Tarot Letters 7

work work work work work work

Hey gang! Welcome to the 7th edition of Tarot Letters, where you folks submit questions that I pull cards for, with a little mini essay on my interpretation. This month’s edition is all about WORK. In a time where so many of us have had to contend with radical changes to our work lives, and question the meaning of work and capitalism and ugh ~productivity~ it makes sense that we all have a lot of different feelings around work and what it means about who we are and how we have to / want to live. And boy, there are some FEELINGS. I hope the cards and my words bring something useful to you all, and that you’re safe out there.

All image descriptions for the cards are at the very end. You can send me more questions at this open form here. I most recently wrote a guest post on the Queen of Wands over at Pop Tarot, with accompanying mini essay here. If you’ve been enjoying the newsletter and would like to support the work, here’s my tip jar. You can also now book a tarot reading with me! 50% of proceeds will be donated to initiatives helping migrant workers, refugees and trans people in Malaysia. My schedule’s closed for the rest of July but I’ll be adding dates for August by end of the month.

A new boss has upended my previously comfortable work environment. Every day is a new struggle to communicate and I can feel my stubborn resentment growing. How should I determine which aspects of their leadership style to maturely adapt to and which are actually worth pushing back against?

Oh man, I love how the Apparition Tarot version of this card kind of describes some work environments. The different quadrants and facets, all the different fingers in different pies, the juggling act that workers often need to do whatever their job title. The fact that this a Major Arcana card tells me that this current situation with your new boss is perhaps not an unfamiliar pattern in your life, or that you have had previous experience dealing with difficult communication. Don’t discount that; are there tools you already have that can be deployed here? There’s also a matter of factness to the Wheel of Fortune (which, at its very core, simply says to us “Life goes on”) that tells me perhaps this situation is best dealt with outside the realm of the emotional and personal, that some distance / detachment might help you look at this situation with more clarity. 

You are likely in the midst of an adjustment period to this new boss and the new ways of working that have come into play. You miss whatever season was before this, and you perhaps yearn for a return to Before. That season will come again, but before then the season you are in now — the one you resent — will always feel like it’s going on too long and like it will maybe never end. But everything does, everything ends and makes way for the next thing, seasons and phases restart and return. That is the essence of the Wheel of Fortune. So how can you ground yourself? This advice might be contradictory but: sometimes you have to just try things for the sake of trying to see what works, and you also have to hold firm to what you know about why you are at your job, and what you are trying to achieve. 

Maybe one day you push back on something that another day you will let go of, maybe one day you stand up to your boss on something that you had previously deferred to them to. Maybe one day the strategy gets you and your boss somewhere good, maybe another day it doesn’t end up too well. There are risks, and the results aren’t just “successes” or “failures”, it’s data that brings you through the cycles. One way to ensure “consistency” in this sense is understanding the why behind your actions, understanding what you’re willing to risk (and what you’re not), and keeping your eye on your larger goals. Bosses occupy a position of sometimes disporportionate power, yes. But do other things exist that motivate and hold you in this workplace and job outside of them? Let that lead your gut to knowing when to adapt and when to push back. You have these rhythms in you. Good luck!

I have been in the workforce for 4 years now and have changed jobs 4 times. 3 out of those 4 jobs have put me in an abusive workplace situation with constant sexist and queerphobic comments thrown at me. I have been unemployed since early this year; I am running out of savings to stay at home and I’m thinking of applying for jobs again. But I’m worried I might get into another bad working environment. I’m hoping for advice on how to navigate my life around this.

The Empress is here to remind you: You are worthy and deserving of security, safety and care. You are more than capable of taking care of and nurturing yourself, to tend to your needs — urgent and less so — in ways that prioritise your happiness and growth. This capacity includes a living with and within a support system that you helped build, or that was built by others out of care for you, which you deserve. Your patience is your commitment and “faith in good outcomes and the tolerance to endure what arises in the meantime.” You are an expansive person, holding multiple truths, identities, gifts, and desires — all of them valid — and you have the capacity to keep growing to accommodate more. 

I’m sorry you’ve had abusive experiences in the past. Nobody should have to encounter sexist or queerphobic remarks or any other form of harassment or abuse in the workplace or any other realm of life, and yet the reality is many people do, and too little is often available to help people navigate those experiences in healthy ways. I’m sorry that the need to survive under capitalism forces you and so many of us to bargain about our safety and freedoms, to be held hostage by paranoia and fear. Only you get to dictate the ways in which you tell the truth of your experience, so if you feel this word doesn’t apply to what you went through please disregard it, but when I first read your question, I saw a description of trauma. And trauma is something that requires healing, time and patience. 

I wish I could tell you, in some certain way, that you won’t encounter these things again. I can’t. I also don’t want to tell you to focus on what you can control, because the repercussions of corrupt and broken systems are put on those of us who suffer from that corruption and brokenness, to swallow it, to fight it, to put up with it, to forget it. It sucks! That I’ll say with my full chest. 

What I can tell you is that The Empress is a card traditionally associated with care, creation, and nurturing. Parents are complicated (often more so with queer people). If you have a good relationship with a parental figure, lean on them for support. If you don’t, lean on people who accept you and take care of you, because you need and deserve it. Many of us have had to learn how to parent ourselves. Healthy ways of doing this can look like: knowing what we need to feel safe and putting in effort to provide that for ourselves (and not necessarily doing that work alone); asking for help; putting in emotional work even when it’s hard because we know the work is for our own good; being kind to ourselves when we feel down or small; rewarding behaviours that contribute to our happiness. Recognise that you’ve had bad experiences that have hurt you, share this with others that you trust who will believe and validate you, let them hold you in your healing, remember you are a person that can create and nurture (that’s part of parenthood too), that you bring things of value to whatever you invest in (work etc), that people of integrity and humility will recognise that and validate you without caveats, that there are people who will accept and celebrate all facets of you including your gender and sexuality. May these affirmations light your way on your journey, however you choose to navigate it. Sending love. 

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I'm at a difficult place professionally. I've been made redundant last year and went into freelancing. It's not the first time that I’m working for myself and I actually like it. That said, the pandemic hit my sector really hard. I want to reach professional stability but I am not sure how.

I don’t know about you, but my sleep has been pretty messed up this year. It’s me adjusting to a new work and life rhythm (on all types of levels) and having a lot on my mind that make me restless. But something that helps me is the act of surrender in sleep, in laying down even knowing it’ll take me a while to actually fall asleep, knowing it might be a few hours here and there, knowing I might not get enough but it’ll get me to the next day, and the next, and the next. The Four of Swords often asks us to rest, and rest looks different for everyone. Relaxation even more so. Your question conveys a lot of anxiety. What would relaxing that anxiety look like right now? 

Perhaps it’s shifting from a future focus to a present focus, looking at what you can work on with regards to your freelancing in this moment, with the present conditions. Letting go of some older aspirations that oame from an older version of you in a different work situation. Perhaps even carving out time to really look at your own vision of “professional stability” for yourself, to highlight the elements that relate to you and those that feel like obligations you’ve picked up from other people or your sector at large. This pandemic and stability in a lot of different fields are subject to the long game right now, and so are you. That bigger picture situation is the mass of eyes and swords and checkerboards roiling above you. Sink down into the grass, make your arms a pillow for your head, allow yourself to be where you are and work from there. That’s all you can do right now. So how can you integrate that fact in a way that feels restful or relaxing? 


Image descriptions: All cards from the Apparition Tarot.

Wheel of Fortune - The card is split into 5 quadrants of different colours with different images, a circle in the center where the dividing lines meet that has 8 arrows pointing outwards in different directions. From the top left, a black quadrant with a blue and green earth being held against white clouds by a green arm and hand emerging from the centre circle. The earth has a grey-bladed green-handled sowrd with a blue eye stuck through. A yellow quadrant with an earth rendered in two shades of green, white wings growing from the side and a light green explosion shape behind it. It’s held up by an orange arm emerging from the centre circle. Between the two quadrants is an arrow with two heads and a single eye (one green, one blue) on either side. The bottom right quadrant is pink, with another blue and green earth on the ground on a yellow puddle shape surrounded by stacks of coins with stars on them, and next to a golden pot with a pentacle on it surrounded by bees. A yellow leg and foot emerging from the center circle rests atop the earth. White quadrant with a single black circle, and a white leg and foot emerging from the center circle resting on it. Final quadrant is orange, with a yellow circle enclosing a series of differently sized orange flames, and the yellow circle is burning in red flames. Underneath it is the head of a green snake with its tongue out, it’s body running across and under the center circle.

The Empress - two eyes with golden irises emit a wavy beam of yellow and pink. Between the eyes is a triangle where the sides are three long thorny stemmed red roses enclosing a red heart with the Venus sign inside it, an open book with blank white pages and a yellow cover and a pink conch shell.

Four of Swords - A figure with long hair sleeps amidst green bushes or mountains on an open lighter green field/landscape. Above that are four wavy bladed daggers stacked on top one another; their blades are checkered black and white and their white handles have a single black irised eye. The backdrop is a wavy pattern of red-and-white (to the left) and black-and-white (to the right) chessboard pattern, with two circles in the top right and bottom left corner that is segmented into eight slices and further segmented into six concentric circles with alternating black and white colours (it’s a real dizzying and busy pattern all in all!)

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