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I should probably follow her example....

Aaaah. Mercury Retrograde, we meet again. Every machine I use at work has been doing the impossible, the unexplainable, the unfathomable – at the most inconvenient moment possible. My smart phone is acting stupid. My computer is schizophrenic, and my internet access is uber dodgy.

To top it off, it’s like someone took a front-end-loader to my psyche and unearthed a whole bunch of debris and effluvia and garbage and yuck that I thought I’d killed and buried. It’s like zombieland in there – the dead have risen – and it’s, apparently time to burn ‘em down or feed ‘em.

Relationships are going wonky – upended, and flipped inside-side out. I am wrong-footed, and even more tactless than usual. Everything is coming out wrong, and I’ve had to repeat myself so often I’m beginning to wonder if I only think I’m talking, but nothing’s really coming out.

Mercury – the fleet-footed messenger of the gods – goes AWOL a few times a year, leaving all of us asking, “Now, where’d that little b@$tard make off to?” He rules communication – and by extension technology, among other things.

Re-treat • Re-peat • Re-examine • Re-visit • Re-imagine

Re-purpose • Re-vise • Re-assess • Re-connect • Re-lease

Re-think • Re-do • Re-sume • Re-solve

I made a decision earlier this year to stop allowing Mercury Retrograde to throw me for a loop – and to just roll with the energy of it instead. Go with the flow, and do and be and pay attention to what was coming up.

I made a decision to stop saying, “Why is this happening to me right now?” Instead, I look at whatever comes as a little present – it’s here and it’s happening because this must be the perfect time to deal with it – whatever ‘it’ is.

What’s been interesting, and rather unexpected, this go-round is that things are being revisited (as in, “I know we’ve been by here before – I recognize that Laundromat.”) – which I expect – but they’ve also transitioned. Things are shifting and changing in my life in ways I hadn’t anticipated – in big ways. I’m trying to hold an attitude of welcome – because (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…) you can do a thing with grace, or you can be pulled toward it on your face. Because some things just are, and some things have to happen.

I am determined to maintain that attitude. Because I’ve learned this: I may think that what I’m being served is a shit-sandwich, but I always end up being grateful for the meal. So, here’s to cleaning my plate, and hoping that I address it all now, so that I don’t end up dealing with it all over again. And again, and again, and again…..

(Mercury Retrograde strikes again! I accidentally posted this when I meant to preview it! So, I apologize if you subscribe and got it twice!)

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Part of an altar card I made.

I had an astrological conversation this morning with a friend that got me thinking (again) about my own celestial pie. I’ve got quite the messy soup of contradictions in my “top three” astrologically.

There’s a part of me that is inescapably Aries. It’s my rising sign. That’s the part of me that you shake hands with – it’s how people view me. A gal I went to college with even told me that she’d thought I was “formidable” (yeowtch) ….until she got to know me better.

Formidable? Yeah, maybe. I can come on kinda strong. I know that. In recent years, I’ve even tried to temper that with some of the other attributes that I carry around on me. But most of the time, resisting that Nike-like “Just do it” impulse is like swimming against the current. And I’m not sure I should try to temper it as often as I do.

The older I’ve gotten, the more I realize that even though I’ve been perpetually torn in opposite directions by that astrological mish-mash, it’s also been my saving grace.

My Sun sign is Sagittarius – the zodiac’s idealistic, philosophical dreamer (watch out – this zodiacal model comes complete with a soap box, and they’re not afraid to use it!). It imbues me with an impulse to learn, learn, learn, learn…and learn some more (the scholar of the zodiac, I alternate between periods of monkish rectitude and study, and the firey impulsiveness of animal side of the Centaur). It also gifted me with a superhero complex – as in, hey world, I am totally here to save you (um…whether or not you particularly want to be saved).

That kinda meshes with the Aries Rising – it helps me take that tactless Sagittarian energy and impulsiveness and make it, well, worse, actually. It also keeps me believing that I truly can go out there and make a difference for myself, and for others, in the world. Mostly because I don’t always stop to see the logical barriers to my idealistic plots before I set out to make them happen. I’ve gotten my heart broken that way more than once. But the nice thing about Sagittarius is that it figures that even though it may not have worked out well this time, there’s always another opportunity lurking around the corner.

And my moon sign? Pisces. And it’s in my twelfth house. For the uninitiated, that pretty much means that I am among the most ridiculously emotional, empathic, and tender little spirits out there. But no one knows that – not right off. And sometimes they never know it. Moon in Pisces people are so sensitive that they can literally feel the emotions of people around them – and then have to figure out if it’s something that comes from themselves, or if it’s just atmospheric. They have extremely high expectations for others (due in part to a nature that lends itself to extreme idealism and hope), and even higher ones for themselves. On top of which, you’ve always gotta be careful with Pisces – it tends toward illusion and delusion, it tends toward rose-colored glasses and naiveté. So you must perpetually ask yourself if the landscape that you’re looking at represents reality, or if it’s tainted by emotion, delusion, hope, or fear. Yeah, wow. That sounds like a freaking barrel of laughs.

Compounding that, is the fact that my moon is in the twelfth house – the realm of the underground, of death and rebirth, of Pluto/Hades. Of the hidden, the obscured, the murky. The unspoken. The intensely intuitive. The shadow realm. My emotion-based moon sign of super-sensitive Pisces hanging out in the shadow world of deep inner knowing and revelation. Sounds like a blast, right?

It hasn’t been. It has been perplexing, disturbing, contorting, and upsetting. It has also allowed me to become intimate with the unseen, the forgotten, the disenfranchised – and to love that side of humanity.

My outlook on astrology itself is complex (as is everything when you have this kind of make-up). Aries thinks, “What utter bullshit. Get over it and get going.” Sagittarius thinks, “There might be some use in this – let’s learn everything that we possibly can about it, and then we’ll tell everyone about it…whether they want to know or not.” And Pisces thinks, “That is so totally true. Deeply true. All of it. Now, how can I use this to set my personal standards for myself even higher….and to better understand my fellow human beings?”

I’ve learned to become grateful for this particular configuration, though. It’s taken me down some odd back alleys, and into some strange places, but I wouldn’t have ended up there, if I hadn’t had the inclinations that these three signs give me toward those things. And every step has led me here, to this place.

So, I’m happy to keep letting Aries do my blocking for me, and Sagittarius do my learning and philosophical meandering for me, and Pisces to do all of its agonizing and rhapsodizing, beneath the radar. The trick is to just let them all mesh and blend and smear into one another – to temper themselves, essentially. Still working on that bit.

Well, I suppose that’s enough navel-gazing for one day (that would be the Aries talking, just in case you wondered – it gets impatient). I’m off to conquer the world, save the world, and bleed for the world – all in one breath – again.

Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. (Samuel Ullman)

If that’s true, I’ll never have a wrinkly soul. To my delight (and sometimes to my chagrin), one of the ways that people tend to describe me to someone I haven’t met yet is thus: “Carolyn? Well, she’s, um…enthusiastic.” Like a terrier (which is what they kindly leave off).

When I was a little girl, I truly remember thinking that life was going to be way too short to do all that I hoped to, to feel all that I longed to, to take part in all that I dreamed of. The result was that I ate life up with two spoons instead of one, and gobbled all that I could, whenever I could. When I start to recount where I’ve been and how I came to be standing in front of a newer friend, invariably, they say, “Just how old are you?”

Good. That means that I’ve crammed a lot in there. And all of it was fueled by enthusiasm. It was fueled by gusto. It was fueled by passion, longing, desire, and interest.

I’ve found that with each passing year, there are two things I’m most grateful for. The first is that with age, comes a refining of where I want to spend that currency. Even I possess finite amounts of energy, vigor and enthusiasm (even though I don’t like to admit it), and I become less and less inclined to waste it on things that don’t inflame me, invigorate me, invest back in me, and intrigue me. The second is that I am infinitely grateful for whatever that year held – even if it’s not right away.

I would not change a moment of what I’ve done, what I’ve said, what I’ve chosen. Not even the ugly ones, because some of them have led to the most unanticipated and beautiful outcomes.

So today is another birthday. And I’ll celebrate it in my usual fashion – quietly and without a lot of fuss. I’ll look forward to eating dinner at my folks’ on Sunday (the usual request – spaghetti and meatballs and chocolate cake with chocolate frosting). And I’ll make some wishes and dream some dreams.

I wish that the coming year is

Joyful

Full of new friends

Deepens relationships with treasured friends

Brings me wisdom

Brings me two scoops of life for every one I have requested

Full of passion and enthusiasm

Just as beautiful as every year that’s come before, and every year I hope to follow.

Mostly, every year I wish that I never stop loving life. I wish that I am never weary of people – but that I continue to be endlessly fascinated by them. I wish that each experience deepens me in some way. I wish that all the joy, sorrow and triumph of my days leaves its mark on my spirit. I wish for a life that is round and full and burgeoning. And, I wish to remember that (in the immortal wisdom of the Stones): You can’t always get what you want, and if you try sometimes you find you get what you need.

Do, or do not. There is no try. (Jedi Master Yoda)

You know, there are few things in this life that irk me like folks who say they’ll do a thing, and then don’t do what they’ve said they will. There are few things that irk me like people who say that they’re trying – when they’re not.

I will be the first one to admit that I have exceedingly high expectations. Those start with myself, though. I expect nothing of others that I do not first expect of myself, and I hold no one to higher standards than I do myself. You can look at that two ways, I suppose. Either that I will be in a perpetual state of disappointment, or that I am in a constant state of expectation – which is really optimism, which is really faith.

I have an intense amount of faith in people. I believe in them. I believe the best about them. And yes, I am continually disappointed. And that’s okay. I had an interesting week, and I had some unique opportunities to have that faith affirmed in the most spectacular ways – ways which surpassed even my high hopes.

No matter how discouraged, disgruntled, disgusted, disappointed I have been by people, I have also been delighted, entranced, and bemused by them. I am often simply enamored by them.

I really do take a step back each time I find myself facing that disappointment, and figure out whether I am being fair or not. Sometimes I am being fair, and the only thing left in that case is to figure out how to call them on their transgression. Other times, I’m the one who’s being unreasonable – and if that’s the case, I’ll be the first one to say that I have been, and to apologize.

I have also reached a point in my life when I realize that my tendency toward high expectations is as much a part of me as the shape of my hands and the thickness of my hair. Ingrained, essential. And despite the frustration of being disappointed from time to time when people fall short of the mark I’ve drawn for them, I cannot be another way.

To stop expecting them to dazzle me with their brilliance, their kindness, their humor, their irreverence, their passion, is to stop expecting to be perpetually surprised by life and all that it holds. Because the thing is that so often, people exceed my expectations.

I really don’t see the point of ‘try’ – I’m no Jedi Master, but there really is doing a thing or not doing it. I can be straining and trying to lift a thousand pounds – but the fact of the matter is that unless I’m lifting those thousand pounds (doing it), I am not doing it. There is no try. And that applies to me, too. No, I’m not always clear on where I am with an issue, or how well I’m doing a thing (or how abysmally I’m not doing it). But I look at all of it, take it all in.

This week, I’ve been dazzled by the enormous potential for people to astonish me with their love, their generosity, their humility. And I’m inspired by it. I’m moved by it. My faith is invigorated by it, and renewed. Because I’ve seen folks out there not trying, but doing.

Oh yeah — May the force be with you. 🙂

My dad makes Ebenezer Scrooge look like a shiftless spendthrift. He’s always been that way (unlike the many people currently hopping the frugality bandwagon whether by choice or necessity). Maybe it has something to do with being one of the six children born to my grandparents within a nine-year span.

He remembers his mother digging through the couch looking for change to buy groceries, and when he met my mother, he told her that they’d been too poor to have lights on their Christmas tree – which was a fib, but she believed him because they’d really been that poor.

Anyhow, my dad is the one in charge of the grocery shopping at their house, and I’ve christened him the Coupon King. I have often stood in amazement as he reviewed his receipts and tallied up all that he’d saved (this was before the receipt did that for you).

We did have to explain a few things to him, though. For example, only Oreo cookies are, in fact, Oreos – anything else that merely resembles an Oreo cookie, but is not in fact an Oreo is just a cookie. Same thing for Ritz crackers. Everything else is just a cracker. Not that we didn’t eat the generic cookies and crackers, but we had to explain to him that, really, no they are not quite the same thing.

I inherited some of that frugality from my father, and I’ve done my share of coupon clipping and sale shopping. In the course of many shopping trips, I discovered which generic things were just peachy, and were not equivalent to the name brands.

One of the most recent episodes involved the Dollar Store and the purchase of toothbrushes. I bought a pack of four toothbrushes there, which came to twenty-five cents a brush. Great deal, right? Um…not so much, actually.

I could have used these toothbrushes to scrub the rust off of car parts. No matter how gently I brushed my teeth, I ended up with a bleeding mouth. I even started to wonder if there was something wrong with my teeth. The frayed branches our ancestors used to scrub their teeth were gentler.

When the first two wore out, I announced that I was trashing the two unused brushes. I was outvoted, and encouraged to just use them “because they’re already here and paid for.” (I should have just shut my mouth and threw them out without saying anything. Lesson learned.) I plopped the two new dollar store toothbrushes in the holder with a sinking feeling of dread. (I usually enjoy the whole new toothbrush thing – it’s one of those small pleasures in life, like when you sleep on just-changed sheets or have the first glass of milk in the carton. I’m odd.)

Well, I couldn’t hack it. I marched out and bought new toothbrushes. I’d have paid ten dollars a brush at this point just to use something that didn’t abuse my mouth. I tossed the offensive cheapo brushes in the trash with glee and perched the new, soft bristled brushes in the holder reverently.

That night, as I brushed my teeth, I was in transports of delight. Mmmm.

I learned something from this – to temper frugality with common sense. It doesn’t help if you save a little upfront, only to end up paying through the nose (or in this case, mouth) later on. I’m only glad I came to my senses while there was still some enamel left on my chompers.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)