How can we plan to go forward when we don’t know what the world will look like? I can answer that, to an extent: listen to disabled folx. Many of us have been planning lives within a world of capricious systems and wobbly bodies for years.
Grace Quantock (she/her) is a psychotherapeutic counsellor, writer and founder of The Phoenix Fire Academy. In this guest post for Little Red Tarot, Grace shares reflections on lockdown from a perspective of chronic illness and disability, along with journal prompts and a tarot spread for navigating this period of change.
CW: Disablism, racism, homophobia, medical trauma, eugenics.
Since March, I’ve had a new companion alongside me at home; my basket.
It’s a handwoven willow basket (made in Aberystwyth #ShopLocal) and I’ve filled it with resources necessary to survive as myself through a global pandemic, under a government at times categorising me as ineligible for potentially life-saving treatment, encompassing grief and extended isolation from my friends and family.
We have all been dealing with our own loads of pain and suffering this year and many of us for a long time before that. I’ve been shielding since the second week of March as I’m deemed high risk for Covid. My body and communities have been under siege by governments deeming us, in essence, disposable.
In my willow basket, I carry that which fuels me.
In containing my things it also contains me. These include:
- Teal glitter journal
- Rose gold planner
- Current favourite pens (Tombow pastel brush pens)
- Index cards in a sweet handmade case
- The tarot deck I’m using that day (today it’s the Star Spinner Tarot)
Selecting the deck is a delightful part of preparing for a transition. At the threshold of a month/week/day, I dip into the chest beside my altar and check in with what I most need in that period. I have a different relationship with each deck and I often work with one for a month or sometimes a year until I know it well enough to have a sense of what it speaks to within me.
A basket of nourishing options is necessary because there’s been precious little to hold onto or to hold us this year.
I’ve tracked the impact as the virus unfolded in real time by government categorisations on if my disabled queer femme body was considered ‘worth saving’. This wavered with each new government guidance (or ‘clarification’). How does it feel to live in a time when the value of my life is called into question with every new report on rationed care and the wavering boundaries of who makes the cut? It felt sickening, like a distillation of all the disablism we have survived thus far, but made explicit and served as though it’s necessary medicine. The spoon you open for against your will, nose pinched. The suffering we are made to swallow again and again.
We’ve seen many of the traditional structures that hold our societies, our routines and habitual behaviours shaken or becoming inaccessible. Society has been fracturing along the pre-pandemic fault-lines of inequity. Even when we are fundamentally against many of the structures, even when we live our lives in critical opposition to them, even when we imagining/co-creating another future – it’s still challenging when the monoliths start to shake.
Many of us have never had our liberty constrained in this way (lockdown, distancing) before and it hurts.
Or we’ve survived a lifetime or significant experiences of suffering and oppression but now we’re cut off from much of what we’ve used to cope with an oppressive world: community, safe spaces, our favourite queer coffee shop, the co-working art studio.
And of course, accessing fuel and resources can can itself be a form of resistance – for example Black and Brown/queer/disabled joy in bodies we are told aren’t worth saving. That’s resistance that needs fuel and resources.
Community is, to me, like a fire that both gives light and warmth and requires tending.
My basket is a container for the community I am a part of.
It holds letters, books and reminders that I am part of a greater resistance. What fuels us can can be being in community, working in collective, and resisting individualisation that blames our suffering as a personal failing or tells us we are alone.
While I’m isolated at home, simultaneously, I’m much more able to access work and learning. Accommodations disabled folx been repeatedly denied are now available many who can access the technology and digital connectivity to enjoy them. This is not the first time access accommodations that have been fought for by disabled people are rolled out to non-disabled people first. The inequity and discrepancies in treatment are kept silent.
In the first weeks of the pandemic, many organisations swiftly moved all contact online. I was glad they were keeping people safe and at the same time, furious that my disabled body was considered suitable to risk, pre-pandemic. For me, in person meetings often mean travelling on inaccessible transport, traversing unsafe built environments and encountering hate speech, unwanted, non-consensual touch and risking attack. I’m a visibly disabled woman and when I travel alone, I often arrive at the meeting exhausted by the effort of getting there.
Of course, I do everything I can to be safe, from letting friends know my arrival time to wearing sunglasses and a mask to discourage strangers from speaking to me. As well as to protect me from infection because I couldn’t stop people grabbing and touching me (…yes, I’ve worn masks in public for the last 4 years, disabled folx are often trailblazers by necessity). Lockdown is the longest time in my adult working life that I haven’t experienced an attack, non-consensual touch or multiple micro-aggressions.
I called in plant allies too, in my efforts to be safe pre-pandemic. My pockets are filled with sprigs of rosemary and I have white yarrow leaves slipped in my shoes. I wear black tourmaline without fail. I have tried everything you can think of. While these allies help me, I can’t circumnavigate the prejudice explicit in the environments I have to navigate. It imbues every stair, high curb and resentful comment; I can’t shrink my disabled body into a shape that will satisfy. I shield myself, but I am surrounded; nothing I can do is enough.
I’m watching conversations shift from cravings to return to pre-pandemic familiarity to the ‘new normal’ and I wonder: whose normal we are going back to?
Why would we want to restore structures that harm so many for the convenience and ease of those whose voices are most dominant?
Simultaneously, many people are talking about difficulties with planning – how can we plan to go forward when we don’t know what the world will look like? I can answer that, to an extent: listen to disabled folx. Many of us have been planning lives within a world of capricious systems and wobbly bodies for years.
For me, buying a 2021 planner in mid-2020 was an act of prayer.
I am investing in the belief that I will survive to 2021 and be in a position to make goals and work to bring them into being then.
But setting goals can be difficult when everyone from our moods to government advisories can change by the hour.
I’ve used tarot as part of my planning process for years, doing a tarot spread in December for the following year and allocating my energy and goals accordingly. (April’s card pull is The Hermit? Not the right time for a launch then…but maybe a time for a retreat or to work on my book.)
Tarot helps me reflect on what’s beneath the surface of my life. Under the plans, the errands, the sensations of my body there is a river; life itself flowing forwards. The cards remind me I cannot see the currents, cannot know the rocks or holes hidden beneath what is visible. But I can keep returning to my basket and tending myself and others. For me, planning holds all that can be held which allows me the most capacity to tend all which cannot be known or understood. (It’s easier to handle a crisis when I know my taxes are handled.)
During the pandemic, tarot has been a link to a practice that nourishes me. I draw cards and journal on them, meditate with them and set them where I can see them so they can be alongside me through my day. (I was ordering meds and searching for food delivery slots with the beneficence of The Star by my side.)
The tarot, to me, doesn’t pretend to know. It’s navigating the way through an unseen path, when there’s no route, what’s more important than the answer is learning the questions to ask (in relation to Covid, recession and similar challenges/crises). Which means we have to know ourselves enough to inquire within. And that’s not always comfortable.
But to set out into the unknown, we need to be fuelled and have allies. That’s where the basket comes in. I’ve got two exercises for you below, a set of journalling prompts to help fill your basket and a tarot spread to support and hold you through an uncertain future.
Filling your basket: self-reflection prompts
You may want to reflect on these prompts in a journal, in the notes or voice app of your phone or while tending your body. Notice, as much as you can, what thoughts/feelings or images emerge.
- What nourishes me?
- What do I want and what do I need?
- What is in my metaphorical basket already?
- What needs to be cleared out?
- What needs to be reclaimed?
- What needs to be tended?
- What skills am I carrying?
- Where am I sharing the in community?
- Where am I receiving in community?
- What’s in what Terese Mailhot calls ‘medicine bundle’ stories?
If any of these prompts is too much, feel free to skip. Or consider using an ‘anchor’: a photo on your phone, or a piece of jewellery you always wear, something that symbolises the ‘now’, comfort and stability. If triggered, or experiencing spiralling thoughts, you can focus on it. It’s very discreet, just looking at your phone (you could have an ‘anchor album’ of photos). Looking at the picture – thinking about the senses, your love for the image – can help bring you back.
Trailblazing Times Tarot Spread
This tarot spread explores what helps you orient in your resources as you move forward. You can use any question from this spread or use them all, at once, or sequentially over a series of days or weeks.
Lay the cards in a circle, beginning with where you are now in the centre. Notice how you feel as you radiate through the cards.
- Where am I now?
- What archetype am I embodying in this space/ what place am I working from?
- What do I need to know?
- What do I need to be awake to?
- What will I wish I had done in future that I can attend to now?
- What’s my next step (on X project/need)?
- What resources me?
Staying close to the details may be what gets us through tough days. With a basket of resources and a community to share them with, I hope we can find ways forward and dream, act, co-create a more equitable world into being. I look forward to being a part of it. I believe in us and our possibilities.
As I sit here, emotions starred by this blog, I can only say with trust sincerity: Thank You. I recently purchased an antique suitcase box and now I know what for. May peace compassion and blessings be upon us during these trying times.
Andi, you’ve been through so much! I felt really awed and touched to read that your rehab has begun to show results and your family life has shifted toward inclusivity and acceptance.
I really enjoyed this blog, there is a lot here I’ll mull over but I did get my basket together this week, I begin therapy over the telephone tomorrow for C-PTSD and know how valuable planning ahead can be.
Sending love and solidarity to my fellow tarot people and to the Little Red Team, whose work and integrity in 2020 inspired me.
Thanks for reading and sharing. I am glad you were able to put a basket together and I hope it’s been of support through your healing. Wishing support to you on your therapeutic journey and sending all my best wishes, Grace x
What a beautiful read that was. 2020 has been very challenging to say the least. I went into hospital in January after collapsing. It turned out to be pneumonia. To cut a long story short, I was placed into a coma, on a respirator, caught sepsis, got a deep vein thrombosis, kidney failure, and a 14cm Haematoma. I left hospital 3 months later as a disabled person. I had suffered from neuropathic something or other (I’d become totally confused and disorientated by this point). I nearly died twice, and the family were called to my bedside. They didn’t think that I would make it through the night.
My health improved, but my left leg was totally paralysed and yet agonising. I’ve had loads of therapy and rehab and I can now just about walk, with a 4 wheel walker. The only silver lining is that my relationship with my dad has improved immeasurably. I came out as queer at 20 years old, and it took till this year, at age 49 for my dad to finally accept me.
Sorry, that was a long reply. I saw the heading about queer, disabled etc, and it caught my attention, for obvious reasons.
Thanks for this, it was like a breath of fresh air to read. Be blessed.
Thank you so much for sharing your story here. I’m so glad the piece was able to reach and connect with you. I hope your basket can be filled with lots of support and resources. I am thinking of you and sending all my best wishes, Grace xx