September 14, 2018

I'm taking a break to grow cabbages.

This is the ill-fated cabbage merchant from the Avatar: the Last Airbender,
but at least in this screenshot the feeling is mutual.
Once upon a time, there was this Roman emperor, see? And things got real busy for him in the Caesar-business, so busy in fact that he gave up his throne and retired to his farm so other people who cared more about these kinds of things could fight over who gets to be in charge. Well, things didn't go so well for the people who took over all his business, and they eventually decided that they needed his help running things again. They sent out some legionnaires to invite him back, but when they found him the old guy said, "No way, I'm too happy growing cabbages, which are fucking awesome by the way."

I've never been a Roman emperor, but at least in the Satanic sense I'm definitely the ruler of my own self. The past couple years I've been working real hard at running a household while also managing my stress, and time after time the answer to both those tasks is, "Do less of other stuff." And you know, since I've cut back my YouTube channel, blogging, and Tarot work, I've never been happier.

All of which is a long way of saying that I'm taking a break from blogging to grow cabbages for a while, and I anticipate coming back to regular blogging in January 2019.

See you in the New Year.

September 07, 2018

What is Tarot Good For?

via Spy vs Spy
I've come a long way with Tarot over the past 15-plus years, and the figurative distance is so far that I often forget why I started in the first place. Well, that's not entirely true: I do remember why I started, and it's because a friend bought my first Tarot deck for me as a gag gift on my birthday. Joke's on me, huh? But I stuck with it not because I enjoyed reliving the joke, but because I think I knew even at the beginning two things which have stuck with me all this time: the feeling that I can't trust myself, and the feeling that I can't understand others.

My entire life I have felt out of place and have had difficulty relating to other people, and I think that this is in large part due to the fact that my father was an officer in the Marine Corps and our whole family moved to a new part of the country (and once even to another country) every 2-3 years. I can't speak for all military brats everywhere, but at least for me the experience taught me that making friends was more trouble than the effort was worth because I would be gone before the friendship ever turned into anything -- or I would just have to be painfully ripping up roots if I let them sink deep. For me this resulted in having an insular family life and as a consequence probably not enough social contact with other people my age. This meant that as a teenager and young adult, I struggled to understand other people's perspectives and how to develop meaningful friendships.

As for the other part, as left young adulthood I frequently struggled with mental and emotional health. I don't particularly want to go into the details, partly because I don't think you're that interested in hearing about them, but also because I'm don't think the details matter very much in this context, but the point is that I frequently struggled to find a sense of personal balance. This struggle for balance is best characterized by the way that when I felt good, I wouldn't be able to see that I was over-extending myself, and when I felt bad I would run out of either stamina or motivation to sustain the things I set in motion and be forced to watch them crumble around me. I've described this feeling in the past as the struggle between perpetual optimist Charlie Brown and his attempt to kick the football which the perpetual trickster Lucy, despite her promises to the contrary, always pulls it out from under him at the most moment.

However, I often also think that my moods are adequately described by the "Spy vs. Spy" comic printed by Mad Magazine because both spies are equally capable of killing the other, both take turns obliterating each other, and neither one appears to be willing or capable of making a choice to stop the fight. Both distrust each other, both are constantly looking for the other around every corner, and both believe that they'll always win. Replace "Spy vs. Spy" with "Mood vs. Mood," and you get an idea what my life is like.

Combine my learned habits as a military brat with whatever it is that I still don't understand which has caused me so many ups and downs as an adult, and you get me: a person who is frequently frustrated with other people because he struggles to understand and relate to them, but who also is frequently frustrated with himself because he distrusts his own mind and struggles to keep the promises he makes even to himself.

When you see me in that context, I think it becomes clear to you why I was initially attracted to the fantasy of psychic divination and its promise of revealing the unknown, but also why after so many other things have fallen away from my life I've continued to keep the Tarot as it really exists: a means to force paradigm shifts, step outside of myself, consider my thoughts and moods from another perspective, and think about myself and other people without relying on my own personal instabilities.

Of course, at least for me the natural conclusion to this discussion is one that many other people have already pointed out: maybe I really can't trust myself? Even if the Tarot is random and no better than throwing dice, it's an effective tool for causing my train of thought to jump the rails. Yes, it's going to be a big mess when the train crashes, but often enough the process of putting it back on the rails helps me decide if I want to change direction, speed up, slow down, or just stop completely.

For a guy who continues to struggle for certainty and avoid over-reaching, that makes Tarot a damn fine tool for self-care.

September 01, 2018

September 2018: The Man Behind the Curtain

via The Wizard of Oz (1939)
September is too early to write about my year-in-review, but considering some of the changes that are happening right now it seems as good a time as any to look back and think forward -- or think back and look forward? Whichever and however the case, 2018 so far has been a whirlwind for me and to be honest I need to get out of the weather. I've never been very good at managing my time, and as a personal project in 2018 I've been working hard a changing that fault. In the process, one of the biggest things I've learned about myself is that while I tend to get fixated on whatever I'm dealing with at a given moment which in turn eats up my mental real estate and predisposes me to the company of the two-headed monster of overwhelm and exhaustion.

This is something I've been working on since late last year and early this year, and is the chief reason why I stopped broadcasting on my YouTube channel: I could not find a way to manage both my blog and my YouTube channel that didn't throw the rest of my own life and my family life out of balance. After considering what was most important to me, the most reasonable decision turned out to be that the most reasonable thing was to retire my YouTube channel and focus on my blog.

Unfortunately, that was only a superficial resolution because while it eliminated one thing that consumes my time and energy, it didn't address how I spent the rest of my time and energy. In this way, my blog became a sort of social-media feed where I posted quick blurbs, shared my mental digestion, and otherwise thought out-loud. It was fun for me in terms of an exercise in vanity, but all the time I was no longer spending on my YouTube channel became the time I spent writing on my blog and in the final calculation became the same sort of problem as my YouTube channel.

To treat this problem, I've adopted a schedule of blogging once a week, and usually on Fridays, although the occasional exception is made to work around the 1st of the month. The schedule I'm following right now is that the first of the month (Friday or not) is a general check-in with my readers and usually an update on what's happening with me, the second Friday is something related to Tarot, the third Friday of the month is something related to Satanism, and starting this month the fourth Friday (or whatever is convenient before the start of the next month) is a round-up of my favorite links from the previous month.

Writing on a schedule has been really helpful for me, not only because it allows me to better budget and manage my time, but also because it gives me a chance to write letters and essays which are probably better conceived and developed than the other items I published when I was writing without a schedule. This schedule has also been really helpful for me because it's allowed me to better compartmentalize what's happening inside my head, which ultimately helps to reduce distractions and increase the quality of my productive time.

And I gotta say, having been on this schedule for a while, it feels really good.

It feels so good, in fact, that until the end of the year I'm taking a hiatus from Tarot reading for the sake of personal and professional development... well, that and to more successfully accommodate my family's changing schedule. This spring my wife went back to school to finish her bachelor's degree, and given that there are two school-aged kids in the house this means that I'm the lead parent most days of the week when school is in session for all things child-related. Strictly speaking, I do have the time in my day to continue servicing my Tarot clients, but in practice I find that I don't have the energy or focus to give all the people in my life -- both family and clients -- the time and attention they deserve. For this reason, as you could guess, I'm keeping my family and dropping my clients.

My blog isn't going anywhere, and my regular schedule of updates will continue for as long as I'm here to write them, but I've spent too much time being the man behind the curtain working the smoke and mirrors for my clients. Like Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkle Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs -- or as you probably know him, the Wizard of Oz -- I need to take a break from operating the controls behind the curtain, climb into a hot air balloon, and fly away for a little while.

I couldn't guess at what the Wizard of Oz was going to do when he got to wherever he was going, but when I get to where I'm going -- which I suppose is right where I already am? -- I'm going to spend less time practicing for others and more time practicing for myself. Well, I think it's more accurate to say that I'll spend more time doing housework and driving the kids around town... but the point is that I've become tired of performing for others and need to spend more time performing for myself.  

As before, once again: this blog will continue as it ever has, but private services cannot be purchase at any price for the rest of the year. I'll be offering Tarot readings again in 2019, and I might also start offering numerology readings, but for now -- as far as professional services are concerned -- the man behind the curtain has flown away and he'll return when he's good and ready.