This summer I found a way to love my family without needing their acceptance.

A year ago this week, my grandmother died on her birthday. In the weeks following her funeral, I had recurring moments in which I heard her voice, telling me to reach out to my relatives on my father’s side of the family. “I’m gone,” she said, “but you have people who love you and want to see you. Let them.” I heard her words, but I didn’t act on them.

Months later, I received an email from my father inviting me to a family reunion to be held at his brother’s home in Charleston, South Carolina. As I stared at the laptop screen, I could feel my grandmother’s presence pushing me to accept the invitation. “But they don’t know me,” I said to her, “They haven’t seen me in fifteen years.” My protests went ignored. I reached for my personal Tarot deck on my dresser and shuffled the cards, asking, “What will my experience be if I attend this reunion?” I breathed, selected a card and turned it over, revealing a woman holding a lion, an infinity sign balanced above her head. Strength.

In traditional Tarot teachings, the Strength card is about having compassion for yourself and for others. It’s finding peace with whatever part of yourself you deem to be ugly or flawed. It’s following your heart one step at a time in your chosen direction. It’s about acceptance.

I was scared to go to the reunion because I thought I would be judged and found wanting. I was afraid that I’d have nothing in common with my relatives and that they’d label me a freak, an outcast, a sinner. I didn’t want to experience the pain of intolerance. I thought maybe it would be easier to have no experience than to have a negative one.

The Strength card reminded me that I had judgments too. About the things my family believed and treasured, the way they lived their lives. If I wanted acceptance, I’d have to offer it first. The gentle woman nuzzling the lion on the Tarot card reminded me that my heart was full and open. It didn’t matter what they thought about me. All that mattered was how I felt about them. 

Once I realized that my happiness was no longer dependent on their reaction, I released all resistance. It was easy to write my father and tell him I wanted to attend the reunion. It felt good to reach out to my aunt and uncle and ask to stay in their house. Their responses were extremely positive, their excitement tangible. Tears streamed down both sides of my smile as I felt gratitude for my grandmother’s guidance.

Letting go of what others think about you frees you to do the things you want to do. Without guilt or shame blocking your thoughts and feelings, you can take action based on your desires, enabling you to lead a more authentic life.

I attended the reunion and yes, there were raised eyebrows about many things that are a part of who I am. There may have even been judgments about how I live my life, but they didn’t affect me because I decided that what others thought of me wasn’t my business. I stayed focused on how I wished my relatives nothing but well-being and blessings, and when I felt misunderstood and isolated, I reminded myself that I had a choice to not take their beliefs or actions personally. I looked for positive attributes that we shared, and I smiled, remembering the strength in our beating hearts.

~Storm Arcana (415) 260-2903 /