Here and There – Travelling Alone
For most of the past sixty years, I have lived with a partner. I first married when I was eighteen years old (well, two weeks before I was nineteen). I was divorced from my third wife a couple of months ago (even if we had lived apart for some time before). Living alone, not having a partner, is an unfamiliar world, although, of course, I would often spend time alone, often on work trips, even when I was married.
There is no doubt that my first marriage, which lasted twenty-five years, was far from close. We were very different people, in background, temperament, aspirations and interests. We were bound together by having three children, but well before they reached their teenage years, I was living emotionally and psychologically apart. My second partner and I were very compatible, and I imagined we would be together for the rest of our lives. I was wrong. She died from cancer, and, looking back, I think that was a blow from which I have never fully recovered. Married a third time, the first few years were great, but then we slowly slipped apart. What does this saga say about me?
Let’s begin with a less personal perspective. How about the astrologist’s view of a person born around the middle of November, a ‘Scorpio’? According to mindbodygreen, a website that ‘connects soul and science’, Scorpios possess an energy that “often appears calm and subdued but is intensely emotional underneath the surface … We can think of Scorpio as the underworld, of whatever emotions, thoughts, truths, and secrets linger below the surface.” I went on to read “Scorpios are famously discreet and even secretive, with an air of mystery around them. Other personality traits include fearlessness, boldness (thanks to Mars), passion, creativity, and fierce loyalty.” I liked all that, but then went on to read :
“Scorpio’s depth can create tunnel vision at times, and this is a sign that can be a tad obsessive. This means that Scorpio could take a cue from another fixed sign, Aquarius, and zoom out to get the wide-angle view once in a while. Another major opportunity for growth involves letting things go. Scorpios tend to hold onto grudges, negative energy, or obsessive thought patterns about people or situations that have wronged them. Remember that grudges only hurt the grudge-keeper. Finally, Scorpios would do well to remember that their friends, partners, and co-workers are not mind-readers. They should always remember to communicate emotions and talk about how they’re feeling. Don’t keep all of those secrets inside, Scorpio! Let them out to let them go.”
Hmm. I rather doubt that the alignment of the stars at the time of one’s birth has much to do with anything, other than a profitable business. However, there’s plenty there for me to consider. Sad to say I am well described as outwardly calm and happy, while hiding emotions and concerns. Let’s face it, that is a useful attribute in my life as a discussion moderator, where you need to focus on the task, make certain you are listening to everyone and encouraging them to speak, and keeping, as far as possible your real feelings hidden. There are occasions when it is helpful to be active, adopting provocative or argumentative perspectives, as these interventions help move the discussion forward, but even then, a good moderator doesn’t reveal their own perspective if it’s possible to avoid it.
Let’s continue. Passionate, creative and fiercely loyal. If I lay claim to that trio of attributes, I have to remind myself that I am good at hiding passion and loyalty, keeping quiet, leaving a great deal unsaid. That has the funny consequence that I am fiercely loyal to a partner, while assuming that it’s well understood. I’m not perfect, and strayed a couple of times: once, relatively early in my first marriage, and a second time at the end of that relationship. Both times I enjoyed the passion and the emotion, but I also enjoyed the secrecy. Apart from these blips, I was usually happy, but friends and partners weren’t mind readers, so they probably didn’t know! Do I want to admit I can be obsessive? Yes, but I seldom hold a grudge.
The game of astrology is fun. It is easy to pick out from a profile what you believe, or want to believe, and skate over other suggestions. It is also easy to ignore that many of the same traits and concerns appear in just about every sign, sometimes emphasised, sometimes not, but frequently present. However, there is another ‘independent’ source of insight, which to my shame, couple with enjoyment, is one that I have used, reading Tarot Cards.
I started reading the cards when I first arrived in Australia. In one sense, it appealed to my sense of fun, couple with memory. It didn’t take me long to learn the various meanings of the major cards (the ‘arcana’), and to have some sense of the others on the occasions when I tried using the whole set. I would give readings for friends and was always pleased when I ‘saw’ topics, concerns and feelings that my audience found relevant. Every so often I might explain a theme I discovered in the relationship between the cards that gave the listener food for thought. It was only when I gave a rather telling reading that I got the point. The cards were potential, each with various meanings, and each with complex ties to others in the pack. What I was doing was ‘seeing’ in the display in front of me was actually largely what I already knew, perhaps not in detail, some possibly at a slightly unconscious level.
It all fell apart one evening, conducting readings for my partner and two friends (would you believe I just typed ‘fiends’!!). I thought the wife in the other couple was attractive, although I felt it was no more than that. Somehow, I think her attractiveness shaped some of what I ‘saw’ in the cards. I almost said something inappropriate, but then quickly happily talked my way past what I had begun to say in my reading: I had no desire to get involved with this lady, even if, for a moment, I thought the cards were suggesting that might be the case. That was it, no more card readings, and no insights from astrology or the tarot into my character!
At some level, we are always alone in life, whether in a partnership or not. A staggering amount of work goes on in our conscious (and probably unconscious) mind as we travel through life, trying to make sense of how we feel about things and why. We battle with our own ideas, and at the same time we absorb and mull over what others say. I think that’s almost as tricky as reading tarot cards. On the one hand, we want to know what others think, but on the other hand we often prefer to sustain our own views, and discount feedback. Just like looking a tarot card, we hear what we want to hear, and attempt to ignore what doesn’t fit, or meet our preferences. And here’s the rub: some people revel in talking all this stuff through, discussing themselves and others. They must be the opposite of Scorpios! Some of us like to avoid that, but others, Gemini, Libra and Aquarius, I believe, love it.
How do I as an avoidance freak do that? Well, it is surprisingly easy. When talking with another person, I have become a master of steering discussion so that I am encouraging the other to talk about his or her concerns, what’s been happening in their lives, what’s on their minds. I defend myself by saying that this is what makes me a reasonably good moderator, facilitating discussions by getting others to speak. While that is probably true, it is also a very good way to remain hidden in all aspects and in all relationships. My former partners would be very happy to tell you how I tend to keep quiet, keep things to myself, unwilling to discuss any concerns. It’s not an ideal approach to relationships!
Perhaps we would return to the astrologers. I read on the mindbodygreen website that in partnerships a Scorpio is looking for “a partner they can take to travel to the outermost regions of desire, explore sex and sexuality with, and get to know on a deeper level”. Wow! Then I read on:
“Scorpios are generally more interested in long-term partnerships than quick, casual flings. But thanks to their watery nature [do we dribble??], they’re usually more comfortable feeling their feelings than expressing them. If you’re in a new relationship with a Scorpio partner, you might need to ask how they’re doing and what they’re thinking pretty frequently. But in time, a Scorpio will slowly reveal themselves and their true nature. With that being said, Scorpios seek the truth—and if you’re keeping a secret, they’ll be able to tell. A date with a Scorpio can easily turn into a low-key interrogation session if they feel you’re holding something back. However, all of this truth-seeking can be beautiful, as it leads Scorpio into deep and meaningful friendships and relationships. It can be hard to ‘read’ a new Scorpio friend at first, and they may come off as aloof, mysterious, or unemotive. But don’t be fooled: There’s a lot stirring beneath the surface! Like their namesake, the Scorpion, Scorpios are slow and steady but will sting when threatened.”
Here I am, nearly 80 years old, with time to reach below the surface and think about myself, and my life’s journey. I don’t spend much time looking back, except when there is something in the past that I can draw on for a blog post. Perhaps I should reflect on the past a little more. What I do consider is ‘what’s next?’. There isn’t much time left, and for the first time in my life, I am looking ahead alone. I don’t mean that I don’t have loving children and grandchildren, because I do. I enjoy the time we spend together. But there isn’t a partner alongside me. As you know from what I’ve already said, sadly partners have learnt they have been people I can hide from in some ways, allowing me to avoid explaining my feelings. My somewhat twisted view of partnerships is that my role is to support, encourage and enable, and hold myself back. Yes, I know, it sounds like I am treating a partnership as another relationship where I should be a moderator and enabler, rather than a true equal.
Shall we give the astrological perspective one more run? “Scorpio likes to go deep, and they can focus on one task or subject for a while, even obsessively at times. Scorpio energy is also associated with all things “taboo” or not socially acceptable. This means that Scorpios are the ones that everyone in the office runs to with their most personal, unspeakable problems and secrets.” Well, some of that might be true. The feedback continues, “Scorpios are immensely loyal, often staying with one company or profession for their whole lives.” Uh oh. Well that’s certainly not the case, I think I have changed jobs and professions many times, and wandered between academia, business, the public sector and the not-for-profit sector. Well, yes, but I have always been an observer dedicated to working out what to do, even in academia I was an applied social scientist, not a fundamental researcher.
Here’s the last sentence from the website. “They’re not into gossiping or pettiness and often have magnetic personalities that co-workers and clients are drawn to.” Yes, this is like my earlier comments about tarot cards. You pull out what you like and ignore the rest. “Magnetic personality”. I don’t think so. “Not into gossip and pettiness”. I’d like to think that’s true, but while I might like to think I am circumspect, those around me might not agree.
I spend much of my time alone now. I have discussion groups and outings to concerts, but otherwise my life seems to focus on reading and writing blogs. What did I say at the start? ‘For most of the past sixty years, I have been with a partner.’ Now I am not. Am I not just alone, but lonely? The smart answer is to say we are all, in the end, alone in the world, surrounded by a network of relationships, but essentially living within our own heads. Another smart answer is to say I haven’t started talking to myself. Oops, yes, I have, as that’s what blogging is about. I am getting forgetful, which I find frustrating, and leads me to using Google a lot nowadays, especially when I’m working away at Wordle, Quordle and the Quick Crossword (quick I’m not, but I usually get it out after a while).
In those blogs I title ‘Here and There’, I frequently explore places I have visited, adventures I’ve had, and incidents I think might be interesting. However, in some sense, there is no ‘There’, but rather it is only me in another setting. Am I different from the person I was in the UK? Or in the US?
Just a minute. There is an answer to these questions, and it’s not by using ChatGPT. I’ve kept my tarot cards, the user’s guide and another book. Why did I do that, when I gave away thousands of books before I returned to Australia? Best not to think about it. I could do a couple of tarot readings. One question could be: am I the same person I was when I was living in the US? Another would be forward looking: what’s going to happen to me in the next year? Hmm. The second question is risky. Still let’s give it a go.
I haven’t read the cards for a very long time, and it is surprising to me how intrigued I am to see the result: while I know it is just fun, I am still anxious to see what happens. OK, what did the reading offer for the outcome of the next year?
- Present influence – satisfaction, accomplishment, contentment
- Immediate obstacles – danger, disillusionment, unexpected perils
- Goal – inspiration, promising opportunities, optimism
- Past foundation – moderation, balance, integrity and sensibility
- Past events – prudence, inner wisdom, self-denial, and possibly annulment
- Future influences – humility, leniency, compassion
- Me – competence, skill, leadership
- Environment al factors – Speculating, yearning, beginning of a possible romance
- Inner emotions – evolution, accomplishment, marriage
- Final result – success, admiration of others, triumph in undertakings
Whoa, that wasn’t bad! I’m not sure about some of the details. The beginning of a possible romance in the next year, even marriage. After three goes, I reckon that might be it. Then, on the negative side, the risks of disillusionment and unexpected perils? I’d better be careful what I eat. Annulment? I guess that is about getting divorced. However, despite the best and the worst bits, this happens to be quite acceptable. Actually, I’ll go further and add one more remark, which is that this is the most positive reading I have ever brought off.
I wonder if you have noticed something. This blog might have been about me, offering insights into my character, my hopes and feelings, the things I enjoy, and so on. However, in subtly (?) shifting the focus to astrology and tarot cards, I have definitely demonstrated one feature of my character, past, present and future, which is that I am good at revealing as little as possible. Not much about me, and not much about relationships, and as far as I am concerned, that is the way it should be. I’m putting away the tarot cards. Harmless fun, but they have proved to bring out some startling insights in the past. Best to avoid them. Back to blogs and discussion groups – and the odd glass of red wine.