There’s nothing that kills creativity faster than burnout.
~ Arianna Huffington
Here is a card we have only had a couple of times in the many years I have been publishing my Card of the Week. Coming to visit in this first full week of the New Year, it is with somewhat mixed feelings we welcome the Nine of Wands.
In the Tarot, the Nines traditionally are the culmination of the suit and show how the stories inherent in the suit climax and end.
The Wands are the suit of Fire, action, passion, and power. They contain the energy of desire, sexuality, and creativity, which, in the right measure, are life-affirming and joyful. But too much of this good thing can leave us, like this figure, bruised and battered, even if we are still standing.
His defensive posture and his wary expression as he looks over his shoulder speak of his expectation that the struggle may only have paused, and not yet be over. His bandaged head hints to us that his wounds may be as mental as they are physical.
For although his Wand allies are lined up behind him, and he has won the day, his expression is that of someone who fully expects more battles yet to come.
As we can see, this is yet another example of Pamela Colman Smith, the R-W-S deck artist, placing the main figure of the card on what appears to be a theater stage. Behind him, the Wands even resemble a curtain. Is it possible that this is a drama enacted for our benefit, rather than a literal truth?
The Glorious, Never-ending Fight
Sometimes, when we have had to struggle and even suffer for the things we desire, we find it difficult to give up the conflict, even after our goals are achieved. Because of past experiences with loss and conflict, we may continue to expect “the other shoe to drop.”
There is no peace here, only a temporary breather of some kind. There is no disarmament, and no victory that signals a conclusion to the hostilities.
It is illuminating that we use metaphors of warfare for almost everything: battling disease, the ticking time bomb of climate change, or being “under fire” when criticized. In recent years, we’ve been “at war” with drugs, cancer, various economic classes, terrorism, and poverty, just to name a few. We say that someone who is very attractive is a “bombshell” or that someone dropped a “bombshell” when they make a surprising announcement.
The list goes on and on. Being on edge in a culture that expects us to be on all the time, and armed for battle, is considered normal.
How much sacrifice of time, privacy, and peace of mind is too much? Is fighting really glorious? Is the model of conquest for survival even accurate?
I love that there are people like media magnate Arianna Huffington, who are attempting to redefine success, especially “the collective delusion that burnout is the way to succeed.”
The Price of Success
With the intensity of the holidays now behind us, it’s not unusual to feel a bit flattened, both energetically and financially. We may feel exactly like the weary soldier in the Nine of Wands.
And many of us will spend time this week making plans and setting goals for success in the coming year. What if we considered more carefully what we really want? What holy desire calls to you, without requiring total exhaustion?
Take a look at how you compete in the worlds in which you travel. How do you accept your victories, if you bother to at all? Who is your enemy? (Bear in mind that the “enemy” is not always a person).
How might you step back, reduce the stress, and refresh your vitality and creativity?
Is it true that you must always be vigilant and never lower your guard? What does this underlying attitude of defensiveness and fear cost you?
Beware of burnout and our culture’s veneration of struggle and drama.
What alternative ending to this suit’s story of Fire, change, magic, and passion would you prefer to create instead?
May all of our successes be more sustainable and harmonious in this new year.