Rebuilding the Tower, or How to Cope in a Worldwide Pandemic

My ‘altar’ with two version of The Tower, from the Fountain Tarot and the Lumina Tarot

Well, we certainly live in interesting times. Some of us are sick or dealing with grief, or battling on the front lines in our hospitals, or working hard to keep our shops supplied and other essential services running. If that’s you I salute you. And even if, like me, you’re one of the lucky ones, the order to stay safe at home has turned our lives, businesses and families entirely upside down, and not in a good way, as we all try to cope with a worldwide pandemic.

The world is going through a massive Tower moment

Those of you who know me in person will know that I’m very fond of my Tarot cards. I don’t use them to tell fortunes or see the future, instead I use their wisdom both to gain insight and clarity into my own life and as access tools for coaching others. And the card I keep reflecting on currently is The Tower, one of the most dramatic of the 26 Major Arcana or Big Secrets cards in the Tarot deck.

Representations vary between decks but the The Tower is generally depicted as a tower or some other manmade structure being struck down, usually by a lightning bolt. It represents the destruction of something, often metaphysical, that we have carefully constructed over time – a career, a marriage, a way of life, a paradigm – and the upheaval and chaos that follows in the wake of that destruction. It can be a painful card, but often a necessary one. And, boy, is the whole world going through a massive Tower moment currently.

We are at the beginning of a new cycle

Last year, as I lived through my own Tower moment of moving internationally and uprooting my entire life to return to England, I did life coach training with Martha Beck. One of the biggest lessons we learned was the importance of the ‘Change Cycle’ – the idea that new cycles in our lives will often be set off by cataclysmic change. Instead of the Tower she uses the metaphor of the caterpillar changing into a butterfly, where the caterpillar goes into its cocoon and apparently turns to a soup of cells, not understanding that it will ultimately emerge transformed.

And that’s where we all are now. It’s painful and terrifying and not a single one of us can predict how this is going to end. And not only are people dying, but it looks like the virus might also bring down all sorts of structures and towers that no longer serve us – political, economic and environmental.

Destruction or transformation?

The Tower card in the Lumina Tarot, my favourite Tarot deck, shows a beautiful bird flying free as the Tower falls, and I am clinging to the hope that out of the rubble we will be able to build a new world order that ultimately serves us better. Maybe after all the death and suffering there will come a time of rebirth, maybe this period will be not just one of destruction but of transformation. As Martha said in a masterclass on the subject last week.  “This is a time when familiar things are crumbling – but as they do, rigidity gives way to fluidity and inspired new ways of living can emerge”.

I’m not religious but this article by an Episcopalian priest in the New York Times over Easter really spoke to me. He suggests that the void created by this crisis may be an unexpected gift, an opportunity to contemplate what we really want to fill our world with once it is time to rebuild. I have no idea what I want for myself at present. All I know it is a useful question to sit with, and it is starting to bring many things into sharp relief for me.

It’s time to look after yourself

So what can we do in the meantime? Well, in life coach training, we’re taught that if you’re at the beginning of a Change Cycle then by all means take time to grieve what is lost and focus on radical self-care. This is not the time to make big plans, or beat yourself up about not achieving big goals or indeed worry too much about productivity. We’re all far too busy trying to hunt down more toilet rolls for that sort of nonsense. If bingeing all six seasons of Schitt’s Creek on Netflix in one sitting is something you need to do for your mental health (and it obviously should be) then that’s what you should do.

Thirty stems from my garden

Start building a newer, better Tower

But I have also found that, in my own Tower moments, building just a little structure and routine into the days and weeks really helps. I’m not in the headspace right now to follow a rigidly detailed timetable. But I can cope with guidelines or building blocks. Getting up at a reasonable hour, changing from shapeless comfy pyjamas into a shapeless comfy house dress, volunteering regularly at the village shop, having meals at scheduled times, putting up an Easter tree, getting a Friday night takeout (thank you Spice Lounge!) continuing to work and create – a new blog, sourdough bread, writing, daily photography walks – has helped my mental health so much amidst the mayhem.

Every day my mind seems to be spinning a little less and I’m being just a little more creative. Brick by brick I’m starting to rebuild a Tower that will truly serve me and am preparing just a little for that future when we will emerge like moles blinking into the sunlight of a brave new world.

I’d love to hear in the comments what you’re all doing to keep yourselves sane during this period. And if you like a personal Tarot reading/life coaching session to help you through this difficult time, please email me on and we can Zoom into action (my rates are very reasonable as I work to get certified).

I made the flower arrangement above in response to Common Farm Flowers’ #30stemchallenge (@theFlowerFarmer on Twitter and @commonfarmflowers on Instagram). If you’re lucky enough to have a garden, go out and pick 30 stems, arrange them and photograph them. It was a really fun creative challenge and a great way of finding out what’s growing in our new garden. Tag me (@realpaolathomas) on Instagram or Twitter if you decide to have a go.

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