A Tarot Reading with Caroline Cala Donofrio
How she conjures creativity.
I’ve long been a fan of Caroline Cala Donofrio’s, from afar. It’s impossible to not feel close with someone when you know intimate details about their life and take their recommendations, even the most mundane but life-changing. It often felt, as she wrote for the New York lifestyle blog Cup of Jo and I wrote for one in L.A. that we were living parallel lives—or at the very least career paths (which may be too complimentary of me, as she is an accomplished published author and ghost writer). I had always planned on reaching out to her, and the recent discovery of a mutual friend finally gave me the excuse to (in fact, we have dinner plans tonight!).
In her weekly newsletter, Between a Rock and a Card Place, Caroline reflects on topics like mental health, running, and superstitions with a wit that makes me think she and Nora Ephron would get along famously. At the end of every issue, she pulls a tarot card, which she generously offered to do for Morning Person readers in lieu of this week’s issue all about magic. Read on for my conversation with Caroline and her card pull:
Where did your interest in tarot come from?
I stumbled across my first deck at a bookstore when I was ten years old. Back then, I hoped the cards would be the gateway to some fortunetelling superpower (spoiler alert: they were not), but over time, I came to appreciate them from a practical perspective. The tarot consists of 78 cards that tell a universal story of human existence. Everything we go through — triumph, uncertainty, joy, anxiety, loss, struggle, discovery… — there’s a card for that. It’s comforting to be reminded we’re not alone, that whatever we’re feeling can be mirrored back to us on a tool that’s been around for hundreds of years.
How do you use tarot in your own life, and when do you generally pull cards for yourself?
I often carry cards with me, which results in a lot of impromptu readings for friends. When I pull for myself it’s more of a meditative practice, a chance to slow down and land in the current moment. I’ll ask, “What can I learn today? What can I think more about? Where can I find meaning?” then see what comes up. I find that no matter how long you’ve been studying or working with tarot, the surprises never stop. There are always new details to notice, new symbols to interpret, new lessons to be revealed.
I recently began using a tarot deck that a family friend sent to me. Do you have a favorite deck?
Ohh, that’s like choosing a favorite book—impossible. So many decks have a special place in my heart. But design-wise, there are two I’m particularly into right now: Le Tarot de L’étoile Cachée, a gorgeous Marseille style deck that’s printed on matte black cardstock, with silver illustrations; and the UV Tarot, an oversized deck that’s velvety to the touch, with stunning neon images that glow under UV light. When I read for others, I always use a very old Rider-Waite-Smith deck that I found in a thrift shop years ago. It looks like it’s seen some things (and also like it can’t wait to tell you about them). It never lets me down.
Years ago, you wrote about living alone for Cup of Jo (an article I recently stumbled upon, as I’m new to living alone!). Earlier this month, I shared readers’ best advice for living alone—what’s yours?
Luxuriate in the you-ness of it all. Savor it. Be as neat or as messy as you wish. As loud or as quiet. Decorate however you like (and change things around as often as it pleases you). Approach living alone like an anthropologist gathering as much intel on yourself as you possibly can — dial in to your emotions, your preferences, your intuition. Above all, give yourself permission to be proud. When you live alone, you’re surrounded by the evidence of your own power. Everything you see, you did. You built it, envisioned it, cleaned it, supported it, maintained it... You are the creator of your own domain. What an amazing thing.
You’re a newsletter writer, published author of a middle grade series, celebrity ghostwriter, and are working on another book! How do you conjure creativity?
I find there are two kinds of creativity — forced creativity, where I’m under deadline and I have no choice but to sit and see what comes out, and pure creativity, the more esoteric variety that visits on its own accord. That second one is tricky, but I find I can encourage its presence when I’m in motion — kind of like how the best breakthroughs tend to pop up on the train or in the shower or while driving. So while it can seem like procrastination (and in some cases, it is), I try to carve out some part of my day where my body is busy, my anxious brain is otherwise occupied, and inspiration has an easier time getting through. I also find that when it comes to any creative pursuit, beginning is always the hardest part. Once something is down on the page, momentum kicks in and it becomes less of a chase and more of a conversation.
And now for the card pull…
There are moments when we sense we’re on the brink of a new chapter. New jobs, new homes, new relationships, new outlooks. We may be waiting for news, for an arrival, for the culmination of our hard-earned efforts.
Then there are times when our honest answer to the question, “What’s new?” can only be, “Nothing much.”
The Wheel of Fortune knows that change is inevitable. It also knows that change comes about in many ways, wearing many different disguises. Sometimes it’s sudden, sometimes it’s slow, sometimes it’s so subtle we barely notice it happening.
Traditionally, the Wheel of Fortune is linked to destiny or fate. Like the game show of the same name, when the wheel turns, our luck can change in an instant. No matter how stagnant things may feel, unseen forces are shuffling the deck, waiting to deal us a new hand. Be that as it may, I think the Wheel of Fortune speaks just as much to the forces of change that are within our control. Namely our capacity to grow, evolve, and transform — within ourselves and in the world at large.
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When we say, “Everything can change in an instant!” we tend to focus on big, dramatic events. But little moments carry just as much meaning and play as big a role in charting our course. Chance meetings, observations, exchanges. Whether you do or do not catch a train. (Like in the movie Sliding Doors.) When you see something that resonates at just the right time. It doesn’t matter if you believe such everyday coincidences are the product of randomness or fate. The Wheel of Fortune simply encourages us to be aware of such moments, and how the threads that make up our days do, indeed, create the larger tapestry of our lives.
Everything follows a cycle: the seasons, yes, but also creativity, grief, inspiration, joy, luck… you name it. As the wheel turns, so do our circumstances. No feeling is final.
The Wheel of Fortune gently (or in some cases, not so gently) asks us to let go. As much as we’d like to be in control, we cannot maintain a tight grip on every little aspect of our lives. Nor do we need to. Luck may favor the prepared, and fortune may favor the bold, but our animal bodies favor flexibility and forgiveness. Finding a balance is key. Above all, this card wishes to remind us that life is an adventure—and adventure is often a mindset. Take in the scenery. Enjoy the ride.