I can’t tell if this is really excellent, spiritually sustaining advice, or a path to guaranteed psychosis, but in this month’s column I will instruct you to develop a detailed personal mythology to underpin your own exclusive, elaborate spiritual affiliation. You can still tell people you are a non-practicing Whatever, or an Atheist, or Agnostic, anything. Or you can still be one of those things and ignore my advice. But in order to cultivate the richest inner life possible, I urge you to consider the following option.
My recommendation is not for you to fabricate your faith, invent it from pure imagination. I won’t totally condemn that path, but my gut reaction to it is nah. Sounds too much like actual religion or self-help or a cult (see last month’s column for more on that). The material you must use to construct your individual religion is your own life: your experiences. A religion is comprised of rituals, anthems, texts, images, and community—but yours must only involve communing with yourself. Others can see the temple but they must not enter. It must remain a private experience, rather than a public performance. As a devotional sacrifice to my readers, I will now partially forgo that vital component and share pertinent details of my own private faith. I do this in hopes that it will illuminate the path for you, toward your own belief system.
If you’ve kept a diary, this will all be easier. One possible avenue is to go through the paraphernalia of your past and draw connections based on month. Look through all of your journal entries, medical records, photographs, and receipts associated with a month—or failing that, household objects you associate with dates—and study them. Calendars or old datebooks can help direct you toward recognizing your holidays of joy or grief, exaltation or remembrance. Holidays can commemorate or they can collect. They can recognize events so transformative that it feels like your body has stored the memory of them away in itself, apart from your mind. Or they can gather up and direct a feeling that, uncollected, could control or distract you. Keep both these functions of holidays in mind. Holidays can be recurring or they can happen just once, like rites of passage. Be rash and even arbitrary when appointing significance! Why not decide that one specific party you were at in 2003 was the Festival of Love, and you can only date people who were in attendance. Then, you get to find sneaky ways to determine prospective lover eligibility.
If you, like me, have diligently taken down certain passages from books or passing thoughts over the years—whether organized in a notebook or haphazard on any old piece of paper, congratulations! You are already your religion’s first scribe. If you can correlate the words with dates you may gain insight into the way your moods and thoughts cycle with the seasons. If, toward the end of June in a schedule book from 2005, you jotted down:
“Was my sense of being in love not just the result of living in a particular cultural epoch?”
—Alain De Botton
And then, around the same time several years later on the back of a proof of immunization:
“After the fourth or fifth time she knew she had to make a decision: did she want to live or did she want to die? If die, there were quicker ways. If live, she had to live differently.” (Atwood 33)
Then, well, you know something about the significance of the seasons to your denomination. These words can become not only guideposts on the outlines of your sect but also axioms from your religious lexicon. If on a torn-out newspaper clipping about a record you meant to buy you see your own handwriting advising you that “iced tea vodka on an empty stomach is easy,” consider that might become your very own Golden Rule.
When I was well on my way along this journey (it’s a process, not finite) I discovered one very special relic. It was like the Shroud of Ms. Anthropy, or Ozma still having a voice at the end of Return to Oz. It was proof of divine contact. I found a piece of paper with careful notes documenting the same objects and their implied significance that I had just encountered. Though there was no memory of taking those notes, I knew they were evidence that I had undertaken this same journey before. I made the path I was now walking. That is the right way.
But you don’t need such clear signals to push this forward. You can take anything you find and make it into anything you want. To illustrate this point, I offer you this legitimate piece of garbage, a collection of attempts at first sentences for a letter that was never sent, many years ago. It is decidedly not on par with the Psalms. But why not elevate it to that level? Raise the stakes on your own nonsense. Better an excess of meaning than a deficiency.
you can’t visit because my room is a hot little coffin. it’s too hot and too little for more than one person to slowly die in. you can’t visit because i have a contagious disease. you can’t visit because i’m dead. you can’t visit because i don’t know what to do with you, take you to the zoo maybe, but the zoo is depressing. you can’t visit because you’re a scary alcoholic and i don’t even really drink these days. you can’t visit because i would rather spend four days babysitting five Boston terriers, Paris Hilton, the Bush daughters, all of my dead relatives and regrets, than i would essentially babysitting you. you can’t visit because i actually don’t know you at all and the only reason i never said “no” about you visiting is because of ennui basically and being a wimp and being stupidly flattered, and the constant excuse that i’m writing a book about the stupid things i do in the name of advancing social science in the field of popomo dating and relationships. you can’t visit because we never talk, we have nothing to talk about, and your letter sucked, i thought it was long but you wrote it on 3 part carbon paper for some reason, your interest in me is baseless and insulting. you can’t visit because i would rather be visiting my out of town friends than having you visit me. you can’t visit because your moon and sun are both in gemini and i just don’t trust you. you can’t visit because my panic for a rationalization for my panic has forced me to become even more obsessed with astrology which has made me even more alienating and difficult to be around. i’m sorry you already bought your plane tickets... you can’t visit.
Maybe that’s more of a parable.
The chaos of Summer is the perfect soup in which to concoct your faith, particularly if you have the ailment “Summertime Sadness” (so deemed by Our Holy Lady of Torch Songs Lana Del Rey). If you can’t stand yourself or anyone around you and feel restless and irritable, this exercise may improve your coping with those feelings. Or it may distract you until the next phase. Or it may have very little spiritual benefit but allow you to perceive your own patterns of behavior in a new, helpful light.
Venus goes retrograde on July 25, meaning that astrologically speaking if you have sex with an ex around then you are more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy… it’s just science. This month, this capricious universe has seen fit to bless us with two Full Moons: July 2, in Capricorn, and July 31, in Aquarius. The New Moon is July 16, in its cosmic lover Cancer.
It’s a shame that the way we experience ourselves is often so disconnected from how others experience us. Attempting to control other people’s ideas is at best a bad look, though. If you ask your trusted friends for insight on how you’re being received—particularly by people who are a mystery to you— and trust them, you might be able to wrest some much-needed balance as you walk the tightrope between being socially intimidated and being socially intimidating.
If you’re feeling stuck, it could be because you’ve been having the wrong conversations about the unfulfilling relationships in your life. This is particularly likely to occur when you perceive a power dynamic as being in your favor— like if you are the one who is more desired or who is operating from a position of more stability. Failing to be honest is its own abuse of power; it means you’re making a decision about what the other person ought to even know. Admit what you want and you can figure the rest out.
At this point in your maturity, you’re able to draw upon patience and tolerance to an extent that you wouldn’t have felt possible at a younger stage. But just because you can put up with something doesn’t mean you ought to, and without the emotional red flags (irritability, hurt feelings, etc.) that a bad pattern is developing, sometimes you’re passive for too long. There will be moments of uncertainty or ambiguity to tolerate. Do you feel protective of people who have hurt you? This horoscope is a canary in the coalmine.
Culturally, we tend to associate sensitivity with weakness. This fucks with those of us told we are women. This fucks with those of us told we are men. This fucks with us! But moonchild, you know how your emotional vulnerability makes you powerful, and if you can project that outward, it will feel like self-confidence. For a lot of people, it’s hard to tell what self-confidence is. Some mistake it with feeling entitled to treat other people badly, or feeling more important than others. It’s neither. You’ve got a powerful engine in a car that’s up on blocks. Resolve this and you will be nourished.
You’re always on fire but summer’s your season. Royal lion, you’re a smolderer. Talk to yourself out loud just to practice externalizing. Whatever it takes to keep from psyching yourself out—do it, whether it’s ice cream, exercise, or some totally awesome self-determined combination of the two. If you stop judging yourself, twisting yourself in knots, and being unintentionally porous to the toxic insecurities of people around you, a period of personal blossoming could follow. Give yourself space to have ideas. Give yourself space to be weird. This month is a great one to begin keeping a journal.
It feels like you’re missing an important person in your life, but not in the role of lover or necessarily friend. You’re longing for a spiritual mentor. That’s a really special role though, and for some they only come along once in a lifetime, and sometimes only when we’re really young and all our consultations have to be retroactive. If you can’t find a leader and you’re having trouble leading yourself, nurture yourself by talking to those who believe in you—and keep yourself from judging or picking apart their support.
You know how preposterous this sounds, but lately it feels like if you were just in charge of a couple more things the whole operation would run more smoothly. The parameters of your job description can feel like a liability to the whole enterprise. Being proven right is pretty great, but losing your job kind of sucks. Given that, take a measured risk. You are more likely to succeed if you are perceived as acting for the greater good and not just your own self-interest. Diplomacy sometimes requires excessive apologizing. It’s tedious but you have it in you.
A Scorpio is the type of person who raises their eyebrows at those apps that tell you how much money you’re saving each day you don’t smoke cigarettes. It’s not that you don’t appreciate the incentive, you just know that a vice deferred will find some other form to take. This month, deny yourself a habitual indulgence without taking up a new one. Instead, consciously redirect your urge into hunger and exercise restraint. You will discover, if you didn’t already know, that hunger itself can be sustaining. And you’ll need that knowledge around the New Moon.
Though you’re famously strong-willed, there is a part of you that is soft and yielding. Do you know where your own weaknesses are? Knowledge can help you minimize damage. This month you find excess irresistible. It has something to do with consumption, literal and figurative. What are you compelled to imbibe? Trace back to the moment of ingestion by taking stock of your digestion. The experiences you can’t quite get out of your mind, the grudge you can’t quite shake—there’s a type of person you’re allergic to, and it’s time to diagnose who.
Your experience of June was the way the air feels before a storm, but this month breaks onto you like the air just after. Tension has been released, but you slept through the storm. What happened that made you feel so much lighter? Instead of ruminating on it, try to see the tasks before you with cleared eyes. See, also, your peers with a gentler vision. There are reserves of patience in you, and if you access them in your dealings with those who usually frustrate you, you’ll notice a greater sense of peace this month.
Often you perceive discord as if from above, observing the separate factions. Maybe picking a side, but always able to see exactly what failings in each party obstruct resolution (the inward gaze is not so consistently impartial). If you want to unite people, do it by cultivating stability and trustworthiness in yourself, not by forcing issues. If that sounds tedious to you, consider that the reward will be a renewed bounty of love in your life, a type of communal affection you’ve been sorely lacking.
Something stubborn stills your hands when the sun rises. You listen anxiously for an echo of what you were thinking at midnight but that part of your memory is wooden. A recent change in the balance of how you spend your time makes you feel inadequate. Bring the part of yourself that is innocent into your interactions with the people you want to impress. If you let your purest muscle memory guide you, and offer up what you have, you will remember the ineffable thing you forgot during the night.