Ah yes – burnout.
Saying yes to every exciting opportunity that comes along, feeling busy and excited and stimulated and yes, a bit important, a bit needed…and then, boom.
Suddenly it’s all too much, how can I possibly get all of this done AND help all the people AND have Christmas drinks with someone I really need to catch up with AND get train tickets to my parents AND do a magical Christmas treasure hunt for the one I love AND keep my flat clean AND do all these things I volunteered for?! Ah yes. It’s called burnout. And it leads to resentment and bitterness and tears.
As you’d imagine, the tarot has a card for this situation – the Ten of Wands.
Stephanie Piu-Mun Law has a nice take on this in the Shadowscapes Tarot:
There’s a real martyrish quality to the way this woman feels she has to carry everyone – that ‘the world would fall apart without me’ mentality where we take everything on to make ourselves feel like we have a purpose, and then complain that we’re overloaded.
Then there’s the simple, brilliant Rider-Waite-Smith version:
Way to go carrying those wands.
I know – I’ll fan them out and carry them really awkwardly in front of my eyes so I can’t see anything! Here’s a chap who’s really taken the hard road and is no doubt going to tip and stumble and get totally lost. It’s hard to feel sorry for him when the application of a little thought would probably enable him to carry all ten wands much more comfortably, but you get the idea.
Today I read with my gorgeous new Wild Unknown Tarot by Kim Krans, and one card that really jumped out at me was the Ten of Wands. Here the wands, starting out one by one full of promise and spark as wands always do, have piled up to such an extent that the light has been blocked out and vision and perspective is completely lost:
No-one’s carrying anything here (in this deck, there are no people, only sticks and flames and swords and cross-hatching and beautiful, wonderful animals…) – the feeling is much more that the wands have piled up without anyone really noticing. And that’s what burnout can feel like. You keep saying yes, because each thing sounds really fun and you genuinely want to be involved. But sooner or later the sun gets blocked out, there’s no energy left and you’re stumbling in the dark wondering what the heck happened to your life.
New year is a good time for reprioritising.
I know I’ve got a little more on my plate than I can comfortably eat, but deciding what to leave is very very difficult. All I can do is look ahead at the coming year and decide what kind of year I really want to have. 2012 has been a social year, no doubt about that. And 2013 will be the year of hard, hard work. The voluntary bits and bobs I do, both online and in my community – I need to wind these down for a bit so I can focus on what’s important right now.
Doing too much isn’t fun, it’s stressful and upsetting and leaves me feeling like a failure – this year I want to get the balance right so I’m doing a few things brilliantly, rather than trying to do everything like a headless chicken.
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