Reversals: Joy in Sudden Disappointment

Reversals: Joy in Sudden Disappointment

The Fool card, upside-down. This card is found in the book The Illustrated Guide to the Tarot and is copyright-free. (I turned it upside-down; the reversal is mine.) The Fool is an androgynous person in a short jerkin ending just about the knees. The color tone in the image is golden yellow. The Fool's boots are yellow, the jerkin is black and white what might be flowers or also stars with golden suns amid the pattern. The Fool is carrying a white might be rose in their left hand and a staff holding a knapsack at the top which has the shape of a purse, or even a lock. There's a feather coming out of the top of the Fool's head that also looks like a chain holding the purse to the staff. A small white Shelty-looking dog barks at the Fool, raising up on its two hind feet, as the Fool is leaning back, quietly contemplating stepping off the edge of a cliff into an abyss. White, glacier-like, sharply peaked mountains are in the background. The Sun as a simple partial circle is seen in the righthand corner of the image in pale yellow with rays as simple lines streaming out from it and the number "0" in the center of the image at the top, the words "The Fool" on a pale yellow-gray bar at the bottom.

Reversals–joy in sudden disappointment–are meaningful developments on your journey to your goal. Don’t ignore them! Here’s how to use them. Image: my reversal using the image-development platform Canva of the Fool image from Wikimedia Commons which is found in The Illustrated Guide to the Tarot. by L. W. de Laurence.

Reversals: Joy in Sudden Disappointment

In the Tarot, a reversed card has equal significance to an upright card. Not only that: its significance upside-down is often quite different (although related to) what it means right-side-up.

In life, especially on your journey to a goal, a reversal should not be ignored but plumbed, devoured, deeply explored and probed for its meaning. It is offering something important to you and only to you. Ignoring its meaning–or worse, feeling ashamed or embarrassed in a way that makes you want to hide it–is like paying for a coaching or consulting session but not paying attention.

Not Letting Your Reversals Teach You is Truly Foolish

Sure, ignoring our reversals is foolish because “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” as philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1905. That is basic to my experience and interpretation of history.

But I’m telling you something far beyond that here.

I’m telling you that a reversal is a gift.

A reversal is a gift.

A Gift Only to You

The first clue to reversals is to notice the obvious we don’t often notice: it didn’t happen to someone else.

It happened to us.

A Personal Story

The building I had lived in for years burned in 2015. (My apartment was where you can see the brick through the paint.) I left the third floor on a firefighter’s ladder.

We all walked away. Even the building cat.

Some had shops and offices in the building.

Others had children with them at the time.

I was alone (although I have a child).

And I was the one who called in the fire, but not first out, nor the person who really did perform incredibly heroic rescue.

I am probably the only one who said to herself that morning, “G-d obviously thinks I’m a badass,” and continues to feel blessed by the event. I had lost everything but the clothes on my back and my car; I immediately understood that part of my message was to let go of everything else I owned (in my storage unit), so I did.

Each of us received different messages from the fire. Just in the first few weeks, I learned such profound ones that I published them and my soul-colleague author and artist BJ Appelgren set them in this beautiful frame as a gift:

I publicly observe the anniversary of the fire each year since it happened.

The Sharper Your Focus on Your Goal, the Clearer the Message

So how do you use the first clue I’m describing–that this message is not meant for anyone else, but you?

Here are four guidelines:

1. Don’t Seek Outside Yourself

First, don’t pay attention to what anyone else thinks about it. Don’t let them interpret it for you! For two months after my fire (and it is my fire; others also had their fire, their experience), I stayed out of the small downtown area where my building was located. I kept away from talk about the fire, although I explored it in 1:1 conversations and meetings, and in my journal.

I surrounded myself with people who–although surprised by the meaning I was giving it–supported me in giving it my own meaning.

No one else knows any better than you do what the meaning of your message is. No one knows at all what your reversal is saying to you. Don’t diminish its power by seeking interpreters outside yourself, whether on YouTube, the Internet, or among your friends, colleagues, or family.

2. Drop into Relationship with Your Reversal

Your reversal was given to you just like your calling was given to you. All communication takes place within a context. That context is relationship.

This is why ignoring it, diminishing it, or trying to hide that it happened is so foolish. We cannot relate to something we’re ashamed of.

Consider it a gift–and go from there. “Hello, reversal: what have you to teach me today?” Because the message within it will keep on giving if you keep on staying open to its teaching. Sometimes the information in it will guide your actions; sometimes it will guide your thoughts. It may even guide the way you see yourself, like it did me.

Give yourself space and time to work with your reversal. Often, at first, while it is fresh.

Give yourself space and time to work with your reversal. Often, at first.

Don’t work against it! Work with it. Take time as you do with any new relationship or old friend.

3. The Sharper Your Focus on Your Goal, the Clearer Its Message

It is hard to ignore a building fire (if you want to survive it). But it is possible to ignore many kinds of reversals: you lose your job, you get kicked out of something you loved, your tools you needed (and paid a pretty penny for) don’t show up/get lost/stolen/destroyed. Could be an accident, right? No!

Context is everything: what was your focus when the reversal happened? For me, I was pretty focused on staying alive. Assuming your goal is sharp, and clear, you’re in luck: the space–the lens, if you will–through which you can see your reversal is sharp and clear too. The arena of its meaning is very specific. It is the arena of your goal. Don’t dismiss it. This is the Universe talking to you!

Look at its meaning through that lens: your goal. Look nowhere else for the meaning of its message.

For example:

You were dissatisfied and seeking to change jobs and you lost your job.

Or, you knew you were supposed to do this thing you loved, and you got kicked out of it.

What about: you were going into business for yourself and your tools you paid a pretty penny for never arrived.

Of course, you curse the event! It is fine not to like what happened. That is part of the reversal’s power. I wasn’t wild about barely surviving the fire in the moment it happened!

4. Avoid the Temptation to Think It Is Bad

I am centering this fourth guideline: avoid the temptation to think what has happened to you is bad.

There is no way–no way–its meaning is bad. No way.

There’s no way you’re cursed.

There’s no way you’re being told to cease and desist from your goal.

There is nothing wrong with you.

Please understand why I say this: if you have a goal with a tight, clear focus, you have already taken the exact kind of enormous bold step the Universe loves and responds to.

Proof: For how I understand your relationship with the Universe as one of co-creative manifestation of your goal, click here. For why the Universe rewards boldness according to Sufism, the New Testament and the Financial Times, click here. For the distinction between the Law of Attraction and a much deeper abundance mindset, click here.)

Do not turn back now!

Do not diminish the power of your endeavor you are embarked on. That is not what the reversal is telling you. That’s the only thing that I know about your reversal. (Because you and it are in an intimate relationship and I would not attempt to violate that.)

If you want to, start with these questions:
    • How is this a gift?
    • How is this a blessing?
    • The Universe obviously thinks I’m a badass and has specially rewarded my boldness with this: how shall I move with its guidance?: What greater boldness is being asked of me?)

A Sufi Finds Joy in Sudden Disappointment

“A Sufi finds joy in sudden disappointment.” I have spoken about this, and it turns out I have blogged about it four (other) times! I cannot pretend to have plumbed the depths of this teaching. I only know how true it is, and that each time I am willing to let it be true, I learn a lot more than when I don’t. It is a pathway to quickest growth if we are willing to do the deep self-dive it points us to.

And this is the point of having any goal: reaching it, sure–but more importantly, having it change us in the ways we want to become.

If you adopt this way of working toward your goal, things will move much faster. The Universe has accepted your goal as your “garden,” and is giving you signs all the time of what to do and how to move within that garden. If you accept and work with them as useful information, things will move much faster.

Pay attention to your reversals, they are just as meaningful as everything else in your goal garden.

When you are disappointed, or things feel in upheaval, or the rug feels like it’s been pulled out from under you—pay attention. Don’t condemn yourself or the Universe or your goal or anyone or anything else. My experience is the Universe is giving a message that indicates the opportunity for deeper partnership and support if you surrender, and learn.

    Posted at 22:00h, 07 July Reply

    Powerful lessons from powers greater than us. Thank you.

    My car broke down on the motorway last week, it felt like one of those “not again” moments, just when things were working out.

    I shall ponder on this.

    • Beth
      Posted at 18:14h, 08 July Reply

      That’s the way to look at it: my car breaking down is the next step of things working out. It sounds counterintuitive yet it is so much more helpful and useful! Thank you. Feel free to add anything from your pondering.

  • Julie Barnet
    Posted at 21:26h, 03 April Reply

    A lovely post! Well I remember that fire. And I appreciate the teaching.

    • Beth
      Posted at 13:40h, 04 April Reply

      Julie, thank you! We experience so many reversals–may as well use them, eh?

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