Discarding the Stilettos

During the 1970s, as women were fighting to enter the corporate world, the dress code for success became more about mimicking men as a means of capturing a little bit of their authority and gaining acceptance into the boys’ club. The ’80s and ’90s saw a shift towards a more fiercely feminine brand of power. The suits stayed, but now they had exaggerated shoulders, nipped-in waists, came in bold colors, and didn’t shy away from making a statement

When I met Vlad she reported that she had taken steps to make her dream of being a ‘traveller’, with no set destination, a reality. She told me that she was just waiting to take delivery of the second hand van that she had bought which had needed some restoration work done.

Then she showed me the poem, ‘Caged Bird’, by Maya Angelou that she had found so deeply moving. A friend who gifted her the book of poems by Angelou, had told her that, sometimes when Angelou wanted to write, she made an appointment to write by booking herself into a Hotel room and taking herself, her typewriter and a bottle of whiskey along.

Neither of us knew whether this was a true story but we were rather taken with the idea that Angelou should be a free enough bird to do this. Vlad clearly yearned to learn to fly free after having been in a Corporate cage for so long.

I suggested that we pull a card to glean a message, or some direction, from the Universe. As always we agreed that we would accept any message and that I would rely on her reactions to the card that emerged, rather than project any of my ideas.

As the Sun card emerged Vlad literally cried. When she composed herself she pointed to the high heel shoes that were discarded on the pavement. “These shoes say it all” she said. “Everything I read and witnessed amongst female colleagues led me to submit and wear clothing and accessories that would tell the world what I wanted and what I was capable of. Every day I took hours to groom myself and dress to impress. I had to wear stiletto heels like those shown here and believe me I am  very happy to have removed them and to have left them, discarded, on the pavement of an urban city”.

I pointed out that it is my understanding that the Sun card bathes us and our new pathway in light, offers possibilities and helps us to focus. The Sun makes us feel alive and fills us with optimism. Vlad smiled but I knew she was primarily focusing on just what the shoes represented.

Caged Bird
BY MAYA ANGELOU

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Estragon Restores His Equilibrium

Finding inner peace in the modern world is a significant challenge.
Few things are more disconcerting than living a life you weren’t meant to live.

When I met up with Estragon he said he had been couch surfing with a friend at the beach and admitted that he had been partying, drinking rather heavily and did not seem to be able to get even the most basic planning done.

I didn’t need a crystal ball to know that he had lost confidence again and as a result of the dramatic change in life, was actually freaking out. I figured that if he was going to make a fist of the creative quest he had embarked on, we needed to spend some serious time working to adjust his perspective.

I suggested we try out the ‘finding inner peace spread’ I’d found online. Like so many men I have worked with he looked decidedly skeptical about what Tarot cards would have to say. I smiled sweetly and suggested that he “amuse me and that we might actually be surprised by what the cards revealed”. I refrained from saying that the cards rarely lie simply because I didn’t want to overplay my hand.

Decide for yourself and live the life you were meant to live.

As I laid down the cards Estragon’s whole demeanour changed. I realised that he had actually been concerned about what would emerge from the Gypsy Palace deck. I reassured him that these cards were not going to predict his future but they might help us dialogue and untangle his ‘block’, help him get over the ‘anxiety attack’ which was crippling him.

What will stop me worrying about the things I have no control over?

As we examined the Ten of Pentacles and examined Nora’s little rough guide I reminded Estragon that he had not left his life because he had failed. Quite the contrary! He had finished a significant project that had demanded lots of skills and that he should not only be feeling satisfied with his achievements, but confident that he has the skills to tackle something else. Estragon brightened and agreed that he really could take what he had learned to another level, and hat he could focus on what he had some control over.

What will help me relax?

As I looked at the charismatic Queen of Wands I refrained from suggesting that he had actually been relaxing quite a bit and decided that it would help if I reminded him that he was very creative, radiated a lot of energy and loved a challenge. I am not sure if he was smiling at what other delights the bare chested Queen had to offer. Whatever! He was certainly relaxing!

What will help me declutter my mind?

Some folk might not think that the Seven of Pentacles would help anyone declutter their mind but Estragon was very responsive to the imagery and agreed that he had been over thinking things and had cluttered his mind with too many options. He remembered how bad he had been feeling, the pressure he had been under and said that he really did not want to spend his life on a career that is impressive to others. He added that he had no interest in chasing after a fancy house and could decide what was really important to him. Couch surfing by night and surfing by day was helping him declutter his mind. He had enjoyed the companionship and he had felt good about exercising regularly.

Well I admit I was not totally surprised to hear that, like Vlad, what Estragon really needed was to fill the bank of energy again. I do know what it is like to be burned out and to be running on empty so I wasn’t about to criticise him or suggest that he might not want to be a beach bum at 60. Far better to let him have a break – a well earned sabbatical.

What will help me accept what is in the present moment? How can I practice patience?
What will help me practice mindfulness?

Accepting the present moment, being patient and practicing mindfulness no longer seemed to be an issue! We fell about laughing and agreed that a few nights sleeping on the sand, under the moon, listening to the waves crashing on the shore would do it for him. The very thought that it was okay to relax at the beach for awhile, knowing that there was a place waiting in the world for him to fill was all he had needed.

I left him, surf board in hand, running off to catch another wave.

 

An Important Decision

If you looked at my life last year compared to my life today, it’s almost unrecognizable. Last year, I had a growing interior design firm and had just purchased a starter home in Austin, Texas. My boyfriend and I were living in our house and planning a future together. From the outside, it looked like everything was going in the right direction. But I had a nagging feeling that something was off. I felt stuck and unfulfilled in my work and relationship, but I didn’t know why or what to do about it. I had no idea that the solution would be to donate most of my things and move into a campervan.

I met Vlad in the travellers inn that she has been staying in since leaving her job as a high flying corporate lawyer and wondered how she was adapting to more basic living conditions. She enlightened me that she was happy and that she had got excited after watching a YouTube video about about a woman travelling solo in a camper van and finding this article in Van Life.

While I knew that there had been a huge trend for ‘grey nomads’ to hitch up their caravans and head around Australia I confessed that this was relatively new to me and that it would not only be a very interesting way to live but that it would demand that she adapt and learn new skills.

The counsellor in me reminded Vlad that it was not a good idea to make hasty decisions after having made the major life choice to walk away from her well established life. I suggested pulling some cards to generate discussion and throw some light on the matter.

The appearance of the Hanged Man and the Ten of Rods was enough for Vlad. She didn’t need to dialogue about this. She resolutely laid down her keys as a symbol that the time had come to unburden herself and to see things from a fresh perspective. She had decided and was ready to join the swelling numbers of people abandoning the lives that society had encouraged them to believe would be fulfilling.