Sunday, May 30, 2010

the perfect blue house

There was a period of time after college when I walked through my neighborhood in St. Paul searching for a perfect blue colored house. I was trying out a fantasy that I would feel something full and exhilarating that I absolutely needed to feel healthy - something like the sound of a dozen brass horns playing in unison. I was also putting off dealing with realities like finding a job and paying rent by dreaming about finding a paint color for a house I had no means of purchasing for a family I hadn't even begun to establish. Perhaps the perfect blue flame of a warm functioning furnace would have been more effectual, or buying a pint of blue at the hardware or art stores down the street and painting a piece of furniture, but that probably wouldn't have seemed grand enough.

Later, though, I had an unusual dream that featured a brilliant blue color. I shared my dream with a psychiatrist, who wondered what it meant but didn't offer an interpretation. It was one of those flying dreams that ended with a blue kite, which I had been during part of the dream, angling above a long, high slightly rusted chainlink fence - the kinds you see around schoolyards - and then it did a kind of maneuver where it made a tight pivot and snapped into place along an invisible horizontal line and the blue color became electrified with silver energy and I felt exhilarated. It sounds a lot like the little mechanism that turns ignites the gas burner when the temperature gets too cold, but about twenty years later I come across Isabel Hickey's symbolic description of Aquarius - the clear, blue electric air of winter - and now I think I understand something about the dream and the feeling associated with that color, regardless of its source - I analyzed every symbol in my diary/journal and it all made sense. And given the chilliness of midwinter, I would have to say the appropriateness of finding warmth in the deep blue of an Aquarian intellect is even more suspect. I've steered myself toward more calming colors now.

There are a lot of things I've accumulated to wonder about in my adult life (and from before), and when an answer comes twenty years later, it is, like the electrified blue kite, also a little exhilarating. I think that getting these kinds of answers just normal everyday functioning for some, or perhaps 'they' don't keep thinking about these things the way I do. It's getting easier for me in that regard, and I like the idea that some day in the not too distant future, I'll make peace with this side of myself, or understand it better - that part that isn't clued in like the rest. It would be nice if I knew the answers to 'life's persistent questions' and could use that knowledge instantly in conversations and other interactions, but maybe that's a need I'll learn to let go of - or make more practical - like the need for a perfect shade of blue, which I found and used to paint my bathroom.

I'm gradually scraping that blue paint off the walls and replacing it with a lilac shade. I was nervous and forgot to sand the original coat, so a fingernail peels it off, and lilac is a color that I've read is calming for high-strung Virgo Moons, which is what I am. Might as well try it out, as an experiment, I reason convincingly - see if has the right effect on me. In any case, I'll get a nice looking bathroom, and it will have been me that made it look the way it does. With the experience I get learning how to do it in a relaxed, gradual manner, it will be easier to do other things even more creatively in the future - now that's the proper use of Aquarian energy!

Given that my first house Venus and Mars conjunction in Aquarius aspects my South Node rather than my North Node (a quintile, continuing on to a biquintile to Uranus-Pluto in the eighth), I think its useful, for now at least, to suspect that searching for fourth house comforts of the North Node in chilly intellectual pursuits of Aquarius is going to be about as fulfilling as substituting backlit pictures of food dishes for the actual thing. Although, to stretch this metaphor as far as I can, perhaps the conversation that goes on around the meal and during the preparation will be the real sustenance while the food is a really nice accent. This I base on the fact that the North Node is in conversational Gemini.

The lone quintile to my North Node is Chiron, and that is positioned in Pisces, second house. If Chiron represents the wound of separation we carry through life, and which we become more conscious of as we develop the potential and possibility for understanding and healing, then maybe searching for that object - a perfect, deep blue colored home, was a way of coping with the pain of separation I felt as I tried to maintain a space separate from my family, who, despite their good intentions, offered little in the way of guidance or support but quite a bit of anxiety-ridden pressure to do something along the traditional lines of pleasing others so as to get by in life.

Perhaps I was trying to understand why I hid my fear of 'normal' jobs and interactions with others. Had I not earned my achievements and received the academic accolades that I had always frustratingly striven for? Yes, though every once in a while I glimpsed a maddening difference between certain other peoples' interactions with ideas and the people who talked and wrote about them, and my own straight down the pike, hard-headed, and equally maddening way of hammering out of assignments and studies with no gentle reason or method for doing so. I admired these others but I didn't know how to access their 'feel' for things.

I think I can find places in my natal chart where these stories from my life and the image of myself they portray originate. There is the tenth house Sagittarian South Node always seeking another (important) adventure to be off on; its ruler, the fifth house Jupiter with its inconjunct to a Neptune MC that has often blinded me to an honest assessment of my actual skill level and my standing among others, which I need even more dearly. Its T-square to Chiron on one side of the chart and Uranus and Pluto on the other, pushes me intensely to get at this problem, but doesn't endear me to others - or sometimes myself. Vesta in sixth house Cancer has certainly added an emotional challenge to jobs, that I've not until recently been able to be firm but gentle about. (It's also made food service feel like an always available option.). Maybe even my latest find - asteroid Lilith in Cancer opposite my natal Sun has something to do with the extreme resistance to fitting into a traditional mode, even while I try anxiously to serve.

I need a purpose for this recitation. I imagine it's an exercise routine for my Aquarian Mars - trotting around the chart, finding explanations for things, honing one's understanding, while I expand and deepen descriptions of other peoples' charts at the same time. I know that showing it off is an easy outlet for me and yet uncomfortable and a little dangerous (that T-square again, perhaps) - I don't hear myself too clearly when the words are too loud and anxious. They feel dishonest in my body, and that actually causes a lot of discomfort, and I worry incessantly about that as a good, brooding Scorpio energy often must. But honest expression feels very different - a release - and simple, very simple; no need for embellishment or compulsive repaving. Which goes against my training - what do I do with all that time and energy that I'm using to belabor or refine a point I can't get quite right? That's all okay, but enough navel peering. I fear the tread of little feet walking out of the classroom.

I still find myself trying to get that big, full feeling from objects, like perfect blue houses. These days its flowers and gardens, the perfect arrangement of things on shelves, the purest collection of items, containing only what I want and need to create that sublime, big, full feeling. I've had this compulsion to winnow, though it isn't without practicality, ever since I moved into a dorm and subsequently had to move every few years, while managing all those other things that go on in one's life. I guess if I look at it from a different perspective, as something that is part of routine or a coping skill that I employ regularly, but know that I'm not doing it to find the source of life energy I mistakenly thought it contained, then it becomes an artistic process or an organization skill.

I've recently taken photos of several objects that I've had for a long time (and had been using regularly) and then I discarded the items - an expensive skillet cooking pan that I bought from the clinic I had been going to around the time I was hospitalized (I burned it and dropped it a few times, but it always managed to scrub up nice and function well enough), the flint ware sauce pan I inherited ten years ago from my grandmother when she passed on at the age of 92, the Health Valley rubber jar opening pad that finally wore out after twenty years - that one came with the sample box I ordered from the company the year I was part of the German House crew at Macalester College.

I also discarded a spatula I believe I borrowed from them or bought from a yard sale around that time. In that case, I might have been premature - the ergonomic 'eco-friendly' variety I bought from BB&B to 'upgrade' it appears to have melted along the business edge. I guess I admit to hoping to hang on to old friends and happier times with these items, and I'm not saying that kind of thing isn't worth respect. With Chiron and Saturn in the second, I don't take lightly the consequences of purchasing something unnecessarily or unwisely - or parting with objects that truly have value for me, personally, even if others might impatiently roll their eyes or grit their teeth. Writing about them and photographing them are the ways to honor them in parting, and it seems to be doing the trick for me, increasingly with more kindness towards the emotional side and more gentle determination on the 'moving ahead' side. Taking the objects apart and recycling them is also a patient exercise that honors the values I'm trying to cultivate in my life, by choice. Death - a part of the natural cycle of life. Honoring and moving on both important - necessary! And no big, full feeling needed to move on - just whatever is there.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

At the beginning of the month (May 2010) I attended an astrology conference in a nice, but mostly anonymous hotel near Cleveland. This was the second time I had attended this particular conference and it is the first astrology conference I've attended more than once.

I did a couple things differently this time, the most significant of which was getting a room at the hotel that the conference was taking place in, and sharing that room with a friend I had met there last year. You see, at the heart of things, I feel I don't deserve to be around other people.

That's basically it, though 'it' is not quite that simple and straightforward. Some of 'it' is that for a long time I didn't feel okay with my genuine need for solitude; another significant chunk of it is that I'm not used to being around people who are simply themselves and actually want others (including me!) to be that way, too. I run into that problem even amongst my relatives, who are a 'pretty regular' crowd.

If you put the two together, maybe you could say that I need the solitude to filter out all the reactive behaviors I've engaged in that day in order to get along in a social environment. Only when I get enough of the 'good' interaction and the 'right kind' of solitude to go with it, do I feel like I'm feeling like who I 'am' again. And then there's a complicating factor - this kind of reactive sensitivity builds up a lot of resentment and pressure to express myself, so that eventually I end up acting a little unforgiving and anti-social regardless of how much I try to cover up. I'm analyzing my worries again. :)

There is more blunt analogy I can't resist using to describe this issue. In the second grade, I learned that the harder you squeeze your butt cheeks together in order not to fart, the louder the fart comes out. If you completely relax, on the other hand, it might come out smelly, but it doesn't make a sound. Sometimes it's fun to really rip out a loud fart. Other times you don't want to attract the attention. And what I'm learning is that it's okay not to attract attention sometimes.

Returning to the theme of being oneself: you can't get a much better example of a group of people who are simply themselves than you'll find at an astrology conference. I'm not guaranteeing that line to be 100 percent accurate, but it sure makes a statement - and I think it's probably true, though I'm discovering that there are real people everywhere. In any case, I was, for many reasons - dogged intent, accupuncture treatments, psychoanalysis, returning friends - more at ease with my discomfort this year and generally not worrying about getting into the right lecture session or talking to all different kinds of people. Yeah, I spent a few of the periods in between sessions staring at the trees behind the hotel, or pulling weeds in the landscape beds in the parking lot, but I also hung out and chatted with the smoking crowd, which included some of the people I had met there last year, staying up late having great conversations with my roommate and other friends, and just trying to be okay with it all. I kept seeing myself amazed at the fact that I'd done all this - gotten myself to this place - by myself - no classes, no professors, no parents, no colleagues - I'd learned astrology by getting the books, teaching the local students, finding astrologers and writing to them or chatting with them on the internet, and then driving to the conference. That's really pretty amazing to me, and I was also aware that I need to eventually get over it and just do the astrology with the others I've gotten myself connected with.

Last year was when I didn't know anyone at the conference, except the keynote speaker, with whom I had had some helpful, but not entirely comfortable interactions on facebook. He's a well-known astrologer with a double Aries - not exactly the type I would easily get to know, but I bravely shoved myself into the social aspects of the conference, handed people my chart and the little book I had just finished, poured over the program to choose which lecture to go to, and talked to people at lunch and dinner, always heading back to the fancy hotel room on the other side of the interstate when I had had enough. I'd figured saving money and preserving my quiet space would be a good strategy, so I found a hotel through hotwire, which has ludicrously low rates on all kinds of rooms, but you don't know the exact hotel you'll be staying at until you make the reservation. By the end of the conference I was feeling very insecure and angry and wanted only to drive home as quickly and directly as I could. Afterwords, I thought about making an even more radical statement about 'not being one of the crowd' by renting a room at a mom-and-pop place up on the lake next year, and then I took the time to think it through - by staying apart, I was making my insecurities about belonging even more obvious - obsessing over them, you might even say - which would be fine, if I really was into being apart and alone, but I'm not. I realized I was only drawing attention to my feelings of not belonging by separating my self physically at the conference. I could blend into the woodwork a lot more quietly if I had a room at the same hotel!

I've just connected this to a piece that came later that spring when I drove up north to camp for a few days. Upon arriving at the isolated campground near the beautiful stand of virgin hemlocks (a few of them started growing when Bill Shakespeare was still writing new plays), I was surprised to realize that the thought of driving into town to the grocery store felt more pleasurable than communing by myself with nature. I'd been sold a bill of goods! I wasn't just 'nature boy.' That was another cover up for the loneliness I felt growing up and that no one in my family could deal with - including me. This is me learning about myself. Hopefully there's at least one or two other persons that finds it interesting. :)

I've been reading about squares and semi-squares and the south node in the tenth house and retrograde Venus and Virgo and Scorpio and twelfth house planets...all of the things that - holy shit! - explain this stuff I've been writing about, exactly - I mean, how cool is that?! And they organize all into a system that is both ancient and ever-evolving. It is really cool, but you know what? You still have to get out there and live life! Tierney says it's the drawback of sextiles to be stimulating, but ultimately intellectual. Squares, on the other hand, are demanding action! (Nothing is good or bad in a chart - only skillfully or clumsily expressed; only balanced or needing balance.)

Clever words and a well-written essay is a part of what I feel like I need to do so that I feel accomplished and can rest peaceably at the end of the day. But another part of it, even deeper than this, is the need to just be okay with what I do and respect it without it having to be something - the best, the most clever, the hardest work. When the conference was over, and I dutifully drove straight home with only a stop for dinner and gas, I was oddly drained of that enthusiasm to be clever with words. They just didn't have much a reason to be put together into sentences at that moment when I figured I should write in my journal in the Indian restaurant at the I79 interchange with the turnpike.

I think of how that started in high school, and you know what's coming - when a lot of my friends were hanging out with friends and getting action at parties (or talking about it, at least), I was riding my bike all over the place by myself and improving my English papers with a lot of complex, flowery language. And now I have to say again that none of that is bad, but it is incomplete. Come to think of it, I was also the one who was listening to them when they had questions about what they were doing or wanted to share with someone. So, what's the issues keeping me from developing along the lines I think i wanted to way back then? Hmmm.....

The light and changeable breezes of spring - that is the image Isabel Hickey uses to describe the Gemini energy, and doesn't that sound pleasant - especially when you juxtapose it to the Libran hurricane or the electric, midwinter Jet Stream of Aquarius.

Gemini is also supposed to be famous for spinning a tale so good they can't recognize the truth themselves. I've got some pretty significant Gemini energy in my chart and I seem to always be making new Gemini friends at certain turns of my life. In most cases, the Gemini energy in my chart isn't straightforwardly or harmoniously connected to the rest. One of the ideas I've had about it (after reading Stephen Forrest's Yesterday's Skies) is that I'm to shift the emphasis away from an attention-grabbing fifth house Jupiter in Gemini and draw it into a quieter, more emotionally tuned-in energy represented by my fourth house Gemini North Node. Another is that I'm too express (fifth house) my emotions and thoughts purely, without judgment, no matter what they are. The times I've been able to do that - it's like getting that thread through the eye of a needle - a real relief and feeling of pure release - the energy gone from where it was clattering around, bent over itself in my head...

Teaching is a good test of my ability to make these shifts. I was really aware - and worried about - how I automatically step onto the stage and revel in the attention, while getting more and more scattered and emotionally tongue-tied until I run for home and sink into a bottled up period of lonely self-loathing. I observed this behavior pattern objectively during my first class of this spring, and when I met with my lone student in the subsequent class, I had times where I felt that I broke through - that I simply dropped the act. Simply dropped it - I didn't hurl it to ground to show that I knew it was act or keep pretending that I was having a good time acting that way. You know what? It isn't hard to drop the act - once you get a handle on it. It's just really hard to find that off switch! Even now, I'm acting, and i know I could be more real, but this is fun, like a good workout. But why do I have to take this act to the extreme? There's obvious psychological explanations - and there's also the simple truth that when I see others not bother to go deeper or slow down to ponder something, it bothers me. But you know what else? I'm getting tired from being an eccentric oddball, swimming against every current he can find. I'm saying lately that I want to be a normal oddball - which is probably what I really am.

I noticed that I couldn't be my honest self sometimes at the conference. It was almost impossible to get present for a tarot card reading and not simply joke around, because I was having fun hanging out with my friends. You wouldn't think that's bad - but there's something that is detrimental for me if that's as far as I go. I think back to a lecture at the first conference in 2009 - the karmic lessons of the fifth house, which I later discovered were reiterated by my nodal placements - the south node ruler in the fifth and the north node ruler in the twelfth. What's most important is finding your own truth and living it. And if that's a quiet, simple truth, then that's what it is. If it's frightening and odd, it's that, too. But it usually isn't something (for me at least) that I thrust at the world, no matter what the consequences, because when I'm being like that, I'm so braced against the possible impacts, that I can't find my own soft, relaxed self, either, and there's no reward in the interaction.

I couldn't be myself when I met with my lone student ten days after returning from the conference. I think part came from convincing myself that I was enjoying the overnight 'vacation' I took at my timeshare (:"You have to enjoy yourself at these things, you know - otherwise, you're wasting money and the efforts you made to get here, and that's a crime!":). Not that I didn't want to go, am sorry that I went, didn't get to do some astrology with a couple people from the sales staff, or didn't discover a really cool yarn shop and an astrology/tarot/reiki place that I'll probably go back to...It was just intense and I didn't feel very centered after I came home.

Working diligently to be someone better than who I am - it's a deeply ingrained habit that's hard to break - the curse of Virgo, you can say - and I can't break it completely by writing about it or going to others for understanding and sympathy, does have an effect - the simple act of writing it down in some kind of formal structure and putting it 'out there' makes a statement that you're wanting others to see where you are and help you get to where you want to be.