hand milagroThis week we cooked dinner for thirty people. I made the curry zucchinni soup and salad. John made the homemade spelt bread with goat milk and honey. The goal was to cook enough food for 30 people with a budget of 30 dollars, which sounds a bit insane in this economy. It is. But besides getting together once a week to share a meal cooked by one or a pair of the group members, they also have a gift circle – you ask for what you need and volunteer to give some resource you have. It sounded simple enough, but we soon realized that cooking a meal for 30 was easier. Rummaging through my mind for something to give wasn’t too difficult. Fresh chicken eggs. Love spells. Fresh roasted coffee. A dip in the hot tub. The asking proved vexing. What, I reasoned, do I need that I don’t already have at my fingertips, between Google, Yelp and my husband? I need more clients and money, but that was a given for everyone in the circle. A new phone, my car fixed…Clearly I have needs, but voicing them to a group of people put me in an disarmingly uncomfortable position. Invite people and their need-filled complications in my life?  I may need some things, but maybe it was easier to be alone.

~Solar Eclipse Cancer New Moon Sunday, July 11, 2010, 12:40 PM PDT~

These uncomfortable thoughts weren’t unfounded. Last year, a friend who felt I had ignored her needs and let her down, spiraled our friendship toward it’s demise, I decided that when it comes to relationships, maybe less is more. I decided I really have to love someone to let them in. I love my husband, and don’t mind letting the giving and receiving, the dependency and interdependency flow between us but these were people with whom I’d normally never hang out with. I didn’t even know if I liked them yet. I was afraid of incurring dependencies that would be hard to extricate myself from. What if the ‘giftee’ ingratiated their self to me? What if, they came over to use the hot tub and they never left? Fuck. It seemed far easier to be alone than be in a tribe.

The circle was quickly coming to my turn. I had to think of a need they might be able to fulfill. My little monkey mind went in circles. April Kent, via Simone Butler’s Astro-Feng Shui article, got me going on gussying up my ‘fame’ sector for this lunation (which falls in my Tenth house). Maybe someone knew feng shui. I put it out there… but in the back of my mind I knew I already had a local feng shui resource I wanted to contact. I know, I was, technically, cheating. A Cancer needs her secrets, at least until she’s ready to adequately deal with her ouchies. I hadn’t figured out how to approach this giving circle thing and I wasn’t willing to go there, yet. As the circle circled ’round I continued to play plate peek-a-boo with the wild-haired child of a young single mother, till I realized what she would be asking for: a babysitter. When she did, I felt all eyes on me. That’s when I became certain the Universe was screwing with me; it knew my fears far too well.

For my gift, I offered up some love spells- no problem. So why was this gift-giving part so easy? Later that night, untangling the evening in conversation with my husband, I realized it’s a trick the ego plays; it’s ultimately safer to give than receive because the Self doesn’t like to be seen as weak. The Self likes to be seen as this pinnacle of generosity and goodwill (while not being too intimately engaged with the painful, messy vulnerability of being human). Far easier to be self-sufficient… and giving. See how generous, sympathetic (and invincible) I am? says the Self. It’s a form of Self-protection. If you’re The Mother, you never have to let anyone see your own painful condition. I’m shy. I’m sick. I’m hungry. I need someone to love. Take care of others and let them believe you’re invincible. It’s a pattern we women know well.

I am the invincible breast with an unlimited supply of mother’s milk is an especially American theory, but in practice it falls apart. On that beautiful Goddess of Liberty is encrypted the credo, ‘send us your tired and your poor’ but we haven’t figured out how to do that. We invite people into our home only to deny them jobs, homes, legal representation, if we don’t turn them back at the borders at square one. We can’t take care of our own. It’s like saying: I want to be generous and help, but I am not willing to incur your dependencies, your whining about your needs not being met. America, a Cancer nation, likes to be perceived as generous and sympathetic without getting too involved. We’re the best at paying for bureaucratic programs that distance us from one another.

Not that money is a bad thing, it’s an efficient form of energy exchange. But the people in the gift exchange model suggested we’ve lost touch with what we are really paying for: enlivening creative nourishment. We are purchasing livelihood for someone’s family, giving support for their creative gifts, and therefore their ability to support and purchase ours. When exchanging money on a day to day, rarely is our soul nourished through exchange of life force energy. We simply think we’re getting what we pay for, and leave the exchange at that. If we were nourished through connection, maybe we would even need less. Like the difference between junk food and good food, when we eat nutrient-rich food, we tend to get more value from it and eat less. When what we eat fills our soul-belly. Our money economy, my new friends pointed out, maintains the illusion of separateness, so we can order everything we need from the secure solitude of our home computer, our iPhone. We grow more and more isolated, and less heart-happy. We never even have to leave the house – how Cancerian.

We put actions into the world with our hands, but often they’re not connected to our heart.

Admitting a need. I’ve lived the majority of my life in a position of need and asking. Asking for help makes a person vulnerable, but you’re more easily able to ask if you’re a woman or a baby. Men have it harder.  Me? I am more afraid of incurring the dependencies of others. The messy, complicated entanglements.  And the biggie: what if, while busy meeting everyone else’s needs -I let them down? Even the Goddess needs help.

A New Moon is the right time for setting new intentions. Eclipses ask us to examine how we’ve limited our self-expression so we can develop a more fulfilling relationship to the house of life in which the eclipse falls. This lunation falls in my Tenth House of community, fame and reputation. Where does this eclipse fall in your chart (locate 19 degrees Cancer and 23 minutes, 19′ 23′, in your birth chart)? About this area of life, ask: Is remaining isolated here costing me growth? Am I protecting myself out of fear? In what area of my life have the actions and deeds of my hands grown increasingly separate from my heart? If we’ve been avoiding engaging the growth concerns in that part of our birth chart, Cancer is one of the most growth-resistant of signs. Why? Imagine a delicate pink sweet pea flower trembling on a windswept vine. Change is scary. We are that vulnerable & tender here; we’ve been hurt before. It’s not easy to take off the heart-armor one more time, but if we don’t we may never leave the safety of the Crab shell.

Cancer Sun season aligns us with our soul, Mother nature, our tribe. You can use any of the highlighted ‘Cancer’ keywords and questions in this article to ruminate on, or perform a ritual around. Me? I’ll remove more armor. It may not mean I’ll volunteer to make a gift of babysitting to a mom who dearly needs it. But, maybe… someday… I’ll surprise myself.