196. Six de Coupes

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Le_Six_de_Coupes_inverséMost years I skip observing my birthday entirely, concealing its very existence from friends and relations. Unlike most people, I don’t enjoy celebrating my birthday. Frankly, it feels like getting a participation award than a celebration of life, the general tone being: “Hooray, you didn’t die or get yourself killed!”

Growing up homeschooled, birthday celebrations were limited to immediate family. I never invited friends over to celebrate as I had none. I don’t remember if I’d even wanted one, or known of such things. Truth is, we were an insular family. As I got older and started making friends, there was always the fear that if I invited anyone that no one would come, so I never bothered. I’ve always had that expectation of others.

In college, my best friend Emily attempted to throw a surprise birthday party for me. I guessed this was what she was up to and consequently waited until the last minute to go, essentially standing up my own party. According to her, I dressed everyone down upon arrival, though I remember only taking her aside to sternly reiterate that “I don’t do parties.”

For my twenty-fourth birthday, I did invite several friends for a party and was shocked when dozens of people actually came. One of my friends even wrote a song enumerating my quirkier and more endearing qualities. I was, in some ways, very close to being… moved by it.

The last time anyone threw me a birthday party was in 2011, the infamous evening when my heart was irreparably broken and I renounced my faith. Seriously, it was bad. Consequently, for the last three years, I’ve forbidden any observance of my birthday.

When I was dating Jason last year, I don’t recall if we even did anything for my birthday. We did go to my sister’s house for dinner and was shocked at how well that went. But, as usual, he wasn’t feeling good, so I didn’t even get birthday sex that weekend. Just like every other year. Last night I learned that Jason is now dating someone, and they look very happy. That was a special feeling, still being single a year later, not to mention currently laid off from temp work.

This year, despite still feeling depressed, I decided to get together with some close friends. It was nice to know that people do care, but it was still… uncomfortable. I don’t really know what to do with that kind of attention. I’m used to getting noticed for the things that I do—music, writing, performance, etc—but not for merely existing. Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone enjoys my company, or thinks I’m worthy of their time and attention. Even today, I can still hear my parents’ voice: If people really knew who you are, they wouldn’t like you…

On Saturday, I did a Tarot reading for myself as a way of “checking in.” In the cross part of the spread was a vertical line of cups – Six of Cups below and Three of Cups above, both reversed – and a horizontal line of pentacles – King of Pentacles on the left; reversed Two of Pentacles on the right. In the center was The Sun, crossed by The Hermit.

Cups typically represent “the emotional level of consciousness and are associated with love, feelings, relationships and connections.” Pentacles “cover material aspects of life including work, business, trade, property, money and other material possessions” as well as “the physical or external level of consciousness and thus mirror the outer situations of your health, finances, work, and creativity.”

Reversed, cups suggest “being overly emotional or completely disengaged and dispassionate, having unrealistic expectations and fantasizing about what could be.” Also, “there may be repressed emotions, an inability to truly express oneself and a lack of creativity.”

The Six of Cups is a card of nostalgia, childlike love and generosity, and a carefree, naïve outlook on life. Reversed, though:

… [it] may indicate that you are clinging on to your past… it suggests that you may have had unrealistically rosy ideas about a particular stage of life, based on your dreams and ideals from when you were younger… Or you may be disappointed that you have reached a particular age but have not fulfilled your childhood dreams just yet…. Your ideas and beliefs that were established in the past may be prohibiting your progress. Use your past as a guide for your future, and focus on living in the present.

I delayed breaking up with Jason last March for months, terrified about being single after 30. Who would want a guy like me whose best years are already behind him? There’s a myth in the gay community that a man’s shelf life expires after 30—or earlier.

However, what I realized this weekend was that it’s not that I feel old. Rather, its more that I’m disappointed with where I am, having little to show for having lived thirty-one years. In many ways I’ve had to start over, figuring out who the hell I am after my Christian identity imploded. I’d planned after college to go get my Master’s in composition. Though I’m taking steps to make that a reality now, I’m worried those years spent aimless and wandering will work against me.

I’m frustrated that I still haven’t found a guy who I’m compatible with, that Midwestern gays have been utterly disappointing, but that relocating isn’t financially feasible. I’m frustrated over having unwittingly played matchmaker for virtually everyone else in my life, while no one has been able to do that for me. I lived with my sister for six months, during which she met her husband. All of my flatmates (current one included) found their partners after living with me. Every guy I’ve ever dated is now with someone long-term.

The message of the Six of Cups is to let go of the past. It’s difficult to do that, however, when the past is haunting me with virtually every step. Perhaps I need to meditate on The Sun.

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4 thoughts on “196. Six de Coupes

  1. I don’t much like celebration of birthdays – well, I don’t mind celebrating other people’s, but not my own. I had nothing to do with being born other than being, and for that, everyone throws a party? That being said, I’ve come to my own peace with them. As I have said repeatedly, being thirty – it finally dawned on me – was nothing more than being 29 years and 366 days old. Thus the numerology is inconsequential. Instead, I celebrate “orbits around the sun.” While I didn’t specifically cause that to happen, either, I’ve managed to prevent myself from *not* successfully making it again, and I consider (in the interest of self-preservation) that to be a good thing.

    The past is the past – yes, it can hurt – but it is immutable. It took me what I think of an immeasurable amount of time to accept everything about who I am: the good and the bad. I focus on neither, but if there is time to refine one, I try to refine what is good and exorcise what isn’t. I’m not going to play armchair psychologist, but you sound like a classic individual suffering from self-loathing. I don’t say that lightly, because I know too many people suffering so. You mentioned you had many friends show up for a party you threw: you seemed surprised whereas I am not. My strongest suggestion is to speak with them, often, about anything. Friends are great therapy, and they are great lenses through which we can see ourselves when we ask them for their perspective and demand the truth.

    A few of their observations of me with which I reluctantly agreed:

    1. Despite being an extroverted person, I don’t like going out a lot.
    2. As much as I hate prejudice, I have my own and denying it is illogical.
    3. Answering, “yes,” when people ask me if everything is okay (when it’s not) is a habit of mine.

    My list is longer, and as I said, I accept the good and bad, but the thing I mastered during my thirties (and I’m not quite done with them yet) is moderating the bad by remembering the good. Through this, I no longer focus on what’s wrong with me and instead look at what I have to offer and what baggage comes along for the ride. I know that this is easier said than done, but I believe you not only have the potential to do this, but that what you have to offer will someday make someone very, very happy.

    • David

      Thanks, Steve. It’s good to know I’m not the only one who doesn’t like his own birthday. 🙂

      But you’re right about the self-loathing. We typically use that term in the sense of internalized homophobia, but in going through therapy and reading, I’ve learned quite a bit about Religious Trauma Syndrome. It’s basically PTSD for people raised in authoritarian religious environments. Rewriting the programming that happens to us as children, basically from the time that we’re born, before we are even able to think for ourselves, is a process that takes years, or longer. As Natasha Lyonne said recently on a podcast (of heroin addiction, not religion, although I think they’re both equally unhealthy): “Not only do you have to smash down the house, but you have to then take out the Indian burial ground underneath the foundation of the house and then begin to rebuild.”

  2. When you’re depressed or suicidal and you live another year, I think you very damn well deserve to celebrate not giving in. Screw everything else, your writing is brilliant.

    • David

      Well, thank you — both for the compliment, and for the reminder and perspective! A friend of mine this evening wrote me: “Your work for self-discovery can become self-defeating, especially if you dwell on those clouds that are blocking the Sun.” It’s so easy to focus on everything that’s going wrong or hindering progress. This is where Tarot has been surprisingly helpful. The message I see in a card like The Sun is that, whether I see them or not, there are reasons why people are drawn to me. The King of Pentacles reminds me that I have made progress over the last couple of months: I finished work on revising and orchestrating my one-act opera; and even though I was rejected from grad school, I submitted three applications! The Five of Swords is a reminder to guard against narrow-mindedness and focus. And the Eight of Wands is a call to be assertive and trust in the inner strength that has kept me going all these years.

      However, as I said to my sister a couple of weeks ago when she basically said something very similar (“You made it another year — you should celebrate that!”), “Surviving is not the same as living.” That is going to be my motto for 2014 — to move beyond mere survival.

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