I am a 38 year old woman, and in the past two months, there have been drastic changes in my life. I am living alone for the first time, and I am single — another first for my adult life.
I don’t really know how to do this. I don’t know how to live lovelessly and alone. I am, by my nature, a loving and sensitive person. I have always cared for the people around me more than I have cared for myself, and even my self-care has been grounded in care for other people, so that I would not be a burden (and since I struggle with depression and CPTSD, this has been a real concern at times). But now, I am the only person around. While I have a lot of time to care for myself these days, mostly I feel like it is pointless, and so I don’t. I eat poorly, I stay in when I know I should go out, I mismanage my time with void-filling activities like too much TV, and I have no energy or desire to reenter the world of dating, even though I know it is, for me, a fast track toward a purposeful life.
How do I live for myself and not for others, when living for others is all I have ever known? At 38 years of age, do I even stand a chance at figuring this out, or is this just what the rest of my life looks like?
Lost and Lonesome
Questions like these remind me why it’s been so useful to lend querents a veil to wear; very few whom I’ve sat down with face-to-face have been able to open up this honestly, or offer such a detailed view of themselves.
My dear veiled, beautiful one, I first want to congratulate you on knowing a life of love among others. When we’re doing the self-lacerating work of personal reckoning, it’s too easy to overlook these simple accomplishments, which our younger selves would surely be so proud of. For all-time, you have already proven yourself lovable, and capable of being loved.
Depression and other factors rob us of feeling any warmth from those embers. Unless the fire is actively raging, it’s meaningless to us. But embers can be useful, and so can ashes. I wish self-awareness of one’s depression was enough to counter its effects. I wish we could just start a fire in ourselves, or put one out, as easily as we operate the stove.
Alas, we are very slow to change, and often dependant on other people’s influence to feel any warmth at all.
You say living for others is all you’ve ever known. I have good news for you! As you go through this lonely and painful healing process, you’re still living for others. As we speak, there are people out there whose paths await your crossing, scattered across your future like clusters of stars, just beyond the range of your telescope. Your ability to help them in their hour of need, and your ability to receive and return their love (indeed the best gift one can give) could depend entirely on your next steps.
If you’re not there for them at a crucial time — if you succumb to depression, pain, illness that might have otherwise been avoided — perhaps no one will be. In a very real way, showing up for yourself during these awkward times is the first step back onto a path toward showing up for others.
That’s the potency of the Queen of Cups in this draw. She steps into the unknown all the time, as an expression of her elemental composition. So shall you, Querent! And if it were truly just up to her, she might wallow forever in these depths, or simply decline to surface, content among her own mysteries or else unconvinced of the outside world’s need for them.
However, as a Queen, she’s obligated to more than that. The watery Cups cards are also about communication, and thus she bears the responsibility of surfacing to tend to the needs of her subjects, poor earthbound creatures such as they are, translating her arcane gleanings into wisdom, leadership, and tangible forms of care. In this sense, it’s the card of divination itself, commenting on the rewards and also the seductions (and dangers) awaiting those who dare to dive.
As Joanna Newsom sings:
I know we must abide
each by the rules that bind us here:
the divers, and the sailors, and the women on the pier.
But how do you choose your form?
How do you choose your name? How do you choose your life?
How do you choose the time you must exhale,
and kick, and rise?
This is your time, Querent. To exhale, and kick, and rise. When you’ve been underwater long enough, the ocean’s cthonic mysteries become so familiar that it’s the surface that becomes “the great unknown.” But it will matter to someone that you did it anyway, however unimaginable that might seem now from your mermaid perch.
Obviously it’s all worthwhile for what this gives to you. I’m only framing it otherwise because I know what cold comfort those words can be during a depression. Numbness settles in, and you can’t feel your own heart anymore. This is why you mustn’t fault yourself for giving into appetites and cravings. Sometimes they’re all that seems real. Forgive yourself for that, and then on days when you’re feeling stronger, explore other forms of comfort. The crutch serves its purpose during the healing process, but getting back on your feet means periodically laying it aside, testing yourself, overcoming the awkwardness of supporting yourself. Stepping into the unknown!
More good news from the cards: that Six of Wands indicates that a few early successes await these halting attempts; nothing major, but perhaps enough to rekindle some faith in the process. And then, and then! The road rises to meet you in the Ace of Wands, which firmly establishes a new purpose in your life — one which you’ll be strong enough to grasp, by then, if you show up for it. Queen, there is your scepter!
Embrace the slow track to a purposeful life, my dear veiled Querent. You’re at this threshold now, after all these years, right on time.
Can you handle hearing that your avoidance and self-comforting bad habits are very, very normal? Have you checked in with yourself to see if there are more specific forms of comfort that you could make available, the kind other people have never been quite able to satisfy? That’s one way of being good company and an attentive lover to your lonely self; later you’ll be able to take refuge in these glittering sea-caves even during times of love and companionship.
Can you handle hearing that it’s truly impossible to imagine, from this point, what the rest of your life looks like? Unless you decide this is it, and then end up proving yourself right.
Please keep the veil, it looks so fetching on you, and is de rigueur for every Queen of Cups. Wear it with pride, in hopes that the best parts of you — and of the world outside it — remain only partly obscured.
A R C A N A L O G U E
Hi! It’s me again!
The question I have is: I have lost a considerable amount of work over the past few months that has forced me to push towards a series of long term career goals rather than focusing on freelance and other short term work.
Along with that, it feels like the sturdiest structures in my life are falling apart. I’m not sure what to prioritize or how to survive in the short term, although all these incredibly fast paced changes are pushing me towards re-examining how I spend my time and on what.
How do I go about handling these changes? Will things slow down? What will provide me the most stability? How do I know what to prioritize in this moment?
Dear [bloody thumbprint],
We experience losses like these — even ones that push us forward — as danger or even violence against us, depending how invested we’ve become in the status quo, in the story we imagined we were telling. It’s a reminder of just how little control we have over our own lives, how vulnerable we are to the caprices of others. And then instead of executing our plans the way we’d designed them, our decisions end up being influenced by our reactions, which casts doubt upon them before the die’s even cast.
I’m truly sorry you’re in this position. I’ve gone ahead and drawn four cards, one for each of your questions. As a diviner, I tend to think that more cards = more rope to hang myself with, but in this case I feel very supported by the results, and I hope you will too.
“How do I go about handling these changes?”
The Queen of Swords answers this in a couple of ways. It hints that these events are activating trauma from past experiences. You’re battle-seasoned and better equipped to brawl than ever, but it still stirs up feelings related to past betrayals and disappointments. These threaten to cloud your judgment, and could possibly do more damage than anything fortune could contrive to throw at you. This Queen’s “sadder but wiser” quality is a source of her strength, but it also makes it harder for her to foresee any positive outcomes, leaving her vulnerable to self-fulfilling prophecies of doom.
So, like… don’t do that, I guess?
What this tells me is that until things stabilize, some of the most important conversations you’ll have will involve talking yourself down from ledges and backing away from ultimatums. Remember that the Queen’s sword is meant to be ceremonial: it’s not that she can’t expertly wield it — go on, try her! It’s that ideally, it should never come to that. Her true strengths lie elsewhere.
“Will things slow down?”
No, they will not. And that’s largely a good thing, because that Ace of Wands signals terrific things on the horizon, some of it resulting from all the pushing you’re doing, but some purely just because.
But that’s precisely why you need to pace yourself and tame your thoughts now… because if you’ve worn yourself to tatters by the time you reach that threshold, the velocity of good fortune will be indistinguishable from the violence of bad fortune. Does that make sense?
“What will provide me the most stability?”
As much as it might seem counterintuitive to take your eye off the ball, career-wise, my deck recommends an elemental shift in focus. Interacting honestly with your own simplest forms of pleasure and emotional fulfillment, using this as a benchmark for the quality of your life, and making it a priority instead of treating it like a guilty thing that distracts you from IMPORTANT MATTERS.
During chaotic times, this can provide the purest reflection of who we really are, and why we’re doing any of this in the first place. Challenge yourself to soften in response to all this; you’re hard enough already. If you’re in a relationship, this could be a good time to knit up unravelled edges and find harmony in your shared goals; it also provides your partner with an opportunity to care for you when you truly need it.
If you’re not in a relationship (or not that kind), then you need to regularly set aside time to gather generosity in your own heart for yourself, as well as others, in whatever form that may take. Cooking can be a good one! Maybe you have other ideas. Just listen for opportunities to lay your troubles aside (what a relief!) and busy your hands with something that has nothing to do with solving your very real, very practical problems.
Remember, without emotional equilibrium that tough-talking, rough-riding Queen of Swords can become her own worst enemy, as well as everyone else’s.
“How do I know what to prioritize in this moment?”
If you’re doing the things I just described, the moment will speak to you. And you’ll be able to trust what it says, and respond, without agonizing over each tiny detail, and how it affects the Big Picture. Without having to know.
This could become a way of life for you, Querent. I think that’s the significance in pulling two Aces in four-card reading. I think you’re on the precipice of taking full responsibility for how your life turns out, fast pace and occasional leg-sweeps notwithstanding, and being satisfied with the results.
I think the strain you’re feeling now is a cry that deserves to be answered, even if it requires additional energy put into reorganizing things. And you’re correct, that invites further speculation into how resources are currently allocated, and may advise changes you’d hoped you woudn’t have to make.
Is it more threatening to imagine that all this work won’t turn out to be worth the effort… or that it will?
A R C A N A L O G U E
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Images from the Dalí Tarot