Ten of Wands

You are not your achievements

We’ve all done it. We’ve all said ‘yes’ so many times that, before we know it, we’re drowning in duties and promises and to-do lists.

We meant well, of course. We wanted to help, or move something forward, or feel useful, or wanted. Or else we just had to get this stuff done because it’s our damn job (hello, parents and carers!)

But, as we saw in the Nine of Wands, we all have our capacity. We all have our limits. There are moments in life where our to-do lists (real or metaphorical) simply become too much.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith version of this card, a person staggers forwards. The way they are holding their wands is quite ridiculous, spread out like a fan in front of their face. They can’t possibly see where they are going, all they can see is this great load of projects, ideas, actions, obligations, or whatever else these wands represent. Surely it would be better to put a few of those wands down? Carry them one or two at a time, perhaps?

It’s a shame that the wands suit – so filled with passion and dynamic energy – should end up here at this place of overwhelm. In this, it represents our immaturity with the element of fire. Fire is such a powerful force. As we’ve seen throughout this suit, it can rile us up, get us so excited about our ideals and our ideas, it can bring about positive action, it can encourage us to fight for what we truly believe in. But of course, we can have too much of a good thing, and fire left unchecked can be all-consuming.

That’s what’s happened here. We have taken on more than we can handle, and the result is, we are lost. Overwhelmed. Burned out.

In a reading…

You’re overwhelmed. With so much on your plate, it’s hard to know where on earth to focus your energy, or how on earth you’re going to get all of this done.

The answer? Delegation. Let go of control and let someone help you. Remember that wands very often point to ego, and our egos are so often bound up in our achievements. Our ability to tick things off a list and pronounce our days ‘productive’. The way others might look at us, saying “wow, how does she do it all?” It’s time to let go of that need. You are not the sum of your achievements, your worth is not measured by a fully-crossed-off list.

It may be time to just put the damn thing down – whatever that ‘damn thing’ may be. Maybe it’s time for that letter of resignation or that admission that you’re not going to be able to do that thing, or a care-free announcement: I quit! This isn’t about flaking out, it’s about working out the best way to ease your situation. Maybe it’s not safe to just walk away from something right now – well, get your loose ends tied up and a succession plan in place, because you can’t carry this thing on your own forever. Honour the commitments you’ve made if you must, but with an eye to gradually stepping away.

Also: It is time to learn the delicate yet vital survival skill of saying ‘no’.

You do not have to do All Of The Things. Did someone tell you you did? Perhaps you are a regularly-socialised woman who was brought up to believe that you’re not fulfilling your role in life if you’re not rushed-off-your-feet, stressed and overwhelmed (yet, probably, still going!)

Again, this is an important card for activist. So focused on what we are doing for everyone else, for the struggle, for the fight, we forget to take care of our own needs. Those who take on emotional labour in particular may feel drained, as this work usually goes unnoticed. The Ten of Wands is a reminder that the sustainability of our work comes from carefully building self-care into our practices. (What use is a group that fights for people’s, if all of its staff are burned out? )

Whether you feel like this right now, or you’re just embarking on some new, fun project, think about capacity. It’s a sum, a number, a thing that has an actual limit. Think about how you use your energy, think about its best, most productive use. Think about the ways you waste time (‘busy work’, for example) and how this eats up your energy, diminishing your capacity for more important things.