“Peace at any price is war.”
I try to welcome peace into my life and relationships, using a mishmash of religion, philosophy, psychology and Astrology. But how I think I’m doing doesn’t always jibe with how others think I’m doing. A few weeks ago, in the delicate, deliberate language of a husband trying to avoid landmines, Lang hinted that I wasn’t succeeding. He pointed out that I had been very, very cranky lately. Exasperated himself, he asked me, “What do you need??!”
I honestly didn’t know what I needed. But I knew he was right. I was cranky. I had been snapping at him and Lyndon for a couple of weeks. I knew I was feeling stuck and wanted more freedom, but I didn’t know exactly what that meant in terms of actions to take. I just felt a compelling need to stand more on my own.
Suddenly it hit me: It was time to stop seeing my therapist.
I started therapy almost twelve years ago, when Lang and I were engaged. My therapist saw me through so many life changes: Marriage and parenthood; home and career moves. He welcomed every transformation with patience, empathy and enthusiasm. From Executive Assistant to Landlord? Sure! Fashion student to Astrologer? Why not?! Every Tuesday Ed was the embodiment of gentleness and good humor, acceptance and faith. He offered me a different narrative from the critical voice in my own head. Nothing I said was too shameful for him to look me in the eye; nothing I shared turned him away. Going to Ed every week was as soothing as watching Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Something about his consistency and authority helped me feel that I was OK.
And yet, as much as Ed had helped me, I knew it was time to stop seeing him. The Astrology class I took the following week helped me figure out why.
The class was on the Lifegivers or fire family: Aries, Leo and Sagittarius; Houses 1, 5 and 9; and Mars, the sun and Jupiter. Over a span of four days in sunny California, I realized why I had been so cranky: I had been starving my Mars.
Sure I fed it in textbook ways – trips to the gym or Pilates, a healthy time of it between the sheets. Those can be important pathways for embodying the Mars archetype. They help. But I wasn’t facing the deeper Mars warrior energy. I wasn’t doing what really scared me.
It’s easier for me to channel warrior energy into the protection of my kid or family instead. That love is both primal and socially acceptable. So I can advocate for my son in his school, no problem. I can make sure we don’t get skipped in line at the store. And I do think those little battles are important. But they’re not as deeply rewarding as becoming a warrior for myself. How do I make sure I don’t get lost in the shuffle of laundry, groceries and soccer practice? How do I learn to love myself at that primal level so that I understand I’m entitled to all the protection I would give to my child?
As Steven Forrest teachers, where Mars lies in our natal chart, we “need to develop courage and right assertiveness.” We can either be hunter or prey. So there’s a vulnerability underlying the Mars function. Deep down, where we have Mars in our charts, we’re actually terrified. We’re learning to be braver, even if on the outside it looks like we’re already there. In my case that happens to be in the sign of Sagittarius and in the 8th House of sex, death, transformation and shared resources. I’m constantly being tested in these areas. And for years, Ed’s helped me. But I needed to become my own soothing presence and authority now. Mars was calling for yet another transformation.
While it might look adventurous and carefree from the outside, it’s actually really hard for me to fly across the country to take an Astrology class, leaving my family home without me. These trips aren’t rational. They’re expensive, and while I’m away other people have to fill in for me at home. But the classes help me stretch, understand myself, and hopefully help others. Still, as a Stay-at-Home Mom my need for these trips scares me, because deep down I’ve been judging it as selfish.
I can be vulnerable to societal pressure on women to embody Venus and the moon rather than Mars and the sun. But that’s not balanced. I have a sun and Mars, too. With Aries rising, Mars is the ruler of my chart, so the right use of force and courage is crucial to my growth. And yet, I’ve misfired in the past. I’ve been clumsy with Mars force, coming on way too strongly in my own defense so that I’ve become the aggressor instead, or when that hasn’t worked, turning it toward myself into depression. Those past Mars failures make me timid, knowing that I’ve damaged others through being too direct, selfish and aggressive. I’ve really made some messes.
Mars energy kills. There’s no denying that. And I think that if we’re sensitive people, and we’ve asserted that Mars function, and noticed the damage it did, it can make us deeply remorseful and more than a little ashamed. Loving people don’t want to annihilate others. So maybe we vow to be nicer and more understanding, especially if we have children or other vulnerable beings in our care. But Mars energy also blazes new paths. And if we ignore that Mars call to be braver, the effect is that we die a little bit ourselves. By continuing to ask Ed to accept me rather than learning to accept myself, that’s pretty much what I was doing.
Luckily, as planets transit through different signs, we get new chances to integrate each lesson. In the sign of Gemini through June 24th, Mars is giving us a chance to become braver in Gemini areas -- curiosity and communication. The Gemini aim, as Steven Forrest writes in The Night Speaks, is “a radically open mind.” Gemini asks us to see more, hear more, experience more. Mars in Gemini has challenged me to integrate the love and acceptance I’ve heard from Ed all these years into my own voice. It’s asking me to become my own advocate.
Transiting through my natal 3rd house, Mars in Gemini is also asking me to examine the ways my own mindset is making me smaller. Whose image of a loving mother and wife was keeping me feeling guilty and selfish? Certainly not Langston’s. He’s been nothing but generous and open-minded with me. Some 1950s rulebook in my own head has been calling the shots. Other Moms fit a more traditional bill, and they’ll know this because they’re fine with a more traditional routine. I happen to need the occasional shock to the system, like a jaunt to a faraway place or another class. This transit is challenging me to use the Gemini gifts of alertness to see a possibility that my own growth could be something other than selfish, and to talk about that with others.
So I had a hard conversation with Ed and I ended therapy. But I also want to have a hard conversation with you. I want to tell anyone who has also found himself or herself cranky that there may be a better way, and it involves honestly confronting the things that scare us, even if it won’t look pretty or if it looks downright selfish, because we need it for our own preservation. And so in the spirit of Mars the Pioneer, I’ll start.
I’m afraid of getting too close. I’m afraid of being rejected. I’m afraid of being invisible. I’m afraid of shining too brightly. I’m afraid of losing control. I’m afraid of becoming stuck.
Your birthchart can point to the areas where you’re learning courage, but even without Astrology, I think if we sit for a moment in vulnerability, we understand it for ourselves. We know what scares us. And confronting it is going to be hard. But the gift of Mars is that in rising to the challenge, you can decide whether you will be hunter or prey. The true warrior path means claiming our right not to be overtaken, even by ourselves.
Last week an acquaintance who learned I’m an Astrologer excitedly told me her birth information and asked me to do a Couples Reading for her and her fiancé. I sensed that she might think this would be free, so I told her I would be happy to, but I wanted to let her know the cost for my services first. When I told her the price, she was shocked and no longer interested. It was really, really hard to disappoint her. But I needed to challenge my long-held assumption that helping others on their terms is more important than my own abundance and success. I had to challenge myself not to fall into the trap of martyrdom. And walking away, I actually felt happy. If the woman wants a professional reading she can contact me, and I’ll gladly oblige. But facing that Mars in Gemini challenge helped me grow. I realized how much bravery there is in not giving someone the karma or burden of having taken advantage of me. I realized that boundary setting can be an act of compassion toward self and others as well.
I want to end with lyrics we sang during today’s mass: “All that we have and all that we offer comes from a heart both frightened and free.” We’re stronger and braver than we think, and even while we're frightened, we're always free.
Wishing you courage and right action in your thoughts and words over these next few weeks.
“Peace at any price is war.”