Dear Wizard

Emperor: by Mont-Saint-Jean, Astral Tarot, 1969

I have a person in my life who has been a friend for ten years. We’ve been through a lot together, cried on each others’ shoulders about boys and family, etc. She is very funny and, when she is in a good place, she is kind and loyal and creative, and I love spending time with her. She looks up to me like I am her mentor in a lot of ways (which I don’t like very much), and she really seems to depend on me as family.

The issue right now is that I have moved to a new place in my life, both geographically and emotionally, and she has stayed in the same place (and Place). Not only has she stayed, but she is becoming more and more bitter and aggressive and caustic. I have been hiring her to teach with me for the last three years, and that has been a great thing for her and for the students. But she’s not the best person I could bring and she’s angry and bitter, picking fights with me and rubbing me the wrong way so much that I lash out at her. It’s getting so even her facebook posts get me annoyed–I find them so maudlin and irritating.

I can honestly say that there is no one else close to me in my life with whom I have this kind of relationship. I try to surround myself with kind, brilliant, lovely people whenever I have the choice. And now that I am in the relationship with my boyfriend (which makes me more and more blessed every day), I increasingly don’t want to invite her into my life. She’s also very skeptical and jealous about my boyfriend (she hates men/longs for a man), and I don’t like fielding that.

HOWEVER…she was SO there for me during my divorce and subsequent relationship with a boy who didn’t love me right. We have been there for each other with stuff with our parents, etc. And underneath all this rage she is so lovely and cool, and I feel like all she needs to do to let some of that rage go is make a move–any move. We talk about it all the time, and she gets resolved to do it, but she never does anything. The last time she came to visit me, she was in her nastiest mood, and we got into a fight. She wrote me a letter saying if we need to let this friendship go, maybe we should do it.

We talked it through, very honestly, and made a kind of uneasy peace. But now I am feeling all kinds of residue from that. I told her that when she rages like that I get scared of her, and that makes me angry at her.

I love her but also I do not like lots of parts of her. I feel all kinds of responsibility for her, which I’m sure isn’t healthy…and I’ve now brought her into my workplace, so it carries that extra dimension.

When I think about what it would be to let this friendship go, I wonder if I would regret it later, if I should stay and hold out for her to find some peace in her own life so we can be on a more even playing field. I feel like I wouldn’t want to miss out on the friendship with the person I think she could be or will be, which of course is not my business to even say. So I am very conflicted right now about this. Should I end this friendship or hold onto it?

Signed,
Divided

“The World” by Steve Kaufman

Dear Divided,

Oh, the tricky friend. Such a familiar dilemma for everybody alive. I threw some cards for you — did a full-on Celtic Cross spread, which is pretty comprehensive and takes up some space to talk about, but a friendship on the line is no small thing, so pour yourself a drink and I’ll tell you what I found.

The first card that went down — in the spot that represents the core of the question — is the last card in the Major Arcana, The World, and this card tells me that you’re incredibly well-planted in your life. You’re doing the work you’re meant to do, and you’re pretty damn fulfilled in every way. Now, the card is reversed, which slightly alters its interpretation. (Reversals can mean lots of different things. You don’t need to know them all now. Let’s carry on.) (And this card’s so good it can’t be qualified very hard.) What this suggests to me is that the only thing that’s preventing you from fully feeling the bounty right now is this issue with your friend. I say that because the card lying across this first card is The Queen of Swords, which can represent a very sharp, cutting person who’s been through a lot of pain in her life, and whose personality is often colored by that.

The problem is that the two of you have gotten energetically entwined. We all carry rage and grief and all sorts of uncomfortable-making things, but in a healthy relationship, we witness that stuff instead of wearing it, however close we are to the other person . There’s a long-term dynamic happening instead with the two of you, Divided, an emotional mi-casa-su-casa thing that’s gotten out of hand. You’ve got to disentangle and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’re not responsible for her.

As far as your conscious mind goes, The Nine of Swords Rx (we’re going to use the abbreviation “Rx” from here on out when a card is reversed) says that you’ve been agonizing over this situation and feeling guilty, and that you’ve reached the point where you just can’t be in that painful head space anymore. In the spot that represents your unconscious, The Three of Wands Rx tells me that you’re ready to abdicate the position of leadership you’ve defaulted into with her, and The Sun accompanying that Three tells me that as soon as you do, you’re ready to spring into a feeling of great vitality and well-being.

In the spot that points to an influence it’s time to release, we find The Queen of Pentacles Rx. That’s the dysfunctional caretaker aspect of yourself. Healthy nurturing is a great thing, of course, and it’s a big part of who you are. What turns that impulse unhealthy, though, is a very important larger question to consider for yourself across the board.

As to the short-term future, the Seven of Pentacles, when it’s upright, describes a pause in the journey to evaluate how things are going and see if any course corrections need to be made. Here, though, the Seven of Pentacles is reversed. Dual meaning, here, Divided. The first is that the time for evaluation has passed, and the moment has come to do something.. The second implication is that the the results are in from the assessment, and they’re not good. A bad report card, as it were. And this is no surprise, right? Your friendship’s in an unsustainable state. You know that already.

The card that came up with the Seven was The Hanged Man, and it presents what looks like a paradox. This is a card that talks about a profound period of non-action, surrender and acceptance. You’re arriving at one of those times where you don’t get to be in the driver’s seat for a while. Larger forces are going to do whatever they do in their own time, and it’s out of your hands.

“Hanged Man” by Paola Angelotti

So it’s time to act, but time to not act?

The thing that’s out of your hands here is your friend. Her anger, her circumstances, her life as a whole. It’s not yours to worry about. Accept that your friend is the way she is. She’ll change or she won’t, and that’s between your friend and the universe. It’s not yours to influence her, to help her, to wrestle with her, to wish her different. What is yours is to take whatever action that will allow you to accept her as she is. That doesn’t mean having her up close and in your face and continuing on as before; no. It means changing the dynamic until the feeling of acceptance kicks up spontaneously.

(Side note: when you’re feeling chafey and judgmental, it’s a sign that you’re too close to the situation. Keep moving back until you feel freedom and compassion when you think of her. I can’t tell you how far back that is; you have to feel it. If you’re feeling compassion but still feeling entanglement, you haven’t gone far enough. If you’re feeling freedom without caring, you’ve gone too far.)

The next pairing of cards has to do with what’s going on internally for you. The cards that came up were the Ace of Pentacles and the Seven of Cups. Whenever an Ace shows up, that signals a major opportunity in the realm of that particular suit. In this case, I’m interpreting the Ace as a big opportunity for your health, in the holistic sense, and not just the purely physical. You know how it is; when one aspect of our health suffers, the rest starts feeling it. (The presence of The Sun earlier in your reading corroborates this, as a couple of things The Sun represents are health and joy writ large.) Here I’m talking about mental and emotional health. Both The Sun and the Ace of Pentacles refer to worldly success, too, so it wouldn’t be surprising if things in that realm start to take off as well once you clean up this issue. The Seven of Cups shows this whole process within you getting slowed down by fantasy and indecision, like a little drag on your ship. Imagining your friend in an idealized future and then relating to that dream is exactly the kind of fantasy/drag we’re talking about. That future doesn’t exist yet, may never exist, isn’t relevant today. Tough as it is, it’s better to let that go. Castle in the sky. Can’t live there unless it gets built on the ground, and that’s not up to you.

In your environment spot (which refers to your friend, in this case), the cards I threw were the Two of Wands Rx, and The Emperor. The Two of Wands has a couple of messages here. One describes the overbearing quality of your friend, and how her energy is dominating you. The other suggests a retreat from an unsustainable situation. And The Emperor is telling you what you need to do about it. The Emperor is all about structure, boundaries, authority, rules and regulations. And that’s what’s desperately needed for you in this situation: boundaries. You’re going to have to decide what works for you and what doesn’t work for you, make it crystal clear to your friend, and then put it all into effect as soon as possible. (For example, it seems pretty obvious that the job deal isn’t working for you. It might be working fine for everybody else, but it’s not working for you.) There may be a little fear associated with this step, but it’s not skippable. When you put it to your friend, you can consider the advice of the Temperance card (that’s coming up in a moment here) to get the delivery right.

The next two cards are the Five of Pentacles and the aforementioned Temperance card. Classically, this is the Hopes and Fears placement in a Celtic Cross spread, but I always read these as pure, unfiltered advice to be plugged in wherever appropriate. The Five of Pentacles has to do with worry. In this case, the worry is for your friend; if you aren’t taking care of her, how’s she going to do in the world?

Worry’s a sneaky bastard, Divided. It gives us the false sense that we’re handling the thing in question just by thinking about it, that we’re energetically contributing to the right solution. It feels like it’s married to both practicality and compassion without actually advancing either cause. You’re going to worry about her, and you might worry that you did the wrong thing if you change the dynamic between you in the big way that’s cried out for here. But at the bottom of worry’s fearful little heart is the impulse to make things right, and the Temperance card can help you do that constructively.

“Temperance” painted by Salvador Dalí

Temperance is the Middle Way that our infinitely wise old pal the Buddha talked about. It’s the violin string that’s neither too loose nor too taut, it’s Goldilocks’ preferred chair/bed/bowl of porridge. For you, it’ll be knowing that you’ve put the care into finding the response to your friend that’s not too harsh and not too lenient. The Temperance card also describes a state of health and well-being that you earn by taking active, wise, good care of yourself. (Health theme!) So the prescription here is to reflect carefully on what’s really good for your health, and then follow through on what you find. The Temperance card also calls for a carefully measured response. Be clear as can be, but keep animosity out of it, come what may. Pay attention to timing as you do this, too. Don’t be impulsive. There’s an old samurai saying that I love that applies here. “Refrain until you can respond instead of reacting.” Remember that when you’re in the back-and-forth with her, and then you won’t have anything to regret.

That brings us to the final neighborhood of your reading, and what’s often referred to as the Outcome placement. (I’m not crazy about the term “outcome“. Outcome suggests that one particular thing is going to happen, when that’s not how it works. Lots of things could happen in the future, of course, depending on any number of variables. There’s also that concept called free will; it’s always good to proceed as though we’ve got some of that. Here’s how I like to think of this last placement of cards. You’re a ship sailing towards land. The cards that show up in this placement are like the particular cities that appear on this stretch of shore. Much of the time you can steer towards or away from them, depending on what they contain. (Some cards just aren’t built like that, but usually you’ve got a say in how the energy in question’s going to manifest.)

Here’s the trio to bring you on home.

The first is the Page of Cups, Rx. Upright, this represents an emotionally open, tender, sweet, approachable figure. (That’s you, Divided.) Reversed, this is your heart that’s closing down for the season and your tender underbelly that wants to be protected.

The second is the Five of Wands, Rx. The Five of Wands describes a situation full of bickering and hassles and power struggles. The reversal here suggests that it’s time to let it go.

And the final card is the Five of Swords. Bit of a bummer note to end on, card-wise, but we won’t leave you there. The Five of Swords is one of the few unabashedly negative cards in the Tarot. It’s a no-win situation characterized by hostility, envy and fear. Your friend could react badly to whatever you present, however thoughtfully you present it. Or she and you could recognize mutually, as she hinted in her letter, that it’s time to cut your losses and move on. In any case, the closing chord to this symphony, according to the cards, is a minor one, whether it arrives gently or with a crash.

Okay. The cards are done talking. It’s just me talking to you now, Divided.

You love her, you’ve loved her. She’s been so important to you. But you can’t and shouldn’t ignore the bad chemical reaction you two have with each other right now. Some companions are perfect to have up close during one period in your life and make better sense stationed farther out at other times. And sometimes there really is an end of the road. Remember, I’m not telling you exactly what to do and I rarely, if ever, will. That’s not what this column is about. I’m just illuminating a little more brightly what’s already there, and you do with that what you will. You have more than one decent option, but your insides are probably already prompting you with the one they want. Here’s wishing you the courage and kindness to make that directive happen.