Spotlight: Exhausted Accountant Seeks Peace with Water

Dear Readers: July marks the third anniversary of the Ask Vicki blog! Where has the time gone? To honor the occasion, this month we’re going to spotlight several “oldie but goodie” posts from the start of the blog. Enjoy this trip down Memory Lane, and thank you for your ongoing support! Happy July! Vicki

Dear Vicki: I’m a Water element and am trained as an accountant. The learning was easy and I make a good living, but my relationship with my career has not been good. In truth, being an accountant drains me dry and I want a change. Over the years, I have experienced the loss of several family members and have faced my own concerns regarding death, so am wondering if a career in the field of hospice work might be more suitable for my Water. If my heart was in my work, I think I would be so much happier. Am I crazy? Signed, Exhausted Accountant

Dear Exhausted: Accounting requires a profound amount of detail work and following of rules, so is rarely a natural fit for a Water. Minutia and structure do exhaust Waters and disrupt their joy of going with the flow. The only place that your primary Water would stand you in good stead as an accountant is that it’s usually a rather solitary profession and Waters enjoy alone time. Bravo to you for making a go of it all these years!

In truth, Metals are usually the best accountants and the fact that you made it through the training and perform your job well (even though your heart isn’t in it) suggests that you have learned to draw on your Metal. You don’t mention why you chose to become an accountant in the first place, but you surely stepped into Metal to make it through the training and then have been required to hang out in Metal frequently while dealing with the loss of family and processing your feelings toward death. It seems you have probably been an honorary Metal for a long time.

As you consider whether a career change might be a wise course of action, it would help to know what your secondary element is because that’s a strength you’ll bring to anything you do. Our primary and secondary elements usually work together to create the personality we show to the world. Looking at your life, spending so much time in a place of Metal wouldn’t have been particularly difficult for someone with a strong secondary Metal. And your Water would certainly enjoy having the Metal energy around because Metal feeds Water on the Nurturing Cycle. However, since you find your career as an accountant sucking the life out of you, I suspect that even though you hang out there a lot, Metal isn’t your secondary element.

That leaves Fire, Earth, and Wood as possibilities for your secondary element. There is nothing in your letter that describes a desire for fun or a need to connect with people instead of numbers, so I think that rules out Fire. Also, a strong presence of Fire would have made maintaining your Metal activities more difficult because Fire melts Metal via the Controlling Cycle. Wood isn’t a likely secondary for you either because Wood would have found time spent in Metal difficult because Wood and Metal also relate on the Controlling Cycle. And while it is Metal that chops Wood, meaning your Metal would still be in place to perform your job, that Wood energy would have become frustrated and angered by the control. But since you don’t mention anger or a need to get ahead, I suspect Wood isn’t your secondary element, either.

Earth remains as a possible secondary, which given your interest in hospice work, seems like a good fit. Earths need to have their heart in what they do, they love helping people, and many find hospice work rewarding. Your primary Water would also be helpful in hospice work; it’s usually a one-on-one approach that’s well suited for them. And while making peace with death certainly draws on the Metal energy of letting go, it also draws on the philosophic underpinnings of Water. But if you are a secondary Earth, where has your Earth been all this time? I’m guessing that the years of elevated Metal energy sucked the life out of your Earth because Earth feeds Metal on the Nurturing Cycle. If you can step away from a profession that requires so much Metal, your Earth secondary will probably come back in full force.

Bottom line, I think hospice work might well be a great next step in your life path given all you’ve been through. The wisdom and experience you have gained regarding loss and death from your Metal time will bring a deeper understanding and connection to hospice work. Earth rules the compassion so necessary in hospice work, and the philosophic focus of your Water will help keep things balanced. So if you feel called to some form of hospice work, it could well be a perfect fit. And it will certainly remove you from the accounting job that threatens to overwhelm you. Good luck!

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Metal Employee and Motherhood

Dear Vicki: I’m writing because I’m having trouble with a woman who works for me. I run a small accounting firm where Greta has been a valued employee for eight years. I don’t know as much about the Five Elements as I do about accounting, but I suspect Greta is a Metal. She has been on time, thorough, precise, and steady the whole time she has worked for us. She also remembers birthdays and listens when people have problems, so is well liked in the firm. However, earlier this year Greta had her first child and since returning from maternity leave, she has made several minor mistakes in her work, seems preoccupied, and has allowed her desk to become more messy than usual. She has a major thing for sugar now, too, and actually brings cookies for the office. I’m concerned about this change as it has required me to be much more hands on than I used to be and I don’t like the distraction. I want to focus on innovations for our business. Is this a motherhood thing for Greta or something else? More importantly, will she ever get back to the stellar employee she once was? I’d hate to fire her, but it may come to that. Signed: Responsible in Rochester

Dear Responsible: You are facing a situation that many employers face when an employee becomes a mother: Things change. Greta has a new top priority now, which is her child. She also has hormones flooding her body that reinforce this shift in priorities. She is bound to be different, but that doesn’t mean she won’t remain a valuable employee. You don’t mention how long Greta has been back from maternity leave. If it’s only a few weeks, I suggest you cut her some slack a while longer. She is most likely running on fewer hours sleep than usual since babies wake often during the night. She is also trying to juggle the numerous demands associated with her changed family and still do an excellent job.

Excellence matters to Metals, as you have seen over the past eight years with Greta. And that hasn’t changed for her; she will still do her best for you. But you will need to give her time to make order out of the wonderful chaos her baby has added to her life. As a Metal, Greta will find the process and structure necessary to juggle her work and family life successfully because that’s what Metals do. They excel at creating a hierarchy that allows everything to work smoothly. However, right now Greta isn’t just a pure Metal. She is a Metal with a strong secondary Earth. Let me explain.

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When an Earth isn’t Very Earthy: Is it Her Secondary?

Dear Vicki: Although we don’t see that much of each other, my cousin Esther and I live in the same city. She owns a high-rise condo downtown and I live in the suburbs. She has lots of plants in her condo, is an elementary teacher, and is also a great cook. That makes her an Earth, right? I think living downtown must be hard for Esther, so last Christmas I spontaneously offered for us to garden together this year if she wanted to come out to the burbs on weekends. I’m an Earth, too, and have a large garden so thought it would be great. We’d plan the garden together over tea, have time in the garden together, chat while weeding, and just have tons of fun. But it isn’t turning out that way at all. Esther shows up when it works for her and does an admittedly wonderful job of keeping things much tidier in the garden than I ever have. However, she plants what she thinks will be the most successful without consulting me, and doesn’t really want to hang out for very long when done in the garden. What’s going on? Is she really an Earth? Why isn’t she more like me? Was this a big mistake? Signed: Baffled in Baltimore

Dear Baffled: It’s very possible that Esther is an Earth. Certainly, people who love to cook and garden have a lot of Earth energy. The fact that she’s a teacher also suggests Earth. But remember, no one is a pure representation of any single element. We have all five of the elements in our energetic wiring and the way the elements stack up in our energy field really affects how they express themselves in our personalities. Our primary element does impact us the most and is the filter through which we interact in the world. But the element that follows, what we call our secondary element, will have a significant impact on how we express ourselves, too.

For example, you are definitely an Earth, but the fact that you rather spontaneously invited Esther to garden with you and hoped that the two of you would have fun together while gardening suggest that you have a secondary Fire. This means that connecting with Esther will be very important to you. Your Fire will seek out spontaneous connections with her and your Earth will want to take these connections to a deeper level. The fact that she is a relative also ties into your Earth because family is very important to Earths.

While your Earth/Fire make-up will have this set of priorities, how Esther manifests her Earth will be colored by her secondary. And given that she acts on her own more than you do, keeps things in the garden much tidier than your Earth/Fire normally would, and is focused on what will thrive in your garden conditions, I suspect that she has a secondary Metal. This would also explain why Esther has chosen to live downtown. Metals are often the most urban of the elements.

So how will your Earth/Fire get on with Esther’s Earth/Metal as you spend more time together? It depends on how you approach her. Naturally, your primary Earths will be the basis of the connection. Your common interests in the garden and family will provide a ready foundation for you to build on. However, your secondary elements relate to each on the Controlling Cycle, with your Fire controlling Esther’s Metal. This means you will need to be mindful that Esther’s Metal will want more structure in how she gardens and relates to people than your Fire will. It also means that too much Fire around Esther will feel threatening to her, which may be one reason she leaves right away once done in the garden. On the positive side, if you two can develop a good, deep Earth connection, Esther will certainly come to value the fun and relaxation your Fire brings (as long as it’s balanced) when you’re around. Just go a bit light on the Fire energy until you get a sense of how well her secondary Metal responds to it.

Your connection with Esther highlights why it can be so important to understand someone’s secondary element. Our secondaries really do impact how our primaries act, and interact, with everything. To that point, this seems like an excellent opportunity to share how Earth is affected by each of the other four elements when they step in as a secondary. A fun Earth stereotype to consider for this comparison is a talented interior designer easily able to create beautiful and comfortable homes. Let’s look at how different secondaries will refine this Earth stereotype. In each case, these Earths will still be caring, compassionate, loving individuals who are always ready to offer a hand, lend an ear, and make a difference, but:

  • Earths with Water secondaries will be less interested in being with people all the time and more interested in some quiet time alone. Earths with Water secondaries will also be more desirous of pondering why things are happening and how to make a difference. The stereotype for an Earth with a Water secondary could be: The talented interior designer easily able to create beautiful and comfortable homes because she spent time considering the needs of the families involved.
  • Earths with Wood secondaries will be less inclined to collaborate and more interested in running things alone. Earths with Wood secondaries will also focus on furthering their own success as well as helping others. The stereotype for an Earth with a Wood secondary could be: The talented interior designer easily able to create beautiful and comfortable homes because he’s taken design classes to advance himself.
  • Earths with Fire secondaries will offer their help at the parties or large gatherings they’re attending rather than one-on-one meetings. Earths with Fire secondaries will likely develop a standout style that gets them noticed. The stereotype for an Earth with a Fire secondary could be: The talented interior designer easily able to create beautiful and comfortable homes because she’s developed a flamboyant style all her own.
  • Earths with Metal secondaries will be less inclined to make the needs of others more important than their own all the time. Earths with Metal secondaries will also be a bit more organized, neat, and tidy. The stereotype for an Earth with a Metal secondary could be: The talented interior designer easily able to create beautiful and comfortable homes because he’s so organized.

I hope this helps you better understand Esther. And honestly, I believe if you let yourself, you will come to value her secondary Metal. It will bring structure, something your Earth and Fire lack, and also a sense of energy movement between the two of you that is missing in the pure Earth-to-Earth connection. In truth, same element connections can become boring more easily than other elemental relationships, so it’s really best that Esther isn’t more like you. Enjoy the differences, they keep life interesting and fresh. And Happy Gardening!

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Waters and Their Secondary Elements

Dear Vicki: I’ve studied the Five Elements and understand that one of the elements most affects our personality. I’ve heard you and other people call that element our “primary” element. But I’ve also heard “secondary” elements mentioned. How do those affect us? I’m asking because I know I’m a Water, but I’m not really sure what my secondary is. This seems important to know because my primary and secondary have to get along with each other, right? So this is more a question about getting along with myself instead of someone else. Thank you. Signed: Wondering in Washington

Dear Wondering: You are correct! We do need to get along well with ourselves. In fact, we can’t get along well with others if we don’t get along well with ourselves. Understanding our primary element and the primary element of others is important for getting along. But it’s just as important to understand how our secondary element impacts our primary element. That’s a deep personal relationship if ever there was one and it has a significant impact on how we express ourselves alone, and with others.

As a Water, you know that Water people are usually quiet, inspired loners who shy away from parties, love to discuss deep issues, and excel at going with the flow. But this expression of Water will be modified depending on whether the Water has a secondary Wood, Fire, Earth, or Metal. To help you determine what your secondary element might be, let’s take a Water stereotype and look at how that person might be altered if they had each of the other four elements as a secondary. And remember, we only get each element once, so no one can be a Water with a Water secondary, even if you’ve meet people you swear are nothing but Water. When that happens, it’s just that their primary is very dominant over the other elements in their make up, and is probably out of balance.

Okay, to explore the possibilities, let’s use the fun Water stereotype of an inspired artist uninterested in eating or sleeping while painting a masterpiece. How will different secondaries refine that Water stereotype? Here are some possibilities:

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