life

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!

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. 

 

 
IMG_2861.jpg
 

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. 

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! 

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.

Hey, Soul Sister

On Thursday night, I sat in a magic-filled basement room surrounded by powerful and beautiful women as words flowed freely out of the tip of my pen, scrawling across the pages of my journal as if my hand were being controlled by some otherworldly force. Candles flickered on the table before me, the brick walls were positively covered with lanterns, and I had just been asked a strange yet important question: "What is something you have done for thousands of years?"

This activity is a part of an incredible class called The Underground taught by burlesque star and all-around-goddess Veronica Varlow, and its intent was to help us identify our life's purpose, the foundation on which all of our dreams are built. I have done similar meditative journeys and guided journaling sessions with Veronica before, but never has an answer come so quickly and clearly to me as it did that night. 

When we began the exercise, I was sure I knew what the answer would be. Which is why I was completely thrown when the words that leaped out at me out of my subconscious were not "actor" or "writer" or "artist" or even "fortune teller", but rather "Big Sister." Big sister? Immediately that brought forth images of mentorship and service positions, of being a therapist or an advice columnist, doling out sage wisdom to the women of the world. As these visions of potential futures danced in my head, I felt my insides shrivel and my heart begin pounding against my ribcage, like a prisoner hurling themselves against the bars of a prison, crying out, "No, that is not my life! What about me? What about what I want?"

You see, I am far too self-centered to devote myself to a life of serving others. I have to be; it's a matter of self-preservation. I love helping people, especially young women, and guiding them through life's ups and downs...to an extent. I will offer my advice and my wisdom, but if it is ignored or the problem drags on with no progress, I find myself growing frustrated and weary of the situation. I don't have the patience to calmly talk someone through their fifteenth breakdown over the same subject, and I feel empty and lifeless when I do not spend liberal amounts of my time focusing on the things that feed my own soul. And what feeds my soul is creating art. So how was it that the purpose that spoke so strongly to me related to my relationship with others?

As I sat there, poking at the concept of Big Sister and trying to discern what it could possibly mean, I remembered a conversation I'd had with my own sister a few months back. We had been discussing our favorite books, and she said to me, "You know, East has always been one of my favorites because I remember you reading it to me when I was little. And that was just so special to me." I was floored. I have vague recollections of reading to her when she was young, but as far as I can remember it was a dictatorial storytime that involved me snapping at her to sit still while I force-fed her chapters of my favorite books, despite the fact that she was not old enough to understand many of them. I had no idea that it had had any affect on her, much less a positive one. 

My little sister sports a tattoo of the Mock Turtle from  Alice in Wonderland , another book she says I read to her as a child.

My little sister sports a tattoo of the Mock Turtle from Alice in Wonderland, another book she says I read to her as a child.

But in a strange way, it made sense. As much as we might like to believe otherwise, being a big sister often is not about delivering sage advice or putting your siblings' wellbeing above your own. A lot of the time it is about believing that you know best, vying for the spotlight, and leading by example, for good or for ill. And, yes, it is often about telling stories, whether it's reading aloud from a fantasy novel or talking about your own life. I shared the books I loved with my sister because I was determined that their magic should be a part of her life as soon as possible, just as I shared my stories of dealing with bullies in the hopes that she would learn to discount the opinions of others sooner than I did (okay, sometimes sage advice comes with the territory). I actively worked to shape her world, convinced that my way was the best way and that the sooner she learned that, the less likely she was to waste time muddling through life and making all those childish mistakes. That was, of course, entirely wrong, as life is far too messy and mistakes will be made whether or not we have an older sibling to look up to. But my sister is now a remarkable, confident, outspoken young woman who is far more savvy and self-assured than I was at her age, so perhaps my clumsy attempts at empowerment had some effect, however small. 

As all these thoughts raced through my head, my hand kept writing steadily, and I considered how this revelation shaped the way I approached the world. It's true that many of the projects I am working on or want to work on aim to shape the way my audience views the world. It is also true that much of my intended audience is young women, although I certainly hope my work will be accessible to a wide range of people. I care deeply about empowering people and counteracting the negative models that society gives us for how we should approach the various aspects of our life. Is that not born from a desire to treat every person who is fumbling through life as my younger sibling and guide them toward the happiness and peace that I envision for them?

In my journal, I wrote the words, "I am the Big Sister, reading bedtime stories to the world."

My baby sister, Sophie, was just days old when I subjected her to my stories.

My baby sister, Sophie, was just days old when I subjected her to my stories.

And that's really what it comes down to. Projects and people may come and go, life may throw some curveballs my way, but whenever I find myself questioning my purpose, I can return to that page in my journal and to that night, writing by the red glow of the lanterns, and ground myself in the knowledge that my deepest desire is to use the power of storytelling to share my experience and knowledge with those who are in need of guidance. I can approach the roles I play and the shows I write through that lens, carefully discerning what message I wish to put out into the world and what example I wish to set (or warn against). I cannot take on the problems of others, but I can share my words and hope they reach the people who need them.

This is the foundation upon which my dreams are built. This is my purpose. And, if you need me, I will happily be your big sister. I hope you like listening to stories, because I have plenty.