Yesterday I did something mundane but risky and played volleyball.
Mundane because it’s the kind of thing normal people do in the summertime. Risky because I haven’t exerted myself in some time. It was me and a partner and another couple. They play in tournaments and we tried to remember high school, the last time we even saw a volleyball.
When I need to sweat, I go to my bike. Plenty of practice means I know my cycling limits. I haven’t played volleyball in almost 20 years. Volleyball in Texas sun comes dangerously close to more intense activities – the kind I’ve stopped, because I know they’ll result in some kind pain or adverse reaction.
But I’m all about finding out what’s true today, so I went.
Showing up was enough, but of course I didn’t stop there. I’ve never met friends of this partner before. I vowed to myself that if I couldn’t be amazing with a volleyball I could at the very least be charming, or entertaining, or something else good. I’ve got all kinds of silly reasons to aim to be something or other, to try for amazing. I won’t go on about those. What this meant yesterday was that I had a decent serve and that I told a little more than my usual share of jokes.
This urge to be amazing, I think a lot of us have it. Circumstances in which we’re willing to push in order to shine. We don’t always have the technique to be graceful about this “push,” this burst of energy, applied to the-thing-that-is-new. This is where we risk injury or overwork in the name of achieving. This is where wisdom comes in. The experience to know that if you don’t rest you just might lose lunch in front of your new friends. (That didn’t happen yesterday btw.)
This scenario, the new sport with new people and the vow it inspired, this is seven of wands energy. The seven of wands is one of my recent tarot stalkers. It’s been coming up a lot for me and even in other people’s tarot blogs. I saw it over at Seven Card Spread’s blog. I saw it somewhere else too. I wrote about it when I pulled it face up for a new moon spread last March. It was already a stalker card at that point, since I pulled it last December in a Wheel of the Year spread for the month of July. Since I’ll be getting comfy with this card next month, I thought I’d go ahead and explore it now.
I write my yearly spread in my diary planner as per Leonie’s instructions
This card will be familiar to creatives of all kinds. We know this beast well. The comparison beast. Envy. Competition. Imitation. Mars, with all the get-up-and-go of a furious deity, in Leo, the sign of the golden child. The struggle involved with this card is real enough without adding the layer of injury or illness. The stakes are higher when you face unique challenges.
A week or so ago I read Esme Wang’s piece over on Elle.com about chronic illness and fears of laziness. She penned feelings about productivity and shame that are common in our workaholic culture. The lesser known fact about illness is that it teaches you things that you otherwise might not have the occasion to learn.
When Esme writes, “When I see women that I admire scoff at the idea of self-care, I shrink because I’m often reading their words on my phone while lying in bed, engaging in the most intense self-care that I can manage,” I’m reminded of my own tendency to hold firm boundaries in the interest of self-care. But not just that. I’m also reminded of the people that won’t learn to say no or that have no idea how to take care of themselves, really, because their health hasn’t depended on it yet. We normally don’t get lessons like those until much later in life.
Experience with mental illness can lead to a constant re-evaluation of what is true in a world where plenty of people just assume that everything is the way it looks on the surface. In a black and white world, the grey of self-care may look like laziness. Those that live in the grey can’t always make use of the language and labels of black and white. But we can’t always make use of the grey either…
July Westhale wrote one of the most original pieces I’ve seen over at The Establishment about the messages the brain sends and how it doesn’t always feel like a friendly pen pal. July’s way of naming how the mind alters and shapes reality in order to help us survive reminded me of own relationship with my body and its strange signals. A burning here, a swelling there, and it’s crystal clear that something needs to change and that my body feels its survival is at stake.
Survival is a good word to associate with the seven wands. If I had to pick an organ to represent this card, it’d be the adrenals. The seven wands are what kick in when it feels like a matter of survival. And that could be anything from the need to hustle to self-care, from anger to amnesia. The mind and body are strange allies in the work to protect and enrich us. Even when it seems they aren’t speaking to each other, or us, and even when they seem to abandon.
It’s no wonder we want to be amazing. Productive. We want to do what it takes to survive and to feel secure. We make oaths with ourselves to be and do these things. Oath is related to the Hebrew word for seven.
An exploration of the seven wands is then an exploration of what it means to survive, the qualities and attitude needed. How we push and check ourselves against reality, through force or with wisdom. What battle do we take on in the name of the golden child within? Depending on our circumstances, our battles will vary. Some of us will hit the ground running and some of us face a spiritual battle, braced against the limitations of our bodies and beliefs.
Something to consider with this card is, when it’s tempting to let the urge for safety push you beyond your limits, or the desire to stand out tempt you to be somewhat other than what is authentically you, what reminds you of your self? Or, as Andrew of The Hermit’s Lamp asked on IG a week or so ago:
I attend tarot conferences and surround myself with hundreds of real life people that accept and affirm me. I make spreads for the changing moon cycles and seasons and watch the symbols stretch, breath, and dance through my life and story. I ask myself questions and feed myself trial answers to see how they fit and feel. I notice and I write about noticing, so that others might find their way home to themselves too. Because sometimes the truth takes a village. Sometimes the truth takes even more than every ounce of us.
What keeps you grounded when you feel the flight or fight feeling?
What keeps you sovereign? What keeps you you?
Answer below or use #difficultcards
This post inspired a spread that works with noticing those less-than-conscious oaths, the ones we make to excel, protect or feel safe. This spread is about making that oath consciously and includes this quick reference sheet for how to do the spread. If you’d like to see the spread you can follow me to see when it posts in the next few days. If/when you use it, I’d love to know how it went!
Featured deck: The Mary El Tarot Schiffer Publishing
Featured art: Andrew McGregor thehermitslamp.com Used with permission, Shining Biz Workbook and Diary Planner by Leonie Dawson