I first had my tarot cards read when I was 25. It was May, I was in New Orleans for the Jazz Fest with Chris, and we were walking through Jackson Square. It was dark, and something pulled at me and said, do this. Chris stood next to me, looking uncomfortable, as I drank in every moment. I don't remember the specifics of all the cards or the spread, but I do remember looking down and seeing The Tower card jump back out at me. The reader told me that I could expect, hard, swift, sudden change. That I was going to lose a lot of what I had known. That I would grow, but it would hurt. I mostly have a strong memory of going into that reading with utter confidence that she would tell me I was about to get engaged, and start the next, deliriously happy phase of my life, and Chris would hear, and he would whip out the engagement ring I was sure he had with him and propose right there, in the dark. There was no ring (it came years later, when we were different people) and there was no happy shiny message about the future. There was a hard truth about where I was, and what I had to do. I was looking for someone to tell my future, and that's what I got.
I had my second reading in the spring of 2016. I had just finished my PhD, was about to move to Pittsburgh with no plan, no job, and no network. I was too tired (and I know now, in a state of deep self-protective mental patterns) to even be afraid of all the change on the horizon and I went to a reader in a bookshop downtown. I tried to be more attentive to the cards this time, and wrote them down as best I could remember when I got home, but only two cards really stand out in my memory (my post it note is long lost): the Eight of Wands sitting on top of The Devil. The reader described the energy as something like "all systems are go, but you're addicted to something that's holding you back". I remember imagining someone trying to fly, but being held by chains around their ankles, straining and tiring themselves out trying to move when they needed to just sit down, and work on loosening their restraints.
I've always been drawn to languages - words were my first, and most potent, magic. I could make things happen with my words, create whole worlds, change realities, start things, and end them as well. I remember being 9, preparing to go to France on a study abroad trip, and being blown away by the idea that a banana was a banana, but there were different words for it all around the world. Calling a banana by another name didn't impact its banana-ness, but knowing the right name in the right space made all the difference. You don't study images for almost ten years unless you're inexplicably and maddeningly drawn to the power they have to both transcend language while being utterly bound up in it at the same time.
Tarot feels like a language to me. 78 cards that can combine in an infinite number of ways to tell all the stories in the world. For me, they've never really told the future as much as they've given me language to understand the story I'm telling myself, and is being told, about my present moment. They're a way to describe how I feel. They're a way I get nudges to look at other parts of my story, and not just the same eight things I always feel or say about myself. They're a shift in perspective, a description from a new narrator. The experience is still mine, but I learn so much having it reflected back to me. The mirror isn't perfect. Sometimes I come to my cards and they refuse to assemble into any sort of meaning whatsoever. Writing is like that, too, though. My cards give me a chance to connect into the part of myself, and the part of everything, that is language-less, and then they give me a place to start when I'm trying to take those lessons and move them into my messy, complicated, beautiful day to day life.
And when I read for other people, I get a sense of being the messenger. I'm a channel between what they know already, and what they could be open to hearing. You ever have that feeling that you were meant to hear a certain song, or read a certain passage, or have a certain conversation because it was exactly what you needed to hear at the exact right moment for it to sink in? That's the feeling that I aim for - another way to get the messages we need to unblock, unstick, move forward, or feel supported (or all of the above!!).
It isn't about telling the future - no one can do that. It's about opening up to nudges that can help you move closer to a more aligned something right now. My teacher, Lindsay Mack, calls tarot "a very humble tool to stay with what is with our eyes wide open." It helps you stay here, with what is here, right now. It helps you say - What is happening? Where can I turn my attention? How can I better support myself? How can I give myself what I need? How do I just be with this, and not try and run from it or change it or overcome it?
We learn more when our eyes are open, when we're paying attention, when we're actively engaged in our life instead of waiting for the next thing to happen, the better thing, the end of something. And tarot can help you do that by saying: this is what is here. These are some options for moving in and around what is right here. It is okay to be right here, because there are lessons and gifts for you right where you are.