Thursday, July 11, 2019

Nine Cups for June


The traditional
Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot
With all the Pentacle excitement the two previous months, the 10 for April and the King in May-all suggesting happiness, abundance, generosity, and possible income-the 9 of Cups for June was also suggesting a continuance of good feeling. Some traditional associations for the card are contentment, satisfaction and feeling fulfilled.

Traditional depictions of this card show a smiling nobleman sitting in front of a table laden with nine golden cups or chalices. Other depictions show a feast in addition to the cups. So, we can see the idea of contentment and satisfaction. Some other readers also believe this is the “wishes fulfilled” card as the gentleman seems very content in this scene and Cups is the suit of the heart, after all. 
New Palladini Tarot

While I can’t recall any particular wishes coming true as I didn’t wish for anything specific and there were a few difficult moments in June (there are always a couple, regardless of the month and card), overall it was a pretty peaceful month as far as I can remember. I really should journal a bit better for these recollection posts.

Yet, perhaps the idea here was to be content with what I have and not appear to be greedy. I mean, with the 10 and King of Pentacles back to back, it would be hard not to anticipate/wish/hope for more. Maybe my outlook for the month (and hereafter) should be "I have what I need, and need what I have." Gratitude is indeed a virtue and I am grateful for my many blessings.

Yet, the Wheel of Fortune keeps turning and all good things wind down. The next few cards, and therefore months, seem to suggest a slightly different turn. The 7 of Wands-defensive posturing, fending off challenges, maintaining one’s success-is the card for July.

Sounds intriguing, if not just a bit ominous, like the lull before the storm. 
Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot

And with the first few days of the month under way, it's going to be a doozy of a month...

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Triggers



A recent conversation triggered some deep-seated emotions I thought I had overcome. 

Well, surprise!

They showed up again.

So, now I’m trying a new approach to some of these older, oft-recurring, emotions. 

Gentle confrontation.

I believe we get triggered for a reason. 

Apparently I had just buried these feelings rather than dealing with and releasing them completely in spite of the countless hours and dollars I've spent in therapy. And still am. 

Yet, I’m glad they came up. 

Growing up in a broken and dysfunctional family while moving frequently, I developed abandonment issues. They were so deep that before coming out, I swore I’d never get divorced. I would stay married for the sake of any children. This attitude was also influenced by my being a practicing Christian; Christians don't get divorced. Or, so I was indoctrinated. To be perfectly honest, I'm surprised I even wanted to pursue a relationship, let alone have a family. Even after coming out and dealing with my Christianity, I was determined to stay with my future partner till death parted us.

When my first serious relationship with a man stopped working, I still couldn’t leave him and even when he was diagnosed with HIV and told me he wanted me to go live my life, I still couldn’t. (There were other underlying issues for me there, as well.) In my second relationship, I saw some red flags early on and thought we could work on them. We didn’t. We eventually were legally married. Years later, when I fell into a deep depression, I didn’t suspect the relationship was the cause, but rather, my stagnant life. It wasn’t until after everything was finalized that I realized the relationship itself had been a big factor in my depression. Still, he was the one who left.
 
After that point in my life I believed I had come to accept that when people left me, it had more to do with them, than with me. I still believe that.

Yet, even so, I was triggered the other day.

The old childhood feelings came back and I projected them onto others. 

I'd recalled leaving messages for people who took years to return them, if they did return them at all. And the hurt came flooding back.

A close social media friend suddenly disappeared without a trace. I sent an email and received a two word reply. Subsequent emails went unanswered. Ok, so he wants to be left alone, he’s dealing with some issues. Got it. But it still hurt. 

Another friend got a bit busier than he recently had been and wasn’t replying to messages as quickly as before. With all this happening so suspiciously after the conversation, I stopped to ask, “Why? What am I supposed to learn here?” After all, I believe things happen for a reason, if only to move us in a newer and better direction or to learn a lesson. Or both.

The first lesson I felt I needed to learn was that everything isn’t what it seems. While I still haven’t heard from the one who disappeared, the busier friend is just that. Busier than usual.

The second lesson I learned was that I still need to work on overcoming these abandonment issues.

The third lesson is to stop reacting to everything. If everything isn't what it seems, does it merit a reaction? Maybe yes, maybe no. Reacting can lead to overthinking which can lead to overreacting which can lead to over-overthinking and, voilĂ , a vicious cycle has been born.

And that’s where gentle confrontation comes in. 

I sit with the emotion. I allow it to be present. I don’t allow it to overtake me. Okay, I try not to let it overtake me. I ask it, “What triggered you? Why are you here?" The reply, which of course is coming from deep within, tells me what I need to work on in order to calm the subsequent anxiety connecting itself to the initial reaction.

I know, easier said than done. 

But, hey, I’m trying. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Pride 2019

It’s June.

LGBT+ Pride Month.

The full acronym is getting a bit long; so, I’ll just leave it as LGBT+, yet I hope I don’t offend anyone by leaving out their representative letter(s).

It’s like the world sprung rainbow everything on June 1. 

And that leads me to this very touchy post. 

I haven’t been to an actual Pride celebration for a few years. It’s not that I’m not proud to be gay. I’m proud to be me with everything that entails. I believe visibility is necessary and has had a positive impact for the younger generations. While Pride celebrations aren’t for everyone for a variety of reasons, there are a few reasons I don’t go, and I’ve blogged in detail about those reasons in past posts. But, here is a short reminder: the over-sexualization, the hypermasculinization, unwanted advances and the large crowd in small, cramped places can lead to extreme sensory overload.

But, what I really wanted to share was about celebrating Pride in the other gay neighborhoods; the shopping malls.

I went for a walk the other day in my local mall as it was too hot to walk in my favorite parks.  One of the first stores near the entrance had a nice window display with a glitter rainbow heart. Very sweet. I was touched. I felt seen. When I first came out, we didn’t even have an LGBT+ Pride month, the acronym consisted of only two letters, the parades were more political than festive, and the rainbow was just beginning to be widely used as an LGBT+ Pride symbol. I am from the Lambda/Pink Triangle generation. Seeing all this on display in a mall shows some progress. 

A few doors down, another store had a window display showing various tee-shirts with LGBT+ affirming slogans, while a store farther along the way had other rainbow themed clothing. In fact, about 5 of the 170 stores had a Pride display and/or merchandise. (As it was nearing 100°F, I stayed inside and didn’t check the outside shops.) 

While I applaud these stores who do honor Pride, I also wonder what their motivation is. I can hope they affirm their employees wherever they fall along the entire LGBT+ spectrum. It’s also not hard to see commercialization as a powerful reason to “celebrate” Pride, especially when all I could find in one store in their pride merchandise was a rainbow decorated tube of hand lotion. 

FULL DISCLOSURE: I did not enter each store to thoroughly search their merchandise, but drew my possibly erroneous conclusions based only what was visible in the front displays. 

Yet, I wonder how promoting a rainbow decorated tube of hand lotion promotes LGBT+ Pride. And from a candle store yet. I can understand how wearing a tee-shirt or rainbow colored spandex bicycle shorts would increase one’s visibility, but hand lotion? It can’t be the scent? What would Pride smell like? The aroma of the marchers after the miles-long parade in the hot sun? The fragrance of the beer spilled all over the various dance floors? Or would it just be lavender scented? And how would a non-LGBT+ person tell it was Pride lotion? Does it turn rainbow colored when applied? Does it contain glitter?

Again, I am truly grateful to these stores for celebrating LGBT+ Pride month, and I feel honored and respected that they do, but I must ask this one other burning question? Do they also honor the other Pride and History months as well? African-American History in February? Women’s History in March? Asian-American History in May? Hispanic Heritage in September/October? Disability Awareness in October? Native American History during November? I see plenty more opportunities for commercialization here as well. 

Yes, my cynicism shows. I own that. I do feel honored these companies want to do something, as have many companies in the past. A few years ago, Nabisco revealed a print ad for Pride month featuring a six layered Oreo cookie, one layer of each color of the rainbow flag and the slogan “June 25 | PRIDE." They drew flack for it. A couple of years later, Burger King unveiled a Pride Whopper. No, the meat wasn’t multicolored, the wrapper was. It featured the then-six colors of the rainbow flag with one word written on each of the colored stripes: We. Are. All. The. Same. Inside. They, too, took flack. 

Other companies have had television or print ads featuring same-sex couples; Campbell’s Soups, Calvin Klein Jeans and IKEA, to name a few. And yes, they all took heat and threats of boycotts. But, none backed down. But, to be honest, I also don't recall seeing similar ads in subsequent years. 

Yes, support matters. It also matters in larger circumstances than just during Pride month. The former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, suggested what one shareholder could do with his shares when the shareholder expressed his belief that the company’s decision to support same-sex marriage would hurt his returns. It’s not clear whether the shareholder followed through with Schultz' suggestion that he was free to sell his shares if he felt he was in danger of losing money. Schultz went on to say some corporate decisions are not solely based on economics. (Source in link below.)

Let’s hope the other companies are putting our money where their mouth is and speaking up for all of us. Because everyone I mentioned above can also fall along the LGBTQQIAP spectrum.

Now, I need my Venti, extra hot, almond milk, no-foam caffe mocha. 









Thursday, June 6, 2019

Pentacles and a King

It’s that time again. A new month means checking in on my New Year reading and the card for May is the King of Pentacles.

As I explained last month, Pentacles is the suit of our material plane, including abundance, prosperity, and what we associate with gaining those ideas. I also connect work, career, and labor here. 

The king is a member of a subgroup referred to as the Court cards. This can be a tricky group to read as they can refer to actual people or personalities, or an aspect of the person asking for the reading. In general, the kings represent a mature man who has some life experience under his belt and expresses his suit’s energy in an outwardly fashion by actively participating, by being more direct as well as more rational than the more emotional and nurturing queens.

By combining the energies of Pentacles with the personality of a king we get someone who is comfortable with his material surroundings yet not in a materialistic way. He is a wise and savvy businessman as well as a good provider, not only for his family, but for his subjects as well. He can also be generous with his possessions. He seeks to make others comfortable as he knows prosperity and abundance is one way to be comfortable in life. Contrasting this attitude is that of his wife, the Queen of Pentacles, who maintains a comfortable, relaxing home and feels happiest when her guests are content, comfortable and at ease. She comes from her heart, but but focuses on the material. She is the ultimate hostess. 

Anyway, back to the king and me.

When I saw that he followed April's Ten of Pentacles, I thought with the two Pentacles back to back, I might be in a much better place financially and that it would continue into May. Such was the case until I used my better-than-last-year’s tax return. But, it was another aspect of the King that seemed to manifest this month.

I’ve been going through things that I have not touched, or even seen in the last six months. Some have even been hidden away for years. I decided it was time to let that stuff go.

So, I did. 

Two trips to the thrift store and one to an animal shelter later, I have a lot less clutter and a lot more space. I have a few things left I might try to sell and was tracking similar items on eBay but they weren’t selling and were being listed again and again. I don’t know that I have the time and patience for that. I will trust that I’ll know what to do with them in the near future. 

So, by donating some items to thrift shops, I took on the generous nature of the King of Pentacles this month.

I wonder what the Nine of Cups will bring in June? 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

An Annoying Tool



A friend and I were discussing our spiritual journeys when he made an interesting comment regarding the mind.

“It’s an annoying tool,” he said. 

While that intrigued me, it resonated at the same time. How can a tool be annoying?

As I sat back and marinated, or ruminated on, his idea, I understood better.

Our mind helps us in many ways:
  • Following plot lines in movies and books
  • Deciphering unintelligible speech in voicemails or from people with heavy accents
  • Reading
  • Studying
  • Learning
  • Solving problems
  • Rationalizing
  • Making decisions
And in those cases, the mind is an appropriate tool.

Like a hammer when hammering a nail into the wall to hang a picture.

But, when you accidentally hammer your thumb or finger, the hammer is not so appropriate. It’s not even annoying and it may end up in the garbage or thrown across the room. Then you’d need another one the next time you need to hang a picture on the wall. Or you’ll need to repair or replace whatever the hammer hit. Let’s hope it wasn’t something expensive or a living being.

In at least three of the above situations where we use our mind, it can become annoying, if not worse.

Sometimes when solving problems, other than in math class, we may overthink. Overthinking often leads to anxiety or depression depending on whether we’re thinking of the future or the past, respectively. For example, a therapist I was seeing suggested I find a nice community organization to volunteer with. It was his intention for me to get out and meet people to help me learn to manage my introversion and make friends. I immediately saw a problem; “what if someone asks me out?” And then panic set in. And all the connections to dating and what it could lead to…a second date, maybe a third, talk of sex, and eventually living together and possibly, even marriage.

I hadn’t even finished the therapy session and was already married to some stranger.

In my mind at least.

As I view rationalizing and making decisions similarly, I’ll address them jointly. But, first, I’ll define how I see them. And I’m not talking about a simple decision, like what color of shirt should I wear today. 

Rationalizing, to me, is deciding whether to do something or not. That's it, a simple yes or no kind of situation. For example, should I go on vacation, yes or no? I can rationalize the simple things, like need or want. Do I need a vacation? Do I even want one?

Once that has been decided, and if the answer is affirmative, then the ‘where’ comes into play; Paris? Miami? Fresno? and all of the pros and cons for each location.
  • Cost
  • Language
  • Duration of actual travel time
  • Cuisine
  • Local amusements and attractions
  • How adventurous do I feel?
I feel the biggest problem with rationalizing and deciding are the ‘whatifs’. What if this…. What if that… What if he… 

Yes, the mind can be either amazing or annoying, helpful or hindering.

It all depends on wether we use it or let it use us. 


For an animated version of Shel Silverstein's poem, "Whatif" click here

Friday, May 3, 2019

Pentacles in April

As we segue into May it's time to check in on my New Year's Reading. The card for April was the 10 of Pentacles. 

Pentacles is the suit of Earth, abundance, prosperity and the material plane. I greeted this card with optimism. Would I win the lottery? Or find a job? Sell some things I no longer use, need or that bring me any joy? Would it be a spiritual prosperity? 

Numerology plays a part in tarot as well. Tens are seen as a completion of the story expressed by each suit. Yet, it's a completion of a cycle for a new beginning. How often do we come to an ending, only for something new to begin? Relationships end for new ones to begin, jobs and careers end for new ones to take off or for a new position in the same firm. It’s all part of our growth, for our greater good.

How would this possibly play out for me in the suit of Pentacles? Let's look at the card:

In the standard Rider-Waite-Smith deck, if we peek through all the pentacles, we see several well-dressed people of differing ages, possibly suggesting the generations of a family. Hmm, inheritance? As Pentacles is the suit of abundance, prosperity and the material plane, it could also suggest an increase in wealth or resources. Abundance and prosperity don't always signify monetary gains. Property can also signify abundance. Resources aren’t always physical, though Pentacles would suggest otherwise.

Resources can also be internal, such as an attitude or our own personal strength-which we don't often recognize. The three cards from the prior quarter all had the theme of letting go. Was this leading to a letting go of material goods and thus to a feeling of gratitude with having less, while still feeling prosperous and abundant? Could be. 

Regardless, it was my card for April and I was curious to its meaning. 

April is also tax month.

I received a larger tax refund than I had in the last few years. So, my monetary abundance did increase and I was able to accomplish some things I needed to do with this influx of money. Plus, I’ve been identifying some things that I no longer need or want, nor have I used in the last few months or even years. I’m currently trying to decide if I should try and sell them or donate them.

Regardless, I’m grateful for the additional income and the feeling of letting go what no longer serves me.

May’s card is the King of Pentacles. Hmmm, more abundance? But the King suggests either a generous person or a possible aspect of my personality so, how will he show up in May? 

We'll have to wait and see...

King of Pentacles,
New Palladini Tarot 

Friday, April 26, 2019

Pushing Myself for Poppies


I pushed myself a bit the other day. 
But first, some background. 

I’ve come to hate driving long distances. By long distances, I mean anything over about an hour’s distance from my house. This comes from a couple of places;
  1. A very difficult road trip with my family when I was younger, and
  2. Years of a long commute.
My family took many road trips. We also moved a lot and not across town but across the country. We drove each time. So, I spent many hours confined in the back seat of a car behind two parents who smoked. But, one trip stands out in particular.

In January 1974, we were moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Denver, Colorado and one leg of this trip had us spending the night in Wendover, Utah. My stepfather had decided the road from Salt Lake City to Denver was a bit too risky with the impending snowstorm, so the plan was to head north into Wyoming then across it and eventually we would head south into Denver. One extra day was worth our lives. Good thinking.

We hit the road early and stopped for breakfast/lunch in Salt Lake where I had a couple cups of coffee. Shortly after heading back out, it started to snow and my bladder began to signal me it needed relief. I conveyed this to my stepfather who said there was no place to stop, especially alongside the freeway up in the mountains during a light snowfall. I focused on the trees, the flakes, a book I was reading, on anything but the discomfort I was feeling. Hours later and a lot more discomfort, there was still no place alongside the freeway in the desolate plains of Wyoming to stop during a snowstorm. Eventually we stopped around 8:00 PM for gas and dinner either in Laramie or Cheyenne, Wyoming, I forget which due to the passages of time. I was out of the car before it stopped moving. I was also the first one in the bathroom and the last one out.
During the last fifteen years of my teaching career, I commuted to work. My commute had grown from 1.5 miles at the beginning of my career to 35 miles one way at the end, with one year in there at about 45 miles, also one way.

So, I'm not fond of driving long distances. It triggers some anxiety. 

Two other things that trigger my anxiety; crowds of people and being away from my home. I’m not fearful of the crowds, they just drain me. And home is where I recharge, my sanctuary. So, even running errands can be so incredibly draining due to dealing with people that sometimes I need a nap when I return; but I do take care of what I need to in spite of it all.

With all this in mind, I recently drove a bit of a distance, and more importantly, I chose to.

We had so much rain in Southern California this past rainy season there was a superbloom of wildflowers. As I missed the last one, I wanted to see them this time. And not on the news. But up close and personal. Plus, I could play with my camera.

So, I drove the fifty miles to the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, in Lancaster, California. I had also made arrangements to meet a friend who lives in the area after he got off work. So, I'd be up there a while.

I geared myself up for the drive and chose to go on a weekday to avoid any possible crowds; one of the benefits of being retired. I also left later in the morning to avoid rush hour traffic, even though I was going against the traffic flow. But, by going later, I'd be losing the good morning light; oh, the sacrifices we sometimes make. As I was going on my own, I would be on my own schedule, not waiting for anyone else to get their perfect shot, so I kind of figured I would be finished with my photography relatively soon, and I wasn't sure what there was to do up there after finishing getting my photos. So, I wanted to minimize the downtime while waiting for my friend to leave work. 

All in all, the drive wasn’t terrible except for the coffee I had in the morning. Will I ever learn?

The poppies were beautiful as was the weather. They tend to close in the wind, but the gentle breeze that day met with their approval. They remained open. Perhaps thats a lesson for me-remain open.

We need to push ourselves once in a while in order to grow.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable. 

After all, stagnation leads nowhere...

And what is it they say? Everything we want is on the other side of fear...


For more information on the AV Poppy Reserve, 
click here.