Progress does not progress at an orderly beat, as if some enchanted metronome metes out its doses in perfectly even increments like an atomic clock, tick tock, tick tock.
Progress traipses along as we wander in a general direction, then avidly speeds up once a clearer objective has been established only to slow to a virtual standstill when least expected or desired, due to an encounter with some formidable block that can't be dodged, circumvented or wishfully ignored.
Bam! It won't seem to budge, as we throw ourselves against it. One slam, then another. Ouch! It's sturdier than we'd thought. After all the efforts which led us here, is this the end of the road? Is this our cosmic sign? A 'do not enter'? A 'wrong way, turn back'? A decided 'dead end'?
Maybe. Or maybe not. Who's to say? We have not been here before, so it's hard to know what's up ahead especially when it seems we're frozen in our tracks, right where we are, by that big scary wall that hurts us (or at least threatens to hurt us, which perhaps freaks us out even more than if the pain was actively being inflicted) every time we try to move past it. Can't even see beyond it, let alone reassure ourselves that what we'd find on the other side will be worth the toil, should we rally our tenacity and actually make it over there.
What, then, to do? Keep striving to advance, or humbly retreat?
A solar eclipse conjunct both taskmaster Saturn and a retrograde Mercuryin, of all signs, Scorpioframes a classic setting for just such a scenario. This approaching Saturn-y solar eclipse (which I also wrote about here), exact early next Sunday (Nov 3), is one I've personally been watching out for since last year, when I first noticed how resonantly it hits my birthchart: exactly-to-the-degree opposed my Mars and just-as-exactly square my natal Mercury, forming a perfect T-square with my tightest natal aspect (i.e., a Mercury-Mars square). This is just the sort of happening likeliest to catch a self-concerned astrologer's eye and to leave him knowing something archetypically related will probably manifest, though less able to identify its specifics (since his intuition about such things works far more dependably when it's deployed toward any life-circumstances other than his own).
As I shared with you in my last personal reflection a couple months ago, 2013 surely won't go down in my history as an especially easy year... though 'not easy' does not mean 'bad'. Without a doubt, one of the most noteworthy elements of my year has been the experience of signing on for intense personal work: Since April, I've been seeing both a physical trainer and a psychotherapist, each not just once but twice a week. (Yeah, I'm that much of a hardcore glutton for tortureand, apparently, that desperately fucked-up.) I opted to dive so deeply into this work because I wanted to see results more quickly, to alleviate the uneasiness I was feeling in both my body and my psyche as soon as I could.
In fact, I have seen some pretty remarkable results in both arenas though, some days, I can barely manage to acknowledge that any changes at all have occurred, as the voices in my head, pissed off I've dared to so brazenly diverge from the already-written-years-ago story about who I am, feed me inaccurate representations of some insecure out-of-shape self that looks very dissimilar from who I've become.
And then I hit the wall.
On the physical-training front, I began to suffer from a few chronic warning-sign symptoms: some tendonitis in one elbow, a bit more in the other wrist, a spattering of throbs wandering up and down different regions of my leg. As my trainer explained, my body was likely revealing zones that have been historically underdeveloped or weak, and which, now that I've so rapidly built up muscle and core-strength, demand that we go back and put more foundational work into reinforcing them. She has been able to offer me lots of alternative exercises that don't aggravate my ouches so we can continue on with my workouts, as well as plenty of moral support. But I have been acutely frustrated with this need to shift gears, to purposely slow myself down in order to ward off serious injury.
After resting my wrist for a few weeks, it seemed to have returned to tiptop shape. So I tried to return to the barbell-lifting I'd been doing and lo and behold, I fucking tweaked it again, worse than before. You astrology-lovers probably won't be surprised that the day of this wrist-tweaking was the exact opposition of Saturn (from the very same degree as this upcoming eclipse) to my natal Mars, a warning not to push beyond my physical limits without risking lasting consequences. Though my trainer and I had already discussed the reality that these things often happen during the course of a long-term fitness plan, my panicky mind tried convincing me this wrist-tweak obviously signified I'd reached the peak of my potential and it would now be only downhill from here. Like every other time I've ever hurt myself, I fell victim to a paranoid fear that I'd never heal, and thus never be able to continue the progress I'd made. My body dysphoria is bad enough on its own, without a triggering event to fan its flames; now, after tweaking my wrist, I was also starting to belief my hard-won muscles were already starting to disappear. Maybe my adventure with physical training was merely a brief detour from my destiny as an obese slothlike creature.
Meanwhile, at therapy, after having victoriously engaged with my groundless undermining jealousy and the passing lack-of-confidence which underscored it, I stumbled upon an extra-sensitive issue in my psychological makeup and, all of a sudden, I no longer wanted to go any further. The terror of untangling this particular knot grew so great, it felt like it stemmed from a very young and irrational part of myself. I dug in my heels and refused to budge. I began to behave like a defiant adolescent in my sessions, more prone to whining and grumbling than my therapy-client guise typically allows. (I prefer being the client who valiantly thrusts himself into the messy heart-of-the-matter, wowing the therapist with my dazzling intellect and self-awareness.) My arms weren't just proverbially crossed across my chest, but literally. Do not enter. Wrong way, turn back.
Having been 'halted' here (or so I've erroneously been describing this spot in my journey) for a few weeks now, I've faced a struggle to not criticize myself for this lack of apparent progress. My therapist, on the other hand, still tells me he thinks I'm doing great work that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and that staying right here, in this incredibly disconcerting faceoff with my fear and my resistance and my ambivalence about going forward further and, perhaps most promising, my emotional honesty about all of this (even when it leaves me feeling bratty, indulgent, ungrateful and/or ashamed), is very much a symbol of progress. It just doesn't look as majestic or impressive to my high-achiever mentality as the accelerated epiphanies I earlier amassed (or, for that matter, as those biceps and shoulders and lats I'd just started to flaunt by wearing tank-tops in public for the first time in my life).
My therapist also reminded me that it's my choice how to engage with this stubbornly sensitive issue, not his. I need not proceed toward what terrifies me, if I can find another method of coming to peace with what's now been stirred up (and as a result, alas, cannot be unstirred). I choose to keep going to therapy for now, admittedly not knowing where I'll be headed from here only that it feels like the right thing to do and, despite its choked pace and the discomfort which stretches on, I am making progress. I also choose to keep up the physical training, even though I can't presently do the showy power-lifts and must instead restrict my exercising to only certain movements and angles that won't aggravate my still-trying-to-catch-up body parts.
At essentially the same time, I hit walls in the two most powerful activities I've been engrossed in over these past several months. In both cases, I was ready to call it quits to run home like a crybaby as soon as the work got too hard, and to succumb to the self-pitying that can be unfortunately lethal to the motivational thinking required to better one's lot in life. Instead, I decided to admit the challenging aspects were getting to me. I drew upon the expertise of those with more experience in such matters. And I accepted that 'progress' would now necessitate a regrouping, a change in strategy, and, most crucially, a dogged rededication to doing whatever it will take to demonstrate my serious commitment to these goals.
The combined energy around this Nov 3 solar eclipse asks the same of everyone: How badly do you want this? How serious are you? What else are you willing to try? When that pesky wall shows up, it's certainly cause for a pause in the process to investigate what it's made of and what it might take to push past it, and to look deeply into ourselves to decide whether the pain really is worth the gain. There's no shame in choosing not to proceed, due to the recognition we're causing ourselves way too much strain for a purpose that's really not that important to us. But if we genuinely do want this thing so fucking badly we can't imagine surrendering our desire to see it all the way through, we'll have to prove our devotion and pluck by continuing onward, wall and all.