Mercury Retrograde in Pisces: It’s the Most Frustrating Time of the Year

Connection speeds got you down?
Your bus or train running behind schedule?
Mobile phone, laptop, or other electronic device not working right?

Welcome to Mercury retrograde, my friends.

Long time readers of GWM have likely read previous posts I’ve written about Mercury retrograde, an astrological phenomenon that happens about 3 times a year. To understand this occurrence, and why some folks get so frustrated when Mercury is retrograde, I’ll provide some background.

Mercury, Greek, mythology, Hermes

Artistic rendering of Mercury (Hermes), the messenger of the gods in Greek & Roman mythology. Image courtesy elfinspell.com

Mercury (also known as Hermes) was the messenger of the gods in Greek & Roman mythology. He had a wicked sense of humor and loved to play tricks. In astrology, the planet Mercury rules all forms of communication. This includes e-mail, faxes, Internet, phones, text messages and snail mail. Mercury also rules transportation: planes, trains, automobiles, even bicycles and scooters. On a more abstract level, Mercury rules thoughts, concepts and ideas.

In astrology, the term retrograde means that a planet appears to be moving backwards through the signs of the zodiac. All planets except the Sun and Moon have retrograde cycles, and these retrograde cycles tend to trigger areas that need special attention. I found this explanation from Dwight Ennis to be particularly helpful:

Astrologically, a retrograde planet is symbolically retracing ground that has already been covered. Wherever one finds a retrograde planet, it seems to indicate a need to internalize that planet’s energies, come to terms with them, and “own” them.

When Mercury is retrograde, communication can get all screwed up. Websites go down for no apparent reason. Social media becomes unpredictable, with real-time updates & feeds not working the way they should. Electronic devices lose power or break down completely. Travel can be wonky as well: traffic might be much worse on the freeway, flights are delayed or cancelled, and you might have car problems.

The unpredictability of Mercury retrograde can manifest in other surprising ways. Whenever a major awards ceremony takes place during Mercury retrograde, such as this year’s Academy Awards, I’m always interested to see what happens, because the favorite in any category can end up not winning. This year’s results didn’t disappoint in that regard, with Argo taking Best Picture, Ang Lee winning Best Director for Life of Pi, and Christoph Waltz getting the Best Supporting Actor award for his work in Django Unchained – when none of them were seen as the favorites by many pundits.

On February 23, Mercury went retrograde in the sign of Pisces, which rules intuition, imagination, compassion, and understanding. Pisces also rules large bodies of water and water pipes. During the Oscars, I found this tweet which perfectly describes the wackiness of Mercury retrograde in Pisces.

Twitter, tweet, Mercury retrograde, Mercury, retrograde, Pisces, Oscars, Academy Awards

I like to think that Mercury finds all of the delays and communication breakdowns and surprises amusing. He’s a trickster, after all. But that doesn’t help when you’re waiting on a call about a job or your car won’t start. The good part is that Mercury retrograde cycles don’t last very long; the most intense portion of the cycle goes on for 20-24 days. It’s enough time to make you loopy, but not so long that you lose all hope of ever having a working Internet connection again.

It may help to think of Mercury retrograde cycles as a time to re-engage with areas of your life that have been neglected. Our world spins so fast these days (figuratively speaking) that it can be difficult to find the time to take on those tasks we’ve been putting off for a while. Personally, I’ve been using this Mercury retrograde period to take a look at old projects and determine if I am interested enough to revive them, and I’m re-organizing my stuff and weeding out items I no longer need. Notice all the “re” words? That’s because retrograde cycles are good for “re” activities: revise, reassess, review…you get the idea.

While searching online for current pieces on Mercury retrograde, I came across this piece from 2010 that resonated with me. As someone whose ruling planet is Mercury (I’m a Gemini rising), I often struggle to find the good during Mercury’s retrograde periods. The excerpt below gave me some food for thought:

Mercury Retrograde is a time to lay off the caffeine-powered Mercury engines of our lives and find something else–stillness, Athena, Jupiter, anybody but Hermes/Mercury. And this is what could be filling us with dread as we think of Mercury receding away from us. We’ve come to depend so much on him that we can’t picture him moving away from us…We don’t use it as a time to reflect on our attachment to our computers, our phones, our social networking accounts, our blogs, or even ways of communicating, whether electronically or not. It doesn’t mean that we have to cut off Mercury or Mercury related concerns entirely, even if that were possible.

It means that we can give space to other dimensions of Mercury through other “gods” or principles, like looking at the beauty of our handwriting, which is more of a Venus/Jupiter concern. (Yes, when was the last time you looked at your writing script? Have you ever pushed to develop or improve it, especially since writing in script is becoming a dying art?) Or does a recent argument with a friend highlight how you might not listen as well as you think you do? Or do you speak more forcefully, with too much Mars, than you might think or would like? Similarly, are you being as serious about your communication or your spoken commitments as you could, which is to evoke more Saturn? Or how are you evoking Athena (strategy) and wisdom on your job?

So while I referred to Mercury retrograde as being the most frustrating time of the year in the post title, it really doesn’t have to be. And if I keep telling myself this, eventually I will believe it. In the meantime, I’m counting down the days until March 17, when Mercury goes direct. Only 13 more to go…

Friday’s Hot Tip: 5 Ways to Help Your Unemployed Buddies

I decided to follow up on Sunday’s post about dealing with the unemployed with some good tips on helping out friends and family members who find themselves without work. These tips are based on what I’ve experienced being unemployed/underemployed, and what I wanted from my friends and loved ones during that time.

1. Start with asking, “How can I support you?”

These five little words should become a mantra for you, as this phrase works beautifully in many situations when someone is experiencing difficulty in their life. In an unemployment scenario, it gives the other person the power to decide what they want or need as they process the loss of their job. Pro tip: don’t ask this question just once, either. Whenever they need to vent about their job search, interviews that went nowhere, or their struggles to stay afloat, it’s your opportunity to ask what, if anything, they need from you.

2. Don’t assume you know their master plan post-layoff.

As I briefly mentioned in Sunday’s post, unemployment can give someone the opportunity to pursue life-long dreams. It opens the door to write, start a business, make a career change, travel, or volunteer. And believe it or not, they might not want a full-time job again. Everyone’s situation is different – give them space to figure out what’s next, and if you remember Tip #1, then they might just let you in on what they are dreaming up.

3. Keep your comments about money to yourself.

Trust me when I say someone who is unemployed (or even underemployed) does not want to hear you complain about the state of your bank account. Nor do they want to hear your comments about what they are doing or not doing with their money. Like politics, sex, and religion, discussions about money can kill a conversation, and in some instances it can kill a relationship. Do yourself and your friend a favor and hold your tongue.

4. Don’t radically alter your communication style or forget about them altogether.

Just because someone loses their job doesn’t mean they are a social pariah and you need to leave them alone. By the same token, if you were having phone conversations with them every couple of weeks, don’t suddenly start calling every other day. Be sensitive to their situation and let them guide the conversation when it comes to work or career topics, but feel free to talk about current movies, TV shows, books, music, local news or happenings. Or you could even talk about your pet’s antics or the latest celebrity scandal. The key is to keep things normal.

5. Let them mourn the loss of their job.

Momcat always told me, “When a relationship ends, it’s a death and it needs to be mourned.” She was talking about romantic relationships, but this also holds true for the relationships we have with our jobs, which are just as complex and layered as any love relationship. Give them space and time to grieve, and allow them to dictate when they are ready to move on in their career.

Have your own tips to add to this list? Leave them in the comments section.


Coming Clean

T-Wizzle and I talk frequently about clean communication. When we express our complete truth without fear of criticism, we cleanse ourselves and allow others to be cleansed as well. Yet this type of communication requires us to be vulnerable and share those parts of ourselves that we believe are impure or dirty.

As a matter of hygiene and principle, people don’t like dirt. We feel wrong when things are grimy. So we create wipes, solvents, lotions, and soaps to eliminate any filth and make our surroundings clean, shiny, and beautiful.

What we often forget, though, is that there is no growth without dirt. Nature needs soil in order to plant seeds. That same soil offers nutrients and protection while those seeds germinate, bud, and blossom. People aren’t much different. We have to reach down into our dirt in order to plant seeds of compassion that can grow and blossom. It’s that compassion that allows us to truly connect with others.

This message came through to me so clearly when I saw Babel a few weeks ago. In the film, Susan Jones (Cate Blanchett) and her husband Richard (Brad Pitt) are touring Morocco in an attempt to reconnect after the loss of a child and a brief separation. While eating dinner, Susan criticizes Richard for putting possibly unclean ice into his drink, and she repeatedly uses hand sanitizer to keep away any germs. But when she is shot in a bizarre accident, and there is no hospital available, she cannot ward off the dirt. It’s getting dirty that enables her and her husband to finally come clean and express themselves fully, without fear of being misunderstood.

Seeing Babel made me think about my communication with myself and others. Am I digging into my dirt and expressing my feelings? Am I being as clean and clear as I can in what I say? Am I speaking my deepest truths?

Society doesn’t promote clean communication: it’s all about making sure someone else isn’t hurt. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all,” right? But what about saying something helpful? In my experience, nice words are often enabling of bad habits and poor behavior. Saying “he deserved it” or “she wasn’t worth the time” may be “nice words” that seem clean, but they are just another way to make things look shiny and pretty on the surface. They aren’t the words that get down and dirty and address the truth.

Yes, it’s hard to come clean. And yet once you do, the truth that comes through is fresher, purer, and brighter than you can ever imagine.