Last summer I heard an interview with an illustrator who said that to really understand someone you should try drawing them. I decided to try and understand the President but realized I wouldn’t be able to do that from memory so I searched some images on the internet. There weren’t a lot of flattering images of the him. I’m not sure if that is a reflection of him, the media’s portrayal of him, or the algorithms of my search engine that contributed to that. Most likely this was a combination of all of these factors. Eventually I selected an image from The Apprentice since I thought it was the most accurate portrayal of the person he imagines himself to be.
Once again, I wasn’t coming up with a flattering image.
So I decided to trace him.
A year later, a pandemic has the world in a holding pattern, one in 4 workers in the US has filed for unemployment and the city I called home for two decades is literally on fire. I’m done trying to portray him in a flattering image but I do think I have a better understanding of him.
I love my neighborhood. I love where I live. When I moved to Rogers Park a year ago I had no idea that the tree lined streets, proximity to Lake Michigan, and odd collection of neighbors would bring me daily joy. Last month that got shaken when back to back shootings claimed the lives of two of my neighbors. I didn’t expect to be on alert as I walked the streets I call home. What I feel, though, pales in comparison to the families and friends of those lost and those targeted by the mass shootings that have taken place in the weeks since my community was first shaken.
Much has been written and will be written about this time in history. On a global scale, I live a live of privilege and I know I take that for granted more than I intend. I also know that in spite of that, some days life is just difficult.
I feel disheveled. I feel angry. I want the world to be a better place for all and I honestly don’t understand what motivates people to act the way they do, vote the way they vote, kill the way they kill. I want people to find contentment and I wish there was a way I could make that happen and do so that wasn’t at the cost of another person’s sense of contentment.
Last year at the holidays I sent postcards with a photo my mom took of me the week I moved here. It was my way of connecting with people and with sharing the news of my big news (and my new address). This year I look at that photo and see the sense of hope I had. I still have that sense of hope, even if I feel like it has been run through a blender.
In cleaning out my office today I ran some documents through the shredder. As I looked through the contents I realized the documents are all still there, it just requires a lot of work to put all of the pieces back together in the right order. I feel the same way about American culture. I feel like we’ve been through a blender. All of the pieces that were always there are still there and they likely aren’t going away but they aren’t in the order that made sense before. They aren’t in the right order. I’m not sure if there is a “right” order any more. I do think there is a new order, though, where we can recapture the hope that the country was founded on and I do think there is a way to do that that isn’t on the backs of the disenfranchised. I just don’t know how to get there. I do think, though, that it is possible through careful, meticulous reassembly that won’t always make sense and won’t always feel good. Guess I better make myself comfortable. It is going to be a long journey.
There are a lot of messages out there. Some I don’t find particularly helpful.
But others give me pause and bring me hope.
What message am I sending? What message are you sending?
I’m not much of a Tarot person. I have had my cards read twice in my life, both times by self-taught middle-aged gay men who were admittedly a little “woo-woo.” While I don’t know much about the history, I do like the idea of using seemingly randomly selected cards to help interpret meaning from life. Often things seem a little vague but I asked a question of a Tarot App recently and got the following card.
I won’t go into the details of the question I asked but I will say that it had to do with a relationship that I had been debating whether to continue–a friendship that was up for pruning. I had spent much of 2016 and 2017 “cleaning the attic” of my life, both literally and figuratively. Some of that cleaning involved possessions, some of it involved habits. Some of the most dramatic parts of it involved relationships. As someone who has spent much of her life building relationships it has been very difficult for me to let some of them go. I did discover, though, that there was liberation in the letting go and that pruning a branch of dead leaves allows new ones to grow.
I looked at many relationships and decided to do some pruning. Some were more obvious than others. There was one in particular that was particularly challenging to make a decision about because that person had been so helpful in putting me on the path toward recovery. At the same time, though, that person contributed to my self doubt and my ongoing challenges with self esteem.
So I sat with the decision, or rather the indecision. And sat with it. Eventually I started to see patterns in this friendship that I had seen in some of the relationships that I had pruned. And then I asked Tarot if this person replaces the hole in my life left by the people I had already cut out.
I turned up the Ten of Swords. Oddly, another friend of mine turned up the same card when asking about whether and how to continue some of her tricky relationships. Her reader said that she’s looking at relationships that are not only dead but withering off the vine. “One sword would have done it,” she commented, “but you have ten.”
What strikes me most about this card is the description, “Do not martyr yourself to the needs of others.” If there was a theme for the last two years of my life, that comes pretty close.
So I grabbed the pruning shears and I made a careful cut. I already feel new life within myself, a new creativity. I don’t know where it will take me but I’m curious to see where it goes.