Vulnerability, fear, and the Page of Cups

Last weekend, I found myself in an emotionally and physically challenging situation.

It was the kind many of you will be familiar with: A person ‘from my past’, someone I was once very close to but with whom I’m now not on speaking terms, someone I had hurt deeply and who had hurt me, too, suddenly and unexpectedly sharing space with me at a small community event.

You might know the intensity of feeling this kind of situation can induce. Anxiety rising up from gut to throat. A feeling of being unsafe. Racing heart. Cold sweats. Inability to focus. It’s an incredibly extreme reaction, but, well, that’s how it can be. That’s how it was for me.

My mind raced through possible options. What was the best thing to do? What was right, and what was safe? What were my needs? What might my friends’ needs be? Mostly, I wondered about reaching out and speaking to this person, about asking if we might – after so many years – talk. It was me who had been unable to conduct myself helpfully when we had tried so many years ago, and my friend who had erected a no-contact policy, a sturdy boundary to protect them from my shitty behaviour. So much time has passed, now. So much work has been done, I’m guessing on my friend’s part, as well as on mine. Maybe it could be time to try again?

In the end, I did nothing, except cling hopelessly to the ‘play it cool’ approach and try to stay out of my friends’ way. Y’know, that thing where you’re not even remotely cool, but you do all you can to appear so. The awkward too-loud laugh with your friend. The nonchalant posture, when all the while you’re hyper-aware of the others’ whereabouts. It took a full 24 hours after leaving the event for me to feel calm and safe again. And as I type this, I feel myself straining to sound objective, dispassionate. I’m so determined not to give in to the sadness I feel about this situation. In six years of this blog, I still can’t write about the love I feel, the grief I hold but haven’t moved through.

What’s most confusing for me is that I can’t tell exactly where all of that fear comes from. My friend poses no threat to my safety (to be clear, they never did). I am not worried about malice or hatred. But it’s abundantly clear that I have a heck of a lot more work to do. I want to untangle these feelings, I want to understand what is happening in my heart to elicit such a powerful reaction in my body.

Whilst I was there, I drew a card from Thea’s Tarot.

The Child of Cups

I held that card in my heart as the weekend went on. For me, the Child of Cups represented permission not to know. Permission to not know how to be, what the ‘right’ thing to do is. Permission to have mixed feelings, or to not understand or be able to articulate your feelings. Permission to be imperfect.

I read all four Pages as ‘journeyers’, ‘students’, or ‘seekers’, people who do not have to know an outcome, but who are simply called to explore, ready to surrender. It’s time to go on a journey, to move into new territory, to learn and grow. It’s the prioritisation of the exploring and the journey over any specific outcome. It’s a willingness to be at the start of something, naive, innocent, open-minded and open-hearted. And the realm that the Page of Cups is ready to explore? That of their heart and soul.

In this sense, the Child of Cups also represents the courage to reach out. The Child of Cups is brave enough to explore the unchartered territory of their heart, to move closer towards the truth that sits at its core, so often hidden beneath layers of fear or distraction, or simply forgotten.

A whisper in your ear to shed your detachment and let your heart get involved. This is an invitation to open up and feel life directly. Go with your gut.

[…] This card reassures you that it is okay to let your feelings show, be intimate and risk loving. Weak knees, heart squeeze. Are you ready?

Sacha Marini, The Collective Tarot

Crucially, the Page (or Seeker, or Student, or Child) of Cups is brave enough to go where fear resides. To acknowledge fear and still be willing to explore shadows. They are willing to face rejection or potential heartbreak. The commitment to the journey is more important than the fear of getting hurt.

I look at this card and see a person sitting quietly beneath a blanket of stars, The night sky is huge, infinitely so, and filled with stars, planets and foreverness. It is unfathomable. But she is still safe. It is possible to lose yourself in the infinite heights of the universe and the infinite depths of our own soul. It is possible to find these things terrifying, to be rendered immobile by that hugeness, that terror. It is also possible to find a place of personal safety, to hold that safety within, and use it as a grounding mechanism that can allow us to explore these heights, these depths.

When, back home, I examine the card in other decks, I find a similar sense of peace and groundedness. I see surrender, a willingness to be in the flow, unhindered by the fears of where that flow might lead, or what it might flush out from darker corners. I see a willingness to embrace all of this, the light and the shadow, the joy and the pain that sits within our hearts.

In others, watch how they immerse themselves in their creative and healing practices. Let their energy be an invitation to reflect on your own practices. Are you able to surrender to the flow, or do you need to address some blockages?

[…] Be patient with yourself as you learn to trust your intuition and what you create in this world – without disclaimer or qualification.

Corina Dross, Slow Holler

I wish I could have channelled this card more wholly last weekend. I wish I had dug a little deeper and really prioritised that reaching out. I might have been rejected, and hurt. I might have faced coldness, I might have been told, more forcefully than ever before, that my friendship and love was not wanted. Or, I might have been welcomed. I might have faced a person who was also afraid, but also willing to try again.

As it is, I still don’t know. I didn’t take the opportunity to explore as the Child of Cups might. And I wonder if that is because I’m not grounded enough within myself. I wonder if that is why I feel unsafe about exploring those shadows, why I fear rejection, fear the asking, fear the very being close to a person who represents to me both immense pain and immeasurable. It’s time for me to find out.

So I’m embracing this card in a longer-term sense. Over the years, I’ve sat down and begun letters to my friend. I’ve done tarot readings, small rituals, plenty of thinking and feeling. But I’ve always given up early in these forays towards finding that truth, because, ach, it’s hard, it doesn’t feel good, and besides there’s always something else to think about, feel, and do. Last weekend – and the Child of Cups – has reminded me that, though I know that healing is non-linear, though I know that the journey to being okay with what happened will have peaks and troughs and cycles and U-turns, I truly want to do this work. I have made a renewed commitment to this healing process, even though I don’t know the outcome.

Cards shown are from the Tarot of the Cat People, Thea’s Tarot, the Collective Tarot, and the Slow Holler Tarot.

7 comments

  1. Siobhan says:

    I’ve got one of these situations too, someone who’s done this with me: “and my friend who had erected a no-contact policy, a sturdy boundary…” For the longest I was convinced that someone having this boundary with me meant I was bad in general. It meant I wouldn’t not be bad until I could contact this person and show them that I’d grown and that I wasn’t bad anymore. About once a year I considered it over again. But at some point, I started to notice the meaning I’d made of the other person’s boundary. I know I’m not bad. So that means I don’t need to cross their thick boundary and prove it. I can be the page of cups for them, lovlingly leaving them alone, lovingly leaving them out of my work and owning whatever insecurity I have about what happened between us. I don’t know your full story but it seems from what you’ve written here that you deserve applause for respecting their boundary, minding their space and your own.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Thanks for adding this Siobhan.. each part of what you share resonates – including that about ‘feeling bad until things are good between you again’. I spent 3 years feeling that I couldn’t be forgiven because I couldn’t receive forgiveness from my friend. Eventually I realised that I had to forgive myself, which I have done now (I think..)

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