The following entry may contain triggering material.
The little white booklet accompanying the deck contained a helpful guide to meditating with each card. I think that was part of learning to read intuitively. I had yet to read it best put: an internal voice that originates externally, but in the soundless language of the cards, the levels and nuances of meaning cued by each image. Each was like a cardboard song.
I drew the Justice card, and the harmonics were off but there. If I had to translate, it would be, You’ll get your own for this. You’ll get what’s coming to you.
“I will?” I blurted, surprised. “You do know that I’m her victim, right? Not the other way around.”
Four years my senior, university graduate, employed, full financial control of what our dead unwed mother had left us, social butterfly, life of the party, drunkard, gossip, abuser. Well, now I’d pronounce that last bit as, “Hated me and didn’t want to admit it.” I dropped out of high school, siphoned the family funds into therapies and treatments for eating disorders and suicide attempts that they told me in so many words I could just not do, and was perpetually rude to my mother’s wealthy lover who ensured we wouldn’t need to worry about the hospital bill. Converted to U.S. dollars, it cost just under six figures to fail at curing someone’s cancer. Or was that the cost of the funeral? It was a long time ago. My memory is better—because between November and February each year, I get nightmares—about the smell of mother being gradually disemboweled by a uterine tumor. Deaths as gory as that could happen to anybody.
I learned to disobey late in life. My mother kept me out of school first for a year, and then I dropped out upon getting re-enrolled. She’d lost her job, had nothing saved, that year made for a particularly tense home life and I absorbed every blow. That I couldn’t leave all that behind me once it was over wasn’t exactly disobedience: I was sick. That said, I would shout at my mother in therapy for all the terrible things she did, and she would pretend to have forgotten. If that were an order to the opposite, it wasn’t direct enough.
But I learned to disobey late in life, after my mother died, after my sister got so drunk that she fell on me and cut my scalp open, and I begged my godmother to let me live with her instead.
“But all you have left is each other,” said the roommate, who I still saw on weekends. (“In case you only need a bit of space,” my godmother said.) (If I recall, big sis was out drinking again, during this conversation with the roommate.) You don’t choose family; it’s what you’re born into and you have to act only to keep blood family together.
“To shut it down like that was rude,” said a mutual friend, who was her friend first. I began to say that I had a right to say no, firmly, to a death anniversary vacation where we’d do something special for the memory of a physical and sexual abuser—and if my sister wanted to remember such an awful person as mom, she could go alone. (He hadn’t been in the room when I said no—it was firm, I was so sure, not rude. My sister got to him first, and embellished, and there was no convincing him otherwise.) Always let even slightly older people tell you their wise experience. They know what’s what, even if you don’t.
“I’m sorry I upset you,” said my godmother, “But you know…I don’t have to take you in.” That was over a lot of things, but if I wanted to curry sympathy I would say it started because my godmother hadn’t wanted to hear that her lifelong friend since kindergarten had an affair with a married woman and that they abused a teenager together. Don’t be a burden.
I felt Manannán mac Lir as a voiceless presence, like the cards without the cards, from the stories of Freagarthach and the chalice. Don’t lie. You’re geased not to.
But I was breaking every rule, the most important ones too, all the time, anyway.
But everyone else told lies anyway.
They made this monster of me—
That would have been the first lie, that anyone made a monster of me but me—but I only say so because I forget what it’s like. I told a few more, big ones it seemed then, to mess with my sister and her friends and hurt them back. And I told myself that it was worth it, that I would always wonder if I didn’t take a stand like this, and that I deserved that satisfaction.
Justice strongly suggested otherwise. Repressed subconscious guilt reaction muddling the intuitive experience, I thought, borne of the same conditioning towards niceness that got me practically volunteering for this abuse all my life.
No, it was intuition. I’d confused disobedience at all for freedom. I didn’t believe that I had a soul, or a personality, I thought I was as I did (not even—I thought I was what was done to me) and held no values that I could betray. This was a difficult way to learn that I did. It wasn’t merely breaking a godly geis (a trickster god took over, we didn’t last); it wasn’t even losing any moral superiority I would ever have, to strike out (thinking I could instead embrace that for once, just once in my life couldn’t I not be cowed by habits or fears or rules—)
I let myself down.
Worse than that, I’d involved an ex-girlfriend of someone in my big sis’ group of friends who…was really trying to recover from having been the victim of all of them, too. I pulled her back into our toxic world out of selfishness and spite.
And if I won’t let my own damn self off the hook for that after five years then I really have very little tolerance for people who go beyond the pale and don’t own up to it.
Knowing what’s right and true and just can’t all only rely on a pretty bit more cardboard.