High Hopes For Living

 
   Embracing my freedom and trying to forget my problems roughly one year ago.

Embracing my freedom and trying to forget my problems roughly one year ago.

 

On this exact day last year, I was dog-sitting for a friend of mine and admiring her amazing eye for interior design. I had a running list in my head of all the little touches she had around her home that made it so inviting - plants, vintage furniture, artwork on the walls - and was dreaming up ways to add them to my own apartment once I got home. Her space was so inviting and had such good energy, whereas mine had been feeling a little dull and depressing lately. I thought if I could bring some of that to my place, some of the fog I'd been feeling caught in would lift.

Two nights later, my relationship ended, and my entire life was uprooted. Forget a new design aesthetic, I needed a new apartment! I needed a new job! I needed a new life! 

 
   Remember this Anna? She was having a rough time of it.

Remember this Anna? She was having a rough time of it.

 

I haven't been particularly good at keeping up with writing over the past year - not on my blog, in my personal journal, or on any of my creative projects. It's the one thing I've really been beating myself up for, but as I keep having to remind myself, I've accomplished a lot in other areas of my life. It's understandable that creative pursuits get put on hold when you're trying to figure out how to completely rebuild yourself and the life you want to be living, no matter how much you want to be able to do everything all at once. 

And that's really what this last year has been for me - a chance to rebuild. A journey to rediscover who I am, to heal from wounds both recent and buried deep in my past, an opportunity to become the person I'm meant to be instead of the person I fell into becoming. It's been equal parts terrifying, disheartening, exhilarating, joyous, and heartbreaking, but overall it has been incredibly rewarding in ways I couldn't have begun to imagine when I first started out.

A huge part of that is due to going back to therapy. About 3 weeks into my newfound singledom, I had a pretty huge breakdown. The breakup was lacking so much of the respect I'd thought our relationship was built on, and I realized this wasn't something I could process myself. I didn't feel like the person I was during our relationship, someone I couldn't quite comprehend I'd become in the first place, but I didn't feel like the person I was before either. I felt like a shell of a human being and didn't know how to move past that, so at the urging of my mom and several of my friends I tracked down a therapist who seemed like she would be a good fit. This was probably one of the best decisions I've made in a long time.

   A message from the city and a lesson I worked hard to learn this year.

A message from the city and a lesson I worked hard to learn this year.

In addition to helping me work through my recent relationship and coming to the realization of how unhappy I'd been during it, my therapist helped me trace a path back from the present to my childhood trauma, which has cast an ever-present shadow over my life and informed how I connect with others. Together we sorted through the confusing jumble of my memories, disentangled my automatic responses to others' actions, and rewired my self-image. It was often subtle, and sometimes I wondered if any of it was truly helping, but eventually I was able to not only find some closure from my recent heartache but also finally speak my truth and close the book on an extremely toxic relationship that has held me in sway for as long as I can remember. It was invigorating, empowering, and a little bittersweet because I knew it meant losing my connection to people who felt caught in the middle and may decide to take sides. More than anything, it was liberating.

I walked into my therapist's office the week after I'd spoken up and severed ties with the people who had caused me so much pain, and she immediately knew something had changed. I was lighter, happier, and far more assertive. I felt like I was glowing, like the clouds had finally parted, and I could be fully and completely me. For the first time in my life, I didn't feel like I had to prove my worth to people who had no interest in seeing my value. 

Throughout all of this deep emotional exploration, I was also making changes in my physical life. I needed a new job, and so I'd taken a part-time position at a non-profit that I thought would be a good temporary landing pad until I figured out what I truly wanted to do. I was completely shocked to discover that I loved it there and didn't want to leave anytime soon. I was making new friends, contributing to a cause that felt fulfilling, spending time around other artists, getting recognition for the hard work I was putting in every day, and still finding time to go home and work on my own personal responsibilities (and walk my favorite pups). 

   You can't beat a welcoming sanctuary!

You can't beat a welcoming sanctuary!

I'd also moved into a new apartment with my sister, our (then) three cats, and a fantastic new roommate. Somehow we'd lucked out and gotten a dream apartment - huge, affordable, perfect location with a view of the park, and (most importantly to me) with a ton of natural light for growing plants. It was a blank canvas, something we could put our stamp on and turn into a beautiful home. Instead of retooling my old space into something more personal and inviting, I got to build my aesthetic from the ground up. It was slow going, and my impatient nature didn't make it any easier, but I finally have a bedroom that reflects me and all the plants my little heart could desire (that's a lie...you can never have enough plants).

In the last year I've traveled across the country (and to Canada!) to attend weddings for people near and dear to my heart, gone apple picking and hiking with friends from work, met Mr. Clause at Macy's Santa Land, stayed out at decadent parties until 4 am, said goodbye to my beloved Esme, made new friends, reconnected with old friends, done magic, read tarot cards, enjoyed a lot of puppy time, spent two weeks exploring both NYC and my hometown of Madison, WI with my parents, gone to concerts, discovered new music, spent time with my best friend and her adorable daughter, laughed a lot, cried a lot, and remembered what it's like to feel alive. 

   A collection of happy memories from the past year.

A collection of happy memories from the past year.

I've never loved the 4th of July, as much as I enjoy fireworks, because the overwhelming nationalism of the holiday has always left a bad taste in my mouth. But in a way it's fitting that this year it's my own personal Independence Day, a chance to celebrate one full year of liberation and all the incredible experiences that year has brought me. I still have my ups and downs, but who doesn't? And most days I feel an overwhelming sense of hope and possibility (existential and political terror notwithstanding). I'm not where I want to be yet, I may not always know where that even is, but I'm a hell of a lot closer than I've ever been and that feels pretty fucking fantastic. 

   One year(ish) later. Stay up on that rise and never come down!

One year(ish) later. Stay up on that rise and never come down!

For Esmerelda Weatherwax – Mind How You Go

 
   She's beauty, she's grace...

She's beauty, she's grace...

 

I've fallen horribly behind on writing here; my last post was six months ago, so when the new year rolled around I (again) set my intentions to write a new piece for this blog at least once a month. This wasn't the piece I intended to write, but it's the one that now needs to be written.

I first laid eyes on my dear, sweet Esme in July of 2009. I'd been living in an apartment that didn't allow cats but had signed a lease on a new place with my then-boyfriend for the following month (a terrible mistake, but one that many great things came out of), and after a year of living cat-free I was determined to rent somewhere that would allow me to get a furry companion of my own. Weeks before we'd moved and were able to actually bring a cat home, I was already scouring Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet for our new charge, clicking through listing after listing in search of the right critter. As any pet owner will tell you, you'll see plenty of adorable animals that you would be more than happy to own, but there's a difference between "cat I'd probably grow to love" and "cat I know is mine."

After a week or two of obsessively checking the kittens and young cats categories (although I fully see the merit of adopting an older cat, for my first cat I wanted to raise them from kittenhood), I stumbled upon a photo that my eyes couldn't make sense of. In the small frame of the thumbnail, the unusual markings and features of this animal swam together, making it unidentifiable. As soon as I clicked into the posting to investigate further, I knew I had found my cat. She was the most unique and beautiful creature I'd ever seen, and I desperately emailed the shelter, offering to pay her room and board for the next few weeks if they would only hold onto her until I had moved into my new place. They kindly assured me that wasn't necessary, and I put in my application immediately.

 
   Kitten model

Kitten model

 

We moved all of our belongings and were in the new apartment for a mere day or two before I showed up to bring my kitten home. She'd been given the name Mischa, but after debating several names from my favorite books with friends I'd settled on the name Esme, after the imposing witch Esmerelda "Granny" Weatherwax from Terry Pratchett's Discworld series. When I showed up at the shelter and they brought her into the room with me, I was afraid I'd made a terrible mistake. This kitten wasn't particularly shy, but she had no interest in playing or saying hello. Had I inadvertently picked an antisocial cat by choosing one based on appearance alone? I didn't think I'd be happy if my cat was an unaffectionate one. 

I needn't have worried; as soon as we brought her home, it took all of 10 minutes for Esme to warm up to us and begin an intrepid exploration of the apartment. Within days, she was playing, snuggling, and letting my then-boyfriend toss her into the air and catch her like an excited toddler. Antisocial she certainly was not – if the cable guy showed up, Esme was at the door begging to be petted. I'd never known a cat to be so fearless and so desperate for attention. 

 
   Strange sleeper

Strange sleeper

 

Truthfully, I could not have asked for a more loving cat. When my ex and I split up and a new roommate moved into our apartment, Esme adjusted to the newcomer with ease. When my roommate and I stood in the living room or kitchen and chatted, she would flop down on the floor between us and roll back and forth to entice us both to pet her (because how dare we be in the same room as her and not be touching her?). When my best friend spent the night, Esme would follow her around and beg to be lifted up to chase bugs on the ceiling. 

One week, my new long-distance boyfriend came to stay for several days. We were sitting on the couch together, when Esme hopped up into his lap and climbed onto his chest. "She wants you to kiss her," I told him.

"Really, Anna?" He said. "I think you want me to kiss her and are just projecting onto her." At that moment, he was cut off by Esme shoving her nose into his mouth, tired of him ignoring her wishes. I smirked an I told you so. My cat knew what she wanted and wasn't shy about making it known.

Despite her affectionate nature, though, Esme could still be a diva and even a bit of a monster. She shredded the boxspring on my mattress when she felt ignored (and sleeping counted as ignoring her). If I was reading or watching TV and she got into a foul mood, she would latch onto my hand with her teeth and claws and rabbit-kick it like an unfortunate prey whose neck she wanted to break until I managed to shake her off. She pushed my roommate's water glasses off the table just to watch them break and even climbed up on top of the cabinets to smash a glass vase I'd stored up there. When she got exceptionally hyper, she would cling to the bottom of the armchair in my bedroom with her claws and scuttle around upside-down like a deranged Spider-Man. One day, I left my journal open on my bed when I went to work and came home to find several pages shredded and chewed into pieces. When I went to Ireland for 10 days and left her in the care of my sister, I came home to find my bed covered in food that she'd carried from her bowl in the kitchen, chewed up, and then spit out on my sheets. 

 
   A tale of voluntary bath time, tarot cards, and shoulder rides.

A tale of voluntary bath time, tarot cards, and shoulder rides.

 

Though she had her quirks, I couldn't imagine myself with any other feline companion. By this point, I had been through two breakups since adopting her, and each time she was my rock and my comfort. When I decided it was time to leave my hometown for good, I agonized over how I would be able to manage it as a responsible cat owner. Giving her up was out of the question, but so was moving with a cat and no job or apartment lined up in the city. Couch-surfing is significantly more difficult with an animal in tow (and far too stressful for the animal). Thankfully, my grandma came to the rescue, offering me a place to stay in the months between the end of my lease and my official move date as well as a home for Esme until I could settle into NYC and bring her out to join me. Leaving her behind was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make, and she tried to stow away in my suitcase on more than one occasion while I packed.

Living a cat-less life was something of a relief at first, but it was also gut-wrenching. I missed my girl terribly and didn't have the money to visit while I settled in and looked for a permanent apartment, so it was almost a year before I saw her again. I was certain she would forget who I was, and when I walked into my grandma's condo for the first time after returning home, Esme hid under the bed. But as soon as she heard my voice, she came running and flung herself into my lap. It was one of the happiest days of my life.

 
   Reunited at last...

Reunited at last...

 

The flight to New York was less pleasant - she yowled the entire drive to the airport and throughout lunch with my family, tried to scramble out of my arms while going through security, and glared at me in a tranquilizer-induced haze, drooling slightly while we waited to board the plane. Still, we made it, and I couldn't have been happier to have her back with me. Finally, Brooklyn truly felt like home. 

We had ten precious months together before Faithful showed up in our lives. I had never planned to get a second cat, but after moving in with my new boyfriend, this scrawny black cat had shown up on my way to the subway one night and demanded that I take him home. Esme was not pleased with the arrangement and was even less thrilled to discover that her new brother was semi-feral and considered pinning her down and biting her to be a sign of affection. I felt horribly guilty for bringing him into the apartment, despite my love for him, and was constantly worried about Esme's health and safety until I began to notice her provoking him to attack. Faithful would be sleeping peacefully on the couch when Esme would make a beeline for him, stomping across his prone form until he woke up and bit her leg in annoyance. Or I'd witness her smack in him in the face or sneak up on him and pounce before running away, crying to me over how mean he was being to her. A total drama queen. 

 
   Esme with Faithful and my sister's cat, Ripley

Esme with Faithful and my sister's cat, Ripley

 

Over the years together, it became clear that they had a grudging affection for one another. Faithful would still chase her and pin her down more frequently than I liked, but for the most part they co-existed peacefully, or at the very least tolerated one another. Esme focused most of her attention on her humans, forcing herself between us when we lay in bed, sneezing in our faces, drooling whenever we scratched her head, and always managing to step in the most awkward and painful places possible whenever she walked across our bodies. She rarely got from point A to point B without managing to stomp on your groin, stomach, nipple and throat. Eating dinner usually involved fending off her determined advances while she sharpened her claws on your shoulders to get your attention, hooked her paw around your fork and tried to steer it towards her mouth instead of yours, and even attempted to steal food directly out of your mouth. And when she went through a period of peeing on any clothes left on the floor and had to be locked out of the bedroom overnight, she would greet us every morning by dashing into the room, yowling at the top of her lungs, as soon as the door was opened and launching herself into bed to flop on top of whichever one of us was still asleep. 

In the winter of 2015, I began noticing that she was losing weight. She had stopped eating her dry food and only picked at the various cans of wet food we offered her. We took her to numerous vet appointments and paid for test after test, but they all came up negative. This wasn't surprising; it seemed like every time I'd ever rushed her to the vet, afraid she'd contracted some kind of infection or illness, there was no medical reason for it. But it was horribly stressful to watch her weight drop to dangerously low levels without any way of fixing it. Finally we were left with two options - perform a biopsy to test for cancer, which we would then have to decide whether or not to treat, or try one more dietary change. We opted for the latter, switching her to a prescription food made out of rabbit meat. Miraculously, that worked, and she devoured three cans of food a day, much to our delight (but to the dismay of our wallets - the food cost $75 a case, and she was going through a case a week). She quickly packed on the pounds, and it seemed as though whatever it was that was making her sick was no longer an issue.

Looking back, it's likely that if we had done a biopsy, we would have found cancer. A year and a half later, her appetite and weight began to decline once again, and this time a dietary change didn't help. In the meantime, though, I was gifted with almost two more years of affection and attitude from her. When I went through yet another breakup, Esme was by my side, showering me with love and demanding to be cuddled. When I moved to a new apartment, she began sleeping under the covers with me every night. I'd fall asleep with her tucked against my chest and wake up every morning to find her at the end of the bed or curled up against my legs. She was still losing weight, but her appetite seemed to be increasing and she would frequently wake me up at 5 am by shredding my guitar case until I caved and dragged my exhausted body out of bed to fill her bowl for the sixth time in the last 24 hours. When she followed me around the apartment loudly demanding food and scarfed down a extra large can and a half of food every day, I was hopeful that things were on the upswing.

 
   Partners in crime

Partners in crime

 

Her health took a sudden turn for the worse in the middle of the night on January 4th when she began having seizures due to dangerously low blood sugar. Her body had stopped processing nutrients, and what little weight she appeared to have gained disappeared seemingly overnight. True to form, this was the night of the bomb cyclone, so I was forced to rush her to the vet through the remains of a blizzard in wind so strong and cold it felt as though it would rip right through me. It took two tries to even find a clinic that was open, because the first supposedly-24 hour vet that Google directed us to actually closed at 7 pm, and my sister and I were forced to shiver on the corner at 1 am, stripping down to wrap our scarves around the cat carrier in a vain attempt to shield Esme from the wind while we waited for our cab driver to double back and pick us up. Esme was nothing if not dramatic, all the way to the end. 

The vets placed her on a catheter and gave her medication to bring her blood sugar back up to normal levels. We agreed that I would pick her up the next day and that we would discuss diagnostic options once I had figured out what money I could scrape together to cover treatment. When I left, she seemed more like her old self, perking up and rubbing on me and attempting to break out of her cage. The vet and vet techs couldn't get enough of her. Unfortunately, her blood sugar dropped again before I took her home. She was discharged anyway, and I was given instructions for how to keep her blood sugar up to prevent more seizures, but once we were home she had little appetite and only wanted to sleep. I force-fed her with a syringe and rubbed maple syrup on her gums to keep her blood sugar levels from dipping too low, but it didn't look good. We got to spend a lovely day together, curled up under my covers with a hot water bottle nestled against her, before she crashed again and began having seizures at 5 am. It was clear recovery didn't seem like a viable option for her. 

I rushed her back to the emergency vet, devastated but certain that I had to make the tough call. My mom calls it the covenant we make when we take an animal into our home - that we will love them and care for them while they're healthy but also agree to ease their passing when the time comes. After discussing Esme's condition with the vet, we both agreed that with no guarantee that the diagnostic procedures would find anything or that what we would find would be treatable, the most loving and humane decision I could make would be to euthanize her. I was given the bittersweet gift of a chance to hold her in my arms while she purred and tell her how much I loved her in her final moments. It was heartwrenchingly painful, but an experience I wouldn't trade for the world. 

 
   Our last loving moments

Our last loving moments

 

The past few days have been touch and go for me. I am fairly skilled at maneuvering my way through the grieving process, but for whatever reason it's harder with her than it has been with anyone else, even members of my own family. I can handle the knowledge that she's not around right now, but the realization that I will never see or hold her ever again is like a knife to the heart each time it hits. I found her collar on my nightstand, removed a month or two ago when it got too loose and began rubbing the fur off her neck, and have been wearing it as a bracelet. I feel like a freak, but I can't bear to let her go. Not yet. 

For all the pain, though, I am eternally grateful for the past eight and a half years that I was privileged to spend with her. Esmerelda was the most bratty, spoiled, darling, wonderful, beautiful cat I could possibly have found, and I have so many fond memories that I will treasure forever. She was truly something special, and no creature can fill the hole she's left in my heart. In the words of Terry Pratchett, who first dreamt up the iconic character whose name I borrowed for this remarkable animal, I can see the balance, and you have left the world much better than you found it. And if you ask me, nobody could do better than that.

 
   The inscription from "The Shepherd's Crown", Terry Pratchett's final book

The inscription from "The Shepherd's Crown", Terry Pratchett's final book

 

Running in the Shadow

It was one week ago yesterday that my life was turned upside down and shaken until all the loose change of experience, feelings, and memories rattled out of its pockets. I came home from work, following a long weekend of dogsitting, following a long week of work, and so on and so on, and, exhausted, fell asleep for several hours, fully clothed on top of my blankets. When I woke up, I felt as if I'd drifted into a nightmare as my partner of 5 years told me our relationship was over.

Most people soften the blow of their breakups, solicitously remarking that it was mutual, no hard feelings when pressed. This was not mutual. It was not even expected. There may not be hard feelings, but nor are they soft ones. To say that I was shocked would be an understatement. The rug had been well and fully ripped out from under my feet. The friends and family I told would remark, "But you two seemed so happy!" and I would reply, "I know, I thought so, too." It seems there was a lot about my relationship I didn't know, a lot of fears and doubts and anger that had been kept from me. I had thought we shared everything with one another, but so much had been bottled up that it was now impossible to breach the chasm that had suddenly opened up between us. Truthfully, that stung more than the separation itself. 

Many of my friends have never known me outside of this relationship. I've been involved with this man for the majority of my time in New York, so when they find out what has happened they look at me with worried eyes and ask if I'm going to be alright. The truth is, grief and loss is an old friend to me. Death, and the literal and figurative change it represents, is one of my birth cards in tarot, and I am no stranger to putting together the shattered pieces of the life I knew following a death or separation. I often joke that I have grieving down to an art form - cry for one to three days, spending less time in tears each day; accept the new reality; figure out what needs to be done to move forward; give myself space to cry once more when it hits me out of the blue in a week or six months or a year, then dust myself off and carry on. It would not be inaccurate to say that I'm more comfortable with pushing myself after catastrophe than I am with doing so when life is going well.

I've spent the last week sorting through my life, uncovering the causes of this sudden shift, and sheltering my battered and bruised heart from the storm raging within and around me. I've made and discarded plans, figured out temporary solutions to the tangled mess that is cohabitation following a breakup, and, above all else, thrown myself into the challenge of moving my life forward. If there's one thing I'm good at, it's taking all the energy that is now swirling aimlessly around with no relationship left to maintain and funneling it into every other aspect of my life. I've submitted to acting roles, attended auditions, booked a job interview, landed a likely permanent tarot reading gig, researched apartments in my neighborhood to get an idea of where I can move and how much it will cost, and spent a great deal of time on Pinterest and AptDeco as I mentally plan the new space I will inhabit (subject to change when I actually FIND a space). I've finally found the time/energy to write the blog post I've been promising myself I'd write for months (though the topic is different than initially anticipated...). 

I have also been fortunate to discover what an incredible support system I have in place. I've always been blessed in the friends and family department, but to see them spring into action has been awe-inspiring and humbling. From that first night, when my little sister stepped up and called me a cab to spirit me over to her apartment and we spent hours sitting on her kitchen floor, fantasizing about all the possibilities before me and laughing at her kitten's insistence at drinking out of my glass (and sometimes just sitting in shocked silence), I have been surrounded by love. Friends have taken me out for walks in the park or cheese plates at their apartment. Pictures of adorable puppies and kittens have been sent to cheer me up. My mom has checked in with me every morning. Friends of the family have checked to see if there's anything I need. Beds have been shared with me, couches have been offered. The hiring of hitmen has been threatened on more than one occasion. Every single witch in my friendship circle has offered up curses or performed spells for my own healing and happiness. Arrangements have been made to ensure I can roadtrip with friends up to Canada for a mutual friend's wedding in October, regardless of where I am financially at the time. And over and over again, I have been assured that I am strong, incredible, able to survive anything. 

And strong is something I know I am. I've been here before. I have never, nor will I ever, let the dissolution of a relationship break me. Right now I feel as if I'm waking up from a dream, coming out of a haze, remembering who I was, fully and completely, before I was half of a matched set. I look at the last five years and I'm not sure I recognize the person I was then, even just two weeks ago. I feel bolder, fiercer, more energized now. More ready to fight for what I want. I'm sure this feeling will subside a little, but I had forgotten what it was like to just be me. In the end, I know this will be a good thing even if I'm hurt and angry in the moment.

The hardest part now is the waiting to fully move on, being stuck in relationship purgatory until I can fully separate my life from his. I have plans to move in with my sister and a friend at the end of the summer, but that leaves me a month and a half of shuttling between my own apartment and those of friends', of feeling adrift and without a true home. A month and a half of seeing my cats in snatches of borrowed time. A month and a half of feeling caught between the person I was and the person I'm trying to become. The waiting game is always the worst, and while September will come sooner than expected the last week has already felt like a year. I miss curling up with my kitties at night, I miss feeling fully comfortable in my space, I miss feeling secure in my own life. When I'm done with something, I want to be DONE, gone, out of there, and it's always hard when circumstances dictate otherwise.

But liminal spaces and time are good things, whatever my impatient nature may prefer. They offer space for grieving, for processing, for healing. For finding a new source of income, for finding the perfect new apartment instead of jumping at the first opportunity that comes my way (a decision that would surely leave me miserable). For engaging with my shadow side and making sure I've left no painful demons lurking under rocks, waiting to leap out and surprise me at inopportune moments. And, at the very least, I've got a bright horizon ahead of me, something to look forward to and guide me as I push off into this next phase of my life. 

 

 
   Just me and my very happy cat.

Just me and my very happy cat.

 

You Want It Darker - An Ode to 2016

 
   Ringing in the new year in my "Fuck 2016" glasses.

Ringing in the new year in my "Fuck 2016" glasses.

 

In many ways, 2016 was a year of grieving. While there was much to be thankful for over the course of the year, it often felt overshadowed by an ever-present sense of loss. From the moment David Bowie's death was announced on January 10, it was clear that this was a year when things were going to change, perhaps not for the better. Coupled with an exhausting, endless election cycle, we knew we were in for a long ride.

For me, the most personal losses came towards the end of the year. While I was certainly saddened by the passing of so many icons and visionaries and constantly depressed by the global tragedies that played out in the news, the deepest cut was a double blow that fateful first week in November - the election of Donald Trump followed immediately by the death of Leonard Cohen. Cohen, whose work I had always been peripherally aware of (at the very least, every person who grew up watching Shrek is familiar with John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah"), officially landed on my radar in my freshman year of college, when a musician I admired published a blog post listing his most influential songwriters and three Leonard Cohen songs made the list. And so began a years-long love affair with the raspy voice and hauntingly poetic lyrics that made Leonard Cohen's music so iconic, his words and melodies adding meaning to my life and helping me navigate the highs and lows of every year, every dream, every relationship's beginning and end. While I had been steeling myself for his death for a while, to have it come mere days after watching our country elect a dangerous bigot as president felt like an especially cruel twist of fate. After all, if there was ever a time when Leonard's wisdom and dark humor would be needed, surely it would be during a Trump administration. I listened to "Democracy" on repeat for days and tried to convince myself to believe in the good that he had seen in America, but it was hard to find. 

 
   A more innocent era: "Beautiful Losers" is the title of a Leonard Cohen novel, and 20 year old Anna had just seen him in concert for the first time. 

A more innocent era: "Beautiful Losers" is the title of a Leonard Cohen novel, and 20 year old Anna had just seen him in concert for the first time. 

 

After that, I was certain that 2016 had done its worst, but the hits kept on coming, and when the unexpected death of beloved Space Princess, fearsome general, and all-around badass Carrie Fisher was announced, I was sent reeling once again. Here was a woman who had been a role model for so many, both for her on-screen bravery and her real-life refusal to bow to the taboos surrounding addiction and mental illness. For me, as for so many other young girls, Princess Leia was the first woman I saw in film who stood up for herself and fought back, who was shamelessly witty and sarcastic, and who was allowed to be both beautiful and tough. I loved her from the minute I first encountered her. As I grew older and faced down my own struggles with my mental health, learning that the woman behind the iconic princess spoke openly about her experiences living with bipolar disorder only made me love her more. The day she died, I lay on the floor of my bedroom and cried until I had no more tears left to shed. 

Looking back, much of this year was about exposing the flaws in our worldview. Our idols were revealed to be mere mortals (and some of them less than wonderful human beings); our country, despite our hopes for the contrary, is still full of racists, misogynists, homophobes, xenophobes, transphobes, and other bigots; even our own selves were stripped bare. This year taught me how much further I have to go to achieve half of what I set out to do and how easily I can give into bad habits and let things slide - posting blog posts, attending auditions, promoting my business, engaging in healthy self-care rather than losing myself in mind-numbing distractions... I accomplished a great deal, but there were plenty of things I wish I had done more of. 

Still, being flawed is part of human nature, and if there's anything I've learned from Carrie and Leonard (and Prince and Bowie and Zsa Zsa and Ali and George), it's that some of those perceived flaws can be turned into strengths, or at the very least will make you stand out from the crowd. It's not easy, but it's necessary, and I'm working on figuring out which aspects of myself I can be more accepting of and pour into my work rather than fight against. The flaws in our society? Well, those I'm still committed to changing. That's a lesson they taught me too.

 
   Tchau, 2016. I guess you weren't all bad.

Tchau, 2016. I guess you weren't all bad.

 

All of this is to say, I'm still processing the year past. I truly don't know what 2017 will bring; there's a lot about it that scares me and a lot that excites me. I'm doing my best to recommit to my goals and refocus my scattered thoughts, and thinking a lot about how I can use the inspiration my dearly departed heroes imparted to the world before they left. I don't do resolutions so much as I set intentions - the things I would like to bring more of into the world. In my case, I'm aiming for more acting, more writing, more tarot, and more resistance. We've got a tough fight ahead of us in so many aspects of the world, and I'm preparing myself to step up to the plate. Oh, and I'll try to write here a little bit more, too. 

Wishing you all a smooth transition into the year ahead and good fortune as you progress through it. Happy New Year!

Life Updates & November Tarotscopes

Hello, readers, it's been a while. Usually I try to write at least one blog post a month in addition to my tarotscopes, but the past two months have been rather hectic. I even took photos for October's Tarotscopes and then never had a chance to finish writing them up! I'm not complaining. Being busy isn't necessarily a bad thing, and in my case life filled up with some exciting and wonderful experiences that just didn't leave much time for writing (or, when I did have time, my brain was fried and I just wanted to zone out to Netflix instead). 

Over the last two months, I went home to Wisconsin to visit my family, help my sister pack for her move to New York, and meet my best friend's adorable baby. It was as relaxing as a trip home can ever be - I tried to take my time in the mornings, drinking tea on the back porch and drawing tarot cards while my mom's chickens wandered around the yard and our adorable corgi lay nearby, but by evening things were pretty packed, and I didn't see nearly as many people or do nearly as many things as I would have liked. Upon my return, I landed a role in a short film and finished filming on Tamburlaine the Great. I attended a dear friend's wedding and my boyfriend's high school reunion, partied it up for Halloween as Ash from The Fantastic Mr. Fox and told ghost stories at an open mic. I put my sister up on my couch for 3 weeks while she looked for an apartment then helped her paint, buy furniture, and move in. I read tarot at an awesome Tarot Techno dance party at Lot 54 in Bushwick and again at a friend's Halloween party, in addition to my usual Friday nights at Precious Metal and the readings that people booked online. And, of course, I walked a lot of adorable, rambunctious dogs. Life was good, if exhausting, but I'm happy it's settling down a bit now, and even more happy that I can attempt to get back to my schedule of writing entries here.

November has snuck up on me, but I didn't want to miss more than a month of Tarotscopes. This month's readings were done with the Heart of Stars Tarot, my newest deck that was gifted to me by my amazing and generous sister. It's a gorgeous pop culture-heavy deck that adds a little fun and modernity to the traditional tarot structure. I hope you enjoy it!

 

 
 

Scorpio - Six of Wands

Happy birthday, dearest Scorpios! This month, you are being urged to take some time to celebrate all that you have accomplished so far. The Six of Wands represents victory in the midst of great efforts and being on-track to achieve your goals. Just as blowing up the (first) Death Star and the celebration that followed did not signify the end of the Rebellion's fight against the Empire, your work is far from over, but that doesn't mean your achievements are trivial. Far from it, in fact. If anything, the successes that you are currently enjoying are indicative of the fact that you are more than capable of overcoming the odds and reaching your ultimate goals. And this is why it is so important that you seize this opportunity to pat yourself on the back and take a victory lap. It is much too easy to see only how far you have left to go and categorize yourself as a failure for not being closer to your final destination, and nothing takes the wind out of your sails like the feeling that the obstacles before you are insurmountable. By giving yourself a break and celebrating all that you have done, you are able to measure your progress from the beginning and to gain perspective on your true abilities. You can regain your energy and stoke yourself up for the battles that lie before you instead of pushing and pushing until you have burned yourself out. So take a night off. Commemorate your wins. Boost your ego. You have worked hard for this moment, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

 

 
 

Sagittarius - Three of Pentacles

Sagittarius, this month's message is to slow down and focus on making a plan and building a strong foundation for your future quests before you attempt them. The Three of Pentacles is a powerful reminder that without extensive preparation and anticipation of potential pitfalls, your work will crumble around your ears the minute you reach your first major obstacle. Though the planning stages may be frustrating at times, they are also invaluable. They give you a chance to fully visualize the path ahead of you, to prepare for what lies ahead, to seek the council and opinions of others and perhaps even gather a team of co-conspirators to help you in your endeavors. After all, without the knowledge and advice of Elrond Halfelven, Thorin and Company would never have learned of the Moon Runes or how to open the doors to the Lonely Mountain, and their quest would have been for naught. So, while it may be tempting to skip this stage and rush forward to the more exciting parts, you do so at your peril. Luck and passion can only get you so far, and when you do eventually hit a wall you want to be sure that you have everything in your arsenal prepped and ready to come to your aid. Look at this as an opportunity to ensure the odds of success are in your favor. The work you do now will pay off tenfold in the future. 

 

 
 

Capricorn - Seven of Pentacles

Diligent Capricorns, this month you are being called upon to pause and honestly ask yourself if your labor is paying off as richly as you'd hoped. There comes a time in every project or quest when you must take a step back and critically evaluate the work you've done so far. As much as we'd like to believe that we can get things right from the start and that all the effort we put into things will yield impressive results, the fact of the matter is that we are constantly trying, failing, and learning how to improve our chances of success. Sometimes, this requires abandoning the methods that you hold dear in favor of something more effective. Examine the evidence of your accomplishemnts through a practical lens, without your emotional attachments clouding your judgement, and ask yourself where you have been truly successful and where another approach may be warranted. Then, once you have identified the changes you must make, commit to them wholeheartedly and do not look back. As Yoda famously said, "Do or do not. There is no try." While your intentions may be admirable, at the end of the day it comes down to the ultimate question of whether they are yielding results. If the answer is no, then no amount of good intentions will salvage them. Be ruthless in your assessment of your position. It may be frustrating now, but it will help you to learn, grow, and prosper in the long run.

 

 
 

Aquarius - Eight of Wands

Ah, my innovative Aquarians, this month is all about inspiration for you. The Eight of Wands speaks of the breakthroughs that happen in the midst of a journey or effort, the moments of clarity that help you determine where and how to direct your passions and energy. You have been working toward your goals for quite some time now, and it may feel as though all of your efforts have been for nothing or that you've finally hit a roadblock that is insurmountable. It's natural to feel beaten down and exhausted when you have been pushing forward for some time, but good news and fresh options are on the horizon. Keep your eyes open for reinforcements and fresh opportunities. This isn't a call to start over but rather a continuation of everything that you have been fighting for so far and an affirmation that you are on the right path. It may take the form of aid from an external source, or you may just wake up with an "aha!" moment that changes everything, but regardless be prepared for a fresh burst of energy and renewed clarity as to where to turn next. Believe it or not, you've got this whole "life" thing under control and great things are in store for you, so get out there and be the superhero that we all know you to be!

 

 
 

Pisces - Seven of Swords

My fellow sensitive Pisceans, this month you are being called to examine the masks you wear and how they are serving you and your attempts to interact with the world around you. Are they necessary for your protection or are they blockades that prevent you from making authentic connections? The Seven of Swords is the card of deceit, but deception isn't always malicious. Sometimes it's the only thing that keeps us safe in a world full of danger. However, sometimes even deception born out of necessity can cause damage, especially as you try to navigate the world and forge deep bonds with the people you meet. Your mission this month is to ground yourself in your intuition so you can discern when it is safe for you to unmask. If you find yourself feeling on edge and vulnerable, ask yourself whether this sensation is a natural reaction to taking risks and allowing others to see you for who you truly are or whether it's the result of your gut instincts trying to warn you of danger. As the appearance of Jordan Belfort indicates, not everyone has good intentions, and if all your senses are shouting at you that someone is not above board, it is wise to take precautions to protect yourself. But be careful not to retreat so deeply into your armor that you forget how to remove it and be wholly and truly yourself, for without authenticity you will find your life lacking in meaning. Trust your instincts and choose accordingly. They will not steer you wrong.

 

 
 

Aries - The Chariot

Bold and boisterous Aries, The Chariot speaks of taking control of your own destiny. This month you are being pushed to decide for yourself the direction in which you want to take your life and then go out and make it happen. True, there are plenty of risks that accompany this sort of decisive action, but if you sit around and wait for someone else to hand your dreams to you, you will be waiting for a very long time. Sometimes the only way to find a path to your goals is to go out and forge it yourself, come what may. You may earn some bumps and bruises as you push forward, but the satisfaction of victory will more than make up for them. And even if your plans go awry and you go down in flames, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that at least you tried rather than letting fear get the better of you. Achilles may have died in the Battle of Troy, but his efforts were immortalized in tales and legends. You know you won't be content with a quiet, uneventful life, and while your own adventures may not involve blood and war (and thank goodness for that), they are no less impressive. Gather your courage and strike out after your dreams. At the very least, it will make for a good story.

 

 
 

Taurus - Seven of Wands

Reliable Taurus, this month your message is to keep sight of your goals and push forward regardless of the obstacles you may face. The Seven of Wands represents singleminded dedication to the pursuit of your passions, fighting for your dreams with the cunning and determination represented in this card by the Red Viper himself, Oberyn Martell. It stands as a reminder that success requires defying the odds, and sometimes defying the odds means ignoring their very existence. If you give yourself the chance to pause and think of all the ways you might fail, you will falter and lose your nerve. So lock your eyes on the horizon, and do not look down. When you encounter challenges, face them head on and dismantle them quickly and efficiently. You are resourceful, clever, and capable of handling whatever life throws your way, but it's far too easy to let doubt creep in and trip you up. So don't give it the opportunity. Trust in your ability to achieve everything you set your mind to, then fight like hell to do so. You'll have all the time in the world to sit back and marvel at the impressive feats you've pulled off once you've reached the finish line. Until then, stay focused. You've got this.

 

 
 

Gemini - The Hanged Man

My lively Geminis, this month your message is to take advantage of the new perspectives life is granting you. The Hanged Man shows up when life has turned you upside down and you are faced with the choice of fighting to get back to familiar ground or seeing what opportunities this new angle is offering you. Like Luke discovered in the Wampa's cave, this experience isn't always a pleasant one; in fact, it may be just the opposite. But when your position is out of your control, you can either expend a lot of energy trying to right yourself or you can try to find another way out of it. The message of the Hanged Man is that often going with the flow and utilizing the current situation's options is far more productive than wishing things were different, and you may be surprised the clarity that is brought to you when you allow yourself to see things from a new angle. You just may find the solution to a problem that was troubling you or discover a completely different direction in which to take your life, one which could be far more lucrative than whatever you were initially planning. So while this experience can be unsettling, embrace the discomfort, breathe through it, and then try to use it to your advantage. You never know what will come out of it.

 

 
 

Cancer - Judgement

Intuitive Cancers, at first glance this month's message may seem far outside your comfort zone - after all, Judgement represents leaving the familiar behind, taking a leap of faith and trusting that you will fly rather than fall. But the message of Judgement isn't one of impulsive change, but rather the final step in a long journey, one that you have been preparing for a while. You are being called upon to connect with your instincts, to center yourself in the deep-seated knowledge that this is the right decision for you and take action based on your convictions. True, there is no guarantee that things will turn out the way you are hoping, but try to see this as comforting rather than threatening. While it's possible you may find the reality does not meet your expectations, it is equally possible that it will far exceed them. The fact of the matter is that if you want to move forward, this requires change, and change requires taking risks, in this case carefully calculated risks. But all the calculations in the world can only prepare you so much, and if you're not willing to finally step up to the edge and take the plunge, you will go nowhere. This month you are being offered the opportunity to evolve and take your life to the next level, and as terrifying as that is, the results will be well worth it. Trust that you know what's best for you even if it doesn't always make sense to others and hold onto that knowledge as you step forward into the unknown. Great things are waiting, you just need to step out and meet them halfway. 

 

 
 

Leo - Wheel of Fortune

Dramatic Leos, who knows better than you that life is full of twists of fate? You fluctuate between feeling like everything is coming up Leo and like the whole world is against you on a regular basis. The Wheel of Fortune is a powerful reminder that so much of our life is out of our control and the best thing we can do is spin the wheel, hope for the best, and then make the most of whatever we're handed. After all, just because we can't dictate every event that comes our way doesn't mean we should just give up and succumb to the whims of external forces. If you find yourself feeling like luck is on your side, take advantage of that. Throw your energy into using this good fortune to improve your life and move yourself forward while you have the chance. Eventually the Wheel will spin again, and there will come a time when it does not land in your favor. Similarly, if you are feeling like nothing you do is having a positive effect, take heart. Luck will come around again, it's just a matter of waiting it out. In the meantime, you are still largely responsible for your own health and happiness, so do what you can to work with and mediate the effects of fate, coincidence, divine intervention, or whatever you want to call it. The more you learn to work with the flow of the Universe, the happier you will be. 

 

 
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Virgo - The World

Good news, Virgos! This month your hard work has paid off and you're seeing the returns on your efforts in a big way. The World encourages you to celebrate your accomplishments and appreciate the present moment, without worrying about what comes next. There's a time and place for planning ahead, but you deserve a break and a chance to just enjoy everything that you've created. This doesn't mean there aren't other goals you're still trying to reach or that everything in your life is going perfectly, but there will always be more you want to achieve. Instead of comparing your progress to a future goal, take a deep breath and appreciate the present moment. Chances are there are several ways in which you are succeeding, all you have to do is look for them. To our knowledge, we only have the one life, so do your best to enjoy it. Aspirations are great motivators, but when you reach a milestone be sure to mark it and give yourself a chance to recharge and just be happy (and exhausted and sad and anything else the completion of this cycle makes you feel). Take a night off from doing to just be. Not only is it good for your mood, but it will make you far more effective in your future pursuits when the time comes to tackle them. You have worked hard for this, Virgo, so celebrate yourself. 

 

 
 

Libra - The Sun

Fairest Libras, this month your message is to tend to your confidence and faith in yourself. The Sun is about being fully, and authentically you and trusting that the people who will appreciate that will find their way to you. Too often in our pursuit of balance and success we try to tone ourselves down, make ourselves smaller or different, and attempt to change in order to fit others' ideas of who we should be (or what we assume they are, at least). But when we dim our lights, we reduce our power and effectiveness and put ourselves into positions where we are not operating to the best of our abilities. It's true that being honest about who you are and showing up as your raw, unfiltered self can be intimidating, maybe even off-putting, to some, but look at this as a test of who you want to invest your time and energy into. Do you really want to forge relationships with people or organizations where you constantly have to mask parts of yourself? Besides, the more you fill your life with people who don't truly understand you and take opportunities that don't utilize your full potential, the less space you leave for those that do match you and the more likely you are to miss out on something incredible. You are an amazing, vibrant, talented person, and you deserve to surround yourself with people and places that validate that about you. Don't dim your light to satisfy someone else. Shine out brighter so that those who are also fumbling in the darkness will have a bright star to navigate by. 

 

As always, if you enjoyed your tarotscope and would like a more personalized reading, head on over to the Tarot Readings tab to book yours or check out my Etsy shop, Lady Lionheart Tarot. And if you're in the mood for more daily nuggets of wisdom, be sure to follow me on Instagram! I'll try to post another blog between now and next month, but at the very least I will see you in December for next month's readings. 

September Tarotscopes

It's the beginning of September, and I spent the afternoon of September 1st drawing cards, and staging photos so I could get these readings written up in a (semi) timely fashion. This month's readings were done with the Book of Thoth deck by Aleister Crowley and Lady Frieda Harris, which was the very first deck I ever bought back when I was a dorky teenager who was making an attempt at being "edgy". It was a little too advanced for me at the time, so I never got particularly comfortable with it, but about a year ago I decided it was time for me to give it another shot. One thing led to another, and it's now one of my favorite decks to work with. I hope it provides some enlightenment for your month ahead!

 

 
 

Virgo - Two of Disks / Change

Happy birthday, dearest Virgos! Your card this month is the Two of Disks, which reminds you of the importance of balance in your life, especially in the areas that affect your physical reality. Things are moving fast for you right now, and there are a lot of moving parts, so it can be difficult to juggle everything that you have on your plate in a satisfactory fashion. However, finding some sense of equilibrium is going to be imperative to your success. Just because there is a lot going on doesn't mean that it's more than you can handle; in fact, you are quite adept at managing a variety of responsibilities at one time. Figure out which tasks take priority for you this month and find an efficient way to divide up your attention and energy. And, most importantly, don't forget to block time out of your busy schedule to enjoy yourself. It's easy to get caught up in all the different tasks you have to get done and forget to take care of yourself, but part of maintaining balance is keeping your mind, body, and soul nourished as well. Lots of changes are coming your way, so make sure you're in the best possible place to handle them. 

 

 
 

Libra - Princess of Wands

My darling Libras, this month is all about inspiration for you. The Princess of Wands corresponds to the Page of Wands in traditional decks, and she is all about being open to the spark of a new idea and seeing where it leads. While you are still in the early stages of these new passions, it is important to nurture them so that they can grow into a full blaze. Now is not the time for self-doubt and second guessing. The Princess looks at the world through fresh eyes and sees only possibility; she banishes from her mind all thoughts of how things could go wrong or that which has fallen apart in the past in order to see the potential of the situation at hand. This is a gentle reminder that a strong belief in yourself and in your goals is an essential ingredient to success and a warning not to talk yourself out of trying before you've even begun. However, be careful not to rush into anything headlong without first doing some planning. The Princess is about believing in the possibility of success and starting to make a plan to achieve it, not naively throwing herself into something she is entirely unprepared for. Let things unfold at their natural pace and keep an open mind. You may be surprised at how things fall into place. 

 

 
 

Scorpio - Prince of Wands

While fire may not be your element of choice, this month's message is right in Scorpio's wheelhouse in terms of motivation and drive. The Prince of Wands (Knight, in traditional decks) is about taking action and chasing your dreams. He sets his gaze on the horizon and does not stop until he has either accomplished everything he set out to do or burned himself out trying. After last month's message of reflection, it's time to put some of that newly kindled intuition to use. You know what your passions are and what path you want to be on, and now it's time for you to make that a reality. Use the knowledge you have gained and the plans you've made as a strong foundation to support your sustained efforts and allow you to achieve success without completely depleting your resources in the process; after all, just because you're taking decisive action doesn't mean you have to be reckless. In fact, it is far better that you are not. Try to maintain the Prince's drive and commitment to concrete progress without pushing yourself so hard that you burn yourself out. Success is all well and good, but not if it comes from sacrificing your wellbeing, and you want to be sure that you are able to enjoy the fruits of your labors when all is said and done. Pursue your passions with unwavering dedication, pace yourself, and there's nothing that is out of your reach.

 

 
 

Sagittarius - Seven of Cups / Debauch

Intrepid Sagittarians, this month's message is a bit of a warning for you. The Seven of Cups appears when we have an array of options and pleasant distractions at our fingertips, and there is certainly nothing wrong with sampling many of the delights that life has to offer you. It is in your nature to be adventurous, so why not enjoy life while you're at it? The problem lies in the fact that many of these are shallow pursuits, experiences that will give you short-term pleasure but nothing more. Some may even lead you toward misery. You know deep in your heart which path will lead you to a life that is fulfilling and meets all your emotional needs, so it would be wise to be wary of anything that distracts you from its pursuit. There is no harm in engaging in a little debauchery now and again or indulging in some enjoyable distractions, but you'll want to make sure that these dalliances are merely breaks from your sustained quest for fulfillment and not something that derails you completely. All work and no play may make Jack a dull boy, but swing to the other extreme and you'll find yourself waking up one morning and wondering where the time has gone and what you have to show for it. "Everything in moderation" is your mantra this month. Have fun, but not too much fun. 

 

 
 

Capricorn - Eight of Wands / Swiftness

Good news, Capricorns, this month is all about inspiration for you. The Eight of Wands is the fresh burst of energy that reinvigorates you in the middle of a project, the sudden breakthrough in a problem you've been working on, and a change of direction mid-journey that opens new doors you hadn't even considered. This is a month for stepping up your pursuit of your goals and being open to whatever opportunities and messages the universe sends your way, all while maintaining a steady push toward success that is grounded in your earlier efforts. You're not burning things to the ground and starting new here, but rather being flexible and understanding that what you once thought was the right way to proceed may evolve as you get closer to your ultimate goal. Be careful not to get too distracted by new ideas and inspirations or abandon the work you're already doing. Instead, look for ways to incorporate it into your current journey. We are constantly learning and growing, and sometimes a fresh perspective or idea is all you need to get yourself moving toward your dreams with greater purpose and focus. You never know where life will take you, but remain on-target throughout and great things will grow out of it. 

 

 
 

Aquarius - Ten of Cups / Satiety

Clever Aquarians, this month is shaping up to be a good one! The Ten of Cups is the feeling of emotional fulfillment and abundance you find when you reach the culmination of something you have been working towards for a long time. While it may be tempting for your whirring brain to second-guess your contentment or look forward and try to figure out what comes next, resist that urge. You have earned this moment of respite and pleasure. Give yourself a chance to sit back and appreciate just how happy you are at this point in time and how much you have accomplished as this particular chapter of your life winds to a close. You may not have every aspect of your life figured out, but you are incredibly wealthy in friends, family, love, and happiness. Take a moment to fully realize that and honor it. You did this. All this joy that you feel right now stems from relationships you've built and actions you've taken in the past, all the times you made your emotional wellbeing a priority. Soak it in. Catalogue these memories for later recollection. Once you've started the next cycle, you will be once again caught up in the hustle and flow of building something that feeds your spirit, and you'll want something to look back on and remind you of just how worth it your efforts are. 

 

 
 

Pisces - Knight of Cups

Pisces, you are in your element this month. The Knight of Cups is the Thoth equivalent of the King in other decks, and he is the master of his emotional world. This month is all about you processing your emotions and connecting to your intuition in ways that are both healthy and serve your ultimate goals. You know that it is never a good idea for you to repress your feelings, but it can be all too easy to let them get the better of you and find yourself getting dragged down by conflicting sentiments. Not this month, Pisces. This month you are confident and in control, able to work through things on your own terms and see your sensitive nature as a strength rather than a shortcoming. You may even find that your own experiences with overcoming internal tumult make you uniquely qualified to advise others and provide a much-needed voice of reason. If you can hit that sweet spot between cool logic and mutable feelings, you will be perfectly poised to take the world by storm without having to suppress any of that quintessential Pisces sensitivity that makes you who you are. Embrace your watery nature, because that's what makes you stand out from the crowd. Make it work in your favor.

 

 
 

Aries - Three of Wands / Virtue

This month's message should please your fiery disposition, Aries. The Three of Wands urges you to take your wild passions and channel them into something productive. It speaks of the importance of a strong foundation and a clear vision of your goals  in order to achieve the success you're looking for. After all, the initial spark of an idea is all well and good, but without structure to guide it, it will flicker and fade away before you can figure out what to do with it. Take some time this month to look towards the future and lock down a concrete idea of what it is that you're aiming for. Get as specific as you can. What does your ideal version of success look like? What would make you feel fulfilled in your work and your life? Once you have that picture in your head, you can turn your attention towards making a plan to achieve these dreams. And, of course, don't expect success to happen overnight. You are still at the beginning of your journey, just starting to see the path crystallizing in front of you. If you jump forward when you have not yet worked out all the details, you will find yourself faltering just as surely as if you took no action at all. Work like this takes patience and preparation. While you may not be able to foresee every pitfall or obstacle that may rise up in your path, a solid game plan will at least give you a strong foundation from which to work. Take your time with it, and it will serve you well in the long run.

 

 
 

Taurus - Four of Swords / Truce

Ah, my patient Taureans, September is all about giving yourself a break. The Four of Swords is a pause, the calm before the storm, the a break between battles to regroup and recharge before diving back into the fray. While you may be more comfortable when pushing steadily forward in the face of adversity, you need this rest in order to get your thoughts in order and make sure that you are attacking obstacles as efficiently as possible. Use this time to process everything that you've been through so far and mentally prepare yourself for the challenges ahead of you. It's far too easy to get swept up in the busy nature of life, hopping from one trial to another and never giving yourself a moment to recover, but spend too much time and energy on these non-stop mental sparring matches and life will eventually spit you out, exhausted and spent. As counterintuitive as it may seem, enforcing a break now and again will make you more likely to achieve victory, not less. Pushing yourself is all well and good, but we all need a respite from time to time. Let yourself relax. You'll be back in the thick of things soon enough.

 

 
 

Gemini - Princess of Disks

Flighty Geminis, this month you are being called to open yourself to new opportunities and take the time to ground dreams in reality. The Princess of Disks is the Thoth's Page, and like the other Princesses, she is all about seeing infinite possibilities in the world around her. Unlike the other suits, however, the Princess of Disks is particularly concerned about the tangible world and how to pursue opportunity in such a way that it will yield measurable results. This month, turn your attention towards planting the seeds of your goals and figuring out exactly which tasks will need to be accomplished in order to see them grow into reality. Do be careful not to get so bogged down in the logistics that you find yourself losing faith in your ability to achieve everything you set out to do, but there is nothing wrong with taking a more practical approach to life. In fact, sometimes it is necessary. It may not be as glamorous-sounding as rushing out after a wild dream with only your belief in yourself to sustain you, but it is far more likely to actually lead you to success. Make a conscious effort to look at the world with new eyes and seek out enticing new prospects, then set yourself to figuring out how to make those goals achievable. Your hard work will pay off in droves down the road.

 

 
 

Cancer - Six of Cups / Pleasure

Sensitive Cancers, it will please you to hear that this month's message lands you safely in your comfort zone. The Six of Cups is all about taking the time to indulge in things that bring you joy, particularly in those pastimes that invoke pleasant memories of times past. It urges you to look at where you have been in order to inform where you are heading. Our histories, both personal and ancestral, are a treasure trove of information, and if you find your present situation is feeling somewhat lackluster in the emotional fulfillment department, you need only look back for suggestions on how to infuse your life with bliss. Now is the time to shift your focus from a goal-oriented approach to one that fills your life with joy and meets your emotional and spiritual needs. It's an opportunity to pause and ensure that you are choosing a path that is fulfilling in the here and now rather than one that indefinitely dangles the promise of future contentment in front of you. This is by no means a call to settle for less than you desire or take your eye off the prize, but rather a gentle push towards shifting your perspective and taking a different approach to dream-chasing. After all, what is the use of pursuing success if you are miserable while doing it? We only have one life, so make sure you are filling it with all the things that keep your spirits up as you navigate its shifting seas. Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself, wherever you are in your journey. You will feel the better for it.

 

 
 

Leo - Nine of Swords / Cruelty

Bold and brazen Leos, this month is not going to be particularly easy for you. The Nine of Swords appears when we come face to face with our fears, anxieties and doubts and are forced to meet them head-on, whether we are prepared for it or not. It's understandable to feel overwhelmed when your brain is throwing every negative thought it can dredge up at you all at once, but the danger lies in allowing yourself to become paralyzed by fear. If these worries are rising to the surface, it's because you have disturbed the depths where they have been lurking. As distressing as it may be to find yourself confronted with every pessimistic thought your mind can dredge up, it also provides you an excellent opportunity to see these apprehensions for what they are and identify their root causes. Remember, these are not cold, hard facts but rather the insecurities that wait in the back of your mind, preparing to rise up when you least desire them. Rather than pushing them to the side or allowing yourself to be overrun with fear, ask yourself where they are coming from and what truths they can teach you. There is knowledge to be gained from even the most unpleasant experience, and by addressing the heart of the problem rather than the symptoms you stand a much better chance of overcoming these anxieties once and for all. In short, a little discomfort now can prepare you for success down the road, while trying to avoid the pain will only lead to it coming back louder and stronger in the future. You are more than strong enough to handle this, Leos, so hold your head high and boldly face your fears. 

 

And so concludes September's tarotscopes. I hope they provide you with more than a little bit to think about over the course of the month and guide you toward a better and brighter life than you initially imagined. If you enjoy these readings, don't forget to follow me on Instagram for daily tarot draws and check out my Etsy shop! I'll be back with another blog post later this month. Until then, enjoy the first stirrings of Autumn. 

Falling With Style

 
   The Tower as portrayed in the Morgan Greer Tarot. 

The Tower as portrayed in the Morgan Greer Tarot. 

 

When I drew The Tower for Pisces in the August Tarotscopes earlier this month, I knew things were about to get interesting, and probably not in the way I hoped. To those who are familiar with the tarot, this is one of the most dreaded cards in the deck. While Death sounds scary but actually represents natural changes and transitions, The Tower represents violent and sudden change and the shattering of illusions. Even those who are not wise to the tarot's ways may find themselves alarmed by the dark and disturbing artwork that bedecks The Tower in most decks. (Many tarot readers who grew up reading Harry Potter also call this The Lightning Struck Tower, in reference to that particularly shocking chapter in "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince").  However comfortable you are with the meanings of the various cards, it's clear that this one does not foretell sunshine and rainbows. 

 
   The Tower in the Thoth Deck has a particularly malevolant and Sauron-esque appearance, despite being painted more than a decade before Lord of the Rings was published.

The Tower in the Thoth Deck has a particularly malevolant and Sauron-esque appearance, despite being painted more than a decade before Lord of the Rings was published.

 

So it came as no surprise to me when things started falling apart. First, a nine-day dog-sitting gig that was going to bring in a decent chunk of change before my trip home to Wisconsin was cancelled. Then a week's worth of walks. Then one client ended a contract completely. All at once, my steady (if not grand) source of income seemed to be disappearing before my eyes. It's been more than a little stressful, to say the least. I like change but prefer to make it on my own terms, so unexpected shifts often take a little time for me to adjust to. 

The important thing to remember about The Tower, though, is that it represents the shattering of illusions. This isn't to say that it wasn't real, but often those things were not built to last. Whenever something falls apart in spectacular fashion, it's never completely out of nowhere; whatever area of life you find crumbling around your ears has probably been imperfect for some time, whether you allowed yourself to realize that or not. In my case, dog walking has never been the end goal, and taking on permanent schedules was supposed to be a temporary situation that I would re-evaluate after my initial three-month commitment was up (so...now). In the meantime, I have learned that having such a permanent schedule is more of a hindrance to me than a help. While it's reassuring to know that I'll at least have a certain amount of money coming in per week and can book more or less walks on top of that accordingly, depending on what I need and what my schedule looks like, it has also prevented me from pursuing the very thing I quit my job to do - acting and writing. I've passed up on countless auditions because I either couldn't attend them or couldn't commit to a full day (or several days) of filming due to pre-booked walks. I've also had to pass up on day-of walks with other dogs whose owners request me at a time that conflicts with my schedule, dogs I can walk again now that I have more flexibility. 

 
   Because the cards have a sense of humor, The Tower appeared in my Advice position in last week's spread as well, this time in reverse.

Because the cards have a sense of humor, The Tower appeared in my Advice position in last week's spread as well, this time in reverse.

 

In short, as stressful as these setbacks are, they're something of a blessing in disguise, and they reveal the areas of your life that are worth sinking your attention into. When The Tower has finished falling and the dust settles, you can look around the debris and see what remains, which foundations were strong enough to survive the upheaval and what can be used to build something bigger and better than before. In many ways, it's a fresh start, albeit not one that began in the most pleasant of fashions. In fact, all my best life changes followed the destruction of something I thought I wanted that I had been clinging to for dear life. Leaving school meant finding a job that wound up bringing me some of my dearest friends. Breaking up with the person I thought I was meant to be with motivated me to leave Wisconsin and move to New York. Some of the biggest growth I've ever experienced and most drastic leaps forward have occurred because I fought my way through times of hardship, and that is the inherent lesson in The Tower: this change may be miserable, it may be painful, but it is also 100% necessary. 

There are plenty of silver linings in this particular situation - my schedule has been freed up so I can attend an EPA with my best friend tomorrow that I thought I was going to have to miss; I've been motivated to push tarot readings harder in order to try and make up some of the financial difference and, with the help of some promotion from friends, I booked nine email readings and sent out two handwritten one-card readings in the last two weeks; I was able to walk one of my absolute favorite dogs three times last week, which brought me both money and a ridiculous amount of joy (I am mildly obsessed with this particular pup...). As hard as it may be to face uncertainty once again, I know it will ultimately serve me better.

 Like anyone faced with The Tower's shocking message, I can either choose to sink my energy into fighting the inevitable change and exhaust myself in the process, or I can take a deep breath and leap on my own terms, doing my best to weather the metaphorical fall with grace. I know which one I'll choose - once the initial shock wore off, I was more than ready for the change. Bring on the plunge, I'll embrace it with open arms. I may not be flying, but in the words of a pair of beloved animated toys, I am falling with style. 

   Story of my life. 

Story of my life. 

If you would like to help me survive this transition with more ease, you can do so by purchasing a tarot reading through the "Tarot Readings" menu at the top of the page. Thank you! 

August Tarotscopes

It's been a while since I was able to sit down and write a post, but I wanted to make sure I got August's Tarotscopes up for everyone before we got too far into the month. The deck I used this month is the Light Visions Tarot by James R. Eads, a limited edition deck that I was lucky enough to be gifted as a Christmas present when it was first released. It's one of my absolute favorite decks to work with, and doing readings with it was one of the things that got me to invest time and energy into reading tarot more seriously. What can I say? It's an amazing deck. One might call it life-changing. I hope you enjoy your monthly forecast, or at least find it illuminating. And if you're looking for something more personalized, check out the Tarot Readings tab above or head on over to my Etsy shop to purchase your own!

 

 
 

Leo - King of Chalices

Happy birthday, Leos! This month, your message is to get in touch with your watery, intuitive side. The King of Chalices is all about mastering your emotions and using them to empower you rather than allowing yourself to be ruled by them. This is a great chance to approach your feelings about things and deal with them on your own terms. We're often taught to see being emotional as the opposite of wisdom, but this could not be further than the truth. There is much insight to be gained from trusting your feelings and using your past experiences to inform the way you handle whatever life throws at you in the present. Being calm and centered is not often something you hear associated with Leo, but even you dramatic souls can benefit from an even keel now and again. You may even find that others will recognize your abilities to temper emotion with logic and will seek you out for advice. If you can avoid the pitfalls of veering into melodrama and ground yourself in your intuition and sense of self, you will find yourself in a position of great personal power.  Use it wisely.

 

 
 

Virgo - Death

Fret not, Virgos, this card signifies a month of great transformation for you. Death refers to the rebirth we experience when we let go of the things that are no longer working in our lives and make space for newer, better versions of ourselves. While this change may not always be pleasant, it is by no means something you can't handle, and it is absolutely necessary. You are being urged to embrace this process of regeneration; the more you resist critical changes and cling to the past, the more painful this transition will be. Instead, take some time to sit with yourself and figure out exactly what it is that you need to be separating yourself from in order to give yourself room to blossom. Thank the things that are no longer serving you and then let them go. Welcome this transformation with open arms. You will be amazed at the opportunities that open before you once you've stepped into your next phase of life. 

 

 
 

Libra - Two of Chalices

It will please you to note, Libras, that this month is all about balance. In particular, it's about emotional balance. The Two of Chalices refers to perfect partnerships, the relationships that balance us out and bring out the best in us. Whether this takes the form of a romantic partnership, a platonic relationship, finding the ideal business partner, or even achieving a balance within yourself, you are being urged to focus on nurturing those connections and spending your time and energy with the people who matter the most to you. The Two also serves as a reminder to see yourself through the eyes of those who love you, because too often we can be our own worst critics. It doesn't matter if you've achieved the goals you set out for yourself or if you've fallen behind, this month is about directing your thoughts toward your emotional wellbeing. Neglect that, and the rest of life becomes that much more difficult to handle. Love is the watchword, both for yourself and for others. 

 

 
 

Scorpio - The High Priestess

Mysterious Scorpios, this month you are in your element. The High Priestess is a meditative card that focuses on connecting yourself with your intuition and spirituality. It's all too easy to let this aspect of our lives slide, especially when the demands of the corporeal world can be overwhelming, but we ignore our inner voice to our own detriment. Your message this month is to explore the depths of your personality, to center yourself in your beliefs and trust your gut instincts. Whether you are a religious person or not, connecting with those things that make us feel spiritually connected to the world - whatever they may be in your own personal case - is vital to our overall wellbeing. If you don't have a means to center yourself and care for your spiritual health, any successes you achieve may still leave you feeling hollow. We need to see to all areas of our life - mind, heart, body and soul - in order to be truly fulfilled. Practice listening to your inner voice and trusting your intuition. It will not steer you wrong.

 

 
 

Sagittarius - Ten of Swords

Bold Sagittarians, this is not going to be the easiest of months for you. The Ten of Swords speaks of the moments when we almost give into despair, the times when it feels like everything is going wrong. But fear not, there is a light on the horizon. The Ten is the darkness before the dawn, the moment before everything shifts and you are granted new perspective. Your message this month is to allow yourself to be okay with not being fine. Get comfortable with discomfort. As unpleasant as these moments may be, they teach us a lot and leave us with valuable insight about ourselves and the world around us. Give yourself permission to hurt, to struggle, to not have your shit together. It doesn't make it any less frustrating in the moment, but you will come out of this month wiser and better equipped to process any hand that life deals you. After all, you've been through this before and come out (relatively) unscathed. Square your shoulders and face life in all its ugly, unfortunate glory. After all, the best breakthroughs often come after our darkest hour. 

 

 
 

Capricorn - Knight of Swords

Steady Capricorns, your message this month is to boldly face your fears and doubts and overcome them. The Knight of Swords cuts through confusion and self-doubt to the heart of the matter, taking no prisoners on his quest for truth. It's easy to get bogged down in all the reasons why something is not possible and all the obstacles that stand in your way, but the Knight tells you to have none of that. You've locked your eyes on your goal, and you refuse to let anything stop you from reaching it. When insecurity bubbles up in your mind, you slice it apart and keep moving forward. However, it is wise to be mindful of others even as you keep your focus on the path ahead of you. Sometimes the Knight's desire to cut away negativity can lead to hurt feelings, and when someone is questioning you it's often because they care about you and want to see you ultimately succeed. Action is all well and good, but you don't want to find yourself picking up the tattered remains of relationships at the finish line. Find a way to be diplomatic while still maintaining your resolve. You'll be glad you did. 

 

 
 

Aquarius - Justice

Aquarians, Justice is your bread and butter. There is nothing you value more than fairness and equality, and Justice represents the cosmic scales of balance. As a result, you're being asked to turn your gaze inward and focus on the effect your own actions have on your life and the world around you. How are the things you've done in the past having a positive impact on your present? Which actions may have yielded negative results? This doesn't mean you should be beating yourself up for past deeds when things seem to be going wrong for these things are never a case of direct cause and effect. What Justice urges is an understanding that you have a place in the world and that no act is too small to shift the scales. If you find yourself in frustrating circumstances, ask yourself what actions you can take to bring things back into balance. And if things are going well, be sure to acknowledge the part you played in your own successes. We may not be able to control everything in our lives, but that doesn't mean our decisions are meaningless. Once you grasp that concept, there's nothing you cannot do.

 

 
 

Pisces - The Tower

Oh, my fellow Pisces, this month promises to be an exciting one, if not in the most pleasant of ways. The Tower speaks of the shattering of illusions, the moment when the situation you've been clinging to comes crashing down around your ears and leaves you to build something fresh from the smoldering rubble. While this may sound terrible, the truth of the Tower is that whatever you were holding onto so tightly was never meant to last, regardless of what we may have convinced ourselves, and any assurances that things were fine were merely our own attempts to soothe ourselves. This change, however violent and unwanted, is necessary in order to help us build something brighter and better out of our lives, and the more you can embrace the transition and help it along, the less painful it will be. Once the dust settles, you'll be able to see which parts of the structure remain standing and create a stronger foundation from which to move forward. So take a deep breath and let it all go. Be gentle with yourself when things are tough and remember, at the end of all the chaos you'll be left with a fresh start. Remain hopeful. It will all work out for the best.

 

 
 

Aries - Ten of Wands

Fiery Aries, this month it may feel as though the flames of your passion are guttering. You have been working hard to pursue your goals and get yourself to where you are today, but now that you've reached the finish line you're not sure it's all it was cracked up to be. While we paint a romantic picture of success in our minds, the reality is that it's an ongoing process, and once we achieve the goals we set for ourselves we not only have to figure out where to go next, but we are also tasked with the responsibility of continuing to care for everything we've built so far. Your message this month is to evaluate everything that is resting on your shoulders and determine which is still lighting up your soul and which it's time to let go of. It may seem like giving up to release something that was once so important to you, but it's just another part of life. We have finite resources to dedicate to our lives and our projects, and the more you try to hold onto everything you once held dear, the more thinly spread you'll become. Hold onto the things that still feel important, delegate what you can, and as for the rest, thank it for everything it's meant to you and then let it go. Your heart will feel so much lighter once you do.

 

 
 

Taurus - Page of Pentacles

Taurus, this month you are being open yourself to what the world has to offer you and take advantage of any new opportunities that come your way. The Page of Pentacles is all about planning for the future and planting new seeds that will grow into wild success down the road. More importantly, the Page approaches each new situation with fresh eyes; it doesn't give into cynicism or doubt. You have the opportunity this month to begin a brand new stage of life, one that will have lasting positive effects going forward into the future. Allow yourself to take advantage of that, wholeheartedly and without any reservations. You are creating something beautiful; trust in your ability to do so. Even if it's a small step now, you are investing in your future and your own visions. What seems small now will have ripple effects that continue for days and weeks and months to come. If you see a chance to pursue a new goal, take it. Great things will come of the work you're doing this month. 

 

 
 

Gemini - The Hierophant

Curious Gemini, your message this month is to commit wholeheartedly to the process of learning. The Hierophant represents traditional structures and the exchange of knowledge. If there's a topic or a skill set you've been contemplating exploring, now would be an excellent time to dedicate yourself to its study. Seek out classes, spend time with those who are experts in the field - whatever you can do to expose yourself to new knowledge. However, this exchange would not be complete without you also stepping into the role of teacher or mentor. Whether this is a direct exchange with the person you intend to learn from or just the process of giving back and paying it forward, keep yourself open to opportunities to share your own skills and wisdom with the world. After all, just because you are somewhat lacking in experience in one area does not mean that you have nothing to offer. Find the subjects that pique your curiosity and the structures that enable you to successfully explore them and then have fun. The knowledge you will gain from this will be invaluable.

 

 
 

Cancer - Six of Wands

Sweet Cancers, this month you are being gently nudged to acknowledge your own successes. While you may not have reached your ultimate goal, you have come a long way since you began your efforts, and that is nothing short of amazing. It may seem arrogant or uncomfortable to beat your own drum, but if you aren't willing to applaud yourself, how will anyone else know to do so? Oftentimes we find ourselves waiting for external validation in order to see our accomplishments as anything noteworthy, but taking pride in your own work is vital to success. Otherwise, it's far too easy to focus only on our failures and difficulties, which can lead to increased frustration and lack of motivation to push forward. Take some time to celebrate your victories along the way and you will feel energized and excited to begin the next stage of your journey. Besides, the way in which you talk about your efforts will inform other people's impressions of it. Make sure to give them a good one. 

 

Happy August, everyone!

July Tarotscopes

Welcome back for your July Tarotscopes! We skipped a month there, but everything is back on track. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of tarotscopes, this is a monthly reading where I draw a card for each sign in the zodiac. Think of it less as a prediction of your future and more as a bit of advice to help you navigate the month. For me, it's just one more fun way to experiment with my decks and bring the experience of a tarot reading to the public. This month's readings are done with the gorgeous Raven's Prophecy Tarot by Maggie Stiefvater. 

 
 

Cancer - Three of Cups

Happy birthday, sweet Cancers! You are in your water element this month; the Three of Cups is the card of celebration, emotional support, and community, and your message for July is to focus your time and energy on your nearest and dearest. These are the people who have your back no matter what, the ones who root for you time and time again and are there to lift your spirits when you're feeling down. Perhaps you have one or two friends or family who fill this role, or maybe you have a whole crew (a squad, if you will). Either way, it's time to shower them with a little TLC and let them shower you with love in return. Life can get busy, and it's easy to push socialization aside as other responsibilities clamor for your attention, but chances are the longer you go between conversations and coffee dates with your Person(s), the more stressed out you become. And what better way to spend your birthday month than celebrating with the people you love best? If you find yourself feeling run-down (or even if it's just been a while), schedule a reunion with one or more of the folks who make up your Three of Cups community. You will feel so much better for it.

 

 
 

Leo - Knight of Wands

Bold Leos, your message for this month is to harness your creative energy and channel it into single-minded pursuit of your goals. The Knight of Wands is a brave adventurer and passionate artist, someone who sets her sights on success and doesn't give up until she reaches it. This kind of dedication and zeal is the bread and butter of your fiery personality; without something to focus your energy on, you often find yourself becoming listless. Let this serve as your permission to launch yourself headlong into your pursuits without thought or fear of what could go wrong. You know what your soul is truly craving - chances are you've been secretly plotting its pursuit in the back of your mind for quite some time now, even if it was just in idle daydreams. Now is the time to throw caution to the wind and make your dreams a reality. True, you may get burned along the way, but what's passion without a little risk? The end results will be well worth it. Go get 'em, Leo!

 

 
 

Virgo - Ace of Wands

Clever Virgos, your card this month is the Ace of Wands. The Ace urges you to seize hold of the creative spark, that first inkling of an idea that lights up your brain with possibilities. You are being called to get in touch with your muses and see what delicious prospects you can stir up. No idea is too outlandish, no goal too far out of your reach. Now is not the time to bog yourself down with logistics, plans, or doubts. There will be plenty of time for plotting your way forward later. This is simply the first step, that small stirring of possibility in the corner of your mind that makes your heart skip a beat. Focus your energy on nurturing this tiny spark into full blaze; even the slightest whisper of doubt may be enough to snuff it out, so feed it with your belief, your curiosity, and your determination. Once you are sure of its viability, you can dedicate yourself to figuring out how to make it a reality. For now, enjoy the feeling of creating something new and starting fresh. 

 

 
 

Libra - Ten of Swords

Dearest Libras, this is not the easiest of months for you. You may find yourself venturing into dark places in your head or feeling like the world is working against you. The Ten of Swords is all about the discomfort that we often find as we end one mental cycle and prepare for the next. The good news is that this despair is temporary; in fact, it always appears right before things take a turn for the better. Brighter days on the horizon, even if it doesn't necessarily feel like it. Your message this month is to sit with the discomfort and find what it has to teach you. After all, even the worst days can bring us wisdom and help us grow into the person we're meant to be, and you better than anyone know that our light side is nothing without darkness to balance us out. You have survived life's trials in the past, and this time is no different. Hold your head up high and face whatever life is planning to deal you with grace and confidence. The sooner you find your rhythm, the sooner you'll find yourself on the Ace of Swords' bright shores once again. 

 

 
 

Scorpio - Four of Coins

Passionate Scorpios, the Four of Coins speaks of the dangers of having it all. Often we work and work until we gain everything that we set our sights on, only to find ourselves trapped by the very treasures we sought. We become so afraid of losing everything we worked for that we become paralyzed, unable to move or grow as we cling tightly to our hard-earned gains. Your message for July is to take a moment to get comfortable with letting go. After all, just because you fought for something doesn't mean you should be bound to it forever, nor does letting go mean you will never find such riches again. Coins may refer to physical gains, but like everything in life the material world relies on having a free and natural flow and an exchange of goods. The more you clutch your possessions to you, the more stuck you will become, leaving you feeling stagnant and impoverished. Take a deep breath and loosen your grip. Yes, you will have to release some things that you were hoping to keep for a while longer, but this frees you up to seek even greater gains. Thank them for their service and step forward, unburdened. You will be amazed at how free you feel.

 

 
 

Sagittarius - Four of Cups

Ah, my restless Sagittarians, you are being handed a pause yourselves, but in the realm of emotions. The Four of Cups speaks of isolation and solitude, perhaps not of your choosing, and it can be easy to feel like the rest of the world is off having fun without you. You may find yourself feeling just a bit out of sync with the people around you, which can lead to frustration and bitterness. However, this is also a chance to get in touch with yourself and recalibrate your needs and desires without the input of others. If used for your own purposes, this moment of quiet contemplation can be a blessing in disguise, as it forces you to shut out distractions and points of view that may conflict with what your intuition is telling you is necessary. If you do find yourself feeling shut away from the rest of the world, you have two choices: you can wallow in loneliness and jealousy, or you can take this chance to get really clear on what your own heart is trying to tell you. I'm sure you can guess which option will be more beneficial to you. It may not feel comfortable or natural to sit silently with your own thoughts, but it will bring you more wisdom than you can possibly imagine, and you will end the month fully prepared to jump back into life's adventures with renewed vigor. 

 

 
 

Capricorn - Ten of Cups

My dearest Capricorns, your message this month is to relish the feeling of accomplishment. You may have missed it as you toiled away at your work, but you have succeeded in achieving emotional abundance beyond your wildest dreams. The Ten of Cups speaks of perfect harmony and the feeling that all is as it should be. True, like all suits, this is just a stage in a cycle that will soon start all over again, but for the moment you are being urged to enjoy yourself. Regardless of where you are in your physical or creative journeys, you have found a sense of wellbeing and purpose, and that is worth more than gold. You cannot control what happens next, but you can choose to make the most of this feeling for as long as it lasts. It's not something that comes around all that often, so give yourself a break from all that hard work and spend some time celebrating your hard-won happiness with your friends and family. You have more than earned it.

 

 
 

Aquarius - Four of Wands

Lovely Aquarius, you have spent so much time focusing your energy on getting your projects off the ground that you haven't given yourself a chance to acknowledge just how far you've come. It's all too easy to get stuck looking at the finish line, and while it's always good to know how much further you have to go, it can also lead to the feeling that you aren't making any progress at all. This could not be further from the truth. The Four of Wands reminds us not to underestimate the difficulty of starting something new or how much it takes out of you. The next time you find yourself measuring yourself against a goal that seems as far away as when you started, turn your gaze instead to where you began. Look at how much you have accomplished since you took those first steps and give yourself a chance to fully appreciate and celebrate just how much it has taken to get you where you are today. Pushing forward with no chance for rest is a surefire recipe for burnout, whereas stopping to boost your ego adds fuel to the fires of your passions so that when you're ready to jump back into the fray, you can do so with even more energy than before. You have come so far, and you deserve a night off to recognize that. 

 

 
 

Pisces - Page of Cups

Dreamy Pisces, your message this month falls well within your comfort zone. The Page of Cups reminds you to open yourself up to the messages of the universe and approach each new situation with a clear heart and fresh eyes. Yes, you may have been hurt in the past, but that has no bearing on where you are now; if anything, it's made you more resolute to see the best in people and surround yourself with those who live up to your high expectations. The emotional connections you make with others are your secret weapon - where others succeed because of their diligence and determination, you find opportunities simply by engaging with the people you meet along your journey. Keep your eyes open to the possibility for happiness, new friendship, and even magic wherever you go. By believing in the best in the world, you will set yourself up to uncover it. Resist any inklings of cynicism or doubt and greet the world with your arms stretched wide open. It will respond in kind.

 

 
 

Aries - Six of Coins

This month's message is clear, brash Aries - share in your wealth. The Six of Coins speaks of the importance of giving and receiving resources, and while you may not be swimming in money, chances are you have an excess of something that others are in need of. If you find yourself in a position to give, do so freely and without expectation of reciprocation. But while you may give selflessly, do not be ashamed if you find yourself in a position where you are in need of help yourself. We all have finite resources, skills that are less than polished, or advice that we lack, and true success comes from acknowledging when we cannot make it on our own. Do not look at it as an admission of failure but rather as a natural part of life, one that you can and will handle confidently and graciously. It takes great courage to admit when you cannot do something all by yourself, and by doing so you will put yourself in a position to be far more triumphant than had you continued pushing forward on your own. Give freely, accept willingly, and engage fully in the exchange of goods and services that keeps the world working. Even the most independent among us is much stronger as part of a community than they could ever be on their own. 

 

 
 

Taurus - Ten of Wands

Loyal Taurus, you have reached the end of an endeavor and discovered that success is not all you thought it would be. It's not that you are disappointed by the results, but you have discovered that your burden has grown rather than shrunk as you've gotten further towards your goals. The Ten of Wands reminds you that everything comes with a price, and the price of success is the responsibility of maintaining all that you worked for. This can be a daunting and exhausting task, so this month you are being charged with figuring out which parts you want to maintain and what you want to delegate or let go of in order to free up some of your energy for wherever life takes you next. Whatever you decide, remember that the burden may be heavy but you are up to the task of bearing it, and there is pride to be taken in carrying your work on your own. Everything that you have achieved was born of your blood, sweat, and tears, so hold your head high, square your shoulders, and let the weight of responsibility settle comfortably on you. It may not be the most glamorous of resolutions, but it will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and the knowledge that you have shaped your own world. That's more than many can hope for.

 

 
 

Gemini - Nine of Coins

Gemini, my love, this month's message is that you have everything you need. The Nine of Coins is the card of abundance and self-reliance. This is not the wild and decadent wealth of the Ten, but rather having just enough to get by comfortably. Not only that, but everything that you possess came as the result of your own hard work and careful planning, so while you may still dream of riches and luxuries that are currently out of your grasp, there is something deeply satisfying about looking at the world around you and knowing that you built it from scratch. Take some time to enjoy everything that you have created - the happy home, the check that covers this month's rent, the good health. Having your material world under control, even for a moment, is no small feat. Don't let up in your efforts to create the life you want, but as you continue pushing forward, dedicate some of your energy and time towards enjoying all that you have earned for yourself. After all, what is the point of building a beautiful life if you aren't going to soak it in? Gemini energy is all about duality, so bring that into your life by balancing your hard work with a healthy appreciation for all that you have done so far. It will make your continued efforts that much more rewarding.


I hope you enjoyed your tarotscopes this month, or at least found them enlightening. If you want more tarot readings, be sure to check out the daily and weekly draws I do on Instagram and check out my Etsy shop or the Tarot Readings link above for your very own personalized reading. 

Dreaming in the Trenches

Chasing your dreams can be difficult. When I quit my job to pursue my passions, I was under no illusions about this. I knew the upcoming year would be one of the hardest years of my life. That being said, there's a difference between intellectually preparing yourself for difficulty and the feeling of actually being in the thick of it. And, let's be honest for a second - sometimes being in the thick of it sucks. You work and you work, you try and fail, you push forward blindly without any guarantee that things will work out even remotely the way you hope, and most of the work you do isn't the part of the dream that you love. Regardless of what your passion is, you wind up spending more of your waking hours on administrative details - cold emails, resumes, figuring out finances and taxes, figuring out how to promote yourself on social media, applying for auditions or jobs, and the list goes on - than you do on the exhilarating parts - acting or reading tarot in my case. That's the nature of the beast, and when you love something you take all parts of it, even the frustratingly mundane ones, but it can still be disheartening at times. 

In dream chasing, like in anything else, you will have good weeks and bad weeks. Last week was great - I had an amazingly productive meeting with my writer's group that allowed me to get helpful feedback on my screenplay and move forward into the next portion that I'm writing as well as help my fellow writers with their own projects; I applied to a ton of film and theater projects and even got called in for an audition for one of them; I was contacted out of the blue by a friend of a friend and asked to read tarot at the closing party for her art show, which was a huge success for both her and me; I had successful nights of tarot reading for tips at the bar; I made new friends; I found a new monologue to work on; I walked only the dogs that I love walking and still earned a decently sized paycheck. The weeks leading up to that? Less great - I handled a stressful situation poorly and upset a dear friend; I completely blew an audition by forgetting a monologue that I knew backwards and forwards so thoroughly that I couldn't even fake it and move on; I had a few weeks of not getting many tips at either of my main jobs; my cat was continuing to lose weight for no discernible reason as we continued to pour money into vet visits to try and help her; and to top it all of, I was in such a well of self-pity that I wasn't even reading tarot for myself, despite the fact that I know full well I feel better when I do. 

 
   When I finally sat down and did a reading for myself, it basically told me to get my shit together. Whoops.

When I finally sat down and did a reading for myself, it basically told me to get my shit together. Whoops.

 

In the meantime, I was watching my friends knock their goals out of the park. I am fortunate to know so many incredibly talented and creative people, folks who inspire me and push me to want to be better because they are such badasses themselves. Of course, when you're wallowing in that ditch of self-pity and despair, it's easy to feel like they are talented and you are not, like they are breezing through life while you try and fail to gain even one inch. This is not at all true, by the way. I know for a fact all my friends fight and claw their way to any successes that they have gained, that they have failed as much as they have succeeded, and that often they find themselves wallowing in that very same pool of despair that I had found myself in. Still, despite my pride at all that they were accomplishing (and it is truly incredible and well-deserved), it was difficult to ignore that little sting of jealousy and the knowledge that part of the reason I was not right there with them was that my time was being taken up by frustration and distraction rather than motivation. Yes, I was doing a lot to take care of myself and the realities of life, but sometimes it just felt like I was making excuses.

My biggest fear is not that I will fail, but that I will fail because I did not try hard enough. It's a thought that has plagued my brain for years while I worked myself to exhaustion at day job after day job in order to make ends meet and put my dreams on the back burner. It's on my mind every day as I muddle through my new schedule and try to balance a dog walking schedule that will cover (most of) my bills with scheduling auditions and building a client base for tarot readings. It's the fear that I beat myself up with every time I think about how much more I have to do, how much more I could be fitting into each and every day if I just committed to working harder, and everything that I have been putting off - redesigning my website, applying to more auditions, promoting my Etsy shop more vigorously, reaching out to venues and party planners so I can make more money as a tarot reader, even writing this blog post which has been kicking around in some form or another for the better part of three weeks. 

The thing I keep coming back to is that we all have our own journeys and that each of our journeys is valid. I can never change the fact that I struggled in school, that I come from a family without much money, that I have spent the last eight years working to support myself, that it took me years to learn how to manage my finances even somewhat responsibly, that I took time off from my dreams, that I dropped out of college... And the thing is, I'm not sure I would want to. They made me who I am and brought me immeasurable joy, connections, and experience. As my remarkably wise friend Carlotta said on Facebook recently, "Know that those years aren't wasted...they were years of finding yourself and progression in your art. Everyone is always saying that time can be wasted but I am not so sure [...] I really believe that each step is there to bring us closer to the things that we want and serve us lessons in life. It's how you behave now, not what you did in the past (though we can learn from the past) that matter." 

 
   An affirming message that I found on a street light in Brooklyn at a time when I really needed to hear it.

An affirming message that I found on a street light in Brooklyn at a time when I really needed to hear it.

 

So I'm thinking a lot about what I'm doing now, about when to push myself and when to ease up, and in particular about taking care of yourself versus making excuses. It's a fine line between self-care and excuse, so fine I'm not sure you can ever find yourself firmly on one side or another. Take this week, for example. I've been incapacitated by a cold that just won't quit, the kind where your head feels like it's full of cotton and you feel like you're tearing your lungs out every time you cough, and it's taken all I have to drag myself out of bed to walk a dog or two and make sure my cats are fed. I had to make the decision not to audition for the production I had submitted to because I couldn't get through an entire sentence without dissolving into a coughing fit. Even my Instagram posts, a fairly low-effort endeavor, have fallen by the wayside as I've stared at that blank box, unable to formulate even the simplest of captions for my daily tarot draws. A lot of this week has been dedicated to self-care, but it's also been an excuse not to think about my to-do list, and there are certainly low-impact projects I could have been crossing off while I lay in bed chugging tea and blowing through an entire box of tissues (gross runny-nose pun intended). 

At the end of the day, being in the trenches with your dreams is as much a balancing act as it is a slog - attempting to push yourself just a little bit further than you think you can go while still learning to come to terms with how far you have come regardless of whether it's as far as you think you should be. Acknowledging your accomplishments and setting your sights on a farther horizon. Gaining inspiration and motivation from the success of those around you while striving not to compare yourself to them. And pushing, ever pushing, forward. All you can do is show up and try in some form, big or small, and trust that it will be enough for one more day. Do the work that needs to be done at whatever pace you can, even when you're feeling low, and give yourself a break now and again. The fact that you're even fighting for your dreams at all is a success in and of itself. Don't rest on your laurels, especially when there is so much more that you want to accomplish, but pause now and again to appreciate how far you've come and let it fuel your constant progress onwards and upwards. I'm no expert at this. I wouldn't even say I'm doing well at it. But I'm trying, and that's what counts. I'll never stop trying, and on the days when I'm so blinded by my frustrations that I can't see my success, I'm lucky enough to have a chorus of amazing, talented, loving people who will remind me of how far I've come and then kick my butt back into gear.

   Today's card from the "1 a Day for 78 Challenge" on Instagram. A fitting reminder.

Today's card from the "1 a Day for 78 Challenge" on Instagram. A fitting reminder.

I certainly don't regret making the choice to pursue my dreams. It may be difficult, disheartening, and misery-inducing at times, but I am still happier than I have been in years. Even when I'm stressed out and feel like I'm failing, I would take this life over sticking it out in a job I don't love every time. I get to fill my weeks with auditions, memorizing monologues, writing a script that means the world to me, throwing tarot cards, and walking through the park with adorable dogs. When I step back and really look at where I am now, I have to say it's a pretty great life even if it doesn't always feel like it day to day. I may not be as far along as I wish I were, but I'm much farther than I was a year or even six months ago, and that's something.

So if you find yourself stuck in the miserable parts of dream chasing, just know that you're not alone. If you need someone to remind you of all the ways in which you're kicking ass, I humbly offer up my services. After all, you've probably done the same for me at some point in time. And whatever your journey is or has been, know that it has value even if it looks nothing like that of those around you. Keep fighting, my friends. We'll get there eventually.

May Tarotscopes

This month's tarotscopes are a rather late, but May's been hectic so far, and I wanted to be sure I did them justice. A tarotscope, for those who are unaware, is a message for the members of each zodiac sign by way of pulling a tarot card. This month I used the Light Grey Tarot, which is the product of an art installation produced by the Light Grey Art Lab. Each card was created by a different artist, which makes it a very interesting, if somewhat challenging, deck to work with. It is one of my newest decks, so tarotscopes seemed like an excellent way to get more comfortable with it. If you find your message enlightening and are interested in purchasing a more extensive reading, I have a variety of options available in my Etsy shop. I also regularly post smaller readings on Instagram. In the meantime, enjoy!

 

 
 

Taurus - Eight of Pentacles

Happy birthday, my dear Taurians! Your message this month is all about being grounded in reality, something that will speak to your earthy nature. The Eight of Pentacles is the card of keeping your nose to the grindstone and pushing forward bit by bit. It's the card of apprenticeship and the learning of new skills, of working hard and making sure that every task gets done and no detail is missed. As a result, this month is all about growth for you, the kind that can easily be measured. You may not be finishing any projects or achieving your final victory, but you are making progress, and like the woman in the card's artwork, you do not find the work you are doing to be dull or menial. Quite the opposite, you are finding you thoroughly enjoy the process; after all, you are in your element when you are required to focus on something and work hard at it. You hold the keys to success in your hands, so immerse yourself in your work this month and allow yourself to take your sweet time with each and every aspect of it. Get your hands dirty, work up a sweat (metaphorically or physically). Allow yourself to rest in the knowledge that all the work you do now will pay off in an epic fashion down the road. Go get 'em, Taurus!

 

 
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Gemini - Five of Wands

Geminis, this month may not be an easy one for you. The Five of Wands is all about creative conflict and the clashing of opposing ideas. Everyone has a different vision for your projects, your lives, and how things should fit together, and without compromise those visions become an argument that cannot be won by stubbornly sticking to your guns. If you feel the friction beginning to build, whether within yourself or between you and others, you have two options - either concede that there is merit to the suggestions of others and work to find a way to combine your ideas into one complete approach or take your toys and go home. Neither of these options is bad, mind you, and it's up to you to figure out which is the best approach for you. Often compromise makes us stronger and new pair of eyes will see things that we missed. However, if the proposed compromise requires you to give up too much of what you felt was truly important to the situation, then it may be best to extricate yourself from the conflict with your pride and ideas intact and work on things by yourself. There is a time and a place for being flexible and a time and a place for standing your ground. Your challenge this month is to discern which you are facing and then do something about it. Get to it, Gemini. 

 

 
 

Cancer - The Fool

Oh, my cautious Cancers, this month is going to be a challenge for you in the best way possible. The Fool is all about taking risks and seeking adventure, something that is far out of the comfort zone of you cozy homebodies. You tend to retreat into your shell at the thought of risking your comfortable life, and The Fool is all about breaking out of it. But before you panic, let me assure you that The Fool does not necessarily mean your risks must be reckless. It's fine to calculate the outcome of your proposed actions so long as you don't spend all your time calculating and miss out on the action part. Deep down, what this card is asking you to do is trust - in yourself, in the universe, in the merit of your dreams and goals. Rather than dwelling on everything that could go wrong, think about everything that could go so very right if you allowed yourself to take a leap. The status quo may be comfortable, but that doesn't mean it's serving you as well as it should. It's time to shake things up a little bit, set out after a life that will be even more enjoyable and fulfilling than where you are now. So take a deep breath and take the plunge. A little adventure is good for all of us, and you may find that it's actually pretty fun outside your comfort zone, once the initial shock of it wears off. Have a good time this month, Cancer. Believe it or not, you deserve it.

 

 
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Leo - Ace of Pentacles

Fierce Leos, this month is all about new opportunities for you. Seeds are being planted, doors are opening, and you are being called to march forward and seize hold of fortune. This probably sounds like a dream to you; after all, you are all about bold moves. However, before you get too swept up in fiery passion, remember that the Pentacles are the suit of earth, and these opportunities - while exciting - are less about wild inspiration and more about concrete ideas that can grow into something real and tangible. This is not to say don't boldly take advantage of them or dampen the flames of your excitement; far from it, in fact! Just keep yourself grounded and focus on the ways in which you are setting the wheels of your life into motion. Is this something you are prepared to commit to in the long haul? Are you ready to roll up your sleeves and do the hard work that will inevitably follow this bright, shiny Ace energy? If the answer is "yes" (and I sincerely hope it is), then have at it. Go forth with all the ferocity your lion heart can muster and direct your enthusiasm toward the work ahead of you. This is just the beginning, Leo. Great things are coming. 

 

 
 

Virgo - Six of Swords

Ah, Virgos, May is something of a respite for you, though not one without a cost. You are being nudged to disentangle yourself from a situation or mentality that has been causing you pain and stress. The Six of Swords is all about moving on from strife, however painful a choice that may be. You recognize that there are people, conversations, and thought patterns that are no longer serving you well and may, in fact, be causing you harm, and you are having none of them anymore. Set your sights on more serene shores, fortify yourself with hope, and step away. Now is a time for setting down boundaries and for healing. Make no mistake, this choice is not an easy one, but it is an absolutely necessary one, and while it may feel like giving up to cut ties rather than fighting through the pain, it is, in fact, one of the bravest decisions you could make. Commit to your own mental wellbeing and do whatever is required to take care of yourself. You will feel the better for it, I promise. 

 

 
 

Libra - Queen of Swords

 This month is all about clarity and communication for you, dearest Libras, two areas that are right within your airy wheelhouse. The Queen of Swords is all about seeking and speaking the truth and utilizing her quick wit to bring others to her cause. You spend much of your time observing the world and looking at situations from every angle, and now you are being called to put those keen observations into action. This should be easy as pie for you - after all, diplomacy and communication are your bread and butter - but be careful not to get too caught up in trying to balance everyone's perspectives. The Queen of Swords is decisive, and she grows bitter and reckless when she can't put her talents to use. Though it may seem like attempting to meet everyone's needs is the best compromise, it will most likely result in you bottling up your own opinions until they can no longer be contained and you unleash the sharp edge of your tongue upon the world. You are being challenged to take charge and direct conversation in the direction that YOU think it should be going in. If others' opinions are in line with that, great, but in the end it's up to you to achieve success in these endeavors. This is your time to shine, Libras, so step into the limelight. You may just find that leadership suits you.

 

 
 

Scorpio - Temperance

Powerful Scorpios, your message this month is all about balance - specifically bringing yourself into balance. Temperance is associated with the alchemical practice of combining various elements to create gold, and that is exactly what you are being called to do in your own life. It's difficult to operate to our fullest potential when our life is on unsteady footing, so turn your attention towards finding your equilibrium and the perfect mix of elements that turn you into your own golden version of yourself. This could be finding the proper combination of work and play, finding a project that combines your passions and abilities into something that inspires you beyond measure, or even just finding a quiet corner and doing some hard-core self-reflection to realign your own thoughts and feelings. Whatever it is, you'll know when you've gotten it right. Scorpios are all about seeking the truth and learning about the world, but this month, it's about understanding the world as it relates to and affects you. If you can find the proper blend of attributes and opportunities in your life, you will be unstoppable.

 

 
 

Sagittarius - The Moon

Sagittarius, your message this month could not be more clear. You are being prompted to turn your intrepid, enquiring minds inwards towards your own subconscious. It's easy to distract ourselves from the whisperings that come out of the shadows of our psyche by immersing ourself in the outside world, but eventually those whispers grow louder and louder until they cannot be ignored and are all but shouting in our ears. But although the Moon speaks to the shadowy depths of your subconscious, you may not find demons lurking there. Far from it, in fact, for once we shine a light on the dark shapes that populate the edges of our vision we often find that they are, in reality, something quite mundane and unimposing. It is our fear and our avoidance of looking at them directly that gives them the power to frighten and overwhelm. So direct your curiosity and adventurous nature inwards, bold Sagitarrians, and get comfortable with what you find there. The more you understand the darker sides of your nature, the more complete you will feel. It is only by embracing your darkness as well as your light that you will truly be the fearless adventurer you were born to be. 

 

 
 

Capricorn - The Star

This card feels like a blessed relief after your difficult message last month, stolid Capricorns. The Star is all about hope and faith after a period of hardship. Once the dust has settled and the clouds have cleared, we are finally able to look up and see that, despite how it felt at the time, the world has not ended and there is still light to be found. This month you are feeling a renewed sense of well-being and possibility. The struggles of the past have only made you stronger and helped you to see the belief systems and parts of your life that were no longer serving you well. Now that the detritus has been cleared away, you feel as though you can finally breathe again. You are able to look at the world with fresh eyes, to find inspiration, and to trust in your ability to turn it into something incredible. This isn't the naïve and wide-eyed perspective of the Fool, though. This is the positivity of someone who has faced their demons, come out the other side, and still chooses to see the good in the world. It's a revolutionary approach, when you really think about it, to reject negativity and cynicism despite personal knowledge of the world's capacity to cause pain. Bask in your own power, Capricorns, trust it, and let yourself be inspired by it. There is truly nothing you can't do.

 

 
 

Aquarius - Two of Cups

Sweet Aquarius, this month is all about love for you. The Two of Cups is sometimes referred to as the soulmate card, but before you rush to embrace (or reject) a life of romance, consider the fact that not all love is romantic, nor are all soulmates amorous in nature. The love and connection that the Two of Cups speaks of may be romantic, but it also may be the love you and your family have for one another, the bond between dear friends, or the devotion you feel for a business partner who compliments you perfectly. Most difficult for many of us, it also speaks of the love we have for ourselves. While loving others is second nature to you big-hearted Aquarians, this card also serves as a reminder that it is no good pouring your love out into the world without receiving an equal amount of tenderness in return. This month you are being pushed to accept the compassion that you receive from your nearest and dearest without reservation, to understand that loving someone is a two-way street. This also means making the decision to set boundaries and distance yourselves from those who take and take without also giving back. After all, part of loving yourself is knowing when your resources are being drained by another and taking steps to ensure this does not keep happening. But mostly, this month is about relishing the warm and fuzzy feelings that come from connecting with others on a deep and authentic level and trusting in the bonds that you have forged. You are inherently lovable, Aquarius, and nothing makes you happier than sharing your fondness and care with the world. 

 

 
 

Pisces - The Emperor

Fellow Pisceans, your message this month is to focus on structure and stability. This may make you a bit uncomfortable, for on the surface the archetypal masculine energy of the Emperor seems to be in direct conflict with your mutable and dreamy nature. But nowhere does it say that the structure you create must be at the expense of your creative, spiritual qualities. In fact, it is possible to impose order on your life in a way that enhances those qualities and puts them to productive use. Just because society has taught us that certain rules and regulations are the "right" way to go about doing things doesn't mean you have to force yourself into a mentality that feels wrong or unnatural to you. Instead, look for ways that you can increase stability on your own terms and create a schedule that works for you. Find a way to build a framework that allows you to engage with your watery nature and channel it toward your goals in an effective and powerful fashion. This isn't about doing what others think you "should" be doing, it's about understanding that floating about in a dreamworld, while emotionally fulfilling, often doesn't produce tangible results. The more you can use your natural abilities in a productive way, the happier you will be overall. Create a system that works for you, Pisces, and then stick with it. You may be surprised by the results it produces. 

 

 
 

Aries - King of Cups

Proud Aries, this month you are being called to not just embrace your emotions but rule them. This is a venture that requires you to sit with the way you are feeling, understand it, and work through it. In short, it requires patience, something that does not always come naturally to you. However, the rewards for getting comfortable with your feelings are beyond measure. Rather than pushing them aside or letting them explode everywhere, you will be able to work with them and channel them in a way that benefits you. This is not about iron fisted control but rather the soft touch of a beloved leader who has earned the respect and loyalty of his subjects. The more you engage with your emotions and fully understand them, the less energy you will have to spend fighting them when they rise up and threaten to swamp whatever projects you truly wish to be focusing on. Instead, you will be able to recognize them, greet them as old friends, and then find a way to use them to your advantage. Becoming one with your internal world, while it may not always feel productive at the time, allows you to focus intently on your passions in the future without anything distracting you. It's a long-term victory, one that you will be the better for winning. So get cozy with your feelings, Aries. I am confident that you can tackle this challenge with as much zeal and success as any other.

 

I hope you enjoy your May Tarotscopes as much as I enjoyed writing them. Until next time!

The Anxious, The Dreamers, and Me

This is a post I started a few weeks ago and edited into a performance piece for a show called "Order in the Disorder - A Variety Show About Anxiety". I performed it on April 30, 2016 at The Tank in NYC. Regular blog posts should resume tomorrow with May's Tarotscopes, but in the meantime here is my piece for all who couldn't make the performance. I hope you enjoy it!

 

   As evidenced by the cover of my most recent journal, dreaming big is rather an important theme in my life. Collage by me.

As evidenced by the cover of my most recent journal, dreaming big is rather an important theme in my life. Collage by me.

I often feel like I have two warring personalities. There's the ambitious, outgoing visionary,  the woman who left everything she knew back in Wisconsin to move to New York and follow her dreams five years ago, and more recently quit a steady job in order to make more time for her goals. This is the side of myself that relishes risk and adventure, that craves a life path that breaks the norm and lights up my soul. We'll call that one Ambitious Anna. Then there's the other side of me - cautious, introverted, anxious, someone who would rather curl up under the blankets, watch Netflix, safe from all the dangers of the world. That's Anxious Anna. My therapist once told me that if I didn't have an anxiety disorder, she thought I would be Ambitious Anna all the time, but the fact of the matter is, I am rarely one or the other alone - Ambitious Anna and Anxious Anna exist side by side, vying for dominance throughout the course of each day, gaining ground here, losing ground there, occasionally almost drowning one another out completely...almost, but not quite. 

One place in the Venn Diagram of my personality where Anxious Anna and Ambitious Anna intersect is the world of inspirational blogging, webinars, life coaches, etc. Ambitious Anna likes stories of how other people have chased their dreams because it makes me feel more fired up, and Anxious Anna appreciates having a roadmap that makes the risks I take feel a little more calculated and well-informed. While I wouldn't call myself a self-help junkie (I'm more of a self-help dabbler, if you will), I have always enjoyed the pursuit of self-development, and like any pursuit, an effective approach requires research and the learning of new skill sets.

One of the common themes I've noticed is how to deal with fear. Most bloggers and coaches acknowledge that fear arises whenever you're taking a risk or going out after something you badly want, and they have all sorts of different suggestions for how to recognize whether that fear is serving a positive purpose - alerting you to the fact that maybe the thing you're about to do isn't really right for you after all - or holding you back from something you really want, perhaps even need, to be doing. They say things like, “Pay attention to your body's reactions to the thing that’s causing your fear. Do you feel like you're collapsing in on yourself, or do you feel expansive and light?" This may not be bad advice; it may even be helpful to many people. But, in my personal experience, living with anxiety means that all garden variety fear feels largely the same. Unless something is setting off the flashing red lights of my gut instincts that tells me something is truly dangerous, I don't really have a rubric for differentiating between "fear that tells me this isn’t right for me" and "fear that naturally arises from taking a calculated risk." It all just feels like anxiety to me.

 
   In tarot, the Nine of Swords is often considered the card that represents anxiety & depression.

In tarot, the Nine of Swords is often considered the card that represents anxiety & depression.

 

Take auditioning, for example. I know without a doubt that I want to be acting, but having an audition on the schedule looms over me, gives me a sick knot in my stomach and makes my heart pound until I begin to wonder if I should even go at all. Sometimes it manifests in strange ways - one night I had a stress dream in which I was auditioning for a Taylor Swift-produced musical version of Grey's Anatomy directed by Anjelica Huston, and I forgot all the lines to my monologue and tripped all over myself while Anjelica gave me her trademark, haughty stare-down.  Bizarre and hilarious, yes, but it highlighted how difficult it can be for my brain to reconcile how anxious I get over fairly routine parts of my day. Even the banal task of sorting through casting calls and applying to various listings can give me a panicky feeling as my mind cycles through every reason I shouldn't even be thinking of submitting. Does it matter that the worst thing that will likely happen is someone looking at my headshot and resume and thinking, "not this one"? Not to my brain. There's a reason I never ask myself things like, "What's the worst that could happen?" I know I am perfectly capable of coming up with scenarios that are far worse than reality.

These are the moments where Ambitious Anna has to claw her way to the surface and fight to drown out the "what ifs" and fears that Anxious Anna is lobbing at me. It's easier if I'm working on someone else's schedule because the fear of being thought badly of for canceling or being a no-show can often motivate Anxious Anna to get with the program, at least temporarily. It's a bit more difficult when my time, energy and success is the only thing at stake. If you don't try, you can't really fail, right? Your dreams remain plausible and safely tucked away in the corner of your mind, waiting for someday when you're really totally ready to go after them full force. 

So what’s a big-dreaming, anxious girl to do? I don’t really have an answer for that. I have an arsenal of coping mechanisms that I’ve built over the years, but there’s no way to erase anxiety entirely. The best I can do is acknowledge that the anticipation of a thing is probably going to be worse than the thing itself and try to push myself to do it anyway. It’s not easy. Some days I fail. Some days the outcome of pushing myself is not what I want it to be (an “it’s not right for me” moment, after the fact). But it’s either that or keep treading water and maintaining the status quo. And that is something I absolutely cannot do. So here’s to my fellow anxious dreamers and the never-ending battle between anxiety and ambition! Each step may be a struggle but, hey, it’s better than being feeling panicked that you’ll never make something out of your life, right? 

 

April 2016 Tarotscopes

Ah, April 1st, one of the most hated days of the year on the internet. In lieu of posting some practical joke that will likely not be found funny, I decided to lay out your tarot messages for the month of April. Unfortunately, the week was so packed it took me three days to finish them, but better late than never, right? For those who are just tuning in, an explanation can be found in my March Tarotscopes post, but the short version is that this is a tarot reading for each sign in the zodiac. This month's readings are going to be a bit different, as I am not using a traditional deck. You see, I just got this awesome Cosmos Tarot & Oracle deck that I have been itching to use for a bigger tarot project, but as it doesn't follow the commonly-known Rider Waite tarot system, I've been using it as a giant oracle deck. What does this mean for you? Not much, actually, just that I'm ignoring the card's titles (The Hermit, 8 of Air, etc.) and working solely with the names of the constellations, planets, and other celestial bodies. This has been way more fun, because it means I get to learn a lot more about the stars (I really love stars, but I don't actually know much about the constellations. New knowledge!), but it's also the reason it took so long to write them because I wound up spending a fair bit of time researching myths and constellations. The things I do to myself for my art... Anyway, without further ado, here are your April 2016 Tarotscopes:

 

 
 

ARIES - SATURN

Happy birthday, you fiery, vibrant Aries folks! This month is all about transformation for you and transitioning into new roles in your life. In mythology, Saturn was often seen as a god of both agriculture and time, both of which are areas that involve cyclical change. Similar to the Death card in a traditional tarot deck, this means you may be asked to let go of things which are no longer serving your purposes in order to move forward into the next cycle. But this change is not sudden or traumatic, it's something that happens gradually over time. Sit with the choices ahead of you, ask yourself which is best for you, take the time to make these decisions and do them right. If you are being affected by things outside of your control, allow yourself the space to adjust to them in your own time. You don't have to become a different person overnight. Just remember that there is a difference between taking the time to work through things and resisting change. If you can make a little adjustment every day, you will be golden. Drag your heels, and this month may not be particularly pleasant for you. Transitions are scary, but they are ultimately good. Embrace the change and the possibilities that it opens up for you.
 

 
 

TAURUS - CANIS MAJOR

Get ready, lovely Taureans, for this month is all about chasing your dreams. The myth of Canis Major tells us of the incredible dog Laelaps, given to Europa by Zeus and said to be so fast it could catch anything it chased. You are being nudged to this kind of single-minded focus on your own pursuits, to set your sights on your goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them. This may mean taking decisive action or it may mean pursuing knowledge and understanding that will help you get closer to success. Either way, this sort of stubborn dedication is right in your wheelhouse. Though distractions may arise and other people may demand your time, your thoughts are locked on your own needs this month, and with good reason. You know that when you set your mind to success, there is nothing that can stand in your way. However, as much as this card is an encouragement, it is also a warning, for the myth of Laelaps ends with him pursuing a fox that could never be caught, causing Zeus to send them both to the heavens for their chase will last for eternity. Be careful not to be so narrow in your scope that you run yourself to exhaustion with no end in sight or drive away all those who might offer assistance. Focus is good, but like anything it's best used in moderation. Follow your instincts and you will know when it's time to rush forward and when it might be better to slow it down and take a break. Pacing is key to making sure you don't burn out along the way.

 

 
 

GEMINI - PAVO

This month's message may feel a bit unnatural to you, my mercurial Geminis, because it is asking you to set aside your pursuit of adventure and excitement in favor of a more stolid task. The tale of Pavo is one of vigilance and duty. Like Argus, the many-eyed giant who was charged by Hera with guardianship over the pregnant nymph Io, you are being urged to dedicate yourself to the maintenance of something that is already in existence rather than rushing off to start something new. This may sound dull and repetitive, but the harsh truth of life is that sometimes seemingly boring tasks are necessary in order to create something greater in the future. Your joy can be found here in paying attention to the details, for there are nuances in every day's work. However, if your attention wavers, you may find things falling down around your ears, as Argus did when he succumbed to Zeus's distractions and was killed. In those moments of doubt, when you find yourself wondering what it's all about and whether the work you're doing is worth it, remind yourself that something you have put great time into watching over and shaping will be much more fulfilling in the end than something you slapped together before running off to your next big adventure (and your next... and your next...). If you want to create something lasting, something influential that may even outlive your own personal notoriety, then you need to buckle down and do the hard labor, even the parts that are boring. Legend says that after his death, Hera honored Argus by placing an "eye" on each peacock feather. So, too, will you be remembered through the tales of your work if you are willing to fight the urge to pursue immediate gratification and instead commit to the longer haul. 

 

 
 

CANCER - DELPHINUS

The myth of Delphinus tells of a poet and musician named Arion who, when faced with death on a ship from Lesbos, leapt into the ocean and was carried to safety by the dolphin Delphinus. Like Delphinus, who had been drawn only by Arion's beautiful music and asked for nothing in return for his assistance, you may be called to the aid of someone else this month. Due to your sympathetic nature, sweet Cancers, this is as easy as pie for you. You often find yourself attuned to the struggles of others, and doing what you can to ease their burden is something that brings you great joy. If you find yourself in a situation where you are poised to help others, follow your intuition and give freely. However, you may find that this month you are not Delphinus but rather Arion, in need of some assistance and compassion yourself. This is far less comfortable for you, I know, but do not resist the aid of others due to pride or fear that their help may come with strings attached. You are not being urged to be naive or to trust blindly, but have faith that there is good in the world and when help is offered, do not be afraid to accept it. It is just as admirable to admit when we are in need as it is to offer our resources to others. As long as you set reasonable boundaries on what you are willing to give or receive, there is no danger in trusting in the good of humanity and allowing yourself to be a part of the exchange of energy and goodwill regardless of which position you find yourself in. Let the month of April restore your hope in the kindness of strangers.

 

 
 

LEO - PUPPIS

Brave Leo, Puppis speaks of your strength and endurance regardless of what life throws at you. Puppis represents the stern of the ship Argo (of Jason and the Argonauts fame) and is one of three constellations that make up the celestial body of the ship. Like Jason, you may encounter some obstacles on your journey this month. Leos have never been one to back down from a challenge, but we all find ourselves stumbling occasionally. Let this be a reminder for those moments when you are doubting yourself or the road ahead looks bleak: you can get through this. You can survive. Not only that, but you have the strength to thrive. Fix your eyes on the horizon ahead of you and hold your head high as you sweep forward through April's tumultuous seas. You may not always feel like a bold hero, but you have the inner strength of one even on your most rough days. Whether you reach the finish line in victorious fashion or limp your way across it, the point is that you will reach it. Keep your chin up, Leo. Never stop fighting or tone down your fiery spirit. You've always been larger than life, and no matter how impossible victory seems I promise you, you've got this.

 
 

VIRGO - SCULPTOR

Dear Virgos, this month is all about tangible creation for you. You have a specific vision for your future, and now it's time to make it a reality. Allow yourself to get lost in the process of making something incredible, drowning out the voices of everyone around you. In the end, your life and your work can only reflect you - your personality, your experiences, your point of view - and excessively worrying about the opinions of others will only muddy the waters and lead to frustration. This is your vision, allow it to come to fruition in the way that's most natural to you. However, it is possible to be too wrapped up in your own perspective, and it never hurts to be aware of the context in which you are creating your masterpiece. Self-centeredness is a healthy trait in moderation, but too much of it at the expense of others can lead to great harm and conflict. Just because something is true to your experience does not mean that it may not be hurtful to others if you are inattentive to the ways in which you are conveying your truths. Accept constructive criticism and trust your ability to distinguish between what is necessary for you to hear and what you can brush off. Commit to your authenticity and creating great things, but do so with empathy and compassion for others and your work will transcend even your own wildest dreams.

 

 
 

LIBRA - PEGASUS

You have an exciting month ahead of you, my darling Libras. Pegasus is the subject of many, many myths, but the most famous is the story of how the hero Bellerophon found the wild, untrained Pegasus and tamed him using a golden bridle, riding him into battle against the monster Chimaera and many others and cementing him in legend as the steed of heroes. Like Pegasus, you may have started out from a place of disorganization, with nothing but the seed of an idea niggling in your head and no idea how to turn it into reality. Now, you are bursting into full bloom and claiming your rightful recognition for all that you have been able to create. It's possible that this is the result of finding a partner in crime to help you realize your full potential, as Pegasus did in Bellerophon, or maybe you've just managed to find the right balance and bring it out in yourself. Either way, your genius is ready to be seen by the world. Take a moment to pat yourself on the back for all you've managed to create, but be careful not to go too overboard. Being proud of yourself is fantastic. Being arrogant? Not so much. Flaunt your success all you want, just make sure you're not rubbing it in the face of someone who is still stuck in the beginning stages of their own journey. You want to inspire them to keep going, not beat them down further. That being said, you've earned this, Libras. Like Pegasus, you've worked hard, so take your rightful place among your heroes. You never know, you might wind up being a hero to someone else.

 

 
 

SCORPIO - PISCIS AUSTRINUS + VOLANS

This month will either result in you fierce and independent Scorpios feeling entirely at home and in your element, or it will leave you feeling like a fish gasping on dry land. This is because you are being asked to fully embrace your watery nature and everything that comes with it. Piscis Austrinus, or the Great Fish, is connected to the Syrian myth of the goddess Atargatis who fell into a lake and was rescued by a giant fish. Meanwhile, Volans represents a flying fish leaping out of the water to escape the mighty swordfish, Dorado. This month, you may find yourself being called to the aid and protection of others, as the Great Fish was when Atargatis was in peril, and you will find that this role satisfies your desire to be in control and your loyalty to those around you. Leadership is your bread and butter, and you thrive in situations where you can take on the role of savior. But this is also a warning to be aware of how much danger you are putting yourself in. Like Volans, you are capable of escaping anything, but to do so you must put yourself in positions that are not conducive to your nature. After all, just because a flying fish can leap through the air doesn't mean that they can breathe it. There is no shame in backing away from a problem when the going seems to be getting rough, especially if that will save you further trouble down the line. Throw yourself into things wholeheartedly but don't lose yourself so completely that you wind up in dangerous straights. 

 

 
 

SAGITTARIUS - LYNX

This month, those born under the curious and nimble-minded sign of Sagittarius will find themselves in situations in which they thrive. The constellation Lynx is not linked with any particular myth, although some have drawn connections to the keen-sighted Lynceus who sailed with Jason and the Argonauts, but was named such because it is so faint that only those with the eyesight of a Lynx would be able to see it. For you inquisitive Sagittarians, seeking truths which others overlook is a grand adventure. You delight in digging into knowledge that others take for granted and spending great time examining the world around you and picking out the minuscule but fascinating details. As a result, you may become aware of opportunities that would otherwise have been missed, secret discoveries that open the door to incredible possibilities for you. Just remember that not all truths are pleasant and some secrets may make us wish we never looked closer in the first place. If you are not prepared to deal with whatever you find, for good or ill, then you may be better off going about your day. But if you are willing to take the bad with the good and to pursue truth for the sake of truth, then you may find yourself unlocking an amazing journey that surpasses anything your imagination could have conjured up for you. Happy hunting, Sagittarius!

 

 
 

CAPRICORN - CETUS

Steady and reliable though you are, Capricorns, this month is not going to be easy for you. Cetus was a mighty sea monster sent by Poseidon to consume Andromeda, and so, too, are there doubts and fears lurking below the surface of your mind, waiting to rise up and overshadow any sense of motivation or hope for the future that you may have. The thing is, nine times out of ten these doubts are nothing more than figments of your imagination. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing, one that can paralyze us or at the very least convince us of the certainty of monsters hiding in the deep and give us pause in our adventures. Of course, there is the occasional chance that monsters are real, and you would do well to listen to your instincts if they seem to be screaming out that something is not right, but more often than not it is just fear creating excuses to hold us back and keep us from pursuing our passions. Your message is simple: do not let this stop you. In the myth of Cetus, Andromeda was saved by the hero Perseus who slew the voracious sea monster. You are being called to be your own Perseus. Face your monsters like the hero you are and stop them dead in their tracks. Will it be easy? Far from it. But you have all the tools you need to persevere. Take heart and be bold. After all, bravery is not the absence of fear but the decision to push forward in spite of it. 

 

 
 

AQUARIUS - VULPECULA

This is an interesting card for you, Aquarians, for though you are quite sly and witty you are also something of a tender heart. Vulpecula is not connected to any myth but rather is one of two constellations that make up a small fox devouring a goose, and you are being encouraged to be the fox. Now, before your compassionate heart gets all aflutter, I am not telling you to go out and take advantage of some poor soul or to put your own personal gains before another's. However, this is a reminder that sometimes you need to get a little competitive. It's good, healthy even, to develop some skills when it comes to maneuvering through life and gaming the system. This month, put the little fox's sly mind and trickery to use and set out to find a way to get what's yours. This is no month for outright displays of strength or bravado but rather intelligence and cunning. This is about you outwitting the competition (life, the man, whatever) and finding your way to victory using your brains, something those born under the sign of Aquarius are quite good at when they put their minds to it. Just be alert, for there may be others around who are also skilled in the art of foxy trickery and are looking out for their own self-interests, and they may not be so inclined to draw the line at hurting others to get what they want. Using your wits to get ahead also means looking out for yourself. Don't go so far that you lose your moral compass, but do be sure that you're protecting yourself in the process. After all, we all need to be a little self-centered sometimes. This is your month to focus on your needs and your needs alone and do whatever it takes to see them met. 

 

 
 

PISCES - URSA MINOR

And so we come at last to my fellow Pisceans. Ursa Minor tells us the story of Arcas, son of Zeus and the nymph Callisto. Unbeknownst to Arcas, his mother was transformed into a bear by a jealous Hera. When their paths crossed, Callisto rushed to greet her son, but Arcas, not recognizing her, attempted to shoot her, and it was only by Zeus' intervention that she was not killed. Zeus placed mother and son in the sky, creating the constellations we now know as the Big and Little Dippers. Your message this month is to be careful not to jump to conclusions. This can be difficult for us Pisces folk, as we are sensitive souls and have a tendency to take things personally, but there is often much more happening under the surface than is apparent at first glance. Tap into your empathetic nature and give yourself time to decipher the situation before making your final judgement. Sometimes the people or situations that seem least appealing to us at first blush wind up being the most rewarding investments. However, sometimes things are exactly what they seem. If someone or something is truly abhorrent to you, do not force yourself to bend over backwards trying to find justification or understanding. Simply excuse yourself and move along. This is about being open to situations that  may be fulfilling, not putting up with the BS of every person you meet. Allow yourself to explore the world on a different plane. You will be the better for it. 

And thus ends our April tarotscopes! If you enjoyed them please comment with your thoughts and share the post. And if you like my tarot readings, don't forget to check out my Etsy shop and follow me on Instagram for more tarot-y goodness. Until next week! 

Sophie Olivia

 
   The tattoo I got for Sophie on her fifteenth birthday.

The tattoo I got for Sophie on her fifteenth birthday.

 

"Who is Sophie?" is a question I get a lot. It's natural for people to be curious about the name I have tattooed on my arm, to wonder who was so important that I had a reminder of them permanently inked on my skin. The following conversation is always a little bit awkward, as I quickly say something along the lines of, "She's my baby sister. She died. But don't worry, it doesn't upset me, it's just part of my life." I rush to get that last sentence out before embarrassment sets in, just as anxious to let them know that they haven't overstepped as they are at the thought of bringing up potentially painful memories. I don't mind these questions; if I did, I wouldn't have my tattoo placed in such an obvious place, a visible reminder of her presence in my life to me and the world at large. And although her loss has left an aching hole in my heart that will never be filled again, what I tell the askers is true. I don't want them to worry. She is a part of my life. And their bringing her up doesn't upset me. I welcome it. Not a day goes by that I don't think about my sister, with or without the reminder from curious parties. It's as natural to me as breathing.

 
   Sophie, characteristically missing one of her socks.

Sophie, characteristically missing one of her socks.

 

Sophie Olivia was born on March 21, 1994, just two days after my fifth birthday. I was so excited to be a big sister that I was hoping she would be born on my birthday, the perfect birthday present (had that come to pass, I may have regretted it later regardless of whether she lived or died. Sibling rivalry can be hard enough without sharing birthday celebrations). She was born at home, which my mom says was a blessing. It meant we had more than a week to enjoy her presence in a more natural setting, without the doctors and the needles and all the commotion of a hospital. We got to experience the new baby excitement before the anxiety about her condition set in. 

I remember pieces of Sophie's first week in great detail. My grandma showed up at my preschool in the middle of the day to pick me up and take me home. I knew as soon as I saw her that my mom must be in labor, and I was uncontrollably excited. We sat downstairs at the dining room table and drew pictures for my parents and my new sibling while my mom was in labor upstairs. I remember bringing the pictures upstairs and hanging them on the wall above my parents' bed (you can see them in the photos of our family from Sophie's birth). Shortly after she was born, I changed into my favorite outfit to celebrate the occasion - a blue velour dress, white tights studded with pink hearts, frilly white socks, and my "ruby slippers" (a pair of red, glittery Mary Janes, the height of fashion to a five year old) - and there are numerous photos of me dressed to the nines, beaming down at my new baby sister. I remember reading pictures books to Sophie, sometimes making up stories for the ones that had no words, and drawing more pictures for her while she sat in her blue baby chair. I remember going to the doctor's office (probably when we first discovered her heart murmur, though I didn't realize it at the time) and how Sophie managed to lose one of her socks along the way, a recurring habit of hers.

   Family portrait. Note the drawings on the wall. I'm sure you can tell which one was mine. 

Family portrait. Note the drawings on the wall. I'm sure you can tell which one was mine. 

Now for some (oversimplified) medical jargon. Sophie was born with a heart defect called aortic stenosis, meaning the valve that carried the blood from her heart into her aorta wasn't fully opened. Once it was diagnosed, she was scheduled for a balloon valvuloplasty, a procedure in which a balloon is inserted into her heart and inflated to open the valve. It's the recommended procedure for infants, as it's less invasive than surgery and has a high survival rate. However, during Sophie's operation the pin that was holding the balloon slipped and punctured her heart, and, despite the doctors' best efforts and an emergency open heart surgery, she died on the operating table on March 31, 1994. 

I don't remember most of that. All my knowledge of the medical details was picked up in bits and pieces as I got older. What little I remember of the last few days of Sophie's life is fragmented. I have vague recollections of visiting her and my mom in the hospital the day before her surgery. I wasn't really sure what to think, as I'd never been to a hospital before. It seemed scary but everyone assured me that things would be okay, so I kissed them both goodbye and accompanied my dad home. The next day, I was taken to my grandparents' house so my dad could join my mom at the hospital. This part I remember vividly. We sat around watching movies, and the tension in the room was palpable. Even if I wasn't nervous, I could tell that the adults were. I was watching Fantasia when my parents returned from the hospital. It was the scene with the dinosaurs, which always terrified me, but I was determined to watch it because on some level I thought it would prove my bravery and that would somehow make the surgery go alright. My parents asked me to come into the other room to talk to them, and I threw a tantrum because I wanted to keep watching the movie. They took me aside anyway, and I suddenly noticed that someone was missing. Everything went into slow motion as, in my grandparents' family room, they told me my sister had died, and my tears transformed from angry-bratty-child tears into heartbroken sobs. 

   Images from the program for Sophie's memorial service. The bunny I drew also graced her birth announcement, her square on a memorial quilt, and is now permanently tattooed onto my dad's arm.

Images from the program for Sophie's memorial service. The bunny I drew also graced her birth announcement, her square on a memorial quilt, and is now permanently tattooed onto my dad's arm.

This wasn't my first encounter with death, so I understood what was happening right away, at least as much as a five year old can understand something like that. A few years earlier, we had put our old dog to sleep, so I knew that when my parents told me Sophie had died that it meant she wasn't coming back. What I didn't know was how profoundly the experience would shape my life. Emotionally, I felt like I moved on fairly quickly. After all, just because I understood what death meant doesn't mean I understood how it affected me. I remember crying at her memorial service and again when we got her ashes back and placed them in the beautiful urn decorated with crocuses that my parents had gotten made for her, but apart from that I moved on to whatever issues typically occupy a five year old's mind. Still, I missed my sister, and she was always present in the back of my mind. I imagined playing with her, and when I woke up in the middle of the night after a bad nightmare, I told myself she was there, watching over me. 

Whether these were the figments of a grieving child's imagination or something more mysterious is a matter of personal opinion and something each person must decide for themselves based on their own beliefs about these sorts of things. What I can tell you is that this was far from the first or last time that people felt Sophie's presence around them or sensed something a bit otherworldly about her. My mom details the strange occurrences that happened during Sophie's ten days of life in a piece she wrote and performed for a production called Listen to Your Mother in 2011 - errant thoughts about Sophie's impending death that seemed to come out of nowhere, Sophie's lack of a "new baby smell", a time when she did the physically impossible and lifted her head to kiss my dad on the lips while he and my mom watched in shock. I, too, remember Sophie having distinctly non-infant-like qualities, such as an intense focus on the world around her, to the point where she would stare transfixed while I read to her and drew pictures for her and would begin to scream if I stopped. I also recall a story about my cousin having a dream that she died and rushing to the hospital so he could meet her before her operation, and my mom has spoken about dreaming of "old souls" welcoming Sophie back into their circle while waiting outside the operating room during her surgery. It has long been the opinion of my family that these were messages from Sophie that she was not long for this world and that her time with us was meant to be short.

   Left: a purple heart I found at Fort Tryon Park with my mom. Right: a silver heart I found in Jerusalem.

Left: a purple heart I found at Fort Tryon Park with my mom. Right: a silver heart I found in Jerusalem.

We continued to receive messages like these following her death. Soon after she had died, a close friend of my mom's was writing a piece about Sophie, and when she ran it through spell check the only suggestion for Sophie's name that came up was "safe", a phenomena that has never happened again to our knowledge. Our family also began finding small hearts in odd places, starting with metallic heart-shaped confetti that somehow found its way into our house now and again despite the fact that none of us had come into contact with it or had a stash of it in our art supplies or anything of that nature. It was not uncommon to find a small pink or red heart glinting up at you from the floor with no indication as to where it had come from. Soon it expanded beyond confetti, as we began noticing puddles, stones, and knots in tree trunks shaped like hearts wherever we went. Just last year, my mom was visiting me and as we were walking through Fort Tryon Park I found a purple plastic heart-shaped jewel, the kind you'd find in a child's princess kit, sitting directly in our path, and this January I found a large silver heart on the ground in front of me as I exited the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It wasn't just hearts, either. Throughout my childhood I would often feel a light touch on my shoulder while I was alone, and recent conversations with my younger sister have revealed that she, too, has often felt like someone is watching over her as well. Some days the presence is stronger than others. On Sophie's birthday a few years back the shower curtain kept billowing in and wrapping itself around me while I was trying to take a shower despite the fact that both the window and door were closed. It wasn't until I murmured, "Hi, Sophie," that it fell still and I was able to finish bathing. That same day, my mom posted a photo of a rainbow from a suncatcher in our living room positioned directly above the shelf where we keep Sophie's ashes, photos, and other mementos of her. 

 
   My sister Grace and I at Sophie's memorial in Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI. 

My sister Grace and I at Sophie's memorial in Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, WI. 

 



Many people may call these coincidences or wishful thinking. That's fine, we are all entitled to our beliefs and interpretations of the world. But to me, these have always been signs that Sophie is still with us, checking in with us and letting us know that she is alright and she loves us. At this point, her spiritual presence has been with me far, far longer than her physical form, and most days I am content with the knowledge that my middle sister is, for lack of a better word, my guardian angel. But some days - her birthday, the anniversary of her death, the rare occasions I get to visit her memorial, or random moments when her loss hits me out of nowhere - it doesn't feel like enough, and my chest aches with the fierceness of how much I miss my baby sister. And always, always I spend the ten days from March 21 to March 31 observing her presence in the world, her life and death, and the mark she left on me. 

In the words of one of my favorite musicians, Johnny Clegg, "It's funny how those once so close and now gone still so affect our lives." Sophie gave me the gift of becoming a big sister, a role I am grateful to have been able to continue fulfilling for our younger sister Grace, and there will never be a time when she is not a part of me. Gaining and losing a sister left me irreparably changed in ways that are still beyond my understanding, but as strange as it sounds I wouldn't have it any other way. And when strangers ask who Sophie is, I smile, because each time they speak her name it's proof that she is still a part of this world and still a part of me.

   Love, love, love.

Love, love, love.

Birthday Presence

This is one of my favorite weeks of the year. The weather is starting to get warmer, spring is just around the corner, and most importantly (to me, of course), my birthday is mere days away. I have always loved celebrating my birthday. When I was younger, it was all about the parties and the presents and the cake. I was fortunate enough to have a nice celebration every year, sometimes more than one. Birthdays always meant dinner with the extended family at a restaurant of my choosing followed by mom's homemade birthday cake at home, and there was often a more kid-friendly party with my friends and classmates in the days following. I enjoyed having a day when all the attention was focused on me, and to my young mind there was nothing more magical than the excitement of being handed a wrapped present and unwrapping it to discover what goodies were waiting inside, just for me. 

 
   Spot, one of my most anticipated childhood presents.

Spot, one of my most anticipated childhood presents.

 

I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to have been able to have parties and gifts and other celebrations on my birthday, however. March has also been a month of my life that has seen more than its fair share of heartbreak and tragedy, and each year I am reminded again of just how fortunate I am. It started when I was five, and what I wanted more than presents, more than anything else in the world, was a sister. I got my wish just two days after my birthday, but ten days later I got a crash course on the concept of death when my baby sister went into the hospital for a heart surgery and never came back (the story of her life and death deserves a post of its own, something I will most likely be writing more about next week). My life was forever changed, although my parents doubled down on making sure my day was extra special in an attempt to make up for the weeks of heartache each year that inevitably followed. Tragedy struck again when my great-grandmother and namesake became gravely ill just days before I turned 18. She lived just long enough to see me, her oldest great-grandchild, reach adulthood before passing away the next day. This was followed by my grandfather's death several weeks before my twenty-fifth birthday, causing me to fly home for his memorial service immediately after my celebrations had finished, and last year the week and a half preceding my birthday saw both the unexpected death of one of my childhood friends and the less unexpected (but still heartwrenching) death of my favorite author. And these were just my personal losses. My fourteenth and twenty-second birthdays, respectively, saw the beginning of the Iraq War and the bombing of Libya, and last year my hometown was rocked by the March 6th police killing of Tony Robinson. As my mom posted on Facebook at the beginning of this month, "March. It's complicated."

 
   Holding my newborn sister, Sophie, two days after my 5th birthday. 

Holding my newborn sister, Sophie, two days after my 5th birthday. 

 

I don't mention all of this to start a pity party or to wallow in sadness, nor do I intend to claim any of the pain and sorrow of events not directly related to me as my own. But all of these events affected me deeply on a variety of levels, and they remind me of why it's important to take a day (or several) to celebrate being alive, and what better day than the day on which you were born? Besides, birthdays are a threshold, a crossing over from one year to the next, and dates like that seem to hold a special kind of magic. They're a day when anything seems possible. 

Now that I'm all grown up and have passed every milestone deemed exciting by society, my celebrations are less about parties and presents and more about experiences and making my presence known. For one thing, I don't really like getting stuff for stuff's sake (my apartment is cluttered enough already, thank you very much), and for another, I believe that adulthood means getting the opportunity to decide what exactly you want your birthday to look like without anyone else's opinions getting in the way. Over the past few years, my celebrations have taken the form of trips to the zoo, hopping between my favorite NYC bars, New Moon rituals with my witchier friends, concerts and, yes, parties. What can I say? Sometimes it's fun to get a bunch of people together to drink and eat and play games, and I have incredible friends who have been kind enough to offer up their apartment as a venue. I flew to DC to visit my best friend one year (and proudly donned a pair of plush panda ears after our trip to the National Smithsonian Zoo) and, after discovering his birthday was only five days before mine, talked my boyfriend into a vacation in California to celebrate our special days the first year we were dating. But whether I have the energy (and money) to spend a whole week traveling or simply spend the day doing things around town, I always make an attempt to do something that fulfills me and makes me happy.

   Me and my boyfriend on our birthday trip to California.

Me and my boyfriend on our birthday trip to California.

This year, I just want to take it easy and get out into nature. I've picked a state park, doublechecked the driving distance with my boyfriend (it's doable), and intend to spend the day hiking and enjoying the (probably chilly) fresh air, giving my energy a much needed recharging. It's a lower-key celebration than I've had in a few years, but it's exactly what I need right now. And as far as I'm concerned, that's what a birthday should be about. Not parties or presents or fretting over getting one year older, but taking a day for yourself, a day to focus on what YOU need and want, a day for you to feel special, whatever that may mean for you. It could be a gigantic party with all your friends or a visit to your favorite museum or even a day to work on your passion projects uninterrupted. But whatever it is, I think it should be something special to you. 

So happy birthday to me! As in years past I will continue to hold all the losses this month contains in my heart and celebrate one more year of this incredible, complicated, heartbreaking, exhilarating adventure we call life. And whether you have something to celebrate this week or not, give yourself permission to put your needs and desires first once in a while. Believe me, you've earned it. 

 
   Make your presence known. Birthday Anna and Kyle the Birthday Panda command you!

Make your presence known. Birthday Anna and Kyle the Birthday Panda command you!

 

How to Tame Lions

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about strength and what it means to be strong. This post was originally percolating in my head late last summer, after a long talk over coffee with one of my dear friends about the dating scene and the personas that people (especially men) are taught to project in order to woo a potential mate. We agreed that what was often presented as strength (machismo! Lack of emotion! Bulging muscles!) were rather unappealing to us and that what we perceived as the characteristics associated with true strength often fell more along the lines of confidence, authenticity, and vulnerability. This conversation lodged itself in my brain and continued to niggle at me, eventually making its way into a half-written blog post that I never got around to finishing and has long since been deleted. But as I consider my life path and the obstacles that face me, I find that the concept of strength is, once again, occupying my thoughts. 

 
   In costume for a musical-themed party. No one perpetuates outdated and stereotypical concepts of strength like Gaston...

In costume for a musical-themed party. No one perpetuates outdated and stereotypical concepts of strength like Gaston...

 

Sometimes I feel like my entire life has been spent in pursuit of this elusive virtue, a journey made only more difficult by the fact that my definition of what makes a person "strong" is constantly changing. When I was younger, strength meant one of two things: the ability to lift heavy objects and not letting your emotions show, neither of which I was particularly capable of. Physically, I was tiny, nonathletic, and prone to getting hurt with even the slightest amount of physical exertion; I was the person who managed to break my finger on the first day of our basketball unit in gym class and had to sit on the bleachers and read for two months while I healed. (As far as I was concerned, it was the best two months of P.E. ever...) Emotionally, what I can now identify as anxiety manifested as extreme sensitivity, giving me an almost paralyzing fear of anything that contained what could even remotely be considered scary content and a tendency to cry whenever I felt the least bit hurt or overwhelmed. As you might imagine, this made me something of an easy target for my peers. Lord of the Flies does not exaggerate in its portrayal of the viciousness of children unless otherwise curbed by an adult's influence, and I was often subjected to a variety of teasing and bullying. In those moments, there was nothing I wanted more than to be able to shrug off the barbs and taunts of my companions, to watch their words glance off my impenetrable armor while inside my feelings remained protected and unscathed. As I got older, I learned to hide my true feelings when they landed a blow, to smile and project the image of indifference, feigning strength even when I didn't feel it. It felt like a victory, but the previous years had already left their mark.

Eventually, my lack of reaction combined the natural maturation that comes with age put an end to those attacks, but the walls had been built; vulnerability was no longer an option. However, growing up also taught me that strength was far more complex than I'd thought as a child, and as I found myself in the world of adult interactions and relationships, I discovered that emotional walls often did more harm than good. It's difficult to connect with someone on an authentic level when you're constantly holding part of yourself back, and it's exhausting to constantly keep up a front that doesn't reflect what you're truly feeling. True strength, it began to seem, was allowing yourself to be vulnerable without giving others the power to destroy you. So I was forced to begin the arduous journey of dismantling the walls I'd built, opening up, and learning to trust people again, even if that meant giving them the power to hurt me. It took many years (and a lot of therapy), but little by little I was able to let my guard down and stop hiding parts of myself around my nearest and dearest, whether that meant openly geeking out about the new Hobbit movie when it first came out (to the point where I was taking photos of/with every advertisement for it that I saw) or allowing myself to break down in front of my boyfriend when I learned of my grandfather's death without worrying what he would think of me. Things that should have come easily but, at the time, felt monumental to me.

These days, I feel fairly comfortable being myself around people, although I still have trouble crying in front of people outside of my family/partnership (old habits die hard...). Most of my friends will tell you I'm a ridiculous, overly-enthusiastic nerd whose passion makes me equally excitable and easy to anger. I still wear my heart on my sleeve, although I've gotten a lot better at taking the hits without breaking. But now I find my strength is being tested in new ways, as I throw myself fully into the uncertain waters of both acting and self-driven employment, both of which involve a lot of rejection or, more often than not, no word at all. I never expected this to be an easy road to walk, but some days the responsibility and doubt gets to be so overwhelming that I feel certain it will push me down, down until I am crushed under its weight, unable to get back on my feet and dust myself off. In these moments I wonder what on earth I was thinking, starting not just one but two new careers all at once. I'm not complaining, and I certainly don't regret my decision - even in my darkest moments I am sure that leaving my traditional job to create a more flexible life for myself was the right thing to do - but it can be daunting, especially when so much of the my daily tasks consists of paperwork (applications, resumes, emails, cover letters, advertisements, etc.) rather than the work I truly love to do. Such is the reality of the world, but it can still be a bummer.

 
   Two of my favorite depictions of the Strength card in my tarot decks... (Left: The Raven's Prophecy Tarot, Right: The Prisma Visions Tarot)

Two of my favorite depictions of the Strength card in my tarot decks... (Left: The Raven's Prophecy Tarot, Right: The Prisma Visions Tarot)

 

It should surprise no one that in those moments I turn to my tarot cards (I feel like my catchphrase should be "there's a card for that"). The archetypes depicted can provide an image or a mantra of sorts for me to hold onto, a reminder that everything is cyclical, that I have gotten through difficulties before and will do so again. In tarot, the Strength card represents patience, conviction, and control, and  it's often portrayed as a figure taming a lion (it should also surprise no one that this imagery appeals to me greatly). I use this as a reminder that self-confidence doesn't mean I have to march around waving a banner as I trumpet how great I am or even that I have to feel awesome about myself 100% of the time. Sometimes it just means knowing that I can handle the bumps that I'm currently experiencing in the road for one more day. When I think of strength in these terms, it no longer feels like a virtue I must pursue but rather a promise of a quality that I already possess: the ability to tame my fears and push forward, inch by inch. 

So this is me being strong. My life isn't all sunshine and daisies, and sometimes I seriously question what I kind of mess I've gotten myself into, but at the end of the day I'm still standing, secure in my convictions that I'm doing what's best for myself. This week I've had three friends tell me that my pursuit of my dreams inspires them and makes me brave. Truthfully, I don't often feel that way myself (if anything, I wonder if it makes me foolish), but it's reassuring to hear that they think so. And sometimes, the bravest, strongest thing I can do is admit to myself and to the rest of the world that this is hard, it's overwhelming, and it's scary as hell. But I'm not going to let that stop me, and I hope that you find the strength to keep standing in the face of your obstacles, too. After all, I'm not the only one with the ability to tame lions. 

March 2016 Tarotscopes

Today is March 1st, and one of my favorite things about the start of a new month is reading tarotscopes. What are tarotscopes, you ask? If you guessed horoscopes done by way of a tarot reading, you are absolutely correct. Like tarot, horoscopes get a bit of a bad rap because their portrayal in pop culture and the fact that we often associate them with people who are behaving in unpleasant ways, whether it's someone who is making questionable claims in order to pull one over on us or somebody who has an unhealthy reliance on astrology. But when used in moderation, astrology is just another way to attempt to make sense of an often confusing and disorganized world. Besides, reading your horoscope, tarot or otherwise, can be a lot of fun, and it can indeed be useful if you choose to view it as something of a weather report on the energy surrounding you today/this week/this month rather than a concrete prediction. 

There are a couple of readers whose tarotscopes I follow on a monthly basis (Veronica Varlow and Louise Androlia are my favorites, check 'em out), but this month I find I'm feeling a bit restless. Maybe it's because I've been thinking a lot about how to kickstart my tarot business and really integrate it into all parts of my life. Maybe it's because the weather's been warming up, and I've got a little bit of the spring fever setting in. Maybe it's because March is my birthday month, and I always get a little bit antsy around this time of year. Whatever the reason, this morning I decided that reading my tarotscopes wasn't enough - I wanted to try making my own. I love reading cards for other people, and I've been finding great joy in doing public tarot posts for my friends, family, and followers (like my weekly Forecast Friday readings over on Instagram). I'm always looking for new ways to open that up and put even more readings out into the world, and what better way than by sharing the joy of tarotscopes with you, my dear readers? So, I grabbed my iPhone and my Prisma Visions deck, pulled a card for each zodiac sign in turn, and then spent WAY too much time staging photos around my apartment. In short, it was a delightful afternoon, and I am beyond thrilled to be able to share the results with you. So without further ado, here are your March 2016 tarotscopes...

 
 

PISCES - THE HERMIT

Happy birthday, my fellow Piscean dreamers! Your card this month is The Hermit, and he's telling you to slooooww down. It can be so easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of every day life, but in doing so we often forget to check in with ourselves and see what we really and truly need to keep ourselves energized, nourished, and centered. The Hermit urges you to take a step back from your daily comings and goings and look inwards. How are you feeling? What do you need right now? What is ringing the most true for you, and what knowledge no longer sits well with your current identity? So often we look to other people for answers and define ourselves based on external factors, but that path only leads to dissatisfaction and low self-confidence when projects and ventures go sideways. Connect with your inner self and ground yourself in your own truths and identity, then use your newfound perspective to illuminate the world around you. When you approach your life from a position of strong self-knowledge and assurance, you are much more empowered and effective in your actions, and you remain unshakeable no matter what challenges you encounter. 

 
 

ARIES - SIX OF SWORDS

March doesn't belong solely to us watery fishes; we also share this birthday month with some of you fiery rams as well! The Six of Swords is telling you it's time to move on from a situation that has been causing you stress and frustration. Aries are a stubborn bunch, and it can be tempting for you to keep butting your head against a problem until you make a breakthrough. But some conflicts cannot be resolved through perseverance, and sometimes the best we can do is see to our own mental health and remove ourselves from the situation, at least until things cool down. It may be painful, and it may wound your pride, but there are much better things for you on the horizon. Make the choice to step away and turn your attention towards something else. Your energy and quick wit will be put to better use elsewhere. 

 
 

TAURUS - KING OF PENTACLES

What a fortuitous draw! No card embodies the energy of Taurus folks better than the King of Pentacles. He is all about taking charge of a situation and dictating a plan of action. This month you are being urged to quite literally take the bull by the horns and enforce some structure in your physical reality. Have a project that needs to get done? No problem, you can create a schedule that ensures daily progress will be made. Don't have time to handle everything yourself? That's fine, you are a master delegator. You'll find someone with the time and talent to do the things that you cannot. You are ready to take action and watch as success and good fortune falls into your lap as a result of your hard work. You thrive on this solid, earthy energy. Just be sure not to get TOO controlling. Remember, a good leader knows when to listen to the advice of others in order to keep things flowing smoothly. Rule your life with a firm but gentle hand, and there is no end to the prosperity that March will bring you.  

 
 

GEMINI - KNIGHT OF CHALICES

As cheesy as it sounds, Gemini, you are being urged to follow your heart this month. More specifically, go after the things in your life that make you the most happy. Forget practicality, forget logic, the Knight of Chalices is a hopeless romantic who thinks only of pleasure and joy. He is the very definition of high on life, highly sensitive, passionate, and deeply creative. Do you want to wrap yourself in a daydream? Sit on the banks of a river and paint beautiful scenery or write poetry? Fall head over heels in love? The Knight of Chalices says go for it. So long as you are not stomping all over the happiness and wellbeing of someone else, there is no reason for you not to pursue your heart's desire with abandon. Immerse yourself in the experience of living and dream your way into happiness. Just remember to keep at least some grip on reality, else you'll be swept away by fantasies and be dealt a rude awakening at the end of the month when the real world catches up with you. 

 
March Tarotscope - Cancer.jpg
 

CANCER - THE WORLD

My dear, crabby little Cancers, this month The World is your oyster. You are being encouraged to venture out of your shell and engage fully with the ebb and flow of the universe. This is the card of completion and the successful conclusion of a cycle. On some level, this month is about mastering your goals and achieving whatever it was you set out to do. This may be a big, obvious success story or it could be something smaller, more subtle. Whatever it is, look around you, appreciate all that you have done and feel that sense of accomplishment. Immerse yourself in the present moment and feel the connection you have to everything and everyone around you, for The World is not just about patting yourself on the back for goals reached, it is also about connecting fully with your community and understanding the ways in which everything is intertwined. It is a joyful card, for success feels damn good, but it can be a bit bittersweet as you know you have reached the end of this particular journey. Take the time to enjoy this moment, knowing full well that each cycle's completion ushers in the beginning of a new journey, a new project. Soon it will be time to contemplate your next step, but for now relax and enjoy the ride.

 
March Tarotscope - Leo.jpg
 

LEO - TEN OF CHALICES

I know you like to play tough, Leo, but deep down you're a sensitive soul who values your relationships deeply. For you, March is all about tapping into your softer side and engaging with your loved ones. The Ten of Chalices is all about happiness and harmony, those moments when you're perfectly in alignment and connecting with yourself and the people around you on a deep emotional level. This month, it feels like everything is as it should be, like you're vibrating on the same frequency as the people you love most in the world. This sort of peaceful flow requires you to lower your guard and let that fiery bravado drop away for a time, but you'll be so content you won't even miss it. This doesn't mean stop being yourself - nothing could stop a Leo from being bold and dramatic, and trying to quash that side of yourself will only dim your shine and make you feel the opposite of the Ten's contentedness - but it does mean resisting the urge to stir up drama just for the sake of excitement. Let yourself relax and enjoy your time in this emotional paradise. Eventually, life will pick up again, schedules will get busy, and the cycle will start anew, but for this month, at least, you've got your people by your side and all is right with the world.  

 
March Tarotscope - Virgo.jpg
 

VIRGO - NINE OF SWORDS

Oh sweet Virgo, you're having a bit of a tough time of it this month. Lots of thoughts, doubts, and anxieties are whirling around your head, leaving you a bit overwhelmed, paralyzed,  and unsure of where to turn next. The Nine of Swords is telling you that it's time to face your fears and see them for what they really are. What gives these sort of thoughts power over us is our reluctance to look them dead in the eyes. Instead, they lurk around the perimeter, slipping in when you least expect it and making you feel as if they are inescapable. If your demons are going to catch up with you regardless, why not use this opportunity to take full stock of them? Grab your pen and make a list of everything that is weighing on you. Admit your fears to a close friend/family member/professional and talk your way through them. It's impossible to come up with a plan of attack if you don't even know what you're dealing with, so take this month to sort through all the dreck that has arisen for you and take stock so you are prepared to address it when the time comes. Remember, as overwhelming as everything seems right now, it will pass. It always does. So why not help it along a little bit? You can let your worries steamroll you or you can take this chance to reclaim your power. You've got this.

 
March Tarotscope - Libra.jpg
 

LIBRA - PAGE OF SWORDS

For you, Libras, this month is all about taking a stand. I know, you're the scales, you're all about balance, and diplomacy is your bread and butter. But sometimes you need to say enough is enough. The Page of Swords tells you to slice away everything that is clouding your head - doubts, confusion, even the opinions of other people - in order to get to the truth. Do you want to say "yes" to something you're unsure of, or do you need more time to do your research, dig deep, and establish a strong position? Embrace the wide-eyed idealism of the Page and don't be afraid to stick to your principles. Sometimes the best way to regain balance in a situation is by speaking up and speaking out. After all, what good is a deal if your needs were never a part of the negotiation to begin with? Give yourself the space to be curious, to seek the truth, and to make an informed decision as to what is best for you and go from there. Those who care about you will respect your decision and, knowing your dedication to the pursuit of harmony, will understand the weight it carries and negotiate from there. 

 
March Tarotscope - Scorpio.jpg
 

SCORPIO - THE CHARIOT

The Chariot is all about focus and motivation, which is perfect energy for all you Scorpios out there. This card reminds you that you are the one in control of your future; if you don't like the direction in which you are headed, take the wheel and change course. Set your sights on your goal this month and don't stop until you reach it. And if, for some reason, you find you are spinning your wheels and feel like you're getting nowhere, take a minute to reassess. Is something in your life out of balance? Are you REALLY sure this is what you want, or are you just moving for the sake of movement? Is this path taking all of your needs into account, or is it focusing on one at the expense of the others? Like any vehicle, a broken or misaligned piece can send the whole thing careening out of control, so make sure you're finally tuned and in balance before racing off after your dreams. Once you've got everything in line, there's nothing that can stop you.  Go get 'em, Scorpio!

 
 

SAGITTARIUS - THREE OF PENTACLES

March is all about hard work and strong foundations for those in the Sagittarius crowd. You are truly in the thick of things, focused wholeheartedly on building the reality that you want to live in, but this is not something you can do by yourself. The message of the Three of Pentacles is that success requires a strong foundation and careful planning. You are being urged to spend this month taking an honest look at what you want to achieve and then diligently plotting out every step it will take you to get there. The Three also reminds us that we cannot accomplish this alone; most of us do not have every skill required to help us accomplish our goals, and so we look to those around us. What are you struggling with, and do you know someone who is skilled in that area? Talk to them, offer to help them in return, charm the pants off them, and bring them onboard. All of us are stronger with a team of likeminded, diversely-talented people at our backs. You have lofty goals, but you will be able to achieve them with a clear plan of action, a lot of hard work, and the assistance of your team. So get to plotting. 

 
 

CAPRICORN - DEATH

Ah, Death. One of my favorite cards in the deck. Before you panic, faithful Capricorn friends, let me assure you that this card is not the terrifying omen it seems to be. Death speaks of endings, yes, but metaphorical ones, the death of one cycle of life and the rebirth of the next. Your message for the month of March is that it's time for a change, and a big one at that. Things that once felt so right are no longer fitting you properly, and it's time for you to shed that which is no longer working for you in order to let a new life path begin. These changes are not always comfortable, but they are necessary; we cannot stay the way we are now forever, and the truth of the matter is that if you tried to hold onto the past you would only find yourself in more misery and discomfort than if you embraced the transformation. Chances are you know a change is nigh and are ready for it, on some level, whether you realize it or not. Let go of the old you so that a new you can burst forth, brighter and better than ever, like a phoenix from the ashes. 

 
 

AQUARIUS - THE TOWER

Oh my bright, vibrant Aquarius, explosive changes are in store for you this month. The Tower is one of the most destructive cards in the deck, warning of the shattering of illusions and the crumbling of that which is no longer viable. As terrifying as this may sound, there is a silver lining to it: once the dust has settled and the air has cleared, you can look around and see what is still standing. Anything that survives that sort of upheaval is built to stand the test of time, don't you think? The collapse of The Tower shakes us to our core, but it also helps us to reveal the very foundations of ourselves and help us refocus on that which is most important to us. It also leaves us with a fresh slate on which to build something stronger and better in its place. It is quite literally a breakthrough, and once we are no longer wasting our energy and resources on propping up a dilapidated, unsteady structure, we can put them to much better use. This card is a message that it's time for a drastic change, and if you aren't willing to make it yourself it will be made for you. Ominous as this sounds, it's a blessing in disguise. Now you know it's coming. Now you have time to prepare. The more you commit to making these changes yourself, the less painful the transition will be when they come to pass. Prepare yourself for a wild ride and be ready to see things with fresh eyes once it's all over. 

 

And thus ends our tarotscopes for the month of March. I hope they were, if not enjoyable, then at least enlightening. I will most likely be making this a regular feature on my blog going forward, so check back next month to see what April has in store for you. And if you liked this reading and want more, be sure to follow me on Instagram and/or purchase a full, personalized reading from my Etsy shop. 

Jew(ish): Traveling Through Israel By Foot, Friendship, & Feline

   Crossing the Ein Avdat Oasis in the Negev Desert, Israel. 

Crossing the Ein Avdat Oasis in the Negev Desert, Israel. 

"It has been almost a month and I'm still processing it all. This trip still kind of feels like it was all a dream. Anyone else feel that way too?"

This was posted by one of my traveling companions from my Birthright Trip in the Facebook group for our bus (#243, represent!) last week. Everyone agreed, of course. It's hard to believe that exactly one month ago we were recovering from a flight back to New York after spending ten intensive days in a completely different part of the world. I've spent the last few weeks trying and failing to write a post about the experience (after all, I don't want to let it go undocumented) but it's been difficult to figure out what to say. The cliché, of course, is that taking an international trip changes your life permanently. There's an entire industry based on the idea of people finding themselves through travel, and I suppose it wouldn't be surprising if I'd come back from a tour created with the express purpose of connecting people with their heritage, the Jewish religion, and the country of Israel with some newfound connection to the religion or the land. But I don't feel much different. I'm still uninterested in engaging with organized religion. I still have very complicated feelings about Israel and its political situation. I have a bit more understanding of my heritage, but I'm not sure I gained a better understanding of myself. Perhaps it's because I went on this trip when I was 26 and had already spent many, many years refining my knowledge of myself, but I returned from my journey feeling like much the same person as I was when I left. This is by no means a unique perspective, but it does make it difficult to condense my experiences into an interesting blog post that might resonate with someone other than myself and my mother, who reads everything I post.

This is not to say the trip wasn't incredible or eye-opening. The land was beautiful, the history informative, the people incredible, and I loved every minute of the time I was there (except maybe when I had to pee in the desert. My friend Dina, who held the flashlight while I "nature-peed", can vouch for my vocal complaints during that particular experience. What can I say? Roughing it is not my forte). The very fact that I was standing on land that had been occupied by so many civilizations for thousands of years took my breath away at times. But processing that, condensing it all down to some satisfactory answer to the inevitable question people ask me - "So, how was Israel?" - has eluded me.

   The Banias Falls, spices in the Tel Aviv Shuk, the Dead Sea, the view from Ben Gurion's Tomb, and looking out over Israel and Lebanon from the Golan Heights.

The Banias Falls, spices in the Tel Aviv Shuk, the Dead Sea, the view from Ben Gurion's Tomb, and looking out over Israel and Lebanon from the Golan Heights.

What I can say about this experience is that it challenged me. From the very moment I started the application process, I was a bit out of my depth. Let me tell you, for me personally there is nothing that smacks me in the face with an inferiority complex quite like applying for a program for Jewish people when I don't feel particularly Jewish myself. Though I can easily trace my Jewish heritage through my mother's mother back to Russia (or the Ukraine, depending on who you ask and which decade's borders we're going by), the practices have been all but lost in our family. We don't go to synagogue or regularly observe the high holidays. I never went to Hebrew school or had a Bat Mitzvah. My grandma's sole tradition that she passed onto us was having a family gathering on one night of Hanukah, during which she served latkes with sour cream and pork sausage on the same plate, if that tells you anything about how seriously she took her family's faith. So despite the fact that I had been assured by many of my friends who were Birthright alums that a lot of participants were in the same cultural boat as me and the fact that I was genuinely interested in learning more about my family's heritage and cultural history, it was still rather nervewracking to go through a process that appeared to measure my level of Jewishness, a religion and culture I had never had more than a passing connection to. Even when I was eventually approved and assigned a trip date, I'm not sure I truly believed I'd be allowed to go until our plane touched down at Ben Gurion Airport. (This belief was further exacerbated by an hour and a half long extended security screening by El Al airlines during which they confiscated, of all things, my hairbrush, my journal, my water bottle, and my travel pillow and moved them to my checked luggage before finally escorting me onto the plane mere minutes before we were supposed to take off. A very surreal experience, especially since Friends was playing on the TV in the background the entire time.) 

All my fears dissipated once the tour itself began, however. Truthfully, there just wasn't time to worry about anything other than where we were going next, if my water bottle was full and my camera was charged, and whether or not I was going to be able to focus on another half hour lecture on the history of Jerusalem when we'd been up til 3 am the night before. We were scheduled from 7 am to 10 pm most days, and I was lucky if I made it through the evening programming without dozing off at least once.  Everyone became masters at the art of bus-napping, catching a few extra minutes of sleep between stops as we criss-crossed the country. We had to get close with one another, fast. Nothing like snoring, open-mouthed and mere inches from one another, to remove all barriers. Luckily, we had an excellent group, one committed to bonding fully as a whole rather than fracturing off into separate cliques, so you knew you were bound to have a good time regardless of who you wound up seated beside. This was both a blessing and a curse for me. I have a tendency to feel a bit lost in the crowd, usually preferring to find one or two close friends so I always have someone to turn to, and the mass-friendship experience sometimes meant that I found myself walking alone and didn't know who to reach out to. The upside of this, however, was that within minutes somebody always caught up to me and struck up a new conversation, and it was never the same person. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to breathe and just BE in the moment and see what happened next rather than trying to regain control and seek out one particular person. The whole trip was an education in giving up control and seeing where events were going to take you, something I'd forgotten how to do in my seven years of living on my own and being the only one responsible for my life and well-being. So a challenge, yes, but not a bad one.

   Hiking in the Negev Desert.

Hiking in the Negev Desert.

As for Israel itself, I don't even know where to begin. It's easy to see why the land has been fought over for millennia. It's a breathtaking place full of such variety of flora and fauna, not to mention the historical landmarks. We visited the ruins of a Roman Aqueduct in Caesaria and looked out over the B'hai Gardens in Haifa. We learned about the Mikvah and the history of Kabbalah in Tsfat and walked through twisting, ancient alleys filled with artists selling all sorts of beautiful work. We hiked up to the Banias Falls, saw the Temple of Pan, and stood on a ridge that gave us a view of both Lebanon and Israel. We visited a bird sanctuary in Jerusalem, walked through the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and the Mount Herzel Military Cemetery. We sang songs around a desert campfire and slept under the stars while a nearly full moon shone down on us, a curious fox scouted out our campsite, and shooting stars flew past overhead. We climbed to the ruins of the fortress of Masada at dawn in the midst of a dust storm. We swam in the hot springs in Tiberius and floated in the Dead Sea. We did a guided meditation in the Nagev and visited two desert oases, Ein Gedi and Ein Avdat. We visited the Shuk in Tel Aviv and a state of the arts school for special needs students in Ra'anana. To cover everything we were lucky enough to experience would take several more blog posts at least twice as long as this one.

   The Caesaria Aqueduct, the B'Hai Gardens in Haifa, the views from the rooftops of Tsfat and a windchime and bell shop in Tsfat.

The Caesaria Aqueduct, the B'Hai Gardens in Haifa, the views from the rooftops of Tsfat and a windchime and bell shop in Tsfat.

Out of the entire journey, though, three experiences stood out to me as being particularly meaningful. The first was at the Kotel, the Western Wall. I mentioned earlier that I am not particularly religious, but religious or no there is a powerful spiritual pull in that place. Maybe it's some mystical force, maybe it's just the concentrated energy of 2,000 years worth of prayer. But the minute I placed my hand on the cool stone wall, I felt instantly grounded and present in the moment in a way I've never experienced before. My mind is always going in a hundred different directions, so meditation has never been my jam, but in that moment I felt completely centered and at peace. Even the animals seem affected by the energy of the Wall. There are birds all over Jerusalem - pigeons, sparrows, crows, doves - but it's like they were drawn to that place, maybe due to the detritus from all the humans that pass through that spot, maybe by something more pure, more magical. It's hard to say. But one of the most beautiful shots I got from that day was of a pure white pigeon flying directly at the Wall, like the dove of peace. And when I finally left to rejoin the group, I found a silver heart-shaped confetti on the ground. It was most likely discarded by a passing Bar Mitzvah, but found hearts are something that have long been a symbol of my late sister's spiritual presence within my family, so finding one in that moment was incredibly powerful. 

   Powerful moments at     the Western Wall.

Powerful moments at the Western Wall.

The second experience that moved me deeply was visiting Yad Vashem. I must admit, that was actually the part I looked forward to the least. I fully believe that the Holocaust is an important piece of history and one worth remembering, but I get a bit exhausted and desensitized by the image upon image of brutality that tends to fill these sorts of museums. Six million is such a large number that it's almost numbing to hear it repeated over and over again. What surprised me about Yad Vashem was the focus on individual stories and artifacts - the glasses of one person, the letter found in another's pocket, the suitcase packed by a family as they were forced to leave their home - as well as the underlying message of hope in dark times. I was indescribably moved by the sheer amount of artwork they had documented from that time, the hand-drawn birthday cards and homemade games created for children living in the ghettos, the artists who painted and sketched their daily reality no matter how bleak it became, the tales of theatrical productions staged in the ghettos and the camps. As an artist myself, it wrenched my heart and lifted my spirits to see the effort put into making sure beauty and creativity endured regardless of how  horrific reality became. The stories of how Jewish families lived in Europe before the Holocaust were powerful to me, too, as they made me feel a sense of connection to my own family, many of whom fled to North America during the pogroms were long gone by the time Hitler rose to power. The reports of brutality were there, too, of course, but like everything else in that museum, they were told through the eyes, notes, and narratives of individual people. It humanized this overwhelmingly terrible historical event, made it feel more raw, more accessible, and made it affect me far more deeply than I expected. I think most of us left the memorial feeling very contemplative, moreso than we had prepared for going in.

   The view from outside Yad Vashem. Photos were prohibited inside the museum. 

The view from outside Yad Vashem. Photos were prohibited inside the museum. 

On a less emotional and spiritual note, but no less powerful for it, was the effect of the hike up Masada. We awoke at 4:30 in the morning (a late start if you want to reach the peak by sunrise), after tossing and turning all night on the freezing, rocky ground of what was effectively a gravel parking lot at the entrance to Masada National Park. We'd bundled up in layers and had been provided with sleeping bags, foam mats, and tents (though many of us chose to forgo the tents), but their thin protection had been little help against the chill and discomfort, and the most sleep any of us had gotten was about two hours, if we were lucky. We packed up our campsite, brushed our teeth, and ate breakfast in the dim, pre-dawn light and set off toward the foot of the mountain as fierce winds whipped dust around us and threatened to tip us over. Most groups climb up the Roman Ramp, which is the easier of the two trails, and only make their descent down the twisting Snake Path, but most groups don't camp the night before and our site was on the wrong side of the plateau for us to follow that route. So we took the Snake Path both going up and down. If you want to talk challenging, well, climbing up the Snake Path will make you realize just how out of shape you truly are. The cross-fit trainers in our group took off at a run and reached the top within a half an hour, but the rest of us made much slower progress, panting and wheezing and sweating as we forced our way up the twisting path and rows and rows of uneven stairs hewn into the rock, stopping often for water breaks and to catch our breath. Due to our late start, the sun rose while most of us were only halfway up the incline, but it was still a remarkable sight. I found three or four members of our group who had set the same pace as me, and together we rallied one another as we staggered toward the finish line. Our tour guide waited for us at the top, high fiving each of us in turn as we entered the ruins of the ancient fortress and looked out over one of the most incredible vistas I have ever seen in my life. The morning's dust storm had made everything a bit hazy, giving it an ethereal, otherworldly feel, and suddenly the climb felt more than worth it. The wind was more bitter on top of the plateau, and we quickly donned the layers we'd stripped off during our strenuous, sweaty climb and huddled together for warmth. We shared a snack of dates as we discussed the infamous history of Masada, and then our tour guide and staffers performed an informal Bar Mitzvah for several of the men on our trip who had opted to participate in a renewal of their faith. It was short, sweet, and to the point, and at the end one of our staffers broke out his guitar and we sang and danced to an acoustic rendition of Hava Nagila and introduced our Israeli peers to that classic American Bar Mitzvah experience, the Cha Cha Slide. By the time we finished and began our descent, I was thoroughly chilled to the bone and it was barely 8 am. It was probably the most productive morning I've ever had in my life, if I'm being honest. Despite the fact that halfway up I wasn't sure if my lungs and legs were going to hold out, I enjoyed the physical challenge. Let me tell you, if I lived near the Judean Desert I would cancel my gym membership and just hike the Snake Path once a week. I'd be in incredible shape in no time. 

   Attempting to capture the breathtaking beauty of Masada and its view of the Judean Desert.

Attempting to capture the breathtaking beauty of Masada and its view of the Judean Desert.

Still as much as  the scenery and the experiences themselves affected me, the people who shared it with me were just as incredible. Between those who had traveled with me on the long flight from the US and the participants, guards, and guide who joined us once we reached Israel, they were the most amazing group of traveling companions I could ever have asked for. Together, we ate, napped, and hiked our way through each and every day. We engaged in thoughtful discussions about what it meant to be Jewish and heated discussions of how that affected our daily lives. We gathered at the hotel bar in the evenings, chatting and bonding, or out at designated bars on the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, sharing tales of our lives and experiences over a beer or two. We posed for pictures and took ridiculous selfies. Those of us who were cat people quickly became known to one another, as we were the ones who stopped to pet and photograph every cat that crossed our paths (and there are A LOT of cats in Israel, let me tell you. I was even followed by cats as I moved between pools at the hot springs!), while the others looked on at our train of feline followers in amusement. One day, at a rest stop, we discovered a massive, magical playground that put every climbing structure I have seen in the States to shame, and we spent half an hour climbing up jungle gyms, jumping on trampolines, racing down thirty foot slides, chasing one another, and generally acting like excited children. When we asked our tour guide later if any group he'd been with had behaved as we did upon seeing such an incredible playground, he shook his head and said, "Not even close." We laughed, we hugged, we cried, we drank, we danced, we became close in a way that only exists in such an intensive, compact experience and rarely survives the outside world once the journey is over. 

   Group photos, incredible playgrounds, and nights out in Tel Aviv. 

Group photos, incredible playgrounds, and nights out in Tel Aviv. 

And so, a month has now passed. Life has gone on and we have all settled back into our daily routines. Our Facebook group is still relatively active, and I talk to several friends from the trip on a regular basis, but apart from that not much feels different than it was before I left. I miss the people I met in Israel, both American and Israeli, and am planning a trip back to see everything I missed and the places I wished I could have spent more time in, but mostly it does feel like a distant dream. I am still fumbling through life, still trying to figure out how to get to the path I want to be on, as are most of my peers. For some of them, that path now includes an extended stay or possibly even a move to Israel, but for me it may include a visit or two, but nothing more. If I had to choose one thing I learned from the trip, however, it's to surrender myself to the challenges. I have chosen a difficult life for myself, just as I chose a trip that I knew would push me out of my comfort zone, but both have the potential to be incredibly rewarding when one simply embraces the experience and breathes through the discomfort when it arises. I said in my previous post that I am trying to be more like The Fool, and journeying through Israel embodied that commitment for me. Hopefully the rest of the year ahead of me will have just as many adventures as I found myself on in those ten days, albeit of a different sort. And as many cats. You can never have enough cats. 

   So many cats....

So many cats....

Playing the Fool

Have you ever encountered something that everyone else really seems to love but you can't quite wrap your head around? It's not that you dislike it, per se, but you just don't understand the hype. "What's so great about this thing anyway?" you might wonder. "And what's wrong with me that I don't see it?"

This has been my experience with The Fool card in tarot. For those who are unfamiliar with the structure of a traditional tarot deck, The Fool is the first card in the deck, and it represents the beginning of the journey through the Major Arcana or Trump cards, the twenty-one cards that represent bigger events and forces in your life. It stands for qualities like naiveté, innocence, foolish bravery, and faith. The Fool is the person who rushes into a new venture without care or thought for what could go wrong, which is often either the best decision you could make or the worst.

 
   The traditional Rider Waite Fool.

The traditional Rider Waite Fool.

 

Intellectually, I see the appeal of The Fool. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, after all. And I am quite partial to the idea of being bold, taking risks, and going off on adventures as the whim strikes. Yet, when the card pops up in a reading, my initial reaction is to recoil. Perhaps this is because I am turned off by the clown or jester-themed artwork found on many interpretations of the card. Perhaps it's because I spent a lot of my childhood feeling foolish and being teased for my innocence, sensitivity, and perceived lack of experience. Perhaps it's my anxiety rejecting the idea of taking risks without extensive (over)preparation or balking at the idea of doing something that might make others think less of me (at least according to my brain's convoluted logic). Realistically, it is probably a combination of the three with a dash of other factors thrown in for extra risk-averseness flavoring. Whatever the reason, while the Fool is not my least favorite card, it certainly isn't in my top five.

 
   Depictions of The Fool in James R. Eads' "Light Visions" and "Prisma Visions" tarot decks. The booklet calls the wolf Foolish for swimming out too far, but I've always thought pelicans were pretty Foolish - they look awkward but fly far.

Depictions of The Fool in James R. Eads' "Light Visions" and "Prisma Visions" tarot decks. The booklet calls the wolf Foolish for swimming out too far, but I've always thought pelicans were pretty Foolish - they look awkward but fly far.

 


It is for that very reason that, when ruminating on which card's characteristics I wanted to try and bring into my life in 2016 (a practice that I commit to in lieu of a list of resolutions), The Fool immediately popped into my head. I suppose it makes sense; I already made the arguably Foolish decision to quit my day job in December to further pursue my acting career and attempt to support myself through my tarot practice, and tackling a card that makes me squirm seems like an appropriate challenge in what will undoubtedly be a year full of challenges of all shapes and sizes. It's not the first time I've done something that would be considered foolish by conventional standards either, so while a part of me balks at the idea of throwing myself headfirst into a life of risk and adventure, there is an equally large part of me that craves it. I am, I after all, the same person who packed up her entire life (and her cat) and moved halfway across the country with only an inkling of how I was going to find work and permanent lodging once I arrived. While I do like to be in control and have everything planned out whenever possible, once I get an idea into my head I tend to charge full-steam ahead with only a passing consideration for logistics. I've found that's the best way to drown out any anxieties and doubts: just jump in before I can reconsider. It's how I've wound up with multiple piercings, two tattoos, and a second cat (all of which were fantastic decisions, in my opinion).

   Me emulating Maggie Stiefvater's image of The Fool on top of Masada in Israel.

Me emulating Maggie Stiefvater's image of The Fool on top of Masada in Israel.

So, I've decided to embody The Fool as best I can this year, wherever it winds up leading me. So far it's serving me well. In the first month of 2016 I have done tarot readings for money, flown to another continent, climbed a mountain before sunrise, eaten flaming brandy-soaked raisins at midnight on New Year's Eve while making a wish for my future, and done battle with the New York Health Exchange despite my extreme aversion to talking on the phone. I've made new friends, ridden camels, slept under the stars, floated in the Dead Sea, asked for something well above what I feel I've earned, tried, failed, and committed to trying again. I still have so many challenges before me and so many moments where I will have to commit myself over and over again to Foolishly striving for the impossible rather than giving into my doubts, but whenever I begin to question my choices I will look at the artwork of the Fool (perhaps in a deck with a less traditional depiction, like Maggie Stiefvater's Raven's Prophecy tarot), take a deep breath, quell my fears, and boldly strike out towards the next adventure.