I’ve come to New Orleans on a research trip for my current dissertation chapter (more on that in another post). New Orleans has been on my list of places that I’ve wanted to go for a long time and so it feels kinda surreal to be here right now. I knew that coming on this trip was going to change me. It was something that I felt intuitively before I left. Part of that feeling comes from recognizing my own privilege as a white woman from Canada coming to the American South. This is heightened by the fact that I’m here to conduct research on sex education and teen pregnancy (I really will say more about that in another post). But the other part of that feeling comes from the fact that I really am my astrological sign. Cancers love home and stability. Travelling is appealing but after a week or two we’re usually ready to come back home to our beds and clothes hung in closets. I’m sure this isn’t true of all Cancers — and I mean you can certainly take your astrology with a grain of salt — but I have yet to meet one of those Cancers.
So to plan a solo trip, where you’ll be gone for two weeks, doing research that is unlike anything you’ve ever done before. Well that’s a big deal when you’re a homebody who craves stability. And yet something has shifted in me and that lack of stability doesn’t feel as scary. At the start of the year when Carly Boyce, aka Tiny Lantern, aka the Feelings Witch, read my tarot the card that came up as my card for the year ahead was Reception. Carly was using the Collective Tarot, which has renamed the Major and Minor Arcana. So the Reception Card is actually the Empress in more traditional decks. The Empress represents the mother. I like to think of this symbol more figuratively, as I’m not an actual mother. She’s a nurturer. She offers nourishment and security. She’s ruled by Venus, the planet of love, creativity, fertility, art, harmony, luxury, beauty, and grace. If you know me, or have been reading my blog for a long time, you’ll know that nurturing is basically my middle name.
There are so many things that I love about how the Collective Tarot reimagines this card — starting with the fact that it replaces the traditionally feminine imagery with something that isn’t gender-specific: a hand with a body that could be any gender in its palm. And instead of focusing on nurturing others, the Collective Tarot talks about how we can provide ourselves with the nurturing that we’re so used to giving others. When we begin to nurture ourselves, we can let down our walls. Instead of having a closed fist, we can open it up to let go of what we don’t need and let in what we do. One website notes how the card asks us to receive what comes our way and to open ourselves up to “a practice of acceptance, of faith, trust in the universe to provide for the seeds we drop into its fertile ground.”
As someone who experienced a lot of traumatic changes when I was a child, letting go of control and opening up my palm to whatever comes might be one of the scariest things you could ask of me. But that’s been my project in therapy since I began almost 10 years ago. With this trip coming up, I told myself that this would be a different experience for me. That I’d be open to whatever possibilities came my way. But one thing that’s hilarious about breaking a pattern and becoming a lot more chill than you used to be is that it’s hard to not freak out about being so chill. “Like, why I am so chill?” This is literally a question I’ve asked myself a bunch of times. And while I know that part of the answer is almost a decade of therapy…there felt like there was something else, something that was a deeper part of me that also played a part.
When I went to have my tarot read at Earth Odyssey in the French Quarter of New Orleans, my reader, a wonderfully intuitive woman named Kay, told me that I was “a manifesting queen.” And when she said that I felt like I had the language to express that missing piece. This was my first time having my cards read by a total stranger. For a long time that idea scarred me. I used to think that if I had my cards read and was told what my future held, I’d become this super anxious person inspecting every human and every act as a sign of my future manifesting itself. And that kinda doesn’t feel like a great way to live.
But after seeing Kay, I’m not so sure if that’s what I was afraid of. I think what I’d been afraid of was having a stranger see me without ever having had a conversation. It’s terrifying to feel seen. We all want it, but it also comes with some of the deepest vulnerability we could experience. And so there’s always the danger of being seen and the person deciding that they don’t like what they see — not necessarily because there’s anything wrong with you. In fact, there probably isn’t. What they don’t like is some sort of reflection, some glimmer of their fear or hurt or person that they want to be.
That doesn’t mean you’re perfect. We all have our shit: the stuff that comes with a history of trauma. But I think that when a person really sees you, they understand that your shit is you and isn’t you. It’s a part of your history, but it doesn’t (have to) define you. That person will see the work you’ve done to process that hurt and they’ll understand that the work is never done. They’ll refuse to put you on a pedestal, to turn you into a martyr. In other words, they won’t exploit you or idealize you. Exploit: “To take advantage of in an unfair or unethical manner; to utilize for one’s own ends.” I always love looking at the etymology of words, their original and now obsolete uses. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, exploit used to mean “to interpret or explain; to give an account of” which helps us see how exploitation is linked to narrative, to the stories we want to tell and wish to hear — and how those stories may not always be true. To exploit also meant to satisfy or fulfill (a need, a desire).
I think that idealizing a person is a form of exploitation. It’s an act of turning some part of what makes you who you are into — to use a Marxist phrase — use value. We all love stories of survival, but we need to remember that survival is ongoing and that when we turn survival into a story of overcoming the odds, we do that for ourselves, not for the other person. This is why I get so angry when I tell people my story and they respond with “you’re so strong,” or “you’re such an inspiration.” What you don’t realize when you say that is that you eliminate any space for me to fumble and fail.
Yesterday I walked into my appointment with Kay and the first thing she said to me was “you have such an open heart. You’re really at peace with your inner child.” And she’s right. The first time I ever went to couple’s therapy, our therapist used the language of “inner child” to help my ex (then partner) and I to respond to each other and ourselves with more compassion. It gave us a tool during our conflicts. We could ask the other if that was our inner child talking. The inner child is a useful metaphor for thinking about how things that happen in our childhood stay with us and shape our hopes, fears, and desire. So with all of the instability in my house — first with my mother’s death, then my dad’s decline into disability and our eventual eviction — I crave stability and security. Change is my arch nemesis because as a child all change was bad. But that isn’t the case now. As I approach the final year of my PhD I have NO IDEA what lies ahead. But instead of feeling terrified, I feel excited.
When Kay looked at my cards and said to me “you’re a manifesting queen,” I almost lost my breath as my body responded “Yessssssss.” In the tarot the manifesting queen is the Queen of Wands. Wands are associated with the element of fire, so the Queen is passionate, energetic, and gets shit done (it’s also cool to note that my rising sign is Sagittarius and my Moon sign is Aries — both fire signs). While all queens, Kay told me, have the power to manifest, the Queen of Wands have have to work hard at all to make things happen. In the tarot the Queen embodies nurturing, feminine (and here I take this more on an energetic levee, not as an outward appearance) and she embraces life. So when you add the wands into the picture, what you get is someone who likes to encourage others. You get a leader and a teacher. The Queen of Wands is optimistic, upbeat, and creative.
And so it makes sense that Kay told me that I’ll be creating something big soon or that I’m already in the process of doing so. “Writing,” she says. “That’s what I see you doing.” Now I’ve always been a “take everything with a grain of salt” kind of person. But like when you sit down with a total stranger and she says SO MANY THINGS about you that are 100% true, without missing a step…that’s some magic. There were other things that Kay told me about myself and my future, but what moved me the most was that she expressed what I’d needed to hear. Not “you’re a survivor”; but “you’re a manifesting queen.”
Now it’s my job to figure out what kinds of things I want to manifest in my life (I’ve been instructed by Kay to meditate 20 minutes a day — a practice that I’ve long been trying to integrate into my life). At the end of the day, even the most devote reader knows that the cards aren’t everything. They can be a guiding tool, but you’re the one who decides what resonates and what doesn’t. And more importantly, you’re the one who can decide what actions you want to take. In other words, you’re your own manifesting queen.
This post was written by Margeaux