This is a post about Angel Cards, and my long weird (and semi-bitter) journey with Angel Cards. What are Angel Cards? Angel Cards can be bought in any new age-y type store (you know, the kind of store that sells books about yoga, kama sutra, and holds classes on meditation and compost heaps – I got my deck of Angel Cards at a store like that in the Village). The cards come in a very small box, and the cards themselves are very small – probably an inch and a half long, and on each card is a different word. Some of the words on the cards (and I don’t know all of them): Power. Love. Joy. Enthusiasm. Kindness. Stuff like that. I keep my Angel Cards on a shelf on my desk, and if I’m ever feeling lost or scared about something … or like I need guidance, maybe something to think about in order to get me thru, I’ll pick an Angel Card. It’s kind of relaxing. Like: if I have a rough week ahead, I feel very alone, I have a lot of stuff to get done, I have a scary email to write to someone, I’m feeling overwhelmed … Picking a card that says: Light. or Inspiration – can calm down that pitter-pat heart inside.

It’s a wee ritual in my life. Here’s a couple examples of what they look like:

For many years, my group of friends from college have a semi-tradition of “picking Angel Cards” at the beginning of each year. My friend Liz keeps a running tally of what everyone picks. She’s obsessive. But it is very interesting – she’ll say, “Okay, so you picked Strength last year, and this year you picked Synchronicity. Cool.”

Of course you can place any meaning you want to on the Angel Cards. You can place NO meaning on what “your word” means. You can look at it like: This is something I need to “work on”. Or you can look at it like: this is just a word to meditate on, and see what it might provide me. Whatever. It’s completely up to interpretation. There are no rules. (I mean, how ridiculous would it be to have strict rules about how to pick Angel Cards of all things??) The whole point is to relax, to pick your word, to think about it …

There have been many interesting Angel Card-picking moments through the years.

For example:

Years ago, a friend of mine once picked “Trust”. This word pissed him off (things can get pretty emotional during the Angel Card picking ritual). He didn’t like “Trust”. He was highly scornful. “I have plenty of Trust. I don’t have a problem with Trust. This is bull shit, I’m picking another one.” And the next card he picked was Flexibility.

We are still making fun of him for that one.

The second card pretty much spoke to his response to the first card.

To be honest, the last 10 years or so have been rather rough on my heart (in terms of love relationships, etc.) and so I have a tendency to be relatively bitter about the Angel Cards, which can make for comedic and stressed-out Angel Card-picking moments. I refuse to give the word too much meaning, I refuse to take it TOO literally.

As I have said many a time to my girlfriends, “I got BURNED by those Angel Cards, man!”

Here’s an example. And this may sound all kind of silly to some of you, but … well, I am expressing a truth, one of my truths. A lot of this has to do with love. With me, and with my relationship to love.

It was 5 or 6 years ago. Can’t remember the date. And I was in Chicago for New Year’s. I was in grad school at the time, I think, and on my Christmas break. And I was in a really good and positive place in my life. I felt really excited, really positive about the future … not just about my career and stuff, but about the possibility of letting love into my life again. For 3 or 4 years, I had put the old heart on ice (after the disaster of 74 facts man…) and there was no end in sight to the tunnel I found myself in. I could not recover from the loss. On some level I refused to recover. I loved that guy so much. And when it didn’t work out, I moved to New York City — I couldn’t even be in the same time zone with that man, too painful — and focused totally on my work, on acting, on school. Years passed. And while I definitely left a huge piece of myself behind with him (and I still haven’t gotten it back – and never will) – life moved on. As it does. And on this particular New Year’s Eve I’m talking about, I was back in Chicago, I was doing really well, and there was something stirring in the ice fields of my heart. Little green sprouts coming up or something. I felt that I could love someone again. I had no prospects, not even a crush on anyone … It was just this sense, this kind of emotional sense, that I was ready again. I could do it. 74 Facts man would not be the last man I loved.

So then comes the Angel Card picking ritual. I was with my dear friends Jackie and Jim. We each picked a card. Funnily enough, Jackie had just found out she was pregnant for the first time. And the card she picked said Expectancy. We loved that!

And the word I picked, unsurprisingly, was Love.

Plain and simple. Love.

Jackie and I had been talking, in depth, about my life, about how I felt, about my sense that good things were coming … that a relationship might be in my future, in my near future … and I hadn’t felt that in years – so then there it was: Love.

I felt (stupidly) that my Angel Card affirmed my dearest hope.

What I’m saying is is that I took the card literally. There are many different kinds of Love. It could mean Love of self, it could mean Love of the work that you do, Love at its most universal. But I had been so burned in love, I was so lonely, so hurt, so at a loss as to what to do, who to be, after 74 Facts man … that I thought: Yup. I know it. Love is coming.

Sadly, the following year was one of the bumpiest roughest years of my life. By the end of the year, I felt bruised, battered, roughed around … I felt like: Jesus, let this year END.

I had two very brief “relationships” (hate that word) – one with a great guy who I liked very much. He pursued me like gangbusters, and the second he had me, he dropped me. Such a cliche, but still – I was completely thrown by this, I was hurt, my hurt was way out of proportion to the relationship, but that didn’t matter. I had been protecting myself for so long, barricading up the old heart, that I suppose somewhere I felt, naively, that when I did decide to come out of the cloister, things should work out for me, because it’s only fair and right. I was devastated. My friends were worried about me. I couldn’t bounce back. But whatever, life goes on. I bounced back.

And then another guy came into my life, an Irishman. Another strange thing: I dated him for only 6 weeks. A very innocent kind of dating: going to movies, going to the opera, going out to dinner – all that kind of dating stuff that I was so out of practice in. And we clicked. We had an absolutely marvelous time with each other. And even though I dated him for a very short time, I would say that, of all the guys I have loved, of all the guys who have had an impact on me, he is the guy I can’t think about. I can’t even say his name. It just brings back that freezing horrible winter when he suddenly dropped me. In the cruelest way possible. Just stopped calling. Avoiding me. I became a complete lunatic. Finally, I got closure with it – There was a good reason why he couldn’t be with me, and we had a beautiful conversation about it, and the talk ended with the two of us saying to one another: “You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve met someone I am so compatible with … I want to thank you for the past 6 weeks … it has been beautiful.”

I held it together through the conversation, I wished him the best of luck, hung up, and then began the winter of my discontent.

I thought I was going mad. The other dipshit who dumped me earlier in the year couldn’t hold a candle to this other guy – but I had all this other shite swirling around in my head, tormenting me. I made things worse for myself. I was mad at God. I was mad at myself for coming out to play. I had been SAFE! After the 74 Facts debacle, I retreated – and yeah, I was lonely, but I was SAFE! Look what the fuck happens when I emerge …

Now I know that this is life. You have to decide to take a risk, and you might get hurt. I know that, logically.

But during the winter of my discontent there was no logic. It was all lying in bed at night, with the wide-open eyes of a suffering animal. I was in agony.

Okay, enough of that. Like I said, I still can’t really think about that time.

I am coming back to the Angel Cards now. That year, in the middle of this horrible time in my life, I go to a small New Year’s gathering at a friend’s house. There are only 4 of us there, all dear friends. One of them breaks out the Angel Cards. I was not doing well at this point, I was not sleeping, I looked like crap, I told my friend Ann Marie that I was limping through my days “like a wounded fox”. (“Wounded fox” has now become shorthand for us. “So I’m really sad right now, but I’m not a wounded fox.” “Oh, that’s good.”) I was VERY anti-Angel Cards.

Especially because I got LOVE the year before. LOVE! What a fucking LAUGH! I had to have been CRAZY to believe that I would find Love. I believed it, and now look what happened – I got burnt. TWICE IN A ROW. I had to have been fucking INSANE to believe that damn card.

I resisted. “I don’t want to pick Angel Cards. I just … I don’t want to this year …”

My friends were kind and sweet. “It doesn’t have to mean anything, Sheila … it could just be a word that you can look to for guidance … ”

So I picked a card. Under protest.

What did I get?

I got Surrender.

And what did I then do?

I threw the card across the room. In a fit of rage. (It was a lovely New Year’s gathering, I can tell you that.) It was funny, yes, but it also wasn’t funny. I was in no mood to be light, funny … I was NOT okay. I kept saying, “Surrender? Jesus Christ, I HAVE surrendered – How much more do I have to fucking surrender? I HATE ANGEL CARDS.”

I know I’m telling this like it was amusing … and we do sort of laugh a bit about me freaking out about my Angel Card … but it’s weird. That time was so bad (and I know in the grand scheme of things, having 2 breakups in a row is not too terrible, whatever) – but anyway, all I can say is: We do reference: “Jeez, remember Sheila throwing Surrender across the room?” But when we laugh, we do so still remembering how that time was for me. My friend David said that when he hugged me good-bye that night, he felt my pain literally coming off my skin. He said to me as he hugged me, “Sweetheart… I know … Fuck the Angel Cards. I know.”

Of course, time did its imperfect job (whoever said Time Heals All is a fucking asshole in my opinion – Sure, you heal – but ALL? No. There’s always something left behind. At least that’s true for me) – and I got over my Irishman. I did my best. I put him out of my mind. I joined a gym. I refused to write about him, think about him, reference him … and soon he was out of my heart. Enough so that I could move on.

Life. You know.

Anyway, last night we had our Angel Card picking ritual. I was with a bunch of my great girlfriends, hanging out at the Art Bar in the Village. This is our Christmas party yearly thing that we do, and Liz always brings the Angel Cards, and also brings her little sheet of paper where she has all of the Angel Cards we all have picked throughout the years. heh heh I love Liz.

Another small set-up to this:

Yesterday morning I woke up and began an essay that I wanted to post here. It was brought on by seeing Something’s Got to Give – one of my favorite movies. I started this essay – and it was on Trust and Patience. Basically, if there is a reason I was put on this earth, if there is a method to the madness, then I think I was put here to learn trust and patience. There HAS to be a reason that I struggle so much with these two things alone. It is all about Trust and Patience. I can’t trust. I have no patience. These are the themes. And Something’s Got to Give is all about this.

Anyhoo, I am sure you can see where I’m going with this.

There was the pile of Angel Cards on the table. I reached out and picked one.

It said Harmony.

I didn’t like this. I said, “Harmony. Blech. I don’t like that” and tossed it back onto the pile.

And my tossing of Harmony caused another Angel Card to spontaneously turn over … and that card said Patience.


We were howling about this, because I had shared with my friends my thoughts about trust and patience earlier in the night. And so there I was – rejecting Harmony, but then there was Patience, inserting itself into the dialogue. “Hi there. You may not like Harmony, but you do need me!!”

So anyway, there seems to be something fitting about all of this. I feel strangely comforted.

I am not taking the cards literally, because I learned my lesson, with the one-two punch of Love and Surrender, thankyouverymuch.

But still. There are worse things in life than meditating on Harmony and Patience, and thinking about what these two words/qualities can provide me in the coming year, what they can mean to me.

Kerry said, laughing about the Patience moment, “Do not mess with the cards – They will always win!”

Oh, and directly following the Harmony/Patience thing, Liz picked her card and it said TRUST.

So Trust AND Patience showed their faces last night, on the very same day I had been thinking almost non-stop about those two very things.

Coincidence? I choose to think not.

Like Albert Einstein said (and I paraphrase): “There are two ways to go through life. One is to decide that nothing is a miracle, and one is to decide that everything is a miracle.”

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15 Responses to Angels

  1. Sean MacAodh says:

    Everyone has their thing love. I throw a baseball against a wall late at night if I can’t sleep from stress or worry. It helps me get to sort things out. Standing in the middle of that park alone with just the sound of the ball hitting the wall to accompany me is very soothing.

  2. Dave E. says:

    Nice post. You can put me in the “everything is a miracle” crowd. As for your card for this year, at least you didn’t get Oompah-Loompah.

  3. This was a beautiful and awe-inspiring post. Thank you.

  4. beth says:

    *trying not to cry…i’ve done wayyyyy too much crying in the last few days.*

  5. JFH says:

    Great post… know where us hicks in the south can get those cards? Sounds like a tradition I’d like to start in my own friends and family circle.

  6. Bud says:

    Sometimes, often, you’re really EveryPerson, Sheila. Great piece about one slice of the Human Condition.

    Harmony & Patience, huh. Notwithstanding that they are wonderful qualities to consider, we who luv ya Red hereby give you permission to suspend any and all H&P when you’re in the vicinity of mimes.

  7. red says:

    JFH: A quick Google search brought up a couple of places where they can be bought online. You can try this. They’re 9.95 for 52 cards.

  8. red says:


    Absolutely. I will not “work on” Harmony and Patience when it comes to mimes. I refuse.

  9. red says:

    Oh and one funny thing:

    One year we were picking Angel Cards in a big group, there was kind of a raucous energy amongst us, and I wasn’t a wounded fox, so I was able to join in the hilarity.

    My friend Rachel (who is, possibly, one of the funniest women ALIVE) picked a card, stared at it for a second, and then said contemplatively, “Huh. Mine says ‘Shave your pubes.’ ”

  10. Stevie says:

    That was beautiful, my dear. I’m glad you picked the Harmony/Patience cards (or did they pick you?). Just beautiful. Thank you.

  11. ricki says:

    just beautiful.

    The person who said your writing is often “EveryPerson” was right. I’ve never done Angel Cards but I can relate to a lot of the feelings…I’ve had years where, as the year wound down, I’ve ranted and raged and talked about how happy I would be to KILL the year, to get it over with and put it in a box and forget about it, and how the next year would be so much better…and then, that year wasn’t.

    I also think I fall on the side of “everything is a miracle.”

  12. red says:


    This may be a rather Irish-Catholic tendency, not sure, but sometimes I feel like voicing the sentiment “Next year is going to be the best year ever!” or “I feel that big wonderful changes are in story for you this year!” is VERY bad luck.

    I feel pretty much paranoid and certain about this, and refuse to make hopeful statements. (All of which makes me a HUGE bummer to be around on New Year’s Eve. My friends love me, and know I’m going to be cranky at any New Year’s Eve party they throw … they accept me … but they say to me, “Okay, Cranky Sheila, will you come to my party?”

    I’m superstitious. Every time I’ve said out loud, “Next year is gonna be great” (or like when I picked the “Love” Angel Card and thought it meant something good was coming) – the following year has been a disaster.

  13. Dan says:

    “This may be a rather Irish-Catholic tendency, not sure, but sometimes I feel like voicing the sentiment “Next year is going to be the best year ever!” or “I feel that big wonderful changes are in story for you this year!” is VERY bad luck. ”


  14. red says:

    Dan – heh heh

    Confirmation of my superstitious heritage from another Irish Catholic.


  15. Dan says:

    You’re welcome. ;-)

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