As 2017 was ending, I found myself in chaos.
The campus where I work is being sold. I had hoped I could stay on with the “old company” by taking a part-time job in another facility to maintain health insurance and other benefits and continue with the “new company” part time.
Because our sale date was slated for midnight on December 31st, and many of the jobs I had applied for weren’t going to be interviewed for until after the New Year, it just didn’t happen. My employment would be fully terminated and therefore, I would have to re-apply as an external applicant. I would also lose my tenure and retirement benefits since I had “separated” from the company.
It just didn’t happen.
Work was utter chaos—rushing to make normal end of year deadlines, attempting to save everything we were planning on carrying over to the new company, everyone wore sharp edges and brushed them up against each other as often as possible. I was working far beyond my tolerance. Far, far beyond my tolerance. And I was still off my meds and moving so very much that my wrists and fingers were sausages and oranges every single night.
And then, definitely not the least of these was the fact that my dad was in ICU twice during the month of December, on a ventilator both times, interrupted only by three days which happened to include my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and Christmas.
I will always, always remember this Christmas.
And then there was the unknowing, the holding of breath as we waiting to see what would happen January 1st. What would our new health insurance be like? Would I be able to afford going to the doctor? What about my oh-so-expensive meds? The majority of my medications couldn’t be refilled until January 15, so I wasn’t exactly able to stock up like I normally did.
There was so much fear in the gap between old and new this year.
Pushing away the fear, just for the moment, I decided to once again reconnect my sometimes-silent totem, the Fool. I say “once again reconnect” because I’ve done this many, many times over the years. I lose sight of him, but he’s always waiting.
I’ve been blogging off and on—albeit mostly off—for 10 years now. My first place in the blogosphere was a free site at WordPress, called The Footsteps of a Fool.
Sometimes you really can go home again.
It was my wetting my toes in public writing, although it was anonymously. Funny how anonymity eroded over the years. I am nothing if not foolish in just about all of my endeavors.
But it’s the archetype of the Fool from the tarot deck, that has long held me, sometimes hiding but always awakening when I need him most.
For so long and for so many reasons, the Fool has always had negative connotations.
Whether it’s for his stupidity or silliness, his lack of vision or lack of judgment, his poor fashion sense or poor common sense, the Fool has gotten a bad rap, for sure.
And yet, there’s something more, just below the surface.
It is said that the tarot deck is the Fool’s journey, and, as all journeys do, it begins and ends with the traveler himself. In the classic Rider-Waite deck, the Fool’s order is zero. Being neither positive nor negative, the Fool strikes the balance between the two. When the tarot was a popular card game, the Fool was the trump card, operating outside the rules that governed all other cards.
When looking at the card itself, at first glance, we see a man foolishly about to step off a cliff. Eyes opened, he appears to be taking a poor puppy with him. Poor judgment? Wanton disregard? Blatant blindness? Whatever the cause, judging by surface appearances, there’s a willful ignorance in play, a refusal to see the obvious—that he’s about to go over the cliff—or a knowing and doing anyway, even if it’s to his detriment.
But again, there’s something more, just below the surface.
If we look more closely, we see that his eyes are open, his head thrown back in the primal pleasure of moving, and he has no doubt that he’s about to step off a cliff. In fact, his rear foot is already lifting; he’s already taking that next step. This card is an action shot; it’s a man with a plan—not just a plan, but a plan that is advancing at this very moment. He may have found himself hesitating or doubting himself in the past, but at this moment, this singular moment, he is moving. Moving toward the great unknown, moving toward the future.
Moving in faith.
His next step is the beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning. No longer will he be on familiar footing, but rather free-falling, plunging into pure mystery. His action is determined; his end result is not. Does he meet his end on the craggy rocks below the cliff? Does he regain his footing and continue on his way until the new way is as familiar as the old only to have things change once again?
No one knows. Such is the fate of a Fool.
But the Fool does not travel alone, nor does he travel empty-handed. He brings with him a dog for company, a symbol of unconditional love and loyalty, and, as it so happens, the dog is also in motion, neither leading nor following. Excited and eager, the dog is also moving toward the unknown, his eyes on his companion. In the Fool’s possessions are a flower and a small rucksack. A balance of beauty and necessity, inspiration and practicality, the Fool has everything he needs for this moment. It’s an exercise in faith that everything he needs for the next moment will be provided for him. Because the next moment never matters as much as this one.
Fearlessness. Unconventionality. Openness. Movement. Balance. Faith. Love and loyalty. Presence in the moment.
Thus lies the nature of the Fool.
I am, on my best days, a Fool-with-a-capital F. Always a work in progress, a lover not a fighter (although, I must admit, am STILL trying to break the habit of showing up to most verbal fisticuffs I’m invited to), an embracer of adventure, She-Who-Sees-Behind-The-Mask.
I don’t make resolutions, but I do make goals. For this year, especially this year, I choose to celebrate awesomesauce wherever I find it, in whatever form I find it, to discover greatness in the mundane, beauty in the intrepid, and to cry out praise for those things that really, really rock my world. I want to help others as I can, how I can. I want to sing about solutions, to examine those things I have taken for granted, to celebrate small victories, to liberate my inner bohemian, and live as joyfully, fearlessly, and Foolishly as I possibly can.
And maybe, just maybe, finish that damn novel.
This means leaving those who have acted in bad faith behind in 2017 to their own devices. It means bringing forward the flame of yesteryear while leaving behind the ashes in the past where they belong. It means all eyes forward. It means putting to bed the life I had planned in order to enter the life that is waiting for me, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell.
It means living, laughing, and loving through the year.
It means plucking the Fool’s cap from behind the boxes of trouble, responsibility, and predictability, donning it with flourish, and entering the new year with fearlessness, unconventionality, openness, movement, balance, faith, love, loyalty, presence in the moment, and joy.
May we all have a very Happy Fool’s Year.
[Image Credit: Fool On the Path by Michael Thomas for my previous website.
Fool Tarot Card from the Rider-Waite deck.]