Who Says Divine Timing Must Be Slow?
Or, why I'm ready to reverse the wisdom of the 7 of Pentacles
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There's an Armenian saying that, roughly translated, goes:
"Let it be late, but let it be sweet."
Or something. It’s cuter (and more annoying) in Armenian because it rhymes.
My mom said it to me when I unsuccessfully tried out for the 7th grade cheer squad and was beside myself that I'd have to wait an entire year to try again. (And another year after that, but who’s counting?)
My mom said it to me when the only job waiting for me when I graduated from a top-20 law school was a law clerk position that paid $10 an hour because we were in an economic recession.
My mom said it to me when my boyfriend of seven years would not for the life of me propose even though we already lived together, had adopted a dog together, and I had already emailed him a picture of the precise engagement ring I wanted with my ring size.
My mom also said it to me after I realized that all my entire life savings can buy in Los Angeles right now is a small condo in a neighborhood that happens to be the in the same area of a gang-related homicide for which I was a potential juror years ago until they brought the defendants into the court room during voir dire and I immediately started to cry, which promptly got me dismissed but only after I had to, through my blubbering, state my occupation on the record as “lawyer.”
(If you’re wondering, I did eventually become a cheerleader, and it was pretty sweet, at least for awhile. My boyfriend did eventually propose and we are still married, so that’s definitely sweet. As for house-hunting in Los Angeles, I’ll have to get back to you on that one.)
My parents always taught me that success takes a long time and can only come with hard work and sacrifice, if it ever comes at all.
This makes a lot of sense for a lot of families, especially immigrant families like mine who had to mentally prepare to sacrifice everything and start over from the bottom in a foreign land. Growing up, this belief helped me get straight A’s and earn multiple degrees at top universities through determination and patience and all that good stuff. I was relentless! A true force to be reckoned with!
But at this point in my life, I'm no longer sure if this belief is everything it's cracked up to be.
This inherited narrative that it takes forever to get what I want and that everything is hard and I should be prepared to struggle doesn't feel like it's serving me the way it once did. In fact, I have gotten so good at believing it that another adage my mother has added to her repertoire of late is, “Things take longer for you, Annie.”
Not "All good things take time.”
Not even the slightly more context-specific “These things take time.”
But that things take longer for me, Annie.
Pardon my French, but what the fuck? Why? Says who?
My mother means it with love and encouragement, of course. After all, things that arrive late taste sweeter, as we Armenians apparently say. So this means an extra reward awaits me that early recipients of whatever it is we’re pining after did not get to enjoy, right? I should feel special rather than frustrated or unworthy, she’s trying to say.
But it doesn’t feel special, and I find myself wondering: Do things take longer for me? And if so, do they have to? Is this belief true? Is it serving me to continue to believe this?
In the very first Substack newsletter I wrote, I identified the 7 of Pentacles as a tarot card whose energy is slow-moving. So slow-moving, in fact, that many dub that card “the failure card.” I then proceeded to fervently stand up for the 7 of Pentacles. I said it’s not about failure, it’s about patience! It’s about sowing seeds and trusting in the process! We don’t plant and harvest in the same season! Success is a gradual process that requires committed effort! Trust in divine timing!
And there’s the rub.
Who says divine timing has to be slow?
Why does divine timing always seem to take longer than we would like?
Can’t things come together more quickly than we expect sometimes?
Why can’t things sometimes be easier and more effortless than we imagined?
Why can’t things work out flawlessly sometimes?
Can't those beliefs also be true?
My best friend’s husband was in talks with a potential business partner based several hours north of Los Angeles. Not a fan of change, my friend was telling me how maybe in a year or so, if things went well, they’d consider potentially moving up there. They had just bought a house down here though, they have two small children and their schooling to think about, and, of course, she’d have to figure out what to do about her successful law practice. No big deal! But my friend was trying to be adventurous and open to the possibility in the future.
Next thing you know, a family friend reveals that they have an available rental in that very area. The real estate agent who helped them buy their house last year says she can rent their current place out easy in this market. Her boss reassures her that most of her court hearings are conducted remotely since the pandemic anyway. A preschool up there has precisely one more spot available, which her three-year-old can have. And her older child can enroll in the local elementary school with no problem.
My friend was stunned. It had all come together so perfectly. She was out of objections! So off they went and that was that.
If all that isn’t divine timing, I don’t know what is!
But you know what? After my friend’s whirlwind episode, I realized that nobody has ever trotted out the saying “trust in divine timing” unless something was taking longer than desired. I don’t know about you, but I only ever hear it as consolation. A new age, “There, there.”
When things are taking long to fall into place, there could be a larger force at play, sure. The Universe’s alternative timetable could certainly be taking precedent over our own. I concede these possibilities.
But I would like to add another possibility: Perhaps some of the delays in our life are of our own making. We might be resisting the very thing we believe we are working so hard toward. Perhaps even pushing it away because we have become so identified with the striving for it rather than the achieving of it. We might not believe it’s possible for us, either at all or at least in the quick and easy time frame in which the Universe might actually like for us to have it.
Oprah-approved life coach Byron Katie wrote a remarkable book called Loving What Is. My good friend Marc recommended it to me ages ago, and once I got over my life-long hurdle of taking a self-help book with a photo of the author on the cover seriously, I couldn’t put it down.
According to Katie, the stories we tell ourselves are often not true, even though we believe them and live our entire lives according to them like they are the law of gravity or something.
Katie’s four-step inquiry to free ourselves of any stories that may be causing us suffering or frustration goes like this:
Is this belief or story true?
Can I know that it is absolutely true all of the time?
How do I feel and act when I tell myself this story?
Who would I be without this story?
When you take a belief like the law of gravity - that an object dropped on Earth will fall to the ground due to gravity - you stop at Step 2 and realize there’s no point in fighting it.
Is the law of gravity true? Yes, it has been scientifically proven and it’s pretty universally known and accepted.
Can I absolutely know that it’s true? Yes. When Kevin McCallister drops a cinder block off the roof of a New York City brownstone, there is no way - given his remarkably accurate aim for a 10-year-old and assuming Harry and Marv will be too slow to leap out of the way - that said block won’t plummet down to the street and knock them in the face (which they will astonishingly survive, but we are not here to question the veracity of Home Alone 2).
But what happens when we honestly put some of our more personal beliefs up against Katie’s inquiry? Let’s try it:
Things just take really long for me.
Is this story true? Well, it certainly feels like it! And my mother says it’s true. I say it too, all the time.
But can I know that it’s absolutely true? All the time? Do things without fail and without any exception take long for me? (And this is where what Katie calls “the work” really gets going.) The answer is no. Not all things have taken long for me. I finished my undergraduate studies in three years! In fact, I got my law degree and Master’s degree in minimal time as well. It takes so many students years to get degrees because there are countless ways life can get in the way and slow or completely halt their progress. And that was never even remotely a possibility for me. You know what else didn’t take long for me? Learning to play piano. Or guitar for that matter. Or back in college when my friend Kevin said he’d give me $20 if I could get my crush to make out with me at a party and I was like oh honey, you do not know who you’re dealing with and I made the quickest $20 I’ve ever made in my life.
And even if everything up to now had taken a long time for me (which really is unlikely for anybody, but let’s go with it for the sake of argument), is there any way I could absolutely know with complete certainty that every single thing in the future would take long to happen as well? No. Nobody could know that for certain.
The story starts to lose its hold.
In Steps 3 and 4 of Byron Katie’s process, we examine the unideal feelings and reactions these stories or beliefs may cause us. After all, if we are doing this work, it’s probably a story or belief that doesn’t feel great, or else we wouldn’t be trying to examine and dismantle it.
And finally, Katie invites us to turn the story around, which really clinches just how arbitrary and untrue some of them are.
Things don’t take long for me.
Things come together quickly for me.
Could those stories or thoughts be just as true as the first version? Sure. Why not?
And really, it’s not even about which story or belief is more true. All beliefs are true for you if you believe them, no matter what's actually happening in your world.
It's about this: How might we think, feel, and move differently if we adopted a different belief? How might we view the world differently? What different energy might we be emitting into the Universe if we were operating from a different belief? Would we make different choices? Take different risks? React and recover differently?
~ ~ ~
Here is a tarot spread inspired by Byron Katie’s book Loving What Is. Use it when you feel like you might be getting in your own way with a belief or story that may no longer be serving your highest good.
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