On Turning 40

For my birthday, my husband and son made me Amy: The Game. It’s a mock board game, with memories filling the spaces around the board and kind or funny words about me filling the playing cards. Some of my favorites are “You are light in the darkness” (written by my dear and tender son, Lyndon) and “You always know where to put the furniture” (by my dear and wisecracking husband, Lang). Truly, it floored me.

This was a big one: 40. The two years leading up to it were humility- and faith-building, which I didn’t find so easy or comfortable. But one reading in particular helped me, and today I want to share it:

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14)

I think I’ve always understood from this reading that life can be hard. But in the last two years I’ve taken it a little less about discipline and a little more about compassion and discernment: At this particular moment, am I on the road or at the gate? How about the people I love? And what about the people I find hard to tolerate each day?

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Venus Retrograde: Recreating Art, Finding Peace

Having to face interviews after almost nine years of being a Stay-at-Home Mom is humbling and utterly demoralizing. Part of me feels compassion for these employers: At this point I'm overeducated but also unproven. My last full-time job was in 2000-freaking-7. If I were the Hiring Manager I'd probably go with the person who worked in say, 2011 even. And so I've sunken into a funk of despair and self-doubt. Venus brings us peace, and since she's been retrograde it's been very hard to feel soothed or settled. I've been an emotional wreck. What exactly have I been doing for the last 8+ years?!!

Thankfully, even in the darkest moments, Astrology, like any spiritual practice, can offer a remedy. Any planet's retrograde period is the ideal period for the re-do: Revisiting that planet's themes and archetypes. And since Venus also rules art, I decided to recreate a series of photographs I took almost seven years ago: Lyndon's first trip to the Barbershop.
 

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On Mars in Gemini, or Why am I so Cranky???

“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.
 

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On Saturn in Sagittarius: Fragment of a Queen's Face

Saturn is where we can be too prone to caution, hesitancy, fear. Saturn asks us to mature and develop integrity, to make a great work. Transiting Saturn, moving through my 8th House and approaching my natal Mars, is asking me to confront my fears and hang in there in 8th House areas: Sex and intimacy, shared resources, death and rebirth. To grow up. Not in a stoic, controlling way, but in a patient, persevering way. Why? How can walking through a hard and scary transit like this help me? Well, it helps to ask the lessons I still have to learn about Saturn, the 8th House, and the current sign of Saturn, Sagittarius. I can pretty much bet I haven’t aced all three.

Sagittarius energy in our charts challenges us to be confident, adaptable, honest, cheerful. Ruled by Jupiter, the King of the Gods, it asks us to expand and see the big picture.

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The 6th House: Thy Will Be Done

The 6th House: Thy Will Be Done. Published in December 2015/January 2016 issue of The Mountain Astrologer Magazine.

Tomorrow will mark my last day of prayer in an eight-week online Ignatian Retreat. I started the retreat on a whim, as I do most things, and as part of a quest, the hallmark of my 9th house Sagittarian sun. Looking back, I think I was mostly motivated by an awkward journey through 6th house graces. My progressed moon is in the 6th house right now, and this year’s solar return has my sun, Mercury and Venus in the 6th house as well. The 6th house is foreign territory to me. I have no natal planets either there or in the sign associated with the 6th house, Virgo. I’m a fiery girl. The traditional house of skill, service and humility just doesn’t suit my impulsive, passionate nature. And yet, the time has come for me to enter the 6th house and stay a while. Huh. How to navigate? And why? I needed answers.

Steven Forrest teaches that the 6th house is the house of the guru and the disciple.

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The 7th House: No Trespassing

I took this picture during a neighborhood stroll a few months ago. It struck me as a funny contradiction: NO TRESPASSING – or NO TRASPASAR, just to be clear -- and yet the invitation of an open door. Immediately I wanted to write something mocking or pithy about it on Facebook to my friends and relatives. May I come in or not?? From the outside there’s nothing even remotely alluring about the building: Dangling electrical wires, concrete surroundings and dead, scattered leaves. OK, Buddy, I’ll stay out. Gladly!

But as I sat with the image, I realized I didn’t want to take it lightly. It struck me as a metaphor for our own private property and all that is frightening, confusing and yet exhilarating about the 7th House of marriage and intimate relationships. We all have places in us that are stark concrete and dead, scattered leaves. We all have parts that are not remotely alluring, especially to ourselves. Yet we are made in the divine image -- precious and sacred. We have unimaginable goodness and beauty inside us, waiting to be shared. So do we leave the gate open or keep it closed? And do we dare take that step onto the other’s property? What about those dangling electrical wires?!

I experience this confusion myself EVERY DAY. If we have planets in our 7th House or if we happen to be experiencing 7th House transits or progressions, we’re called to learn lessons in love and trust. It could be within the context of a marriage, but it doesn’t have to be. Seventh House people are also our partners or best friends. The hallmarks of the 7th house relationship are intimacy, special rapport and commitment. We’re here to be seen nakedly and changed by another – our spiritual equal. If you’re like me with Uranus in the 7th, one possibility is that you’re here to be seen nakedly and changed by many spiritual equals. Ay ay ay and Oy Vey. Isn’t there an easier way???

Well, no: There isn’t. But that’s actually good news. As Steven Forrest says of 7th House interactions, “If you’re my equal, then half of what you say must be true.” So it follows that half of what I think or believe must be false or distorted. The bottom line? There is spiritual work for me to do with a partner if I want to reach my full potential. These 7th House soulmates are offering us a lifeline.

Yet, how do we let the other in when there’s a chance we could be hurt? We’re already so wounded. Our hearts are such valuable and private property, and if this 7th House process has gone badly for us in the past, there’s a good chance we’ve erected those brick walls and iron gates. Letting another in is a huge leap of faith, and sometimes we just don’t feel up to it. To change is hard and to trust is terrifying!

Luckily, we don’t have to do this work alone. As Stevie Wonder puts it, "I reach out for the part of me that lives in you that only our two hearts can find." If we have lessons to learn in this area, we find ourselves drawn to others or we find ourselves drawing others to us. How wonderful that is, since the partner’s message is crucial to our own healing. There are qualities, truths and behaviors in our equal we need to see, accept, and incorporate if we are to be more fully alive. Instead of projecting whichever planet we have in our 7th House onto others – either positively or negatively – we’re called embody that planet's highest expression ourselves. If we truly want to learn our 7th House lessons and embrace our highest potential, we need to be both open ourselves and willing to approach another. We do have to tread carefully, though: No trespassing. We have to honor ourselves and our partner with appropriate boundaries and right action even as we allow love, trust and vulnerability to heal and empower us.

Of course, it’s a challenge to balance all of that gracefully: No wonder the 7th House is associated with the sign Libra, the Scales. But there are great rewards when we try. Ruled by Venus, the goddess of love, the 7th House ultimately brings equilibrium. As we appreciate and learn to identify with our soulmates, we also see the gifts we ourselves are. We relax and find happiness and peace.

Even knowing what I know about this house and the lessons I’m here to learn from it, I still need to be brave and intentional or I end up worried and stressed instead. The 7th House is for me a daily, even hourly practice. It might be for you, too. I’ll illustrate the lessons I happen to be learning with the story of a recent day in my 7th House.

Last Saturday Langston noticed that my first business cards as an Astrologer had arrived. The cards had actually arrived on Friday, but since I still felt like a professional Imposter, I avoided looking at them for a whole day. Instead I left them untouched in their cardboard box on the entryway table, among keys, supermarket flyers and unopened mail. I didn’t think I’d be ready to face them for at least another week, so when I saw Langston heading toward the box on Saturday to sort through the mail, I felt myself cringe. I had been unwillingly thrust into a silent game of Hot/Cold. “Hot, hotter, boiling….” I lost. Langston saw the box. He excitedly brought it to me. "Let's see ‘em!" he said. I didn’t feel ready. I made some excuse about the packing tape being too strong to open with my fingers. Lang brought me a scissor. Now I had to face the cards, ready or not. I took a deep breath, cut the tape, opened the package, and took out a card. I silently hoped it would be perfect. I looked…. It wasn’t. Even though I had used the print company’s template, my email address was so small it was unreadable. Immediately I was filled with shame and despair: Here was more proof that I was a sham. Here was more proof that people could never reach me and I would never have success. My first instinct is usually to become utterly distraught when things don’t go the way I’d hoped they would. I feel powerless and ill-equipped. I imagine that I just need to give up. That’s the place I habitually go: I’m in this alone, and I’m doomed. Talk about concrete and dead leaves! What a desolate place!

Thankfully, though I felt alone, there was no denying that I wasn't actually alone. Langston was right there, still looking so optimistic. Horrified and humiliated, I handed him the card. I thought he would judge me as harshly as I was judging myself. In the past I have had that experience from 7th House partners who haven’t done their spiritual work. (Have I mentioned the 7th House is also traditionally known as the House of Open Enemies?) I’ve had dances with people who embodied the negative faces of my 7th House planets, Uranus and Pluto. I’ve come face-to-face with the planets traditionally known as the God of Earthquakes and the God of Hell. And so even though I crave intimacy, it’s so very hard to open that gate to others again. Those experiences have scarred and scared me so deeply. Sometimes I’d rather live in a land of loneliness and status quo than invite in the higher Uranian and Plutonian possibilities of individuation, awareness, transformation and healing. I just don’t want to be pummeled again.

If we have planets in our 7th House, we have to make sure we don’t succumb to abuse, manipulation, exploitation or enmeshment. We have to be aware enough not to let someone who is less spiritually evolved derail us from our own path, growth and joy. (Easier said than done, I know!) At the same time, we have to be honest enough to face the uglier sides we ourselves are capable of bringing to a relationship. And as hard as it is, we have to bravely, staunchly keep the gate open for those 7th House partners who have proven themselves to be our equals -- who have shown us their love and commitment.

Discriminating between the two is a tricky test which I’ve flunked so many times before. But God or the universe keeps giving us opportunities to learn and grow, and these ten years of marriage have shown me that Langston falls into the latter category for me. And so even though my instinct was to quickly toss or hide my crappy business cards, I knew I had to show them to Lang. I had to stand revealed before him. Ugh.

Here are my crappy business cards. Here are my dead leaves and tangled electrical wires.

Although I was terrified, in that small, difficult gesture, I was inviting a 7th House miracle. To my amazement, not only did the world keep on turning, but now I had a chance for a help and a higher possibility. Langston agreed that the typeface was too small, but he didn’t deem that a personal failing – just a thing to be changed. That great Uranian logic and insight without emotion or judgment: I needed it from a partner when I couldn’t access it myself. Looking at my email address handle, amyalexandrojones, I also realized that regardless of font size, the handle itself was just too damn long and easy to misspell! So Lang and I brainstormed: Spirithelp? Spirithelping? Spiritguide? Spiritteaching? Some of the names were unavailable, and some seemed a bit too shamanic for my purposes. We finally came up with spiritcomfort. I liked it and it was actually available! Done. And thus with the catalyst of crappy business cards and the help of my 7th House partner, a new company name was born. The process of showing my vulnerability to a soulmate allowed me to delve more deeply than I had alone: The positive face of Pluto. Within the love and trust of that 7th house framework, I felt safe enough to explore what I really wanted to communicate in my practice: Not my own name so much as an offering of spirit comfort to others.

So I nailed that 7th House test, right? Time to move onto other planets and other houses for the day? Not so fast. Two hours later, while I was typing this entry, the computer crashed. I screamed. Here we go again. Cue feelings of failure and despondence. Langston came running down from his attic sanctuary to find me pacing around the desk. “What happened?” he asked. “The stupid *%#&ing computer just crashed!” I responded angrily. I rebooted the computer while he watched, and to my distress, only an older version of the document was available. I had lost the last half hour of my writing. I screamed again. Langston asked if he could help. I couldn’t even look at him. I was just so disappointed and upset. “No,” I said. “I’ll just do it myself.” I sat back down at the desk -- my eyes set, my mouth a determined straight line. I was going to trudge through this and try to remember every damn word I had written. And I was going to do it alone. Langston said “OK” and went back upstairs. He’s seen this face of me before: Distant, hidden, obsessive, crazy. I became the poster child for negative Uranus and Pluto in that moment. Recovering what I had to say seemed so pressing that I forgot to be my husband’s friend. I forgot that he was precious and vulnerable, too. I forgot that we were in this together.

So I did the “adult” thing and rejected the help. I would be fine. Except I wasn’t. My face flushed and my heart pounded. A former boss of mine used to say, “When you panic, you can’t think straight.” Well I was panicking, and I couldn’t think straight. Words swam in my head, but nothing made sense. And as hard as I tried, I just couldn’t recreate what I had lost. Suddenly I realized that the 7th House topic itself was blaring in my head. “Partnership, Amy! Trust, Amy! Langston, Amy!” I finally gave up. Or more accurately, I gave in.

It was time to abandon the fantasy that I was self-sufficient in this area. I needed a partner. I finally called up to Lang and asked if he could help. He came running down and said, “Sure.” I left the office to take a shower, and while I was away from my work I realized some other points I wanted to make. Even if Lang couldn’t recover the document, this 7th house process was already working: Sanity and understanding were coming to me. I was getting over those feelings of despair. With a little Uranian distance I could see that this wasn’t the end of the world. And I also realized that the first draft was missing some of the Plutonian depth I wanted to share with readers. I needed to be more self-revealing.

By the time I came out of the shower, Langston had recovered my work. “It wasn’t f&8$ing easy,” he said wryly, but with a smile. I’m sure it wasn’t. But he’s a fantastic problem-solver and he loves me, so when I remember those things and ask for his help, we are both healed and strengthened. I cheered. I kissed and thanked him. And then I decided not to write anymore that day. I realized that I could return to the work later, and not forget what I had to say. Trusting in Langston helped me trust in myself and trust in God. The words would come. I had gotten a gift of peace. I watched Lang go back upstairs, now with a spring in his step. In the beauty of 7th House equality, he had gotten a gift, too.

That was Saturday. I don't know what today's 7th House story will be, but I know there will be one. I’ll try to stay awake enough to see it and responsive enough to let it move me. My 7th House partners are worth the effort and so am I.

If you are also called to do 7th House work today, I invite you to block that resigned, despondent “I’ll just do it myself” instinct. There’s a partner who can help you realize your inner beauty and worth, and you can do the same for him or her. Sometimes that partner is a person; often, I believe, that partner is God or a Higher Power. Either way, you don’t have to despair. There is someone waiting and wanting to take that step toward you. Maintain the preciousness of the Private Property that is you, but honor the other who can help you reach a greater level of purpose, peace and joy.

Open the gate.