Greetings! I’m so happy to introduce Dear Temperance, a new tarot advice column for paid subscribers to my weekly substack newsletter Home + the World! If you haven’t been there yet, I invite you to check it out, and subscribe. In the meantime, here’s the first Dear Temperance, sans paywall, as a welcome, and a thank you.

Have a query for Temperance? Submit your burning life questions via email through the contact form on this website, or through my substack bio. Your anonymity is guaranteed. If your letter is published, you will receive a one-year paid subscription to Home + the World for yourself, or to gift to someone else. 10% of all Home + the World subscription proceeds go to mutual aid efforts in occupied Palestine. This month, funds will go to Many Lands Mutual Aid.

Dear Temperance,

I’m a single mom with no financial safety net. I make a good living and I am good at what I do. I don’t love it, but it pays the bills. I’ve been told I should start my own consulting firm over and over my entire career. For the first time, I’m really considering it. What holds me back that 1. don’t love the work and 2. like I said, I’m a single mom with no financial safety net. What if something happens, especially to my health? Should I throw caution into the wind and start my own business? 

On The Precipice 

Dear OTP,

There’s nothing more disconcerting than an in-between. That nauseating dynamic tension between where you’ve been and where you’re going is never so nerve-wracking as when you are right at the edge of a leap, or a fall. You can’t go back, and you can’t stay where you are forever. But when to jump? And HOW?

The first card to help us delve into this question is in the position of The Significator, or the situation at hand. This card speaks to where you are at right now, the most salient issues you are facing. Pay attention to where it might bring up an underlying aspect of the conundrum of which you might not be consciously aware.

Two of Cups, Rider Waite Smith Tarot, Pamela Colman Smith, 1909.

The Significator: Two of Cups.

The Two of Cups represents fruitful and loving partnerships of all kinds: friendship, business, romance, marriage. There’s a twinning, a reflection, an experience of being really seenreally valued, and really matched communicated in this card. This very human and very reasonable need for supportive partnership (which our society is terrible at fulfilling and nurturing) is at the heart of the matter, OTP. This card asks, who are your partners? Who sees you, supports you, and values you as a parent, as a professional, as a person?

To be clear, this kind of support and partnership is not the default in our society, as I’m sure you know too well as a single mom. Everything about our society, but especially and specifically the way we fail to support women, pregnant people, and caregivers of children, pits everyone against each other in an increasingly high-stakes competition for resources from an ever dwindling pot. It’s really hard and it’s not your fault. But there’s something about this—partnership or lack thereof, the way people show up to meet your or fail to do so—that is the crux of your query, and how you attend to this issue is the key to knowing your next right steps.

Being a single mom points to the possible presence of a co-parent and/or former partner. If that is true for you, how do they factor into your plans? What do you need from them in order to feel stable and secure moving forward, and how likely are they to be able to offer that? Is there something unresolved from that relationship that needs to be addressed before you can move forward?

The second card is in the position of immediate future or what may come. This card looks down the road at what may be in store for you. Whereas the significator is really about you and where you’re coming from, this next card shifts the focus to what is coming towards you from outside of you, and how it interacts with you.

Six of Pentacles, Rider Waite Smith Tarot, Pamela Colman Smith 1909.

What may come: the Six of Pentacles.

The Six of Pentacles bodes well for your future success, OTP! Named The Lord of Material Success in the Thoth Tarot, this card speaks to generosity, abundance, and financial security. The Six, like the Two, is an even number; symmetrical, balanced, stable. But notice what the wealthy man in the fine robes is doing: he’s giving alms to the poor. This figure could be you, fulfilling your noblesse oblige from your considerable future largesse, or it could be someone (or many someones) ready and willing to give you their money, as a client or benefactor. Either way, this suggests that your future wealth and well-being will be rooted in generosity, in giving, in justice, and in reciprocity. One caveat, OTP: the flip side of this generosity can sometimes be the invisible strings attached. Be mindful of power imbalances, and be wary of anyone that asks you to beg or grovel for what you are owed.

Your third and final card today is the position of how to proceed. It gives a directive, as in something to do, or something to avoid.

Five of Pentacles, Rider Waite Smith Tarot, Pamela Colman Smith, 1909.

How to proceed: the Five of Pentacles.

Ahhh, the Five of Pentacles. OTP, I’ve been effing around with Tarot since the first first Bush administration, and its on-the-nose synchronicity still never ceases to make me giddy. You just couldn’t have a more perfect or uncanny card than the Five of Pentacles for your query. The name of this card is Worry. Specifically, worry about money, because pentacles represent the element of earth, the realm of money, practical reality, security, and the body.

In the image, we see two destitute seekers, maybe the same seekers from the previous card, hungry and wounded, exiled from the warm glow of the church they are passing by. This card is truly about the fear of being left out in the cold (not necessarily the experience itself).

Fives are always about loss. They are the midway point in the journey through a suit, an element. They are almost always about pausing, looking back, taking stock, and grieving your losses before moving on to the second half of the decade: on to the glorious, stable, generous life full of fine fabrics, fancy hats, and charitable giving awaiting for you on the other side of the wall.

Pay attention to the position of this card. How to proceed. It’s not saying that the scene depicted in the card is your fate or your future, it is saying, this is what you need to reckon with in order to get to where you need to go. It’s saying, your next step is that you have to face this fear.

Where have you needed to adopt a scarcity mindset in order to survive? How have you been ex-communicated from places where you should be welcomed? When have you been left out in the cold, and asked to settle for scraps when you should have been lavishly accommodated, and what do you need to heal, learn, and grow from that experience to become the stylish and generous alms-giver you needed back then?

So far, we’ve only talked about one aspect of your reservations, and that is the aspect of financial security. Of course, financial security is incredibly important, and so much of what makes life worth living can only reliably happen when you secure the bag first. But it’s not the only or even most important aspect of your worth, or your well-being.

The other reservation you had was related to not loving the work. And this, I think, is the other aspect of what the cards are saying. If I’m reading your query correctly, the business you are contemplating starting is in the same field that you are now currently working. I think it’s really OK not to love your work, as long as you don’t hate it, because, as the saying goes, OTP, your work will never love you back. As Toni Morrison said, you are not the work you do, you are the person you are. Your real life is not your work, it is with your people; your family.

And no matter what kind of work you do, owning a business is a separate and entirely different kind of work with a different set of skills, thrills, and challenges, ones that you might surprise yourself to find that you actually, indeed, love, especially if it gives you more of what you need, and allows you to be more of who you are.

You talked about your reservations about starting a business, but not the reasons you feel compelled to do so. But I suspect they are the same reasons most people hang a shingle: to have more freedom, more flexibility, more autonomy, and more dignity. To enjoy more of the fruits of your own labor, to share them as you see fit. Like making anything, a painting or a clay pot or a garden or a baby, making a business is a generative, creative process, one that in and of itself can be incredibly rewarding.

It sounds like you are talented and competent. There’s a reason people have been telling you you your whole career that you would do great out there on your own, and I’m inclined to agree with them. But I also suspect that going it all the way alone isn’t going to be fulfilling for you either. You need other people.

But let’s be honest here, OTP. Other people are the worst. Most of them (us) are selfish and mercurial and fickle not to mention hungover or stoned and addled by their (our) phones and their road rage and their acid reflux. Being a person who cares about loyalty and commitment (as I think you, like me, might be) is really hard, and, more often than not, leads to disappointment.

But here we are, social creatures anyway, who have to find our partners and our people anyway. And I have an inkling that some of them are already there for you, waiting in the wings for you to ask for anything, waiting for you to need their help, if only you could take the risk and swallow your pride to ask for it. Though it may not look exactly the way you thought it would on paper, your community is there, ready to support you and your business, should you choose to launch it.

Whether you stay the course at your current job, take a wild leap of faith into the unknown, or start your business as a side hustle to see how it feels (my vote, and much easier now that the FTC has banned almost all forms of noncompete agreements), connect with your kindreds. Look for your stability and security not in your 401K or your benefits package, important as those may be, but in the partnerships, friendships, and kinship bonds that support you and believe in you, and the kind of parent you want to be.

That’s your real safety net, it’s your true security, and it’s the best kind of wealth: the kind that grows the more you give it away.