In the Cards is a monthly advice column by Carly Boyce, a queer and genderqueer femme witch based in Toronto. With a background in community-based sexual health, grief work, and suicide intervention, in addition to several years of tarot reading, she brings gentle advice and the wisdom of the cards to your questions about life, love, and feelings of all sorts. To submit a question, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: Ask a Feelings-Witch. Questions will remain anonymous, and may be edited for length.
Q: Dear Feelings-Witch,
I’m a single queer in my thirties. Sometimes, it feels like the world is my oyster and that anything is possible, and that’s really exciting. But I’m also seeing lots of my friends partnering up, buying real estate, having babies, and obtaining career successes, and all of that sometimes leaves me feeling left behind. It feels like my community is changing so quickly, and I often feel lost and lonely. It’s such a cliché problem to have at this age, and yet I don’t feel like I have great strategies for managing these feelings. How can I work to feel okay with where I’m at? How do I make sense of my life outside of these social norms?
A: SQ, I am relating hard to your question and I’m so grateful for an opportunity to explore it with my cards, and to share some reflections and ideas with you. I want to start by saying that I agree with your second sentence—the world is in fact your oyster—and also I really hear how hard it can be to stay with that feeling. My deck had *some things* to say about it; let’s dive in.
Heart of the Matter: Oppression/the Devil
This card is here to remind you that you are operating inside of a system that wasn’t built with you in mind. Misogyny, queerphobia, the relationship escalator, capitalism, and the hyperfocus on monogamous partnership are all super strong forces that are swirling around you and letting you know constantly that you are *not doing it right*. Swimming against the tide can be exhausting, especially if you’ve been at it since you were a wee gay, or if you’re without the rallying cry of a community around you doing it wrong with you. On the days when living in the ways that feel right for you seems like an impossible, unsustainable, unsuccessful task, what I want you to try to do is remember that it isn’t you who is failing. The cognitive dissonance of living against the grain is real.
There is also a bit of a grass-is-greener effect going on with this stuff, I think. Folks who are cobbling together an income with multiple jobs, gigs, and side-hustles can feel envious of the stability and safety of a spoused-up life and a job with benefits. Folks with small humans can feel jealous that you sometimes get to sleep past sunrise and rarely have to wipe avocado out of your hair, or ask the question “chocolate or poop?” We all have ideas and projections about how simple or lovely or easy or safe or adventurous or exciting each other’s lives are, especially if we see them mostly through snapchat filters. We are all of us tender and busted up and struggling. Some of our lives are more socially sanctioned or culturally valued, but very few of them are simple or easy.
These systems are set up to make you feel hopeless; like if you don’t conform, you’re just pushing a boulder up a hill so it can roll down the other side. But, SQ, it’s a lie. There are a million ways to be a person. Who you are—how you are—it’s valuable and meaningful and it matters. This card is here to remind you to place blame for those hard feels where it belongs, and that’s not on yourself.
What to do: Eight of Feathers/Eight of Swords
This card is about feeling stuck, and it wants you to ask yourself how you are getting in your own way. The person on this card is tied up, but this isn’t something that happened to them without their consent. My guts tell me that the ropes you’re tied up in are the feelings you have *about* your feelings. This happens all the time; folks get anxious about getting anxious, sad about how sad they are, pissed off that there are so many things pissing them off, our feelings double-down on each other and it can feel immobilizing.
The most common second-layer feeling though, is shame. I hear it in your question where you describe your feelings as “cliché.” When we are ashamed of our feelings and reactions, sometimes we try to not have them, which is a mostly fruitless venture, and its failure amplifies the shame. It’s ok that you feel lonely sometimes, even if you don’t want to get spoused! It’s ok for you to feel lost sometimes, even if you have actively chosen a non-normative career path. You don’t have to talk yourself out of those feelings, and it may be helpful to find some folks you feel safe talking to about them when they come up. Feeling those things doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen the wrong path.
What to think: Four of Keys/Four of Wands
This is a card about carving out time to celebrate small wins. It wants to know where and with whom you feel safe and seen and okay as you are, even with goals unmet, mountains unclimbed, in overdraft. Who sees the work you do as valuable and magical? Who is excited for you to keep exploring the kinds of relationships and connections that bring you joy right now?
This card also wants to give you permission to rest. That can look lots of ways, but maybe it’s a good time to evaluate what things you’re doing that feel restful and generative, and whether you can push those a little higher up on the to-do list.
Take some time to reflect on the kinds of social gatherings you’ve been prioritizing, and how they are making you feel. Do you need more one-to-one connecting time where you can have tough talks about hard feelings? Do you need more celebration? More flirtation? Make sure that what you want matches up with what you’re doing!
All of the fours in a tarot deck are about structure and boundaries. The four of keys wants to know how you are creating deliberate space for joy in your life, and who you choose to share that space with. It wants you to find some ways to put down the heaviness sometimes and take stock, ideally with others, of how awesome you are. Ask your friends to tell you what they admire about you, or what accomplishments they’re proud of you for. I bet the people around you could make long lists. Put the list on your fridge, or cross-stitch it and hang it in your room, or tuck it away somewhere and look at it on hard days.
I think, if you’re doing it right, you become more yourself with every passing year. This is deeply exciting, and also means that sometimes, the distance between you and some of the folks you love may become larger and harder to traverse over time. I remember watching shows about groups of friends (like Friends, or the L Word) and thinking in my twenties that those people would never hang out together; they had so little in common! As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed myself around tables of folks I love that resemble those motley crews in ways; differences around employment, romantic or sexual orientation, having kids or not, owning property or not, having dental coverage or not, drinking or not, staying up late or not, working seasonally or working 80 hour weeks… sometimes having shared experiences in the present moment isn’t what makes relationships or communities meaningful. You contain multitudes, and hopefully have access to different sorts of communities that can reflect back to you all of your facets.
I also really want to name class as a big part of how these splits can manifest, and how hard that is to navigate. Your thirties tend to be a time when class differences become more evident, and/or class divides expand. It can be hard to feel like you have things in common with folks who are stressing about their property taxes when you aren’t sure how you’re going to pay next month’s rent.
There is a temptation, on the part of folks in the middle (or higher) class to want to relate to feelings and experiences of scarcity that their friends with less wealth experience, because, yes, there are always challenges with budgeting and prioritizing and capitalism teaches us that we never have enough, but if you’re someone who makes less, and has less access to generational wealth, it can just feel shitty to hear your friends complain that their eyecare benefits aren’t covering 100% of their kid’s new glasses. If money stuff sometimes feels like a barrier; that is real, you aren’t imagining it or being oversensitive, and you are allowed to have boundaries about how money gets talked about with folks in your life.
What does seem crucial to me, in one to one relationships as well as in community, is to feel seen and valued as you are. You are, by the way, okay where you’re at. I’m willing to bet that you’re awesome, actually.
What to Avoid: Mentor of Feathers/King of Swords
The Mentor of Feathers is a wise old bird who creates community and connection by sharing their truth with people around them. I’m making some guesses about you, SQ, but I have a feeling you are sometimes the social convener of packs you run with. In this position of something to avoid, my sense is that this card wants you to let yourself be a baby, sometimes.
I see two major ways to do this. The first one is to feel your feelings even when they don’t make sense or they aren’t the feelings you want to be having. Stomp your feet when you’re frustrated. Whine to people who love you and can hold that feeling with you. Sulk sometimes! You’re allowed to. It might even help.
The second one is to seek out elders. I know that for me, it has been a huge deal to meet queers and weirdos who are a decade or two older than me, magical creatures who still work weird jobs and have cute apartments they don’t own, and who are still exploring their sexual and artistic and relational desires. There are possibility models, people who have been where you are and felt what you are feeling, and decided to stay the tricky course. Having access to their hearts and their brains and their footsteps in the snow might help you feel less like you’re going it alone. Intergenerational queer space is magic. Me, I’ve found those connections through creative writing classes and community, Toronto’s leather scene, and theatre/performance/arts spaces. I wonder if there is a hobby or interest of yours that you could work towards finding intergenerational queer connections through.
All of these cards have an energy of pause and reflection to them. I hope that this has given you some ideas on how to hang out more in the hopeful oyster place, and less in the lost and lonely place (even though much of my advice to you was about letting lost and lonely be present when they come up for you)! You are doing brave resistance and transformation work, SQ, and I’m grateful for it.