A little while ago, just before I sat down to write this piece, I came home from the bagel store and found bees all over my kitchen. Bees! I went outside to see if I could discern how they were getting in, and while I was there, I heard a sharp crack — a large limb in the backyard was snapping off a tree. I ate my bagel, which was difficult because someone at the bagel store had put it together incorrectly, so that the bottom halves pointed in one direction, and the top halves in the other. This may be hard to picture. It is also hard to imagine how the person put a bagel together wrong.
But such is the case when Mercury is in retrograde.
I know, I know. Half of you are sighing in exasperation. Really, astrology? Seriously? (Even my editor is sighing. I really had to strong-arm him to write this.)
The other half of you — the half who regularly checks IsMercuryInRetrograde.com (it is, bigtime), the half who looks forward to your Susan Miller or your Chani Nicholas or your Melissa Broder or whomever/whatever you check, star-wise (have you heard of the app Co-Star? I'm a fan) — you're nodding your heads and going right, right, yep, exactly. I get you.
The doubters may not want to admit this has anything to do with the cosmos, but look, some pretty weird stuff has been happening lately. Even before the bees, mail stopped being delivered to my apartment because our buzzer broke, and even when the buzzer was replaced, the mail was still missing. This meant many calls to the U.S. Postal Service, and people in the business of delivering (or not delivering) letters just aren't that easy to get ahold of by phone. Also, our new hot water heater keeps going out. The roof sprung a leak, and the insurance company is denying the claim. What else? Well, pretty much everyone I know is having job difficulties, or relationship difficulties, or payments that never arrive, or health insurance issues they have to keep making phone calls to figure out. Pretty much everyone I know is wasting valuable time trying to fix everything that's going wrong, valuable time when they could be writing posts about Mercury in retrograde. We are all a mess.
Oh, and then there's the state of America, and politics domestic and global. There are the fires in California and the heat waves and the is-someone-trying-to-tell-us-
This is one of the reasons I like astrology, why it has become a favored coping technique, along with good wine and regular visits to a therapist and working out and writing to make sense of things in whatever way I can. As much as I peruse standardized belief systems with a healthy dose of cynicism, I also eagerly await my horoscope each month. After all, as humans, most of us feel the need to ascribe deeper meaning to a set of random events, to call life something other than just whatever might be happening to us right now. There are forces in the universe, and they do things and mean things, and doesn't it feel good to point a finger at someone other than yourself when stuff goes awry? Astrology is a tool that helps me thread together the often disparate strands of whatever I'm experiencing and figure out something greater, or learn how to make better decisions, or just keep on keeping on, even when things look really bad. Astrology reminds me it's not just me, that we're all in this world together, that humans don't get to run everything exactly the way they want to, that there is a grander plan out there and sometimes you have to wait for it, and that the stars — and other things beyond our noses — are worth paying attention to. It's a way of thinking outside myself. It may not work for everyone. But I find it helpful, especially when there are bees in my kitchen.
As for everything that seems to be going wrong, my friend, the astrologer and therapist Cory Nakasue, agreed. "I've noticed much frustration this summer," she said. "I've been calling it energetic quicksand." (Hey, doesn't that kind of make you feel better?) This is for a bunch of reasons. First, it's eclipse season, and this summer we got three instead of the usual two, she explains. (Fascinating!) "Eclipse season is an extreme build up of energy and a time of reckoning. It's a time when certain parts of our lives are 'eclipsed,' closed, done and over with," she says. "Other parts of our lives might seem like we've been put on the fast track to a whole new direction. One chapter closes, another opens … usually with some finality."
Also, it's not just Mercury that's in retrograde, it's Uranus, Neptune, Mars, Pluto, Saturn, and even the asteroid Chiron. "This is rare," she says. "With the severity of the retrogrades (especially Mars), these life changes and lessons usually have something to do with unfinished business and circumstances that have their roots in the past. Any problems left undealt with, decisions we've been sitting on the fence with, changes we've been procrastinating about will no longer be able to be ignored. This can be on a mundane level or a deeper psychological level. We're forced to go back (retrograde), review, reassess, fix, change, or give up old ways of being. The universe is basically making it difficult to go forward until you go back and deal with the origins of your current situation."
If all that sounded like Charlie Brown's teacher to you, the brief lesson is that we have to slow down, figure out what we need and what we can get rid of, how better to move forward. I mean, if you look at it that way, astrology is just basically Kondo-ing your apartment! It's good for you!
But here's the other reason I love astrology. It doesn't just leave you hanging. The planets, like people, don't just stay put, or continue on a retrograde course forever. There's a light at the end of every astro-tunnel. "One by one the planets begin their direct motion beginning Aug. 19!" says Cory. "We should notice a drastic shift in energy by the beginning of September. At least there will be less holding us back."
Check with me then. If stuff is still going wrong, I'm going to have to find something else to blame that's not me.