The Garden | My business needs a life of its own

I’m doing some slow and challenging work around deconstructing Little Red Tarot and looking at how it can embody feminist, anticapitalist and anti-oppressive principles. It’s taking time, and it’s helpful for me to brain-dump from time to time. This My Business is a Garden tag is where I’m doing that openly, so that LRT readers have the option of seeing this process, including it’s mess (because deconstructing the foundations of your life/work is messy! Who knew.) If you read these pieces, please understand them as works in progress rather than conclusions or statements.

Via ekostories.com

Well, I’m still struggling with disentangling my *self* from my work. 

Each time I reclaim a little bit of my self from LRT, I find more pieces woven into the fabric. Despite attempts to change things, LRT is still kinda me, and I am still kinda LRT.

BIG SIGH

This sounds more sinister than it is, I think. It’s not sinister. It’s predictable, natural in some ways. I know many, many solopreneurs/bloggers/folks with platforms off-line and on, who struggle with this same thing. When you start out, it’s you, your personality, your gift, your face – we trade on these things because nobody taught us how to ‘do business properly’ and heck, people seem to like it. All of a sudden, your ‘brand’ is you. When you start a blog that becomes a business that becomes something else (and I’m still working that out – I’m aware that while the shop is a business, this blog is…something else), stepping back and letting the work become what it needs to be is a challenge.

Businesses/organisations thrive because of the vision and values of their founder. That’s okay! I mean, it’s more than okay – it’s essential. The vision and the values are the organisation, they’re the why and the what and the how and the who and the when.

The problem – for me at least – is that I confuse the role of my orgnisation’s vision and values with the role of the owner/manager/founder/dogsbody (that would be moi). Where it is the vision and values that need to be prominently visible every day and in every way, I’ve become stuck in the story that it is I who needs to be there. Saying the right things. Being the right things. That everything is resting on my shoulders.

And of course, everything is set up that way. It feels like it’s resting on my shoulders because it is. I made this thing by cobbling it together as ‘ooh that would be good!’ type ideas came to me, not by intentionally designing a business/organisation that would have its own life beyond mine.

It’s part ego, it’s part habit, and it’s part, umm, just being a bit confused about what my job is.

Little Red Tarot has been a big (and ever shifting) part of my life for seven and a half years. I’ve shared so much of my life here and in newsletters. I’ve experimented wildly with a whole bunch of different post types and projects, with varying results and always a shitload of learning. In an attempt to disentangle myself from LRT’s identity I’ve tried things like stopping doing 1-1 tarot readings via the site, and opening up the blog platform to a brilliant and growing team of writers.

But I’ve never let go of the reins enough to let LRT become what IT needs to be.

I’ve never let it really be itself. I’ve always kept it caged, so it gets fed only when I remember or am home or have enough food (I mean, you don’t need to call the RSPCA – I am feeding it! But wouldn’t it be better if it fed itself?) It’s still, essentially, me. This is knowable in my guts and in really obvious ways, and also in the way people talk about LRT. Often it seems that Beth Maiden and LRT are interchangeable.

I really, really want to change this. This merging of identities is fun for a while and has most definitely contributed to the gradual building of LRT into a livelihood for me (I make my living from the shop, not the blog – just to be clear.)

And it’s a route to burnout.

What looks like a sustainable business model is actually very, very fragile. If I wanted a six-month break, or if I broke my neck, or if I had a depressive episode and couldn’t work, or if I wanted to train in something else.. in its current state LRT would fall apart.

Not cool!

I love LRT dearly. And because I love it, I want it to have its own life.

This is something I’m sitting with (and have been sitting with privately since autumn last year). It’s hard not to feel urgent about it. But it’s good to let it swirl and crystallise, disintegrate and re-form over and over. Shapes are beginning to appear.

To this end, I’ve done various exercises to tease out the distinct identity/spirit/personality/life/something/anything of Little Red Tarot. Two of these were recommended/guided by Jennifer Armbrust, who some of you know is coaching me at the moment (tbh getting coaching in itself is a revelation. As recent as this time last year I would have rolled my eyes at a ‘ridiculous, indulgent and expensive way to vanish up my own arse’. I don’t think that any more, though I do have a lot of feelings about access.)

Anyway. Jenn suggested firstly a ‘business relationship tarot reading’, and secondly a guided visualisation in which I’d meet and communicate with the spirit of my business.

(I KNOW!)

Naturally I did both :)

Business relationship tarot reading

Tarot of the Crone

You may be familiar with the type of spread – it’s a ‘relationship’ reading. The elements are: me, the other person (i.e. the business/organisation), the relationship between us, and what it needs. It’s effectiveness lies in that it separates the person from the work. The person gets to be independent of – and in relationship with – the work, rather than interchangeable with it.

(Aside: I a million percent recommend doing this kind of spread for your relationships too. Your lovers, colleagues, friends, your relationship to your job, your home, your cat, your body. Anywhere where there is curiosity about the relationship between you and something)

I did the spread with the Tarot of the Crone. Because this is a deck that normally insists on long and challenging explorations, that delves quickly into shadow work, that insists on going to pain points and difficult questions and opening up whole big wounds and saying ‘this must be done’ in a very weighty way and with the authority of, well, an almighty crone …because of this, I put aside my whole evening, I laid a cloth, poured wine, lit candles. I guessed I was gonna be doing this for some time, and that it would be hard.

Yet the Crone (who I am slowly recognising as a trickster in my life) called me out, quickly and sharply, and that was that. I laughed when I read it, in that way that you recognise a quick, sharp truth and laugh instinctively and uncomfortably for half a second before it hits you fully. Like, hahahaohshitrightyeahum.

Tarot of the Crone
  1. Me – Nine of Wands
  2. Little Red Tarot – Eight of Disks/Pentacles
  3. Our relationship – Ten of Swords
  4. What the relationship needs – The Wheel

My interpretation: Whilst I’m busy fretting and defining my relationship with my work in dramatic, pain-fuelled, victim-oriented ways, LRT is over there, quietly getting on with its work. I am approaching burnout. I believe in what I’m doing, sure, but boy am I tired.

I don’t want to burn out. I’ve seen that happen to so many business owners. It’s not pretty, and it’s often avoidable. Those nine wands can be the price of over identification with ‘the struggle’, with ‘the work’. I am in danger of being a martyr to ‘all this work’. Yet LRT works for itself. LRT is evolving. LRT is not making a fuss – I’m doing that, and for why? The work is not me and I am not it. 

And what does our relationship need? Change. But of course. What change, how, tell me o Crone, I want instructions a step by step guide. The Wheel can be such a frustrating card, with it’s “mmm-hmm yep things are gonna change and that’s all you’re getting“. But what have we here? A labyrinth. Interesting.

The blackness of the path shows that you cannot know all that will be in your life, yet through the changes in your life, you can begin to sense a pattern and purpose. The path is outlined by green, symbolising life force that is yours alone.

Ellen Lorenzi-Prince, Tarot of the Crone

Look for the patterns, it says. I see familiar patterns in the other cards. The pattern of over identification with ‘the work’, this merging of my ego and identity with a business that exists really to get on with its own thing.

As for purpose?

Working on it.

Meeting the spirit of my business

Using a guided meditation created by Jenn, I got to meet and greet and get to know the spirit of Little Red Tarot. And, dear reader, it was hilarious.

Sitting down to this kind of meditation, you might perhaps expect to meet a mighty tree or little sapling. You might expect animals, plants or maybe mythical human figures to show up and represent your business.

Guess who I got?

Totoro.

That’s right. My Neighbour Totoro.

Via kisspng.com

What’s that now? Totoro is the spirit of my business??

I fought it at first. Why is Totoro appearing in my visualisation? I fumed. Please move aside Totoro, I’m busy trying to meet my business spirit.

Totoro just grinned.

And now here we are, Totoro and I. And I LOVE the idea of this big, soft, furry, friendly being as the spirit of Little Red Tarot. Ever helpful, ever open, ever learning, yet grounded in his sense of self, happy being just who he is. I love the thought of ‘Totoro as customer service philosophy’, I love the idea of readers and customers and casual enquiries coming to LRT with their questions and ideas, and meeting this big, warm, friendly beast who solves problems without compromising his self-hood or apologising for his big beautiful self.

I don’t have anything more to add right now – I’m still talking with Totoro, still asking questions, and yes, still meditating with him. I have no idea where this one is leading me, but I know it makes me feel lighter in my self and my work. I know it helps me feel supported and guided.

And that’s a good start.

16 comments

  1. Yetta says:

    Thank you, thank you! So much of this is uplifting for me, including the gift of the word “solopreneur.” I wish you all the very best and thank you for sharing your deep thoughts so candidly.

      • Angharad says:

        Haha I’ve probably called it the wrong thing – it’s that scene in My Neighbour Totoro where they plant some acorns & dance around them to help them sprout!

        • Beth
          Beth says:

          OMG of course!! (I haven’t seen it for about 15 years and have been resisting watching it in case it gets in the way of the intuited thing – but) I just watched some and the seed dance is exactly it! That is exactly what I hope Totoro is here to teach me about LRT!

          Okay that’s my new morning routine, check in with Totoro and do the seed dance :D

          • Kathleen says:

            This is the most wonderful image! Totoro isn’t my work spirit (I mean, that I know of) but I have always had a love for those little soot spirits (are they in all of Miyazaki’s movies? I just rewatched Spirited Away and they’re there too!) so maybe I shall commune with the soot spirits for a bit. They work hard and have such a sense of humor about things. Enjoy the Seed Dance!

  2. Marie says:

    Do read ” The E-myth, revisited” (e stands for entrepreneurial), it is EXACTLY about this issue and how to solve it, it has helped me a lot with my own business!

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Thanks Marie! I have read it (well, I have the audiobook). Once I got past the paternalistic mansplain narrative that bizarrely holds the book together (dear Sarah, please shove a pie in his face) I was able to acknowledge the gems which are absolutely part of all this grappling :) Thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Avory says:

    YES TOTORO.

    I love the idea of doing different exercises to get to know your business beyond you. You mentioned that part of your separation is not offering readings on LRT–do you offer them elsewhere, or do you no longer offer readings?

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Thank you!

      I offer them ad-hoc depending on who is asking, and occasionally do events (I love reading at events!) I am looking for a way to offer readings again more formally, but for now, they’re not publicly ‘on offer’.

  4. Sue says:

    Beth, I don’t often get the chance to click and read from your emails/ newsletters. Glad I did to this one!

    I attempted to run a small business myself for a couple of years, until I burnt out late winter 2018…. not a great advertisement for someone in the holistic side of things, who also did readings. OOPS…. So, I totally got what you’re saying, the journey you’re on.

    I imagine the coaching will help you. The coaching I had didn’t help me a huge amount, though the group support was appreciated – I think it was more about my business simply wasn’t viable and I had to learn that through trying it out. Coaching does help folks, I’ve seen the results. Choose the coach wisely (sounds like you have).

    Thank you for the labyrinth quote in the blog pertaining to the card you drew. Spot on for myself on a few levels, not just you – so ta. :)

    Books to consider:
    She means business by Carrie Green (resonated a lot for me, out my mind at rest for a few things).
    Book yourself solid by Michael Port (might be a bit like the E-Myth for some in the content, but I know several folks who’ve found aspects of this game changing).
    Find your why by Simon Sinek (with D. Mead & P. Docker) (I’ve not yet read this(!) but the TED talk Sinek did resonated with me hugely, so I bought the book. I picked this out with you in mind.)
    The subtle art of not giving a f*ck by Mark Manson (my partner bought this for me as my business, emotions and mind disintegrated. It was a tonic to read, made me laugh.)

    There you go, you’ve enough on. Don’t burnout (nag, prod, poke) and consider the Bach flower remedy Olive to help sustain you emotionally (wag finger, nod). ;)

    Gan canny. :D
    Sue

  5. Kathleen says:

    Thank you for this post! I’m not an entrepreneur (right now…) but I am a researcher, and I though I’d avoided conflating my self and my work, but after reading this, it turns out I have, um, not.

    Also, I’m glad you wrote this post, for a(nother) selfish reason, which is that as a long-ish-time reader of yours, I was feeling bummed – in the California sense of “mildly disappointed” – that there were so many new writers on LRT and that you weren’t doing readings at the time of MY new year or MY 35th birthday. And that sounds terrible, because I actually am major fans of pretty much all of the LRT folks, and love their posts, but I was missing YOU, and not to sound too creepy or anything, but going back and reading some of your old posts as I delve deeper into learning tarot and sulking. But this post has me pulling up my pants and socks and reminding myself, “Beth is a PERSON, not a website, and she does not exist to write illuminating posts on the card you are currently studying on your schedule! Beth is Beth (and you don’t even KNOW her IRL!) and LRT is LRT, and the Wheel turns, and life is a flowing stream, and you’d do well to heed what she says about disentangling yourself in your own work instead of ruminating on things that aren’t yours.”

    So, thank you, as always, for a timely and poignant post!

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