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2023 Birthday Tarot

Last year around this time, I shared a post about my tarot practice. I’ve gotten in the habit of pulling cards when my life is in transition or when I’m wrestling with a decision.

And I always do it on my birthday. The past year has been an active one for me. I’ve experienced many highs and an equal share of challenges. There have been managed transitions, failed expectations, illness and injury, financial loss and existential doubt. There has also been achievement: I earned my MFA in January, celebrated eighteen years of marriage in October. There has been adventure: a summer spent in California, discovering a new passion for bike riding. There has been good news: a benign tumor, a successful surgery. There have been welcome additions: a wedding, new babies (not mine!) and new friends.

Through it all, I try to remember the most important thing: to stay in the present moment, to experience all of it – the wonderful and the difficult – so my life can be made richer, even if only for the lesson it served me.

In June, I went on a short getaway with some college friends. It was so restorative to be around smart, fun women, enjoying conversation and food, exchanging stories, reminiscing about good times, and simply relaxing. I hadn’t realized how exhausted I really was until I spent that first night in the deepest slumber I’d ever experienced. I returned home refreshed, restored, and refueled for the next challenge.

This year, I asked the cards this question: How can I create and preserve joy (for myself and others) in the face of difficulty?

And this is what they told me:

The center card is always pulled first. It represents the current state of how I’m feeling, what’s weighing on my heart and mind. I was surprised (and not) when the Four of Swords appeared. This card represents the resting of the mind and after reflecting upon the year, was exactly what I needed.

Of course, cards are open to interpretation and how you “see” a card is nearly always influenced by your current desires. If I had pulled that card five years ago, I may have seen it differently. But here I saw a woman (myself) at rest, beneath three sharp swords aimed directly at her chest. I read it as relentless burden; the threat of real harm constantly present. I noticed, too, that a sword is beneath her, which I consider a weapon of defense. These are the emotional and communication tools I have accumulated, the lessons I’ve learned in hardship, that I can use to combat the challenges I face.

The right-side card is forward-looking. It invites me to think about how to remedy any existing negativity. The Knight of Swords represents the application of skill and knowledge. This knight is poised for battle, reminding me that I can create the joy I seek and fight for it.

The left-side card is backward facing, reminding me what I’ve left behind, showing me what doesn’t serve me in this new pursuit of joy. On the Four of Cups card, a person (again, presumably, me) sits waiting for the delivery of a cup, while three sit empty in front of her. It suggests I’ve been waiting for someone else to fill my emotional cup, to satisfy my emotional needs. Of course, no one can do that but me. No one is responsible for my power but me.

The top card shows me my priorities. The Seven of Wands is an invitation to grow, specifically to expand one’s passions and interests. In this new year, I’ve adopted new adventures, like riding my bike and I’ve recommitted to writing. I’ve started a new novel with the intention of having a first draft done by the end of 2024. As writers know, that’s a lofty (but attainable) goal that will require my focus and attention. The Seven of Wands is my encouragement!

Last, the bottom card suggests what I need to let go, what worries and habits I must change to move forward. The Six of Cups indicates an exchange of emotional care. The card shows one child giving a bouquet to another. I have been the one to care for others this past year, and perhaps it’s time to take care of myself.

Clearly the theme this year is rest. But there is also work to be done. It just needs to be intentional, in the spirit of personal growth.

After I read cards, I sit for a long time thinking about what changes to make in my life and it nearly always requires a change in perspective. I reflect on my own thought patterns, how I’ve approached difficult situations and I consider how I’d do it differently or what I learned in the process.

The tarot isn’t magic. It is not a fortune-telling exercise. The cards simply show me what’s already on my mind. I answer my own questions in the process. I confront, acknowledge and address my emotional deficits and consider the ways I can enrich my life. The cards don’t do the work for me, they merely show me the way.


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