2014 in review: if you don’t like something, change it

Do what feels right has been my mantra for a year or two now. I can’t remember the first time I said it, but I remember the moment I first realized how free it made me feel to need no further justification for a decision. As with anything taken to extremes, this mantra could definitely take you down some shady paths, but more often than not, for me, doing what intuitively “feels” right is saying YES! to life and experiences of all kinds. It’s doing things you’re afraid of, intrigued by, passionate, curious, or ignorant about. It’s the choices you make when you’re doing what feels right that show you what you’re made of, for there is no greater teacher than experience.

At the beginning of each new year, I like to set intentions for what I would like to see manifest in my life. It seems like most of the new year’s resolutions you see on magazine covers aim at externally improving the self in some way, whether it be to clean up your diet, get organized, read more, spend less or earn more money, exercise harder, better, etc. There is certainly nothing wrong with these resolutions, but the intentions I like to set tend to be more inward-focused; subtle or more radical energy shifts, attitude adjustments, acceptance of new truths. Prayers or wishes followed up with intentional action. What I manifest may be tangible or intangible, and the result may not be what was expected. In 2014, I followed my do what feels right mantra, and an incredible adventure manifested. As you might recall from my first blog post, the year of doing, it’s been a busy year!

  • In 2014 I tried my hand at many new and some lesser-practiced trades. Here are some of my new “professions”:
    • Nanny. There is nothing more fulfilling than shaping young minds and bearing witness to their brilliance, but HOLY SHIT is it exhausting. And I’m pretty sure I could have just packed pajamas for my stay there and been just fine. Take away: I think I’ll wait a few more years on kids, but I love them and enjoy having them in my life. Thanks for the trial period and help, Nay.
    • Entrepreneur. Toe Ring Slinger. My learning curve wasn’t as steep as someone starting their own business for real, but nevertheless, this experience tested and stretched me in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I enjoyed attending various markets, fairs, and festivals, and interacting with different people, getting my hands dirty with some manual labor, driving long stretches of Texas highways, employing some of my closest friends, drinking sunshine and freedom. I didn’t love the sometimes phoniness of retail, or the modeling 15+ toe rings at once, or the inventory or the accounting. If it weren’t for technology and spreadsheets, I’m not sure what I would’ve done. On another note, there was a special energy inside that booth; my dad was there, heckling me a little, but mostly supporting me, and it was so nice that so many strangers remember him as the toe ring man. This business is a connection I feel lucky to have had with my father, strange though it may be.
    • Standardized Test Editor. An amazing outlet for my scrupulousness, but perhaps a little too much screen time and isolation.
    • Organizational Consultant. AHA! A meditative practice for my critical mind, a stimulus for my spacial and visual intelligences, plus manual labor, a little social interaction, and an outlet for my OCD. Could perfect exist? If only I had thought of this business! Synchronicity and manifestation hard at work here. I can’t wait to see what 2015 brings.
    • Spanish Teacher. Whoa. I hadn’t taught Spanish in four years and hadn’t been speaking it much when I threw myself back into the classroom to try my hand at teaching adults. My anxiety unfolded into goofiness and revealed my true passion for language, grammar, and culture. What a nerd. What a cool model. Why didn’t I think of this business?
    • Yoga Instructor. Giving an hour of my time on Wednesday morning to share a practice that gives me so much more is one of my highlights each and every week. I love that my friends come over and seem to enjoy it as much as I do. I feel like I’m “finding my voice” as a teacher and gaining confidence leading a beginner-intermediate Hatha practice. And I love my body and what it’s capable of more every day.
    • Montessori Assistant. A beautiful combination of awesome. The sweet innocence and incredible curiosity of young children. Learning a new perspective on early childhood education and assisting in bringing that vision to life. Cultivating patience and compassion. Singing songs and reading aloud. Snack time. Part-time/temporary work. BUT so much mucous. Ew the mucous.
  • In addition to all of the odd work I took on, in 2014 I also had the opportunity to live at each of my sibling’s houses for extended stays, in exchange for helping out with the kids or around the house. It was so interesting to live with each of them for the first time since pre-adolescence (in the case of my sister) and adolescence (in the case of my brother). Of course we have all grown and changed in numerous ways since the good old days on Longhouse Ct., but the bonds and neuroses we share remain intact. I was not surprised by, but so grateful for the hospitality and generosity of both; they both have built beautiful homes, where I was fed exceedingly well and re-introduced to pop-culture through binges of media consumption. But beyond these two important takeaways, I observed:
    • My sister Renee is such a giver and nurturer. She is always thinking of others before herself, which makes her an incredibly engaged mother constantly striving to improve the lives of those she loves. Living with Renee’s adorable family showed me what putting family first really looks like day-to-day. It’s an incredibly rewarding experience, but requires significant sacrifice. And they do it with such grace, it’s almost easy to overlook the challenge they face as same-sex parents. I only wish my sister wasn’t so hard on herself, and recognized just how beautiful and smart and kind she really is. She is an inspiration.
    • My brother Eric has grown into such a hilariously finicky man. God bless his wife for handling his particularities with any grace at all. I am so proud of him and his achievements, though. I can tell he’s a real badass at work, and he takes it seriously. His responsibility and prudence are impressive, and it’s interesting to explore how his relationship with my dad, and losing him, have impacted him and led him to where he is now. My brother and I can connect on a very real, filterless level at times (usually very late and with large quantities of alcohol), which I very much appreciate.
  • This year I travelled more frequently and at greater distance than ever before in my life, with my air and land travel exceeding 32,000 miles over the course of 12 months. To put this in perspective, the circumference of the earth at the equator is about 24,900 miles, so I traveled almost enough to circle the globe 1.5 times. I also had a large number of travel “firsts,” visiting more than a dozen new cities and places:
    • Memphis, TN. A little underwhelming, I’m sorry to say, but I caught it during Snowpocalypse 2014, so it was kind of dead. Graceland was amazing, though.
    • Nashville, TN. I liked it a lot.
    • Washington, D.C. I know, pathetic it took me 28 years. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed visiting all of the beautiful monuments and incredible museums. It almost made me patriotic.
    • Alexandria, VA. I learned nothing from my terrible tour guide (my cousin Jess) but I had a great time. I’m so glad I’m related to that delightfully crazy woman!
    • Weiden and Amberg, Germany. I know. Most Germans haven’t heard of these small towns either. They were perfectly charmingly German, but what I appreciated even more was the glimpse it provided into the life of my good friends Sheena, a badass academic and military wife, and her husband Mike, a U.S. military doctor. What a bizarre reality the military life is. I don’t think I could do it.
    • Karlsruhe, Heidelberg, and Stuttgart, Germany. I conclude that I prefer Germany in the summer time. It’s too cold and gray in winter, but these places are all charming nonetheless.
    • Prague, Czech Republic. We drank all the beer and ate all the meat. I loved Prague! Also, train travel is the best.
    • Paris, France. So many #selfies with Sheena, Shelbee, & Laura! Good times. Better than good. This was definitely a bucket list adventure.
    • Dubai, United Arab Emirates. So not impressed by all the glitz and glamor and engineering feats of this international destination, but worth a visit anyway. More than anything, it gave me new insight into my best friend Shelbee and Jordan’s expat life. I don’t think I could’ve done it. I’m blown away with how far “out there” Shelbee has put herself both professionally and personally, and how Jordan has been willing and ready to go along for the ride.
    • Asheville, NC. As soon as Nannette and I parked downtown, we found a bench with a box of free stuff – gifts from the universe! Then I got my truck stuck in mud in the mountains and a cardinal flew into the window. We got the truck out and felt free. Reconnecting with Nannette felt like reconnecting with myself in some ways, and made me realize how much I missed Austin.
    • Las Vegas, NV. So not impressed, but glad I went. It was a tame trip to Vegas indeed. Perhaps it won’t be the last.
    • Sequoia National Forest, CA. Holy shit. I didn’t know my love of trees could grow bigger! I brought a baby home. A baby Sequoia!
    • Yosemite National Park, CA. Wow. Just wow. I could dirtbag there for a few weeks or months and be content. El Capitan was magnificent.
    • San Francisco, CA. Very nice. I can definitely see the appeal. But too damned expensive, and a little elitist, in my humble opinion.
    • Napa, CA. So delicious. So so delicious. A wonderful family trip that will not soon be outdone. I’m so glad we were able to do that for mom’s 60th.
    • Longview, TX and a bunch of other small towns in Texas. Mostly unremarkable, but Texas people are really some of the nicest you can meet.
  • Other highlights of 2014 include:
    • Getting my first (and possibly my last) tattoo.
    • Completing a motorcycle course and getting my license.
    • Seeing the largest living thing on earth (General Sherman, Sequoia).
    • Practicing yoga at more than a dozen different studios. I’m so glad I live in Austin where there is such a thriving yoga community.
    • Becoming the proud owner of my first MacBook. I may never go back to PC!
    • Driving Biff all over. Just the two of us on the road. ❤
    • Moving into the beloved Patterson House in Clarksville, where I live with one of my best friends, two other delightful humans, three dogs, one fish and (formerly) one cat. I’ve never lived in a place with such incredible energy.
    • Seeing three shooting stars in one night. (My brother only saw one.)
    • Hearing (and recording) some incredible stories from my grandfather, a veteran badass and overall amazing man. So very proud to be a Mursch.
    • Putting some miles on my bicycle in Austin. Here’s to many more in 2015.
    • Dating. Really dating, and making an intentional decision to enter into a romantic relationship with a great guy who is exactly what I want and need. No more long-distance/it’s complicated/don’t know how I really feel/together when it’s convenient whatevers.
    • Reflecting on life, integrating my experiences, and sharing my feelings with those I love. Through this blog and with my voice. Opening up.
    • Helping host one of the best parties I’ve ever attended. Neon Apocalypse NYE will be tough to top.

What an incredible adventure 2014 was. This year will surely be another great teacher. I’m open to its lessons if I always do what feels right!


the fire and the rose

I don’t know why it has always felt like our relationship has been difficult. In so many ways I think you have been such a positive influence in my life, such a force for good in the world at large, really. And I couldn’t imagine who I’d be without you. There are so many qualities I admire about you, qualities I’ve cultivated in myself, some with conscious intention, others without any effort at all, and others perhaps with some resistance.

  • Your hard work. You don’t stop until it’s done, which of course is never. If someone called you idle, I’d know they were lying or talking about someone else.
  • Your integrity. If it’s wrong, you won’t do it, and that’s the end of it. You have very clear delineations of right and wrong.
  • Your strength. You’re not sick unless you’re SICK. There was absolutely no tolerance for hypochondriacs, and I’m grateful for that.   
  • Your high standard for yourself and others. I would never have achieved as much if you hadn’t pushed me.
  • Your ability to see things as they are rather than as they could be. Idealistic you are not! Who has time for that in this practical world? Although this challenges my view in many cases, it has helped keep me grounded in reality.
  • Your modesty. You don’t let achievements or praise go to your head. (On the negative side you don’t give yourself enough credit.)
  • Your gratitude. You genuinely appreciate the kindness of others and take the time to say so.
  • Your hands-off approach to parenting. Thank you for teaching us to think and do things for ourselves. You raised three independent, critical-thinking children, which is an accomplishment not to be overlooked.
  • Your thriftiness. I know how to get more out of less because of you, which is always valuable.
  • Your preparedness. You can always be counted on for a kleenex, a bandaid, a toothpick… if you don’t have it in your purse, it’s really not necessary anyway.

You are an amazing woman, and we have so much love and so many joyful memories. Yet there remains a palpable tension between us and an accompanying dull heartache practically every time we see one another. We both wish it were different, but we haven’t quite been able to pinpoint that “thing” between us that makes me tick and leaves you weepy. Our “differences” have been acknowledged and documented through years of Hallmark cards on birthdays and minor holidays, your singular attempt at expressing your sentimentality, but they haven’t gotten to the heart of the issue. In this age of constant psychoanalysis and pathology, we’ve become accustomed to seeking the source of our neuroses, always looking to our childhood for the root of all issues, the ground zero of the fucked-up-ness that we all are. The source of all our beliefs and attitudes we carry? Our greatest role models? Our parents of course…the buck stops there. If there’s something wrong with me, it must have come from you and dad.

Unlucky for you, I was daddy’s little girl. You’re the bad guy. At times you wore it as a badge, a source of pride and a symbol of power. I’ve gone back and forth over the years in my thinking that you either enjoyed being feared, or you resigned yourself to that role out of necessity. Maybe a combination of both?

I can’t know for sure, because we didn’t talk about it. I wish we talked more. I want to know about your childhood, about your coming-of-age adventures in a strict Catholic household, about your relationship with dad (or any other relationship you’d like to talk about), about your fears of life and death, about all the things that matter that we don’t talk about because we’re talking about what you’re packing for your next resort vacation, or what you found on sale recently at Kohl’s. Sometimes our talks delve a little deeper, and I get a glimpse of your emotional scars and deep pools of guilt, but they’re few and far-between and always end in you muffling your tears and walking away. Since dad passed, though, all my childhood emotional baggage has shifted from a shared burden (albeit an unbalanced one) to one you carry alone. Are you even aware that you’re carrying all that? You must be. I’m sure it’s heavy.

I thought after my high school years we were through the worst of the conflicts— my sometimes open hostility toward you when you tried to offer your commentary on my performance in a soccer game or unpleasantries during prom dress shopping. No matter what you did, it was absolutely wrong. We inflicted wounds which I would scratch at the surface of for years to come. They’ve become infected now, but as with other health and emotional issues, we ignore the hurt. To acknowledge that pain and seek treatment would be to admit that something was wrong. Nope, we’re perfect! Except that we aren’t perfect. We are human. And since this blog is intended to hold me accountable for embracing imperfections and being honest with myself, I’ve decided that it’s far past due time to treat that infection and patch up my wounds as best as I can to minimize the scarring.

Like a lot of women, I’ve always been extra hard on my mother. It’s like I credit dad for all my “positive” qualities and you for all my “negative” ones. But the thing is that perspective changes everything. With a simple shift, all of these “negative” qualities can be seen as beautiful.

  • Your traditional world view. You are the product of your upbringing, a conservative, Catholic family who upheld traditional values. At times this can be limiting and even stagnating. There is no convincing you that it’s forgivable to miss Mass on Ash Wednesday (part of the right/wrong delineation), and the mere thought of any of us spending Christmas morning anywhere other than your living room breaks your heart into a million pieces. But this strong sense of tradition has provided consistency for our family, and has ensured that FAMILY continues to be one of the most central values in each of us. I am so grateful for that. I just hope you don’t let guilt run your life.
  • Your critical, judgmental nature.* In your aim for perfection, you pick everything apart. You need details in order to make an informed evaluation of absolutely everything. You haven’t seen me wear this sweater before. Where did I buy it? When? How much did it cost? I don’t understand why you need all this information, but apparently you do, so that you can decide if it was a good purchase or not. You evaluate things; it’s how you make sense of the world. Perhaps by categorizing things into “good” and “bad,” you can make sure you and those you love stay on the “good” side. Maybe you learned this strategy from the nuns at Sunday school? In any case, as much as it drives me nuts, it’s not insidious, and I hope I can get over this and recognize that you’re not necessarily judging ME. Even if you categorize something I do or say as “bad,” you will never be capable of casting that label to me wholly. You love me too much for that.
    (*I’d like to note that by writing this list, I am criticizing and judging you at this very moment. How very meta.)
  • Your sense of impotence and stress when something unpleasant happens to anyone you love. You love us so much that you desire to help us in absolutely any situation. When you’re unable to help or if that help is for some reason unwelcome, however, you are both sorry and stressed about it. Your sentiment is so pure here, it really is beautiful. But I wish you could learn to surrender to life. This is something I learned through yoga that has brought me a lot of peace. You can’t control everything, and that’s okay, you just have to do your best and let the rest go.
  • Your internalization of emotions. Either you don’t want to burden someone else with how you feel, or you judge yourself for how you feel, and choose not to acknowledge or express your emotions. This is probably the most toxic thing you can do for yourself and your relationships. I wish I could find a positive perspective of this one, but I simply can’t. Feel your feels.
  • Your consumerism and hoarding of material possessions. This has been a major source of conflict for us in that last few years. First, your thriftiness has evolved from a skill to a thrill; you’ve made a hobby out of bargain-hunting and acquiring things you don’t need for the simple satisfaction of a “good deal.” For now, I will resist the temptation to rant about all of the ways consumerism is destroying our culture and our planet (maybe I’ll save that for another blog post?), but I do wonder if you place too much value in what you have over what you do and who you are. Second, your extreme sentimentality is one of the few ways you allow yourself to express your emotions (along with the Hallmark cards), but by projecting and displacing feelings onto material objects, you’re loving stuff not people. That love is given but never received, and in the meantime, you are surrounding yourself with stuff and building up static energy in your living spaces. The beautiful side of these qualities is that we can always count on you to have whatever we need. We’ve all “shopped” at your house for items for the pantry, home and body products, vintage clothes, furniture, family heirlooms, you name it. You’re always happy to provide for family, even though it can be difficult for you to part with your beloved possessions.

As I acknowledge in my “Relationally Challenged” post, the worst part about identifying unfavorable qualities in others is recognizing that they are present in myself as well. And if I can accept myself for everything I am and everything I’m not, how could I not extend that same grace to the woman who brought me into this world??

This TS Elliot poem resonated with me the first time I read it, but I couldn’t put my finger on why until recently.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

The first few times I read it, I couldn’t identify what exactly the “here,” the “beginning” could be referring to. But now, each time I read it, it’s so obviously you. You, mother, are quite literally where I started. My life started in your womb, my first home. And much to your dismay, my “ceaseless exploration” has taken me far away from that home time and time again, each new adventure and experience forming my worldview, which has transformed into something quite different from your own. That hasn’t stopped you from supporting me and telling me how proud you are of me, but each time I return to where I started, you and I seem more at odds, and my “beginning” feels less and less familiar. It seems strange to me how much of you remains a mystery to me.

I definitely don’t pretend to have all the answers (although I’m sure the title “ErinEnlightened” suggests otherwise…), and I know that this is not my last wound to heal or “last of earth left to discover”, but in recent years, as I’ve been grieving the loss of dad, I’ve come to recognize that one of the reasons I am so at peace with his death is that our relationship was completely open and honest and free from judgment. I know that losing you will be so much harder if we don’t do something to heal our wounds and forgive each other. My intuition has been guiding me to seek peace with you, but until now I’ve been unwilling to do the work and share responsibility for the situation in which we find ourselves.

Nay’s theory (and I think she nailed it) is that at a deep, subconscious level, all I really want is your approval, and I’m not getting it. Not 100% anyway. I get endless questions, and concerns and stress. Perhaps at a subconscious level I want you to offer me my own favorite mantra to “do what feels right,” but you aren’t able to do that. I put up a good front and act like I don’t care about your opinion, but it if that were the case I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this right now. In fact I care very deeply, and I know that you care about my opinion too. You want my approval just as badly, and I can’t give you that either. We both want the same things – to feel loved and supported no matter what choices we make for our own lives.

So…why can’t we give each other this mutual approval and move on? It seems that we have been unable to let go of our judgment of one another. We have different value systems, and approach happiness and life choices in vastly different ways. We both think that we have it right, that the other is misguided, and if we don’t voice our concerns or dissent on each other’s lives, we’ll be doing the other a disservice. You value financial security above nearly all else. Everything you do is done in consideration of how it will affect your future security, and your idea of happiness is closely tied to that. Conversely, I value freedom and experiences above nearly all else, while security is not a major concern of mine as long as I’m living a life I love. Naturally, choices I make that negatively affect my security will not be choices that you can support, and choices that you make that only serve your financial security and do not increase your overall health or happiness won’t be encouraged by me.

But if we are able to truly accept one another for who we are and trust that we know how to best seek our own happiness, perhaps we can move past our differences and live in peace. Let’s in-fold our tongues of flame into the crowned knot of fire, that icky place of judgment and fear within each of us. The fire and the rose are one. Are you the fire and I the rose? No, you’re the rose and I’m the fire? Fuck it. We are one. Let’s be friends. It costs not less than everything.

We shall not cease from exploration

T. S. Eliot
Little Gidding V

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always–
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Astrological Self-Study: Relationally Challenged

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”
Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Most of what I have learned about myself, I have learned within the context of my relationships. I recently started dating someone, and I’m not certain yet whether it will turn into something more significant, but after so many “failed” relationships in the past, it seems appropriate to take a step back and look at “what went wrong” and what patterns I may be unconsciously repeating. I place “failed” and “what went wrong” in quotations, because I don’t truly see them as failures; each relationship and each individual I have loved have taught me about myself and about love itself. Like most people, I strongly desire to share my life with someone, and I fully recognize that it is not only important WITH WHOM I CHOOSE TO SHARE IT, but also HOW I GO ABOUT MANIFESTING this relationship. So this blog post is an attempt at integrating lessons so that I can shift patterns of the past and begin again. With every death there is a rebirth, and with every end there is a new beginning.

In the last couple of years I have been learning a lot about astrology, and I have been blown away by the accuracy of my astrological birth chart, which, among many other insights, provides a lot of evidence for the important role that relationships play in my life. When I was born, Mercury, Saturn and Uranus were all positioned in my 7th House, which rules relating and partnerships. The 7th House is often referred to as the House of Marriage. Let’s first see what the stars and planets have to say, and then I’ll follow up with some more concrete examples from life experiences.

The first planet we’ll look at is Mercury, which represents reason and that which is rational. It stands for the spoken and written word, putting in order, weighing and evaluating, the process of learning and skills. In addition to its placement in my 7th House, when I was born, Mercury was located in the sign of Sagittarius. This is the description for this planetary placement:

Mercury in Sagittarius
Enthusiastic, humorous, and sometimes moralistic. She has strong opinions, and often shares them! Democrat, philosopher, tolerant, respectful of laws. Interested in foreign places and learning more languages. Believes that everything teaches you something.

Mercury in VII House of Marriage
Hates being alone. She has lots of friends, likes to discuss and similarly has a lot of work friends. Likes to write.

You have a great love of debate, if only to get closer to your own thoughts and opinions. Bouncing ideas off others helps you to make a decision, although coming to definite conclusions can be painfully difficult for you. You see the other side of the coin. You might often play devil’s advocate. Communication with a partner is craved, and you also love an audience for your own thoughts and opinions, but preferably a one-person audience, as you come alive verbally when it’s one-on-one. You can be quite skilled at keeping a partnership animated and alive with interesting tidbits, new ideas, and stimulating conversation. You can easily become bored in partnership if the lines of communication go down, even temporarily. You might also love to talk about and analyze relationships and marriage.

How natural, then, that I be analyzing my past relationships and writing about them. I’ve always enjoyed talking about relationships. I also find it interesting that this Mercurial placement indicates an interest in travel and languages — three of my past four relationships have been with foreigners whose first language was not English!

After Mercury, I look to Saturn for some insight, as it was also located in my House of Marriage when I was born. Saturn is a big, serious planet that shows how we experience “reality,” where we meet with resistance, and discover our own limitations. It represents the conscience and moral conviction, the laws and rules which we choose to obey. It also tells us about our powers of endurance and the ability to concentrate, and it lends qualities like earnestness, caution, and reserve. 

Saturn has an enormous impact within each of our lives. It takes Saturn about 29.5 years to orbit the Earth, so when you’re between 27-29 years old, Saturn returns to its placement at the time of your birth. Around this age, many people go through a difficult time in life, as they are brought face to face with some of our greatest challenges. If one doesn’t “deal with” issues brought to light during the first Saturn return, they may come back to haunt him or her during its second return before age 60.

As Lord of Karma, Saturn brings you what you’ve earned through your disciplined pursuit of goals and experience. You’ll find out during the Saturn return what you’ve manifested up to that point, how well you’ve used your talents — kind of like a mid-semester exam.

Saturn is also the mythological god of the harvest, and it’s harvest time during your Saturn return. If nothing’s been sown, and therefore, very little reaped, you’ll realize it’s time to get busy. The scythe of Saturn prunes, cuts away the useless bits, and that can feel like a death of the self. Saturn often brings a death to the old ways of doing things, but later on, you’re likely to say, “Good riddance!” The death phase is never easy, but keep in mind that rebirth will come.

Saturn’s realm is responsibility, and will show you how to grow through relationships, pursue a challenging career, find discipline for an art, etc. If you’ve indulged in wishful thinking, Saturn finds a way to make this painfully obvious. It’s not just designed to humiliate you, but to inspire you to stand on solid ground.

Saturn is like a wise old man who sees right through your excuses and empty boasts. Try to make friends with Saturn through discipline and develop a step-by-step plan to reach your goals. It’s the simple, but not always easy task of making your dream a reality by doing the work on a daily basis.

When serious Saturn overtakes your life during this hugely important initiation into adulthood, it’s important to remember that ‘This too shall pass.’ The harshness of this period can make you feel washed up, parched, dishillusioned. But it can also be a time of taking stock, liberating yourself from baggage, and starting anew with a clearer sense of purpose. It’s never too late to be who you were meant to be. Saturn’s Return reminds you of what is truly important, and makes sure you’re on the path to claim your highest potential.

Saturn’s placement in your birth chart shows you the general area of your life you will focus on during its return. I am currently experiencing my first Saturn return, and I can tell you that during the last two years, absolutely everything has come up for review: my career, my family, my living situation, and especially my relationships (because of its placement in the 7th House). I continue to work toward letting go of that which does not serve me, and inviting new people and activities into my life that allow me to live more authentically.

Saturn in Scorpio
Observant, self-controlled, unforgiving, tough, methodical, a researcher, an investigator. Lots of courage, self-assurance and can keep her cool. Weaknesses: makes no concessions or compromises. She can become a fanatic of a creed, a party, work or a religion.

Saturn in VII House of Marriage

With Saturn here, you face some profound lessons in the intimacy department. To prepare for them, focus first on self-sufficiency, both materially and emotionally. Then seek out partners with Saturnian qualities: responsibility, sobriety, a willingness to make–and keep–deep vows.

As I review and reflect on past partnerships in an effort to do the work required by Saturn and my sanity, I’m finding some patterning. The circumstances of each of my relationships have been different, but the general pattern is:

1. Feel a connection. Sometimes emotional, sometimes physical.
2. Be pursued by this person. Mostly welcome advances, but set some boundaries.
3. Sort through my feelings internally while engaging in physical/intimate contact.
4. Relationship stage is almost always automatic rather than established through discussion. At this point we are still living in the present moment and not discussing the future.
5. Our bond strengthens and we become to depend more on one another for happiness. He/we begin talking about the future, and I begin slowly retreating in fear.

I have been the one who has terminated each of my relationships. At some point, the idea of commitment becomes too much and I have to get out. What starts out as a casual relationship (I like you. You like me.) quickly develops into what feels like someone dictating who I am and how I should be forever. I’m finding now that Uranus may have something to do with this unshakable desire for independence (even if I can keep the feelings at bay for a year or more).

Uranus in Sagittarius
She is shy, delicate but proud, bold and lively.

Uranus in VII House of Marriage
Her independence does not tolerate traditional marriage very well. If she does marry, she has little chance of finishing her days with the spouse, unless the partner gives her complete freedom.
You need a lot of freedom in your partnerships and do best in unconventional or nontraditional set-ups. You are likely to attract unusual, erratic people into your life, particularly in close relationships.

Interesting. My longest relationship to date was in my early twenties, and lasted a little more than four years. It was passionate and lively, and there were so many elements that were good. Throughout our relationship, we had talked about marriage periodically, and it didn’t freak me out that much. He proposed to me on my 25th birthday during an argument, and his timing and his strategy could not have been worse. I was in the middle of finishing my thesis and preparing to spend three months in Spain by myself after graduation. Within the first four weeks of my stay in Spain, I came to a lot of realizations and ended the relationship. I stayed in Spain for six months and began a new relationship that was the polar opposite of the one I had ended. I ended that relationship a little more than a year later, after my return to the U.S., when he wanted one of us to move so we could be together forever. Nope. I hated the idea of one of us being completely dependent on the other for survival because of the inevitable cross-cultural struggle. Yet my next two relationships were also with foreigners. I think I was attracted to the idea that I’d have a good excuse to not make a real commitment. It’s just too challenging logistically.

For the last few years, while I’ve been in and out of what one might consider relationships (I haven’t used the term boyfriend since 2011), I’ve been largely on my own, living as independently and authentically as possible. I feel free and happy. But I still have that desire to share my life with someone. Maybe have a family some day? Maybe travel the world? Step 1 of building a solid relationship is finding a special someone. These are the qualities I have sought and continue to seek in my partners:

  • sexual chemistry
  • passionate
  • fun
  • adventurous
  • likes to travel
  • dynamic individual with lots of interests and hobbies
  • intellectual
  • ambitious
  • accepting and supportive
  • open and honest
  • positive outlook
  • family values
  • hard working
  • respectful
  • likes to have a good time
  • lots of friends
  • balanced, healthy lifestyle
  • enjoys the small things
  • active and athletically inclined
  • humble/modest
  • not overly concerned with money
  • reflective and self-aware
  • intense connection and empathy
  • goofy
  • stable and responsible
  • common interests
  • communicative
  • confident and secure
  • spontaneous and flexible
  • creative
  • spiritual/ growth-minded
  • affectionate

I count myself incredibly fortunate to have found many of these qualities in my mates, which bring out the same in myself. My previous partners have given me some of their heart, and I have given them some of mine. But we are not perfect people, and I have come face to face with some pretty undesirable qualities of humankind, which also bring out the same in myself. That’s the worst part of experiencing the “dark side” of another — recognizing that you have the same within you. Here are some of the demons I have enountered:

  • manipulative
  • deceitful, dishonest
  • unhealthy, dysfunctional family
  • infidelity
  • addiction & compulsive behavior
  • distrust & jealousy
  • questionable ethics
  • lack of follow-through
  • dramatic
  • victim
  • overly confident
  • unhealthy lifestyle
  • conflicting ideologies
  • insecure
  • judgmental
  • lack of sexual chemistry
  • stubborn
  • shallow connection
  • unmatched sense of humor
  • overly sexual
  • emotionally closed-off
  • unspiritual; obsession with practicalities
  • overly emotional, irrational
  • flaky
  • self-serving
  • irresponsible

Again, my aim here is not to point fingers but to reflect and share responsibility for my part. Here are some errors that I have made:

  • brushing issues under the rug
  • not being honest about my feelings
  • compulsive alcohol, smoking, sex
  • lack of boundaries/being too flexible
  • living his life and dreams rather than my own
  • cultural infatuation
  • running away from previous relationship, seeking its opposite
  • emotionally closed
  • inauthentic
  • judgmental/critical

To synthesize all this, I guess I can say that I have silenced myself within the context of my relationships and let my partner believe that everything was great until suddenly it wasn’t. There would come a critical point when I chose independence and transformation over commitment. I’ve become so good at imitating intimacy without actually allowing myself to open up and be vulnerable, that I create the illusion. This is not an intentional manipulation, and I am not always aware of it at the time, but when I am dissatisfied at important levels I can choose to acknowledge those feelings or I can choose to ignore them and maintain the peace. Evidence of this particular pattern is found in my birth chart as well, with the placement of Venus in Libra in the 6th House. Venus represents an interest for emotions and values, exchange and sharing with others.

Venus in Libra
Venus in Libra people will try to impress you with their kindness, evenhandedness, and willingness to make your relationship work. They have a polished manner in love, which sometimes makes them appear insincere or superficial. They are gentle lovers who hate to be offended. They are threatened by bad manners and direct or abrasive expression of feelings. They not only prefer to choose the middle road, they seek the middle ground in their relationships. You can expect to be treated fairly, and you may be turned on by Venus in Libra’s willingness to concede and adjust their lives to fully accommodate you. Venus in Libra men and women have idealized images of their relationships, even to the point where the relationship becomes bigger than life, taking on a life of its own. They can become quietly resentful if they feel they are being taken advantage of — and they make it easy for more aggressive types to bully them around.

Pleasing Venus in Libra involves treating them kindly and fairly. They love to share everything with you, so let them. Foreplay for them can be mental — they love to communicate with you about the relationship. Sharing turns them on, and tactless or uncouth behavior is a turn-off. Although they seem to put up with a lot, be fair with them. Over time, imbalance in their relationship is sure to make them unhappy, and when it comes to this, they may try to even the score in subtle, roundabout ways. Don’t let it come to that, and you will be rewarded with a lover who puts themselves in your shoes and treats you exactly how they would like to be treated.

Venus in VI House of Work
Your expressions of love and affection are practical and helpful. Being of service to a partner is especially important to you. In fact, you might go to great lengths to be available at all costs to a loved one. While you may not be flowery or showy when it comes to expressing love, you show your love by your availability, rendering services, doing practical things for a loved one, and other thoughtful “little” things. You are talented at design work, as you appreciate and pay much attention to all of the little parts that make up a whole, with the goal of finding order and harmony in these systems. If you are not careful, you might pass up on true love opportunities in favor of relationships that serve a practical purpose in your life, or out of fear that you might not find better. Selling yourself short may be something that keeps you from going after what and who you want.

Let’s bring this back to the concrete level, because this really resonates with me. I can see that in relating with men I am interested in, I generally demonstrate qualities that I know they will like. Whether that is sweet & innocent, smart & sexy, or laid back & adventurous, whatever it is they want, I’m it. It’s easy for me to play these roles, because I really do have all these sides of my personality. It’s simply how I choose to manifest these qualities within the context of the relationship, playing up certain sides over others, that can be misleading or manipulative.

I bring to life their “dream girl,” while simultaneously allowing them to feel safe to be themselves without insecurity or fear of judgment. Any red flags or internal judgements remain silenced until that “critical point” when it’s no longer possible. There have been two possible outcomes of this repeat scenario, both ending the relationship no matter how wonderful it was: 

  1. After a time, I “wake up” to the fact that I have been filtering my reactions to his behaviors, attitudes, physical appearance, etc., and I no longer want to filter. I begin voicing small dissatisfactions, which he may attempt to rectify, but it becomes more and more difficult to please me. He wonders what he’s doing wrong, because nothing has changed but all of a sudden I’m not happy anymore. He begins to cling more and more to the relationship as he feels me pulling away, which only pushes me away faster.
  2. After a time, I begin to feel boxed into a “type” (his type specifically), and other sides of my personality want to be expressed. Maybe I want to wear a different kind of underwear, or I begin to miss old hobbies, want more time with my friends, more time with myself, more art and creativity, more intellectual stimulation, more exercise, whatever it is. I begin to express those sides of myself which are new to him, and if he doesn’t like it, I feel judged and trapped, and immediately want to flee. If I don’t do anything about the way I feel, I feel that I’m not being authentic or that I’m limiting myself, and I want to flee.

Final conclusion: my work is cut out for me. I want a healthy, balanced relationship, but I have to accept that it will never be perfect. If I can find someone who has some of the qualities that I seek, I need to make sure that he has an independent spirit and can understand that sometimes I’ll need things he can’t provide. I need the freedom to be me and do my own thing sometimes. I need to be authentic from the very beginning, and be conscious about what I’m starting (rather than mindlessly stumbling into relationships I have no business being in). I need to be open and honest and maintain awareness of my emotions rather than riding on auto pilot.

Tying this back to my first post… perfection has been my aim my whole life, and it’s caused its share of suffering in my life. The thing is, I know that I am not perfect and will never be perfect. I can accept that, so the next step is to allow others to see that I’m not perfect.

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

No more filters. No more brushing under the rug. No more unconscious, compulsive behavior. I want to allow my heart to open and be vulnerable. In order to do this, I have to acknowledge the dark side in myself and in others, and find the beauty in that. Wish me luck.

the year of doing

This has been my year of doing. Ten months ago, I quit my 9-5 cubicle job and set out to see more of the world, cherish time with family and friends, and live life on my own terms. What a journey it has been and continues to be.

After losing my pops to two forms of cancer in March 2013, I made a promise to myself to live a life that I could be proud of, a life without regrets or apologies. To live with integrity and take action rather than wait for perfect circumstances to do this or that. To give myself the opportunity to explore the world, meet new people, and try new things. There is no deadline for this – it’s my new way of life.

My first action was to complete 200 hours of Yoga Teacher Training at Dharma Yoga in Austin, Texas, where I had been living for two years. It was an impulse decision; my best friend Nannette had told me about a Dharma yoga teacher whose classes were so much deeper than the physical asanas that yoga is largely known for in the U.S. We had both been practicing yoga inconsistently for about a year, and so we went to the Dharma studio with open hearts and minds, ready enter into the depths without fear.

At the beginning of class, the teacher Camilla, a gorgeous, small-framed woman with olive skin and shining eyes and smile, recognized and introduced each student by name – even those who were brand new – welcoming us all into the communal space where we would share the sacred practice of yoga. Camilla also established a theme and intention for our practice, to EMBRACE IMPERFECTION, to SURRENDER to what is. She read a beautiful line from a Leonard Cohen song.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

I recognized in that moment that all my life I have been reaching for perfection and punishing myself for not living up to that expectation. Be perfect. Be strong. A million thoughts and feelings all at once. Heartbreak and anger. Why did my dad get sick? Why couldn’t he have beat cancer? Why didn’t he get to go on that last fishing trip he had planned with his son, brother, and dad? Feel it. Breathe it in and release it. Let it go. Relax. Breathe it in and release it. Surrender to what is. Let it go…

I felt my heart open in a way it hadn’t before. All the uncomfortable feelings I had been pushing into nooks and crannies in my heart and body so that nobody could see them made their way to the surface. I felt the pain of losing my dad. I felt shame for things I wasn’t proud of, regrets, the shoulds and should nots, the what ifs, feelings of unworthiness, insecurity. I felt them all, and I made space for those feelings rather than push them down again.

The first 10 minutes of this yoga class felt like what I imagine 10 years of therapy would feel like. A self-imposed burden, if not lifted, had at least been exposed. I became aware that I had been imprisoning myself by not feeling my feelings. By trying to please everyone and be everything I imagined they thought I should be, I wasn’t being authentic. Who do I want to be? What is my authentic life path?

Breathe it in and release it. Let it go. The physical flow of that class was masterfully choreographed, with beautiful (not always graceful) movements and postures that required equal parts strength and flexibility. It was hard for me to accept when I wasn’t embodying a posture perfectly. I felt embarrassed when I couldn’t keep my balance, but I made an effort to not just accept but embrace those imperfections and be authentic with myself.

There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Camilla floated around the room, sharing her peaceful energy, her voice full of compassion, and kindness as she guided the transitions from pose to pose. Toward the end of class, her guided savasana meditation brought me to soft, silent tears, and my heart felt open. I was amazed at how affected I was by this class. My body was completely relaxed and I could feel the blood and oxygen flowing freely throughout my whole being, unrestricted flow. I felt that way emotionally, too, and a deeper connection to myself than I had ever felt before.

After class Camilla announced that their teacher training would begin in two weeks, and that they were offering a 2-for-1 special if you signed up with a yoga buddy. I turned to my friend, and when our teary eyes met, we both knew that we were meant to do it. We signed up that night.

Throughout the three-month intensive training program that followed, I looked deep within myself and recognized old thought and behavior patterns I wanted to shift, as well as new seeds of compassion, forgiveness, and love that I wanted to sow. I continue this process every day, trying to nourish and grow these karmic seedlings, sometimes but not always with success.

If I had to pinpoint a beginning of the journey that led me to the erinenlightened blog, my yogic training experience at Dharma Yoga would be it. The objective on this blog is for me to document adventures, work through ideas, reflect on experiences lived and lessons learned… it will be my diary, my Svadyaya (self-study) journal. I don’t care to develop a readership; this is for me, although it may benefit me to share it and open up a little more. To love and be loved I think it’s necessary to allow yourself to be vulnerable and recognize that there is no perfect.