Year 5, Piece Three: 34. Blue Purple

Communication Woo Woo. Good luck with the juggling act.

Well, Blue Purple might be Mercury Retrograde itself. Blue is Communication, and Purple is Intuition, Wisdom, Awareness: the color of all things “Woo Woo.” Blue Purple is Communication Woo Woo. At its best, Communication Woo Woo could be prayer or telepathy or something mystical like that. At its most challenging, Communication Woo Woo could be truly bad things like spiritual bypassing or more neutral things like planetary interference from Mercury Retrograde, the astrological excuse for communication breakdowns. 

In terms of the orbit of celestial bodies, I mostly follow the moon. It is the easiest one to track with your own eyes, making it a basis for so many calendars, the Hebrew calendar included. Though I know I was an adult before I learned that you can tell what phase the moon is in just by looking at it. The moon both waxes and wanes from right to left, so the side the crescent or gibbous is leaning isn’t arbitrary. You can use its position in the sky to disambiguate because the time each moon phase rises and sets is pretty consistent too, relative to the sun. Every full moon rises from the east at sunset and sets in the west at sunrise, and every new moon rises at sunrise and sets at sunset (with some variations depending on how close you live to the poles). Understanding the shape of the moon and when it is visible means you can watch the moon make changes. 

Mercury though. I don’t think I could even tell you where Mercury is in the sky. I do know it’s the planet closest to the sun, and that apparently because of the difference in speed of Mercury’s orbit and Earth’s orbit that sometimes it looks like Mercury is going backwards, hence “retrograde.”  I now also know the story of where Mercury shows up in my own astrological chart: Mercury was rising in the sky just ahead of the sun in that August pre-dawn that I was born, so it is in my first house, Leo, which is ruled by the sun. I know that Mercury is also the planet that rules the sign my sun is in, Virgo. Mercury is the astrological planet of Communication, named for Mercury the Roman messenger god, or Hermes in the Greek pantheon. It seems communication is pretty central to what I’m here on Earth to do, so that tracks with my chart. 

I feel pretty cool knowing that, but I don’t know how I feel about astrology overall. I use astrology much the same way I use this Rainbow Squared system: as a tool to notice correspondences and generate narrative interpretation. So when communication feels out of whack and the internet tells me that Mercury is in retrograde, it seems to make sense. 

And yes, communication is out of whack right now. Maybe that’s why I’m sharing 2000 words this week, and have written almost double that. If communication were easier right now, this would be a lot shorter.

“Good luck with the juggling act,” a friend said as we were hanging up the phone last week. I had picked up her call in the midst of communication chaos: 

  • Three days into a quarantine after a hike where someone didn’t tell us they had been exposed to coronavirus until that night when their test came back positive. 

  • Forty-five minutes into a call with both Blue Shield and Covered California, whom I had called to get my new health insurance ID number and found out instead that I had been dropped altogether without so much as a notification. 

  • Nursing a baby in front of the computer while clutching the clean diaper I was trying to change him into after I grabbed him from the end of his nap while on hold and then had to rush back to the screen. 

  • And somehow after hanging up with Blue Shield but still nursing the baby, continuing to scroll through applications to the Awesome Foundation for our monthly meeting that night, which is the task I was trying to complete when I sat down in front of the computer during the baby’s nap in the first place. 

Maybe it would have been practical not to answer the phone in this moment, but when I saw that it was Rachel calling I wanted to pick up. Because she is my friend and I love her, and also in retrospect maybe because I needed a witness to this maternal multitasking feat, this “juggling act.” 

“Good luck with the juggling act.” I laughed when she said it because it felt true. Then the phrase rang in my head for a while afterwards, expanding and distorting over time. Good luck with the juggling act. The juggling act. Yes, everyday does feel like a goddamn circus. But do I want to be juggling? Is this the circus act I am choosing, the one where I dazzle my audience by doing so many things at a time and none of them well? Here I am, a clown, exaggerated emotions painted on my face, leaping then lurching from act to act until they all blend together, picking up toys and text messages and children and their feelings and my feelings and dishes and bills and obligations and animations. Please gasp as I swirl them all in mid-air, and laugh when I drop them! With me, though, not at me. Please.

There are times I do literally identify as a clown. I have a persona devoted to it in fact. And this new moon we just passed marks the start of the Hebrew month Adar, the month of joy and dressing up, the month of the clown. But not all jugglers are clowns. Someone showed me an image once of the ancient Canaanite goddess Asherah, a goddess that many early Jews worshipped long into their new experiment in monotheism. Asherah is often depicted as a tree, and in this image Asherah was a tree and a mother, her many dancing branches holding all the things that mothers hold at once. Which is to say that not all jugglers are clowns. Though not all clowns are silly, anyway.

But how much is juggling a super power of motherhood, and how much of it is self-perpetuated overkill? Is there something I could put down? How much of it do I perform for my own sense of self-worth and validation? Is it a professional hangover of some kind to continue to glorify busy-ness even outside of a business context? Or is it just real? Even in my moments of anxiety, I do seem to like it, or get something out of it at least. So what is that like for the people close to me? Is it something that they are supposed to console me about or something that they are supposed to cheer me on for? 

After hanging up with Rachel and finally changing E’s diaper, I found D playing by herself and so very eager to play with me. She wanted to pretend to make a birth movie, a movie about people giving birth. I was obviously charmed by this idea, but it was late in the day so I suggested we go on a quick walk while we still had the chance. It would have been our first time leaving the house in three days. 

So she screamed at me, deeply disappointed to be thwarted from her game, especially after being ignored for the last hour. She screamed pretty loudly. I didn’t have the energy to argue. In fact, I didn’t have the energy to engage at all. I had reached my limit. I left the room and retreated to the rocking chair in their tiny bedroom, somewhere I could be within ear shot but out of the emotional splash radius. D blessedly didn’t follow me. I sat.

Eventually E wandered in, happy to see me, thinking that me hiding my face in my shirt was a version of peekaboo. “Mama!” he pointed and laughed, then played next to me, occasionally chatting with me one word or sound at a time in his sweet baby voice. I smiled at him and echoed his words, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave that rocking chair. I couldn’t really move my body. I couldn’t find a way to unravel my knot of thoughts, each tangling in another and then another before I could even finish it. 

In that chair, I started imagining making a Blue Purple sculpture: a writhing, tangled mass of blue and purple ropes and strings that I knot and wrestle into each other. I pictured this for a while, then realized with a start that I had already made it. A miniature version of it anyway. It is the remnants of the curtains I sewed the previous week that were hanging right next to me as I sat in this rocking chair. I always take my scraps of unusable sewing bits and wad them up into a ball as tiny soft sculptures. This one had a strip of purple fabric I ripped off the inner curtain where one piece was too long, and an entire bobbin of blue thread I had to unwind because it kept clogging the sewing machine. It also had the loose threads from the outer curtain’s glow-in-the-dark constellation fabric. The whole thing was blue and purple before I even knew that would be the next week’s colors. 

Sewing curtains is part of the juggling act too, right? Such a sweetly domestic act, one I took on with almost ritual importance, selecting the (awesome) fabric before we moved and sewing it even before many of our boxes were unpacked. It was a way to nest, to energetically establish ourselves here in this house even if we don’t know how long we’ll be staying. D even helped me press the foot pedals on the sewing machine, though it didn’t hold her interest for long. Granted, in the other rooms I just threw some loose fabric over a tension rod, but somehow bringing the sunlight in and out of the kids’ room felt like something to do right. 

I sat in that rocking chair next to those curtains still trapped in my thoughts, now with the added track of the sculpture I had accidentally already made, thinking about how to animate it. I was also thinking about wanting to write this all down, this knot of thoughts, feeling the throbbing urge to write that I knew I wouldn’t be able to act on until the children were asleep when I would already be too spent. So I sat there dictating text messages to myself from my watch, like:

“I don't even know if I'm experiencing daily life anymore or if I'm just thinking about how to interpret and document it”

“This is what self-care looks like in this moment. Hiding out in a rocking chair in the kids room while the toddler walks in and out and the four-year-old makes a film about birth”

Even in that moment of total overwhelm, somehow I just wanted to make. And yes, that absolutely contributes to the seeming chaos in my daily life, of trying to pull it all off. But if Blue Purple is Communication Woo Woo, it is also communicating with my intuition, and man I just have to keep going. I want to keep going. I want to juggle. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be agonizing.

Another thought kept popping up in that chair: “The way to fix this is to get up at 5am everyday to write.” And every time it popped up, I thought, wait, is that a healthy reaction to being overwhelmed? To try to take on more? But the more I thought it, the more practical it sounded. Not so much adding another ball to the juggling act as giving myself another arm.

I’m trying it. I’ve been at the computer writing before 6am four out of the last five days. Not totally undisrupted by demands for attention and milk, but mostly blessedly quiet. It is almost 8am and I can hear Justin doing breakfast. And some shouting, but only a little. Maybe I don’t need to be there every moment. There are some windows of time where I can focus on one thing. It will take discipline though. Something that is hard to maintain in this world ambiguously run by the orbiting bodies of planets and children. But not impossible. 

What are the ways communication is breaking down for you? What are the ways it is really working? Where are you hearing and listening to your intuition?

Good luck with your juggling acts, all. And all your Communication Woo Woo. Mercury stations direct in less than a week, in case that is comforting.