Money Matters

Zen Over Yen…. I’m working on it.

Here at the end of the 2nd House, I thought I’d better talk about wealth and money – the more earthy part of what this house stands for. My relationship with money is kind of complicated in that I kind of hate it, but I’m practical enough to know I need it and that more of it would make other aspects of my life smoother.

That being said there were a lot of thoughts and heaviness swirling around my head because this house relates directly to my house of Career, which doesn’t have any planets but has a big ol’ Aries sign on the cusp and dominating the house. I need independence and creativity, but I also need a steady income and the ability to pay my bills or I get super stressed out. All that and this week I also got my rejection from WPR for their Chapter a Day series, which wouldn’t have been the be all end all job, but it would have been a step in the right direction (creativity, autonomy, and income). It’s a mess.

So, with all that mess, I made an audio post, because I just felt the need to talk it out more than type it out. It’s just over 15 minutes. Thanks, in advance, for listening, if you get the chance.

Tarot Reading

I selected the Pentacle Reading, which is used for help in the search for wholeness, healing, integration, and spiritual development. Seemed very appropriate. The spread consists of 5 cards, one at each point of the start, each representing an element and, therefore, a concept of the self and the world. The card drawn represents your relationship to that concept, ways to improve it, or how to integrate it with other aspects.

Now, whether you believe in Tarot or not, to me, is kind of irrelevant. Like literary interpretation, what you get out of it is more for you and says more about you than anyone else. So I read the cards partially for divination purposes, but the divination is derived from how I assign meaning to the cards. It works for me and often works for those I read for. That being said, things change – sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. I always advise taking Tarot readings as light guidance with the final decision, as always, being up to you.

Card 1: The Place of the Inner Flame

 

10 of SwordsThis card represents intuition and creativity, my relationship to it, or a new idea about to dawn.

Ten of Swords, reversed

Generally speaking, this isn’t a positive card. I mean, just look at it. That is an overabundance of stabbiness. And this card tends to represent suffering or defeat. However, this is not always a bad thing, it just isn’t something that feels good. Attached to this card is a Druid triad: “There are three spiritual instructors: worldly misfortune, bodily illness, and unmerited hatred.”

The suit of Swords is all about the mind and some say the meaning of this card is negative thoughts pinning you down until you are immobilized, whether your own or someone else’s. And, actually, this general feeling of this card is why I decided to go to therapy. I felt like my thought processes weren’t allowing me to get anywhere, to be who I wanted to be… in essence, they were killing me. And really, this is extremely apparent in my trust of myself as I’ve stated in other posts. This card seems extremely appropriate for that. I bog down my intuition and creativity with many negative and often self-harming thoughts.

Now, this card is reversed. Some people to bother with reversals, but I do. I see them as the polarity of the card, the flip side that everything has in order to exist (I enjoyed Derrida in college). In this respect, I see this card as a fairly positive draw. It signals to me that I am on the right track and the suffering that I put myself through is passing and allowing me to grow. One of the lines in the reversal meaning stood out to me – “An opportunity for liberation or change may be on the way. Act on it.”

Card 2: The Place of the Well

6 of swordsThis card represents emotions, their role in my life, opportunities to develop emotional maturity, or influences on the heart.

Six of Swords

I’ve always liked this card and it tends to show up for me a lot. It often means a journey of some kind, often over water, which can be literal or metaphorical. In that way, it means healing and respite, an emotional journey that brings you to some place new, a place to rest.

One thing I took from this card that I haven’t really thought about before is the reminder that journeying, both physical and emotional involves growth and healing and, following that, allowing time to rest and recuperate. Today, I watched a TedTalk on emotional hygiene. The psychologist states that we value the body more than the mind so much so that we teach children to brush their teeth and cover a cut, but we are never taught to take care of our psychological health. This is a good reminder to take time for self care.

Card 3: The Place of the Sword

page of pentaclesThis card represents the role of intellect, clarity, discrimination, and the ability to judge between courses of action. This covers the role of thinking in my life, opportunities for mental development, and influences on my thoughts and judgment.

Princess/Page of Pentacles

Princess or Page cards are about new beginnings, especially that stage where you are still full of hope and intention. Pentacles are about the material world and material manifestations, but this card in particular talks about starting a new phase of creativity, study, and self-reliance, all begun in a good-natured way. The message of the card states to focus on both the seeds of of what you are creating as well as the manifestation.

I’m still ruminating on this card, but my initial thoughts on this center on this blog I have created. This is, more or less, a digital manifestation of what I hope will be a productive spiritual journey. It’s keeping me writing on a regular basis, which I am glad of, however, the point of it is that I spend some time and energy really delving into my spiritual side. I feel, right now, like I don’t fully understand this card, but that it is reminding me to focus more on the spiritual aspect of my journey, to make sure it is not just the manifestation of posts as that would make for a shallow journey overall.

Card 4: The Place of the Stone

knight of swordsThis card represents the literal body and the role of sensation (the 5 senses) in my life. It covers how to improve health and influences on the physical world around me.

Prince/Knight of Swords

Prince or Knight cards tend to signify a lot of action, and, in the case of Swords, the action of intellect, which can be good (quick witted) or bad (not thought through). This card, specifically, mentioned a radical change in lifestyle or routine, whether it’s new friends or even a whole new life.

That’s a lot to chew on even in relation to the physical. Right now, I haven’t radically changed my eating or exercise habits, instead focusing on making small changes to improve my health and making them habit. Truth be told, that isn’t working very well for me, although I am slowly losing weight. Maybe it would be best for me to just radically alter my approach to health. I’m going to think on this a bit more.

Card 5: The Place of the Spirit

knight of cupsThis card represents exactly what it sounds like it represents, the soul and spiritual connection. This card is supposed to contain the gifts or advice of the transcendent, an idea or symbol to achieve wholeness, balance, integration, or the needs of the soul.

Prince/Knight of Cups, reversed

Ok, so part of this card’s description literally said, “an important phase in your spiritual journey.” It also talked about going into unsettling territory with artistic or poetic inspiration and not being afraid of it. Part of the reversal portion warns against deception , specifically hiding from yourself or others. I feel like this is more of a reminder not to get caught up in wanting this spiritual journey to be neat or pretty. It would be nice, but that’s not how it works.

There are two other things I’m taking from this card: the first is that I need to remember that, despite how much thinking I’m doing, this spiritual journey is about emotional healing (embodied by the suit of Cups), so I need to make sure I’m not logicking everything out and actually allowing myself to feel things. The second is that this kind of journey takes time. Of all the prince/knight cards, this one is the slowest. The horse is all but standing still and yet the man is barefoot, he has no intention of stopping.

Interpretation:

After laying out cards, I usually examine the relationships between them and any patterns that emerge. In this case, I have a lot of swords, which makes sense and is pretty normal for me – I spend a lot of time in my head. That being said, there’s two areas that are not swords, my soul card and, somewhat ironically, my thinking card. Both cards have elements of creativity, and, really, the Princess of Pentacles may be material, but she is still studious.

The Sword cards are all on the bottom of my reading, two of them have a lot of movement (with the Prince meaning literally action and that 6 of Swords signifying a journey) and they surround the third, which is pinned. This may mean that the key to unblocking my intuition is in moving out of my comfort zone and doing so thoughtfully.

I also have a lot of Court cards, two of which are princes, standing for action and movement. There’s a couple of ways for me to analyze this. None of the Court cards of from the same suit and none of the suits of the cards drawn match up with the elements for the spots they are in, neither do the elements of the rank of the cards match the elements of the placement. They do make up the last three cards of the drawing, with the Princess leading, then the Princes following behind. Additionally, one idea for reading the prince cards is to study what card their horsed are pointed at. Technically, both of my princes are pointed at the Princess, who is turned away from them. To me, this signifies that the best way for me to take action in improving my health and my spiritual journey is to study intently and look at what I want and how to manifest it.

That’s where I’m at for right now, but part of the purpose for doing a yearly reading is to see how things evolve and to meditate on the relationships between the cards. I’ll keep you posted with any updates or insights.

 

My 33rd Birthday

On Tuesday, I celebrated my 33rd Birthday. I use the term celebrate loosely, but the fact that I acknowledged it is progress. My birthdays more often than not either pass entirely uneventfully (a non-day) or they are full of nasty crap. Mostly hurricanes, but my birthdays have also included harsh break-ups, serious uterus issues, and scathing critiques of my character from people I care about. In addition to that, I’ve always felt like my biological age and my mental, emotional, and spiritual age don’t really line up and never have. All in all, I haven’t really bothered much with the aging process.

But this time, I took the day off and had a lot of cake. My parents took me out for a birthday dinner (I picked the Greek restaurant in town). And I did a few “birthday” things, which, for me, was a Tarot reading and a Solar Return chart.

If you’d like to know more, check out my additional little blog bits as I get them up.

Tarot Reading

Solar Return Chart

Part II: Living my Values

The 2nd part of a long response to Charlottesville, the general state of discourse, and my plan for working toward peace.

Another song for your listening pleasure

The harder part of this whole thing is living values and navigating what to do when the values conflict. It happens to all of us at one point or another and, most likely, we all fail to negotiate these instances cleanly and compassionately. I certainly didn’t the week of Charlottesville and, though I’m far from alone in that, I know I can do better and I know there are better ways.

The picture above is part of the Wiccan Rede, the part that I could fit on a parchment sheet for a project in school creating our own versions of illuminated texts, like The Book of Kells. There is one part I really need to work on: “Speak you little, listen much.” You’re probably nodding right now. Yeah…. shush, you.

Lucky for me, one of the lessons to be learned in Taurus is the value of patience and hardVIRGO MUG work. I just have to get past the stubborn side or maybe even use it keep at this. I am also lucky in that my Sun is in Virgo, because the archetype for Virgo is the Analyst, “piercing thought and winning eloquence” (she flatters, but I like it much better than the “critical bitch” we tend to get labeled with). Also, both Taurus and Virgo are Earth signs, meaning we are all about the practical and the physical. Words and intentions are nice and all and, yes, they matter, but when it really comes right down to it, what am I doing with it? What am I manifesting in this world?

It comes back to the question I asked in Part I. How do I both show tolerance and stand against intolerance without making things worse or being a hypocrite? So, I’ve been watching videos and reading articles that look at hate and extremism. Two, in particular, have been really helpful: one is an article by Christian Picciolini, a former skinhead, and the other was a TedTalk by Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church. They left their groups over time, but mostly because they were able to see the Other as human through conversations – one through music and the other over Twitter. And both of them found communities afterward with the people who they originally targeted for hate. I think Ms. Phelps-Roper sums up public discourse perfectly:

“We write off half the country as out-of-touch liberal elites or racist, misogynist bullies. No nuance, no complexity, no humanity.”

She also has a solution:

“The good news is it’s simple. And the bad news is that it’s hard. We have to talk and listen to people we disagree with. It’s hard because we often can’t fathom how the other side came to their positions. It’s hard because righteous indignation, that sense of certainty that ours is the right side is so seductive. It’s hard because it means extending empathy and compassion to people who show us hostility and contempt. The impulse to respond in kind is so tempting, but that isn’t who we want to be.”

There were four things her online conversationalists did that helped her to look past the rhetoric she had learned, 20 years of hate learned since infancy, and the elements of what she is talking about have shown up in talks by Christopher Picciolini as well.

Don’t assume bad intent.

We forget that people may actually have reasons or experiences that have led them to where they are. Are they representative of a whole? No, but no one has a whole picture. If we assume good or neutral intent, it’s a much better framework for discussion (paraphrasing here).

Ask questions.

It goes both ways and it needs to be an actual question rather than one asked in irony or asked rhetorically. We can’t refute what we don’t understand and we need to be open to hearing the flaws in our own argument to move forward toward understanding and reconciliation. Toward building something lasting.

Stay calm.

It’s easy and sometimes even satisfying to bite back, but it’s not productive. Refusing to escalate is hard, it can feel like we are conceding, but it can help. Suggestions given are changing the subject, telling a joke, recommending a book, or even just gently excusing yourself from the conversation. This is kind to both you and the person you are speaking with, giving you both a needed mental break. It’s one of the best communications skills listed in The Ethical Slut as well. As hard as it is to stay calm, we are talking about breaking down ideologies and that can leave a person lost and defensive. It’ll take time and kindness.

Make the argument.

We assume that our position is clear and right. That the other person should just instinctively get it and, if they don’t, they’re stupid, wrong, evil. We have to take the time to explain what our side is and the evidence for it. We have to allow for other people to poke holes in our arguments as well.

None of these things are possible with memes. Don’t get me wrong, a good political meme can be really funny, but I’ve lately taken to really analyzing them and not sharing them. It’s too easy, it’s not nuanced, and the automatic reaction is anger if it singles out a group you identify with. And, let’s be real here, there are big inconsistencies on both sides. Ideologies, much like people, are complicated. Memes can be funny, but not productive if we want resolve differences and build a future together.

political memes

I really believe that we are much more the same over all than we are different. We are all human, for all the good, the bad, and the neutral that means. A large portion of the talks I listened to are based on our tendency toward dehumanization of the Other. There was one more talk that affected me deeply over the last two weeks. Even the title made me uncomfortable: Our Story of Rape and Reconciliation. It involved a man and a woman, and the talk revolved around the day he raped her and the 17 years it took for the two of them to reconcile. It was so important for me to watch, because it took an act that, for me, produces a gut level reaction of disgust and anger and made the person who committed it human. Even so, I was relieved that the reconciliation was not a romantic one, but literally a healing experience, so they could both move on with their lives.

They admit their reconciliation would not work for everyone. It requires that both parties be able to have honest, open, and difficult conversations. It is hard work. Not everyone is ready or willing to do this work. But it is important to try. Thordis said something about the terms used in the sexual violence discussion, however, I think it is applicable to the political divide as well:

“How will we understand what it is in human societies that produce this violence if we refuse to recognize the humanity of those who commit it…?”

This does not mean that I think I can talk to a neo-Nazi and simply reason them out of hate by being nice to them. Far from it. There are studies that show that reason doesn’t work in these types of arguments. It may even legitimize that their hate into a further feeling of rightness. However, I don’t believe that everyone who voted for Trump, or even everyone who continues to support him, even after everything, even as unfathomable as it is to me, is a budding neo-Nazi or KKK member. Nor do I think I am going to talk any hard-core antifa members out of meeting violence with violence, partially because I can honestly see their point, even if I don’t agree.

So, here’s what I have done this week:

  1. I have apologized to most of the people I have attacked over the past few weeks with pointed comments made in response to memes. Mild as I may have considered them to be, they were still unfair to the people I have known for some time. There is still one I need to talk to, but I am still working up to that.
  2. I have read the Platform and About Us sections of both the KKK and Black Lives Matter websites. I have also read up on the various forms of neo-Nazis and antifa, which is harder because there are so many versions of both, some organized, some not. I still hold the same opinions about the groups as I did when I came to their pages, but the major difference is I can see how similar some of the talking points are to other platforms of people I actually know and know well. It wouldn’t take much misinformation or a few bad experiences with a group for these extreme opinions to form. Between you and me, that’s scary af.
  3. I have decided the best place for me to start my need for listening and conversation is in healing the divide that has come up between me and my own family and friends; the people I know who are part of the 90% in the middle rather than the extreme tails on each side.

So far there is still frustration, but overall I think I am having much better and more productive conversations. But, perhaps more importantly, I feel much more at peace and comfortable in the sense that I am actively practicing my values. I highly recommend the talks I have linked and also the information put out by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. They are non-partisan and have a lot of information on how this stuff works as well as links to other sources.

I am still exploring the best way to get involved moving forward, but, for now, I’m working on the “speak you little, listen much” portion of my beliefs. Thank you for reading.

 

Part I: Valuing What I Have…

A two part post in reaction to Charlottesville, division, and values.

A song for the background while you read

I have been chewing on this post most of the last two weeks. Charlottesville and the state of division and anger, not just in the US, not just on social media, but also living within me has been a near constant companion to my thoughts. It’s something I think I need to address and I have decided to address it in two parts. Sorry, in advance, this is long.

Let’s start with how this relates to my astrological path: The 2nd House is commonly known as the House of Possessions, or sometimes Wealth. It’s one of the first Houses you look at to determine a person’s relationship with money and the material. But there’s a lot more to it than that. This House encompasses everything you come into the world with that is not you, your attitude towards it, and what you value and choose to develop. This includes your Values and your Talents, for sure, but also your Heritage.

This House is ruled by Taurus, the bull, and I think this is very fitting. This is where we take what we have learned about ourselves in the House of Self and we commit to it in what we do and how we live. We form our value systems early, but slowly and, often, they are just a part of the physical environment we grow up in, incorporated organically. Our thought processes around these things are earthy and self-driven and our adherence to them is loyal, stubborn, passionate, and, often, lazy and unwilling to change. The energy of this House is Fixed, so there is a tendency to think everyone feels the same way we do, that everyone does (or should) value the same things. Sometimes we take for granted that we are living our values and we take attacks on and assumptions about our value systems quite personally.

You see where I’m heading here, maybe?

It’s a heavy thought: Where am I heading? Where are we heading? Is it true that we can’t know where we are going if we don’t know where we come from? My answers on this are divided, deeply personal, and a little troubling. And, lately, I get the sense that I’m not alone in that feeling, but everyone’s solution comes from a different place and a different stage of analysis.

charlottesville-protests
University of Virginia on Friday night. Those quiet people protesting around the statue? The sign says “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.” Five minutes with Google search.

It is really easy to blame others and defend ourselves, or at least, explain why we did something or why our version of something is nuanced. And, right after Charlottesville, there was an absolute crap-ton of that going on, something I cannot exempt myself from. At the same time, it’s been very difficult not to speak out harshly and, in some ways, the clarity of harsh words is needed. I think at least part of the problem is that this moment to speak up and stand up was long overdue. The division is so deep, the talk so polarized, that attempting a middle ground as a stance is seen on both sides as either an adoption of One or the Other, the direction dependent on where you started and who you are talking to.

I still feel like I’m on the right side of this whole thing – the Nazis and the KKK are wrong, Trump is supportive of many of their causes and has openly said racist and sexist things and advocated the use of violence as long as it is against those opposing him. I truly believe that his election has been an emboldening factor and that belief is easily confirmed in words of the neo-Nazis and the KKK themselves when they praise him. I find it ironic and hypocritical that a man who ran on a campaign of division, anger, and an Us v. Them mentality just wants everyone to fall in line and unify now. I do not find it surprising though. (If you are pissed off at this assessment, keep reading anyway, there’s a flip side.)

That being said, I have “liked” an awful lot of Punch a Nazi posts recently. Is that better? I feel it’s more justified because the only people I hate are bigots and I wouldn’t hate them if they stopped being bigots (whereas they will still hate me and/or people I care about regardless). The thing is that bigotry is a harsh brush with a tendency to coat the people standing next to it – and maybe it should – but…. and this is the tough question here…. am I really standing that far away from the brush?

What am I actually doing to combat racism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, xenophobia, and intolerance in general? And what should that combat look like? How do I practice tolerance while taking a firm stand against intolerance? How can I ask anyone to listen to me if I can’t listen to them? Where do I start? Who do I listen to?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Because I don’t just want to preach my values, I want to live them. In fact, both my Sun and my Mercury are in this House, almost right on top of each other and themselves ruled by Virgo and the House ruled by Leo, so, in a way, I actually have to live them. It is a literal planetary representation of “put my money where my mouth is.” My values and my expression of them as well as my critical assessment and demonstration of them are very large and very important parts of who I am.

So, I’m going to lay it out.

I believe in equality and freedom. Each and every one of us has the right to pursue happiness and define who we are and what we believe. Everyone should be allowed to follow their dreams.

Except….

I want to be clear here. This is an individual thing. If dressing up in a bear suit and living in the woods is your thing, go live your dream! If dressing up in a white hood and lynching people is your thing, fuck your dreams. That affects a lot more people than you and your lifestyle choices. This is the basic Golden Rule, reiterated through time and cultures around the world and, generally speaking, we still don’t do this, because, basically, we believe other people won’t. Funnily enough, the Golden Rule never mentions other people’s behavior.

I believe violence is not the answer.

Here’s where it belongs: UFC, martial arts exhibitions, self-defense classes, boxing, fencing, other regulated fighting sports, the arts (but not art that calls for it in actual life), video games and RPGs, BDSM scenarios… sensing a trend here? Controlled and agreed upon. The only other scenario I agree with is literal defense to save your life or another’s.

I believe love is more powerful than hate.

I have a hippy name; I have a hippy outlook. I’m not going to lie, though, hate is easy. Look at how many people who claim to love resort to hate and judgment. It’s painfully easy and, when you feel the person has earned it, it’s even easier. Loving is really, really hard. We pretend it’s not because falling in love can happen so fast and loving your family is kind of expected (warranted or not). But really loving? Seeing the flaws and hurts, looking past being hurt, and still doing what is healthy and growth-oriented? Loving yourself and loving the other person at the same time and acting like it? That shit is hard. It’s painful.

But we need it. Desperately.

I believe knowledge and learning are important.

This is how we improve. We have many examples of this kind of environment and what it leads to. We have seen what doesn’t work. We have seen terrible outcomes. So the question is, what haven’t we tried?

I believe people are complicated.

There are about 1000 tiny little ways that we perceive and think and experience that end up causing internal conflicts and reinforce habits. We continually assign meaning to other people’s actions and frequently ignore the potential meanings of our own. It takes awareness and practice to bring these things in line and keep them there. And it’s okay not to be 100% with this. It’s a growth thing. The point is to try.

I am aware that I am lucky in a lot of ways because my upbringing has made awareness, assessment, and adaptability much easier than it might have been otherwise. My parents both have a white, Midwestern heritage, but they’ve both traveled a lot and have curious minds, which they encouraged in me through discussion and reading. I know I am loved. I know all of my siblings are loved. I have a sibling with ADHD and a son with both ADHD and autism. Experiencing life with them has allowed me to grow in ways I would not have otherwise – they have provided me with perspective, patience, and a more open heart and mind. I am especially grateful for my little brother, who didn’t always get to experience the benefits of the gifts he planted in me.

My family has also never been particularly conventional. My mom was in the Army in the 80’s, when women didn’t learn hand-to-hand combat and did PT separately. She worked in Joint Forces Command as a general’s secretary because she was simultaneously respectful and courteous of but also didn’t give a shit about rank. My dad was a stay at home dad while we lived in Germany. They argued in German up until they figured out I was able to understand them. They practiced different religions and got divorced while I was young, which, at the time, was rare for our area, and we lived with my dad, which is rare for custody all around. I got to experience two very different parenting styles and two very different households.

Further back, my paternal grandmother went to school for her Masters in the 50’s even though she was already married and had a child. Generally, that wasn’t approved of and people talked, but she had support anyway. She was allowed to go and she had the resources to go. Both are huge things, amazing privileges, and she made the most of them.

My maternal grandfather came from northern Missouri hillbilly stock and tried to get away from it while my maternal grandmother’s family came from mid-Iowa and wanted to be hillbillies (they had a band that featured the word in their name). I never got to know my grandfathers; they both died before that was an option, but they left my family in the care of some independent, strong women. And I am grateful.

Another generation back, my maternal great-grandmother moved herself and all her children across the country in a covered wagon without the help of her husband, and, before that, my paternal great-great-grandmother packed all of her possessions into a sturdy wooden trunk and moved from Germany to the US – that trunk still sits in my grandmother’s living room, serving as a coffee table. She’s 92 and still lives on her own, by the way. Every Christmas, we search for the pickle on the tree for the chance to win an extra present, a uniquely German American tradition that was packaged as ancient German custom.

xmaspickle

This is my heritage and it has provided me many opportunities and the support to pursue them to the best of my ability. It has afforded me a position of security, strength, and unconventionality that not everyone gets to experience. I am proud of my heritage and grateful for it.

But that certainly doesn’t mean I think anyone else’s is less important or more or less American than mine. Which brings me to Part II: Living my Values.