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“When I look to see what it is that you’re attached to here, I don’t really see anything that is concrete,” the Tarot Card reader said. “I see you floating over the ocean with all of these threads attached to you… and I’m not clear on exactly what that is.” She said success would come to me as a result of experiencing some very trying times and always watching myself come out in a way that is very positive. She said the threads represented some sense of obligation – perhaps the desire to feel connected – and that I needed to let that go so that my past self could come into the present. It was June 10, 2012 – the first time I had ever had my cards read in my life. My Christian upbringing said divination was wrong, but my Catholic friend had sought advice through this woman many times and felt her readings were accurate… so I decided to give it a try. I asked the woman about my love life and got a reading about my personal evolution – a future as an artist that I had hardly begun to imagine for myself. Although I left feeling God had just spoken to me through a fortune teller (and extremely grateful she allowed me to make an audio recording of our session), there was one thing on which we couldn’t agree. She was fairly certain I had always wanted to be an artist and that someone (my parents) had stopped me from pursuing it. I was fairly sure I hadn’t realized my creative aspirations until adulthood and that I had always been encouraged to be whoever I wanted to be.
As we entered COVID times in March, I found myself wondering if (and hoping that) I was snipping those metaphorical threads the tarot card reader saw tying me down to the world and nearing the end of the trying times that she said would lead to a “creative explosion” in my life. Months later, as I watched a video about “magical thinkers” and “evidence seekers” to try to learn more about what the Maskholes of the world believe, I realized that my dream to support myself as an artist, writer, and poker player probably sounds just as outlandish to some (or many) as the conspiracy theory beliefs of a Covidiot sound to me… especially now that I’ve already been gifted a lot of time to work on my art, my Federal Unemployment “bonus” has expired, my California Unemployment funds have almost run out, and I’m still spending more time working to build a creative career than I am looking for a “real job”, using the “diminished lung capacity” diagnosis I received in February to help justify my actions.
The video drew upon many of the concepts discussed in a book I read at the end of April in an attempt to regain control over the anxiety and depression flooding into my life – Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts by Annie Duke. The book taught me that it is human nature to defend our beliefs. Our egos are threatened by information that doesn’t agree with our self-narrative. Furthermore, “the smarter you are, the better you are at constructing a narrative that supports your beliefs, rationalizing and framing the data to fit your argument or point of view.” The same thought processes which have led me to believe I am destined to be a successful artist and writer are the ones that make my friends believe it’s dangerous to wear a facemask and/or that COVID-19 is no more dangerous than the flu. The book says I should be willing to give up feeling “right” to eliminate the consequences of feeling “wrong” – that because they feel like winning and losing it takes two of the former to balance out the emotional weight of the latter.
I’ve been trying to apply the ways the book described for embracing and utilizing uncertainty to help myself make wiser decisions ever since, but I’m not sure I’m succeeding. Thinking in Bets says we need at least a few close friends who will hold us accountable for our beliefs – people who challenge us to inventory the evidence that informed us. To ease our anxieties about life, we need friends who agree with us, but to make smarter decisions we need friends who don’t. At the moment, I don’t feel like I have many of either type. Since COVID hit, I’ve spent 90-95% of my time at home, with only my kitten and box turtle to talk to. I have the support of my family and a few friends, all of whom try to play devil’s advocate occasionally but mostly shower me with the encouragement my battered self-esteem needs. The main thing challenging my opinion about whether or not I should be an artist and writer is the approval I do or do not receive from the public – comments, likes, shares, and (most importantly) sales – and I hesitate to draw conclusions from that evidence because relatively few people have seen my work. Instead, I cling to the cosmic “evidence” for my art career as solid reasons I should continue to hope and have hired an Etsy coach (joined an online course) to try to figure out how to get seen by my target audience.
Annie Duke pointed out in her book that, “A great poker player who has a good-size advantage over the other players at the table, making significantly better strategic decisions, will still be losing over 40% of the time at the end of eight hours of play.” She gave several examples to prove this phenomena isn’t confined to poker… and I like to think the cosmic evidence has come into my life at times when I’ve been misinterpreting the raw data to remind me that, so long as I “win” more often than I “lose”, I can succeed. I told my mom a few months ago that, as much as I hate to admit it, I perform well under pressure. I said there were many times that I lost almost all of my chips very early in a poker tournament but managed to stay in the game long enough to make the money. A few weeks later, she came across a copy of a questionnaire I filled out at age 7 where I stated I wanted to “be an artest” when I grow up and emailed me right away. I was shocked. The tarot card reader was right. She knew something that neither I or my mother remembered.
Maybe it is ridiculous that I began my quest to become a full-time writer and artist because of a dream I had one night about sitting at the final table of the World Series of Poker. Perhaps it means nothing that I have since become friendly with the female poker pro who appeared in that dream. Maybe I’ll never really get to know the man who looked at me like he could see my full potential the moment we met and told me that if I came up with $5k he’d give me the other $5k and we would go play in the WSOP together. Then again, maybe someday soon all my dreams will come true. Whether or not anyone has seen it, I feel I have been experiencing the creative explosion the tarot card reader predicted. I more than doubled the number of items for sale in my Etsy shop in the past few months – creating printable collage art, playing card notecards, poker lifestyle gear (hats, shirts, phone cases, etc.), resin playing card rings, and many new collage paintings. I also made a few candles and wrote a few poems – the only two things I was doing at the time the tarot card reader made her prediction.
Maybe magic doesn’t exist the way we’ve been conditioned to imagine it, but magical things happen anyway because we make them come true. I believe magical moments gave me the hope and strength I needed to create the evidence of who I am and that I couldn’t have accomplished as much as I have without them. Maybe the only missing ingredient in the potion that will conjure my success is you. Determining the facts is difficult. Altering beliefs is next to impossible… but it can be done with a little help from your friends. 2012 me had no idea what I thought of the fact that tarot card reader also told me I was surrounded by faerie energy… or how to respond to the people who asked if I was a faerie in the years to come… but 2020 me feels quite magical when hiking with her kitten, surrounded by dragonflies, and figured out what to tell her past self: “The fact you don’t believe faeries exist doesn’t mean I can’t behave like they do.”
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