Peering into the Shadow

“When it applies to the human emotional experience, there is no such thing as drama… You always act in perfect accordance with the reality that you are perceiving.”
~Teal Swan, spiritual leader in the Authenticity Movement

Delving deep into your dark side and swimming around is never a fun or easy task. It isn’t pretty and it can, if viewed with all the negativity we’ve associated with that side of ourselves, destroy our sense of identity, the fragile ego that we work so hard to build. And just like all signs have a light side and a shadow side, the projection of the Self into the world via the Ascendant has a shadow side in what we project onto Others via the Descendant.

In my case, my Ascendant/Descendant axis is on the Leo/Aquarius axis. It’s an interesting axis as Aquarius is considered one of the most confusing and complex signs and Leo, really, isn’t. Not that people with a lot of Leo in their charts can’t be complex people, just that Leo, the Sign, is seen as pretty straight forward – mostly because Leo is conscious of controlling what other people see about them. Being straight forward is actually something that I tend to pride myself on – I am, for the most part and particularly in my expression of Self, very straight forward, so much so that those who know me well can tell when I’m hiding something simply by whether I’m skirting details or specific statements. Additionally, in my case, Leo and Aquarius occupy the cusps of 2 Houses each (at least according to the most general settings on chart generators), so 1/3rd of my total Houses are devoted to this polarity. With that in mind, I thought I better spend some time looking into the general commonalities and contrasts that exist between these signs.

To start, both Signs are Masculine in expression (projecting outward) and Fixed in Modality. In brief, the Cardinal Signs (Aries, Cancer, Libra, and Capricorn) initiate action, which is why they rule the start of new seasons, and are known for drive and focus, the Fixed Signs (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius) build and fortify, and the Mutable Signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces) adapt and blend.

Some astrologers say that the Fixed Signs are known for being very dependable, but I think that’s really only true of Taurus and Scorpio – Taurus in the literal sense of being there in a very material and physical way and Scorpio in the more metaphoric sense being there emotionally and through your really dark times. One astrologer I have been watching lately, Canary Quill Astrology, says they are Fixed in their element, which I think makes more sense – they manifest things in the area their element is concerned with: Taurus is Earth (the practical and material; the body), Scorpio is Water (the emotions and the unconscious), Leo is Fire (life, Soul, and drive), and Aquarius is Air (the intellect and invention). In that way, you can definitely count on Leo to build up and put energy toward those things that make them feel alive, that are fun, and/or express the way they want you to see them, their creative pursuits. You can count on Aquarius to evaluate everything in front of them and to give you their unique and (at least to them) objective assessment, which is likely to account for things you probably missed. Both are dependable in the sense that they will cheer you on in your own self expression, whatever that may look like as long as (and this is very important) you aren’t telling them they need to be just like you.

Another thing about Fixed Signs is they know they are right. Not think. Know. It manifests in different ways and different areas for each Sign, but the bottom line is you aren’t going to change their minds. Only they will change their minds, if and when they feel like it. Such a decision takes a lot of reflection.

So I’ve been doing a lot of reflection. One thing that has rattled around in my head before but I have never really put succinctly is that, with a Leo Ascendant, I’m very good at knowing how to perform an emotion in a way that it can be both believable and palatable (watch me do mime sometime – my face is EXPRESSIVE). This doesn’t mean that I don’t feel things and feel them deeply. It just means that my feelings and thoughts automatically get filtered through acceptability and consequence lenses before they are expressed, if they are expressed at all (Libra on my 4th House – a lack of harmony can feel like an unacceptable consequence).

In some ways, this ability has been very helpful. I don’t panic in emergency situations. It allows me to remain calm in arguments or when others are experiencing high levels of stress. It very often keeps me from saying things I would regret later. It allows me to be eloquent and logical a lot of the time.

crowley houseplantsIt also allows me to distance myself from my feelings so much so that sometimes I know I am feeling something…. but putting my finger on it is difficult. Now, part of that is probably from having Virgo on my 3rd House cusp – words have very specific meanings for me and nothing less than the precise word is acceptable. I have a big vocabulary because I need it to function. This quality led me to severely over analyze a self care questionnaire I was recently given by my therapist (I literally put 1.5 as one of my answers and spent 20 minutes with a friend going over the definition of “being tough on myself” – he came to the conclusion that my approach to my flaws and virtues is the same approach Crowley uses for gardening in Good Omens – terrify them into growing  into luxuriantly healthy plants).

Additionally, in a roundabout way this ability has led me to negatively judge people who are capable of the same intellectual approach to emotion, but who will not use it to temper their words (an Aquarian trait). In reality, my frustration with people who do that is also a frustration with myself because I rarely temper the words I keep to myself, especially those I direct at myself. The few times I have felt comfortable sharing those words with another, the responses have invariably been, “Oh, ouch. Harsh… but accurate.”

This Self Love-Self Care thing is something I’ve tried to tackle a couple different times in a couple different ways. It’ll work for a little while, then I’ll get stressed about something like money or my son’s behavior or love life stuff, and all that care will go out the window with either overtime, if the stress is financial, or binge watching something, if the stress is people related. And sometimes both.

So that’s a work in progress.

In an effort to make this time a little different, I have subscribed to something called the Total Goddess Workout. I’m not sure about it yet, but it does focus on a combo of meditation, active self love, exercises for better sleep, yoga, and removing as much processed and inflammatory foods from your diet as possible. I figured it was $10 to get the courses and at least some of the principles mentioned are things I’ve already been trying to incorporate into my life.

Probably the biggest factor that has prompted me to buy this is fact that she makes Self Love the primary focus – she gives you a guide as to what she feels are the most important parts to incorporate and states that judging yourself for not committing to the entire program is pointless and counterproductive. Instead, take the baby steps, honor your body where it is today, and that any Self Care and Love is better than none and far better than beating yourself up about not doing everything the “best.” We’ll see how this goes.


Bumps, Bruises, and Breakthroughs

A seriously rough week… I even have a footnote for a side rant.

Welcome to the first bump in the road on my spiritual journey.

This is remarkably similar to the tank tread/sand bag speed bump I mention.

I had intended this post to be on my relationship with my body. I was working on body positive concepts and had an experience last night that is completely relevant. I’ll use them when I do that post. But something happened early on in the week with two of my close relationships that just ripped the carpet out from under me, required some deep soul searching, and left me staring into a mirror I really didn’t like. Less like a bump in the road and more like the time I jumped a HEMTT off a “speed bump” (concrete poured over tank treads and sand bags) and caught some air time between an up-armored Humvee and a pile of rusted metal. Nobody died, but, man, we were all shook up.

I’m not going to go into the incident right now for two reasons: 1) it’s a little too fresh at the moment and I am still processing some of it; and 2) astrologically, it involves 4th and 5th House stuff, particularly where my Pluto and Saturn are hanging out. Silver lining – their placement makes more sense to me now, even if it is troubling. Instead I’m going to summarize what I saw in the mirror and how I shifted gears this week into a more independent frame of mind.

I have serious trust and control issues. In all fairness to myself, it makes sense. I was molested at a young age by a grandfather figure and, for a long time, blamed myself not only for my own experience with that, but also for the fact that it happened to my sister, who I should have been protecting. I felt I should have noticed all the little signs and listened to my gut. I have been carrying that around for a long time, forgiving myself and letting go in small bits and pieces, which has only been complicated by further assaults and an emotionally, sexually, and borderline physically abusive relationship. The trust issues I’ve known about and acknowledged for years.

The control issues came as a punch in the face. Knowing what it has been like to be in situations where I wasn’t in control of what happened to me and knowing that I can read situations and people in a way that makes it easy for me to be manipulative, should I ever choose to be, I shy away from exerting control over other people. And I thought I was doing a good job on that front.

My reaction to the incident this week was partially understandable – there were multiple reasons not to trust the situation based on how he has behaved in similar situations in the past. But he has made progress and, when I took a moment to step back and ask myself what would have made me comfortable, I realized that I wanted full control over the situation, to insert myself into a relationship that isn’t mine in order to be sure that I could know what it was, that everyone else is being honest about all the things. Logically, I know that’s neither fair nor practical, but it has raised some serious questions for me on how to proceed. The amount of hurt and anger I felt, the absolute sense that I was right and anyone who disagreed with me didn’t have all the facts, the ache of betrayal and abandonment, and the way that I couldn’t even follow my own directives to let him initiate working it all out were all way off from the person I want to be. There are definitely things we need to work on together, but, in all fairness to him, trust is an uphill battle with me in an arena that’s not his strong suit.

I also realized this control issue goes much deeper. I don’t like getting drunk*, I’ve never experimented with anything beyond marijuana (which I don’t like – that loose, floaty, spin-y feeling? HATE it!), and I don’t even want to take certain medications, because they all constitute for me a danger of losing control. I absolutely hated when I shattered my ankle, because I needed help and had to rely on other people. I want to experiment with BDSM, but I don’t trust anyone enough to let them top me and I don’t trust myself enough to top others. I can’t guarantee that I could step out of that space or that I would even want to.

I don’t follow my dreams, because I can’t guarantee needed outcomes for my security. Sure, I tell myself it’s because I have a little boy, and while I could live on Ramen and out of a backpack if I had to, I can’t do that to him, but, really, the closest I got to pursuing my dreams before I had him was to go to a monthly writing group. There was nothing holding me back and instead of striking out on my own and having an adventure, I chose to go home and hide. It’s been an ugly and sobering mirror to look into.

My biggest fear right now is I don’t know if this is something I can change. There’s some evidence that control issues as a form of security may be part of my make up, but, well, you never know until you try. (Yes, clichéd as hell, but I’m feeling it.)

The last couple days I’ve been working on self-compassion exercises. I’m not entirely sure why it never occurred to me to look into this before as I’ve known forever that I judge myself way more harshly than I judge others, but for whatever reason it didn’t occur to me and it was one of the first things to come up as a tip for getting past control issues. I did find some comfort in the fact that the symptoms of my control issues, as they put it, are pretty mild (probably because I actively mitigate them), but it doesn’t change the fact that not being in control still causes me a lot of anxiety and it is definitely affecting trust levels and intimacy in my relationships.

I have spent a couple minutes several times a day recalling instances where I have had extreme anxiety over a lack of control issue, allow myself to feel that, then remind myself that I am human, everyone experiences a lack of control and may react poorly to it, and that I will get through this. I am enough to get through this on my own. The “I am enough” is kind of key, because I also realized that I seek a lot of validation when I am experiencing these stressful situations. Do I have the right to be stressed? Is it fair of me to be upset? I mean, really, take a second and marvel at how ridiculous these questions are, and yet I ask them all the time. I always have the right to feel what I feel, but it’s what I do with those feelings, how I express them that really matters. The self-compassion exercises have been very helpful for me in allowing the space needed to identify healthy steps toward rebuilding trust rather than “sham” steps that don’t so much rebuild trust as control anything I perceive as an attempt to abuse “trust.” I need to cultivate an actual willingness to trust others rather than spend hours studying CIA and psychology videos on how to detect lies and in various formats (an actual thing I did this week, like I could inoculate myself against trusting the wrong people by turning every relationship into a careful and thoughtful interrogation. I promised to share the dark crap.)

ramvlionSo, the astrology bit. I really thought this was going to be the easiest House. I’m starting something new – I’m good at that! The House of Identity and Self – pssh, I got this on lock! I know me and how I express, I could write books on this. I don’t even have any planets in this House. I’ll focus on body stuff, spend time looking in the mirror, appreciating my fabulous self – look at me, I’m doing a thing. But that’s Leo; confident, warm, optimistic, a little self absorbed. I did not expect to have the heavy shit front loaded.

But this is Aries’s House, the Ram. You are going to get gut-checked and, if you’re not paying attention, it’s going to take out a couple ribs. Aries is a Cardinal Sign, the initiators, and Aries doesn’t just initiate, he initiates HARD. I asked for a spiritual journey and Aries is blunt, direct, and combative. So, in addition to the self-compassion, it’s time for me to rely on the lessons of Aries: bravery, self-reliance, independence, the confidence and ability to go out and do one’s own thing without regard for what others think of you. The Tarot representation for Aries isn’t The Hermit going inward living in the wilderness for a spiritual search for individuality, but The Fool, going outward, enjoying the ride, and not just running the risk of falling off the cliff, but probably doing so. I hate the idea of looking, or worse, being foolish, but it’s time to test it out.

For the rest of this House and probably beyond, I want to commit at least an hour a week to going out into the world alone to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Whether it’s going on a hike at a park, taking in a class or lecture, getting a glass of wine, going to goat yoga, or enjoying the theater, the point is to do it without waiting for someone else to go with me and without the purpose of meeting new people, but to do this strictly for me. To let go of the sense that I can control what anybody thinks about me and the sense that they should care what I think about them. To remember that, right now, I need me and, yes, of course, I have obligations, but not as many as I pretend and I’m ignoring what I need to feel whole and alive. And that’s me. Just me. Healthy and happy and ready to be seen.



*Soap Box Moment: You can still get assaulted even if you don’t drink. You know how that happens? Trusting the wrong person. There’s about 7 reasons I have extreme difficulty with trusting people in general, but guys in particular. Just wanted to clarify, I don’t dislike drunkenness for fear of sexual assault. I don’t like it, because I like having full control over my limbs and faculties. The only way it links to sexual assault for me is that, should someone attempt something, I want to be able to fully kick that ass. It’s the intense feeling of betrayal and stupidity, mingled with the fact that it’s hard to flip the switch from liking/trusting someone to wanting to murder them that has held me back from inflicting some serious damage in the past. Yes, I’m bitter. I’m working on it.

Ascending to the Light… Well, Ascending, Anyway.

A long winded Virgoan description of my Leonine beginning energy.

I was born in the dark. At nearly 4 o’clock in the morning in Southern Germany, the light wouldn’t reach me for another 2.75 hours and by then it would be in a different sign. It would still be another 47 minutes until astronomical twilight. And yet, I think my parents knew on some subconscious level, because, while my mother chose my middle name to mean “moon,” my father chose my first name to mean “Lion of God,” while the Sun blazed into life a few hours away in Leo, the Lion, shining optimistically over the Sign it rules.

The Ascendant, or Rising Sign, is the point of intersection between the Eastern Horizon and the ecliptic and it is one of most personal parts of any Birth Chart, because the exact degree marks the very beginning of your Chart. It signifies your approach to new situations, the mask you wear, and even parts of your personal appearance. A person born at the exact same time as me would have all the same planets in all the same positions, but their Ascendant would very likely be in a different Sign and, therefore, their similar energies would express themselves in different aspects of life and mix with different signs in those aspects. The Ascendant also places an added emphasis on whatever Planet rules the Rising Sign, called the Chart Ruler. Additionally, some astrologers believe that the closer the degree of the Ascendant is to the beginning of a Sign, the Rising Sign will present more strongly, and if the the Sun was actually overhead at the time, it may present more strongly.

So, the contradictions of me: The beginning of Leo is pretty near the beginning of my 1st House (5° in, which incidentally is the same degree my Sun is in Virgo) and actually covers two Houses, which means it also rules the House in which my Sun is found. But, being born at night, having my Sun in the Sign next door and in the House next door to the House of Self and also conjunct with my Mercury making my Sun a Super-Virgo….. well, I have some pretty strong aspects of both. And since Leo is ruling my 2nd House (house of Security, Values, Possessions), which is traditionally ruled by Taurus (which is an Earth Sign like Virgo, but a Fixed Sign like Leo), and Mercury adding it’s quick little energy to that mess, they both want to have their say.

This post, in particular, has it’s own argument:

Virgo: We should really get into all the ways the aspects reinforce different parts of your thinking and ego expression, because I mean, really, the fact that Leo traditionally rules the 5th House, which in this case is in Scorpio, another Fixed Sign and dual ruled by Mars and Pluto, which are in Sagittarius and Scorpio respectively, but that last one only just and how Mars is the traditional ruler of the 1st House, which is square your Sun and is in your 5th House, but Pluto is sextile your Sun but is in your 4th House, traditionally ruled by Cancer and the Moon, which brings in your 12th House and your 3rd House, which is traditionally ruled by Gemini, but

Natal Basket of Crazy Flowers
I want to say that’s an actual astrological thing, where all your Planets are at the bottom.

accidentally ruled by Virgo and that’s where your Venus is, which rules both Libra and Taurus…. I mean there’s so much to unpack here, so I’m not really sure where to start, especially because it’s all important to you and it’s amazing how many aspects are made just to your Sun (like, really, everything except the Ascendant and Venus) and with your Mercury right there, too, so your chart looks like a frickin’ basket of crazy contradictions and isn’t it amazing how it confirms that you’re exactly as conflicted and crazy as you always thought you were? God, I love systems that confirm I’m right. But, I digress… Let’s see, where to start?

Leo: ….. Dear God, woman, think of your audience! We’ll just start with me.

Virgo: You would say that. It’s lacking in nuance, but, go ahead, you’re in charge.

So, Leo’s in charge for the time being. Nichole Huntsman, the astrologer I mentioned in the first post, likens the Signs to adverbs – they describe how we go about doing something. The connections between the Planet, the Sign, and the House are all roots of the same idea. As the Ascendant isn’t actually a Planet placement and I don’t have any Planets hanging out in the 1st House at all, I’m going to content myself with the concept of Leo and beginnings (which is pleasing my inner Lion’s vanity and my inner Virgin’s sense of purity).

The adverbs describing a Leonine personality are dynamically, boldly, courageously, protectively, dominantly, and charismatically. It’s outgoing, generous, warm, affectionate,  optimistic, passionate, loyal, ego-driven, controlling, and vain. It is the King, the CEO, the Child, the Ego. Physically, there’s a tendency for a wide chest, a strong body with a good constitution, a grace or dignity to movement, and hair that is either big or has gold coloring. It’s fiery nature encompasses vitality, spontaneity, aggressiveness, force of will, and, above all, ACTION. It’s energy is Fixed and Masculine – immovable, dominant, and determined, its force directed outward. The keywords are “I WILL.”

And I kind of have to agree with a lot of that. All that Virgoness above takes place before I enter the new situation and, if a new situation is thrust upon me, this Leonine side is the instinctual face I put on – a preservation and expression of Self, my loved ones, and my reputation. The order depends on the nature of the new. Even when I take into consideration all of the angles, practicality, and need to serve and assist from my Virgo side, I never fail to take into account whether whatever I am embarking upon will further my own interests in some way, usually my intellectual, financial, or creative interests. I may not have wanted to take my Statistics class, but I took it as Philosophy, did well, and actually ended up tutoring it for a bit.

Starting this blog, I have two major fears. The first that this fiery creative newness of starting a blog about my spiritual journey, especially combined with the initiatory fire of a traditionally Aries 1st House warrior Self, will peter out as time goes on and I get past all the Houses with planets in them. Two of my Houses may be Leo, but they are right at the beginning. Two more are in Aquarius and that’s only half way through. I’m worried that I’ll run out of interest and things to talk about, or that I’ll start flaking on posting or being honest in my posts. That the further I get from the concrete things I can definitely define as me and out into the world and the esoteric that I’ll become lost and unsure, fuzzier, less definitive, less comfortable commenting. And Fear Number Two, that this blog and the honesty and exploration contained herein will disappoint the people I love, should they read it (and, for some of them, it will, that’s inevitable), or in some cases, hurt their reputations as well.

To the first, I really can’t guarantee that’s not exactly what will happen. I don’t want it to, I’ve set up a schedule and a relatively exhaustive set of topics I can reference, and I’ve combined it with a passion of mine at a time when I really feel the need to explore these sets of issues. I’ve put in the markers to keep interest and accountability, but there is every chance that, like the multitudes of diaries and Books of Shadows and projects, Hell, even diets and relationships I’ve started, this may lay beautifully and enthusiastically started, sporadically, a tad less enthusiastically continued, and, ultimately, abandoned and, if not, doggedly and dutifully ground into a bitter end. Which doesn’t sound particularly uplifting. That being said, I’ve done what I can do about it, I’m still at the very beginning where I’m best and fresh, and (hopefully) I haven’t alienated everyone reading this yet. No point in getting down before I’ve given myself a chance to actually succeed and do the thing I’m starting this for: transformation.

And, perhaps more to my betterment, I’m planning on doing some kind of activity in real life to coincide with each post. I’m hoping that by linking the concept I’m working on to a real life activity, I’ll keep my interest in it, improve my habits, and have something to talk about beyond abstract concepts of heavenly bodies. It will also involve my Body more in the processes my Mind goes through (aside from the physically ailing bits). And actually, my next post will be specifically on how I relate to my Body since that is an Aries/Mars thing. I will be spending 4 weeks on each House, roughly the length of time it takes for the Sun to transverse it. By the time I get to my birthday, I’ll be just in time to talk about my Sun Sign since it’s placed in the 2nd House (*delighted Virgo squirm*).

Now to address the second. I don’t believe I can truly be self expressive or affect any sort of transformative change within myself (or anywhere else for that matter) without being open and honest about the realities of where I am, the things I do, and how they affect me and those around me. My tendency, especially with my loved ones, is to gild the lily, to present the best and most affirming part of what I think. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing (I like people to feel comfortable and happy around me – Libra Moon), it does leave a lot unsaid. And some of it is stuff that needs to be said sometime.

As I stated above, I will, inevitably, disappoint and/or hurt some of my loved ones. I’m going to be talking about deep wounds and nasty psychological pus. I’m going to be honest about the things and thoughts I engage in and believe in (both consistent and transitory), some of which go against my upbringing and societal norms. I know I am opening myself up to criticism and possible disdain. And that’s the point of all this. To be truer about myself and heal, air out those wounds, drain the pus (BTW, I am so sorry if you were eating), grow newer and thicker skin. Maybe people will even offer up constructive criticism and helpful tips, or just a similar feeling and acknowledgement that I am seen – for real, this time.

To my family, sorry, this will be posted on social media and I have decided to be open about who I am. Those connections are already in place on Facebook, people know you’re connected to me – it can’t be helped. I will try to keep anything that could be damaging to you out of all of this (as, rightly, I should – that’s not mine to share, see Vault from first post) and I hope that my honestly and openness doesn’t cost you anything. Also, know I love you all very much, even when we don’t agree.

To my work family, I don’t expect to be talking about work too much and, even then, mostly in regards to my relationship to it, but I’m sure specific instances will come to the fore. I’ll abstract wherever necessary while remaining true to the point. But my work connections are already up on Facebook, too, so I’m sure it’s not going to be too difficult to decode. I promise, it is the work that is frustrating, not my co-workers. You guys are lovely. Were the environment less positive, I wouldn’t still be there.

Those are the people I really can’t hide the identity of by much. For everyone else I may mention, I am going to be changing names (if they are needed at all for clarity) and abstracting certain situations so that only those involved should be able to discern who I’m talking about and what instance I’m referring to. That’s the plan. If at any point I reference something that makes you truly uncomfortable as far as it can be decoded by others, please, let me know and I’ll rewrite. If you’re just uncomfortable because you feel like I’m calling you out, please, do these two things: 1) realize that I may, in fact, not actually be talking about you (I get set in patterns, it may display similarities to something we’ve been through by complete accident – an issue of abstraction); and, if you are sure #1 is not in play, 2) talk to me about it personally.

And thus, I believe I have boldly, courageously, protectively, and dominantly begun.