I was 17 when I had my first tarot reading.
(That’s me in the picture, sometime in the ’90s.)
I had had some very difficult things happen to me when I was growing up, and didn’t have a lot of emotional support at the time. The culture in my home was one of emotional detachment.
Being too emotional, too vulnerable, too affectionate, or too honest was too much. Everything had to be hidden, contained, and repressed.
When things went wrong, I had no one at home to turn to, and no coping skills to rely on because I’d never learned any.
I did need a lot of help. I had faced some challenges that were much bigger than I was, and I was too young to know what to do.
My self-esteem had been so affected by these circumstances that there were moments in my teens when I could barely speak. I could think about what I wanted to say, but could not force the words to come.
It was though my entire personality was trapped behind a veil that I couldn’t lift.
At home, I was constantly led to believe that I would always be my own worst enemy: That I was too quiet to accomplish anything, too sensitive to relate to, too different to be respected or accepted.
I really didn’t know what the future held for me back then. I couldn’t see myself making it in this world because I had no confidence in who I was.
I always expected things to go wrong. Even if things were going all right for a while, I had trouble trusting in the good, because I didn’t believe it was meant for me.
When I thought about my future, I wanted to be a writer, but I had trouble seeing it happen. Instead, I assumed my adulthood would be bleak and difficult. I would imagine myself seeing everyone around me grow up and move on, succeed and find stability, and figured I would be left behind.
If everyone close to me was so sure I would fail, why would I believe any different?
And then I had a tarot reading. It was at a psychic fair. The woman, named Jan, was a grandmother with a gentle, kind approach. She asked if I had a question. I didn’t know what to ask, but she didn’t seem to mind.
We started the reading.
Jan talked to me about compassion and kindness. She talked to me about strengths and potential, things that I had never discussed before because I’d always been so focused on what I felt were my faults, or weaknesses.
“You are going to surprise the hell out of your parents,” she said.
Really? I thought. I couldn’t see it yet, as I hadn’t considered that things might turn out differently than expected.
I hadn’t considered that I could be wrong. That everything I was assuming would be terrible might actually be all right.
Jan’s messages were so simple, but they meant everything to me at the time because they gave me hope, allowing me to think about alternate outcomes for myself.
That reading helped me to believe that things could, and would, change – that I wouldn’t always feel like a disappointment (which was a major part of my mindset at the time), or that I wouldn’t always feel like I was struggling through life.
The transformation wasn’t immediate. When life at home became too painful, I put all of my things into two black garbage bags and left. I still had three months to go before the end of my high school year.
It would be many months before I came home again.
When I finally did return, I had nothing: No money, and no plan. I had very little work experience, and nowhere to be during the day.
I was at the very start of my adult years, and already I felt like I was rebuilding my life, and my relationship with my parents.
But all along, I was developing a different sense of trust, not only in myself, but in life overall. I kept Jan’s voice in the back of mind, firmly holding onto the belief that things would get better, and that I had something to offer in this world.
I often wonder how much that reading pushed me to do some of the things I’d always wanted to do.
Like getting my writing published in a major newspaper, or taking small steps to express myself in ways I hadn’t fully allowed for yet.
Sometimes, we discount the idea of hope as wishful thinking, or as a cheesy slogan that we see on coffee mugs and t-shirts.
But hope is a verb. It is something that we do, an action that we take, a practice we can sustain.
It is also something that supports anticipation.
I find that joy, at least for me, often rises when there is something to look forward to.
A lot of the time, when I read tarot for others, I find that people are looking for hope.
Otherwise, why would we even bother engaging with tarot?
Reaching out for guidance, confirmation, advice, or support is hope in action. Tarot shows us what else might be possible. It shows us the angles we haven’t considered, or the choices we can still make.
Tarot can help us see that it’s not too late to change direction, and it’s not too late to experience something different than before.
We turn to tools like tarot because we are looking for hope in the future. It feels good to have something to look forward to, even if we seeking something intangible, like ease, or relief.
Why would reach out for help if we didn’t believe the future could change?
Why would we bother to sit down and explore our options or choices if there was no hope that things could be better than we imagined?
Why would we want to know what’s next if we didn’t believe we could feel something new?
Reading tarot is a hopeful act, one that can plant a seed of encouragement that can help someone to grow in ways that they might not have even imagined.
Until next time,
p.s. If you want to read tarot for yourself, and others, and engage in the cards with depth and meaning, I invite you to join me in my new course, Taking Tarot to the Next Level. Class begins soon, on Wednesday, May 2. Learn more at lizworth.com/tarotbeyondthebasics