Building up, tearing down

One of the cards in the tarot deck that people love to hate is the Tower. It's easy to see why.

http://www.learntarot.com/bigjpgs/maj16.jpg

The Tarot is made up of visual metaphors, and it's not always clear what's going on. The Tower looks like a disaster. Lightning strikes, buildings crumble, people are flung out of the windows head-first. A lot of people pulled this card in the weeks before 9/11. No, it doesn't always mean terrorist attacks, but it means a major change in the status quo. Long-standing traditions, organizations, hierarchies, or beliefs are toppled. It can be a good thing in the long run, sometimes things need to change and there's no other way to do it. If you happen to be IN the tower when it's happening, well, then sucks to be you.

My tarot lessons turned out to be a really effective way to tear me down. Under my teacher's instruction, I ended up questioning all my abilities, Any and all talent I might have, or thought I had. I was not his toughest student, though perhaps second-most (his words, not mine). I'm too rigid, too literal, I think too much. I would make a better astrologer.

I found a few supporters among those who thought my teacher was wrong about me. I have talent, they told me, I'm doing fine. Don't listen to him.

I hate conflicting information, I don't know who to listen to. No, it's not obvious--I don't automatically listen to the good stuff and ignore the bad, thank you, Clinical Depression. The good stuff tends not to stick.

I built a website. I built four, actually, and tore three of them down as soon as I'd created them. One is still standing. This sounds like it ought to be a Monty Python setup. It's generic, pretty, inclusive. It's safe. It's not me.

I'm not a kind individual, not a counselor, not even remotely philanthropic. I'm not here to fix your problems. I have no faith that the universe is kind, I have never had a spirit guide or an angel tap me on my shoulder, I have never seen anything to warrant belief that I or anyone else will be alright. This flies in the face of most of the tarot community's take on things. I very much wanted to write about it--spit poison, really, just to give it somewhere to go because I get so damn sick of people telling me to trust that everything will come out all right. Because things DON'T. If there is a God s/he seems like just another lousy parent, or even just the "clockmaker God" who winds everything up and then sits back and watches. Were I to come face to face with any deity, I would have words for this individual.

I am simply tired of being in pain. I had hoped by doing something I loved that the pain would become more manageable, that things would just "flow". Isn't that what's supposed to happen when you find the thing that you're meant to do? Haven't I been a good girl? Haven't I endured? Haven't I kept going even when I didn't want to? On top of which, I'm trying something impossible, and isn't that what heroes do? It's just that I'd like to cash in some of my brownie points. Just to make this all a little easier.

Yeah, um

I don't know that I've ever met anyone who put all their eggs in one basket the way that I'm doing, but I am rather wishing I had. If only for comparison's sake because this? Is not making sense, even to me. I'm getting the chance to make a life I actually want and I am probably more unbalanced now then when I started. Not crazy. Let's be honest here, I only ever flirted with crazy. Dipped my toes in the water, so to speak. It was an affectation. But these days I am yo-yoing between rage and despair and hope so fast I'm getting whiplash. Maybe this is what a fight for your life is supposed to feel like. That's what this is. I am fighting to bring the life I want into existence, and I've never fought so hard for anything.

I hope one day to look back on this and smile, perhaps shake my head at how hard I made this on myself. I certainly don't envy the people around me now.

Confessions of a Psy-Chick

Well, I've finished my first week working at Oranum, which is the psychic site I mentioned last post. I get $0.99 per minute per reading for the first 40 hours I spend online, and then I can raise my prices, and the corporation takes 40% of what I make. Alas, alas, my life reduced to numbers. Still, I am making some money. The thing that this site offers that others don't is that all their "psychics" are visible on webcam ALL the time. You are not allowed to eat, drink, read, or close your eyes during your shift. You must have a good-looking photo and an "esoteric" backdrop (Oranum's phrasing, not mine). I am at the bottom of this particular totem pole, and by far one of the least flashy people working there. Here is a sample of how some of the top-ranking psychics describe themselves:

Sheenastar75
AMAZINGLY ACCURATE I WILL READ YOUR MIND BEFORE YOU ASK THE QUESTION GUARANTEED! I COME FROM SEVEN GENERATIONS OF HEALERS, I AM A HIGH PRIESTESS OF BLAH BLAH BLAH, AND GOD HAS GIVEN ME SPECIAL POWERS TO SEE INTO YOUR FUTURE.

No, I am not exaggerating. This place is rotten with clairvoyants, psychic healers, miracle-workers and pendulum-swingers. By comparison, I am very tame stuff. I may end up having to learn other forms of divination in self-defense.

Here are some typical conversation in the Free Chat rooms online,where we become best friends with our clients.

Guest03: ia m borke give can u give me free crds?
Me: No, I can't do that.
Guest03: y?
Me: Because when I came to work here they made me sign a contract saying that I wouldn't do that.
Guest03: btch ur a fake anyway

pinacolada17: can you feel what im thinkng?
Me: No, sorry. What I do is read tarot cards.
pinacolada17: so ur not a real physic then?

JenniferLee85: Can you tell me when I'll meet my perfect man?
Me: (starting to shuffle) Sure. What would your perfect man be like?
JenniferLee85: I dont know, cute, I guess?

Luckily, there have been some bright spots. I now have a few people who come in just to chat with me because they genuinely like me, even though I've had to give some of them bad news. My crew of followers now includes an astrophysics grad student in Texas, a part-time therapist with a 7-year old son in Alabama, and an Aviation Science student at the University of Abu Dabhi. I'm also rapidly gaining insight into my own blind spots, which is both good and frustrating. I set myself an ambitious schedule, but I may decide to cut back so I can study more.

That...was not a normal reaction

I think I've found a place to work online as a psychic that pays really well. My Dad being a numbers kind of guy was very excited about this, especially since I get the impression he thought I was never going to make very much. His comment to my Ph.D. sister was "Can you believe that Anna might be making more money than you?" Which was OUCH to begin with, on both mine and my sister's part. After dinner that same day, he commented that he might start charging me rent if I was making money.

"The minute I become your tenant is the minute I stop being your daughter." Oh dear. Did I say that out loud?
Needless to say, Dad was also surprised. Did I think he was supposed to support me forever? That I could just keep living with him while he paid for everything?
I thought that's what family did. He's my father, he's supposed to take care of me.
He'll take care of me only as long as I can't take care of myself. What if I had to support him one day? Take care of him? What if he had to move in with me?
Visions of being trapped in the house again, feeling my life being sucked out by an aging parent who's incapable of giving emotional support. Twitch. Stomach clench. I tell him that as soon as I HAVE a good income, I'm leaving.

Money. Always about money. I'd always had that nagging fear about him, and I was 80% convinced that it was paranoia because he wouldn't do that, would he? Turn what there was of our relationship into a business arrangement? Treat me like an investment, hoping for a good return?

I want to run. Run all the way to the west coast and disappear. Throw out everything I don't need here and take off before he can destroy what little trust I have left.

Little revelations

Caffeine has a half-life of four hours. However, the really big cup of coffee I made for myself this morning kept me warm until about 5 minutes ago. That's about five hours. Score!

It's fall, and this means I am undergoing my yearly metamorphosis into a bear or some other hibernating animal. Regardless of how warm and sunny it may be, around this time of year my hindbrain kicks in and insists on directing me towards increasing amounts of food, sleep, and warm soft places. Anyone who tells you that human beings have separated themselves from nature is full of it. I had forgotten how much I hate the cold--or how much the cold hates me. I can feel my whole body fighting it.

It turns out that I'm not the only one my tarot teacher has threatened with expulsion. Alright, "threatened with expulsion" is a little melodramatic. Let's  say he "questioned my ability to keep up with the class". He's even made people cry by calling them out in class ("Oh god, Allison, really? Were you not listening to what I just said?") or taking peoples'  failure to learn fast enough personally ("You're making me look bad and you're holding up the class."). That changes things a bit, doesn't it? Apparently I did just the right thing. I'm not a dominant animal, I know the benefits of backing off and making soothing noises when something bigger than me is getting testy, regardless of what I may think of then. Since that time, I have my teacher convinced that some sort of miracle has occurred and that I became a "gold-star student overnight". Now, he was absolutely wrong in this: I was never the idiot he thinks I was, but for now I'll keep my mouth shut. He's a Sagittarius, a former Marine, and a natural empath, which means he's probably never doubted himself in his entire life. Bully for him, but he stomps all over peoples' feelings.

Another tarot-related thought: it's amazing how fast peoples pop out of the woodwork when they find out you read tarot. Suddenly everyone is generously donating their time to let you "practice on them". Translation: they think you should give them a reading for free.

Letters from the teacher

"Is the tarot too hard" was the subject line.

During class tonight, a well-meaning student brought up an area where I had some confusion--an area we'd already covered before. The teacher's tried to explain it to me but it hasn't stuck. He tried again, and then wrote me a letter.

Is the tarot too hard for me?
Do I want a refund?
I seem to be having trouble with basic concepts and I'm slowing the class down.

It's the nightmare I've been having for years. This is the risk when you only want one thing and you put all your hopes on it. All of them. Sanity. Hope. Salvation. Answers. There really isn't anything else I want or have hope for. Just this. Just this one thing to get me through the rest of this goddamned ugly, pointless world.

I begged. Like the superannuated child that I am, I begged him not to make me leave. I promised I wouldn't slow the class down. I didn't actually say "I'll be good", but I might as well have. I know that I have unrealistic expectations about these lessons and what the tarot can do for me, but for the love of god, let me find that out afterwards. Not now. Not like this.

Stumbling over intuition

Three weeks into tarot classes and things aren't going as well as I'd hoped. I'm having trouble finding my 'ding', as my teacher puts it. The 'ding' is the thing that tells you when to stop shuffling the deck, that your cards are in the right order. I've never really had one, but I've always wondered how I was supposed to know. My classmates report a tingling, heat, or even an itch when it's right. What I have (or think I have) is a pause. My hands just pause. Sometimes it works. Of course, I have to be not-thinking about it or else I jinx it. As far as signals go, it kind of sucks. I'd LOVE to have a tingle, an itch, a goddamn cramp, even as long as it was clear. My teachers and classmates tell me to trust my intuition, my higher power, whatever.
Bullhockey, I don't believe in anything. And I'm beginning to think that's really getting in the way. Can we say "trust issues"? Yes, we can. I've met plenty of established religions, but we never really clicked, especially since my experience of things hasn't backed up the presence of a benevolent entity who cares about humanity. At this point, my attitude is "You say you're all-powerful? Let's see it." Show me something tangible, something real.
According to my teacher, it's possible to make this stuff happen. But you know what the kicker is? You have to believe.
Shoot me.

Not with a bang...

but with a sigh. Yes, I know that's not the correct quote. It's an homage.
As of last night, I have finished all my requirements, turned in all my papers, posted my last post on the Discussion Board and I. Am. Done with school.
It's been really anticlimactic. I expected to feel some great weight off my shoulders, a palpable relief, and instead...I feel exactly the same as I did the day before. In the words of Neil Gaiman, "I thought there would be a parade". I did go out for a very nice diner with my father, though. I was told this morning by my colleagues at the library that this feeling is fairly normal. For some, it takes months for graduation to really sink in. A sort of scholastic PTSD that even when we've emerged from the trenches, we don't really expect the bombs to have stopped falling. Not for good.
I've started taking tarot lessons. It's great that the times coincided with my schedule, and even more amazing that the teacher charges so little. I'm terrified. I really am. This has always been one of my biggest hopes and biggest fears at the same time. I want desperately to know that I'm good at this, and don't trust that I am because if I was wrong it would be AWFUL. Soul-ripping, can't-get-over-it, shell-shock awful. Because there's nothing more pathetic than a person who doesn't know their own limits. And the thing about tarot is that there is NO ONE RIGHT ANSWER, which scares me silly. I tried a few readings in public last Friday and they didn't go well. I was like every other third-rate reader out there, and that put a damper on things, no question. The big thing, as I understand, is learning to trust my intuition.
Are you kidding me? I didn't trust my own mother, let alone some amorphous tuggings that are supposedly going to steer me in the right direction.
I say, with full awareness of the irony, god help me.

Another morning at the library

I'm on my own at the Circ desk this morning, which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, apparently they trust me to be here alone; on the other, I still haven't memorized all the rules. Though I have to admit I haven't been trying too hard.
School's over in two weeks, as of this coming Monday. Two weeks! Isn't that insane? It feels like I've been in grad school for ages, I didn't expect to see the light at the end of the tunnel so suddenly. It'll be a load off my mind, but as I'm so fond of saying these days "There's still so much to do." If I'm going to make a go of this, I'm going to need to start putting mself out there as a tarot reader big-time. Advertising on my page, giving away free readings, doing them in public wherever I can find the opportunity. I might have to reconsider joinng that Rainbow Psychic network. I like the idea of catering to the queer community, but right now it doesn't look like they're doing much business. Not their fault, they're a new company in a niche market. I'd like to talk to the owner; I wonder if he's doing readings to predict the success or failure of this company. It does seem like the sort of thing one would do. Anyway, I'd love to get some answers from him without being too sharp or pushing too hard.
The other thing I need to do is learn to drive. I got my replacement learner's permit in the mail a few weeks ago, but I haven't booked any new lessons. After finishing homework and papers, the last thing I've wanted to do is go driving, especially since I don't enjoy it. My learner's permit expires on the 9th of September, and I think it would take a miracle to be ready and get my license before it expires, but who knows?

Stuff since last time

So, I came out to my family about wanting to be a professional tarot reader. It really was like coming out of the closet--the stunned silence, the suddenly awkward conversation, the "couldn't you just not? or maybe only a little? in private?" tagline. I count it a triumph that I didn't completely lose my temper at them. Have I ever mentioned how I abhor having to explain myself? Because I do. And no, I don't consider this to be explaining, this is narration and information that I am sharing. It's different. But yes, tarot. I've had an interest my whole life, and it's something that I've kept coming back to, no matter how useless I felt I was at it. It's taken me a damn long time but I think it's finally time to honor that and put the work learning it that I've always wanted. I know it's a cliche to finish job training and realize that it's not what you want to do, but in my defense, I knew before starting library school that I didn't like it that much. In fact, that same knowledge has tripped me up the entire way because it felt like hypocrisy. It's been damned hard to swallow. But in four weeks I will be free from Drexel's genius tutelary and finally able to do what I want, for a change. I'm cashing in my Good Girl chips and the telling the rest of the world to suck it.