of shadow work
facing the darkness /
to live in the light
to live in the light
I shuffled the deck good & plenty while asking the Most High which card should begin our shadow work & I was surprised (but shouldn't have been) when the nine of swords popped out.
For those of you who don't know, the Nine of Swords is what's known as a "Minor Arcana," card in the tarot. Most Minor Arcana cards are a combination of two energies from the Major Arcana. In this case, the two Major Arcana cards that create the energy of the Nine of Swords are the Tower (which represents the planet Mars) & the Lovers (which represent the astrological sign of Gemini).
Therefore the Nine of Swords is also known as Mars in Gemini, or the Tower in the Lovers. The Tower card deals with moments of divine intervention that appear destructive & unsettling but are actually meant to keep us from continuing to strive in the wrong direction; The Lovers is about choices, whether in relationship, business, artistic endeavors, etc. - that reveal the naked truth of who we are. When you put these two energies together (Tower + the Lovers) the Nine of Swords depicts what happens when the Most High keeps sending destructive & unsettling events meant to shock us out of our poor choices & re-direct us towards our personal truth & highest path- even if it tears us away from the places & faces where (if not for the damn towers) we feel comfortable.
In the Nine of Swords, we've made our bed, therefore our first instinct is to lie in it. The tarot is literal & therefore "lie in it," has a double meaning. Since swords represent air (thoughts/ speech), the nine of swords represent the things we say to ourselves & others in an attempt to tolerate an intolerable situation. Not only do we continue to be complacent (lie in it), but we also pretend (lie in it) that everything is fine. It's only at night when we're alone with ourselves that we reveal the depths of our discomfort & admit the truth that we just can't take this shit no more. This feeling of despair is actually our blessing, because it's divinely sent clarity that we can't keep going like this. No matter the cost, changes must be made. What felt right at one point has turned out to be really, really wrong. If we could just admit that we made a mistake, we would be free to choose again.
Yet it is here, in the midst of our confusion, exhaustion & desperation, right when we're (thank God!) ready to admit defeat, that the damn Devil enters the chat. You weren't wrong, he says. Are you really going to give up so easily? Can't you figure out a way? What about the people who love you & depend on you? Would you really abandon them? Won't you fight for them? Don't you love them? Doesn't love bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things?
And then instead of accepting our misery-as-healing & taking up our mat to GO, we lie back down in the bed we've made, somehow convinced that if we only try again but harder, something will change. This is how hope (which should be a wonderful thing) becomes the shadow energy of despair, because it pressures us to hold on when the Most High is doing everything in His power to make us let go (or be dragged).
I'll give you an example-
When I first got together with my soon-to-be ex-husband, there were nine significant red flags (read: tower moments) early in the relationship. However we committed to each other very quickly (moved in together after two weeks & I became pregnant within a month), so instead of seeing these red flags as the screaming exit signs they were, I felt obligated to double down & barricade the door. The first flag was his inability to hold a stable job. He told me he was trying / looking for work, yet I kept finding half-filled, crumpled job applications in the trunk & backseat of my car. Instead of stepping back to observe his behavior, I told myself he needed a cheerleader to motivate him harder.
The second red flag was his temper. The smallest rebuke or suggestion would set him off. Instead of recognizing I was tying my life to someone with an angry, combative spirit, I told myself he needed to be loved harder & understood more. The third red flag was the fact that he never had money, & if I handed him money, he never brought me my change. Instead of admitting to myself that I was being used, I convinced myself that love was more important than money. The fourth red flag was the discovery that he was still emotionally & sexually involved with his ex-wife. Since I was already pregnant & desperately unwilling to be a single mother, I convinced myself that because I'd never been married, I was naive to the difficulties & complications of emotions post-divorce. The fifth red flag was the fact that my friends & family gave the relationship a huge HELL NO. Instead of admitting I should listen to those who loved & knew me best, I convinced myself I'd been changed by love & they just didn't understand.
The sixth red flag was the fact that he rarely cleaned the home we shared, even when the small children from his first marriage were visiting. Instead of seeing I was setting myself up to be overworked, I told myself this is "just how it is when you live with a man." The seventh red flag was that he didn't have a car of his own, yet was irresponsible with mine, including filth, several parking tickets & a couple of minor accidents. Yet I told myself I shouldn't care so much about material things, & that I should be more forgiving. The eighth red flag was that he had no concrete plans for his future (a litany of complaints about his life tho!). I told myself he'd never been taught to plan (poor baby) but that I would teach him. The ninth red flag was that he signed up for school (upon my insistence) but was soon begging me to complete his overdue assignments. I told myself I needed to quit being so mean & use my smarts to help my man.
Y'all! All these tower moments occurred within the first six months of our relationship. Soon I'd gone from being a single, independent, focused, happy college graduate, to being a pregnant, overworked (three jobs!), broke, depressed, stressed, battle-tested, alienated, humiliated, frustrated baby mama, in a dirty apartment, with dents all over my car, increased auto-insurance & blunt guts & weed crumbs always on the floor mats. Before long I hated my life, & funded it at the same time. It was like going bankrupt buying handcuffs & a noose. Every single tower moment was the finger of God's love illuminating the fact I needed to admit I was wrong, cut my losses & move on, but the longer I stayed with him (& convinced my family and friends I was right to do so), the longer I trapped myself with my own excuses, codependency & shame. Instead of waking up to the clarity that it was all fucked up, I rocked myself to sleep for 12 years (& birthed five children) hoping the situation would magically improve. Spoiler alert: It didn't.
Even now, I feel fucked up telling y'all all that. I don't want you to see my almost ex-husband as the bad guy, or me as a big dummy. I want to tell you that I'm not perfect, & that his mama abandoned him & his grandma died & his daddy was mean. What I'm saying is that I still want to make excuses, even after all this time. Even though I've had to part ways to keep my sanity, my heart still wants to hope, believe, bear, endure, because that's who I am & that's how I love. Still, I'm through letting my love be used against me. Sometimes the only way to heal & restore ourselves is to ignore glimmers of hope & embrace the darkness of despair. It's hard to admit that it will never get better, but that's the only truth that sets you free.
Still, leaving felt impossible. It has been a series of baby steps forward & giant steps back. I have had to overcome my fear of being alone in the dark, & control my instinct to run towards the tower simply because it lights up the sky.
Ok, that's my story. Please share your Nine-of-Swords stories in the comments, even if yours is exactly like mine or someone else's & you don't want to be redundant. Please, let's be redundant. This is a truth that needs to be spoken again, again, again.
I'm so glad y'all are here!
all of us.