n.laurence – Four of Pentacles

Binaries and Boundaries

I am a queer, non-binary, mixed race person who lives with anxiety. I was raised by an angry addict and an enabler, and I spent my childhood being hyper-sensitive to boundaries. It was a matter of survival. I internalized so many clashes between my own needs and boundaries and what was externally demanded and delineated for me. I spent so much time and precious, adrenaline and desperation-fueled energy contorting into the shapes that I was supposed to (or that I thought I was supposed to). So much energy arranging my face to be expressionless or smiling, methodically separating my inner self from what people could see. At times I was excellent at this, at times I was not, either way it left me bruised and aching and desperate, but at least (I told myself) I was safe. The only way I could understand boundaries was to draw an absolute one between my self and my interactions with the world, to accept the boundaries imposed upon me while I inwardly raged, and to further enforce those boundaries with all of the self-loathing that I internalized.

I grew up, and left home, and I met kind, fierce, strong people. Absolute boundaries are brittle, and what I built or accepted in childhood began to shatter. For a while this felt dangerous, it felt like walking around without skin. I left the boundaries of my childhood behind, but I was still functioning in a world with systemic inequalities and discrimination, and I experienced countless interactions with groups and individuals where I could feel similar boundaries pressing against me, leaving imprints over old scars, scraping tender tissue raw. I lacked the tools to protect myself. I stumbled and fumbled, building boundaries, knocking them down, raging against them, returning to curl up inside them.

I still struggle with these boundaries. It takes constant work to remind myself that I can create space for myself as a non-binary person, as someone who is mixed, as someone with mental illness, as a survivor. It is terrifying to take on an active role, to build my own boundaries, to internally and externally negotiate other boundaries that I encounter. But it is so much sweeter than simply reacting and accepting, swallowing what is imposed upon me and choking on my internal dissent.

I chose the four of pentacles because it is my boundary card. My boundaries. Not what is imposed or circumscribed, not scarcity or denial. It is what I build to keep myself safe, to navigate the world, to connect with my people. Boundaries and bridges. I’ve learned to be flexible enough to take some risks, to be vulnerable and sometimes to be wrong, to ask for what I need. To build and rebuild. To leave if I need to.

I know that a lot of traditional interpretations of the four of pentacles view it as being a selfish card, an attempt at control with negative connotations. This parallels a lot of the (pretty gendered) messages I was given as I was growing up. Any attempts to build my own boundaries, protect myself, defend my own agency, construct my own narrative were selfish. Needs were selfish. I choose to flip the traditional reading of the four of pentacles. Selflessness is not desirable. Agency is not shameful. I am a survivor, and I will continue to build my own boundaries and bridges, I will not apologize for my scars. I am rooted in the four of pentacles, in the earth. And in this continued act of creation and connection I find great joy.