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Things Can Get Worse: Mercury in Retrograde

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Times are really tough right now—the economy is tanking, we’re losing housing, the war is lingering, and everyone is overworked and overwhelmed. This has been going on for months, but doesn’t it feel like things are even more turbulent than usual?

Maybe you can’t put your finger on why this feeling of foreboding seems to be stronger than ever, but the stars might have the answer—its name is Mercury … and it’s going into retrograde.

Even if you don’t buy the whole astrology thing, I’m sure you’ve noticed times when everything is just “off” and despite your best intentions, everything that can go wrong does. I think back to the 2000 U.S. presidential election as one of these times—the abysmal failure of the voting process in Florida, the seemingly incomprehensible outcome, the lack of democracy’s reality when Gore won the popular vote, but lost the election. Obviously, there were many contributing factors in this snafu, but one interesting factor? It all happened at the peak of retrograde Mercury.

Represented by the winged messenger in Greek mythology, Mercury governs transportation and communication. While no planets actually go backward, there are certain times when planets appear to go backward; this is retrograde and it happens about to Mercury about three times a year. Mercury in retrograde is characterized by misunderstandings, confusion, and indecision.

Massive Miscommunication
You might not get an important letter or bill. You could send an email that is completely misinterpreted. Your cell phone could die in the middle of an important conversation. Personal communication can suffer—lovers may not be able to express themselves, and misunderstandings can lead to hurt feelings. Watch what you say and what you write—people will be extra sensitive. Don’t finalize a breakup at this time; you and your lover are not able to effectively communicate.

Transportation Breakdown
Expect glitches with any kind of travel. Flights may be cancelled; buses might not show up. These problems occur when one slight detail or crucial piece of information goes awry. You may miss an appointment or sit in an agonizing traffic jam. Machinery is also affected by Mercury’s retrograde—don’t be surprised if your DVD player, computer, or washing machine breaks. Allow extra time for travel, wait to make major repairs, and be prepared to be frustrated.

The Past Shall Rise Again
This is the time when your high school sweetheart will call you in the middle of the night, crying, to confess his undying love. Things will return from the past. Detectives might find a clue to blow open a case that has baffled them for years. Lost things will show up, even from years past. Sometimes, these things occur to make you see what you might have missed so you can claim it now and sometimes you just have to trudge through painful memories. Just remember, all of it is happening so that you can move forward.

A Good Time to Have Commitment Issues
During this time, you should be non-committal. Especially avoid committing to anything that has to do with words or communication—don’t sign contracts or other legal documents. Do not make important life-changing decisions during this time—all decisions will be clouded by misinformation. Don’t act on assumptions. However, if you get an opportunity to tie up some loose ends, jump on it. Do not—under any circumstances—start a new project during this time. It will rarely get off the ground.

To me, Mercury in retrograde feels like everything comes to a grinding halt. This is a time to reflect on what has happened over the last few months. Once we have reflected upon and understood the months leading up to this time, and Mercury goes out of retrograde, then we can start to move forward. The time after retrograde is usually light and full of energy—a rebirth.

Even if you don’t believe in astrology, it’s always good to step back and reflect every now and then. My advice—slow down and take care of yourself. Stay at home and watch movies, read books, listen to music, clean your house, back up your computer, hang out with your dog, and catch up on sleep. Review your goals and dreams and determine what’s preventing their realization. It’s not uncommon for new and wonderful things to enter your life right after this time, so be prepared by knowing what you want and being ready for it.

Most importantly, when it feels like you can’t do anything right, don’t fight it. Take a deep breath, knowing it will pass. And remember, it’s not you—it’s Mercury.

Updated May 6, 2010


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