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I used to be Amazonian. Before giving myself time to even think it through, I used to mount my white charger, standards blazing, and go tearing into the fray, my good intentions a shield at my side and my determination to help a gleaming sword in my hand. In other words, I liked to fix things for people. A lot.
It was reflexive. I was the oldest child, and with that, generally, comes an implicit expectation and responsibility for your younger siblings. I always like to joke that I had the misfortune to be saddled with a sister who didn’t know when to shut her mouth, and a brother who wouldn’t open his, and so I became the Valkyrie of the back of the bus, sweeping in to save them from themselves (whether they needed it or not).
This picture of me is somewhat misleading, though. I brought a book with me where ever I went. Each bus ride found me curled up in the seat, absorbed in the adventures of whomever I was currently journeying along with……until I heard trouble. I’d pop up, put the kibosh on it, and sit back down, knowing that once I ended it, it was ended.
The trouble was, I didn’t stop charging in once our bus riding days were over. And I carried that behavior into other relationships with friends and significant others. It’s one thing to bail your sib out of trouble when they’re getting hassled on the bus (or when they’re hassling someone else…). It is entirely another when you grow up and get older and the problems we face grow in proportion and magnitude. My do-gooder ways were not helping me, or anyone else, ironically enough. I took too much of it on, and invested too much time, energy, and emotion in other people’s stuff. And, every time I charged in, with an “I know just what you should do” and a dose of determination, it told them that I didn’t think they had the chops to handle their own stuff….which wasn’t true, and didn’t serve them, either.
And so, I decided to stop…with varying degrees of success. There are still some days where it takes a deliberate and conscious force of will to say, “You know what to do. You’ve got this handled, and I know that you’re going to be just fine,” instead of offering them a plan of action and a way to move through it. I can feel myself stop my tongue in its tracks before it can get away from me and offer help to someone who doesn’t need it. I can feel myself reminding me why I can’t let myself get so involved, why I can’t take on others’ worries, why this hasn’t worked out so well for anyone in the past.
Other days, it’s easier to remember why I decided to hang up that shield and sword for everyday use. Why I decided to keep them around for special occasions, for the times when it might be necessary to pull ‘em out and put ‘em on and go charging in. I’ve seen what happens when I just offer an ear and a word of encouragement, instead of a plan of attack and a strong sword arm – they are just fine. They figure it out and make choices and they are just fine without me charging in. Or they’re not, and they learn from it, so that next time, they will be fine.
I wouldn’t say that I’ve got this totally in the bag. I’ll probably fight this impulse on and off throughout my life. That’s okay, though – the desire to help, to be of service is a part of who I am, and it’s not an altogether bad thing when channeled into the appropriate avenues.
Sweeping in from the wings to save people from themselves only sets you up to be their savior from here on out. Once they see that you’re doing it for them, they don’t do it for themselves. It’s human nature to take the easiest road (so how’d I get to be such a freaking anomaly, hunh?). I’m learning that it’s far more satisfying to stand back and watch the people I love triumph on their own, to watch them hammer out their own sword and shield and fling themselves into the fray of their own lives with a glory that I couldn’t have dreamt of for them.
In the meanwhile, I’m learning to keep that Amazonian energy for myself. To channel that fire and passion into my own life, to change my own landscape, to build my own empires. To use that sword to cut away what no longer serves me, and that shield to shelter me from the crapstorms life flings my way. To be my own champion, first.
I was reading a friend’s blog this week when something snagged me. She’s taking a workshop that encourages participants to ‘dig deep into wholehearted living, authenticity, and courage,’ and one of the prompts for them to journal was: “I am more or less __________ than most people think.”
It intrigued me, made me start thinking about the many masks we wear. Made me start thinking (again) about how personalities get so little play, when they’re such an influence on the way that we’re perceived (after all, what percentage of the people I encounter in this life will ever make it past my personality into the depth and richness that is me in my entirety? Not very many, if I’m honest about it – that’s just the way it shakes out).
So, what am I, more or less?
I am more vulnerable than most people would think. I tend to project this image of capability and confidence, which is pretty accurate – I am capable and I am confident. But I am also extremely vulnerable, and people mistake my hard candy shell as a sign that I am not hurt as easily as others, or that I can handle a hard truth or criticism better than someone else can. I take on those hurts, and feel them deeply – and once you’ve cut me, I’m bleeding….but I don’t let you see it.
And by extension, I am more sensitive than most people would think, as well. I have cried for the world more times than I can count. I take in others’ hurts and feel it for them, with them. I have a hard time witnessing or attempting to understand cruelty or apathy – they sicken me. The hard candy shell I’ve donned and worn for years is really just an attempt to fool the world into believing that it all slides off of me – but it’s an illusion. Every sling, every arrow finds its mark and embeds more deeply than people realize.
I am more romantic than most people would think. (This is probably one of my dirtiest little secrets, strangely enough.) I do practical really well, and I do pragmatic really well, but in my heart of hearts, I want to be cherished. And for something more than my efficiency. I want someone to inspire yearning in my heart, and to know that I inspire the same in theirs. I want the hearts and flowers and poetry and gallantry and all the girly stuff that I have way too big a chip on my shoulder to admit out loud and which I tend to roundly disabuse publicly.
I am more private than most people would think (especially, I suppose, given the fact that I blog right out there in the open). I am upfront and pretty open – or at least it seems that way. I like truth, I like things to be simple, so I do put a lot of things right out there on the table from the get. But, I only trot out what I’m comfortable with, and that gives the appearance of being very open. I suppose I am more open about my life and my experiences than most other people, but those are the easy things. It’s the true weight of life that I shield from view – the emotional reaction I have to everything that happens. That is what stays closeted, that is what I keep private, that is what goes in my journal – how I feel about everything that’s happened to me and because of me and around me.
That privacy extends into a monkishness that comes over me every so often. I enjoy solitude and silence more than most people would think – especially given the fact that I am outgoing, enthusiastic and gregarious when I am with people. I am able to be those things because I take the time to go away and be by myself. I am able to be those things because I seek out space and silence and stillness. Like air and water, they are necessary for the proper care and feeding of a Carolyn. Most people would have a hard time believing that I could be perfectly content in a hermitage somewhere high upon a hilltop – I would be…as long as it was only a short-ish walk back to people. That way I could get my ‘fix’ of socialization and go straight back to the stillness.
I am less strong than most people would think. I’ve been through more crap than some people, and less crap than others – nonetheless, I’ve shoveled my share of crap, and sometimes a little more than my share. And people always look at me just picking up that shovel and digging in, and say or think that it’s strength that gets me through it. Nope. It’s the desire to be able to put down the damn shovel. It’s the fact that I was raised with the mantra, “It’s just what you do” – as in, carry on, get on with it, don’t stop, don’t mope, don’t stagnate. Just get on with it. Is that strength? I don’t know. What I do know is that there have been plenty of times I’ve been shoveling my way through life, desperate for someone, anyone to see how hard it was, to see how much I hurt, to reach out and carry the load for just a little bit. But when they see you plugging away like that, they figure that you’ve got it, and just keep walking.
The whole time I was writing this, I couldn’t help but see how it was sorta skewed – I’m glad I did it, and it was illuminating and all that, but this is my perception of how I am perceived by others, and that gets tricky. I’ve probably got a pretty good grasp on what I think people do or don’t think about me and who I am, but maybe that vulnerability peeks through more than I think it does. Maybe I think I shield my emotions, when that’s not the case at all. Maybe I’m far more transparent than I believe that I am.
It’s interesting to think about, and it draws into question why I bother to hide parts of myself. Why anyone does. I could just go out there and embrace all my awesome, embrace all my flaws….but not quite yet. I’ve got a great idea – you go first, and then I’ll do it, too. In the meanwhile, what are you more or less?
You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As is your desire, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.
Lore states that it takes at least twenty-one continuous days of an activity to form a habit, or to break one.
I started in on two very important re-commitments this past week – my daily Reiki practice and daily meditation. I’m four days into my twenty-one days on the daily Reiki practice, and three days into the daily meditation – and it feels GOOD.
One of the meditations this week included the above quote from the Vedic wisdom texts, the Upanishads. It tugged at me, and pulled at me, and kept gnawing on the corners of my thoughts like an insistent puppy.
Desire – I have shied away from this word. We’re taught that it’s wanton to feel desire. That it’s naughty. What garbage. I’m reclaiming it – and I’m going to start viewing these things I’m trying to implement, grow, and change in my life as desires…ones I’m capable of fulfilling.
Desire is so much more positive, so much more vital, visceral, and vibrant than ‘want.’ Desire makes me think more of actively getting something, whereas ‘want’ makes me think of ‘lack’ and feels depriving. It’s a mind game – but not so different from the hundreds of other ones I trip myself through every day.
So, here’s to knowing what I desire, and being willing to discover more along the way. Here’s to knowing that I have the power to create it in my life, to bring it into being. Here’s to being full of desire, and the passion to pursue it.
The definition of insanity is repeating a series of actions again and again and expecting different results. I guess that means we’re all a little insane. Because nothing changes if nothing changes, and if I keep doing what I’ve always done, I’ll get what I’ve always gotten, and I’ll feel as I’ve always felt.
Well, just yucko to that.
I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t sit down and make out a list on December 31st with intentions of immediate implementation the following morning. I tried it a couple of times, and it didn’t really work out for me. Instead, I tend to reach this tipping-point, where there is this eternal scream of “ENOUGH!” resonating from deep within my bones, and I get off my duff and do something about it – no matter what day of the year it happens to fall on.
Coincidentally, I reached one of those tipping points as 2010 drew to a close, and 2011’s arrival was imminent. I reached a tipping-point in just about every stinking area of my life for which it is possible to attain that level of weariness and disgust.
And so I started making some mental lists. And then I made some written lists. And then I made some more written lists, expanded with more details this time and more concrete goals. Then I divided my lists into various schools of goal-setting (because I am a sick and twisted list-lusting individual who could probably benefit from professional help). And then I wrote a series of entries in my journal focusing on the areas where I intended to focus my newfound intentions. And then I had a series of conversations with a series of friends, relatives and acquaintances regarding my intention to set intentions and the existence of these gloriously promising lists.
It’s sick. It really is sick. I know this. It’s like the series of false starts I take before finally plunging off the high dive (or would, that is, if I weren’t paralytically terrified of heights, and especially of heights in combination with aquatic conditions, so it’s a metaphorical imaginary high dive experience).
A friend once pointed out that I was a risk taker – but only once I’d what-if’ed and how-to’ed and plotted and planned and provided for every possible permutation of result and accounted for pretty much every exigency. She was right. It comes naturally to me. I should have been some kind of strategist – oh, wait! I am a strategist – of my own life. And yes, I tend to go through this process more quickly than others (though less quickly than some), but I’m finding that skipping that step just doesn’t work out so well for me.
So, back to it – Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes. So I’ve done a bunch of processing and scheming. And this time, I’m heading for sweeping changes, the magnitude of which are kind of freaking me out a little bit. Because I’m sick of “changing” a situation or a pattern or a behavior, and then realizing that all I’d really done was tell myself a really good story about how doing it that way would be different….and then finding out later that it wasn’t so different, after all.
I’m trying not to focus on the freaked out feeling, though. I’m looking at this phrase – Nothing Changes if NOTHING CHANGES – as a call to bravery. One of the friends I sat down with to verbally hash all this out was my move-a-body-friend Char, who can always be counted upon to say something equal parts pithy and wise. She didn’t fail. She told me that while there was nothing wrong with it, I’d always arranged my life so that I had both an umbrella over my head and a net beneath my feet – safe. But without the umbrella looming above me, I might finally see the clear blue of sky…and without the net, I might finally feel the cool green grass beneath my feet.
So, I’m swallowing nausea, and taking chances, and hoping to God I’m right, but not at all sure if I am, and waiting for the changes I’m implementing to alter my landscape. Because I am the only one who hears that resounding cry echoing off the ridges of my soul – “ENOUGH!” And I am the only one I can point to as the reason for its existence, its continuation, its abolition.
Wish me luck people.
When I was at Mount Mary College studying and learning and growing and climbing Mount Everest-like peaks of educational heights, I met some truly interesting and influential people. I’ve always wanted to write a series of blogs honoring them, and the gifts that they gave me. I will, someday.
Today, though, I started thinking about one particular gal who I met and became friends with on that leg of the journey. I met Jen (her name’s common enough, so I’m not changing it – names have power & I prefer to use real ones whenever possible…) in one of our mutual English classes. We had a LOT in common, and hit it off fast and famously.
Speedy chats before and after class quickly segued into the two of us perched into the wee hours on the wooden Adirondack chairs, weathered and worn smooth with age and use, tucked beneath the sheltering eaves of a hidden nook near the back of the college.
We laughed until our faces hurt and our sides ached. We mused and pondered and what-if-ed our lives. We solved the world’s problems, and railed against its injustices.
We formed a sisterhood. In the long shadow of an edifice built for permanency, we transformed for flight. The chill of fall gave way to winter’s bite, and winter relaxed its iron fist and softened into the sultriness of spring. We sat, young and strong and foolhardy, full of our own beauty and importance and invulnerability, and dreamt and talked and worried and ranted.
And Jen graduated, and fell into doing what new graduates do – wonder if they’ve made the right choices, look for gainful employ, and rediscover reading for pleasure. And I continued to run up that hill and take classes and bury my nose in books, while the ashes of my failing marriage swirled around me. And days bled into weeks and weeks into months, and I missed the sister I’d discovered.
One day, I went out to the mailbox, and there, hidden amongst the dross of bills and residential mailers was a sparkling gem – a letter from Jen. She wrote to tell me that she was leaving, shaking the dust from her boots and the Wisconsin chill from her bones, to go to film school in California. Because of me, because of what I’d said to her.
I sat at my kitchen table, the epicenter of my volatile life, and held that note before me for a long time – an unlooked for beam of light in an otherwise gray day. And I thought, “But, what did I say?”
To this day, I have no idea what it was that I said in the long, continuing conversation of that friendship that lit a fire in her belly and whetted both her longing and resolve for fulfillment. I remember wishing that day, that someone would say something like that to me – something that would eat at my complacency and vault me into action. Eventually, many someones did – eventually, I was able to tell myself the right things in the right moments, too, spurring me to action.
The power of that experience stayed with me. I remain in awe of it – that something I didn’t even clearly remember saying could burrow into another person’s mind, effecting changes I could never have foreseen.
And it makes me wonder how many intrepid souls set out to sea, or crossed mountain ranges, or slayed dragons – literally or figuratively – because someone, somewhere, said something to them. Something that captured their imagination, something that seized them, that caught hold of them and wouldn’t shake loose.
And it made me realize how powerfully we affect one another without ever being aware of it. It made me realize the power of the ideas we share, the power of longing and passion to infect the human heart with desire.
I wonder about her now and again, whether she went on to glory in California, or disaster. I wonder if she’d recognize me now – a phoenix risen many times over from the ashes of the life I light ablaze and burn to cinders around me.
And I’m grateful to her – because while something I said sent her haring off in search of her destiny – something she said taught me a lesson: We are each more important than we can ever know, and that while our legacies are often unseen, intangible, and unheralded, they change the landscape, raze mountains, and alter the course of rivers – with only a word spoken gently into the ear ripe to hear it.
I have not always been the best listener. Shhhh…no one knows that. Um, right.
I’m pretty sure that the universe has been clear on that one little factoid from the get, because it’s developed some wily ways to hammer ideas into my head. One of my favorites is when something I should be ‘getting’ keeps popping up into my screen like a ninja. Catching me unawares, hoping that the shock factor will make an impression. It’s always when I least expect it, and sometimes the very oddness of the situation has been enough to make it rank highly enough in importance to garner notice.
Another favorite is when it seems like no matter which way I turn, or who I strike up a conversation with, that idea is there – I call that the ‘saturation’ technique. It’s like they (being who exactly – pronouns are tricky in metaphysics) figure if they just tell me often enough, it will finally erode my belligerence enough to get in there and make an impression.
The one that’s most apparent is the “I can’t get any further” technique. This almost always happens when I’m reading something that will end up being pretty darn important to me – I start, and get only so far. And then I keep picking that book up and reading from the beginning, because a part of me must realize that I need to read it again. And again. And again.
For the past week, I’ve picked up Pema Chodron’s book Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living about seventy-five times, only to read and reread the first page, and never get any further. I love Pema Chodron. She has a way of phrasing complex and abstract spiritual principles in a way that even the most philosophically stunted or spiritually stubborn among us can access, understand, and implement.
And that simplicity is something that attracts me – because deep down, I know that it doesn’t need to be hard. I make it hard.
Here’s a little spiritual snack for all of you – and a taste of what I’m hung up on this week:
We already have everything we need. There is no need for self-improvement. All these trips that we lay on ourselves – the heavy-duty fearing that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the identities we so dearly cling to, the rage, the jealousy and addictions of all kinds – never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun. But all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here. This is who we really are. We are one blink of an eye away from being fully awake. (Chodron, Start Where You Are)
If you knew me, I’m sure you could pick out about fifteen different spots where my brain is getting in the way of this. And that’s okay. Because I’ll get it when I get it. What she’s trying to hand me is easy…and when I get tired of making it hard, it’ll finally sink in and I’ll be able to read page two.
I’ve been M.I.A. for about a month now. Big things and big changes have been sweeping through my life, and most of what I’ve been writing has been in my journal (home for all the news that’s not fit to print).
One of the big things I’ve been dealing with is this:
At about five in the morning on December 21st, my dad collapsed (a couple of times), and they took him to the emergency room. After about seven hours of running every conceivable test that you can run on a body, they finally pinpointed what was causing the trouble – he had 80% blockage in his ‘widow-maker’ artery (runs along the front of the heart – and isn’t it nice that it’s named that & that the doctors and nurses actually call it that in front of you? Neat. Thanks. We weren’t scared enough) and 60-70% blockage in one of the arteries that runs alongside his heart.
He went from feeling fine and fit the day before, to facing open heart surgery the next morning. My dad is a 57 year old non-smoking, non-drinking, daily bran-eating, daily walker with a physique that could be featured in medical texts as ideal for the male of the species.
He also has a family history of high cholesterol that is unaffected by diet or exercise (as in, didn’t matter how many bran muffins my dad snarfed down, or how many miles he walked, he was going to have to deal with this anyway). His father died of a major heart attack at age 65, again somewhat unexpectedly – a fact which was forefront in all of our minds during this.
So, we were all thrown for the proverbial loop. And it called all sorts of things into question, made each of us face and deal with things that we’d been burying or looking away from. And I’m grateful.
I played the ‘what-if’ game about it all (I am the uncontested champion of this game), and no matter how I ran the scenarios through in my head, they did not turn out nearly as prettily as reality did. And so, I couldn’t be anything other than grateful. Grateful that it all happened, and grateful that it all went precisely the way that it did.
In the intervening weeks, dad’s done a lot of healing physically. I’d been more worried about his mental/emotional healing – when you discover the body’s ability to betray, you end up feeling whammied, and I was worried about how he’d handle the whammy. I shouldn’t have worried – I should have just trusted. Dad’s coping well – and he has a lot of time for introspection, since he’s in enforced low-activity for at least six weeks following the surgery.
I went over there this week to help them denude the house of all the Christmas hoopla, since pop can’t lift more than 5 to 10 pounds. And dad turns to me and says, “You still plan on taking me grocery shopping today?” And I, of course, said, “Absolutely!” when I was really thinking, “Hunh? Didn’t remember that…but okey dokey.”
I was probably the best one to bring – I let him have his way and do things his way…until he shouldn’t. I’m not shy about calling people out, and we all know it. So, I was the perfect policeman. We had a great talk the whole way there, and the whole time we were shopping.
And on the way home, the talk turned to how he was dealing with his recovery, and some of the things that were starting to glimmer in the murk for him. I mentioned that Dave (my brother) was probably having the hardest time with all of this. And dad, in typical understated fashion, said, “Well, he probably thought I was dying in his arms, so I suppose he would be.”
And I told him that wasn’t the reason. It was because when Dave was young, he hungered for my father’s attention (which for a variety of reasons, wasn’t available), and then when Dave got older, my dad hungered for more connection with his son…and now Dave is mulling all of it over, and wanting to deepen their relationship. But they’re both the stoic and stubborn products of our Austrian ancestry (which seems to cancel out the Irish in the worst possible ways…), and they don’t reach out well. So, I dropped my pebble into that still pond, and trusted that the ripples would wreak whatever changes to the shoreline that they were meant to – or not – and I let it go.
And then I turned to him and told him that I’d had a hard time with all of this, too, but not for the same reasons. I said that I just wasn’t ready to lose my father yet – I was greedy and wanted many more years together. He smiled. And I said that I felt like he and I were square, that we’d done all the reconnecting and that we had a good relationship, and that I didn’t have regrets – only the greedy desire for more of it. I asked him if he felt the same, and he smiled and said, “Yeah Carolyn, we’re good.”
I know how lucky I am to be able to have that conversation with my dad, and to know deeply that it’s true. I also know that I made my own luck there. I reached out to him in my typically tactless and blunt fashion when I was done being an angsty teen and told him I didn’t like the vibe we had and that I wanted more…and what I wanted it to look like. And then we built it.
In the course of our grocery shopping conversation/excursion, I told him that I regretted nothing about my life. It didn’t strike me until right now, that he’d looked at me kind of oddly, and said, “Really?” with the kind of incredulity that implies sincere and invested interest in the answer. No, dad, I regret nothing. Because all of it brought me here, made me who I am now in this moment. Even the worst stuff shaped me (and I’ve gone through some muddy and bloody trenches in my short life) – and is, perhaps, what I ended up being most grateful for since it affected the deepest and most lasting change.
I know he’s on his own road to reconciling his regrets and healing relationships. I know I can’t do it for him, and I wouldn’t if I could. All I can do is let him see me, and the way I’ve chosen to deal with life as a teacher, and rejoice that he still has the opportunity to choose to engage in it…or choose to let it fall away again.
It may appear that I am lackadaisical about all of this – I assure you I’m not. It’s more a matter of having put out the blaze, and looking at the smoldering foundation, and knowing that there’s both time and opportunity for the owner to build anew. And being grateful for it.
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!)
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
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.