I’m ready to reclaim myself.
From what? Oh, y’know. From myself!
I’m an obsessive kinda person.
Not in any clinical way; it’s not *a thing*. It’s just a tendency, a part of who I am. Whatever I do, if I like doing it, I fling myself into it and do it obsessively… for as long as that energy lasts. Sometimes, like a sparkler, it’s fun for a short moment, and then it’s gone, abandoned, dropped on the cold ground. Sometimes it’s more like the bonfire, consistently fed and burning all night.
I don’t mind about the short-lived ideas. I’m a decade past myself up about the things I don’t see through. I’m human, I’m excitable, life is too short and there is so much fun to be had, so much to try, to create, to care about. Long-term loves of mine have included tarot, film photography, reading poetry, blogging, letter-writing, cycling , music and mixtape-making. Flash-in-the-pan hobbies lasting anywhere from three hours to three years have included winemaking, gardening, coding, knitting, a clothes customising project that raised funds for feminist projects, wildflower identification, trapeze, interior design and playing my accordion.
All of these are approached with the same enthusiasm, the same willingness to get completely and utterly obsessed. Some things stick, some don’t, and that’s all cool. When it works, it gets great things done. When it doesn’t – hell, it was fun for a moment.
When Little Red Tarot accidentally-on-purpose became a real business this time last year, that familiar energy took hold.
This time, though, it was a little different. Perhaps because I’m in my early 30s and suddenly determined to create something I could actually live on. Perhaps because I was still recovering, bruised and self-critical from a difficult recent relationship history. Perhaps because I wanted to be a grown-up, all of a sudden.
Whatever – turning this website into a sustainable business became the obsession project of my wildest dreams. I could devote myself to playing with tarot cards all day long, reading for clients, teaching folks to do the same, writing a column for a website I adored, and having fun with my shop. At the same time I could indulge my passion for design, creating and endlessly perfecting an online home for this amorphous body of work.
But it’s taken its toll.
Just as it can while I’m at the sewing machine, lost in a poetry book, riding the Welsh coast or fretting over the exact right song to follow on from Welcome to the Occupation, my obsessive tendencies can suck me into this screen, this keyboard. And a year has gone by and the obsession has not waned and I’m not in a good shape at all.
This is not the end of the world. I’m not floored by genuine depression, I’m not in some dark hole that I can’t see a way out of. It’s just… it’s stopped being fun. Because it’s become all that I do.
And this, of course, is where Temperance comes in.
Dear Temperance, a card I’ve always thought of as so dull, so damn… temperate.
From the Wild Unknown Tarot
It would be fair to say that I don’t relate much to the ideas behind this card. ‘Balance’ doesn’t come naturally to me, ‘harmony’ sounds way too rainbows and fairies, and calmness always felt like something for people who understand how to meditate. As Em told me this morning, I’m naturally wired, and a person of extremes.
When Temperance comes up in my readings, I tend to read it as a bit of a finger-wagging, a schoolmarmish telling off. The word itself has stuffy connotations: the temperate climate of the UK (aka the weather is rubbish), the temperance movements of the early 1900s, which encouraged abstinence from alcohol (nope). A quick Wiki brings up: ‘Temperance is defined as moderation or voluntary self-restraint. It is typically described in terms of what an individual voluntarily refrains from doing.’ It goes on to talk about virtues such as chastity, prudence, modesty and the like.
Definitely not a comfort zone.
Yet right now this is the card I’m carrying around with me.
Suddenly, as a person who’s life has become incredibly single tracked, and as someone who wants to bring variety, creativity and, yes, the elusive concept of balance back into her life, Temperance is looking pretty damn good.
In the Rider-Waite-Smith and the Dreaming Way Tarot (as well in as loads of other decks) Temperance is illustrated by an angel doing something weird-looking with water. Interestingly, in Pamela Colman Smith’s illustration, the angle is nonbinary – they’re not ‘male’ or ‘female’, they are perhaps a blend of the two, somewhere on the spectrum between those two extremes, or rejecting the concept of binary gender altogether. Here, this becomes a metaphor for ‘not going to extremes’, and it helps me to understand Temperance as not so much a ‘middle road’ as a rejection of becoming stuck or pigeonholed in one identity or way of being.
So what about those cups? What witchery is this? Only the magic of blending our own extremes to find a place of stability:
The cups represent the sub- and super-conscious minds. One cup can be thought of as holding hot water and the other cold water. The water flowing between them is actually going from the lower cup to the higher one, signifying rising from a lower plane to a higher one. The temperate individual mixes the opposites and finds a balance in life by avoiding extremes.
Again, there’s that part of Temperance that turns me off. Who wants lukewarm water? But I like the idea of bringing my conscious and subconscious together. Elementally, my conscious is a lot of fire and air – ideas, often noisily expressed, overthinking, floating somewhere above the ground. (This also feels like a very ‘digital’ place.) Subconsciously, I’m yearning for earth and water – for something solid, for creativity I can experience with my hands, for life I can live via all of my senses. And true, deep feeling. It’s all there, of course, but months buried in my laptop have shoved that stuff down to my subconscious, literally out of sight and mind. I don’t want to get rid of the air and fire – as an Aquarius with Leo rising, that stuff is just part of who I am. But yes, for me to be fulfilled, and especially right now to break these habits, I need to temper these elements with those hidden beneath – earth, and water.
In Thea’s Tarot, Temperance is renamed Grace, the card showing a Grecian-goddess-looking woman untangling a long string of flowers. It’s a great metaphor – as anyone who’s ever had the job of putting up last year’s hastily-bundled-away Christmas lights will know, this is not the kind of task you can rush. Of this card Oliver Pickle writes:
Grace calls for self control, not through socially internalised oppression and compartmentalisation but through appropriate and thoughtful responses to all situations. It asks for compromise, harmony, and moderation. Specifically, it suggests you bring together the divergent elements of your life and, using intuitive guidance, blend them together in a way that allows for harmony and healing.
Oliver Pickle, She Is Sitting in the Night
As always, Oliver has said it best (have I mentioned how much I love this book? Oh yeah – right here.)
I’m not writing this as some kind of conclusion. I just want to journal my way through this current challenge, to share it with folks who might feel the same, and of course to find the tarot cards that describe my experience and aspirations.
Anyway. Enough writing, enough computer. I’m off for the day. There’s a two-hour ‘hush’ at the poetry library (for would-be writers to concentrate in companionable silence) and a riverside route all the way from my home to the city. A perfect blend of water and earth.
I’m a 30-something writer, artist, tarot reader, and perpetual explorer of the space between thought, feeling, and action.
I believe that spirituality and ritual are for everybody. I’m about the journey, in all of its messy, non-linear, chaotic iterations. I am excited by anticapitalist business and living with my whole entire self present. I use tarot cards to bring forth hidden truth, and ritual to affirm my commitment, over and over, to my ever-shifting path.