Major Arcana. Major turning points

Strength card interpretations: Fortitude / Courage / Resourcefulness / Commitment / Self-confidence
“Think of important moments in your life. Choose a Tarot card to represent each experience.” This was the exercise offered by one of my Tarot mentors, Ferol Humphrey.

Three of us did as she suggested. We arranged our picks in chronological order and narrated our life’s highlights to one another.

Strength, 3 ways

All three of us included the Strength card. One, to represent her discovering a special affinity with animals in distress. Another, to represent her realization that one can choose not to fight without being weak.

For me, Strength represented my relationship with my skin. A decade ago, 40-year-old me faced yet another encore of disfiguring cystic acne. It proved a turning point in my life.

The battle I couldn’t win

Over the years, I’d tried any number of poisons to do away with this genetic condition. Nonstop antibiotics were the norm through my teen years, along with treatments involving sunlamps or dry ice, surgical lancing and occasional local steroid injections. Twice, I bombed my system with Accutane, once at age 21 and again at 30. (Sizable lawsuits have since forced the drug off the market.)

At age 40, the mirror once again reflected a familiar, hated landscape of redness, inflamed sores and distorted facial features. I could no longer kid myself there was any “conquering” cystic acne. I was going to have to befriend it.

So rather than seek a doctor crazy enough to prescribe a third round of Accutane or its equivalent, I sought a more holistic approach. With the help of a naturopath (who was also a skilled esthetician), I’ve come into a place of sustainable balance.

When Strength calls for surrender

Fighting against my condition kept me angry, resentful, fearful and occasionally mean. I didn’t like what I saw in the mirror and I took it out on everyone, including me.

Strength meant having the courage to lay down arms and try to understand my body. Strength meant having the patience to let small changes show their effects over time. Strength meant taking responsibility for my body’s nourishment rather than ask a doctor to fix me.

Being ashamed of my skin diminished me. With Strength, I can appreciate that my skin will forever show me — and everyone I meet — when I’m out of balance.

What have you done with Strength?

Think of important moments in your life. Is there a Strength moment among them? What did it teach you? How did it change you?

At some point in our lives, we experience all 22 cards of Tarot’s Major Arcana — it’s why they’re Major. Turning points. Game changers. Some fill us with gratitude, others leave us with scars. And some, like my Strength experience, do both.


Would you like clarity or insight on something in your own life? I offer personal readings and would be glad to help.

2 Replies to “Major Arcana. Major turning points”

  1. Sally, I’m in awe. Forgive me for the length of this comment, but I cannot be silent.

    Acne was my sister’s and my constant companion throughout teen years. Where we lived, there was no access to anything other than antibiotics. I remember being on one that supposedly should have stopped after one year. Three years later…a doctor gasped in horror. How does that carelessness happen?

    Every date that my girlfriends had meant they spent endless time with make-up and primping. I spent minimal time primping and then did surgery on my face. I wouldn’t talk about it, but declined some events because of outbreaks. When a really close girlfriend would demand to know why, they couldn’t believe that I thought I had bad skin.

    I still don’t know if they were just being kind, but that happened repeatedly. It was likely because of the mask I developed – I forced the topic of conversation to be on YOU so I didn’t have any attention on me.

    As a teen, I read a book about a Jewish girl being in a concentration camp. (Corrie Ten Boom). She and her sister were herded into the worst building – it was so infested with fleas that one could only sleep once totally exhausted. After weeks, she wept in her big sister’s arms…”It’s bad enough that God has forsaken us. But to put us in a place infested with fleas?”

    Her sister told her to pray and thank God for the fleas.

    “How can you even suggest that?” Corrie demanded.

    “Because of these fleas, the guards won’t even come in here and we are free to eat extra bits of food, pray freely and help one another with no interference.”

    Corrie claimed the fleas saved their lives because they were left alone and survived.

    That created a profound transformation. I began to thank the Universe for my acne. I’d say, “I don’t know what the purpose is, but I trust there is one. I hate pimples and I’m pissed off about them, but I’m going to trust that I’ll know their purpose one day.”

    Sally, I know that purpose today. It’s deep and I’m so very grateful for the experience. Would I want to go through it again? NO! Would I want to wish it on anyone? NO! But what a trip it’s been.

    I still break out – it’s my body giving me a message that it’s detoxing.

    You have turned the corner, too. Bravo. More than anything, I hope you allow love to ease through those scars. The soul that you show in my exchanges with you confirms how loveable you are. Well done, Sally…and keep going! XO

    1. Oh, yes, Amy. I’m grateful for the experience in soooo many ways already and I’ll likely discover many more blessings as I go on.

      A few years ago, I traveled to Peru and quickly decided not to bother with makeup in the heat and humidity of the Amazon rain forest. Late in the trip, a fellow traveler (named Sally!) said something about how pretty I’d be with a little makeup. I said, “If only you knew what a big deal it is that I’m willing to be seen without it!” I told her my story. Felt good.

      A more profound example happened even before my 40-year-old turning point. A new job required getting comfortable with a new creative partner. He was a shy man, but our shared history of cystic acne gave us an instant bond. Soon, we were good friends and an unstoppable team. I expect we’ll stay in touch for the rest of our lives.

      Someday, I may blog about some of the other gifts of the experience. It certainly shaped my life in meaningful ways.

      Thank you, dear heart, for sharing your story. I love the lesson of the fleas.

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