It had been a difficult couple of months: I pulled a muscle in my back, an old health problem flared up for no apparent reason, and I experienced a number of dashed disappointments- all of which had the net effect of dampening my internal fire. Then there was the trip on the calendar for Paris. Instead of a heart filled with excitement I felt only a dull thud, because like many of you under the influence of the recent Saturn-Neptune square, life had become a study in disillusionment. I had been disappointed so many times that I found it difficult to generate hope.
“Abandon all hope.” I’ve long loved this, Pema Chodron’s, Buddhist slogan. Like faith, hope is like a beautiful will o’ wisp, a heartening and optimistic promise of a brighter future ahead. But it can also feed our illusions. Like a well-intentioned friend or lover who makes fantastic promises but doesn’t ever follow through, hope – the faith that “this time it will be different” – can be corrosive and insidious. Hope can be a destructive force, undermining our ability to meet reality with honesty and clarity.
I’d reached this kind of crossroads with travel. Let me illustrate my point: I say Paris, and you will quite naturally get wide-eyed and think: Sexy romance, the Eiffel tower in the rain, croissants, bohemian cafes. Oui, oui? This is hope, all Parisian coquettes and macaroons. The reality? Travel is a constant lesson in surrendering… to uncomfortable accommodations, weather, getting lost, not to mention how much time one spends waiting: at the airport, on the plane, in line, jet-lagged and wide-eyed for the sun to finally rise. And these are just the run of the mill travel inconveniences, without my chronic health issues.
Then, a few weeks before our planned trip, the terrorist attacks happened, and that was, well, a lot of things if not sobering. Combined with all the trips I’d taken throughout 2015, places that had brought me to my knees (Honolulu, Milan, Vienna, places equally charmed) I took this as a sign that it was time to totally relinquish my great expectations or stop traveling altogether. In addition to the usual travel annoyances, I needed to be okay with the high likelihood and frequency of physical pain, hunger (traveling with food sensitivities) and insomnia -all of which I experience during acutely during travel. I would take precautions, the travel self-care strategies I’ve learned over the years, but I knew there were no guarantees even then. I needed to be deeply okay with a monk-like austerity, accepting whatever came my way, blaming neither my self, nor Paris, for hardships incurred. If I could surrender, go in with no expectations, it didn’t matter if it was a wash or a gain. I would win.
There’s an image each of us carry of a thing, event, or person –an image of what or who they could be. Then there’s the reality. The thing is, reality always wins every time. No matter how much you want to “believe”, sometimes you have to make the hard calls. When “optimism”, “faith” “hope” are flaky friends who are incapable of showing up when you call…Well, you just can’t keep eating the alluring sugary macaroon and keep expecting it to nourish your soul. Humans spend a lot of time blaming the macaroon lover/boss/thing, but the reality is they are just doing what they do. The real problem is our distorted and ever-hopeful great expectations.
The Saturn-Neptune has (temporarily) passed and we’ve arrived at the Sagittarius New Moon with it’s potential for a clean slate and fresh start. New Moons bring endings and new beginnings, and the latter can’t truly happen without the former. Have we abandoned all that illusory hope and surrendered to what is? It wasn’t my intention to write a debbie downer essay. Intuitive, fiery Sagittarius follows emotionally intense Scorpio, and that’s by design; this season is meant to reinvigorate our spirits, to re-kindle them with hope, optimism, faith. The holidays help us to do this, as well as the promise of a new year. However, given the surreal state of our world right now, few of us can afford misplaced faith. We can’t afford to keep feeding the demons of hope, allowing them to spin out empty promises. We’ve suffered enough. We need to gather our wits, to see things clearly, because only then can we be effective.
So wit-gather. Think critically. Make tough calls. Decide to abandon all hope and meet reality clearly. Not reality as you want it to be, but as it actually is. With Saturn in Sagittarius for two more years, this is the path forward — for all of us.
So you’re probably wondering: Well, how was Paris, already? I did Saturn’s due diligence by making sure my husband carried my luggage so I wouldn’t sprain my back, and creating a food allergy card (in French) that I could present to cafes, among other precautions that necessity demands. I also abandoned all hope that this would make a difference. I let go entirely, accepting that whatever happened I would be okay. No expectations. Not a single one. Paris was heavenly.