Graffiti from God: Your Wednesday Word of the Week

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By Carrie Sanders

Graffiti from God- SWANK

Seen in Los Angeles

Apparently there is a nationwide graffiti ring in America that consists of 3 taggers known as Bowser, Swank, and Repos. They have left their marks on public and private buildings from San Francisco to New York, and call themselves “CTD”, which stands for “Costing Tax Dollars.” It’s vandalism as grassroots political action and there is a huge following of Bowzer x Swank on Reddit and other media platforms.

Typically I don’t research the graffiti I capture and interpret, but as they have some renown I wanted to clarify that I am aware of their politics and aim. My take to “SWANK” is worlds away from global activism but rather a personal explication based on the unique place in the romantic world that I find myself in.

The 80’s acronym “Yuppie” (young urban professional) may be out of date but it’s widespread use spawned many other shorthand terms in US culture. My favorite phrase when I was married, child-free by choice, and making a fair amount of money was THINKER- Two High Incomes No Kids Early Retirement. But alas, my husband was not a thinker by any definition- he traded that life in to join the midlife crisis men’s club, LIARS- Lost In Asia, Reinforcing Stereotypes.

Which brings us to SWANK. I recently heard this as an acronym for Second Wife And No Kids. Let’s explore the acronym-mystic message of SWANK. Thinking about my life, I expect that I will fall into this category at some point in the future. At 42, the three card draw in my hand makes motherhood a very unlikely proposition- my age, endometriosis, and the fact that I left one of my ovaries in a landfill in Shanghai. In some circles of Peter Pan types that are repelled by any sort of responsibility (I am talking to you, men of Portland, Oregon), this makes me a sort of a golden goose in the dating world. No step kids to deal with! No baby daddies! And I look pretty good for my age to boot. It’s a niche I don’t particularly like, but I have the market covered.

Of course my male cohorts come with their own baggage. I fully expect my future partner will be divorced, like me, and to be completely honest I am not thrilled with the idea of being a step mom to young kids. Mostly I think I would be incredibly jealous that the man I am with shared something as special as bringing a soul into this world with another person, and sad that I couldn’t do this amazing thing with someone I really love. Truth be told, though, I have always been a bit ambivalent about having kids and I am not tormented by the idea of life without having them. I guess I am looking for a SHANK for my SWANK.

And let me just tag this on-Taking inventory and identifying what you want is a step toward living with intention. As the therapists say, you’ve got to name it to claim it. Being open to the evolution and changes in your relationship expectations is exercising self awareness- a political action of its own kind.

High Priestess Musings: Wondering About Nuns

By Carrie Sanders

The High Priestess has secrets to tell - Rider Waite tarot deck

The High Priestess has secrets to tell – Rider Waite tarot deck

 

I live across the street from a convent in Krakow and nuns cross my path daily.  They usually travel in pairs, chatting in whispery front-of-the mouth Polish.  I have seen them at the corner Jubilat, weighing strawberries, selecting canned goods, and once, to my delight, briskly sorting through a bin of bras.  They are all ages, but even the youngest ones seem ancient and seem transported from the Old World in their habits and plain faces.  I am fascinated by them to the point of impoliteness, peering into their shopping carts and straining to hear their voices.

I wonder what they think of the salon next door that advertises “Lipo-shock!” and gel tip nails.  I wonder what the reaction would be if, like me, they were told by a dermatologist that “your face is starting to slip from the architecture of your face.”  I wonder if they worry about their teeth crowding or suddenly noticing a vinegary smell to their skin after a walk in hot weather.  I wonder if they see their wrinkles as a mark of another year- a gift from God- and nothing more.  Do they think about their ovaries withering and the monthly reminders of what will never be?  Do they just grow old together and laugh as their bodies fall apart behind those cloistered walls?

How does a nun spend her nights? I imagine a big room with iron framed single beds like an 18th century orphanage, a white gowned virgin snoring softly under each wool blanket. I wonder if, sometimes, one of the sisters across the street is awake in the worrying hours. Does she imagine their own personal version of Christ holding her in His arms and stroking her hair until she is lulled into sleep like a Sunday morning cat? Does she imagine the calming warmth of Him against her back?  Would this pleasure even occur to her?

I wonder if they get jealous of their sister wives needing their shared heavenly husband more- or less- than they do.  I wonder if they get stuck in the awful conditional tense of the lovelorn, “If He loved me as I thought He did, why do I hurt so bad?”  Do they feel lost, unloved, or cheated by the partner they have chosen for life?  In effect, are some of them in bad marriages and too afraid of the consequence of breaking the commitment and starting anew?

Or are the virgin crones in the Siostry truly called and constant in their devotion?  Are they secure in their purpose while the rest of us women worry about our neck skin?  What do they make of me walking by, phone in hand, unfocused and distracted as I make my way down the road we share?

Rejecting the 4 of Cups Life

the 4 of cups - Klimt and Rider-Waite tarot decks

the 4 of cups – Klimt and Rider-Waite tarot decks

by Carrie Sanders

I once had a palmist take one look at my hand and say “Ooh, it’s Little Miss Not Enough.” This is a perfect example of the 4 of cups tarot card. The traditional image portrays a person (sometimes male, sometimes female) sitting under a tree with his arms crossed gazing at three cups before them, and another cup being offered by a hand in a cloud. At the most basic, cups represent emotions and aspects of life that you care deeply about- relationships, opportunities and choices that evoke the heart. This card is an image of being so emotionally stuck or apathetic that everything is met with a “meh” and a shrug. They are refusing what is on offer like a petulant child. I am reminded of a friend’s child on her 9th birthday. When she was asked what she thought of her cake she responded with a sullen: “Well, it’s not my favorite.”

The querent who pulls a 4 of Cups card is caught between reflection and action. It’s a card of divine discontent and refusal to see the strength of the number 4, which creates a balanced foundation to build upon. Cups are literally being offered to you from the heavens and you are too oblivious to your own good fortune to appreciate them.

When the bottom dropped out of my marriage and I traveled for 6 weeks from China to the US via Europe (the trail of tears), I was completely blind with pain. A dear friend was driving me to the airport in Amsterdam for the 5th leg of my trip across the world to stay with friends in yet another country when I started to cry about all I had lost: my home, my husband, my life in Shanghai. She quietly said “Do you know when I got divorced I also went bankrupt and I had no money to move out so I lived with that man for another year? Do you know he didn’t sign the divorce papers for 7 years out of spite?” It was call to snap out of my self pity and see what was actually before me. I left an awful situation and my heart was broken, but I had the cups of friendship, money, and freedom before me. That 4th cup being offered at that moment was perspective. I had the good sense to accept it.

I always thought the worst thing that could happen was for my choices to be taken away from me. I have found that it is actually much worse when you have choices but don’t care about any of them- in fact a lack of interest in life is a classic symptom of depression. Soon after I returned to the US I accepted a job opportunity in the Middle East. Within 6 weeks it became clear that the company was not viable and I had to leave the country suddenly, which began another cycle of travel, uncertainty, and what-does-it-all-mean confusion. I ran again to Europe to experience a full blown existential crisis. I remember wandering around Rome and thinking, “Is this the point of my life? I just wander around the world and look at things?” I was in ROME for god’s sake! I was relatively financially solvent, unencumbered by obligation, healthy and employable. My cups were full my emotional bandwidth was totally depleted. It’s a feeling akin to when my grandpa broke his hip but was otherwise in good health and was approached by the nursing staff to discuss physical rehabilitation- his simple response was “You know, I just don’t have the gumption.” He died within weeks.

At times it seems that the world can echo your own feelings of inadequacy. When I arrived in Krakow after my midnight run from the Middle East, I stayed at a hotel owned by a friend of mine. There was some confusion as to the length of my stay as I was completely undecided about my next step. When I asked the Polish landlady to extend my stay, she seemed irritated by my lack of planning. She had a word with my friend and asked, “How old is your friend Carrie and why doesn’t she have anything?”- meaning a job, a family, a house, or a plan. At 41, clearly you should at least have at least one pot on the burner.

It’s a fair question. It’s the same question I howled into a poncho bunched into a pillow the first night I stayed in my own tiny Krakow flat. I shivered under a towel through the dark hours because I hadn’t had time to shop for bedding prior to moving in. Why don’t I have anything? I felt like I made the right choices. I waited until I was 37 to get married to a man I had known for 10 years. Astrological compatibility seemed guaranteed- we were born on the exact same day. I worked my entire life. I put myself through school. I had money in the bank, took lots of vacations, and loved the hell outta my dog. I thought my cups were full by any measure- and perhaps they were for a time- but lightning hit the tower and all my cups were shattered in an instant.

I write this from my flat in Krakow Poland with an unknown future, as the pigeons coo mournfully and slam themselves against my kitchen window and Carole King plays on repeat. I have adopted a different approach to taking my inventory now. It’s simplified and liberating to accept the cups that appear now and ever after with graceful gratitude.

Journey to Rome

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A church in Rome

I have all sorts of fantastical ideas for what brought me to Rome – some more practical, and others less practical. I needed a break from the hyper-capitalist hustle of South Korea, I needed a break from teaching, from worrying about my “next step.” Italy, another peninsula (I end up in them God knows why, Florida!??!), seemed like a safe refuge from all the frenetic movement of life in Seoul. While Italy DID in fact provide me with such breaks, as the old saying goes, “you can’t escape yourself.” We all attend to reflections of parts of ourselves wherever we go, both good and bad, and it is no different in Italy, except maybe the coffee is better, the gelato and weather and all manner of fleshly desires are better. Overall, a trade up from the intensity of Seoul – where, for me, and I quote from Keats, “I am, however young, writing at random – straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness…” …ok, I’m exaggerating, but still….dark times.

On a more esoteric level, I had some unfinished business I needed to attend to in Rome. In other words, there were a few past-lives I needed to come to terms with before moving on. Visions of ancient Rome came to me during my time in Seoul – I was a man, part of an elite legion, who foresaw manipulation and intrigue at the hands of a corrupt government, I issued warning to friends and family before escaping in isolation for the rest of my days. The visions were specific – I defected from the Roman empire during an underwater ambush….I fled to the “north” where my only friends were passerbys and animals. I died. Alone.

The Ace of Cups – an invitation to deeper connection

I dunno, maybe I have a particularly active imagination. At any rate, I thought I’d come to terms with a few things while here, and well, the opportunity presented itself to me (from a woman hand surgeon – another story for later), so I took up the offer. At first it was all gelato and limoncello, but as I took long walks I began to walk into church after church and seeing the crypts of several saints. Morbidly curious, I began to look up each saint and their patronage and leaving tangible prayers (candles) in each church for myself, friends, humanity. I unknowingly embarked on a pilgrimage that ended with the Vatican. I prayed to Saint Sebastian who was martyred by arrows and LIVED, Saint Cecilia, patron saint of flute, Saint Valentine, patron saint of lovers, and several others with bizarre patronages I may or may not be protected from (bubonic plague anyone?).

I am still currently in Rome, and all I can say is that the experience has been intense and fantastic. When I leave this place I will have fodder for years about what it all meant, and can only hope it will all unfold with beautiful understanding about myself and others, as well as deepen my connection to creativity and beauty. Maybe a few miracles to boot (thank you Saints).

Along the way, I’ve met with my wondrous partner-in-crime, Carrie Sanders, who is based in Krakow. We prayed and shed our anger and sads (there’s a lot to be angry about in the post-modern world let’s be real here) at the altar of several churches, walked 40 miles in 4 days, and ate pasta. We talked tarot, and we’re ready to share the magic and mystery of how tarot can help you navigate through the times we live in.