The first time I had my fortune told, it cost me two gold tokens in a slot that woke up Esmeralda. She was a torso and a head that shook to life, rumbling the kiosk that held her sleeping, until someone needed their fortune told. My Someone won’t let me have my Tarot Cards read. There was a great deal when we lived in Nashville just up the street– $10 for one palm. At least, I think that was a good deal. My Someone wouldn’t let me find out. My Someone, much like me, is afraid that what the reader will find is my inevitable early end.
But Esmeralda seemed like a good first step, as we stood in a huge grown-up fun house in Wisconsin called The House on the Rock. She was safe. Maybe because she was a doll. There was spindly concertina music and a hint at thunder, the lights flashing and Esmeralda groaning, calling out “I am Esmeralda!” waving her plastic hands over a deck of cards. Then, the machine shuddered and went black again, putting Esmeralda back to sleep with an anticlimactic shuffle of paper, which slipped to a lower compartment. It was my fortune.
You have had a lot of trouble, for which others are largely responsible, but you are now reaching a point when you will be able by your own efforts, to control your own affairs. You are not easily understood, as you keep much to yourself. You are fond of the fine arts and like to be alone a great deal. You some times have a desire to destroy things, especially in your young days, for which you are sorry afterward. Be careful of the figure 7 appears on any money transaction and keep your eyes open to some of your “would be” friends.
One of your lucky numbers is 7.
Drop another coin in the slot and maybe my next prophecy card will suit you better.
Esmeralda tells all at The House on the Rock, Spring Green, Wisconsin.
It worked out to be true, of course. Much like reading the Bible, you can create anything from a liturgy, a few hand waves, and some sacred words. It would go on that my “would be” friend that came to mind would break up with us in the next month, and that my first money transaction marked November 7– a parking meter receipt– would unluckily have me walking into a pet ER with my dog, and out without her. But the first bit, the lot of trouble that isn’t my own, that could be something anyone could say. Except Esmeralda gave it to me.
My friend Piper says that it is important to take time to feel sorry for yourself, because no one else is going to give it to you. It is important, like animals, to take the time to lick your wounds, to assess the damage, to boo-hoo and sleep and roll around in the dark crying out that you are in pain. The world isn’t going to help you do that. Your friends, your family, even your Someone can’t do it for you. It’s not their pain. They have their own. And no one can do you the justice you can do for yourself of grieving.
When we don’t depend on someone else to feel our sorrow– when we really commit to our sorrow– we understand that we are the only ones who can dig ourselves out. Or, be able to, by our own efforts, control our own affairs.
And often, there waiting, are our friends and our family and our Someone, who had been there all along, and are ready with you to get into the work of What Is Next. The journey of pain is much like the journey of birth and the journey of death– we do it alone. But standing by are helpers, rooting for us, hoping we figure this one out.
Last spring, I went on a journey of pain, alone, confronting a few dark memories. Or rather, four years of real memories in which a man– a 30-something worship leader in my house church– took advantage of 15 year old me. And 16 and 17 and 18 and 19 year old me. When I came through that journey, I was able to use words like “molestation” and “rape” for the first time. It took me 15 years to say that. It took 15 years to admit that I had a lot of trouble, in which others were largely responsible.
That he was solely responsible.
32 year old me is sick of this shit.
Last week, at a music festival in Michigan, we loaded our gear out and started driving when a woman flagged us down. She loved our set, she said. And she wanted to give us a free Tarot card reading. I looked at my Someone. Thumbs up.
Colleen offered me a seat as she shuffled her deck, splitting it in three and letting me stack it back up again. Then she laid out my cards, explaining as she went. Justice, Judgement, Death– they all showed themselves throughout my 8 cards. And then, Colleen explained–
“You’ve had a lot of trouble in your life– you’ve had people do things that were very unfair, that weren’t your fault in your past. And people judge you for it. There was no justice for you. You have a long road ahead, full of burdens that you have to carry alone. But then, a new chapter will begin.”
I wondered if she spoke to Esmeralda.
“I can cut the deck again,” she said, “I can cut it three, four more times– a hundred. But it’ll still come out the same. You’ve got a lot behind you, but even more ahead.”
She isn’t wrong.
I am pushing ahead, now. I am constructing a plan. I am working out my anger. I am licking my wounds. I am uprooting fear. I’ve allowed it to sprout in every facet of my life, and now I am actively ripping it out again. And it is not enough, anymore, simply to identify it by name. Like Esmeralda said, I can be prone to destroying things– especially my young days. And it is time to destroy these roots. I sometimes complain that it’s unfair– that this was not trouble I am responsible for making. I dwell. It’s a deep cavern, and it’s lonely. But then I get up again, and keep pulling up these roots. And as I am pulling them up, it seems possible that through my own efforts, I will be in control of my own affairs.
I don’t need to cut the deck again to know it’s true.