hello friends, and welcome to december.
this time of year tends to invite reflection and remembrance. and while there is plenty to think about these days, i can't help but dwell on where i was last year at this time, on the pain and struggles that were happening one year ago. so much has changed since then, thankfully, but temperance always puts me into a contemplative mood. and when certain memories come forward, it feels important to give them space to breathe.
gentle content warning: the following collection of thoughts and memories include mentions of hospitalization, trauma, and loss. nothing too graphic, but there are discussions of fear, grief, and caretaking. be kind to yourself.
take several deep breaths, stretch your arms and legs, rotate your wrists and ankles. give your jaw a gentle little massage with the back of your knuckles, releasing any tension you may be holding. slowly, methodically roll your shoulders and your neck. shake everything out.
let's take a walk down memory lane, with temperance as our companion.
last december, weeks went by when i was at the hospital daily. multiple ER visits for my partner eventually revealed a burst appendix that completely reshaped my world: everything distilled into monitoring jeanna's breaths, her heartbeat, her pain levels, her meds, her calorie and water intake, her life.
i could no longer take anything for granted.
some days i would spend 12+ hours at the hospital: hiding from security, bringing cookies for the nurses, running out multiple times to get preferred flavors of gatorade or tea, picking up deliveries from loved ones, talking to doctors. i kept our friends and family in the loop, put out calls on twitter for support, did my best to feed myself in spite of a dwindling appetite. on those nights after i finally got kicked out of the hospital, i would come home to my dark, quiet apartment, light a candle in prayer, take a scalding shower, and weep.
four different times times i brought jeanna home with packets of papers detailing care instructions, creating pages and pages of records tracking every pill i gave her, my table covered in pharmacy bottles and OTC painkillers and liquid IV packets. everything i did was attuned to her health: cooking soft scrambled eggs in the morning, begging her to sip on broth or juice, putting cold compresses on her forehead, cleaning drain equipment, talking with doctors and friends and family and internet strangers who became friends and family, endless cleaning, pretending to sleep.
one of those times, i did it all while sick with covid, which i caught from coughing, unmasked people on our third ER visit. (please keep masking.)
watching someone you love in pain, knowing that there's not a goddamn thing that you can do to fix it, begging for help from medical professionals with lots of knowledge but scant resources - it's excruciating. i've helped loved ones in illness before, been a caretaker before. but there's nothing quite like realizing your partner's screams of agony mean that you need to call an ambulance immediately, nothing quite like frantically running to the door of your apartment building to let paramedics in the second they arrive, nothing quite like hoping help makes it before the unthinkable happens and the person you hoped to spend the rest of your life with dies in your bed while you just stand there, helpless.
it's clarifying, these moments. they shake you, change you, remake you. and with covid showing no signs of slowing down, with large portions of the american population deciding that they're "over it" even as new mutations, different respiratory illnesses sweep through cities and towns, i know i'm not the only person who has watched someone they love struggling to breathe, gasping in pain. i know that the waves of fear that i still feel whenever she coughs, whenever she hurts, are out of proportion, but no less real.
i know that every morning when i wake up and she's still alive, right there in bed next to me - lungs still working, heart still beating - that i'm one of the lucky ones.
balancing past and present and future, holding all of the layers and memories of self together in one fragile vessel: this is the strange, beautiful work of temperance.
depictions of this card often look calm, relaxed, entirely put together with no trauma in sight. angels combining water and fire, people resting or dreaming, elements coming together in sacred alchemy with divine timing. it's gentle energy, ease and equilibrium, soothing colors and harmonious vibes.
(not the cards. the cards themselves are beautiful.)
in my experience, the recovery that comes after a massive shift, after something that shakes you to your core or pushes you to your limits, is rarely quite so calm, quite so beautiful. temperance, like the star, comes after a challenging or painful time, and often paints a picture of welcome recovery and discovery, healing and wonder, gratitude and awe. sometimes it's as if the pain has magically disappeared, almost like it never even happened.
but the aftermath of the storm rarely looks the same as the calm that comes before it. recovery, healing, can be a messy, tangled process, rather than a streamlined upward trajectory. in the long weeks of jeanna's healing, once she was finally actually getting better in january and february, i still had to finish my book, fight with travel insurance and airlines, rethink my entire personal budget for the year, begin to deal with my own emerging health issues. life didn't stop just because i'd slipped into an alternate reality for a bit. my responsibilities, my needs, didn't pause just because i wasn't attending them fully.
everything had changed, and also - nothing had changed. the world kept spinning madly on, even while i was trapped in that surreal, liminal space. i came back to my life new, and also older, wiser.
we do ourselves a disservice when we only point to one model for healing, one method of recovery, one version of new growth. temperance isn't simply settling back into a familiar rhythm, balancing our grief with other joys, moving on as quickly as possible. it's instead doing the exhilarating, exhausting work of carving out a new path, breaking old systems to create new ones, imagining a new world that suits this new version of us.
temperance is often more disheveled than we let it be. remember that temperance is a five card (14 / 1+4 = 5), sitting with the hierophant (5) right in the messy middle. this isn't meant to be an energy of cleaning everything up, denying all the struggle, putting a quick gloss over any cracks or dents in the finish. temperance instead is about being authentically present, whatever the hell that looks like.
it's okay if your healing isn't pretty, isn't instagrammable, isn't a glow up. it's okay if establishing balance means you fall over a few times. it's okay if you still find yourself enduring waves of loss, anger, sorrow, or regret, even after moving through those overlapping stages of grief.
it's okay for things to feel messy, unsettled, uncertain, in the wake of death. permanent shifts should shake us up.
it would be stranger if they didn't.
as we move into december, into a month that for so many is marked by holidays, parties, travel, celebrations and remembrances, give yourself a chance to be truly present. for some, this may mean carving out time to be alone, to journal or reflect, to pull cards, to dream or weep or laugh. for others, this might include spending time with loved ones, walking through memories of the past or hopes for the future together.
this month, i have local gatherings planned with friends, a trip scheduled with my love to visit her wonderful sister, time set aside to write and rest and play. i am trying to embrace stillness, even as echos of old grief stir from time to time. i am practicing respect for my past and gratitude for the present, while also holding hope for many more healthy years with my partner.
finding and re-finding your equilibrium takes time. it's not an overnight process, not something you check off of a to-do list. rather, it's slowly reimagining and expanding your existence, making peace with various parts of yourself, learning how different wounds heal.
it's rebuilding your world, one breath at a time.
things take the time they take, mary oliver wrote. temperance reminds us that we might not have control over our timelines, that we are at the mercy of so many forces greater than us - but that doesn't mean we can't still find places of joy, of comfort, of wonder, those places that so often live right alongside anxiety or uncertainty. it just means we learn to find the beauty in all of it, in the struggle and the mystery, in the questions and the awe.
this month, give yourself the gifts of time, patience, and stillness. give yourself true, real rest, even if it's hard to access, hard to maintain. let the pieces come together in whatever fashion they find.
and above all: if you need to be messy, be fucking messy.
have a restorative, healing, gentle and generous december, friends. and if you'd like to give me a gift, please subscribe to this newsletter and preorder my book.