I was chatting recently with a friend who told me that she has been accused of being “too independent.” As I’m a bit that way inclined myself, we laughed together and tried to wrap our minds around the concept of “too much” independence.
Do you find the give and take of human relationships challenging? When I got married, the biggest adjustment I faced was getting used to running things past another person before I took action. I find it difficult to let others do things for me. Working in groups is tricky because I’m inclined to move at my own pace, and that pace is usually pretty fast. Plus, if I’m honest, I just like to have things my own way.
But I’m getting to that age when you begin to think about what will become of you when you get old and perhaps have no choice but to rely upon the kindness of others. Will I handle it gracefully? Or – the more chilling question – will there be anyone who is willing to show me these kindnesses? Will all these years of standing on my own come back to haunt me when I can no longer stand up by myself?
Sometimes that day comes much sooner than we’d have expected. A colleague, Kelly Lee Phipps, was recently diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer at the age of 42. I don’t know him, really—exchanged a couple of emails, met briefly at a conference—so I was surprised by my strong reaction to the news. I’m certainly not alone. On Facebook, the outpouring of support for him has been enormous, for Kelly is genuinely loved by his community of astrologers, a consequence of many years spent being himself in public and inviting others along for the crazy, joyful ride.
In Ecclesiastes it’s written, “For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, and hath not another to lift him up.” When Kelly fell, he had many to lift him up, but more importantly he has given himself over to his community’s love and support with grace and characteristic humor. He’s given me a lot of food for thought about the joyfulness and human necessity of sharing our lives with others, and about the meaning of generosity – it’s not just about giving to others, but about letting them give to us as well.
Aries and worn-out paradigms of independence
It’s eclipse time, and this Full Moon offers our first eclipse in Aries since 2006. (The last one near this eclipse degree, 25.45 Aries, was a lunar eclipse on October 17, 2005). Aries is the sign of the lone wolf who asks no quarter of any man and who gives none. In our Aries selves we stand alone, unencumbered by attachments that might slow our trajectory. Blocked by the earth’s shadow, this impulsive and independent Full Moon in Aries warrior feels keenly alone, possibly physically diminished. But it’s an illusion; just hidden from view, the Sun in Libra offers close friends and loved ones who stand waiting to lift him up and give him strength, if he’ll only let them.
A lunar eclipse at the Moon’s South Node tells of the culture’s struggle with worn-out paradigms of independence. Our television sets, movie theaters, and newspapers are filled with mythic tales of pioneering astronauts drifting weightlessly in space, of a defeated high school chemistry teacher who’s broken bad, of madmen who dream of a society in which each of us who has the bad fortune to outlive his friends and family must face illness alone, probably bankrupt, with no one to lift him up.
In America, it seems we’ve always romanticized the man who lives and dies on his own terms, flouting the conventions of society (and for that matter, religion) that demand we take the needs of others into account. As if you can’t be your own person and still be civilized.
Jupiter in Cancer, squaring the Sun and Moon at this eclipse, has no time for such false dichotomies. Like a wise and sensible mother it declares, “We are all individuals. But when one of us falls, we lift him up. That’s what a family does.” Not everyone was lucky enough to be raised by a family like that, but I was, and I think it gave me the courage to be independent. I took it for granted that there would always be someone there. And when you know that you have a soft place to fall, you are willing to reach much higher and to dream much bigger.
For now, we are so many of us damn close to falling, and we feel the peril and don’t dare dream. Strong and brilliant young men are fighting cancer while callous men gamble with the fate of a nation. At this eclipse we are like crazed, maddened animals, crouched in the eclipse’s shadow, longing for light and hungry for something to make sense.
But there are bright spots that give me great hope. In our tiny hand-picked communities, when someone gets sick or suffers some other tragedy it’s heartening to see others rushing to their aid. It’s good to be reminded that for all our fierce independence, we haven’t completely lost the knack of community; that we’re all members of the family, if we’ll just let ourselves be. And that the best way to ensure that you won’t ever have to face the worst that life can give you on your own, is to make sure no one else has to.
© 2013 by April Elliott Kent
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