Mercury Retrograde Rewrites the Year Ahead


Mercury is currently retrograde in the sign of Aquarius (as of Sun Jan 11), for those of you who like to stay abreast of such things.

The usual misspeaks, misunderstandings, misplacements, and machinery misbehaviors are to be expected. The standard Mercury-retrograde warnings apply:

Check all fine print, at least twice. Postpone important signings, if possible. Be patient with delays, as your own 'ingenious detour' may create an even longer lag. Be kind to apparent malfunctions, since it may not really be 'broken' until you try to 'fix' it. Allow yourself and others to reconsider, or to change their minds completely. It's all part and parcel of what happens when mischievous messenger-man Mercury retraces his most recent steps.

I am using Mercury's retrograde to revisit the thoughts with which I opened the year in this article from last Monday (Jan 5). Against the backdrop of the ongoing Saturn-Uranus opposition, I framed a 2009 that compels us into a very challenging balancing act, with the struggle to accommodate massive change intensifying into '10… and with the warning that, even when waves of unbridled hope and optimism flood us all with the sense that 'everything's great!', we mustn't let the magnitude of these challenges and struggles leave our sights for more than a few seconds.

As I wrote it, I knew my essay could provoke worry or anxiety among some of my readers. Only the most melodramatic (or masochistic) among us enjoy hearing that our lives are in the midst of a major reorientation and there's nothing we can do to stop it. A good portion of the rest of us will merely freak out, overtly or under the surface, metaphorically or literally grabbing hold of the nearest safety grip, nailing our prized belongings to the ground, and hoping to ride this storm out.

Still, I take my responsibility as astro-prophet-poet-pal seriously and couldn't, in good conscience, sugarcoat my take on the near future: that this will be a profound period of history, akin to both 'The Great Depression' and 'The Sixties' in scope. Think about both those prior periods for a moment. We often speak of 'the children of the Depression' or 'the children of the Sixties'… simply because the impact of these historical periods on the developmental processes of its 'children' was so all-encompassing. How will we characterize the 'children' of this Next Great Reorientation?

It's funny I've ended up in a career known for predicting the future (which, as you well know, is impossible since we're still in the process of creating it). As a Californian, I've long sang the praises of earthquakes over other types of natural disaster… in part because we receive no earthquake warnings, and by the time we can even process the shock of what's going on, the jolt is already half over, at least.

Sure, with the advance warning that comes along with tornadoes and hurricanes and such, we have time to fill sandbags and gather supplies and file ourselves into the shelter. Yet, along with the prep-time come the minutes or hours or days of anxiety, which are sometimes worse than the actual event. Not to mention all the mavericky folk who defiantly greet a confrontation with the elements, refusing to evacuate until it's too late and they've got to be airlifted out. And what happens when the funnel cloud abruptly changes direction, flipping the bird at all those dutiful preparations made? 'You thought I'd hit landfall here, but I think I'll surprise you by showing up over there instead!' Has a way of making us feel stupid for even bothering to resist nature's onslaught.

That's why I like earthquakes so much: Within mere seconds, you're already responding in real-time to the altered reality. There is no waiting. You are present and alive now.

There's a strange altered-state feeling that accompanies the direct experience, and the immediate aftermath, of a life-altering event. This is not to diminish the pain or grief that also often comes along, since many 'life-altering events' include some type of separation, ending or loss. Yet, in these precious moments, we cannot rely on habit or auto-pilot.

Instead, we are aware and alert. We listen to our instincts more, acting on the spot. In those rare instances when we know the game has suddenly changed, we recognize the past suddenly doesn't matter in quite the same way (if at all) anymore. And the future suddenly isn't so clear or inevitable—nor as limiting. Herein lies tremendous freedom.

I love those soaring freedoms we taste during our initial responses to life-altering events, to those 'in-between' phases that bridge the gaps from one version of 'My Life' to the next. In the days and weeks after we leave or lose a job, during those first toddling steps following a breakup, en route across the country or world when moving from one hometown to another, we are without the familiar trappings that tell us who we are, externally at least. We have not yet settled into our latest incarnation of identities. We see with fresh eyes, and behave outside the cage of expectation.

These are the times when it's easiest to recreate ourselves. Because something broke or busted, we are forced to repair and rebuild ourselves… and while the clay's still wet and the glue hasn't set yet, why not attend to a few other things in the process? Maybe the move to a new town is also the perfect excuse to finally change your name, start going to a different church, or dye your hair a crazy color. Perhaps, now that you're looking for a job again, this is the time to rethink what you're willing to settle for. Since you're reentering the dating pool, you might consider a totally new approach. If you're already 'screwed', why not say 'screw it!' to the other albatrosses you're holding onto?

The mere notion of life-altering events and game-changing developments—as exciting as indeed they are—can't help but instill terror in our hearts, if we are attached to the people and things and experiences currently in our lives (and most of us are). We begin to stress over what it's going to be: a job that's in trouble, a rapidly dwindling bank account or a mortgage payment come due, a romance or friendship on its last legs, the illness or impending death of a loved one? We fixate on what we might lose, forcing us into the fear and emotion before any actual loss occurs, effectively impinging on our presence here and now.

Such losses are inevitable, whether they happen during this latest astro-avalanche or thirty-five years from now. Ultimately, though, they usually bring complementary gains in their wake. In addition to the emotional fallout come new jobs, new homes, new relationships… and, most importantly, new perspectives from which to examine our lives. In honor of the current Mercury retrograde, I suggest flipping the worry and looking at it from this other angle. Sure, these 'new perspectives' may arise only after uncomfortable circumstances have forced us to adapt. Apparently, we comfy-cozy humans need the periodic push.

See also: An Alternate Take on Mercury Retrograde (7.10.06)