Partnering with it can be a powerful way forward.
This article is cross-posted from my weekly newsletter, The Sunday Soother, a newsletter about modern spirituality and useful tips for creating more meaning in your life that goes out every Sunday morning. To get more content about how to infuse your life with thoughtfulness, reflection, and meaning, subscribe here.
A few weeks ago I was hanging out with a coworker who was interested in learning more about tarot. As we drank wine and ate cheese and laughed on her balcony, I explained the basic concepts of the archetypes, suits, spreads, and more. Eventually, everybody always wants to be read for — and I love to do it — so I pulled a spread for her in response to her question, “How can I be more committed to my creative work? What is holding me back?”
The spread suggested several things, but in the place where a card is meant to suggest what tool to use to move forward appeared a particularly interesting card — the eight of swords. The card shows a woman loosely bound and blindfolded, surrounded by swords that are stuck in the ground. It may seem like she is a prisoner of some sort, but if you look more closely, you’ll see that if she took off her loose ropes, unblindfolded herself — both of which she is perfectly capable of doing — she could simply walk out of the circle of swords. Water pools at her feet, suggesting intuition and emotions she cannot see. She does not know her own power in her own situation.
Hmm, I thought. How to interpret this card as a tool to move forward. The card, and the situation at hand, screamed to me that my coworker was filled with doubt about her creative talents and what to do with them. And then it struck me — doubt was the tool to move forward. Doubt — the concept of it, how it played out her in life, what it looked like to her — should be what she next explored in her art.
The popular illustrator and artist Mari Andrew recently wrote this on Instagram:
When I was trying to get my book published four years ago, I got rejected so many times that I started making paintings of all the rejection emails — to turn my shame and disappointment into something beautiful. It didn’t really help that much. But it made me laugh, and made me feel like I had some control over my own story (and both are essential to combatting shame feelings!).
And Jessica Dore, the eloquent Twitter tarot muse, wrote this about the eight of swords:
Yes, you can live a whole life avoiding things that might hurt you, scare you or make you uncomfortable. But with the passage of time, a life built in this way will begin to feel less like a life + more like a prison cell. The medicine for avoidance is acceptance.
So my question for you today is this: What is your eight of swords? What is imprisoning you, that you refuse to take off your blindfold to look at, so that you stay safe in your circle of steel? Is it doubt? Is it pain? Is it love? Is it tenderness?
First, say it slowly out loud to yourself. Then, draw a picture of it. Or write a letter to it, or a story about it. Sing a song you made up about it or do a dance about how it feels.
What is the famous Carrie Fisher quote? “Take your broken heart, make it into art.”
Take your pain, and become its partner. Look it in the eye, and say, “It’s time we got to know each other better.”