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

Nature’s Fireworks

Last night I went outside for a bit to watch nature’s fireworks — the immense show of lightning that so often shows up on July fourth in Colorado. Standing there in the unearthly light, I was reminded of another time I watched the show. It was decades ago. I stood on the roof of the apartment building in Denver where I lived, and watched the far-off jagged lines of light.

It seems odd to think of that young woman and all she hadn’t yet experienced. All that she couldn’t even have imagined that would eventually happen to her. I think it was right before I met Jeff, so he wasn’t even in the picture. Our life together, our great cosmic connection, was on the horizon, but she hadn’t an inkling.

In fact, she didn’t think she’d be alive much longer. When she was young, she could project herself into the future, but that future always ended when she was twenty-five. No matter how she tried, she could never imagine her life after that. She thought it meant she would die that year, but instead, it meant she would come alive because that was the year she met Jeff. It makes sense to me now, that lack of any sense of the future, because how could she have projected herself into a future she couldn’t ever have imagined?

She couldn’t have imagined any of her life with Jeff. She couldn’t have imagined — though she dreamed — that she would learn to write and would become a published author. She couldn’t imagine how much something called a blog would mean to her (back then, there wasn’t even a hint of such a personal use for the computers that were just coming into renown).

She couldn’t have imagined Jeff’s death and the grief that would all but destroy her before it rebuilt her. She couldn’t have imagined that anything would ever get her to take care of her father when he got old — it was the one thing she was determined she would never do. (Even at a young age, I knew I was the “designated daughter,” and Jeff saved me from that. For a while, anyway. But fate came calling.) She couldn’t have imagined living in California and especially not in the desert — she never liked California, and she hated the heat. And she could never have imagined finding peace and hope in the desert, or taking dance classes, or making so many friends. She never imagined that two of her brothers and both parents would die. (Though logically, she knew her parents would die at some point, but they were still in their middle years and a long way from the end, so she never thought about it.)

She could never have imagined traveling by herself, camping by herself, hiking and backpacking by herself. She could never even imagine having the self-confidence and courage and boldness such adventures would demand.

And especially, she could never have imagined owning a house.

All that was in her future, and it seems so strange that the young woman standing on the roof watching the lightning storm hadn’t even a glimmer that any of those momentous things would occur.

And yet, there I was last night, on the other end of that life, looking at what seemed the same storm, and knowing all that the young woman would experience.

Suddenly, the sounds of a war zone brought that reverie to an end. I had never lived anyplace where fireworks were legal, and oh, my — hours and hours of the sound of gunfire all around me. At one point, I looked out the back door because it seemed to me as if the sounds were coming from my yard, and I was shocked to see huge falls of sparks landing on my garage and house from the fireworks nearby neighbors had set off. Luckily, the long dry months had come to an end a couple of hours earlier, so there was no danger, but it still made me nervous.

Today, although all is sodden, it’s quiet. The war is over. The lightning that brought the flash of memory has receded into the past.

Or into the future.

Next year, or the year after, or ten years from now, perhaps I will again watch nature’s fireworks on the fourth, and I will be marveling at happenings I can’t imagine today.


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