I almost started this column by heralding this week as the beginning of "things getting back to normal"—before I woke up and realized what a preposterous sentiment that is. Certainly, we all know, there is no such thing as normal. Astrologically speaking, the combined reality of (1) each planet's predictable repetitive cycles and (2) the ongoing uniqueness of these cycles' interactions ensure that every moment is always both decidedly normal and not normal. I suppose, then, what I meant to write was: This week marks the beginning of a new phase of—or a return to—forward-thinking movement and action, while signaling a wrap-up of our recent period of self-critical "wheel-spinning". (And, oops, I guess I've just revealed my biased concept of what constitutes normality.)

Mercury, which represents our ability to move ourselves from one place to another (whether through literal space, via communication or inside our busy heads), has returned to direct motion. It retraces its steps through the last degrees of Virgo, finishes its square to Saturn midweek, and then ends up back in Libra. Mars—the planet ruling our action orientation, physical drives and aggressions—also concludes its journey through Virgo, squares Saturn at week's end, and joins Mercury in peace-loving Libra next week. These two Saturn-squares represent those final adjustments we need to make in our thoughts and actions, following the past month's self-examinations and revelations. It's never easy to look at ourselves closely, to admit that there may be alternatives to the comfortable habits we practice, and force ourselves to let go of the past so we can experience change and growth. This week is that last little shove through the narrowest part of the canal, its walls rubbing against us, before we reach the bright light and the open space. After this, Mercury makes no tense aspects through the end of October, while Mars has it easy through November. And, interestingly, all the planets from Jupiter outward to Pluto remain in air and fire signs (considered the more active) through March of next year. Exciting, if you favor the mental and physical activity level of those signs; a bit disorienting for the more grounded, slow-moving or emotionally disposed.

So, now, as you prepare yourself for an active few months ahead, you momentarily pause and take a good, deep, life-affirming breath. Looking around at the people and belongings you've surrounded yourself with, you allow your face to break into a smile. Whether you are completely and totally satisfied with the circumstances in your life (good for you!) or still retain certain yearnings that remain unfulfilled (more likely, for the majority of us), you appreciatively take stock of what you possess. After all, these resources—both the physical or financial goods and the personal relationships—will provide the foundation from which all your future creative and effortful endeavors will be born. You are thankful, and ready. With this smile, you acknowledge the role of not just fate but your own conscious participation and decision-making in ending up with what you have—from the love of your best friend to your grandmother's antique golden urn, proudly displayed in your living room.

And speaking of that old urn… you've always loved it and have been aware of its presence throughout your life, but have you ever really paid attention to the qualities that make it so valuable to you? And how valuable is it? Between juggling projects, running errands and hopping parties, you spend a few minutes of quality time with this relic from your grandma. You pick up the urn and rotate it through both your hands, absorbing its tactile sensations. Perhaps it is heavier or lighter, smoother or more uneven, than you remember it. Perhaps, as you look inside it, you discover its insides to be cracked and deteriorating, or else lined with silver. Maybe you decide, after all this time, to bring it down to next weekend's local taping of Antiques Roadshow, only to find out that this family knickknack is actually worth $25,000. Or, who would have imagined that your friend would bring her new boyfriend, a docent at a local museum, to your next dinner party—and that he, upon glimpsing the urn, would notify you that it was a treasure stolen from Europe over 100 years ago? Perhaps, instead, you spy the gold, which turns out to be cheap paint, scratching off to reveal plaster underneath. Did you just notice, for the first time, that "Made in Taiwan" sticker affixed to its bottom?

However the scenario plays itself out, one thing is for sure: You are finally realizing the true value of your beloved possession. Why are these truths coming to light now? Because, this week, Venus turns retrograde and remains so for the next six weeks. Venus is a symbol of love, in that it relates to people for whom we have affection—but it also extends to whatever we hold valuable or dear, whether it be material or interpersonal. Not only does Venus rules art, beauty and love (all those traditionally feminine principles), but it also rules financial wealth and earthly sustenance. When Venus goes retrograde—a less frequent and less dramatic occurrence than everyone's favorite Mercury retrograde—it's a time of altered perspective on what our valuables are really worth to us. This often manifests itself in a long-overdue acceptance of the reality of what surrounds us, which can drive us to more fully offer our love and appreciation, or to shed long-held fantasies in bittersweet epiphany. Of course, the opposite effect can also occur when we meet new people or objects that charm us, leading us to believe that they are pricelessly valuable—until later, when we find they are valuelessly pricey.

It's not, of course, just the urns and curios and doodads in our lives that reflect a different level of value during Venus retrograde. Our relationships with others are also affected. Important people in our lives could show their true colors, for better and for worse. Mysterious strangers may appear in our lives, cloaked in an appealing yet somewhat blinding aura. Venus, unlike Mercury and Mars, is a quiet and receptive energy, so its effects are less likely to trumpet themselves with high drama. Its value propositions will present themselves through seemingly unrelated events. This time around, Venus retrogrades in Scorpio, lending its added subtle intensity, psychological depth and chthonic murkiness. Try unpeeling more layers of the onion than you have in a while, and you might get somewhere uncomfortably transformational.

Until Venus moves direct again on November 21, let yourself enjoy the act of subtly realizing of what's worth something to you and what isn't. This doesn't necessarily mean acting on these realizations just yet. If you see an amazing piece of artwork or a vintage sofa, priced sky-high, commit to not buying it until later; if it's meant to be yours, it'll still be there when it's time. The same goes for those mysterious strangers: flirt and dabble, but don't commit. Likewise, don't go throwing out the babies—or suddenly undesirable golden urns—with the bathwater. Quietly accept your new consciousness. Meanwhile, the thrust of Mercury and Mars and the air-fire synergy should move you along in other pursuits, keeping you busy while the Venus sensations work themselves out. And all this, for some inexplicable reason, I had initially thought of as normal. Guess it's time to reevaluate…