How’d That Justice Turn Out?

At the end of last year I looked at my Solar Return and also at my personal Tarot year and noticed it was a double whammy of Libra + Justice. So how’s that going?

All right, I guess. I feel like it’s been a pretty balanced year overall with both highs and lows. I had two books come out. One has done fairly well, the other not so much. I’ve lost some friends and gained some new ones. I’ve accomplished a number of my goals, but then there’s always another one; you can never really check off your to-do list because for every completed task a new one is added (sometimes more). Still, it all balances out.

I feel very level. It’s refreshing actually. I’ve worked hard but had a lot of family time and socializing to balance that out.

hangedmanNow I’m looking ahead (the new Solar Return begins to bleed into the mix approximately three months before one’s birthday), staring down a Hanged Man year. Gulp. The Hanged Man and I are not on the friendliest terms. I’m an impatient person, for one thing. He insists I wait. I like to be in control. He insists I let go. I want it all. He insists I compromise and make sacrifices.

On the plus side, the Hanged Man offers new perspectives and enlightenment if only I’ll take the time to look at things his way.

Will I see my life get turned upside down in the next year? If so, will it be for the better or… ??? I won’t lie. I’m nervous about it. But I’m just going to have to ride the wave and see where things go.

Where’s My Brick?

Comparison, they say, is the thief of joy. Still, one can’t help being compared, even when actively avoiding it.

I was thinking about Emerson College, where I got my M.A. They send out a lot of emails and post a lot of Facebook stuff, so maybe I wasn’t so much thinking about Emerson as having it forcibly brought to mind. Emerson has a long list of impressive alumni, so I guess it’s no wonder they don’t much care about anything I’ve done since leaving. But it hurts a little to be overlooked like that. And I figure I’m overlooked by them because I’m simply not worth the attention when compared to the rest.

So then I asked myself why I don’t feel slighted by UT. They’ve never recognized me or my work either. But they’re so much bigger, you know, and then I also don’t get constant emails from them about how great all their alumni are. So I don’t feel like I’m being left out of anything.

If and when I make “real” money as a writer, I’ll have one of those little plaques put on a bench or the back of a chair in an auditorium somewhere. Or maybe I’ll buy one of those bricks and have my name carved in it so people can literally walk all over me, but I can feel good about it.

Yes, I’m being snarky. And I’m [half] joking. This post isn’t meant to signal contempt for either Emerson or UT; it’s a study of my own motivations and psyche. WHY do I crave recognition? Part of it is the system I grew up with—the drive for gold stars and good grades. When you get out into the real world, there aren’t stars and grades any more, and if you don’t work in a hierarchy there aren’t promotions and job titles either. So you seek validation elsewhere. Something, anything to prove you’re on the right track, that someone is noticing, that it isn’t all for naught. Book sales are nice and all, but what I really want is to be mentioned in a newsletter.

September 11th

This is actually my dad’s birthday. Until 15 years ago, there was nothing particular about having a birthday on 9-11. But now it feels awkward for my dad, a veteran, to “celebrate” on such a day.

Fifteen years ago, I was living in Boston. My personal 9-11 story is here; no reason to type it again. Five years ago, I happened to be in New York City on the 10th anniversary. That was surreal.

I don’t have much of anything to add. But it continues to feel important to acknowledge this day in some way. Despite all our ensuing precautions, I don’t think any of us feel much safer. In fact, I think I recently read that Americans feel more afraid now than ever. At the same time, however, I’ve noticed the memorials and such have dwindled. Not that we should wallow, because that wouldn’t be healthy either. I think it’s natural in some respects to move on. The farther we get away from a point in time . . . It’s strange to think at some point there will be more people in the world who weren’t alive, or at least can’t remember 9-11-01 than there will be who do. “Primary sources” we’re called in schoolbooks. Kids will be assigned to ask us questions about where we were and what we remember. Huh.

Well, happy birthday to my dad all the same.

Mercury Rx

Mercury goes retrograde today and will be through September 22nd. If you know even a little about astrology, you’ve probably heard tell of the Mercury Rx (Rx is the symbol for retrograde) horrors. Cars and computers stop working, you end up stuck at the airport with all flights cancelled, etc. It can and does happen—even when Mercury isn’t moving backward.*

Conventional wisdom states one should not begin any new projects, buy any new technological gadgets or cars, or travel during Mercury Rx. Of course, sometimes this can’t be helped. So you should at least build in contingency plans, extra travel time and so on during these three weeks. Also, the past can rear its sometimes ugly head at this time. And if emails and texts go awry, or there is major miscommunication between you and others, feel free to blame Mercury Rx.

But Mercury retrograde isn’t entirely useless. It does serve a purpose. All “re” things are actually encouraged at this time. Revision, review—anything that causes you to go back over old ground and re-examine. Mercury is usually a fast little planet, but in retrograde he’s asking you to slow down. While you may not be able to completely clear your schedule, see if you can’t lighten it a bit during Mercury Rx.

As a writer, I try to do rewrites and revisions during Mercury’s backward turns. Again, not always possible (right now, for instance, I have only new projects I’m currently working on), but I like knowing the planet’s power is with me for that; it’s sort of like turning my sails to catch the wind. Still, I don’t stop writing just because Mercury is retrograde any more than a boat stops moving just because the wind goes away from its destination. I simply adjust accordingly. Which is the whole point of astrology to begin with—it’s a compass for cosmic winds.

*Mercury isn’t actually moving backward, of course. Retrogrades are merely the appearance of planets moving backward from Earth’s viewpoint.

About Gardens

This is for a writing challenge, which you can find here. I’m only looking for general feedback on this nonfiction piece.

What interested me about this topic is that there is a Lenormand card called Garden or The Garden. It’s card number 20.

A little background: Lenormand is a set of 36 cards used for divination. I hesitate to say “similar to Tarot,” because it’s actually very different, but I think that’s the closest association that most people would understand.

So the Garden card is card 20. It signifies society, the public world. It can also mean any social function: a party, networking, group meetings. It is an active card, outgoing.

A selection of Garden Lenormand cards
A selection of Garden Lenormand cards

Lenormand cards are not read singly, so how one reads the Garden card would depend on (a) the question being asked, and (b) the cards surrounding it. For example, if it were to be next to Man or Woman, it might be a socialite, or someone well connected. It might also literally mean a gardener. There’s an amount of intuition required to read cards; if it were a simple equation, everyone could do it and no one would need Tarot (or Lenormand) readers.

Though the Garden card is considered neutral, I’m usually happy to see it in a reading. There’s something cheerful about this card and its tone, something optimistic and encouraging.

A History of Color

Not color as in race. Color as in color.

This is mostly me probing my own psychological history. A case study, if you will.

When I was a child, like so many other little girls I loved the color pink. And I despised “hot” colors: red, orange, and yellow. I was also aware that my parents’ favorite colors were purple (Dad) and green (Mom). So I endeavored to use pink, purple, and green in all my coloring because I felt that was only “fair.” It was important to me to show no favoritism.

Okay, so psychologically pink is considered non-threatening and friendly. It’s also a romantic color but not a passionate one. There are feelings behind pink but no action.

As I got older, my love of pink faded. I began to prefer purples and blues and particularly indigo, which is that lovely blend of the two colors. (Indigo is now my favorite color.) I no longer hated red, though I definitely preferred the deeper, jewel-toned reds to the orangey ones. In fact, I still much prefer blue-based reds and purples to red-based ones.

Purples and blues are associated with intelligence, wisdom, loyalty, trust, and intuition. Also cleanliness, tranquility, and sensitivity. There is something very “safe” in these colors, a solid foundation. On the flip side, however, there is also the association with depression—as if the deep feeling denoted by these colors can go too deep.

I don’t only like the deep shades, however. I’ve found I’m fond of aquamarine as a color, and amethyst, and jade green. (Also, it seems I like gemstones.)

So why am I thinking about this today? Last night I had an oddly specific dream about a salmon-colored van. And I wondered, What does salmon pink signify? So I looked it up. Salmon is pink + a bit of orange. It’s those pleasant, friendly feelings of pink plus a tiny modicum of the courage, warmth, and joy that orange imparts. And while I still don’t love orange (except maybe the burnt orange of UT), or even salmon pink, I can appreciate the qualities it represents.

Still don’t know what the dream meant, though. Need to go look up what “van” is in dreamspeak.

For more on colors and their psychological influences, go here.

Learning to Slow Down

13567238_10153787124955922_9127249894146766585_n For me, holidays are difficult. So is summer. Which makes me feel bad because I know that I should be enjoying summer and holidays. (Or summer holidays . . . But summer is a season, too, so . . .) I should be reveling in the now, and out having fun. I should be spending time with the family and making great memories. But my impatient nature and perpetual focus on the future sometimes gets in the way.

During the holidays, not much is happening in the publishing world. People are on vacation. Turnaround times, often already slow, become a crawl. And yet here I am checking my email obsessively in the hopes of news only to be disappointed.

I’ve said before in my essay on happiness that expectation is the root of dissatisfaction. In fact, I’d say that to want is to suffer. Is that a Buddhist principle? But here is what I’ve discovered: the more I want something, the more painful my life becomes. The narrower my focus, the less I’m able to see other things around me that might bring me joy. Sure, there is something to be said for going after your goals, but at the same time, there is more to be said for being happy with what you have and staying open to other opportunities and outcomes.

Yesterday my 10-year-old son was frustrated and upset over things he wanted but didn’t get. I explained this principle to him. He asked, “But if you don’t really desire anything, how do you choose something if you have more than one option?” I told him that you will feel a pull toward the correct option, and that if you do not feel that pull, you should not choose anything. “Never choose just for the sake of choosing. Only choose when it is right in your heart.”

Yeah, I’m totally turning into a Buddhist.

So then my son asked, “But if the thing you want is right there, and you know one hundred percent that you’re going to get it, is it okay to desire it in that moment?” To which I answered, “It’s better to wait that one more second until you have it, and then be grateful you got it.”

Being grateful will always make us happier than wanting. That is what I’ve learned as a writer, as a human in general.

And that’s what I’m trying to apply to my life during holidays and summer. Yesterday we went as a family out to Columbia, California. And for a whole day, I was present and enjoying my life instead of fixating on when my book cover was going to be ready or whether I’ll ever get my WIP done. Because I want to be there for my family, making happy memories with them. I don’t want them to remember me as always closeted in my office, unavailable. I don’t want to look back on my life and have it be me sitting at the computer all the time. Writing gives me pleasure, but it can’t be everything. I can’t always be looking on to the next thing, else I’ll never see what is around me here and now.

I’ve got to slow down and love the now.

Current events require a response bigger than I can give. I find myself hiding from the news and Facebook feeds, though that will surely not help anything. If we hide from a problem, it doesn’t go away.

What we need here is change, and the problem with that is it’s so difficult to get people to change. And I’m not going to sit here and say who needs to change or how; I think everyone does to some degree, but I’m not here to pick yet another Internet fight. There are enough of those, God knows.

There are two factors in affecting change in people. (1) How easy is it? (2) What are the consequences for not changing?

I’ll use something like recycling as an example. So many people say they would recycle if only [fill in the blank]. But towns that have made it easy by providing bins and curbside pickup find people have no trouble dividing up their trash, recycling, and compost. (Whether they do it correctly is another discussion, but the willingness is there when not too much effort is required.)

The consequences for not recycling? Look, we’re talking immediate, personal consequences. You aren’t going to affect change in a person by appealing to some amorphous future. “A clean world for our children” only goes so far in inspiring people to change. However, slapping people with fines and even jail time or probation? So long as you enforce it, that gets attention.

So here is where the consequences thing is a problem when it comes to our current situation. White people aren’t seeing any immediate, personal consequences when black people die. They can say, “That’s terrible,” and they can say, “I’ll pray for them,” and then they can go on with their lives. The impact on them . . . Well, there isn’t one. Not unless they knew the victim. Or not unless the unrest caused by these events reaches their towns, their homes. And we don’t want that, don’t want to threaten people, but I’m just saying, that might be the only thing that makes them really, truly care enough to want things to change.

Police shootings of innocent black people have got to stop. People shooting police officers has got to stop. No question. But how do we affect change? How do we make it easy, and how to we make it impactful? I don’t know, but those are the questions that need to be answered.

Happiness

This is somewhat off topic, but every now and then I enjoy a bit a philosophizing. This particular bout was brought on by my 7-year-old daughter who told me the other day that she wants to be “a single and just have a cat” when she grows up.

After explaining it’s “single,” no “a” required, I told her I have a friend who is single and has a cat. My daughter was very impressed, and it occurred to me that in her mind this friend was Living The Dream.

On the surface it seems like a strange thing to want: solitude save a pet. (My daughter does also want to be a zoologist.) But she has yet to run into that societal pressure that will tell her she should want a boy, that above all things having a boy (or girl, if you lean that way) like you is key to your happiness.

Good for her.

Maybe she’ll never have to deal with that overwhelming belief. Maybe she’ll hear it and reject it for the lie it ultimately is.

Happiness is not an outside thing. You can’t spend your life thinking another person will make you happy. Yet so many of us look for our happiness outside ourselves. We attach ourselves to a hoped for outcome: “If only X would happen, then I’d finally be happy.” And X could be anything from meeting a mate to publishing a book to finding a perfect job to recovering from an illness and so on.

But here is what I’ve learned in life: the more attached to any outcome we are, the less happy we become.

Living The Dream—just think about that phrase for a moment. “Living” in and of itself proclaims a process, something in progress, not something that is finished. We are not finished until they’ve capped us and we become past tense. Only then do we have an actual outcome. Until then, we are in progress. We are living.

And life is what you make of it. If you have too narrow a focus, you’ll miss all the other things that might bring you joy simply because you’re so fixated on that one thing you believe will make you happy. The greater the expectation, the greater the pain you’re in when those expectations are not met. (Just like an over-hyped movie is never as good as you expect it to be.)

I hate the saying, “You must choose to be happy.” I think everyone would choose to be happy if it were that easy. For some people, chemical imbalances keep them from being happy a lot of the time. So I’m not saying we should choose to be happy. I’m only saying we should let go of whatever thing outside of ourselves we think will make us happy. Because it won’t. The pressure to attain that thing is actually making us miserable. So detach. Go within. Know that you are enough and you have enough. It may not be easy; it takes practice to change your perspective. But when you’re able to acknowledge these things, you’ll find a weight lifting. Things will look a little different. Happiness will feel much closer.