Once the domain of fringe astrological dwellers, Mercury Retrograde, has now entered the language of the online mainstream. Every now and then, your Facebook newsfeed may be peppered with people complaining blaming Mercury being in retrograde for traffic jams, email snafus, and other ordinary nuisances.
If the phenomenon has somehow passed you by, here's a primer: Mercury (as in, the planet) goes retrograde about three times a year, for up to three weeks each time. Of course, a planet doesn’t actually reverse its orbit. But because Mercury is closer to the Sun than Earth, Mercury appears to go backward from our perspective, when it laps us in its orbit.
This is astronomy.
Then there’s the interpretation. When Mercury goes retrograde, you may expect people to complain about inexplicable miscommunications, embarrassing emails going astray, and cancelled flights.
The relevance? Mercury represents communication, electronics, short trips, siblings and related themes. You can track what happens in your own world during actual Mercury retrograde periods and make up your own mind about its effects.
But let me advise caution. I’ve noticed a new online trend in recent Mercury retrograde periods. In the same way that pop-astrology can be used to justify behavior — But I can’t help hogging the limelight! I’m a Leo! — I’m noticing more and more people talking and tweeting about Mercury Retrograde as if we have no choice but to become increasingly inept while under its curse. Oh yeah, I missed that appointment [and left you waiting without a text], but you know, Mercury is in retrograde!
If this is you, ready yourself for a loving takedown: planets do not make us do anything. And the more that we talk about the planets as if they rob us of our responsibilities and our free will, the more we disempower ourselves.
In our helter-skelter lives, a better reframe of the Mercury retrograde phenomenon is to feel grateful for this period as one in which we can slow down, become more present, and pay attention to where we can improve in life and business.
If you’re late during Mercury retrograde, that might be because you didn’t leave enough time to meet your friend or therapist. Think about it: are you usually respectful of others’ time? If you sent an embarrassing email to the wrong person, notice: how frequently do you actually multi-task, rather than just focusing on a single job at a time?
Even if you don’t think Mercury going retrograde has any practical ramifications, the fact is that our lives are speeding up so much that we can all benefit from slowing down and re-evaluating our lives sometimes.
Mercury retrograde periods can act as a timely reminder to do exactly this. So, the next time that Mercury appears to turn on its tail, my advice is: Remind yourself to focus and check details, rather than gliding off to another task or browser window. Some other ideas:
- Notice if your tendency is actually to be a bit flaky and inconsiderate of others. (And apologize with heart, if that’s the case!)
- Rather than lurching into the next big thing, consider spending some time meditating on whether it’s actually right for you.
- If your internet connection really keeps dropping out, perhaps it's time to take a mini digital detox.
In this way, the reoccurring Mercury retrograde period may actually be a chance to notice the quirks of our own behavior, and help us become better friends, colleagues and partners. And without letting others off the hook, we may also find greater peace by accepting that delays and hiccups just happen sometimes. That’s life, after all: and it’s our response that really matters.
Upcoming Mercury retrograde periods this year are: June 7 – July 1 and October 5 – 26.
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