“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.” — Marcus Tullius Cicero
The first time I became intrigued by horoscopes was when a cousin lent me The Sun Signs by Linda Goodman. I was perhaps fifteen at the time. I had always been so busy being me, I hadn’t stopped to think of myself from an external perspective. Goodman’s famously warm and witty writing turned out to be an insightful delight.
Yes, I am very independent and love to travel. I can’t stand being ordered around. How I feel and what I think is evident by what I say and do; I don’t know how to be coy (why would you?). I’m frank, sunny, outspoken and horribly clumsy (being constantly bruised from always banging into doors and furniture). I am prone to committing dreadful faux pas, entirely oblivious to the horror/embarrassment/discomfort of the other party until minutes – or days – later. I happily declared myself a prototype Sagittarian.
If I had the read the profile of, say, Aries, perhaps I could just as easily have found enough similarities to convince myself that that was about me too. Horoscopes, however specific they appear, have a canny way of convincing you that it’s all about you. Still, it was seductive. If the profile appeared to be so correct, surely, the predictions in newspapers and magazines would be too?
The future of the past
The second time horoscopes had a role in my life was during prep on a film in Goa 12 years ago. My production team and I would gather every morning over our coffee as we settled at our desks, each picking a site and reading each other’s horoscopes for the day or week ahead. This amusing ritual was rarely missed, even if we promptly forgot the predictions within minutes as we went on with our day.
The third time was when I was going through my divorce some years later. I was sitting on one continent, and my husband on another. Though I had instigated the separation, I was filled with overwhelming sadness as well as a desperate urge to know What’s Going To Happen. Everything that had felt stable in my life had just been upended. I didn’t know where I was going to live or what I was going to do with my life. I began to scour the web for any random astrological website that would tell me what to expect and what to watch out for. Needless to say, many were entirely contradictory and I was left feeling ever more confused and frantic.
I wanted to believe the positive and be prepared for the negative. But when the fantastic stuff due to me didn’t materialise, I was left feeling disappointed. And while I wouldn’t want to change my life to avoid the warnings, those stressed me out too. I was grasping for anything that could relieve the turmoil of the unknown future.
It took my bestie Hilary to put a brake on my downward spiral. She suggested that instead of consulting the oracles, I ask myself what it is that I want, and then to figure out a way to get there.
You will find love
I’m currently living in a country that really believes in consulting the oracles. People change their names (and addresses and phone numbers) because of numerology. Marriages are decided by astrologers. Weddings are set in much the same way (which is why it’s not unusual to see a wedding street party at 8.45am on the way to work). Films can have their titles and release dates changed at a late stage by a nervous producer. Women and men alike wear stones set in gold on their fingers and around their necks for protection and luck. It is so part of the culture’s fabric that people are just as likely to have a tarot reader they visit as regularly as they do a dentist. (My friends and I did visit a tarot reader last year, but that’s a whole other post.)
While I find it fascinating (as I did with Catholic rituals in Italy – a day to celebrate Epiphany! Yes, I realise it’s biblical, but the word is so joyous we should all celebrate epiphanies), I can’t quite get myself to fully sign on.
So it was against better judgment that, after many years, I read Susan Miller some weeks ago. (To those unfamilar, Miller writes extensive horoscopes on her website every month and has a crazy loyal following around the world.) Miller, from experience, usually mixes a promise of great news with some caution: don’t sign any legal documents for the first half of the month; it is your time to get a promotion so ask for one, etc.
She predicted that now my career is in a good place, I will find a place for love. Because the first part was accurate, I wanted to believe the second bit too. But here’s the thing with anticipating the future: it creates anxiety, however good the news is. Would I really meet someone this month? If I didn’t then I’d feel like the stars were aligned but I somehow took a wrong step somewhere.
I sat on this for a while before deciding: yes, this is the month for love. But not love in Miller’s sense of meeting someone new. I needed to expand my definition of love.
At the risk of going all Whitney Houston, I needed to focus on loving myself. With the long hours I’ve been putting in at work, I have been running ragged, neglecting my health, and my need for solitude to recharge. I was feeling depleted and cranky. Expecting someone else to come into my life to brighten it was as baseless as expecting a horoscrope to give me direction.
You’re a star
Now, I’m not that familiar with astrology, and who knows if because Saturn is in a good angle I’ll manage to get my domestic life in order. What I have realised is that I turn to external sources for guidance when I’m feeling wobbly. It’s as if I don’t trust myself to reach the best solution on my own. Perhaps it’s so I can even blame it on another party if things don’t turn out well. Or maybe it’s to hope that by knowing the unknown, I will be able to navigate it better.
It takes a lot in uncertain times to sit in the unhappiness or anxiety and truly believe that whatever happens, I’ll make the best of it and move on. I call it the Trust The Universe route. It’s a constant – and not always smooth – practice. Instead of thinking that I need to (or even can) map out what’s ahead, it lets me relax and feel a little more secure.
Does this mean that I won’t feel an urge to look up ‘my stars for the month’ again? I don’t know. But I am sure that if I do, I already know what the true answer I’m looking for is.
“Know that no thing and no one is going to heal you. Some people cling to the idea of a spiritual path, or a guru, because they fail to realise that the power to be happy resides within them. They must believe in something because they have little belief in themselves. When you stop chasing, you get what you unknowingly crave: simple peace.” — Brooks Palmer, from his book Clutter Busting.
“Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with. I just want your extra time and your kiss.” Oh, Prince! I was so sad to hear of his untimely death. Listen to Kiss, and remember the good times.
A teenager in 1950s French Riviera is holidaying with her father and his mistress until tragedy strikes. Written by Françoise Sagan at the age of 18, Bonjour Tristesse is a study of human frailty and foibles.
Hollywood romantic comedies often have an inevitable quality to the couple’s connection, but they don’t hold a candle to this (cheesy but magnificent) Telugu masterpiece, Magadheera, directed by SS Rajamouli. This relationship was destined from 400 years ago.