Tarot and Writing – Part 3

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So in the first two parts of this series, I gave a basic understanding of what the tarot is and what it does. In this part I’m going to give a breakdown of the various parts of the tarot. It’s a general overview of what’s to come. I will explain what the tarot is comprised of and a general understanding of its importance to the overall system. No, you don’t actually have to know this to use the tarot in your writing. I’m simply giving this information so you can use it in the future if you like.

Major Arcana

The Major Arcana of any tarot are the heart of the system. Consisting of 22 cards, they speak about life events.

At this point I have to make a distinction. In our lives there are different kinds of events that occur. One type is “life events.” These events are those moments when our lives are at a pivot point. We all have them and we don’t always recognize them because sometimes a life event can be a small, seemingly insignificant, moment. It can be a simple as making a left turn instead of a right and bumping into a friend you haven’t seen in years. These life events cause your life to alter its course and take you in a new direction. They happen all the time and that’s natural.

Major Arcana talk about life events or people that cause life events. These cards have an effect on how the cards around them are read. They impact everything around them.

Minor Arcana

The Minor Arcana are significant in a different way. These cards talk about influences and events that happen around you. Think of them as the supporting cast. When you watch a movie, for example, you never think of who is taking care of the props yet without them the movie would suffer a great deal. The Minor Arcana are similar. These are events and people moving in and around your life in a more subdued way than the Major Arcana. The Minor Arcana are divided into four groups.

Cups

The suit of cups talks about emotional issues. It corresponds to the heart and water is its element.

Wands

The suit of wands talks of passion and creation. It corresponds to the stomach where your instinct dwells and fire is its element.

Swords

The suit of swords is about the intellect, logic and reason. It corresponds to the head and air is its element.

Disks/Pentacles

The suit of disks or pentacles, as it’s sometimes called, talks a lot about money. However, it also talks about physical needs and more concrete elements in your life. It corresponds to the root chakra or the base of the spine and its element is earth.

Next time I’ll start to break down the tarot even further. If you wish to have the individual card meanings, then I will recommend some books and websites at the end of this series. For now, this surface level understanding is really all you need to use the tarot in your writing.

 

Tarot and Writing – Part 2

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Okay, so part one was all about learning that the tarot can be used for more than just telling the future. In fact, the tarot doesn’t actually help foretell anything. I’m going to let you in on a little secret that tarot readers understand but they don’t generally tell you. It is impossible to foretell the future. Doesn’t happen. Instead, what the tarot does is tell you likely outcomes given your situation and state of mind at present.

Wait a minute. You mean nothing mystical’s going on?

Nope. All that’s happening is that the cards present to you possibilities given where you are at present which depends on what has happened in the past. So what does that mean and how does it pertain to your writing.

There are 78 cards in a standard tarot deck (I understand there are some non-standard tarot decks but for my purposes we’re cheerfully ignoring them). This is comprised of 22 major arcana and 56 minor arcana. Each of those cards embodies an archetype of some form or another. What that means is that those archetypes are going to ring with some aspect of your life. This is where many dismiss the tarot as being without merit or a fool’s game. If that’s where you leave it then you’ve missed the point of the tarot and I’m going to let you in on its secret.

The tarot’s images are meant to speak to the reader. The reader then interprets them based on a number of factors; your reactions, the cards surrounding it, questions they’ve asked ahead of time. There are many readers out there who are very good at what they do and they have my deepest respect but the tarot is meant to be a personal device, not mediated through another.

When you see a tarot card, there is something in the image that speaks to your inner self. You may focus on a color or how the image is placed. At first you are probably unaware of how this image rings with your deeper self. However, it is there and it is this inner awakening that makes the tarot ideal for helping you to generate ideas.

As we go in this series, I will show you how to take that unconscious recognition and make it conscious. I recommend you get a tarot deck for yourself. As I’ve said in my previous post, I recommend the Thoth tarot deck as the images are ideal for this sort of work. However, you can choose another if you’re more comfortable with them. The problem will be that when I get into the individual cards, you will get lost as Aleister Crowley altered the Thoth deck significantly. The closest to this deck would be the Rider-Waite deck but I still recommend the Thoth deck.

Next time I will delve a bit deeper into the connection between the self and tarot and how to use that connection.

 

The Tarot and Writing

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Thoth Tarot Deck

Thoth Tarot Deck

When I first began writing fiction, something happened that I didn’t expect. I hit a wall. A big, steel, high as fuck wall. I’d been writing articles for years before having to take a hiatus to care for my parents. I still kept writing but it wasn’t fiction. Small things; poems, true stories, weird events; things like that. Writing fiction, though, is a different horse. It has six legs and can be a mean mother fucker. Rather than give up, I did what any writer would do and tried to write past the wall.

Every writer has encountered that wall. Whether you’ve been at it for a day or for 50 years, that wall is big and dark and it has your name written all over it. When it happened to me, I had an ally I didn’t expect; the tarot deck.

As it happened, I was using the Thoth Tarot deck at the time. Designed by Aleister Crowley, it was fundamentally altered from the traditional Rider-Waite deck in some very significant ways. It was these alterations that helped me fight that wall.

Crowley believed that the tarot decks used up to that point were flawed. He believed that to keep the whole magick system secret, the designers of the decks changed things. So, he changed them back. Typical Crowley, really.

What Crowley understood, and I came to learn, was that the tarot was a tool but a flawed tool was useless. Because of it’s unique quality, I came to use the deck to blast through that wall known as WRITER’S BLOCK. It’s the very changes that make the Thoth deck uniquely designed to do just that.

In this upcoming blog series, I will show you, my faithful readers, how to use the Thoth Tarot deck to blast through your own walls. No, you don’t actually have to be a writer to get use out of it. I will show you how to use the deck to generate ideas that will enable to you to move forward on projects, ideas or just in life. This isn’t mysticism, it’s just common sense that anyone can use whether you use the tarot or not. You don’t need any special skills or knowledge. You don’t need crystals or know how to meditate. All you need to do is learn how to look and see what’s in front of you.

As I will explain later, I use the Thoth tarot deck because it’s uniquely designed. You’ll come to learn (and love) this design. I recommend you use the same deck and if you choose to change to another deck, do so after the series which I will post once a week.

Welcome.

 

Riding the Black Horse

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This is the first time in years that I’ve used my writing to work out what’s going on in my life. Right now I’m so overwhelmed that I feel I have no choice.

See, that’s the biggest problem right now. I’m helpless. I’m poor and that doesn’t give me a lot of options and I have a whole list of disabilities that limits me as well. I have this fantasy about living a life where I’m allowed to make choices that benefit me instead of being forced into situations that benefit some faceless government.

I just got a notice today that my rent is going up $265 in two days. Yes, you got that right. Two whole days to come up with $265. Looks like groceries are optional now. See, I live in a low-income building and let me give you a few facts.

  1. There is no definition as to who can live in a low-income building. There’s no regulations stating that you have to make under a certain amount to live here. I could be a millionaire and still rent here.
  2. There’s no regulations stating what they can or can’t charge for their apartments. Legally, they could raise my rent to $1000/month if they wanted to and still call themselves “low-income.”
  3. There’s no regulation stating how they determine my rent. A common practice in low-income buildings is to have tenants hand in their tax assessment and base rents on that. However, that’s not the law. It’s just common practice.
  4. They’re under no legal obligation to give me any notice in rent increases. Yes, folks, you read that right. Two days is completely legal.
  5. I can be kicked out at any time if I can’t pay that rent.

Yes, that’s the life I live as a tenant of a low-income building. Sometimes low-income buildings will evict tenants they don’t like on very spurious reasons. When you’re poor, you learn to live with this reality. You are always one step away from being homeless and everyone knows it.

That’s not all I’m dealing with this week, though. I’m finding out things about myself that leave me feeling at odds with myself.

Back in 2011, I had an assessment done. At that time I was given the diagnosis of Non-Verbal Learning disorder. I did my research (for which I’d like to thank both the Edmonton Public Library and the University of Alberta library) and felt more in control knowing more about what it was. Once put on the Asperger’s spectrum, it’s been given its own diagnosis. However, it exhibits a lot like Asperger’s.

I also deal with anxiety. Nothing new to anyone who’s been reading this for any time. I talk about that black horse a lot. What is new is something I failed to read in the assessment; I have ADHD. It’s at this point my brain stops and I have no words.

Coming to grips with the reality of the link between NLD and Asperger’s is enough of a blow. Realizing I have ADHD on top of it…. how do you add that information into your life? Yes, it’s a diagnosis and shouldn’t mean much but those four letters stun me. I’ve always known my brain works more like a blender on high than the functioning computer it is but that didn’t bother me. I worked with it. But ADHD? How do you add those letters into your life?

So I’m particularly vulnerable right now and want to feel like I have some control. The truth is that when you’re poor and disabled, control is taken away from you. The Powers That Be believe that, somehow, you’re unable to handle control so you’re treated like a child. I don’t know where anyone got that idea but I’d really like them to get it out of their heads.

Right now I’m scared because something new has come down the pipe and this infantalization of me as one of Alberta’s poor and mentally ill has left me with few tools to deal with it. So, in a desperate attempt to gain some control, I grasp at the only thing that has ever made me feel powerful; my words. Right now, they’re all I have.

 

Employment and the Mentally Ill

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Back in the summer of 2011, I worked as a writer for Alberta Education. It was such an absolute nightmare for me that had I not had the good fortune to be fired, I would have found myself in the psych ward in the hospital within a week. I wish I could say that is an exaggeration but it isn’t. As a result of this nightmare, two things happened; I began to have panic attacks. These attacks were triggered when I tried to write or when I was working in a job and had to talk to the boss. Just thinking about it is enough to quicken my breathing and make a panic attack seem imminent.

Yes, I tried to work but the anxiety got the better of me and I simply couldn’t anymore. The idea, just the simple thought, of talking to a boss still makes me want to shut down. However, I’m not one to give up without a fight so, recently, I thought perhaps I could work part-time somewhere. A couple of days a week shouldn’t overwhelm me and would give me time to recuperate for the next shift.

See, aside from the anxiety, I’m actually a great worker. In an office I’m versatile and creative. Show me what you need done and I’ll get it done. In retail, I’m actually very patient with the customers and like to help. I understand what it’s like trying to find something and needing some help. So, with that in mind, I applied to some local businesses. Like Walmart.

There is a new trend in corporations to use psych tests as a means to thin out the resumes they get. The belief being that they can get the type of person they want without all the hassle of actually talking to people. It’s cookie cutter thinking and it’s dangerous.

Anyone who’s been trained as a psychologist or psychiatrist will tell you that without the proper training and proper testing methods, these tests are, at best, useless. A true psych test such as the MMPI has very specific questions that answer questions that the psychologist or psychiatrist may face. However, these tests are meant to be a tool, not a means to weed people out.

Think of it this way; a hammer is a tool that can help a person with the right experience and training to build a house. However, that hammer cannot build the house by itself. These big corporations are relying on these mini psych tests to do their job for them. A job they were never designed to do.

Further, these tests are not full psych tests. There is a great deal missing from them. A true psychological test done by a trained professional has multiple questions dealing with the same or a similar issue. This is done not only to determine who’s trying to fake something but is also a means to gauge how deep an issue may go. These mini tests don’t have the follow up questions. Therefore, the corporation is only getting a very skewed picture of the person.

There is a very real human rights danger here, though. Those tests can reveal any mental health issues such as, in my case, anxiety. Suddenly the person with a mental illness finds themselves and their illness exposed to strangers without their knowledge or consent. I find that frightening. It goes deeper, though. Once exposed, the corporation will red flag that person so that any subsequent resumes they send in are automatically rejected without even being glanced at.

What does that mean? That means that those with mental health issues are being denied jobs based on their disability. Yet, most of the time they don’t even know this is going on. That the human resources department has red flagged them because their mental illness showed up on a test they neither have the training nor experience to administer.

I find all of that terribly, terribly frightening. Don’t you?

Broken

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Having anxiety is like having spiders infest your brain.

My regular readers won’t be surprised to hear me say I have anxiety. New readers may be a bit shocked to hear me say it. However, it is a fact of my life and one I deal with daily. Sometimes it’s bad enough to stop me in my tracks and other times it’s like a dull throb in the back of my mind. Either way, I have a life to live and need to keep moving forward.

There are supposed to be aids to help people like me but the rules are so narrow that it’s ineffectual. You can’t merely be broken, you have to be shattered. The rule is that you have to have medical evidence proving that you’re unable to provide for yourself. Great. Except there’s one problem; what’s said on paper and what happens in reality is often two very different things.

Part of the problem is I have Non-Verbal Learning disorder. Because of how it manifests, it can often be mistaken for Asperger’s or Autism. It’s a different disorder and has different problems associated with it. They’re in the same spectrum but have very different outcomes.

Now put the NLD together with the anxiety, stir well and put me in an office.

Let me explain NLD a bit. First, NLD people love words. In my case it means I became a writer. However, in face to face contact my love of words causes some ostracizing. I tend to use large, $5 words and I talk a lot. I’m aware of it, I just can’t do a thing about it. I’m the person that will give you a paragraph answer to the question, “how are you?”

That leads to problem number two. NLD people tend to have problems with spatial recognition which means that we don’t have the same sense of space as “normal” people do. This may seem like a small thing. However, it is this skill which helps children gain a sense of non-verbal communication. NLD people simply don’t see non-verbal body cues. However, we hear everything.

NLD means there is a gap between what we hear and what we see. Therefore, our interaction with the physical world, especially as kids, tends to be minimal. We’re loners and we like being loners. Inside our own heads we can construct entire worlds and, in my case, put it down on paper. We can think through a problem in our heads and come up with a solution that is so far outside the box that it’s on another plane of existence. That’s our strength. It’s also our weakness because no one else lives in our head. When we come up with a solution, we’ve already thought ten steps ahead and left others behind. However, when others see our solutions, what they see is something nearly unrelated to the problem. Since we have problems with communication, we can’t explain the solution. Big gap.

Imagine you’re a manager and you’ve hired me. You ask me to do a task you think is pretty simple. An hour later I come back and the task is done but in a way you never imagined possible. Okay. Once it’s funny. Twice is cute. By the third, fourth and fifth times, you’re getting pretty angry because you want it done a particular way.

A kitten curled up in a ball and frightened

Now let’s add to that problem with the other staff. I am a social platypus. I will happily give you the entire history of an event or tell you the entire psychology behind your favorite show. I don’t know the difference between sarcasm and a simple joke so the two are pretty interchangeable. Socializing for me is on a skill level with constructing a warp engine. At best I’m seen as weird and at worst I’m pushy or even rude. As the manager you start getting complaints from your workers about me.

So, as the manager you have a worker who can’t seem to follow the simplest instructions, needs to take regular time off for therapy (which won’t do a damn bit of good) and has coworkers complaining about them. Add into that the fact that this worker has regular anxiety attacks. Solution: fire that person and hire someone who causes you less grief.

So who wants to hire me?

Yet, to access help, none of that matters. On paper I can get therapy and do little “tricks” to minimize problems. I don’t do tricks. Dogs do tricks. I live my life and try to move forward. My brain works in a certain way and I can either decide that I’m broken and try to fix it or I can decide that this is who I am and learn to live with it. Apparently option two isn’t acceptable to the Government of Alberta.

According to Government of Alberta rules, I’m broken but not all the way broken. More like bent. All the trees in the forest must be straight and grow a certain way. No room for bent. Bent doesn’t get any help at all. Only broken and I’m not broken enough on paper.

It’s frustrating knowing I’ll have to go and try and explain all this to people who don’t care. When they leave the office at 4:30pm I cease to exist. They read paper. They don’t hear my words. Words that are nearly impossible for me to verbalize. They see me as a platypus with no place in their world. Not as the wonderful, beautiful, intelligent raven I am and I can’t explain it to them because they won’t hear me.

Another Day, Another Anxiety Attack

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A kitten curled up in a ball and frightened

Anxiety Attack

Here it is another Monday and another anxiety attack. My response to this? Make creamsicles. A reasonable response, don’t you think?

The question I’m asked most often when having an anxiety attack is “what’s wrong?” I understand where this question comes from. For most people, fear serves a purpose; to warn of danger or to enable the person to retreat to a familiar and comfortable position. It’s hard to understand when fear kicks into overdrive. There has to be a reason, however unreasonable, for the fear kicking in.

The truth is, there is no reason for it. The synapses in my brain decided to fire in a particular sequence and my body reacted. That’s it. As human beings, though, our immediate reaction is to find a problem to fix. That’s understandable. It makes the anxiety seem manageable. I do the same thing and will look for a problem to explain the anxiety. My thoughts get twisted into a loop until they become so convoluted they resemble a Gordian knot. All I can do, though, is wait it out and wait for the synapses to stop hitting that particular loop.

Once I made the realization that there was no problem and that my brain was going to do as it wanted, things took a turn for me. Ever mindful towards the success of my business, I wondered how I could turn this liability into an asset. It’s not easy, either. People, the everyday people who don’t ever experience anxiety, get uneasy around it and that makes it difficult to make the connections necessary to a successful business. Still, I’m a stubborn minded fool sometimes and when I get an idea in my head it’s hard to turn me away from it.

For me, anxiety is an overabundance of thoughts and energy. Without an outlet, those thoughts and energies turn dark and feed on themselves. Could I channel that?

Anxiety is a bully. It doesn’t like to be told what to do or how to do it. It prefers to kick your ass for lunch money and laugh while doing it. However, I’d like to believe I’m stronger than any bully, even the one in my brain. I just had to find a way to channel that bully’s energy.

My bully loves writing. It loves to see the words take form and the story grow. Writing both soothes and excites my bully and keeps it happy. Of course, the stuff I write during an anxiety attack tends to be a bit darker but that can be fixed during editing. Yay editors! So when my bully appears I take a few moments to get a rein on it before sitting down at the computer. I make creamsicles.

Having mental health issues often brings a stigma when meeting people. My sister would cringe visibly whenever the “A-word” was brought up in front of company. People often think of the crazies as being stupid or unable to make decisions or incapable of taking care of themselves. Sometimes people are amazed that I’m not drooling in a corner, trying to lick the windowsill.

Mental health issues means that I have to structure my life in a certain way to ensure that I can live comfortably. That structure works to my advantage in business. Anxiety means I’m going to check the product I’m sending out many times to be sure that my client is getting the best work possible. It also means that deadlines are a written in stone timer that I must meet. My anxiety means that my clients will never get sloppy or late work.

Once I tried to hide my anxiety, afraid people would hate me for it. That was the stigma I grew up with. Now, I tell people quite happily that I have anxiety. There is no shame in it. When the anxiety gets bad enough, I make creamsicles and then head for the computer.

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