My 40th Birthday & Honoring the Lessons of the Tower Card
I’m always flirting with the danger of being a little too stuck in the past. I revisit old lovers, I regularly journey wistfully in nostalgic reverie, I seek out connections to the past at any opportunity. I want to live in present and often do, but I like to revisit where I’ve been. It’s useful to gain some perspective, to reframe the thoughts I have about who I was. Ultimately, it gives me some insight and inspiration into where I want to go.
A few days ago I turned 40 years old. (Yay!) I was lucky enough to spend a full 48 hours on things that nourished my soul. A chakra massage, tarot readings from two different people, joyful celebration, quiet contemplation, a party, a blessing, a clearing, a purging of my darkness. See, the overwhelming message that came through to me (even with The Last Jedi) was how I needed to let go of the remnants of the past so that I can finally move forward to a place of deservingness and peace. I need to stop examining the past to piece together my shattered worthiness and instead needed to accept my own light, accept my new role and create a future of bright, shining energy.
This is my own personal Tower. This is the structure that has been holding up my life, created from memory, from experience, from learning, and above all from distortions about these. This structure of service without reward, of absorbing the darkness in others so that they might find their light has been such a primary source of identity for me. I’ve been resisting tearing that down, but it’s become so apparent to me that this is the last piece of “suffering” I must do in order to fully feel like I can move forward into the structure I’m building for myself.
The time has come for me to step into Who I Really Am.
The Origins of the Tower
Growth is accepting that not every structure in our life is meant to remain. We must either tear down the old, worn down Tower of self or a wrecking ball will come through and force us to rebuild.
Some of you have seen me talk about “tearing down my tower”. The Tower, a reference to tarot, is what I use to refer to those sacred institutions, behaviors, beliefs, reactions, etc that we use to process the outside world. Whether it be religion, sexuality, expectations in friendships, family values, politics, we each construct a Tower for ourselves, the structure for our home, our life, our relationships, our spirituality, our outlook on life.
The walls of our Towers are adorned with paintings of our grand achievements, statues of the important people in our lives, wall-to-wall libraries containing the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. Each is unique to our own self.
Our first Tower was built by our parents, caregivers, and others in authority when we were children. They were shaped for us so that we should be taught how to treat others, what to believe spiritually, what we find beautiful or loving, what priority learning should have in our lives. It provides us with shelter and protection.
At some point down the line, we realize that we need somewhere else to live – emotionally or spiritually. We’ve outgrown this Tower – which makes sense because it was built to house a child and, as everyone says, we are growing up so fast. But we resist leaving it. It’s served us so well in the past and it feels so dangerous to be away from it. We try to force ourselves to occupy the structure of a life built by our families of origin but soon, it won’t be able to contain us any longer.
Eventually, we see that the foundation is cracking, the paint is peeling, the roof is leaking. We have outgrown this space and if we don’t vacate soon it will collapse on us. If we are to ever grow, we must leave this behind…this first Tower that nurtured us toward adulthood and independent thought. This won’t be the last time in our lives that we will do this.
Once we’ve vacated that old space, we find ourselves in the market for a new one. We search for a philosophy, an institution, an established way of thought to replace what we had before. Maybe Buddhism fits you better than being Presbyterian ever did. Maybe this political party speaks more to your concerns than the one you were raised with. Maybe it’s a perfect fit and you will live happily ever after in that pre-fabricated Tower that you found.
And maybe it doesn’t fit.
What do you do when you find that your new Tower, your new home doesn’t quite fit? The shelves are too high, the ground is too cold…whatever (stick with my metaphor here). A lot of people move from place to place to try to find the right fit, trying to find that religion that works for them, trying to force themselves into conformity with whatever structure they chose. And more often than not, the pre-built, one-size-fits-all, fresh out of the box philosophy or religion or political stance comes close but still doesn’t fully serve your needs.
Why we have to Tear Down the Tower to move forward
True growth is when we realize that life is about creating ourselves, not others telling us who we ought to be. The whole point of the Tower card is to make us conscious and aware that we have a choice to vacate that which no longer serves us. That if we choose to stay behind, out of some stubborn belief that we owe it to this crumbling tower to continue to inhabit within its walls, then we’ll still be there, protecting the brick and mortar of a structure that needs to be strengthened, needs to adapt, needs to change. If we are not careful, a wrecking ball will barrel on through and the bricks will land wherever they may.
This mighty Tower of ours, even the ones we’ve built from our history, our choices, our newer beliefs, won’t be able to serve us for the whole of our lives. Society changes what is needed, the people in our lives influence our beliefs and choices, our experiences continue to shape us. But either way, whether we choose to do it ourselves or not, the Tower will come down. The critical question is whether we choose to bring each brick down one by one and examine what we still want and need, or whether we’ll let the wrecking ball do that work for us.
So when I say I’m “tearing down my Tower”, I mean that I am making the choice to clear out what no longer serves me. Do I keep the bricks of Catholicism? Maybe I keep the one for the rosary since that still matters to me, but their beliefs about same-sex marriage are pounded down to dust and reformed with glitter and sparkles to represent my support of marriage equality. What about my patterned print of taking things so personally? Maybe I should replace it a pattern that encourages me to take a step back before responding to something.
This isn’t an easy process because even when you’re being thoughtful and methodical with examining our values and beliefs, someone comes at us with battering rams of knowledge and judgment knocking down walls or poking holes in the vulnerable areas of our belief systems. Even when we’re being careful, the world can still come by and knock our structure down. But what matters the most is how we choose to respond when that happens.
The Tower requires us to rebuild into something new
The past 10+ years have been about that rebuilding, about sifting through the pile of rubble after a lot of Hulk Smashes to my Tower. But instead of actually rebuilding, I’ve been using old blueprints and just trying to reconstruct what I had before. I’ve taken pieces of my old self and have expected them to look the same as they did before. I’ve grown and matured, I don’t belong where I was before.
This is what I’ve been resisting. I know in my heart that my next step of the journey is inhabiting a space of deservingness, of worthiness, of divine alignment and cosmic success. I cannot do that if I’m running around trying to hold together fractured pieces of my identity, namely the part of my identity that kept me so laden with darkness and woundedness that I would never find joy in that new space. In absorbing all that pain and suffering, I stopped processing it into goodness and light and started hanging onto it as burden and punishment.
The Tower symbolizes an identity crisis. What was once safe about our beliefs, our outlook, and ourselves, is being challenged and called to be transformed into something stronger. And while that end result will no doubt be the most fabulous episode of Love It or List It ever, it is painful and scary to launch into the unknown. The risk of failure is equal to the risk of success and yet I hesitate, because if I move into this new structure, what will it say about me as a person? as a woman? as a mother? as a wife? as a teacher? as a lawyer? Who will I be if I live in a structure without darkness and punishment?
My journey these past 10 years is coming to a close. The days of living in a sunken garden, examining the past, reliving the trauma and explaining my failings must stop. It is time to take the last of these bricks and put them to good use in finishing the temple I need to build to house my new self. I must say goodbye to the brittle, shattered version of myself and embrace the bright wisdom of a more vibrantly joyful person I am meant to become.
Today I am choosing to walk away from the last remnants of an old life so that I can cross the threshold of this new space with the peace of self-knowledge and self-love. Abandoning the suffering of the past and embracing the grace and fulfillment of new adventures. A fitting end to my 40th Birthday.