We are living in a time of reversals, losses. There are political shifts, yes, but also very immediate human suffering, both on the incomprehensible level of war, aggression, terror, refugees, exclusion, and brutality, and also the personal level of the individual. As writers, we are empaths, and speaking only for this one writer, I admit that sometimes this loss, this suffering, derails me and leaves me unable to write. But this is also our material, and our calling: to render the human condition in all its complexity.
So my burning question for today is:
How do we deal with loss?
As you may know, if you have been following this blog, to find my answers, I pull a single Tarot* card. I use it for insight, as a confirmation, to get around my blocks and habits, to take some risks and find some epiphanies. Often, it gives me an energy that I need to hold onto, so I put it on my altar. Today’s card is The World Shining Woman.
The Card: In this deck, the World Shining Woman is the final card in the Major Arcana. She is the culmination of the journey of life: wholeness, the perfect being. Inside her body, all the pieces of creation, all the stories, the dreams, everything we imagine and call into being. This is a card of fulfillment, but it also draws on the Kaballah story that the original cosmos was broken into pieces and now all of us bear the responsibility of restoring it to wholeness.
So what does this card mean for you, as the writer?
There is no life without loss.
There are two ways to approach this card. One is as a writer in the world who is experiencing some kind of loss that you are finding difficult to get on the page (or perhaps you are finding it difficult to get to the page period).
For this, the card reminds us that wholeness requires it all: the light hand and the dark hand, the hermaphrodite (as the World card is often rendered), the soul of the fish, the endurance of the turtle, the tomb, and the cross. As empaths, we need our wound-raw sensitivity, and our courage in the face of it, in order to do our jobs. We need to feel, and sometimes this is hard but it is the essence of the writer’s voice and the writer’s role in society, culture and community.
The second approach is to think about the content of what you are writing. How do you connect to the losses in your story, and render them? How do you bring truth to deep emotions without being melodramatic or too abstract? What if you are too close (as is sometimes the case in memoir)? How do you find the balance?
For this, I look, not at the figure, but at the space around her. As Rachel Pollack, who created the image writes, “She dances in the void.” Rachel draws our attention to the “second body” of white space between the World Shining Woman’s body and the lines of energy in the corners of the card. She reminds us that everything creates an echo, a halo of “inexpressible mystery.” And sometimes the best way to describe something is to describe its halo. Or, that the body is only one aspect of the perfect being, and the spirit or soul, the intangible, is greater than what we think we know.
How can you apply this card to your work?
Loss is sacred, and essential to life. Feel the feels.
My exercise offering is the same whether you need grounding as a writer grappling with loss, or are looking for a technique to render it. Use this as you see fit.
First, find a quiet place that feels safe and is meaningful to you. Look around you. Take your time. Select an object in your space that calls you and pick it up.
Sit with it for a second, maybe with your eyes closed. Feel the weight of it in your hand; the temperature, the texture. Feel whether it changes as it acclimates to your skin. Let your mind drift and see whether, just with this connection to your body, images come. Write down a few notes if you want, then keep going.
Open your eyes if you like. Use your other senses to connect to the object. Give yourself space to make associations. Is there another object in the room that wants to connect to this one? A person? Is there a place where this object belongs? Comes from? Is there a desire associated with it? An emotion?
Let yourself make notes and associations. Keep them as close as possible with your senses. If you find that the object, and the associations and the stories that are beginning to form around it, are connected to your feelings or your loss, that will help you explore it and experience it from a safe place. If it takes you to a different emotion, that’s good too. Maybe that lifts you out of your block, your overwhelm. Maybe it reminds you that everything is a cycle, is in flow. And loss is just one awful, beautiful, human part of that cycle. All of this is helpful to enrich your material and get you writing again.
Wishing you inspiration.
*In this feature, I’m working with The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack, who taught me that the Tarot “is a vehicle to remind yourself of what you already know.” If you want to know more about the deck and its images, or have your own Tarot practice, here are the links.