A white-robed woman sits on a stone bench at the edge of the ocean at twilight. The waters are calm but rocky while the crescent moon shines overhead. She crosses two swords over her heart and wears a blindfold over her eyes. It is not with her physical eyes that she now sees, but with the mind’s eye. As her other senses become more acute, she notices the sound of gulls in the distance and becomes aware of the waves lapping at the shore. For once she feels calm, safe, and secure. She feels a strong sense of inner peace, a rare thing after all the turmoil and conflict she has endured. As she slips deeper and deeper inside herself she reaches a trance-like state of utter tranquility. “I wish to remain this way forever,” she thinks to herself.
No sooner than the thought is formed, however, her arms begin to ache under the weight and pressure of the heavy swords. She realizes what great effort it requires to defend herself from potential threats. With her heightened senses she suddenly becomes painfully aware of how tired she is, how hungry, how thirsty. The woman in white realizes she has closed herself off not just from enemies, but from her own needs. She begins to weep out of desperation and self-pity. Just as her strength begins to give out, a renewed sense of resolve and mental clarity suddenly washes over her. She hears a small inner voice telling her it is okay to let go, she does not need the swords to protect herself anymore. Her own strength is enough.
The white-robed woman hesitates a moment then slowly opens her palms. She releases her grip and allows the swords to fall from her hands as they drop to the ground with a loud clatter. With a small smile she removes her blindfold and turns to gaze at the crescent moon reflected among the calm ocean waves.
The Two of Swords is often given a somewhat negative interpretation- that the woman is blind to her situation, closed off to her emotions, and unapproachable. She is at a stalemate, delaying a decision, refusing to see the truth, shutting others out, and being stubborn and difficult. My relation to her has always been much more sympathetic as I have always found the scene so calm and peaceful. In my view, the blindfolded woman was shutting herself off from others because she was trying to regain a sense of self. She may seem distant or aloof but she’s blocked off her heart for a good reason- she doesn’t want to get hurt.
As a queer person I strongly respond to this need to focus inward to gain strength, to defend myself against those who would say there is something wrong with the way I live my life. I lived for a long time in defensive mode, being careful what parts of myself I revealed to whom, never feeling like there was anywhere I could be fully myself.
This defensive approach to life takes a lot of effort, however. The swords are heavy. What begins as introspection quickly becomes a withdrawal from the world. At times it is necessary to set boundaries, keep people at arm’s length, and defend ourselves from those who would hurt us. But when this defense becomes a way of life, nothing gets in or out and we stagnate. In the end, I found you can’t close yourself off to pain without closing yourself off to love.