Each month when I draw my new Tarot, I think of it as a report card. I always want straight A’s. Until now.
On the last day of January 2011, I invite something new.
While shuffling the cards and thinking about February, I ask to understand the sticking place–that pit in my stomach–the feeling of not being enough.
I want to shed whatever this is, I say to myself; and so I’m not surprised or even disappointed, when I draw the 5 of Cups. I’m ready to take it on.
This is the DISAPPOINTMENT card, asking me to think about which of my parents was the legacy bearer of this bardo state.
My father was certainly disappointed in me–on occasion after occasion–but my mother seemed cloaked in disappointment, although she kept it to herself.
Whose legacy am I to shed, I wonder?
Where has it become mine?
My own exuberant 10 year old often begins paragraphs of complaint with, “I’m disappointed…”
What of that is mine?
Certainly, I find fault in the many things left undone in the home…
Your backpack is on the floor. Your bed is a mess. Your room is a disaster. There are crumbs all over the table. Your boots aren’t on on the mat. Your gloves need to be put away. Your sled is in the driveway. Your handwriting is floating above the lines. Your toys are on the couch.
Where does my own sense of disappointment come from?
Fear of not being enough.
Fear of things getting out of control.
Fear of my life crashing like my parents lives did.
The 5 of Cups suggests disappointment that goes back 5 weeks, or 5 months, or 5 years; or to when I was 5 years old. Mine goes back far, but I don’t know that I can trace it all the way to 5…
Wetting my pants comes to mind. Chewing gum like a cow. Being “bad” instead of “good.”
So many adults telling me who I was or wasn’t.
My Nana Lila was disappointed.In the goals she never reached. In her wandering husband. In the bottle she turned to like my mother. In the pregnancy that began it all. (The one which bore my own father.)
But if I had to place the seed of my own disappointment, it would be in the failure of my family. First felt in 5th grade. When my father told me that my mother was drinking and that I should tell him where she was hiding the bottles.
This news caused me to contract and take on the disappointment my father felt for my mother, just as he had for his own alcoholic mother. I see the orange chair in the living room, empty. From my basement bedroom, I hear my parents screaming.
Fast-forward a year, and we are living in a new home, two-thousand miles east of the Rockies where the disappointment began. My mother pitifully weeps in the small half-bathroom off the kitchen, where she was banished for being drunk. On my father’s birthday.
The rest of us (my three younger sisters and me) sit around the table, trying to create the feeling of celebration. I make the cake, because she was in no condition to do so, but it didn’t turn out right. It sits uncooked in our mouths, and it is a disappointment, like this party, like this mother, like this life. My head starts to throb.
Three years pass and another move brings us the rest of the way “home,” to the Atlantic, where my parents met and conceived me, 15 years earlier. Funny to realize that I was the original disappointment of their coupling, just as my father was to his own unwed parents.
In this last move, in the last “act” of my parents marriage, my mother asks for some earth to plant a garden, but my father buys the home with the cement backyard.
Though she hasn’t taken a drink for three years, his disappointments pile up–when she can’t make enough cookies for each floor of the hospital, and do the books for his office, and take care of the six children, and tend 2 dogs and a cat, and handle Christmas preparations without him so that he can return to the Rockies to ski with the other docs.
Later she tells me that this was the breaking point, and yet she keeps the ghost show going, for five years, until she takes a 20 year old lover, and nails her marriage to a cross.
My father’s disappointment hemorrhages all over the place–no longer confined to our half-hearted attempts to do our chores or to earn our grades or to stay thin and look pretty.
At 21, on the eve of my graduation celebration, he says,
You are a disappointment as a daughter
I am too numbed by pain and loss to feel this fully, but now I am certain that he drove a nail into my heart, and stole away my breath just as I was ready to open my wings and fly into my own life.
In those years, I visited my mother in her “new” house, in her “improved” life where she began drinking again to lessen the pain of another dead end. I see the laundry piled high upon the floor, the dirty dishes all over the kitchen, the bits of food and discarded clothes and toys and dog hair strewn across the living room carpet–and I see the shattered remains of what was once my family.
My breasts are drenched with aching disappointment.
Can I let that go?
Because hidden within this disappointment is the energy of its transformation–at least in my deck.
My attention is drawn to the butterfly shape in the roots of the (uprooted) lily pads.
My tarot guide, written by anthropologist Angeles Arrien, reminds me that disappointment is a test of faith–one which each of us encounters in a lifetime as we walk the mystical path with practical feet. It requires us to change our belief systems to become even more of who we are. It requires faith.
I’m not sure I understand this fully, but I do now realize that I’ve used disappointment to abate my fear and my sorrow and my anger–and as a result, I’ve diminished my experience of joy and peace and satisfaction.
It’s a bad trade and I’m ready to release it.
I release this legacy of disappointment for myself. I release it for my sons and my granddaughters. I release it for my sisters and my nieces and nephews. And I release it for my father, and for my mother, and for those who came before us, and those who come after…