My tendency to consider the meaning of it all was likely instilled in me by my mother, who has always been a bit of a closeted mystic. When I was a child, she would often ask me questions like: if I were a tree, what kind of tree would I be? I was frequently encouraged to rub the belly of a small jade Buddha she kept on her dresser.
I remember escaping the service at my babysitter’s church to play American Idol in the basement with the other Sunday school kids. I auditioned with Madonna’s, “Like a Prayer” – gloriously ignorant of how inappropriate my song choice was in that setting. Church didn’t really stick, but my concept of spirituality was taking root.
In the arts program I attended in high school we were frequently asked about what the things we created symbolized. In university I minored in English and continued to search for what was hidden beneath the page. I thought I would leave symbolism behind in academia, but my meaning-hunting followed into adulthood when it served a new purpose.
I got a great job in my field out of university, but like many eager-to-please young hires, I made nearly every mistake possible starting out. Assuming everything was my fault, I cried shame-tears at home week after week. My resulting addiction to flawless performance peaked at a burnout last year, only two years into my first job. I got a bad, debilitating cold in March and it didn’t go away until June. I was in bed all the time. My doctor recommended antidepressants and adrenal fatigue supplements.
It was during this time that I really started seeking meaning again. I knew I was in gear to keep moving, but couldn’t. Why?
Feeling like no doctor or supplement was going to cure the rut I was in, I turned to Tarot for answers. I turned to crystals for tactile reassurance. I went window shopping at a psychic fair, trying Reiki, essential oils and alien encounters on for size. I brought home a stack of brochures for spiritual consideration and ended up praying to a large, genderless ear I imagined in the sky.
I pulled the Four of Swords from my deck more than once during this time. This card symbolizes the need for slowing down. After the second pull I finally gave in to my low period, having gotten the answer I needed. In time, my energy returned.
In April of this year I considered getting a tattoo of the Four of Swords as a permanent reminder. As I was texting the tattoo artist on my phone I looked up and saw a large ad for a museum exhibit on tattoos. I knew this meant I had to go through with it, so I did.
These days, I find it easier to find the answers I’m looking for if I’m present for them. Having been confronted by every doubt in my ability to be a life coach after day one of training earlier this year, I sat down across from a woman on the streetcar who offered to read my palm. She had recognized that my tattoo originated from Tarot cards and wanted to share her gift with me. Apparent in her action was her trusting her intuition — a clear message that I needed to trust my own.
Though I’m fairly new to it, my understanding of the world is that it shifts and unfolds to expose what it needs from us; and in returns it gives us clues. Call it God, magic or a law of the universe, I simply call it being connected.
As Madonna says, life is a mystery. Everyone must stand alone.
But we’re not actually alone. I believe now more than ever that we’re connected to something. If we tune in to this something, I think it will show us that it’s there for us, and show us how to be there for it too. I listen now, having learned there is so much to gain in tuning in.