See the Cripple Dance | Learning what happens when the figure in Eight of Cups walks beyond our sight

Something happens in my body when I move beyond looking at the image on a card, and imagine myself within the card itself, as if my flesh-psyche could transgress the border of the frame and emerge into a new environment.

My heart beats faster. I breathe more deeply. I’ve often described decks of Tarot cards as well-loved books that, no matter how many times you read them, contain yet-unseen pages, notes scribbled in the margins, each time the ‘book’ is revisited, each time the decks are shuffled, set down, cards turned over. If I close my eyes, if I wish hard enough, if I burn the right candle, could I really step beyond the frame of a card? Could I interact with the figures, with the elements, with the cups and swords they hold onto? Could I become the figures themselves?

Pixie’s Tarot shows a red-cloaked figure with their back turned from their neatly stacked cups, walking away. Leaving. In the sky, an eclipse. No clouds. Their wooden walking stick, or cane, helps them carry the weight of grief, brings them somewhere new. As they walk away, a gap between the cups becomes more visible. Something’s missing. What are they leaving behind? What are they searching for?

The Collective Tarot, the Next World Tarot, Pixie’s Tarot.

Lately, I’ve felt the need to turn away from something, to see what else comes within sight as I do so. I don’t know what to turn away from yet. I’ve felt like I’m on the edge of a revelation or a breakthrough, but I’m struggling to figure out exactly what, how. In my diary, describing this unknown, I wrote that I’m “flailing about ineffectively.” I know I’ve written those words before.

Last year, in Finding Agency and Autonomy through Isolation and Grief, I used the Eight of Cups to discuss crip-time, crip-grief, and befriending loneliness. At the time, I’d been housebound for an entire season. When I was able to go outside again, I attended medical appointments almost exclusively, and I conceptualized them as something more akin to Artist Dates as a way of documenting my experience of trying to access care for chronic illness and pain, and of remaining/becoming my own self rather than just a patient, an unknown body among the countless examined each shift. Now, a year and a half later, interpreting the card from another perspective, having lived through joys and disasters I’d not imagined in between writing <i>that</i> and writing <i>this</i>, I still see loneliness, I still the befriending of loneliness – but something else is emerging, too. While I chose not to read the Eight of Cups from within too much of a spiritual context back then, instead politicizing the image and talking about inaccessibility, my own lived context has shifted since then, which has led to my current interpretation shifting, too. As I look back on that piece, it remains one of my favourites – it stands out to me as a particularly valuable contribution to sick, crip, & disabled thought, art, and literature. Reading that card from hospitals, waiting rooms, and a home I could barely exit, I knew what the figure was turning away from, turning toward. I knew their loss and I knew what their loss made space for.

Now, still, despite no longer being housebound, the card still feels like it has something to tell me about home, about place, and about how the body exists at home and where the mind wanders when one stays home.

And it does feel like a spiritual breakthrough is forthcoming. But it can’t be rushed, can’t be forced.

Sometimes when I want to write, only individual words come to me, not full sentences. Some of the words I scribbled while imagining my body existing within the Eight of Cups were: solitude, self-guided study, privacy, reprieve, imagination, and renunciation.

Also the phrase: Somewhere else.

In the Next World Tarot, the figure on the Eight of Cups rides a magical bicycle-like contraption, pedaling through the sky, above the city, toward the water. The card is labeled ‘Abandon’. Paired with the figure on the bike, I read this as wild abandon, gleeful abandon, to dance and dream and revel with abandon. To pedal with muscle and delight.

Still, something is being left behind. And it does seem like something, not someone. Behaviours, thought patterns, maybe.

What are some compulsive habits you’re trying to give up? What are the things you do that used to offer relief, escape, something to quell your anxiety or restlessness? What are the compulsive habits you return to despite knowing they no longer provide what you need, no longer make you feel better?

What are you searching for when you engage in compulsive habits and behaviours? What’s stopping you from leaving them behind?

In The Collective Tarot, the anchor revealed from underwater, trailing away, lets us know it’s time to go.

My moods have been rapidly fluctuating. As usual. Now and then, I think about hospitals. Throughout my 20’s, I became accustomed to hospital admissions, somewhere to keep myself relatively safe when I wanted to die. I don’t want to die, but I do have waves of suicidal ideation, often at dusk or nighttime. The last time this happened, I wrote another list. Words like hospital, retreat, absence, feel, home. It felt more like a brainstorming exercise than anything else, like drafting ideas, writing words before I had time to overthink them. Room, schedule, silence, away. Spirit, distance. Sorrow. Meaning, connection, flesh. I was wondering what the alternative is to a hospital for those of us who can no longer be confined within those spaces, but need somewhere to go. To rest, to grieve.

Like the figure’s path, their cane and their cloak, these words seem to be guiding me somewhere. But it’s like I have an idea of a map without the map itself. I know where not to tread, but not where to go instead.

I’m interested in what happens when the figure moves beyond our sight.

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