September 17, 2020 – New Moon in Virgo

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Today is a New Moon in Virgo: a moment when two feminine energies – the mother Moon and the virgin Virgo – join together to create an emotionally resonant bond.

Demeter, Greek goddess of agriculture, Greek goddess, Greek mythology

Attribution: Museo nazionale romano di palazzo Altemps / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)

I always think of the goddess Demeter in connection with Virgo. Demeter was the Greek goddess of agriculture and fertility, as well as health, childbirth and the harvest. Like the sign of Virgo, the virgin maid, Demeter was often depicted holding a sheaf of wheat.

Persephone, rape of Persephone, abduction of Persephone, Greek mythology

The Rape of Persephone by Luca Giordano

The most famous myth about Demeter involves the abduction of her daughter Persephone by Hades, the lord of the underworld. She was so overcome with grief that fields went barren and famine ravaged the land. It wasn’t until Zeus helped negotiate Persephone’s visitation agreement between Demeter and Hades that she finally turned her attention back to the harvest, averting what would have been a huge catastrophe for humanity.

Demeter mourning Persephone (Evelyn de Morgan, 1906)

One could say that when the Moon is in Virgo, it’s like the reunion of Demeter and Persephone: mother and daughter come together for a short time to renew their connection, work the land, and plan for their next visit. In this case, that would be at the Full Moon in Virgo, which takes place on February 27, 2021. For us earth-dwellers, that means the goals and plans we make at this new moon will be at a key stage of their development in nearly six months’ time.

Image from The Story of Greece : told to boys and girls (1914) by Mary Macgregor

Moon in Virgo

When the Moon is in Virgo, it weds the Moon’s instincts for self-care and nurturing with Virgo’s love of ritual and routine. This placement feels emotionally met when it is focused on usefulness. It may not always seem particularly touchy-feely, but its goal is finding bliss in practical pursuits. The Virgo Moon is the mom who says, “If you make your bed in the morning, it will feel so much more comfy and inviting when you’re ready to go to sleep.” And once you take her advice, you discover she was right.

This New Moon in Virgo is about developing practical approaches to daily living that also feed the soul. Here are some areas where the Virgo New Moon encourages development, and a few concrete ideas on how to use this energy:

I hope this Virgo New Moon opens up some possibilities in how you organize and plan for your future!

Is Tarot part of your new moon rituals and activities?

Try out my New Moon Tarot Spread.

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Mars Retrograde Tuesdays

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Mars, the planet of action, ambition, anger and athleticism, turns retrograde on September 9, 2020 in the sign of Aries, one of two signs the Red Planet rules (the other sign is Scorpio). It will appear to travel backward in Aries through November 13, 2020. During this time, we can expect to see some halted plans; any forward momentum we had may be thwarted. This can affect our activities at work, home, and school.

Retrograde isn’t all that bad, though. Any time a planet is in retrograde motion, we are given an opportunity to shift our focus to more inward pursuits:

  • Reflection
  • Review
  • Revision
  • Reassessment

The focus of the inner work is based on the areas ruled by that planet. In the case of Mars, those areas include:

  • Physical activity
  • Ambition and goals
  • Passion, lust, and sex

In the same vein as Venus Retrograde Fridays, I suggest taking one day a week during the retrograde cycle to do work in these areas. Since Mars rules Tuesday, set aside some time that day for Mars Retrograde Tuesdays. Beginning with September 15, 2020 and ending with November 10, 2020, here are some Martian activities to try:

Move your body.
If you haven’t already been exercising regularly, now is the time to get back on the bike, lace up the running shoes, roll out the yoga mat, and/or dust off the treadmill. Don’t push yourself if energy is low – lowered stamina is possible during Mars retrograde – but a 30-minute walk will get your circulation going and your heart pumping. One caveat: if you have been sedentary for a long time, don’t start a vigorous new exercise regimen. Use this time to research different physical activities you might want to try, or talk with your health care provider about ideas.

Eat something spicy or grilled – or both!
Mars rules garlic, ginger, and peppers, so cook up some Szechuan stir-fry, a Thai or Indian curry, or a Mexican feast. (You can check out my recipe for homemade salsa here!) Since Mars also rules fire, a grilled entrée or side dish would be perfect for Tuesday dinners.

Channel your anger.
This year has provided more than enough opportunity for outrage – but how are you working with that anger? How has it been manifesting in your life: physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? Some ways to work through your anger include:

  • writing letters to the people/places/things that make you angry (and not sending them – remember, you’re processing this anger for your own personal reflection and to get them out of your system)
  • joining a protest (if you can do so safely)
  • contacting your local and state legislators to express your frustrations
  • signing and sharing petitions related to causes you feel passionate about

Assess your personal and professional goals. Mars likes to make things happen, but during a retrograde period, that drive to achieve and succeed may be thwarted. Sit down with paper & pen and write out your personal and professional goals. Where do you want to see yourself in a year? In five years? Now’s the time to see where you’re at and where you want to go.

What about Sex?!

Mars also rules passion, lust, and sex – and it’s those aspects that often make the headlines for Mars. During a Mars retrograde cycle your sex drive may be the complete opposite of what it usually is, or you may find yourself sexually frustrated with your partner. If you’re not sexually active, Mars retrograde may leave you feeling restless, unmotivated or dealing with a creative blockage (especially if you are an artist or writer).

How to deal with all of this pent up sexual energy? A few suggestions:

Remember this is temporary. Even if you are skeptical about astrology and its effects on daily living, our sex drive ebbs and peaks over time. Shift your attention to something else when the frustration gets overwhelming: exercise, singing or dancing may help.

Open the toy chest. Since retrograde cycles are about reviewing and reassessing the areas of life ruled by the retrograde planet, take time to review what gives you pleasure sexually – and that means open up your toy chest, buy some batteries and figure out what turns you on.

Talk with your partner. Emotions may be running hot while your libido isn’t, and that can definitely cause friction (and not the good kind, either). Open up conversations with your partner about your sex life: what you love about it, what you’d like to try out, what you’d like to work on making even better.

You’re not restricted to just Tuesdays for these Mars-centric activities, of course. Working through anger issues is good at any time, and exercising at least 3 times a week is ideal. But sometimes it helps to know that there’s one day a week devoted to specific self-care rituals, and that’s what Mars Retrograde Tuesday is all about. Make the most of it!

 

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Image attributions:

By derivative work: QuartierLatin1968 (talk)Berlin_-_Brandenburger_Tor_-_Mars.jpg: Oliver Abels (SBT) – Berlin_-_Brandenburger_Tor_-_Mars.jpg, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=74302639

Closeup of statue face
By Dosseman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=78185777

Planet
By ESA & MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/RSSD/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0-igo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56489423

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September 1-2, 2020 – Full Moon in Pisces

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The Pisces Full Moon happening on September 1, 2020 (or in the early hours of September 2, depending on your time zone) is a beautiful time to dream and reflect. We may feel more inclined toward emotional responses – tears close to the surface, for example, or moodiness – yet also feel receptive and softer than ever before. The Moon, which rules Cancer, a cardinal water sign, is more at home in Pisces, a mutable water sign, but it can easily get lost in the depths, or unable to maintain boundaries when necessary.

Moon in Pisces

When the Moon is in Pisces, it’s as if a spell has been cast over the collective, making us all a bit more tuned in to emotions and the subconscious desires of others. Some folks who have a highly developed intuition may feel extra sensitive during this time. Artists, writers and other creatives may feel overwhelmed with new ideas for projects. Dreams may be more prophetic or insightful. I like to imagine a Pisces Moon – especially this month’s Pisces Full Moon – as rising out of the ocean, soaking wet, with a neon blue octopus clinging to its craters.

Since I began studying astrology 20 years ago, I’ve come to know several people who were born when the Moon was in Pisces. They are dreamy souls, with an ability to see into the subconscious in ways that others cannot. They have incredible compassion and an innate understanding of humanity’s deepest needs. But these Pisces Moon natives also tend to get waterlogged, struggling to find solid footing in the real world.

At this point in 2020, the pandemic, protests, natural disasters and political activities around the world have lit up those areas where humanity is in need of massive change. We have experienced some collective grounding due to all these events and situations, and it’s caused immeasurable stress. This Full Moon in Pisces offers an opportunity for healing by allowing us to soften our gaze and dream a little. We get a chance to visualize what’s possible by tuning in to what unites us – and later using those visualizations to fuel practical, real-world solutions.

Here are some ideas for things you can do to channel this Pisces Full Moon energy. For optimal results, do these activities between Monday night and Thursday afternoon.

Activities for the Pisces Full Moon

  • Get wet. Dance outside in the rain, go for a swim, take a bath. Pisces and the Moon are both connected to water.
  • Visit a body of water. If you live close to a stream, river, lake, or ocean, the Pisces Full Moon is a wonderful time to visit and reflect on the role and meaning of water in your life, and give thanks for its existence.
  • Eat some seafood. Embrace your inner pescatarian and have a meal of fish and shellfish.
    • Vegetarians/vegans can enjoy cauliflower, cabbage, cheese, cucumbers, melon, mushrooms, pumpkins or turnips – these are all Moon-ruled foods.
  • Start a dream journal. This journal could include a daily log of your dreams, as well as a place where you can explore the dreams you want to manifest in the world. For tips on recording your dreams, check out this article.
  • Stare at the clouds. If the weather permits where you live, take a blanket outside, lie down and watch the clouds roll by.
  • Take care of your feet. Pisces rules the feet, so a Pisces Full Moon is a great time to pamper them. Give yourself a pedicure or foot massageor give one to your partner. Even simply washing your feet and following up with lotion or cream can be incredibly soothing.

Colors for the Pisces Full Moon

You can wear these colors in your clothing, jewelry, makeup or nail polish.

  • Iridescent and opalescent shades
  • Silvery grey
  • White

Crystals for the Pisces Full Moon

You can place these crystals on your altar, if you have one, or in a prominent place in your home for 2-3 nights during the Pisces Full Moon.

  • Chrysolite or peridot
  • Coral
  • Moonstone

Want to try out my Full Moon Tarot Spread? Check it out here.

new moon in leo, new moon, leo moon, astrology

August 18, 2020 – New Moon in Leo and New Moon Tarot Spread

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Today marks a New Moon in Leo. New Moons are “no moon,” meaning that it is not visible because of its alignment with the Sun. Yet despite its cloaked nature, this moon phase is associated with the power of a fresh start. Farmers who follow moon phases for planting use the New Moon to plant annual flowers or fruits and vegetables that grow above ground, such as corn, tomatoes, squashes and melons.

We can use this same energy in our personal development by using the New Moon to plant seeds that we wish to grow. Determining what we’ll plant depends on the zodiac sign in which the New Moon happens, as the Moon will be Full in this same sign in six months’ time, when we harvest what we planted.

Moon in Leo

When the Moon is in Leo, it combines the emotional, intuitive, home-loving characteristics of the Moon with Leo’s loyalty, creativity and sense of drama. Whoever coined the phrase “go big or go home” may well have been a Leo Moon. This placement wants love and comfort, but also wants a controlled, organized environment in which they are in charge. Prepare to hear the lunar lion roar when it’s happy, excited, amused or feeling playful. But when a Leo Moon feels badly hurt, it may not do much at all.

When I was a kid, my mom often said to me, “If someone hurts your feelings, say ‘ouch.’” She wasn’t a student of astrology, but it was good advice for me, as I have a Leo Moon. There have been many times I’ve felt hurt or betrayed by someone’s behavior, but will come home to lick my wounds rather than publicly call out the person. Above all else, a Leo Moon has pride, and unless circumstances force the issue, they will exhibit a controlled emotional response.

This New Moon in Leo encourages us to plant seeds in the areas of:
• Creative pursuits
• Emotional vulnerability
• Leading with heart, not head
• Acknowledging our gifts, talents and skills

With this in mind, try out my New Moon Tarot Spread to gain clarity and insight in these aspects of your life.

New Moon Tarot Spread

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This New Moon Tarot Spread is one I began using earlier this year during my new moon rituals. It is designed to help you discover the seeds that need planting at this point in time, so that when the full moon in Leo occurs on January 28, 2021, you can reap a bounteous harvest.

Shuffle the cards and cut the deck as many times as you feel you need. As you shuffle, take several deep breaths and center your thoughts on yourself and your desire for deeper knowledge and foresight.

Lay out the cards in rows of 3 cards each.

1. Where you are right now
2. What influences you
3. What you have released since the last new moon
4. What “seeds” (your goals and plans) need to be planted
5. How you can nurture the growth of your goals and plans
6. Other resources that are available to you during this cycle

Tips on Making the Most of Your Reading
  • Write it down. I like to record my readings in my journal, adding any notes or interpretations on the reading in a contrasting ink color. Before I begin the reading, I write down my current state of mind.
  • Take your time. Schedule a time to do your reading when you won’t be disturbed. I find that my new moon readings can be done within 24-48 hours of the new moon being exact and I still get a very insightful reading.
  • Focus your energy. Turn off your phone, music, TV, etc. Sit silently for several minutes before you do your reading. If you do any other ritual work with moon cycles, include the reading as part of your practice.
daily writing rituals, writing, morning pages, journaling, daily journaling rituals

Daily Writing Rituals

Over the past 7 years I have developed a daily ritual that has become a key part of my self-care routine. Soon after I wake up, I fix myself a beverage – hot coffee or tea when the weather is cool, and cold-brew coffee over ice with almond milk and stevia in the summer – and sit down in a comfortable spot with my journal and a pen. The pen is usually a fountain pen. I love fountain pens for making my handwriting look beautiful, plus there’s a huge variety of ink colors and it’s much less strain on my fingers and wrist to glide a fountain pen across the page.

daily writing rituals, writing, morning pages, journaling, daily journaling

 

In the course of an hour, I sip my drink and write out my thoughts. Sometimes this includes a recap of the dreams from the night before (in recent months I’ve taken to using a different color ink for jotting down dreams). Often I go over some of the happenings from the previous day. Some days I have a pastry or waffle to nibble on while I write. And I frequently have one of my 2 cats lying nearby, flicking their tail and blinking at me.

Establishing this daily writing ritual has proven to be such a blessing. It starts my day with a quiet, soft reflective activity that allows me space to process and set my intentions going forward. I don’t rush myself or set a timer. I let the words flow out as they need to and I stop when it feels right.

Some days the ritual is a little different. I may do more stream of consciousness writing or a free write in another notebook dedicated for that purpose. Or if the thoughts & ideas are coming really fast, I sit at my laptop and type them out. On multiple occasions the laptop writing sessions have turned into a blog post. But mostly they are for my eyes only.

journaling, daily writing ritual, writing

I’ve had people ask me how to establish a writing practice, or they want to know the “right” way to do what are often referred to as “morning pages.” I’m not a big fan of rules when it comes to generating content, whether for your own personal use or in your career. But here are a few things I’ve learned over time when it comes to journaling as part of self-care and creating a daily ritual that involves writing.

  • Pick a time when you can set aside at least 15 minutes to focus solely on writing. This time may be different from day to day, and there may be days when you cannot squeeze out 15 minutes. But if you can spend 15 minutes scrolling through social media feeds or reading articles online, you can devote 15 minutes to a writing session.
  • Find the writing tools that feel good to you. Don’t want to write by hand? That’s fine – you can use your computer or other device. You can even do voice to text if that works better for you, but know that voice recognition may lead to some unusual copy when you review it later. Do not ask me how I know this.
  • When you don’t know what to write about, keep it simple. Sometimes the blank page can feel intimidating, especially if you are just starting a writing practice. Here are a few opening lines that can get you started. Pro tip: when you really feel stuck, write down a list of things you love or hate.
    • Here is what I know:
    • Here is what needs to be written right now:
    • All the ways in which I have had it: [This is a personal favorite for when I need to rant.]

If you’re interested in exploring analog options for writing, visit my other site, Pensplaining, for product reviews & tips.

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August 3, 2020 – Full Moon in Aquarius & Full Moon Tarot Spread

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Today there is a Full Moon in Aquarius, but what does that mean? Here on Earth, when we look up at the full moon, it appears to be shining brightly because of where the Moon is positioned in relationship to the Sun and the Earth. A full moon marks the end of a cycle. The zodiac sign where the full moon occurs provides insight into the aspects of life illuminated by that bright full moon. After a period of living in the shadows, those aspects have gradually moved into the light.

Moon in Aquarius

When the Moon is in Aquarius, there can be emotional objectivity and detachment. The Moon wants to explore feelings and emotions, which requires a deep dive into our experiences, beliefs and attitudes and how we feel about them. Aquarius is focused on truth and objectivity, which requires ascending into the heavens to see humanity from a global perspective. At first glance, a student of astrology might think the Moon in Aquarius is a frosty, emotionally detached placement.

However, if we keep in mind that everyone has feelings, but has different ways of showing and managing those feelings, then it’s a little easier to understand how the Moon’s focus on emotional response can extract Aquarius’s desire for truth. For example, the Moon may ask Aquarius, “How do you REALLY feel about injustice?” and Aquarius replies with “I am AGAINST it!” The Moon encourages Aquarius to show those feelings in the ways Aquarius feels most comfortable. The Moon says to Aquarius, “show, don’t tell.”

The ways an Aquarius Moon could show its feelings include:

  • writing a letter to local officials about an issue in the community
  • signing and circulating petitions
  • advocating for justice & equality through participating in demonstrations and protests
  • educating others through sharing articles & resources

Full Moon Tarot Spread

A full moon is a perfect time to reflect upon the lessons learned since the last full moon, and what you wish to call forth for the next cycle. I developed this Full Moon Tarot Spread several years ago and use it at every full moon. This spread shines a light on the shadows of the cycle that has ended and casts its glow into what is to come.

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Full Moon Tarot Spread

Shuffle the cards and cut the deck as many times as you feel you need. As you shuffle, take several deep breaths and center your thoughts on yourself and your desire for deeper knowledge and foresight.
Lay out the cards in the pattern shown, or in rows of 3 cards each – whatever works easier for you.

  1. Where you are right now
  2. What influences you
  3. What you have learned since the last full moon
  4. What you are learning now
  5. What you take with you into the next cycle
  6. What you leave behind
  7. Advice
  8. What comes of following advice
  9. What to expect at the next full moon
Tips on Making the Most of Your Reading
  • Write it down. I like to record my full moon readings in my journal, adding any notes or interpretations on the reading in a contrasting ink color. Before I begin the reading, I write down my current state of mind.
  • Take your time. Schedule a time to do your reading when you won’t be disturbed. I find that my full moon readings can be done within 24-48 hours of the full moon being exact and I still get a very insightful reading.
  • Focus your energy. Turn off your phone, music, TV, etc. Sit silently for several minutes before you do your reading. If you do any other ritual work with moon cycles, include the reading as part of your practice.

 

Venus Retrograde Fridays

How’s everyone doing? Did you lose your mind after the first 30 days of stay-at-home orders or are you holding on to those last few brain cells? I have my good days and not-so-good days. This week has been really weird, with energy spikes and then 24-hour cycles of I-don’t-give-a-f**k.

But I have one thing I’ve been looking forward to every week since May 13: Venus Retrograde Fridays. I was inspired by Chani Nicholas’s workshops with a special section on Venus retrograde. Chani is a freakin’ brilliant astrologer who explains everything so clearly and with a focus on personal growth. If you’re not following her on social media, and you have even a passing interest in astrology, go follow her now and sign up for her mailing list. I’ll wait.

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A brief primer on Venus retrograde, taken from Café Astrology:

Occasionally, Venus appears to be moving backward in the sky. “Appears” is the key word here, because, technically speaking, no planet actually moves backward in their orbits around the Sun. In fact, they don’t even slow down. Retrograde-station-direct cycles are essentially illusions that result from our point of view from Earth, simply because the Earth is also orbiting the Sun at a different speed than the other planets. Venus is Retrograde approximately 40-43 days every 18 months.

Venus went retrograde in the sign of Gemini on May 13 and will station direct on June 25.

Why should you care? Well, Venus is the planet of beauty and aesthetics. She rules what we value, what makes us happy, and what creative pursuits we enjoy. She is all about sensory experiences: delicious food and drink, leisurely activities, delightful scents and sights. She also rules relationships – surprise, surprise.

So what happens when Venus is retrograde? Retrograde periods of any planet in astrology are a time when the areas ruled by that planet seem to go backwards or sideways. We have to reassess, reflect, re-do, rewrite, rethink; things might not move forward as fast or as easily as we’d like. Since Venus rules love, affection, beauty, values, aesthetics and relationships, that means these are the areas where we need to reconsider what we’re doing and where we want to be during a Venus retrograde cycle. You may start considering a new hairstyle or makeup palette. You might want to clean out your closet and reinvent your look. A romance that was already on shaky ground may end, or past loves may pop up and get you thinking about how that relationship helped or hindered your growth.

Most astrologers will advise you not to make any major changes during a retrograde period. During Venus retrograde, you shouldn’t cut your own hair or sell off your investment portfolio. I tend to agree with that, but I would also add: if you’re able to test out a change in a way that you can reverse it with minimal consequences, it might be worth trying.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk about Venus Retrograde Fridays. Venus rules Friday, so Chani Nicholas recommends using this day to focus on Venusian activities. After nearly 8 months of intense client work and dealing with personal issues, I am all about taking better care of me while work is not as crazy busy. I’ve now had two Venus Retrograde Fridays and really enjoyed them, and figured I owed it to the last few regular readers of my blog to share how this works and ways you can honor Venus during this retrograde period.

Here’s a list of possible activities for Venus Retrograde Friday.

    • Lounge in bed for as long as you want.
    • Wear comfy clothes.
    • Play “closet” where you go through your clothes and try out new looks.
    • Reorganize your closet or dresser: by color, by type, by season, by outfit, by whatever.
    • Play “jewelry box” where you go through your baubles (as my fabulously fashionable friend Beth calls them) and put on all of them or try new combinations.
    • Put clean sheets on the bed and fresh linens in the bathroom.
    • Take a long soak in the tub with your favorite scents – bubbles, bath bomb or salts optional (bonus points if you have a glass of your favorite beverage nearby, or you eat a cupcake while in the tub).
    • Deep condition your hair.
    • Put on your favorite perfume or scented lotion.
    • Give yourself a mani/pedi or a facial (YouTube has tons of great tutorials).
    • Teach yourself a new updo for your hair (again, YouTube tutorials are the way to go).
    • Take a nap.
    • Bake your favorite treats and eat them slowly so you can enjoy every bite.
    • Make yourself a fabulous dinner and pair it with your favorite beverage – or order that meal for pickup/delivery.
    • Write a love letter to yourself to open after July 29 (when Venus ends its shadow period).
    • Write out affirmations focusing on loving yourself more, then read them aloud. Some good ones:
      • I am perfectly content to be me.
      • I am good enough just as I am.
      • I love and approve of myself.
      • I choose to love myself unconditionally.
    • Read love poems, a romance novel, chick lit, or erotica.
    • Watch a favorite rom-com.
    • Take a virtual tour of an art museum or historic residence/palace (my personal favorite is Versailles).
    • Write letters and cards to people you care about – or send happy mail to people who need encouragement and/or support. (Here’s a great site to start with if you’d like to write something semi-anonymous to someone in need. Here’s another one.)

While you don’t have to do this on Fridays, it will certainly kick off the weekend on a positive note. And if you can only do one thing you really love on Friday, that’s still good. Venus Retrograde Fridays are all about loving on yourself the best way possible. Enjoy!

Love Me, Love My Blog: On Blogging, Boundaries and Privacy

One of my initial concerns about blogging was how private I wanted to be. If this was a place for me to share experiences and explore ideas – many of which would be frowned upon by long-time friends and family members – did I want anyone and everyone to know what I was writing about? Or did I want to keep my identity a secret?

Initially I kept everything as quiet as possible. But I am notoriously bad at keeping secrets about myself. When it comes to my life, I am a believer in “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I believe we all want to feel known and understood, and if our online personas are the way we let people know who we are, then sharing that content might bring us that much closer to feeling known and understood – and, ultimately, loved.

Cyber Snooping

Reading through this post from 15 years ago, I struggle to remember which coworker this was, though I have a pretty good idea. She left a few months after I started and later helped me get an interview with her new employer, but I decided it wasn’t a good fit as the job was a lateral move in many ways.

I also realize I was making a lot out of nothing. She gave me the link to her blog and that constituted permission for me to read it. If I had told our mutual supervisor about her blog, though, that would have been a bad idea. (That supervisor was a hot mess, but I had yet to discover this fact.)

I still struggle to practice detached compassion, whether with colleagues, friends or family. It’s so easy to get wrapped up in other people’s problems, especially when your own problems feel insurmountable or trivial. Solving their issues – or helping them find solutions – is extremely validating.

Then there’s the matter of codependency. For years I saw that word as being exclusive to alcohol and drug addiction, but I finally came to accept that codependency is ubiquitous. It’s the subtext in so many songs and TV show plotlines. It sneaks into every relationship, whether with a romantic partner or a parent. In short: codependency is a bitch.

At the heart of all of this is boundaries: setting and maintaining those lines of involvement, whether physical, mental, spiritual or emotional. Knowing when to call someone on their behavior because they have breached a boundary line and dealing with the potential fallout. I still struggle with this, too. But like this blog, I am a work in progress.

It was 15 years ago today…

…that I began the Girl with Moxie blog. To paraphrase another song, I started at Blogspot, now I’m here (on self-hosted WordPress).

A lot has changed for me in 15 years, both personally and professionally. I started the blog out of boredom and restlessness at my office job. One day while surfing the interwebz, I found a wealth of bloggers who were writing about music, movies, TV, books, their lives, their jobs, their kids. I was introduced to music I had never heard of, found recipes and ideas that intrigued me, made new friends. I decided to dive in and write about whatever was on my mind.

I miss that simplicity. Because while I enjoy Instagram and Twitter is good for breaking news and a laugh, and Facebook does occasionally have its merits, there was something very gratifying about seeking out blogs to read and connecting with fellow bloggers on a much more low-tech scale. Long-form writing is still around, but it is often drowned out by all the video content.

Even though I don’t blog like I used to, I refuse to give up this site for many reasons, the main one being that it’s still an avenue for me to explore ideas and share my experiences without the editorial process of querying, rewriting, editing and handling rejection. I still get some traffic here (seeing the Google searches that bring people to the GWM blog is often amusing), a good friend hosts the site for free, and it’s an archive of my cyberpresence in a way that other resources aren’t.

Here’s the plan: I’ll share content from that first year and add some updates. I’ll try to carve out the time to craft new posts (it ain’t easy these days, for reasons I will get into later).

Let’s do this, kids.

Casting into the Waters: Symbolism, Spiritual Practice and Tashlich

Judaism has interested me for many years, probably due in large part to the fact that I was raised Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) and there’s a correlation between SDAs and Jews in how they observe the Sabbath (Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) and their dietary restrictions (SDAs encourage and promote vegetarianism, but those who do eat meat will typically shun pork and shellfish). When you grow up in a religious tradition that is a bit outside of the box, even among other evangelical Christian groups, it’s nice to feel understood in some small part by another religious group without having to go into long explanations. This is particularly handy when you talk to fellow Gen X’ers about why you are completely unfamiliar with Friday night TV shows and Saturday morning cartoons during the pre-VCR years.

The Chosen, Chaim Potok I also had an English teacher at my SDA high school who was part Jewish and he had us read The Chosen by Chaim Potok, explaining to us about Jewish traditions and holidays. Momcat and I ended up reading all of Potok’s novels and she, too, was very interested in Judaism. Pops had a colleague whose father had been a rabbi, so she would ask him a bunch of questions about what services were like, the reasons for certain traditions (she particularly liked the use of stones on graves as a remembrance).

I think it’s all these things combined that make me very aware when the Jewish high holidays start. Tonight marks the first night of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the Jewish new year. I spent this morning reading about Rosh Hashanah traditions: the blowing of the shofar, eating round challah with honey, eating apples with honey, eating part of a fish or ram’s head. Not sure I would be up for that last one, but I do like the symbolism behind it.

It’s the symbolism behind many Jewish traditions that I find the most fascinating. I don’t recall feeling like it was okay to use or wear symbols of my faith or spirituality while growing up SDA. There were baby dedications in church, and full immersion baptism once you’d studied with your pastor, but iconography and talismans weren’t used or encouraged. I don’t remember any other symbolic gestures or rituals, and in hindsight I think I needed those to help me connect to a higher power.

During this morning’s research on Rosh Hashanah, I learned about Tashlich. The basic premise, as I understand it, is to cast your sins into a body of water. After the Tashlich prayer is recited, you shake your clothes as if to shake off the sins.

Tashlich, Tashlich prayer, Rosh Hashanah

Tashlich prayers (Image courtesy Chabad.org)

But here’s what really spoke to me about this tradition (taken from Chabad.org):

The goal of Tashlich is to cast both our sins and the Heavenly prosecutor (a.k.a. the Satan) into the Heavenly sea. And when we shake our clothes after the Tashlich prayer, this is a tangible act to achieve the spiritual goal of shaking sins from our soul.

Needless to say, the physical motions near the water and fish of Tashlich are not what grant us atonement. But if we pay attention to the symbolism and apply the sincere desire to heal our relationship with G‑d as portrayed in the physical demonstrations of Tashlich, then it serves as a crucial part in the process of repenting and returning to G‑d in purity.

When I lived in Southern California, I often went to the beach to look out at the ocean and have a talk with the universe about what was bothering me. Seeing dark, deep water stretched out in front of me, with no land in sight, was symbolic to me of how vast the soul is, how there is so much going on beneath the surface that I cannot even begin to fathom, but that as I dive down into the depths of my being I can find those parts of myself that need healing, bring them to the surface, then release them back into the water. Going to the beach to process was a huge part of my spiritual growth.

What’s clear to me in this moment is that what I was doing was a form of Tashlich: casting my troubles into the deep sea, letting a higher power help me release them from my soul. I found the symbols I needed and in so doing, I found the spiritual connection and inner peace I craved. And now, every time I go to the ocean, whether the Atlantic or Pacific, I know I can find it again.

Sunset Beach, CA – my favorite place to chat with the universe. (Image courtesy californiasbestbeaches.com)

Shanah Tovah to my Jewish friends, followers and readers.