On Burnout and Being Fire

Cards are from the Botanica Tarot. Spread is my Tarot Spread for a Time Cycle

What to compost – 8 of swords
What to plant – 2 of pentacles
What to offer – Queen of wands
What to harvest – 10 of wands

We are still in the middle of a pandemic. Our leadership in building a world where all beings and the Earth are cared for is still desperately needed. Our skills in demanding recognition for essential care work and living in accountable relationship with others is vital right now. The following tarot cards were drawn this past New Moon and interpreted leading up to this Full Moon and speaks to the balance of embodying fire energy while working to avoid burnout.  

The 8 of swords can represent traps that we make ourselves. This could be coping mechanisms that no longer serve us, that protected us once but now feel like they hold us back from the growth we’d like to see. By allowing these to fall away, allowing the decay of old ways of being, we can make way for the new. I think of this card as relating to leadership development, the tending to and allowing others to tend to what we need in order to be more confident in what we are here to offer. It requires work to build the skills we need so we can have the confidence to step into a new version of ourselves. We need to see reflected back to us that our opinions, strategic insights, creativity, have value. Whether it is anxiety, depression, trauma, poverty, or racism that has made us feel small and made it feel necessary to be small to survive, we are being called to find our way out to freedom. 

The 2 of pentacles offers lessons in balance, holding more than one project or pursuit at once and finding the right amount of time toward care, rest, and moving toward work goals. Recently for me this has looked like shifting priorities related to my values and trajectory of work I’d like to step into. Last month I started an intensive Transformative Justice training that has been a big time commitment on top of other growing work commitments, but doing this training has added considerable value and meaning to the work I’m already doing. It would have been easy to say no, there’s no time for this, but it’s actually introduced an energy I need to move forward in a way that simply more time in my calendar wouldn’t have produced. It’s important not to say yes to everything, but to be strategic in our choices and make room as needed.

In the last collective reading, the Queen of Wands came up as a lesson to reflect on in the previous year, and it feels on point that this is an energy we collectively have to offer. This card represents the fire of creativity that attracts, gets shit done, and leads through magnetism, inspiring others to act for the greater good. Some of us may have been surprised at the level we were able to embody this energy in the past year to meet the time of crisis. Many of us are exhausted after over a year of hyper-vigilance and need to take a break. If you are able to access your inner Queen of Wands, she is still very much needed in this moment. The pandemic isn’t over, globally and in the U.S. not enough people are vaccinated to stop the mutation of variants. A Queen of Wands has the power to make what we need to do to protect each other irresistible, and is here to demand accountability from those who cause harm. Related to the 2 of Pentacles, though, it’s hard to show up if you are not caring for your needs first.

In order to care for your needs, there may be some projects and expectations to put down for the moment. The 10 of Wands is often associated with burnout, the culmination of saying yes to more than we can handle and we inevitably drop some of the commitments we made to ourselves or others. A lot of organizations in the past year were forced to address our collective tendency to over commit, as we all took on more work to just keep ourselves, our families, and our communities safe. It became impossible to say yes to one more thing because the priority needed to be survival and crisis response and those were balls that could not be dropped. For those of who started to learn this lesson in boundaries and accurately assessing our capacities, how can we continue to apply this? Again, we are still in a pandemic. Finding balance between what is most essential and important for our survival, and creatively building the world we’d like to see in the present, with room for rest, play, and learning new things requires constant attention. Balance is not achieved through a “set it and forget it” strategy but through checking in with our bodies, with our people, and taking time to reflect and plan for the future. It requires us to be honest about our abilities (10 of Wands), where we need to do more personal work to step into leadership (8 of Swords), recognize the times when we are in a flow state and accessing our fire (Queen of Wands), and be able to say no.


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