It’s my birthday today. It’s a good day for contemplation. For looking behind a bit and looking ahead a bit, while taking it easy in the now.
I’m crossing the threshold not just from one year into another, but from one decade to another.
I’m 50 years old today.
YAY! I’m actually very excited about being that old… although nowadays it’s really not that old. It’s not forced or fake excitement, it’s genuine and it’s genuinely nice to be genuinely excited about being alive.
For a significant portion of my time on planet Earth, I felt a sense of dreaded burden about being alive coupled with guilty shame because I wasn’t appreciating the gift of life, regularly contemplated ways to give it away, yet there were people in this world who were dying and wanted to live.
In the past if there had been an option to give a dying person my life while I took their death… would I have done it?
If that sounds rather grim… I was born under the Sun sign of Capricorn, whose ruling planet, Saturn, is often associated with the Grim Reaper.
Capricorn: hardworking, diligent, practical, ambitious, loner, prudent, conservative, economical, achievement, goals, structural, efficiency of resources– Some Key Words associated with The Signs by Jo Tracey
The other day I mentioned to someone that I was feeling rather exuberant about 2019, and they warned me to be cautious…
I was initially a bit pissed off by that, but then I laughed it off.
Telling a Capricorn Sun (especially one who has natal Saturn square Sun, and Virgo Rising) to be cautious is like telling a bird to fly, a fish to swim, and someone who has spent a lifetime suffering from anxiety to be anxious.
“But throughout my life I have rarely if ever achieved what I wanted by tackling it in a logical fashion.”
― Gerald Durrell, A Zoo in My Luggage
One of the lessons I learned during 2018 was that of paying attention to stories.
The stories we tell ourselves which are part of the WHO I AM.
The stories we tell others to impress upon them who we are thus confirming to ourselves our WHO I AM. Others may adopt these stories about us from us and repeat them back to us (especially if we momentarily stray from our WHO I AM), telling us who we are lest we forget.
Sometimes we tell these stories in a direct manner by making I AM statements, sometimes we tell those stories indirectly by making YOU ARE statements about others which are really still I AM statements about us.
I am shy. You are so bold. I am careful. You are such a risk taker. I am wise. Are you sure you should be doing that, you should be more cautious.
“I am credited with being one of the hardest workers and perhaps I am, if thought is the equivalent of labour, for I have devoted to it almost all of my waking hours. But if work is interpreted to be a definite performance in a specified time according to a rigid rule, then I may be the worst of idlers.”
― Nikola Tesla, My Inventions
Part of the reason I felt burdened by existence was because I was cautious about everything all of the time.
Being cautious has taught me a lot, such as that it is an overrated virtue. Usually made virtuous by people who got their fingers burned and are forever nursing their wound, seeing flames and fire everywhere, taking on the role of saviour to others to stop anyone from getting their fingers burned.
It’s a killer of joy pretending to be a hero, and finding endless examples of its heroics while ignoring all those examples when it put out the light, drowning someone in darkness.
For most of my life, I snuffed out the light, mainly my own, but sometimes those of others too because their light scared me and my fear told them to be cautious of their own light – put it out, someone might see you!
Being seen was terrifying. Attention was to be avoided. The only way to survive was in total darkness, invisible to the eyes of others who were always watching like the eye of Sauron.
The only time I threw caution to the wind was when I fell in love. I carpe diem’d it and it was exhilarating. It felt amazing to be alive, to take a leap of faith, to trust and risk it all for a change.
And of course everyone who saw me, and many did because I was shining brightly, wanted to know why and once they found out why they came out with the old heroic and virtuous – be cautious, don’t do anything rash, you’ll regret it, you’ll get burned.
But luckily my light shone too vibrantly to be dimmed, my joy was too enthusiastic to be killed off.
And as much as I may have appeared to others to be reckless, careless, I had as always taken some precautions with me on my wild ride.
The main one being that I wouldn’t listen to anyone else’s advice on how to live my life, for once I would follow my heart, and let my soul guide me.
For a moment in time I saw clearly because everything and everyone was bathed in the light inside of me bursting freely out and beyond me.
“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.”― Zora Neale Hurston
But falling in love makes more than your soul crawl out from its hiding place…
And it occurred just before my Saturn Return.
The light which had shone so brightly, began to dim as I became afraid of my own brightness and the way it affected the world around me and all the people in it.
Caution returned with a slow burn vengeance.
I returned gradually into darkness, it was safe there, it was my comfort zone.
And I needed to traverse those lands again to get to where I am now.
“As he turned the corner, he noticed that the tall old man hadn’t moved but was standing under the streetlight glow, in mist, like a melancholy traveler frozen in time.”
― William Peter Blatty, The Exorcist
Be cautious – those words when you speak them to others are your story, not theirs. You’re not trying to save them.
The person who was a Debbie Downer to my Hooray Henrietta the other day wasn’t speaking to me – we tell our stories to others so that we will hear them ourselves. They were speaking to themselves, to a past self who had once been feeling exuberant about life (of whom I reminded them in that moment) and then their fingers had got burned.
I’ve been there and done that – gotten my fingers burned and the memory of the pain made me rain on the parades of others with doom and gloom warnings.
Did I really care if others got their fingers burned, did I even bother to find out what their story was, did I think they were fools who hadn’t worked hard to earn the right to dance in their light…
or was I just wrapped up in my own story, seeing it everywhere, seeing myself in everyone, trying to stop myself from getting hurt all those years ago again and again… trying to change the past in the present for myself through someone else.
“His father had been in Perm in 1936, and his epaulets had read, “NKVD” – the acronym of the state police. The joke was that it stood for Ništó Krepše Vorovskoy Druzbyt—“Nothing stronger than friendship among thieves.”
― Sofi Oksanen, Purge
I am always cautious.
I’ve been cautious until the virtue turned into a sin, until the hero became a villain.
I’ve been so cautious that I bored myself to death and lived life like a murdered ghost with a grudge.
Opportunities were never taken, new experiences were dangerous, joy was dismissively dismissed, fun was dissected in detail until there was nothing left of it, and people who shone brightly were told by my fears to switch it off.
And I intend to continue being a cautious Capricorn, only one which has been through a recent communion and conjunction with transiting Pluto – Hell isn’t other people. Hell is me making life, other people, and being myself hell for myself.
Saturn and Capricorn are about self-mastery. Self-mastery is about getting to know the nitty-gritty about yourself. Not controlling the freak, but embracing it fully into the whole.
So my resolution for this personal birthday new year is to continue being cautious as that is part of who I am, but to use it a bit more prudently such as being cautious about being cautious.
In other words seize the day a bit more, take up opportunities which present themselves, try out new experiences, enjoy being joyful when joy offers itself up, have fun, and encourage others to shine brightly because doing that encourages me to do the same.
If the big serious hits the fan… well, I’ve had loads of that in my life, you can’t avoid it, but you don’t have to live your life in fear of it happening when it isn’t happening. Deal with it when it happens.
Deal with everything as it happens.
“Carpe diem’ doesn’t mean seize the day — it means something gentler and more sensible. ‘Carpe diem’ means pluck the day. Carpe, pluck. Seize the day would be “cape diem,” if my school Latin servies. No R. Very different piece of advice.
What Horace had in mind was that you should gently pull on the day’s stem, as if it were, say, a wildflower or an olive, holding it with all the practiced care of your thumb and the side of your finger, which knows how to not crush easily crushed things — so that the day’s stalk or stem undergoes increasing tension and draws to a thinness, and a tightness, and then snaps softly away at its weakest point, perhaps leaking a little milky sap, and the flower, or the fruit, is released in your hand.
Pluck the cranberry or blueberry of the day tenderly free without damaging it, is what Horace meant — pick the day, harvest the day, reap the day, mow the day, forage the day. Don’t freaking grab the day in your fist like a burger at a fairground and take a big chomping bite out of it. That’s not the kind of man that Horace was.”
― Nicholson Baker, The Anthologist
*All quotes (except the Capricorn key words) and images (except the film poster) are by people born on January 7th
Featured image is Afternoon Sun, 1967, by Taro Okamoto