A while back, I stumbled across a single, incomplete sentence I’d written in a journal. It was a thought I’d hoped to incorporate into an essay I never got around to completing. I’d written, “the kind of person who puts no stock in horoscopes but still credits her inherent mysticism to the fact that she’s a Pisces.”
No doubt about it: I was describing myself. Perfectly.
Few incomplete sentences could sum up the dichotomy of my inner life more succinctly – the tempestuous head-butting between the concrete and the ineffable, the known and the unknowable. The idea that the stars could predict our futures seems patently absurd. And yet, when I first read a detailed description of my star sign’s traits, I was old enough to know what I was like, and wise enough to see that it was a description of me, with few exceptions (I don’t seem to be prone to addiction, thank God, and I don’t run away when I feel unappreciated. Or wait...do I do that? Maybe I DO do that!).
So, it is with no small amount of sheepishness that I confess here that yes, I sometimes peek at my horoscope. I don’t want any predictions about how my week is going to go — I will roll my eyes derisively at such foolishness (unless it predicts something I really want, like when that old Iranian lady read my coffee grounds – something I did NOT ASK HER TO DO, for the record – and made some swell predictions about what my love life would look like in “one month”). But if the astrologer/writer is doing the new-agey thing where she gives each sign vague advice based on their star-prescribed personality, well, I often take some pleasure in those. After all, regardless of whether, as a Pisces, I have in fact traversed all other Star signs at least once in my past lives (I think Linda Goodman says something like that), there’s no denying that I have a Pisces personality.
But enough about me. All this is just to say: here is some inspiration I got this week, and don’t hate me just because some of it supposedly comes from the celestial orb.
1. ) The coffee shop near my house always posts a great horoscope that comes from I-know-not-where. Last week, while pouring half and half in my cold brew, I took a look and laughed out loud.
This is not a horoscope; this is a succinctly worded summary of my most fundamental existential crisis.
In my college years, when in the throes of an anxiety attack (these could last hours or days or weeks), I would sometimes feel devastated by the specter of an unexpressed thought, for if not voiced now, doesn’t it die forever, unheard by anyone!? Now blissfully free from that level of dramatic angst, I still feel the pull to share and the concern that if I don’t find my medium, if I don’t make the time, if I don’t work hard enough, I will not be living my calling.
On a less writer-y, more interpersonal level, earlier this week I mentioned in conversation that I often advise friends to address a conflict by opening the lines of communication. That way, they can at least attempt to set the story straight, both in their own minds and in the other party’s. Earlier TODAY I found myself giving just that advice, acknowledging that my perspective might be skewed because to me, absence of communication (and the corresponding absence of control over your own story) is “like torture.”
This communication imperative manifests different questions depending on which lens of our lives we view it through.
As a writer: What stories can I tell? What stories can only I tell?
As a helper: What wisdom do I have to offer the world? Is there something I have to say that might make a positive and lasting impact on even one person?
As a human being: Am I harming myself by keeping something secret? Or by choosing to say something false, closed-hearted, or judgmental? Who does my silence help? Who does it hurt?
As a creative: HOW am I going to speak out? How can I share what I’ve seen with the world, be it my own little world or the world at large?
2. I have recently become enthralled with The Cut (I have about a million ideas for their wonderful recurring feature, “I Think About This a Lot”). Perusing it this week, in between the fashion pieces and the firebrand editor’s letter about this moment in Feminism, I found what looked like a soothing and ethereal horoscope section, by “Madame Clairevoyant” (Claire Comstock-Gay). I clicked. I was rewarded.
Now these were some horoscopes! Nothing concrete, just some soothing words that tap into our insecurities and seek to hush the sniping of our inner monologues. I even read some of the others, and while they didn’t feel quite as apt, I still found them to be encouraging. Which is really all I’m asking for from the Internet.
Read me clearly: I do not believe that Madame Clairevoyant knows my inner struggles. But I DO believe that it doesn’t matter how inspiration and fortification come to us as long as we are spurred on by what we’ve seen, ready to accept the magic this world has to show us. Almost as if in answer to my nagging concern about making the most of my every moment and saying all the words all the time, here was something that rang just as true: I can give myself permission — we can all give ourselves permission — to explore, to take our time, and to simply be alive.
Which brings me to…
3. Brian Andreas. The power our words have to inspire a stranger. This stranger, whose art enthralled me from the funky gift shop in Valparaiso, Indiana that we sometimes visited after church; whose books of poetry I bought as graduation gifts for my tight-knit group of nerdy, arty highschool friends; who is still creating art that now comes to my eyeballs via Instagram on my iPhone - a device and an app that were the stuff of science fiction at the time I first lay eyes on his work. The fact that this stranger’s stray thoughts still shake me as if from slumber, 20 years later. I feel like this recent post of his, which had such an effect on me, ties all these ramblings up quite nicely. No stars required.