Imagined Future

I’ve been continuing my practice of picking one tarot card every day, not so much to learn what is in store for me in the future or to delve into the secret places of my soul, but simply to get familiar with the idea of the tarot. I mean, I have all those decks of cards that my deceased brother collected, so I should do something with them, right? Besides, it’s a way of honoring him and all he wanted but was never able to accomplish.

The most interesting thing I’ve found while doing this exercise is how often I get one of the dire cards one day, such as the nine or ten of swords, and one of the most fortunate cards the next day, such as The Sun.

So far, I haven’t learned much about the cards themselves or myself, just that I refuse to see bad in the bad cards, though I do enjoy seeing good in the good cards. If I get a card that seems to spell disaster, then I keep searching for meanings until I find an interpretation that portends something better. For example, the ten of swords can mean violent accident or death or misfortune on a grand scale, which I won’t accept. It also means that no matter how much we try, we cannot control everything, which I will accept. Not being able to control everything is a truth that can be applied to any situation and a lesson that behooves us all to learn.

Beyond that, I hadn’t realized why I objected to anything to do with foretelling the future until I read this quote:

People didn’t want to know their real future. They wanted to know their imagined future, the one they cherished instead of fearing. — “The True Secret of Magic,” a short story by Joe Edwards

I realized then that foretelling the future is like writing a story. Every story, taken to its logical conclusion leads to death because we all die. If we write the story all the way to that end, the story is a sad one. To make a happier story, we end at a pleasant time in the character’s life. Perhaps a wedding and a belief in happy ever after. Or the solution to a crime and justice for a victim.

Telling the future would be the same. Almost any fortune that doesn’t include specifics, such as telling someone they will be divorced within the year, will fit practically any situation. Almost any future will include happiness and sorrow, success and failure, sickness and health, betrayal and forgiveness. And every future, no matter how sunny and felicitous, ends in death. At least an earthly future does, and that’s what concerns us: how our life will be.

We want the pretty story, a belief that no matter how bad things are, things will work out to some sort of satisfying conclusion. (Isn’t that what we want from fiction, too? A satisfying end to a story, a belief that all the horror the character went through was worth it in the end?)

I know my end, perhaps not the specifics of my expiration date, but that there will in fact be an end to me. Meantime, I try to create my fortune — my future — every day. Even knowing that I can’t control everything, I try to control something — my attitude, my actions, my interactions with people — in such a way that I will have a felicitous fortune.

I don’t need to be told a bright future, and I certainly don’t need to be told a bleak one. Both will happen. Both will affect me. Both will be processed and I will move on to another day, another future.

I suppose if I were young, I would want to know if I’d be pretty, if I’d be rich, if I’d find love and happiness, but those wishful, youthful days are long gone. I once loved greatly, once was loved. I once felt immense joy and experienced vast sorrow. I once shared my life with someone. And now I don’t.

But just as I shy away from foretelling, I shy away from backtelling. In the first case, whatever will be, will be, though my actions today can affect what will be. In the second case, whatever was, was, and my actions today won’t change any of it.

But neither case really matters. What matters is . . .

What matters is . . .

Hmm. I’m not really sure what matters. That I am determined to cherish whatever my future might be rather than fearing it? That right now I am living a future I could never have imagined even a couple of years ago? That I am trying to imagine a comfortable future for myself? (Though if a great present came from nothing I ever imagined in the past, would anything I imagine in the present affect the future?)

Maybe what matters is that I am living as fully as I can, which, apparently includes picking and learning about one tarot card every day.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

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