keep your head down

today’s card is all about focus, determination, craftsmanship, and innovation: the eight of pentacles.

eight-of-pentacles

confident and skilled, the spider is constantly pushing herself to create new, intricate webs, never giving up. if a web is broken or damaged, she fixes it. if it’s destroyed beyond repair, she creates a new one, that’s stronger and more beautiful than the one before it. she is constantly honing her skills, seeking mastery of her craft. detail-oriented, determined, focused, and devoted, she is constantly challenging herself to do better.

this card is all about balance and devotion, understanding that hard work and drive can achieve so much. there can be joy in every stage of a process, learning to embrace every single aspect of a project or craft. and while there’s always plenty of things to distract us, sometimes the best thing we can do is keep our heads down, stay focused, and put all of our energy into making something strong and beautiful.

this is a challenging card for me today, as i have a quiet work week planned. my to-do list is completely finished, every task that’s been wiggling in the back of my head completed – all that’s left is writing difficult letters to my family, which i’ve been putting off for weeks now. pentacles are so connected to the earth and possessions for me, all about stability, material things, wealth and careers and property. but eights are goal-oriented, all about achievement, getting things done.

son-of-wandsmy clarifying card is the son of wands, a card that’s been popping up a lot lately. this son has no fear, no self-doubt, but pushes forward with confidence and strength and passion. i don’t want to force the cards or miss something, but this feels like it could speak to my still-unwritten letters. after all, finishing coming out during pride month was the goal that i set for myself, and while i’ve taken the first step i have stumbled over the others. the son has such purpose, such fire, and he and his mother have appeared so many times this month. it feels like the court of wands is pushing me to push myself, to finish the journey i started years ago.

yes, it’s scary. i might destroy the fragile webs i’ve been building all these years, damaging relationships that are so important to me. but if i can keep my head down, focus on the task at hand, use the skills and intuition and empathy that i’ve been developing – perhaps i can build something even stronger.

the stories we tell ourselves

today’s card is a perfect reflection of how i’ve been feeling about a situation in my life: the eight of swords. and while this is not an easy card to see, it does offer a number of challenges for me to process as i work through this problem.

eight-of-swordsthe wild unknown depicts this card as a butterfly, curled up tightly into herself, dangling from a sword and surrounded by many others. she has no space to fly, no room to breathe, no obvious escape route. this card speaks of powerlessness, feeling trapped, and crippling self-doubt.

but those swords represent mental energy and conflict, that double-edged blade of creation and destruction. how much of this situation is real, and how much of it is in our minds? are we so busy seeing ourselves as the victim, drowning in feelings of fear and isolation and pain, that we can’t see that these bindings have been built only in our minds, and not in reality? if we can find a way to step back, see clearly, and reevaluate, would a solution for escape become obvious?

for the last few months, i’ve been struggling deeply with changes, anticipating a loss that feels inevitable. i see no way forward that does not lead to this suffering. and i’ve been mourning this loss, though it hasn’t yet happened. it feels completely unavoidable to me, like the wheels were set in motion long ago and now i simply have to follow this unchangeable path. there is no obvious solution, nothing i can do to alter what will happen, and i hate feeling so out of control when i can see what’s coming.

but what if my mindset is wrong? in her meditation on this card, carrie urges us to reconsider the stories that we tell ourselves, to look deeper at the situation and evaluate the personal power that we might be unconsciously surrendering. and i’ve always found it fascinating, the ways that we view ourselves versus how the world may see us. i have a very specific view of myself, that probably completely contradicts how others see me, and the complete truth of who i am lies somewhere in the middle.

but the narrative i’ve built around this particular situation could be a carefully constructed trap. i know how i think this all plays out, but perhaps by seeing this future and feeling that it’s inevitable, i’m limiting myself only to that outcome. what if there is a way out that doesn’t involve loss? what if i’ve spent so much energy crafting my own bonds that i’ve missed an obvious solution?

we need stories, narratives, a way of viewing the world and our place in it that connects us. those threads are essential, and how we see ourselves and our paths can impact everything. but focusing on only one outcome, viewing those threads as set it stone rather than flexible and shifting, can be incredibly limiting. if we can’t grow and change and learn, can’t be broken and rebuilt to be stronger, then what is the point of any of this? and if i can alter this situation, can shift my path to go somewhere new, why wouldn’t i try?

weekly reboot

i have a very busy week and a half approaching: theatre photography, pre-event work for an upcoming festival, a friend’s birthday, a few fun evenings out, a half marathon, and my parents coming into town for the weekend. with so much going on, i wanted to do a spread for the upcoming week, to help me know how to approach it and carry me through. i don’t anticipate having time for my usual daily readings, though i hope that i can fit in a few here and there.

with that, i chose a simple three-card spread from jessi huntenberg, called the reboot spread. the spread is designed to help find ways to integrate self-care and make useful concessions when you’re overwhelmed or coming through something difficult. i found my cards challenging and not as clear as i would’ve hoped, so if you have additional insights i’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

1. what’s the most important task for me to prioritize this week?

eight-of-cups

at first i was a bit startled to see the eight of cups, but in the context of my fading depression and the long few months i’ve had, this card actually seems pretty empowering. representing moving on, changing direction, and abandoning what’s broken, i think this card is giving me permission to set aside my depression and hurt feelings and focus on what’s in front of me this week. it’s time to chart a new course, leave those broken cups behind, and find a new path.

this isn’t always easy, and even with something dark and unwelcome like depression, it can be hard to move away from it completely. you get so used to living with it that finding the strength to push it away and walk back towards the light feels completely impossible. but i know that i’ve been finding my way back, and this card encourages me to keep going and pushing myself.

2. what task can i drop or put off until i’m feeling more up to it?

IMG_0329

the son of pentacles isn’t a card i’ve worked with before, and i’m always delighted to get to know another card in my deck. incredibly hard-working, steadfast, focused, calm, and quiet, this son is known for his stamina and determination. he trusts his intuition, pushes through trials and struggles, and chooses work that he deeply believes in. he is utterly focused on the road ahead, his eyes unwavering, his goal fixed.

this card is beautiful in its imagery and its message, but is a bit confusing to me in this position. perhaps it is simply telling me that it’s okay to not know the final destination or every career and life goal, but instead to focus on these next few steps. every job i take, every event i work, every image i create helps make me better and more experienced at what i do. and though this week will be hectic and possibly overwhelming, everything keeps me moving farther down the path. i might not have a “fantasy job” or a super specific dream for my career, but all of these things are bringing me in the right direction – and it’s ok for that to be enough this week.

3. what self-care practice do i need to engage with to help me get back to center?

four-of-cups

the four of cups might seem like an odd form of self-care, but it does resonate with me quite a bit. fours are inward-focused, offer structure and stability, and can encourage us to act or break free. the wild unknown guide defines this card as greed and selfishness, but it can also be viewed as self-preservation, protection, or finding that oh-so-necessary emotional stability.

i have a tendency to overexert myself when it comes to helping others, and it can get me into trouble. it’s easier for me to focus on assisting my friends and family than dealing with my own problems sometimes, but that’s not always a healthy instinct and can later fester into feelings of isolation, frustration, or being taken advantage of. focusing on my own emotions or needs does usually feel selfish to me, but only when it’s me doing it – when i encourage my friends to do it i am positive that it’s warranted, healthy, and useful. i believe this card is encouraging me to focus on my needs this week – a lot of what i’ll be doing will be working for others, helping others, or doing kind things for others, so it’s important for me to take time out to care for my own needs, rather than seeing self-care as selfish.

IMG_1086

and don’t look back

so many of my emotions lately have centered around feeling left behind. i may not consider myself someone that craves control, but i do believe that no one wants to feel helpless, like all of their choices have been taken away or that they have no say in what happens next. raising your head and realizing that everyone has moved on without you, that you’re alone and perhaps don’t even know how long you’ve been that way, is a terrible thing.

but making the choice to stand up, assess your choices, and move on alone can hold such power. there’s tremendous strength in knowing when to leave something behind. and while the eight of cups can often denote sadness, isolation, or even despair, i was glad to see it in today’s daily reading.

the wild unknown depicts a different scene than other decks – dark mountains loom eight-of-cupsunder a grey sky, while a group of cups lies abandoned. this is a card of revolution, of transition, of changing direction or perhaps even changing the journey, and many decks include a figure leaving these cups behind and moving away with purpose. what i love about this card, and what differs from other interpretations, is that these cups are completely shattered, unusable, broken. there’s nothing left to salvage, no way to repair or reuse them. the only thing to do is to leave them, and perhaps to find new cups to fill.

the cards often surprise me, because i feel that someone in my current frame of mind might find this card discouraging. there’s nothing left for me here, everything is broken, i’m beyond repair. but instead i see courage, strength, and resolution. the cups are worthless, the journey has gotten off-track, and it takes purpose and fortitude to know when to stop, adjust, and restart. why would i keep holding on to these damaged cups? they’re useless to me. isn’t it better to set them aside and seek something that i can use?

yesterday’s card was all about action, control, awareness, and knowing your strengths. today i see where i’m to channel all of that readiness – it’s time to leave all of this behind.

IMG_1003

balance & blockages

some days it’s hard to find the time for tarot – i strive to do daily readings but it’s not always simple to find a quiet pocket of time to draw a card, meditate and ponder its meaning, and spend a few minutes writing and reflecting on how it can advise me on my day. but other days, like today, i seem to have endless time stretching before me, and my daily card challenges me to keep questioning and working through it. today’s card is the two of swords.

two-of-swords

this is a card that i always seem to struggle with, which is both ironic and fascinating. the card itself in traditional interpretations means blockage, stalemate, stalled progress. the swords represent two opposing forces, their energy high but forcing each other to stay in their position. the eclipse in the center beautifully illustrates shadows and confusion, the moon blocking the light of the sun, allowing us to look directly at it but making it hard to comprehend what our vision tells us.

however, when i draw this card my instincts tell me something else. i always seem to see balance, symmetry, equal forces, and steely focus. the swords may be crossed, they may be pushing against each other, but even with the stunning eclipse in the background they are single-minded in their attention and efforts.

i was delighted to read that beth sees a similar duality – and the samples of the two of swords in other decks seem to offer a variety of interpretations. whether its a willful pushing away of realities to focus on a single issue or decision, or a naive avoidance of a problem, there is both strength and withdrawal in this card. sometimes we have to push daily distractions out of our mind and put all of our energy towards preparing, making a strong decision, steading ourselves. but denial is a strong instinct, and it can be easy to mistake steady focus with putting our heads in the sand about real issues, and ignoring challenges that won’t go away until they’re dealt with. (if you’re out there reading this, i’d love to hear your interpretations and personal intuitions about this card in the comments!)

wanting more on what i may be blocking or ignoring (whether intentionally or not), i pulled a clarification card and was rewarded with an old friend: the eight of pentacles.

eight-of-pentacles

like the ten of wands or the ace of swords, this is a card that comes up a lot for me in both daily readings and larger spreads. the spider is steady, calm, and always working – she isn’t distracted by what’s around her but instead is hyper-focused on her craft and her mission, and weaves intricate, beautiful webs as often as possible. this card reminds us that hard work and perseverance are what bring us closer to our goals. for me it also represents getting out there and pushing myself to continue to improve my photography, whether by seeking new clients or creating personal projects that push me outside my comfort zone and help me develop my artistic style and professional skills.

centering the two of swords around my professional work makes this daily reading much more clear. while i love what i do, things seem to be slowing down or stalling out these days – my regular clients, while consistently providing work, seem to be slowing down this week. i haven’t shot anything new in a few months. and i haven’t been pushing myself to experiment with my camera, read about new equipment or techniques, or creating recipes or projects for myself to develop my portfolio. i’ve let myself be distracted by the myriad of other things in my life – and while these things are important, i should put my focus back into my work for a bit.

in light of this daily reading (and given my very slow work week ahead), i’d like to do an additional spread focused on developing my career. more on the way…