are kind and loving with another person, when you listen and don’t judge, when you behave in a way that is respectful of another person’s autonomy, that’s not being co-dependent or enabling. We need a different word for this behavior, and fortunately, the English language has supplied us with an ideal one: supportive.