Sunday, June 24, 2012

owning your difference

So first of all - over the last few months, though I've been working with a number of decks, quite a bit of my tarot has been with the Thoth. I usually don't work with a single deck for so long, but I really connected with that one. I think it's time, now, for me to put reading/study of that deck aside for a bit. Since I have been having less time for Tarot here in Tunisia generally, going to shift to really working with only one deck at a time, for a week or two at a time.

This week I've started with my Russian Victorian Romantic. Even though it's only my second day with it, I'm already reminded of why this deck is so high up on my favorites - each draw I've done so far has been insightful, relevant, deeply evocative...

Today, part of a larger spread was these two cards. In the first, the seven of wands, we see a man with a bayonet in his grasp, clearly at odds with the rest of the world. Sometimes, I think, this card really can stand for outright confrontation, but it can also just recall a more general 'me vs. the world feeling': the feeling of not belonging, of being an outside, the 'other' - of always having your hackles up because on some level, if the questions is 'with' or 'against', you would not fall into the 'with' category...

Sometimes the not belonging feeling is more general, more dramatic, and clearer. What comes to mind for me right now, of course, is the experience of living in a foreign country, and especially a country where the language, culture, and general standards of living are significantly different from what you are used to. To a degree, I suppose, vacation/tourism type travel gives you a taste of that feeling, but those trips tend to be shorter...the difference you feel is fleetingly exotic, daily activities often planned, and [for more middle class of higher type trips at least] the accommodations and amenities are very much arranged to maximize your sense of familiarity and comfort.

I've traveled abroad in the past, but before there was always at least some degree of that...traveling in a group, staying in hotels, or traveling alone but visiting family, or traveling with family, etc. Here, I am staying in a regular apartment in a middle class neighborhood in a suburb of Tunis. I take the public train to my language school, or when I want to explore, and taxis to places that are more difficult to get to. I walk. I shop for groceries at the corner store or the weekly trip to the large Carrefour, the equivalent of a Walmart here. My french is rusty but enough to mostly get by, and my arabic is improving but since I'm not learning the Tunisian dialect really, and Egpytian dialect is quite different from Tunisian, it's of limited use in conversation, and while between their English and my French and Arabic I can usually communicate whatever I need well enough...the pervasive sense of being an outsider, a foreigner, strange, limited by language, by ignorance of so makes you see, experience the world in a different way.

Of course, there are more intimate and personal forms of otherness too. I've always been a bit of an oddball, from about as early in childhood as I can remember. My mind just jumps to different thought patterns, conclusions, observations, than those of most people. I enjoy different things, and interested differently. Even my speech tends to be...different.

I realized early on that pretending to be someone I am not to try to 'fit in' was never going to work or be worth the cost, and much of the work I've had to do around getting the most out of life has been about...owning that. About doing what I want to do, even if no one around me really understands why. About becoming comfortable with my own company, with doing things by myself. With feeling comfortable in my own skin.

Self-confidence is definitely something I still struggle with, in many contexts. I think this queen of wands really does offer some worthwhile guidance, though. Like the man in the 7 of wands she is alone. But she doesn't see it as a conflict, a problem, a reason to feel stressed or uncomfortable or attacked. No, she simply focuses on herself, on her own thoughts, capabilities. The difference that attitude alone makes, in these two images, is striking.

Of course, self-confidence isn't a magic cure to all the difficulties life can throw our way, but coupled with some flexibility, some empathy, a bit of can help us get far indeed. So many limitations that people face are at least somewhat self-imposed. Here in Tunisia, I watch some of classmates or roommates, whose language skills aren't that much higher than my own (if at all) have much more extended conversations simply because they don't doubt themselves the way that I tend to.

Being comfortable with yourself - all of yourself - can really make so much of a difference in the way you interact with the world. And if the person that you are is just plain unusual, so what?

Here in Tunisia, there are many things to enjoy about the unfamiliar - like the random herd of goats that sometimes wanders around my neighborhood...


Alison Cross said...

You're in Tunisia! I must catch up on your blog to see what else is happening!

I learned a new interp for that Wands card recently - it can also indicate the righteous prodding of other people that make you reluctantly do what you're supposed to do :-D

So don't let your tarot stuff slip while you're in Tunisia! Or I'll be prodding.

I think you are very brave to go to Tunisia on your own ANYWAY, so don't beat yourself up too mch about not throwing yourself into wild conversational stuff! You'll be FINE. What am I saying?! You ARE fine!!!!

Ali x

Bonkers said...

I hadn't thought of the idea of prodding at all for that card, but it does make a lot of sense as another way too look at it! And haha yes, I am trying to keep on at it with the tarot.

Thanks :]

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