That Time I Made a Tarot Deck
In 2013, one of the best things happened. I was invited to be the artist-in-residence for Singlehandedly, The Portland Story Theater's solo festival. I got to spend a month in Portland thinking about, talking about, and working on my solo show, The Major Arcana. It's a show about my lifelong relationship with tarot cards, magical thinking, and losing my mind when I was six months sober. I got to spend a month living with Lynne Duddy and Lawrence Howard (the founders of PST) doing all the things I love most, staying in bed all day, drinking coffee, and being served delicious foods. Plus, there was a fuck-ton of hugging, processing emotions, and constant praising of each other's talent, brilliance, and sexiness all day, every day. You know I love that kind of shit, so basically, it was paradise.
When I got home, and put the show on here in Austin, I made a personalized version of the major arcana for cheesy promotional purposes on Facebook but I ended up really loving it. I made Lawrence the Magician and Lynne the Empress. It was fun to turn Austin friends into archetypal beings, some of them seemed to fit perfectly, Amparo Garcia-Crow as the High Priestess and Cindy Noland as Justice. I made myself the Fool, Death, and the Tower because I didn't want to freak anybody out or insult them, and I like being silly and/or spooky.
Here they are:
0 The Fool
Which is more important, success or freedom? Or put another way, are you willing to maybe look like an asshole in order to do whatever the fuck you want to do with your life? Or put another way, why can't you wear your Old Navy pajama bottoms to HEB?
1 The Magician
What have you invented? Or put another way, have you been able to take a ridiculous and possibly difficult thing in your head and make it real and fabulous in the world? Or put another way, if you want a chocolate cake at midnight are you willing to do whatever it takes to get it, including but not limited to: actually going to the store even though it's late, melting the fancy calcium supplement chocolates your sister gave you because you forgot to get chocolate chips at the store, going back to the store and buying the right chocolate because it's already 2am and if you're up this fucking late you might as well make the god damn cake right?
2 The High Priestess
Do you know a secret? Or put another way, have you learned to listen to the symbols and stories in your dreams, to follow their wisdom, to be patient and open? Or put another way, if you needed to stay in bed all day instead of going to your cousin's wedding but couldn't give anyone a good reason why, would you do the right thing for your soul or for your crazy family?
3 The Empress
What are 50 things you are grateful for? Or put another way, how do you appreciate and nurture the abundance of friends, family, art, and nature in your life, and how do those things nurture you ? Or put another way, When was the last time you went outside and ate something you pulled off a plant in your yard, something surprisingly delicious, and it seemed so magic and weird that a plant could make food, that a person could make a baby, that you could make your own whole life, and you felt an extreme and slightly embarrassing hippie-level sense of awe for nature, the universe, and everything?
4 The Emperor
How do you define maturity? Or put another way, When you build something, when you shape it, protect it, and support its growth, are you able to give it whatever is necessary so it can thrive? Or put another way, are you willing to commit to a project, a community, a child, for the long haul, do all the little shit as well as the big shit even if sometimes you'd really rather run away to France or just lie down with a good murder mystery and a pint of ice cream and let it all go to shit?
5 The Hierophant
What do you love about school? Or put another way, what important things have you learned (in or out of institutionalized educational settings)? Or put another way, do you realize that your experience, strength, and hope can help others to achieve and that you will spend much of your life buying strangers coffees and giving them rides home? Or put another way, have you realized that being a leader actually means being a servant?
6 The Lovers
What do you value most in relationships? Or put another way, what are the choices you make on a regular basis in order to love, honor, cherish, fuck (or at least make out while one person masturbates) your special friend or friends? Or put another way, have you accepted the fact that true love is a big disappointment but worth it anyway, especially when you have the flu and there's a person in your house who will go get Pho for you (and stop at Walgreen's for the good kind of cough syrup that knocks you out cold and two icy Diet Cokes) at 10pm on a rainy January night even though you recently screamed at that person for no good reason except that you were sick and cranky and that person would really rather stay in his or her underpants and keep working a sudoku?
7 The Chariot
What does victory feel like? Or put another way, when was the last time you fought hard for something and got it? Or put another way, when was the last time you obeyed your inner drill sergeant and got some real shit done, you candyass fucking baby?
Are you persuasive? Or put another way, how have you created a gentle discipline and a practice of compassion for yourself and how has that discipline and compassion made you able to teach and/or persuade others to find those things within themselves? Or put another way, how did you figure out that being good to yourself is the way to get really strong and flexible and awesome? When did you first notice that people are often drawn to you because they seem to get stronger and kinder to themselves just by sitting next to you at Bouldin Creek Cafe?
9 The Hermit
Who are the mentors in your life? Or put another way, have you noticed how quiet wise people are, how little they lecture or pontificate or sermonize? Have you noticed that wise people have a certain kind of gaze that is remote and kind at the same time, as if the center of themselves is deep, like a reservoir of something rich, and it is as though they spend a lot of time there, that they have a home inside themselves? Or put another way, how much time do you give yourself for solitude and reflection, how often do you make a deliberate choice to become quiet and still without playing Tetris?
10 Wheel of Fortune
What does it mean to be lucky? Or put another way, are there wonderful people, places, or things that have come into your life for no good reason? Or put another way, when have you been surprised to find yourself in a situation so lovely and fulfilling that you absentmindedly sing, "Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must've done something good"?
Do you have a personal code of ethics? Or put another way, when was the last time you sat down with a pen and paper and explored the values, opinions, prejudices, and hopes deep down in your heart? Or put another way, how have you put your beliefs into action for the health of your conscience, the planet, and all the creatures great and small (even the ones who drive SUVs and get spray tans and watch too much reality TV)?
12 The Hanged Man
When is surrender appropriate? Or put another way, how long are you capable of calmly waiting, of cheerfully inhabiting the unknown, of hanging out until you are guided by the wisest part of yourself instead of rushing around making a bunch of bad choices? Or put another way, do you have the balls to let go of anxiety and fear and get yourself a delicious breakfast taco until more is revealed?
How do you handle endings? Or put another way, when faced with the inexorable, the natural, the undeniable death of anything, can you see the experience as a way to hone your gratitude and your grieving skills, to become more graceful, more practical, more sensitive? Or put another way, when your time comes are you gonna face it with a smile, with the acceptance that you will have massive regret and fear and unresolved hurt feelings and guilt and wasted gifts and missed hot sex opportunities and that is okay because it's just exactly like the way you've been living all along? Just exactly the way everybody does it? Or are you gonna be a drama queen and wail and make everybody in your hospice room far more uncomfortable than they need to be and then take too much morphine and shit your pants and leave your body as a mess for an underpaid stranger to clean up? I am planning on doing all of those things, I think it's inevitable.
What is your favorite recipe? Or put another way, how have you learned to mix different ingredients and people and places and feelings and ideas into new, unique, and powerful healing concoctions? Or put another way, how has your respect for the seen and the unseen, the weak and the strong, the ugly and the beautiful, the tragic and the hilarious, turned you into the person you are today? How has that informed your ability to mix light and love and imagination into any situation? Or put another way, have you been carefully adding to your collection of feather headdresses, sparkly scarves, irony, carved ebony Victorian bar pins, patent leather tap shoes, burdock root, dragon tongue peppers, Madagascar vanilla, euphoria, heavy chunks of quartz, sugar-free gum, Czech glass seed beads, milky translucent bird bones, heartbreak, and tiny porcelain teacups edged in gold leaf? Have you made sure everything is fresh and in good order?
15 The Devil
What part of yourself do you hide? Or put another way, if you could regain all the energy you’ve used throughout your life to bury certain parts of yourself, what interesting, vivifying, and unique creative things might happen? Or put another way, if being good and pleasing everybody hasn’t quite paid off, if being good and pleasing everybody is maybe killing you quicker than you imagined it could, why not try diving to the wreck, eating a peach, sticking your dick in the mashed potatoes? What have you got to lose besides a small dish of dry food and the shackles around your neck?
16 The Tower
How have you been liberated? Or put another way, what kinds of seemingly wholly shitty things have happened --- getting fired, getting dumped, getting fucked up in some humiliating and largely uncomfortable ways---have happened in your life as dark surprises that have actually made everything, every single thing in your life far better since the dust cleared and your credit was destroyed? Or put another way, if you refused to see the signs all along, if you were unconscious in a way that was leading your life toward gas huffing or a career in law enforcement or a marriage to a sociopath or all three, aren't you now so relieved and happy even though your parents lost a nonrefundable $10,000 deposit to the only organic, zero waste wedding venue in Texas and will bring it up every time you see them for the rest of your life and every one of your six dearest friends now owns an unflattering $700 lavender taffeta dress she hates almost as much as she hates you?
17 The Star
What inspires you? Or put another way, when you are out of ideas or energy or joy, what or who do you look to for inspiration? Or put another way, are you thanking your lucky stars to be surrounded by so many incredible artists who shine with beauty and power and an extremely weird wonderful rebellious super freaky energy that makes you feel rich and hopeful about the world just knowing they exist?
18 The Moon
Do you have a recurring dream? Or put another way, do you feel pulled by irrational urges toward imaginary worlds and mysterious behaviors? Or put another way, have you named the trees in your neighborhood or gone out in the backyard naked to find the perfect stick to wrap with multicolored embroidery floss or drawn face after face after face or danced on stage in your underpants, and did you realize at the time that these things might be insane but the absolute only right course of action for a person like yourself in such a situation?
19 The Sun
Do you have fun? Or put another way, do you understand that sometimes there is an opportunity to have a really good time, a goofy special time, a celebration, a chance to bask in joy, to be infinitely grateful that you have gotten yourself to a place or situation or relationship where you being you feels like the best thing ever and you better not let it go without putting on your bunny ears and body paint? Or put another way, do you know how to carpe the fucken' diem?
Can you forgive yourself? Or put another way, how has a practice of forgiveness for yourself and others, given you the ability to see the past, present, and maybe the future, with a powerful and insightful kindness? Or put another way, how has finding peace with yourself led to finding your unique calling? Or put another way, when you're leading a healing group, facilitating a circle of people, creating a safe space for women to move in strange and silly ways, do you see all the cycles and patterns of life in the universe reveal themselves in each moment of the dance and do you understand with love in your heart that we are all fucking everything up and simultaneously doing it all perfectly?
21 The World
How do you use your gifts? Or put another way, how have you made your life beautiful and fruitful and filled with friends by being yourself and doing what you do with a spirit of generosity, authenticity, and care? Or put another way, if you grew one thousand tomatoes in your front yard every year, how many people would enjoy caprese salads and pico de gallo and fat slices of tomato with just a pinch of sea salt and think of you and feel so happy that you exist?
And just in case you'd like to see the show, here it is: