Living the Tower Card: Watching My Life Crumble Around Me

There’s a card in the Tarot known as the Tower.  It’s usually the sixteenth card in the Major Arcana.  The classic imagery is of a, well, tower, that has been struck by lightning to its total destruction.  There are sometimes images of people falling from the tower to their demise, too.  It’s a pretty intense card.

image courtesy of pinterest

Here’s what has to say about the Tower card:

In a moment, it is over. The Tower is rubble, only rocks remaining. Stunned and shaken to the core, the Fool experiences profound fear and disbelief. But also, a strange clarity of vision, as if his inner eye has finally opened. He tore down his resistance to change and sacrifice (Hanged man), then came to terms with Death (Death); he learned about moderation and synthesis (Temperance) and about power (The Devil). But here and now, he has done what was hardest: he destroyed the lies of his life. What’s left are the foundations of truth. On this he can rebuild himself.

Many people read the Tower card as negative, and fear it’s presence in a spread.  I, however, almost always see it as a good thing.  For most of my readings, the Tower card tells about a complete breaking down of the foundational beliefs and perceived truths upon which we once built our lives, making space for the rebuilding of new truths and ideas that more accurately reflect the evolved person we have become.  It’s sort of like the old Etch-A-Sketch toys that erase everything previously drawn when you shake them up a bit.

I bring this up here, because I am currently living the Tower card.  Fair warning:  This post is going to be raw and real.  There will be no sugar-coating here.  If you have no interest in reading about the intimate details of the lives of others, you may want to click over to a site featuring kitten memes, or whatever you’re into.

I am not exactly sure when the lightning bolt actually struck my tower.  Well, that’s not entirely true, if I really think about it.  Perhaps it would be best to say that my tower has been sustaining some pretty potent damage over the past couple years.

My time at Kanekiki Farm on the Big Island of Hawaii was definitely instrumental in creating some cracks in the foundations.  I experienced an entirely different way of being in the world while I was there.  I was fully submersed in a supportive, cooperative community.  I was encouraged to, and given the resources to, take a long, hard look at how I was living my life, how I was connecting with others, and how I was sharing myself with the world.  On the farm, our foods were raw, our emotions were raw, and our interactions were raw.  It was simultaneously glorious and heartbreaking, terrifying and exciting.  And my experiences there really ignited a spark of new awareness deep within me.

After Kanekiki, I spent the rest of the year traveling the globe, sometimes with a companion, but mostly solo.  With every new country visited, I felt new shifts in my foundations, new cracks in my walls.  I found myself hastily patching rents where I could, but my heart wasn’t really in it.  This was simply the reflexive response to the fear brought on by the drafts from these chinks in my shelter.

Instead of feeling the freedom I was craving, I found myself feeling more and more trapped.  I was living in the most stunning exotic locations, and all I could focus on was how miserable I was feeling.  I would be surrounded by new people, new opportunities, new experiences, and instead of reveling in it, as I had expected to, I found myself shrinking in a mindset of lack, of loneliness, of fear.

Oh, the shame of it all!  Shame of feeling these dark and heavy feelings in these light and beautiful places weighed down on me.  It was so heavy and so brutish that it began to shake the walls of my tower of identity, leaving me with real concerns about whether or not I could sustain it all.

There was a brief reprieve when my sister joined me in Greece for her birthday.  But soon that came to an end, and, with it, my time of wandering the world.  Things just got shakier after that.

I returned to the States with no real plan, no money, and no idea what to do.  I knew I had changed so profoundly since leaving my home for Hawaii all those months ago, but I hadn’t really had time to process who I had become or, rather, who I was still becoming.  I was lost, but I took refuge in my tower.  It might not be as sturdy as it once was, but it was familiar, and that felt safe.

After several months of questioning, wallowing, and job-hunting, I finally decided to start my new life in Austin.  I arrived with a job, but no place to live, and still no money.  But I was feeling determined to make it work.  I spent three months living in my compact sedan.  I kept telling myself that it was an awesome adventure, but when I got really honest with myself, I was met with embarrassment, discomfort, a strong sense of failure, and yet more shame.  I didn’t choose to live like this.  I was living in my car because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.

How could I be living like this at my age?  What’s wrong with me?  I have no house, no partner, no kids, no community, and no clue.  Why can’t I get my life together?

This, I believe, was the final lightning strike that collapsed my already shaky tower.  It kindled that inner spark born at Kanekiki, and the whole thing went up in flames and came down in a tumble of stones and bones.

Knee-deep in rubble, I realized that I have been living my life half asleep for a very long time.  I have been operating from a place of knowing what I didn’t want, but having no idea what I did want.  I will never be able to cultivate a life that makes me happy until I understand what it is that will make me happy.  Out of the debris of all the challenging experiences during my journey, I was able to start piecing together a new picture of what I want my life to look and feel like.  I began to have a clearer understanding of what I want.  And in that moment, I began the slow and steady process of rebuilding my tower.

I’ve made some progress, but, as with any construction gig, there have been setbacks.  And I really have no clear idea when my completion date will actually be.  I’m still undergoing some pretty intense moments of destruction, too.   It’s like I’m now in the dance of one step forward, two steps back.

Once in Austin, work was slow to start, but with just a little time, I built a strong base of wonderful and loyal clients.  (Add a new layer of bricks and mortar!)  This allowed me to find a better living situation.  I still didn’t have a ton of money, and Austin is a crazy expensive city, but I was lucky enough to find a room for rent in a home in one of my favorite neighborhoods.  It was in walking distance to a grocery store, to my job, to downtown, and to a free public natural springs swimming pool.  It was unbelievably cheap, too.  (Yes!  Add a brick, please!)  I would be living with two other folks around my age – an artist and a yoga instructor/musician.  (Awesome!  Another brick!)  It sounded amazing.  I was so grateful to be out of the car, and into a proper house.  But I soon realized that, while the price and location were perfect, the living situation was not.  One housemate was great, but the other, the one who was there all the time, was very, let’s just say, difficult.  I was doing my best to hold space for him, to send him love as a fellow human being who was doing his best in this world.  But, I was sitting in a pile of rubble, man!  I just didn’t have the internal resources to manage that crap.  So, my fledging foundation took another hit.

Then I decided to move to Asheville, to be close to my sister and her new baby.  Meeting my niece for the first time really filled me with love and provided some unexpected clarity.  Moving here, and seeing her nearly everyday, continues to do so.  More bricks in the walls!  Hooray!  

But, my new job, which seemed so bright and shiny before I moved, is starting much slower than I’d hoped.  And no one working there is ever as busy as I was at my job in Austin.  This concerns me.  Potential damage could come of this, though I’m trying my darnedest to stay positive.

Another wrecking ball came to tear down some of the new building when my car, Gertie, finally gave up the ghost.  So, now I have no car, a job that has yet to convince me it will pay my bills, and no second job – as my second job was as a delivery driver … which kinda requires a car.  (More rubble.)

Luckily, my sister has offered to share her car with me, so all is not lost.  (And … add a few more bricks, thank you!)

But, still, here I sit in a construction site of a life that looks like it’s being overseen by Animal from the Muppets.  My life is a mess.  Nothing is certain.  I can’t read my blueprints because I’ve been crying.  A lot.

But this is what happens when we are letting go of old limiting beliefs, old structures of identity and old paradigms of perceived truth.  Those old thoughts and behaviors fight back.  We have to struggle with them a bit in order to get them to release.  Sometimes it might seem like they are winning, and this is when the tower begins to falter.  But other times we can subdue them and make some real progress in the reconstruction of this new tower, this new life, this new identity.

It’s like Jen Sincero writes in her book, You Are A Badass:

[Your Ego, aka. your old limiting belief system] will do everything it can to stop you from changing and growing, especially since you’re attempting to obliterate the very identity that you and everyone else has come to know as “you”.  Growth ain’t for weenies, but it’s nowhere near as painful as living the life you’re living right now if you’re not really going for it. 

I’m determined to stay with this rebuild as long as it takes, but I sure do hope there’s more progress than regress from here on out.  I’m using my Summer of Reinvention to experiment with new practices and routines that will help me to be more productive, more actively engaged, and more blissful (of course!) in my life.  I’m feeling really hopeful.  And I am feeling some momentum.  And that feels good.

Have you ever had an experience in which everything you held to be fundamentally true about your self/life completely fell apart?  If so, please feel welcomed to share your experience, and/or what tools you used in your rebuild.  I’d love to hear from you and connect over this shared experience!

Thanks for taking the time to make it all the way to the end of this long and confessional post.  I am so grateful for you!

Wishing the most blissful of experimenting,