Monday, January 3, 2011

Catching Up in January 2011

Lately I've been feeling like I'd be up for a blog soon, and now is going to be the time to get it done. There are two things I'm itching to shape up, one from my trip to the DC area in mid-December and the other from the holiday season. I journaled about both privately but I feel like it would be a good thing to do something more organized and public with these (as much as I ever am "public").

Putting something into a blog and sharing it with others is like inscribing it on a log or a stone and setting it someplace noticeable. It lends weight and intent to the process of thinking, which by nature is an ephemeral act (although sometimes I wish my thoughts would gain a bit more ephemerality). Perhaps a blog can help with that too, since a blog is much less formal than something published on paper or distributed to outlets for sale on the market. There is less of a public commitment, but elements of commitment are still there, since others are seeing what you are thinking and you are agreeing to put it out there for them to see.

With the North Node in Capricorn forming a sextile to my natal Juno in Pisces, this may be a good opportunity to explore the subject of commitment. And Saturn in Libra is coming in to an upper sesqui-square with natal Juno. Juno is the "wife," the asteroid of commitment, and with this Saturn aspect, I should be "getting" something about the realities of my commitments. Perhaps it will have to do with the limits of forcing others (or myself) to commit to things that I'm attracted to but not emotionally supported by. It might mean letting go of expectations while still daring to strive for that imagined ideal, whether a personal relationship or a project. I think mostly it will be about getting the reality of the situation, which might mean seeing that most of my commitments have been masquerades for buying time, or delightful fantasies that allow me to "imagine" enjoying life more than "actually" enjoying it, with others. Disillusionment is not a bad thing, I tell myself. The relief of living honestly is refreshing after spending so much energy keeping up appearances, though that has its practical purpose, too, and being willing to compromise is part of being human.

There is a personal commitment involved in journaling privately, and I would guess that for committed journalers (as opposed to journal"ists"?) personal commitment is no less serious than public, visible commitment. Perhaps writing a blog can even be a step toward creating honest personal commitments - the kind that are commitments to your "higher self." Maybe you grew up being told that those kinds of things had to take a back seat to commitments to others who were more powerful or important than you. Letting others know your intent and showing them your struggle to articulate it says that you want to let go of the old lies and find friends who support different ways of thinking about things - or at least new ways of looking at old habits and beliefs.

Personal commitment is a characteristic of Capricorn that makes a person with this energy what they are, but it is a personal commitment to some higher purpose, some kind of important work. A Capricornian commitment fits an individual personally while being formulated and carried out in a societal context. It is defined for that individual and it is their work to carry out, often alone, but it is carried out in the most visible, public spheres, and so they often gain a reputation for the work they do and feel the pressure to succeed at what they do. Unlike Leo, they cannot play to the crowd. A commitment to personal success, as defined by the inner knowledge they have of their work, is the only thing that matters, and so it must be for Capricorn to be happy.

Okay, so onto the personal goals I have for this blog, and we'll see where they lead and who's satisfied with the results. In March of 2009 I purchased a timeshare. This is something I had heard about as a kid. We had gotten an invitation in the mail, my father dismissed it, but I didn't want to because, to me, he sounded like he was just being unwilling to take a reasonable risk. I wanted to give it a try - heck, a free weekend's lodging in the Pocono Mountains just for listening - that sounded doable! I called them and lied to the person on the phone, then got scared and hung up. I tore up the mailing and threw it in a trash can three blocks from my house. I was good being scared about others as a kid, and I still have to work my way out of that position as an adult.

In 2009, about twenty-eight or nine years later, for you astrologer types (it relates to the Saturn and progressed Moon cycles), I took them up on the offer of free nights in a hotel in the Poconos and purchased a modest timeshare agreement from their representative. I fudged the truth again when I purchased the timeshare, since my income was vaguely interpretable. They gave me a new Bank of America credit card for the purchase. I had just canceled one of my Bank of America credit cards to make a statement in my life about corporate responsibility. Hmm...lesson delivered, I'm thinking - they win. If a tree falls in the forest, does another just grow up to take its place? If you plant one of your own, does it matter, since they're clearcutting the forest? I'll be more patient with this process next time. I'm really good at mapping out payments and using special offers, so there wasn't a practical issue for me so much as a moral one. It will be paid off this August, and my budget will become more sustainable.

Come to think of it, the timeshare didn't reflect the values I espoused when I canceled my credit card, so what was that saying about me? That I was a human rather than a set of ideals? That personal moral standards are complex and have to consider emotional needs as well as rational ideals?

The rational reason I purchased a timeshare was to have a "home base" where I often dreamed of having one - in the woods, in the mountains, on a lake. It seemed like a better kind of commitment than purchasing a cabin - and was more within my reach - since I wouldn't be stuck in one place and get lonely, that horrible feeling of being unable to attract the kind of people with whom I wanted to share this lovely idea of a home in the woods and a relaxed lifestyle...even Thoreau was only a stone's throw from town. At the moment, the option of a timeshare seemed like an unexpectedly reasonable opportunity.

Since then, I've gotten better at avoiding the temptations of marketing, becoming almost radical about it at times. I'm also learning that sometimes rational ideas and ideals should go take a hike. I'd do much better if I allowed things to stay simple and calm. Imagine being a fish and not getting tempted by the fisherman's lures. What freedom! What an evolutionary advantage! But sometimes taking the bait for a spin is just irresistible, and that's part of being human as far as I'm concerned.

The recipe I had for my timeshare vision was missing a few key ingredients, such as "community" and "honestly obtained resources of my own." Reading that just now, I realize that the writer Christina Baldwin told me the exact same thing when I was sharing my beer commercial vision of friends gathered on the balcony of a beautiful cabin the woods overlooking a lake. "Money," she intoned. I closed up, but with a feeling of defiance. Don't bum me out with your heavy practicalities, man. This happened at a journal writing presentation at Macalester College in 1989.

She emphasized resources, but I see now the importance of finding my "work" and connecting it to communities that I feel like I have a place in. Its a more finely tuned picture of the issues, but profoundly similar. It includes the emotional needs of life and the practical ones. Back then, and still now, I struggle to face practical realities without having the hope of succeeding at something that had personal meaning and pleasure. Finding one's brand of personal meaning is everyone's task in life. Without it, there is only endless, resentful drudgery for others, and I knew the feeling of that all too well. Now perhaps I'm learning to change that Dickensian perspective of life and modify my need for self-initiated success and personal meaning in order to obtain the feeling of succeeding at supporting myself, but its an uphill walk.

The stumbling blocks that keep me from adding my key ingredients have been a focus of my own life and of those who have been working with me for years. I can see now that it involves a lot of self-deception, which covers up fears, some of which seem to be surprisingly unnecessary, but they are really hard to break with, because they've become ingrained patterns. These may in fact go back generations, lifetimes, or at least to my very early childhood. It also seems that my talent for taking care of myself by making adjustments here and there is probably reinforcing these old patterns, since I can keep dancing a jig, albeit ungracefully, in order to avoid a deep, elusive underlying issue about relating to others and accepting responsibility for myself.

If I were to create an antidote to the problem it would involve developing friendships, cultivating patience and self-respect, and forgiving family while seeing the truth clearly. Astrologically, these are my second house issues dealing with a natal Chiron conjunct Saturn and squared to a retrograde Jupiter. But astrological analysis, as I recently said to my analyst, is cold comfort when you're feeling their pressure directly in your emotions and nothing seems to be enough to overcome the issues.

I can sense that this is not a problem unique to myself - just think of all the security issues our consumer/credit-driven society has gotten us into - or threatens to - but I'm rather personally focused on it, to the extent that it feels like a big part of my identity. It's scary not to have a sense of identity, so I guess that's why I can't quite loosen the reigns on my particular perspective, if there is anything the matter with having it. It also seems to fit with a progressed Sun in the first house. As it is in Pisces now, I might be looking at letting go of the need for self-definition.

So, back to the timeshare story. I knew I needed some away time of my own before the holidays. And there were points that were about to expire. To buy a timeshare and not use seemed a waste, but so too did stressing myself simply to use something I didn't have to. A few days in the DC area at a place next to the Amtrak line seemed a good compromise, and it was. I wore myself out walking, but I wanted to be outside at least one day during my trip and I ate well, cooking my own food in the morning and evening. And when I couldn't sleep, I breathed until I relaxed a bit and simply waited, then continued with my plans for the day. Seeing things through, patiently. That was the goal.

I ducked in to a restaurant Sunday night and treated myself to desert. I had walked along King Street in Alexandria for blocks and felt okay about this indulgence. When I woke during the night, I was still okay about it, but couldn't get back to sleep. As it was around five am, I eventually went out to the faux colonial dining table and began journaling. It had come to me as I lay awake working on ideas, that I had many personas I affected when I had to interact with others, and this was particularly in focus when I traveled. Seeing this and being able to write about it clearly felt important and very satisfying, although it might not seem so later in the overly strong light of day. The Moon was opposite retrograde Uranus, the Sun was opposite my natal Jupiter T-square to Uranus-Pluto and Chiron, and Lilith was transiting natal Chiron when this insight came. In fact, just after I had done most of the writing, my new smart phone signaled to me that it had received an email notification of a Lilith blog I had recently subscribed to. I think that energy had something to do with it, but a part of me is the unconvinced skeptic and disillusioned dreamer. But this time, words I had written or read before "felt" especially clear and strong, which could have either been insight or delusion. I know that I'm susceptible to the latter, so I treat these things with as much caution as I can muster. What else seemed very clear at the time was that I didn't have to be afraid to drop the act - that I, like everyone else, were humans, and while I might not yet know all the rules of the game or make enough money to feel like I should be "owning a timeshare" or "pampering myself on a relaxing vacation," I could make the adjustments to do so more responsibly and be less afraid than I was among others. Somehow it seemed almost silly, but that doesn't mean it's easy to handle or automatically corrected.

Christmas brought a realization that the house I live in, and all my plans and work here, were part of that second house issue - part of that Chiron wound, Saturn limitation, and karmic fifth house Jupiter T-square. A tangible security issue that is liable to be over-stimulated by the way Jupiter in Gemini communicates ideas I have about taking risks and using others' money. In plain English, its a way I get myself into trouble and am repeatedly confronted with the lessons I need to learn in this life.

It was a realization that came not at the end of a confrontation, though, but at the end of a nice, peaceful day where I didn't do too much for others, while still fulfilling my commitment to preparing and hosting a Christmas dinner for my sister and parents. One trip to Whole Foods and several things cobbled together from the freezer fulfilled that commitment more than adequately. There was no conversation about the house or my role here or about the amount of money my father gave to me and what was I doing to make it smaller and when would it be down to nothing. I enjoyed the time spent with my parents, doing a puzzle, even when my sister left to bring her cat home from the vet's and my mom, who has Alzheimer's was purposefully jamming together pieces that didn't fit (very hard for us Virgo Moons to accept).

In fact, I had done a few things to make my dependency smaller - canceling the movie channels I get on tv, and writing letters to cancel a few charitable contributions with organizations I'm not personally involved with, because, I realize, "charity begins at home," and my home was needing to be more personally defined and less costly. But I am taking care of these matters quietly, for now, at least, and they didn't have to be part of the holiday celebration with my immediate family. I know my dad and I will butt heads again - his Mars T-square almost guarantees he will bring up the issues in an aggressive way even as he tries to be diplomatic about it - and I will defend myself if I have to. But I'm also getting to the point where I hear how angry I've been and realize it causes hurt where it doesn't always need to.

I'm damn glad the anticipation of the holidays is over. I enjoy the relaxed pace of the week after Christmas much more than the months leading up to it, which are just insanity. I love some of the rituals of Christmas, especially the pagan ones connected to nature, and I realize that I need the time with family. As I try to chart my own course through life and define the values I want to live by, I see that these are my terms and I hope to be able to continue developing them while finding ways to meet more of my needs and fulfill my desires while learning the lessons of my life.