9 min read

on community

thoughts for august 2021
on community

hello, dear friends. i’ve been pretty quiet in july, with a lot of exciting things in the works that i hope to share with you soon - and in the meantime, make sure you check out the guest editing i did for autostraddle’s spaces & places folio. as we move into august i’m working to be more intentional, more thoughtful, about the ways that i connect with people. as instagram continues to punish creators that don’t buy ad space, as tiktok and twitter discourage innovation and shift copyrights to favor the platform over the users, as companies continue to show their asses and enforce policies that harm black, indigenous, queer, and disabled communities (among others), i’m brainstorming new ways to engage. what kinds of spaces, communities, interactions, am i really looking to build? which pieces of myself am i willing to share, and where am i craving privacy?

the tarot has a lot to say about community, connections, collaboration. and as we dig into new reflections for this month, i hope you’ll share your thoughts with me, both on a personal level as well as on the ways you crave engagement. what are you looking for? how do you like connecting with me? my reader survey is still open and you can also follow me on instagram, twitter, or shoot me an email - i’d love to hear from you. and if you’d like to work with me, i have a few tarot reading slots left for august.

give yourself a moment to take a few long, deep breaths. enjoy the sensation of air flowing through your lungs, filling up your chest, moving through your space. stretch out your neck, your shoulders, your wrists, your ankles. release any tension in your body and commit to taking some time for yourself, a few minutes for reflection and awareness. let’s dig in.

on community

no matter who you are, you belong to a community of some kind, and likely belong to several. the ways that we identify ourselves, the ways that we categorize and catalog our interests, the characteristics of ourselves that we resonate with the most deeply - in figuring out who we are, we crave the knowledge that we are not alone. we seek out others that claim the same names and labels, that perceive themselves and the world through those same lenses. but sometimes, it takes time to settle into those communities, to feel that sense of belonging. sometimes, we have to go looking for them.

in 2018, when i decided to go to a-camp (a week-long dedicated queer space hosted by autostraddle) i had no idea how profoundly it would change my life. i had been desperate for queer community, feeling lonely and isolated in spite of a loving and supportive partner, great friends, and a job i enjoyed. something was missing, and i knew that navigating the world without anyone that had endured similar experiences was taking its toll, leaving me depressed, struggling, gasping for air. i was proud of coming out, proud of who i was - but without queer community, i still felt like an imposter. and after years of feeling alone, i decided it was time to take a chance, to do the hard thing, to find what i needed.

in spite of my nerves, in spite of not knowing anyone who would be attending this event, i committed fully to the new camper process: signing up to stay in a cabin of 18 strangers, promising myself that the week of lost sleep and limited privacy would be worth the community that i might find. simultaneously hopeful and terrified, i knew that i was putting myself out there in a way that i never had before. i was worried about not fitting in, about being judged for having a straight cis male partner, about not being queer enough, about people not liking me or accepting me. but in spite of those fears, i was more worried about never finding queer community, about feeling lonely forever. in the end, all i could do was pack a journal and a deck of tarot cards, trim my three-month-old undercut, and pray to whoever was listening that i’d make a friend or two.

what i found instead was beyond my wildest dreams: new hobbies, new connections, new opportunities, new soulmate friends. i loved my nerdy cabin, led by the truly magical heather hogan, and met some of my favorite people on the planet who i talk with, play d&d with, write with, laugh with, cry with, dream with. i met other tarot readers, other witches, other exvangelicals, other married folks who also worried about being queer enough. i met people that had been out since they were teenagers, and people that had just come out the year before. i met people in the midst of massive transitions, people experimenting with new names and new pronouns, people who didn’t know anyone and showed up anyway. and i met someone who quickly became my best friend, who stood by my side through victories and losses and divorce, someone who eventually, i would fall in love with.

it was one thing to be around people that knew i was queer and accepted it, that still loved me and wanted to be in my life. but finding people that i shared identities with, that consistently understood the things i couldn’t always explain or define, that didn’t ask me why i bothered coming out at all - finding those people changed everything.

the tarot speaks of community in different ways. the three of pentacles explores physical community, the four of wands highlights creative community, the six of swords channels intellectual community, the ten of cups speaks of emotional community. we find support for our work, our play, our intuition, our ideas - we share, collaborate, encourage, receive. we get what we need from those around us, those that can understand. these cards of daily connection speak of foundations, sounding boards, chosen family. they remind us that we are not alone.

but there are other kinds of community too, kinds that combine these different facets in deep and necessary ways. the hierophant shows us how powerful it can be to find community in learning, to work with teachers and fellow students in tapping into the spiritual through the tangible. the lovers helps us find community in partnerships, business and friendship and love; community that teaches us about who we are and helps us clarify what we seek. justice urges us to find community in belief, in the ways that we approach the world and seek to establish and perfect creative systems of equality, power, balance. the devil invites us to find community in struggle, to lean on others for support as we seek to break free of old patterns and destructive behaviors, to remember that we are not the only ones who have endured hardship or made mistakes. the sun encourages us to find community in the present, to share our joys and our triumphs, to acknowledge our successes. and the world gives us the gift of community in the future, allowing us to celebrate transformation, to honor old versions of ourselves even as we evolve into new ones.

the tarot itself is an endless, magical cycle, made up of the smaller cycles of the elemental minor suits and the three larger cycles that become the major arcana. each of these cycles flows like the tides of the ocean, extending out onto the sand or rocks and then receding, stretching thin to touch new ground and then curling back to the sea to rest and recover. i think of these extension points as our time alone, growth points, evolution points - but they are not possible without recovery time, without feeling the support of our communities, without letting ourselves be held and soothed and encouraged.

sometimes we stretch with others, let them come along for those risks and victories - it’s not a perfect metaphor. but in this endless, infinite spiral of advancement and progress, we are constantly reminded that we cannot do everything alone. sometimes our biggest revelations, our most powerful ideas, come when we are with those we trust, those we value. when we can be fully vulnerable, our truest and rawest self, other people see things within us, things that we may still be learning to identify for ourselves.

finding community isn’t always easy, and maintaining it can be complicated, challenging, difficult. sometimes we join a community thinking it’s going to be something completely different than it turns out to be; other times a community is deeply toxic or harmful, leaves us wondering why we bothered in the first place. how do we know when we’ve really found our people? what if we see ourselves as a loner, as someone that rarely fits in or doesn’t know how to connect? what if when we start getting close to someone, we feel anxiety, frustration, a need to pull away and protect ourselves?

tarot has advice for that too. the four of cups urges us not to be emotionally withholding, to not set such high expectations for our relationships that we are perpetually frustrated, to allow ourselves and others to stumble, to learn without judgement. the five of pentacles points out the help and support that are available to us, the outstretched hands that are offering what we need if we will only accept it, the people that love us and want to be there for us in times of difficulty. the seven of swords reminds us that while caution is important, being too closed off to new ideas or perspectives can get us into trouble, leaving us isolated, afraid, or doubting our own sense of discernment. the nine of wands reminds us to balance perseverance with self-care, to let others support us, to not be so proud and stubborn that we insist on doing hard things alone or never letting anyone see us sweat.

and the eight of cups, that deeply necessary card that can sometimes be so hard to hear, urges us to leave toxic situations behind. this card reminds us that it’s okay to choose ourselves, that we don’t have to give and give to a person or group that is only doing us harm.

the tarot doesn’t want us to be lonely, friendless, without connection. there may be moments when it’s necessary to pull away, even essential for us to be alone - but we are not creatures that are designed to thrive in isolation. humans are not solitary creatures, even if we crave solitude at times. we need each other.

the thing about community is that sometimes the group that we dream about, the people that we long to discover, haven’t quite found their ways to each other yet. sometimes, we have to be the person who gathers them together, have to be the one to put our vision out in the world. sometimes, we have to make community ourselves.

perhaps your community dream isn’t wholly refined yet - perhaps it’s just the beginning of an idea, a new realization or craving. the archetype of the empress beckons us with abundance and hope, connection and love, the joy of knowing and of being known. this figure shows us what happens when we let our magic take up space, when we step into the fullness of who we are, when we take pride in what we have already achieved and who we are still becoming. there’s no shame here, no self-consciousness, no nerves - instead there’s just a brilliant energy of collective fulfillment, of sharing our triumphs, of letting ourselves shine.

the empress knows that if it doesn’t already exist, it can be made. that even if something starts out messy, imperfect, that it still has tremendous, incalculable value.

a-camp may have introduced me to the people i had hoped to find, but i still had to do the work to make myself available, vulnerable. i still had to attend the meet-ups, had to give people my phone number and instagram handle, had to set up dinners and drink dates and rooftop hangs and movie nights and one-shots in order to turn those acquaintances into real and lasting relationships. i still had to identify the people that i knew were mine, and note the people that i knew would take too much, would try to make me into someone i’m not. true connections may feel like magic, but they don’t sustain themselves without effort. they don’t happen without time, commitment, openness, communication, empathy, care, kindness.

the thing about community, real community, is that once you find it, it’s worth its weight in gold.

how are you opening yourself to new connections? which identities and communities do you claim, and how have they supported you, encouraged you, loved you? who makes you feel like you truly belong, and how do you extend that kind of care to others? how do you stay connected, and how has the pandemic shifted those practices? what makes you feel truly, fully loved and cared for? where are you seeking new communities, or looking to expand existing ones? how can the lessons of the empress help you embrace a desire for abundance, for authenticity, without shame or guilt?

don’t you deserve to be seen and held, cared for in exactly the way you need?

wishing you a joyful, love-filled august.

images from this post feature cards from the modern witch tarot. all photos by meg jones wall.