on integration

thoughts & reflections for may 2021

hello, friends, and a blessed beltane to all who celebrate. here in brooklyn the weather has been gorgeous: trees are budding and blooming, people are more active outside but mostly staying masked, and things are starting to feel a little bit more hopeful. it’s a welcome change, and one i am trying to embrace, even as i sit in a place of joyful uncertainty.

a few days ago i shared an update on the future of this newsletter, and also announced that i’m open for custom tarot readings - if you’ve been hoping to book with me, you can snag a reading right now through my website. and if you’d like to support my ongoing writing, you can make a donation through paypal.

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today’s piece touches on some things i’ve been thinking through for awhile, things that i hope resonate with you too. take a few deep breaths, relax your shoulders and jaw, stretch your arms and flex your fingers. let’s dig in.


on integration

i’ve had this song stuck in my head nonstop lately, an old song by third eye blind that i sometimes wonder if anyone else loved as much as i did, as much as i still do.

you smile
and say the world doesn't fit with you
i don't believe you, you're so serene
careening through the universe
your axis on a tilt, you're guiltless and free

-motorcycle drive by, third eye blind

it’s a sad song, a breakup song, yet there’s this gorgeous flowing freedom to it. a shedding of skin, an ability to take pride in the ways that we don’t fit, a joy in being strange and different. even as these two people say goodbye, there’s a pleasure present, a recognition of beauty and wonder and magic in these things that cannot be understood, these longings that refuse to be defined.

to recognize and accept that the world doesn’t fit with you, instead of believing that you don’t fit the world, or internalizing this lack of cohesion as a personal failure - there’s power in that kind of confidence, in that sense of personal integrity and assurance.

the lyrics of this song keep overlapping, getting tangled up with the cards i’ve been pulling in my readings. temperance is a tricky concept, a strange archetype, one of the most mysterious in the major arcana and one i’ve written about often. within the fool’s journey we see this card as one of moderation and harmony, a stepping back from progress in order to process, a balancing of opposing energies and desires. in the wake of death, after a challenging loss and a new, perhaps frightening sense of freedom, we work to find our footing, to recalibrate, to sit in still waters and cool any raging internal wildfires.

unfortunately, sometimes balance is impossible. we want to explore and also feel safe, to let our winds blow and fires rage even while the ground stays steady beneath our feet. in the this might hurt tarot deck by isabella rotman, the knights all ride motorcycles, sleek machines snarling with power, fast and agile and so easy to lose control of. in reveling in the magic of one singular element, it’s tempting to leave the others behind, to get lost in the heat and the speed, to turn too quickly and crash hard before we can even register what has happened.

there’s an exhilaration to racing forward without a plan, to letting our gaze drift from the road ahead to the beauty all around us. we find a particular kind of joy in choosing adventure over perseverance, in enjoying the power of agility and speed rather than setting an intentional destination. motorcycles aren’t the safest way to get anywhere, but they’re designed for the experience, for the rush. they’re all about pleasure, about being perfectly present, about giving us an escape.

but temperance wants us to focus on being calm, on looking forward, on releasing anger and fear and doubt. we work to make meaning out of our experiences, to let them fold into us, to embrace a sense of alchemy and incorporation. we look for a place of centeredness, inhale and exhale, remember who we are, imagine who we could be. in releasing extremes, in seeking the middle path, it may feel like we are compromising, like we are choosing to deny our intensities and strongest desires in favor of not rocking the boat. but rather than abandoning those authentic pieces, temperance asks us to celebrate them, to integrate all of our experiences into one seamless whole. easy, right?


temperance is card fourteen in the tarot. and numerologically, we can combine these two digits to get a base number of five, giving us a new lens to view this archetype through. fives in tarot are represented by the hierophant, our guide for the year 2021 as well as for taurus season, a figure of knowledge and information. this is a person that seeks truth, that helps us find community and ritual and tradition, that encourages us to keep asking the kinds of questions that cannot be answered. they live in the tension, live for the mystery, live in pursuit of the magic in the unknown. the hierophant drifts between worlds, finding the spiritual in the mundane, grounding their intellectual explorations with physical practices.

temperance and the hierophant are connected by their pursuit of balance and understanding, by their willingness to dwell in the murkiness of faith. they are not made uncomfortable by question marks, do not get tangled up in riddles and enigmas. instead they embrace the beauty that dwells in these uncertainties, delight in the journey of discovery. they respect this twisting, unending sense of process, even as they hold space for a destination, an understanding, that may never be reached.

these two archetypes may understand integration in different ways - the hierophant as a state of grace, temperance as a point of acceptance. they both see the power in this concept, the necessity of this stage of growth. yet when done without intention, integration and adaptation can mean losing pieces of ourselves, hiding in plain sight, learning to bend and flex and change according to what is expected of us rather than out of a sense of authenticity. and when we only follow the paths created by others, when we always choose safety over exploration, sometimes we can forget the potential in our own individual footprint.

as a queer, closeted child, i learned to be different people in different spaces. in my conservative church i said the right prayers, confessed to the right sins, expressed the right kind of faith. in my public school i used the right kind of slang, joined the right social groups, pursued the right activities. with my friends i found the right kind of biting wit, watched the right movies, had crushes on the right boys. but when i was alone, all of those fragments splintered and cracked, left me drifting in space, desperately trying to gather all of the little pieces of myself that didn’t seem to add up to anything real. i was so eager to integrate, to fit in, that i didn’t actually know who the hell i was.

i still feel this, more than i would care to admit. i’m a 35-year-old woman who still wants to be one of the cool kids, who wishes they felt like the right kind of queer, the right kind of feminist, the right kind of writer, the right kind of witch. people i admire are chasing their dreams, putting themselves out there, hitting major professional and personal milestones, and i’m still trying to figure out which lunch table to sit at. they’re making their wildest dreams come true, and i’m still just hoping i’m wearing the right shirt.

but what i’m learning, and learning, and relearning, is that integration isn’t about assimilation. moderation isn’t about being boring, about releasing our cravings. we’re not called to never let ourselves experience the rush of an open road, to never try anything new or make mistakes or own our differences. instead temperance is about letting all of those disparate internal parts settle into something cohesive, about recognizing where things don’t fit, about celebrating this strange messiness as a beautiful, extraordinary process. there’s strength and power in those awkward angles and missing links, gold being poured into those cracks, brilliance in the parts of ourselves that we don’t fully understand. there’s magic in both the mayhem and the mundane.

the pieces of me that i can’t explain or define, that are uniquely mine, that i’ve clung to without knowing why - after all this time, i’m realizing that those might be the best ones. those might be the fragments that are most worth saving, polishing, refining.

and there's this burning
like there's always been
i've never been so alone
and i've never been so alive

-motorcycle drive by, third eye blind

we are all the living, breathing amalgamations of our experiences, our insights, our dreams and drives and desires. we choose what we drag forward and what we abandon, the pieces of ourselves that we cherish and the ones that we deny, the loves that we hold up to the light and the ones that we hide in the darkness. and fuck, it’s so tempting to only show the “best” parts, the ones we’re proud of, the ones we know others will admire and celebrate and envy. it would be so much easier to let the gloss of social media and the isolation of the pandemic and the chaos of capitalism smooth over our roughest patches, our harshest truths. it would be so much simpler to head out on the open road, to chase a rush of excitement instead of slowing down and doing the work.

and yet. my favorite astrologer likes to remind me that the places in our natal charts where there are squares, friction, challenges, are often the things that we end up being known for. we put extra energy into the complications, spend time learning to navigate those contrary angles, to the point that they become places of pride, powerful assets, little kernels of brilliance that define and illuminate us. the places of ease rarely require much from us - but the places of discomfort, of strange magic and weird alchemy, those are the places where we invest in ourselves. we make them valuable, by virtue of recognition. we trace their sharp edges, again and again, until they are as familiar as fingerprints.

temperance, the knights, the elements: they want you to be your fullest, truest self; to integrate all of that wildness and wisdom into one gorgeous and messy creature. what points of tension have you been trying to smooth over, to deny? where are you burning from the inside out? what magic is trying to escape, longing to make itself known? and in letting those tangled dreams and desires take up space, how could they help you step into your magic into a new and profound way?

have a safe, beautiful, inspiring may.

images from this post feature cards from the this might hurt tarot. all photographs by meg jones wall.