"Does anyone reckon the cards can help when you feel like you have an unsolvable (practical) problem? If so, do you know a good spread?"
Every once in a while, we stumble into problems that resist insight from the tarot. It feels like the problem is unsolvable and that the cards won't or can't help, perhaps due to the complexity and/or the scale of the problem. Sometimes, it's because we're too emotionally invested in the situation.
Let me tell you a story about when I had an "unreadable" situation.
I was travelling in London with some very good friends. I'd brought two tarot decks with me because my friend was interested in seeing them, and I'd wanted to do a reading for her anyway.
But one morning, I woke up feeling very anxious about the romantic relationship I was in. I hadn't heard from my partner in days. I trusted this person enough that I knew he wouldn't cheat on me, but I felt suddenly and acutely that he didn't want to see me anymore. I didn't know why; it was just a feeling, an insidious thought that infected my mind.
This wasn't something that I could read for myself about. It was too close to my heart, and I didn't think I would be able to read objectively one way or the other.
My friends and I were going to Camden Market that day. On the Underground, I nearly burst into tears with worry. In spite of that, and because I didn't want to ruin the day, I tried to put the thought of my partner leaving me out of my mind. Goodness knows that the hustle and bustle of the shops and liveliness of the crowds were enough to distract me.
At the end of the day, I found a tarot card reader's shop. Normally, I wouldn't just go in, especially because the door was closed and I thought the store had shut for the day. But there was a butterfly on the sign, and butterflies are a meaningful animal to me. Plus, I'd struck out in the shopping department, and I wanted to see if there were any tarot decks or paraphernalia I could get.
I went in.
I nervously checked out the shop, stalling because I'd never gotten a tarot reading like this before. While there were no tarot decks I found interesting enough to purchase, I did spot a gorgeous wooden card box with brass findings. I took the box to the reader and, after checking if my friends would wait for me, quietly asked for a reading.
The reader, a lovely woman in perhaps her 50s, asked what was on my mind. I merely replied, "A relationship."
With that, we began shuffling. The lady asked a little more about the nature of the relationship, so I told her it was with a man. A look of surprise seemed to dart across her face, but she remained sympathetic. She called her spirit guides (I don't work with spirit guides, so this was new and eerie for me) and looked into a ball of quartz.
We proceeded with the reading. I won't bore you with the details (besides, they're private), but I can say that the outcome was positive and reassuring. The problem, ultimately, wasn't with the relationship, but with negative attitudes I held toward myself at the time. While the reader didn't sugar-coat anything, she also wasn't overly negative.
Afterward, I paid for the tarot box and the reading, and I left a nice, big tip because the lady had gone well over time to tell me her messages.
My friends and I returned to their flat, where I was staying, and went to curry later that evening.
So! What do I think of "unreadable" situations?
Well, if you're reading for yourself, there are definitely times when a situation can become unreadable. If you find yourself anxious, panicked, nervous, or generally unwilling to see what your cards have to say to you, it's probably a good idea to see what someone else's cards have to say. The reader doesn't have to be a total stranger either; a trusted friend who reads tarot, a tarot reader that you've known for a while, or a tarot reader who's work and perspective you've seen online you think can provide insight into your situation is wonderful.
When reading for another person, a situation might become unreadable if it concerns your personally. But, in general, I think we should try to set our own problems aside to hold space for others to sort out their problems, like the reader at Camden Market did for me. If you, as a reader for others, think that your own problems, however, are overwhelming and/or don't trust yourself to remain objective about another person's situation (e.g., it's a topic you feel passionate about, you have strong views on the subject that might color your reading, or you don't think that your style of reading would match well with the sitter), it would be wiser to withdraw yourself from the reading and recommend someone else who might be better for reading that particular situation. Because, ultimately, someone will be able to shed some light on the problem, which means that no situation is truly "unreadable." It just might take a little bit of searching.
I hope my story and my ideas of "unreadable" situations resonates a little with anyone who thinks that their problem is too large and overwhelming. Just remember, if you don't think you can handle your worries alone, there will be someone out there who is able and willing to help. ^_^