Suicide Solution: Friends To The End

depressionShe eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak…
I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks…
I’ve been drawn into your magnet tar pit trap…
I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn black. ~ Nirvana, Heart-Shaped Box

It’s no secret that I frequently lament being saddled with a depressive Pisces Ascendant, particularly on the occasions when it rears its moody head and I find myself wallowing in actual or perceived misery. That said, it would be ludicrous of me to blame every bout of melancholy solely on having a watery rising sign. But hey, it’s my pity party and I’ll cry if I want to.

Even so, I stand by my previous assertion that the zodiac sign most likely to struggle with suicidal ideations is none other than the Fishes. Furthermore, this is the sign that is one of the more susceptible to depression (obviously) as well as substance abuse. Pisces is the sign of the dreamer, the sign of shoulda – woulda – coulda, the sentimental poet, forever wishing things to be as they once were, or at least different from the way they perceive things to currently be.

I should probably point out here that I am not saying every poor bastard on the planet who has a Pisces Sun, Ascendant, or Moon is doomed to a miserable existence. What I am saying is that the rose-colored glasses through which many of these folks view the world certainly can and frequently does predispose them to issues with depressive disorders. The all-too-true story that follows is a personal example. It is also one I desperately wish had never happened for me to be able to tell it.

My younger son, a 17 year-old Taurus-Gemini cusp, was always…well…different, right from the get-go. He wasn’t reaching certain developmental milestones as expected, such as rolling over, crawling, becoming more mobile. After several months of physical exams and neurological evaluations, along with weekly in-home sessions with a pediatric physical therapist, his doctor finally declared that there was nothing physically wrong with my baby boy and “he could do these things if he wanted to, but for some reason, he doesn’t want to.” As predicted, it was as if he simply decided he wanted to one day when, a few months shy of his second birthday, he took off walking like a pro.

Over the next fourteen years, he exhibited other unusual traits as well as some turbulent emotional issues, and was at one time or another diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, ODD, IED, OCD, major childhood depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, among a plethora of additional emotional disorders identified by their initials. It wasn’t until my Taurus cusp son was approaching his sixteenth birthday that he was properly diagnosed as having Asperger syndrome (AS), which is a high functioning form of autism, and which in hindsight explained everything perfectly, right down to the developmental delays in infancy and toddlerhood. He was also re-evaluated for the conditions he’d previously been diagnosed as having…and was found not to meet the diagnostic criteria for any of them. Because there are no “blanket” medications for Asperger’s as a whole (only for individual issues that may arise because of it), for the first time in nearly eleven years, his doctor ordered him to stop all of his medications. Almost immediately, there was a significant improvement in every aspect of his life with which he had previously struggled. Although I felt vindicated and relieved that he had finally received a correct diagnosis, I was — and still am — extremely angry that because it took so long to obtain the diagnosis, my son suffered needlessly for years when he could have been being properly treated with, for example, occupational therapy. But I digress… (and this is definitely the subject of a future post.)

imagesCAM1A5WLI wish I was like you
Easily amused…
Find my nest of salt
Everything’s my fault. ~ Nirvana, All Apologies

Anywho, “Aspies,” as they are sometimes called, are often extremely intelligent with well-above average IQs (my son’s IQ is nearly 140), possess extensive vocabulary skills, and have an uncanny ability to commit things to memory. For those of you who are unfamiliar with AS, let me try to paint you at least part of a picture. If you are a fan of the CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, you no doubt know the eccentric character Sheldon Cooper (flawlessly and hilariously portrayed by Jim Parsons). Sheldon is a Nobel prize-aspiring theoretical physicist, a socially inept genius with a memory like a steel trap who constantly reminds others of his superior intelligence. And although the show’s creators deny the character has it, Sheldon Cooper exhibits some of the textbook features of AS. Even Jim Parsons has stated he believes Sheldon has AS, and other Aspies frequently recognize themselves in Sheldon as well.

During the time my Aspie son and I lived in Arkansas, he met and became instant best friends with Kevin, a Pisces not quite three months older than he, and who had shared many of the same struggles. Although my young Bull tells me he always suspected Kevin was an Aspie, in addition to Kevin “liking” some autism pages on Facebook, it was something that they never talked about; furthermore, my son never mentioned that he himself was an Aspie because “[he] didn’t feel like it was important.” And I suppose it really wasn’t. What mattered was that they each recognized a kindred spirit in the other, whatever the reason.

From Kevin's Facebook page...ironically, posted as a joke several months prior to his death

From Kevin’s Facebook page…ironically, posted as a joke several months prior to his death

Again last night I had that strange dream
Where everything was exactly how it seemed
Where concerns about the world getting warmer
The people thought they were just being rewarded
For treating others as they’d like to be treated
For obeying stop signs and curing diseases
For mailing letters with the address of the sender
Now we can swim any day in November
Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in. ~ The Postal Service, Sleeping In

Have you ever met someone and just clicked immediately, as though you had known each other forever? Well, that was how it was with these two. When they weren’t together in school, they were laughing and chatting via headsets as they played Xbox Live, texting or talking on the phone, Facebooking, or hanging out on weekends, almost exclusively at the house in which Kevin lived with his aunt. And when we moved out-of-state last summer, the miles that now separated these kindred spirits mattered not; they remained every bit as close as they had been since day one. The all-night Xbox Live marathons continued, as did the texting, the phone calls, and the Facebooking, literally on a daily basis. More recently, they had begun to discuss the idea of becoming roommates after their eighteenth birthdays next year. They considered relocating to Oklahoma or Kansas to do the roomie thing, or perhaps the possibility of Kevin heading out to Arizona where my teenage Bull currently resides.

This 17 year-old Piscean, in my opinion, was probably somewhat misunderstood by those who hadn’t taken the time to really know him. Not unlike my own son, he had a wicked, albeit dark sense of humor, which many people weren’t always sure how to take. He was also extraordinarily intelligent with a well-above average IQ. On the few occasions I met him, he struck me as being remarkably similar to my own son, which is probably why I liked him. Kevin thrived on attention, even if it was for something negative. Like my teenage Bull, he too had had a few skirmishes with the law and subsequently found himself on probation. Additionally, like my son, he clearly enjoyed saying things for shock value, to get a reaction.

Tragically, I can’t help but wonder if this was at least partly the reason that no one responded — and one person actually “liked” it — when this young Pisces posted a suicide note on his Facebook page.

imagesCA5V4B8KFuck critics, fuck your review
Even if you like me, fuck you;
Fuck your mom, fuck your mom’s mama
Fuck the Beastie Boys and the Dalai Lama. ~ Insane Clown Posse, Fuck The World

A chilling status update, less than 24 hours prior to his death

A disturbing status update, less than 24 hours prior to his death

If there’s anything I am capable of understanding, it’s how someone can get into the mindframe where dying sounds like a great idea. I’m no stranger to suicidal ideations; I’ve been there myself…many times. Fortunately, it’s been quite some time since I last seriously considered or even flirted with the notion of closing my eyes in eternal slumber. What I can’t seem to grasp, however, is how or why someone would deliberately choose a painful, prolonged, agonizing method in which to exit their life. Intense hatred of oneself? Seems obvious, but surely there’s more to it than that…right?

Or, maybe there isn’t. Maybe the reason really is that simple…so deceptively simple we look right past it.

A look through this troubled teenage Piscean’s Facebook timeline reveals a glimpse into at least a snippet of what was going through his

Truly, a thousand words...posted several months prior to his death

Truly, a thousand words…posted several months prior to his death

head in the months, days, hours, even minutes before he took deliberate action to bring about his own demise. There are posts, pictures, and videos (mostly shared, not original) that are thought-provoking, nonsensical, hilarious, spot-on observant, disgusting, intelligent, offensive, laugh-out-loud funny, and somewhat disturbing, yet they are all intriguing when you consider the frame of mind of the individual who posted them.

Yeah, it's funny. But I suspect Kevin was less like "Tim" than he realized...

Yeah, it’s funny. I believe Kevin wanted to be like “Tim” and probably even thought he was. But I suspect he was more like “everyone” than he realized, or would care to admit…

Jace is my teenage Bull. And best friends, they definitely were.

Jace is my teenage Bull. And best friends, they definitely were.

1175700_617537378286689_1330557955_n

Ha! Great advice. I do it all the time.

There are so many more. Entirely too many to even think about sharing all of them, or even most of them. But this is just a sampling. This sharp, quick-witted Piscean definitely had a sense of humor.

kevinleaving8am04sept2013One of the last images Kevin uploaded to his timeline is one that hopefully won’t haunt my grieving Taurus son for the rest of his days. It is a screenshot of an undated chat conversation between the two of them, in which he tagged my Aspie Bull, posted at 8am CDT on the day of his death. As you can see, Kevin states, “I’m leaving.” And…he did. But not before crafting at least two suicide notes: a wistful, heartfelt yet brief message which he sent privately to my son, wishing him all the best in life and telling my son he loved him, and a more angst-filled second one announcing his intentions to Facebook.

Capture9

This horrific declaration was posted on Wednesday, September 4, 2013 at 12:22pm CDT.

Sadly, this time it wasn’t solely for shock value. After posting this bitter letter to the world at large, 17 year-old Kevin did exactly what he stated he would do. He doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire outside his grandmother’s home. He was rushed to the children’s burn center, with burns covering 99% of his body.

imagesCAW7ACN0Nothing is real but pain now…
Hold my breath as I wish for death;
Oh please God, wake me… ~ Metallica, One

Kevin passed away at 11:20pm CDT that evening, surrounded by his devastated family including his father, stepmother, stepsister and stepbrother in-law, and the grief-stricken grandmother at whose home it all took place.

Why was this sweet little Pisces such a tortured soul?

What kind of inner turmoil eventually drove this happy little boy to take his own life…and in such a horrific way?

Suicides by burning, or self-immolation, while common in countries such as India and Afghanistan, account for less than one percent of all suicides in the U.S. How does someone get to the point of such sheer desperation? What has to take place in a person’s life that is so unbearable that they find not just death, but a fiery, violent, excruciatingly painful death preferable? Why would anyone purposely choose such a torturous manner of death? Was it a big “fuck you” to the world on his way out? One final statement for shock value? A protest against what he viewed as all the wrongs in the world, as he mentioned in his post about self-immolation? To punish the folks in his life he resented? Did he simply hate himself that much? All of the above? None of the above?

By all accounts, Kevin had a loving, caring family. He frequently claimed that no one cared, that no one wanted him around…but this was certainly not the case, evidenced by the unimaginable grief, the tears shed by so many who can’t understand why he didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t believe he was truly loved and wanted. Why couldn’t, or didn’t he believe this?

Soooo not true.

Maybe Kevin hated himself so much that he didn’t believe it was possible for anyone to love or care about him, and/or perhaps he didn’t feel that he was worthy of anyone’s love. His chosen method of suicide is certainly steeped in intense self-hatred. Although the rest of us can see quite clearly that was absolutely not true, that he was worthy and he was loved, it doesn’t matter because at the end of the day, whatever the reason, it was Kevin’s reality. Our perceptions are our reality.

And, just maybe, it’s not for anyone else to understand the goings-on inside the exceptional mind of this tortured Piscean soul. We can wax philosophical all day long and never will we know with 100 percent certainty why this young man with the potential to be anything, to do anything, chose to exit this life when and in the way he did.

The last song Kevin listened to was this cover of Cheap Trick's classic "I Want You to Want Me" by Gary Jules

The last song Kevin listened to was this cover of Cheap Trick’s classic “I Want You to Want Me” by Gary Jules

Feelin’ all alone without a friend, you know you feel like dyin’…
Oh, didn’t I, didn’t I, didn’t I see you cryin’?
I want you to want me…
I need you to need me…
I’d love you to love me. ~ Cheap Trick (covered by Gary Jules), I Want You To Want Me

I hope and pray that he has found the peace in death which evidently eluded him during his way too brief lifetime.

Rest well, sweetie. We’ll see you on the Other Side.

Rest well, sweet Kevin... February 26, 1996 - September 4, 2013

Rest well, sweet Kevin…
February 26, 1996 – September 4, 2013

I have lost the will to live…
Simply nothing more to give
There is nothing more for me…
Need the end to set me free
Things not what they used to be…
Missing one inside of me
Deathly lost, this can’t be real…
Cannot stand this hell I feel. ~ Metallica, Fade to Black


NOTE: I will be participating on behalf of Team Kevin in the 2013 Little Rock Out of the Darkness Walk for Suicide Prevention on November 2. If you would like to take part, or simply make a donation (no matter how small), please visit Team Kevin’s AFSP fundraising page.

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A Tale Of Two Cancers…And An Aries

I finally see the dawn arrivin’
I see beyond the road I’m drivin’…
Far away and left behind
Left behind. ~ Boston, Don’t Look Back

The three water Sun signs – Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces – are just about the most sensitive, wistful folks you will ever meet in Zodiac Land. They endlessly yearn for what once was, as well as what coulda-woulda-shoulda been. And as someone with a Pisces Ascendant, I can assure you that although it’s a pretty sweet concept, leaving the past in the past and forging ahead with tunnel vision is much more easily said than done.

This is in no way meant to imply that these highly emotional Sun signs (or the poor, unfortunate bastards like myself who are cursed with a water Ascendant or Moon) are totally incapable of appreciating today or looking forward to whatever the future has in store: we most certainly can, and we do. The thing is, we just tend to hang on a little more tightly to yesteryear than most folks.

Whether you are a follower of my blog or know me personally (lucky you!) you are no doubt aware that I am currently on my third

My current Cancer man & me on a weekend getaway to the casino... we look drunk cuz we WERE drunk... ;)

My current Cancer man & me on a weekend getaway to the casino… we look drunk cuz we WERE drunk… 😉

marriage/long-term relationship. Although my first two marriages obviously came to an end, I remained friends with both of my ex-husbands. Granted, I have three children with the slightly restless Sagittarius who was my first husband so staying in contact was a given, but being friends was definitely optional. And we were friends…until the day he died more than twelve years ago. However, my second husband — who was a hypersensitive Cancer — and I had no children together and we were under no obligation to speak to or see one another again, let alone remain friends. But we did. He helped me raise my three sprites, each of whom he loved as if they were his very own progeny and, although he lived a thousand miles away from us in the years following our divorce, he continued to have the kiddos up for visits for a month or two every summer. And over time, he also grew to become friends with my current Cancer love, which most people could never seem to understand.

And once again, if you are a friend or follower, you already know my former Cancer husband was killed on New Year’s Day 2013.

In the seven and a half months since the death of my ex, I have yet to visit the city where he was born and ultimately died. As excruciating as the grief has been while struggling with it from a distance, the whole experience has been somewhat abstract for me. I haven’t yet stood on the grass where his truck, for reasons which we’ve only been able to speculate, veered off the road, partially ejecting him and killing him instantly. I haven’t hugged his devastated stepmother, his siblings, or any of his other family. Nor have I received satisfactory explanations from police reports, which have only served to leave me asking more questions as to why his truck left the road in the first place. I need to be able to fully accept what has happened so that I’m able to heal more completely. I feel like, to do those things, I need to see and touch where he died…to find out why he died…and to hug the grieving family he left behind. To physically be there, to experience the tangible and confront the painful reality of it all.

closure

My current Cancer love wholeheartedly agrees and supports me in my desire to gain some measure of closure. So much so, in fact, that he and I will soon be taking a thousand-mile road trip in my quest for solace. I don’t have any illusions or expectations regarding how I will feel when I return home. I don’t believe that I will stand where he took his last breath or meet face to face with the investigating officer and experience a sudden epiphany, a moment of clarity where everything will come together like a jigsaw puzzle and make sense. Nope. Not for one second do I believe that. But I do feel that the simple, yet significant act of actually being there could be just the catharsis I need to be able to grieve — and in turn, heal — more fully.

Contrary to how this might sound, this need isn’t something that is being driven by my I-can’t-let-go Pisces Ascendant. It’s true that is usually the case, and it may in fact play a significant role in the reason I tend to stay in touch with people from my past, be it an old friend, a distant cousin, a former teacher…or an ex-husband. But the need for closure is an innate human desire, perhaps driven to some extent by my stubborn, pushy Aries Sun.

I feel incredibly lucky to have such an amazing, generous, supportive partner in my current Cancer man. I am well aware that a lot of men out there — and women too, for that matter, especially ones with a water Sun — would never be on board with something like this. They would probably feel threatened or insecure, feeling like their significant other shouldn’t be this torn up about the death of a former spouse, and would likely question the depth of those feelings, wondering and perhaps even accusing them of still being in love with their ex.

But not my Cancer cusp man. He is 100% secure in the fact that he alone is the only man with whom I am in love, the only man I can imagine spending the rest of my life with, the only man I want to spend the rest of my life with. I am truly blessed to have him and I never take that for granted. There is literally not a single day that passes where at some point I don’t think about how thankful I am for him, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. However, the fact remains that a lot of people don’t understand any of this. They think that for me to be so crushed by my ex-husband’s death, I surely must still be in love with him and furthermore, they can’t believe my current Cancer man supports me in any of this…and not in a “wow-you’re-so-lucky-to-have-such-an-awesome-man” way, but rather in a “wow-he-must-be-a-complete-idiot-not-to-see-you’re-still-in-love-with-your-ex” way.

Several days ago, I posted a Facebook status about our upcoming trip, writing about how I need to do it to get some peace of mind, that I was looking forward to spending time with the family, how amazing my current Cancer man is to support me in my endeavor, how much I love him, and how very lucky I feel to have him. One of the responses to my status was from a pompous, know-it-all Leo whom I’ve known for 28 years. His comment?

“Lucky indeed. Your whole heart obviously still belongs to Tom.”

Wow. What a prick.

My wedding to my now-deceased former Cancer hubby

My wedding to my now-deceased former Cancer hubby

I was married to Tom, my late Cancer ex-hubby, for nearly seven years. We went through a lot together during that time, including the death of my Sadge first husband which was indescribably painful, not just for my three children but for me as well. And my Cancer ex loved my babies as much as I did. While he was driving my first ex-hubby to chemotherapy one autumn afternoon, my first ex elicited a promise from him that he would always be there for the kids, no matter what (that’s right: First Husband and Second Husband also came to be friends.) And you know what? He was. Until the day he died, my ex Crab kept that promise, even though he lived halfway across the country. He was never a candidate for Husband of the Year, but he was a phenomenal, hands-on father who truly had a heart of gold and a loving soul. And although there was simply too little compatibility for the husband-and-wife thing to succeed, we were great friends who deeply loved and cared for one another. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that if it had been me who was killed, he would have been just as devastated by my death as I am by his. It has zero to do with being in love with him or even wishing we had stayed married. It has everything to do with the love I had and always will have for him as the caring, decent human being he was…as a father figure to my children…as someone who will always be an important part of my life story…

…and as my treasured friend.

I realize that oftentimes, the “norm” is to carry around anger and bitterness toward an ex as if it’s the socially acceptable, or even the expected thing to do. However, I chose — as did both of my ex-husbands — not to do that (a point of interest here is the fact that both of my now-deceased ex-husbands as well as myself all have Aquarius Moons…and a Water Bearer values friendships like no other. But I digress…) Hating on an ex isn’t mandatory, yet so many people treat it as if it were, like we’re supposed to harbor grudges or a thirst for vengeance. And –gasp! — a current spouse/significant other actually liking and being friends with their partner’s former spouse/significant other? The repercussions could be catastrophic! We must alert the church elders!

Be careful what you think you know about someone; you’re probably wrong. ~ Dexter Morgan, from the Showtime original series Dexter

Why is it so difficult for folks to grasp the concept of former spouses not only getting along, but being friends? Where is it written that if someone cares that much about what happens to an ex, they must still be in love with them? Why is it such a big deal that we didn’t all vehemently hate each other? Is there a law somewhere stating that we are required to hold an ex in contempt and/or sever all contact with them, even without a legitimate reason to do so? Why is it so unfathomable that my former spouses actually liked and became friends with my current spouse, rather than wanting to beat each other’s asses to a bloody pulp? Why is it so unbelievable that two people who love one another are unable to have a successful marriage, but it just so happens they make great friends? Certainly it’s possible: the platonic, yet close friendships I shared with both of my former husbands are living proof. In addition, my current man was friends with both of my previous husbands. He has grieved both of their deaths, and furthermore, he too would like some answers as to what specifically caused my ex’s truck to bail off a two-lane, in-town road, down several feet into a drainage culvert, crushing him.  Just because such friendships might not be possible with some used-to-be couples doesn’t mean there’s an ulterior motive with those for whom it does work. And just because it might be wrong for their situation doesn’t make it wrong.

You know what I find difficult to understand? Those who reflexively harbor animosity toward an ex or a partner’s ex not because they did something to warrant such bitterness, but because that’s what they’re “supposed” to do.

Demi & Bruce & Ashton did it...why is it so weird that we did too?

Demi & Bruce & Ashton did it…why is it so weird that we did too?

Like I mentioned before, the arrogant Leo* douchebag who made the snarky comment implying that my current Cancer man is some kind of chump who I’m playing like a fiddle is someone I met when I was only thirteen. Prior to him finding me on Facebook a few years ago, I hadn’t even seen or spoken to him in nearly 25 years. And since then we’ve only had sporadic contact, primarily via an occasional comment on one another’s Facebook statuses. Additionally, we have never so much as exchanged a single private message. Yet, even with so little information on which to draw such a bold conclusion, he evidently feels qualified not only to profess his (albeit thinly-veiled) judgment of the situation involving two men he’s never even met, but to also tell me how I feel. And he couldn’t have been more wrong. Clearly, he is one of those people who simply don’t get it because he could probably never imagine himself being so open-minded with his wife. It’s okay if he — or anyone else — doesn’t get it. We do. And that’s what matters.

Besides, maybe it’s not for anyone else to get.

*The words “arrogant” and “douchebag” used to describe the Leo in question are not intended to be all-inclusive or apply to my feelings toward every Leo. Generally, I love Leos. This particular Leo…eh…not so much.

Beyond The Sun: Lesser Known Factors In Compatibility

imagesCA0NI3AAI’ve always been intrigued by which Sun signs are considered to be compatible with one another, as well as which ones don’t quite mesh. As a teenager, whenever I had the hots for a guy, the first thing I would do after finding out when his birthday was, was to dig through my books on astrology. Daydreaming about eventually marrying and bearing the children of whomever happened to be my current object of affection, I whiled away many an hour reading chapters on “Aries and Virgo” (yikes), “Aries and Libra” (pass), “Aries and Sagittarius” (yay!)…and the list goes on and on. (If internet had been available in the mid-1980s, I’d have been an unstoppable force!)

untitled

But first, before diving in to this regularly scheduled post, how ’bout a game? It’s time to play…What’s My Sign? ! *insert thunderous applause & enthusiastic roars from the reading audience here*

In What’s My Sign?, we’ll observe two different couples interacting in…oh, I don’t know…let’s say the grocery store. Based on their conversations, using your knowledge of the general personality traits of each Sun sign (i.e., indecisive Libra, anything-goes Aquarius, me-me-me Leo, etc.), you’ll get to guess which Sun sign best fits each person!

So…are you ready to demonstrate your astrological skills (or lack thereof) and play What’s My Sign? Of course you are! Let’s get started!

SCENARIO #1:
Woman: Oooh! Look, honey: Brand Name paper towels are 3 for $5.00! (grabs 3 packages and throws in shopping cart)

Man: (visually searching other shelves) But the Store Brand paper towels over here are 3 for $3.00; let’s get them instead. Two dollars is a pretty big savings. (puts back Brand Name paper towels, replaces with Store Brand)

Woman: Well, right; but Brand Name has more paper towels per roll than Store Brand, plus they’re more absorbent so we use fewer sheets at a time. Brand Name is clearly a better deal. (puts Store Brand back on shelf; replaces with Brand Name)

Man: (exasperated sigh) You know what, this right here is why we’re broke…you’re always buying bullshit we don’t even need and you don’t care how much it costs! 

Woman: No, I’m not; you’re just a tight-ass! Brand Name is a better deal! We’ll use less because it’s better quality; if we buy Store Brand, we’ll just blow right through ’em cuz we hafta use more of it!

Man: You know what; whatever, I don’t even care, do what you want. You don’t care about me or what I think…

Woman: Oh my God, seriously? Goddamn, you are such a baby; grow the fuck up! (briefly pauses) Wait; you know what; fuck it! (puts Brand Name back on shelf, replaces with Store Brand) There! Happy?

imagesCATWBZKZ

SCENARIO #2:

Woman: Oooh! Look, honey: Brand Name paper towels are 3 for $5.00! (grabs 3 packages off shelf and throws in shopping cart)

Man: (visually searching other shelves) Hmmm…wait, Store Brand is 3 for $3.00; we should get those. Two bucks is a pretty big difference. (unloads & puts back Brand Name paper towels, replaces with Store Brand)

Woman: Well yeah, but Brand Name has more paper towels per roll, plus they’re more absorbent so we use less…Store Brand is…well, you get what you pay for.

Man: (ponders this) Hmmm…I never thought of it like that. Okay, well how about this: let’s buy one Brand Name; at least that way we don’t spend the full $5.00 buying all three. We don’t need three anyway.

Woman: Okay, works for me. (puts two Brand Name back on shelf)imagesCA0GTPGY

Any guesses yet? Anyone? *crickets chirping*

Okay then, for those of you who think you’ve nailed the Sun signs of the folks in these two couples, stand by for a moment while the rest of the class dissects the interactions we just read about and see at which conclusions we can arrive.

blog

So, grasshoppers: let’s start by looking for some basic personality traits we see in each of these couples. For example, when we consider the woman’s statements and actions in scenario #1, we see someone who is impulsive in her actions (quick decision on what to purchase) as well as impulsive in her words, in addition to being fairly blunt and stubborn, yet she is also somewhat of a martyr (in the end, she lets the man “win” although he never explicitly states she can’t buy the Brand Name) The man in scenario #1 appears to be overly sensitive and less stubborn than the woman, also exhibiting some martyrdom tendencies (he never actually tells the woman “no” in regard to her product preference) and bluntness.

Observing the woman in scenario #2,  we once again see some impulsive tendencies, less concern for overall cost than product quality, and definitely some tendency to be stubborn, yet she is also willing to compromise. Looking at the man in the same scenario, we can see that he is cost-conscious and perhaps a bit stubborn, but when the woman points out her reasoning for buying the more expensive product, he is flexible and open-minded enough to reconsider his decision when presented with new information.

With which Sun sign(s) are each of their personality traits more associated. Ready for the answers? Let’s see how you fared:

Scenario #1: our woman is an Aries, and our man is a Cancer.
Scenario #2: our woman is an Aries, and our man is a Cancer.

Generally speaking, fire and water Sun signs aren't compatible. This doesn't mean it's guaranteed to be doomed, though; we must consider the Moon & Ascendant.

Generally speaking, fire and water Sun signs aren’t compatible. This doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be doomed, though; we must also consider the Moon & Ascendant.

You heard me. No, that’s not a typo, nor did I get a bit too enthusiastic with the copy & paste.

Not only are the two women in these scenarios Rams and the men Crabs, but the two women aren’t even “two women” at all. They’re the same woman: me. The man in scenario #1 is based on my late Cancer ex-husband, and the man in scenario #2 is based on my current Cancer man. I created the scenarios like this to demonstrate a point: the usual Sun sign compatibility descriptions you’re probably familiar with are frequently about as generic and useless as the daily horoscopes you find in the local newspaper. This is because compatibility assessments often only consider the Sun sign of each partner – and nothing more. And in the same way your daily horoscope will be much more specific and accurate if you obtain a personalized one, so too will your compatibility descriptions. What this means is that — although generally speaking — Aries and Cancer aren’t a compatible couple, it’s not a virtual certainty that they’re destined for divorce court. Another way to look at this is to consider that Aries and Leo are traditionally considered to be pretty compatible. However, by the same token, this couple isn’t necessarily guaranteed to live happily ever after. There are many more aspects that must be taken into account…and this is where the above scenarios come into play.

imagesCAEFXAAGThings in common
Just ain’t a one…
But when we get together
We have nothin’ but fun. ~ Paula Abdul, “Opposites Attract”

Let’s take another look at our analysis of scenario #1, shall we? The traits we observe in their interaction, such as the woman’s Arien impulsivity and bluntness, as well as the man’s Cancerian hypersensitivity and moodiness, are all textbook qualities of their respective signs. But what about the martyrdom tendencies we observe in both partners? Martyrdom is a very common Aquarian trait, not something usually seen in a Ram or a Crab. However, my late ex-husband and I both have Moons in Aquarius. Furthermore, we both have Pisces Ascendants. Therefore, when considering compatibility in a couple (or potential couple), we must look beyond the Sun sign and also factor in the Ascendant and Moon sign. (NOTE: Other factors in compatibility that come into play include the aspects, which are the angles of the planets in one partner’s natal chart in relation to the angles of the planets formed in the other partner’s chart…but this is a bit more advanced, so it’s something we’ll delve into later on. In the meantime, if you’d like some information on how that works, you can read about it here.)

For instance — again, generally speaking — it is true that fire Sun signs and water Sun signs (such as in the case of Aries and Cancer) don’t mix. However, for a more accurate and complete compatibility assessment, each partner’s Ascendant and Moon should also be taken into consideration, as they always modify the Sun sign in some way. As I mentioned above, my late Cancer ex-husband and I both have Moons in Aquarius and Pisces Ascendants. In our relationship, the influence of an easy-breezy Aquarius Moon on his home-loving Cancer Sun modified the usual strong Cancerian desire for stability, which made him more open to enjoying new adventures, travel, and spontaneity, and easier to adapt to change than the more-typical change-resistant Crab. Likewise, the effect of my own easy-breezy Aquarius Moon on my self-centered Aries Sun modified the usual Arien “me first” tendency, which means I’m more likely to elevate the needs of others above my own than the typical it’s-all-about-me Ram would. A Pisces Ascendant lends a sentimental quality to the personality which, in the case of my Cancer ex-husband, made him even more sentimental and with an even stronger draw to the past than the already-quite sentimental Crab; where for me, it softens and adds sentimentality to the usual — nauseated by all things mushy-gushy — Aries Sun.

imagesCAAT7MT8

Moving on, now let’s shift focus to our analysis of scenario #2, where the man represents my current relationship with a Cancer. How is it that two Crabs can be so different? Here’s how, which in turn explains why the interaction on a more positive note. First of all, the Aries woman in scenario #2 was less stubborn and more flexible than the Aries woman in the first scenario. This is because Cancer man #2, for starters, is actually so close to the Gemini-Cancer cusp — just over four hours — that he exhibits a great deal of Geminian traits, some of which include adaptability, flexibility, and a slight emotional detachment…where Cancer man #1 — who is nowhere near a cusp — behaved more like…well, like a Cancer, than Cancer man #2. Additionally, Aries and Gemini are traditionally considered to be quite compatible. Cancer man #2 has a Taurus Moon, which precludes him to stubbornness more so than Cancer man #1’s Aquarius Moon, which instead instilled in him a streak of martyrdom. Finally, Cancer man #2 has a Leo Ascendant, which modifies his Cancer-cusp Sun away from the depressive moodiness of the common Crab.

So to summarize, your Sun sign is the essence of who you are; it’s what makes you you. Your Ascendant is your public persona; the mask you wear, if you will; it’s the way in which you are perceived by others. And your Moon sign is representative of how you tend to express yourself (or not, as the case may be) emotionally. And it’s those three factors that, when combined, will ultimately reveal just how compatible the two of you really are…or aren’t.

So if you’re a Cancer who has recently met the most awesome Aries in all the land (congratulations) and you came to my site to get the scoop on how well-suited you are to one another, but now you’re feeling a bit bummed that, for all intents and purposes, yours is a match made in Hades, fear not, sensitive Crab. Do some astrological sleuthing on your Ram; dig a little deeper. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Behind Every Accident Lies An Intentional Act

worrying“Like tomorrow was a gift
And you got eternity to think about what you’d do with it…
An’ what did you do with it?
An’ what can I do with it?
An’ what would I do with it?
Skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing…
I went two point seven seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu…
And then I loved deeper and I spoke sweeter
And I watched Blue Eagle as it was flyin’…
An’ he said someday, I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dyin’.” ~ Tim McGraw, “Live Like You Were Dyin'”

I’m a worrier. That’s just what I do, who I am, and always have been. No doubt due — at least in part — to a watery, depressive Pisces Ascendant and an overactive imagination brought to you in part by an Aquarius Moon. I remember one time in particular when I was just eight years old, my mom and stepdad hadn’t returned to pick me up from a relative’s house on time and there I was, a third grader, pacing the floor, convinced that they had succumbed to a fiery vehicular death. I wondered who would take care of me if they died? Needless to say, I was wrong. But when they finally arrived, I overheard my great-aunt chuckle to my mom, “I’ll tell you what, that little girl is something else. What a worry wart…she’s gonna give herself an ulcer!” That was the first time I’d ever heard the phrase “worry wart.”

And that’s just one example. In fact, I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t suffer from anxiety, to one degree or another. I don’t remember when, how, or why it began; I just know I’ve always been that way. Maybe it’s in my DNA. I have a very vivid memory of being three years old and having a tummy ache…and anxiously thinking, “I hope it’s not cancer!” Yes, you read that correctly: at the age of THREE. At that age, I hadn’t yet known anyone who had ever had cancer, let alone should I have known what cancer even was. But I had enough grasp of the concept to know it wasn’t good, and that it could kill you. An angst-ridden, hypochondriac toddler. Oh, I must have been a joy to be around.

Every human being on the planet worries, at least occasionally, and some more so than others. And usually, our fears are unfounded. When someone is running late, as I described in the example above, or we can’t reach them, we might begin to play out horrible possible scenarios in our minds that tragedy has befallen them. But about 99 percent of the time, we’re relieved when we learn everything is okay. The chest pains turn out to be muscular and not due to a massive heart attack; your child didn’t make it home from school not because he fell prey to a shady stranger luring him with candy from a windowless van, but because he stopped off at a friend’s house and forgot to call you; your excruciating headache is “only” a migraine, not a ruptured aneurysm…you get the idea. We’ve all had these or similar experiences.

So what about that remaining one percent of the time…when you’re worried something terrible has happened…except this time, your worst-case imagined scenario turns out to be very real?

“Mama put my guns in the ground…worry
I can’t shoot them anymore
That cold black cloud is comin’ down…
Feels like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door.” ~ Guns N Roses, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”

I am in a long-term live-in relationship with a wonderful Cancer-Gemini cusp named Mike who is my polar opposite when it comes to worrying. Where I am wringing my hands, pacing the floor, imagining the worst, Mike is the rational, level-headed one who reassures me that whatever it is I’m freaking out about is going to be fine. In fact, at that point he’s likely going to offer me a beer and encourage me to relax. This is intriguing to me because Mike was born within four and a half hours after the Sun entered Cancer, but close enough to the Cancer-Gemini cusp that he tends to exhibit more Geminian traits than Cancer traits…although astrologically speaking, he has a Cancer Sun and because the Sun always shines, it’s a little unusual that many of his behaviors and tendencies are more Twin-influenced than Crab-influenced. That’s the long way of saying Cancers tend to be worriers, yet my Cancer man doesn’t seem to be one. However, I was married for several years to an easily stressed, somewhat-hypochondriac Cancer man who was born nowhere near the cusp, and he managed to singlehandedly turn worrying into a sport. I can’t count the number of times I remember him proclaiming “oh my God, I’m dying!”  I would dismiss him, saying, “No you’re not!” and he would become agitated, accusing me of not caring. He was a champion worrier. If worrying was an Olympic event, the man could have won the gold. Everything was an emergency, he always just “knew” something would go wrong, and although many times he was wrong, often he was right — though I always chalked it up to the intense worrying itself which had influenced his self-fulfilling prophecies, while he disagreed, insisting that no, he knew whatever it was he was stressing about would happen.

worry quote

Wednesday, December 19, 2012: Though he is scheduled to work until 6pm, Mike worked until around 10pm that evening because his good friend and coworker in the auto paint & body shop where he works, a Virgo workaholic named Jimmy, needed to get home to wrap up painting on an urgent side job he had going. Jimmy stuck his head in the door of the paint booth in which Mike was working and said, “Okay, you got this?” Mike told him he did, and added, “I’ll see ya in the mornin’, fucker” to which Jimmy replied, “Aite, see ya, fucker.” With that, Jimmy left the shop at 6:38pm, heading home in a 1933 Ford that had been converted into a hot rod which belonged to his banker, and which was scheduled to be his next side job.

Mike arrived home that evening around 10:25pm. He kissed me hello and headed to the fridge. As he grabbed a beer, popped it open, walked back into the living room and sat down in his chair, he told me, “So I guess Jimmy never made it home after work.” “Really?” I asked incredulously. He nodded. “Yeah, I know…it was the weirdest thing; I was locking up and when I went outside, his woman was sitting out there in her car and she honked…so I went over there and she asked me where Jimmy was. I was like, ‘uh, he left around 6:35-6:40…he’s not home yet?'” She replied that no, he hadn’t come home and he wasn’t answering his cell phone either. She was growing even more concerned now, upon learning that Jimmy had left over three and half hours earlier for what was routinely a 12 minute drive home.

Now, at this point even I knew something wasn’t right. From everything I’d heard about Jimmy, this was completely out of character for him, a totally devoted, hardworking Virgo who constantly touched base with his fiancee, Carla, throughout the day, every day. She was his life, his world, his everything. He had met her when they were five year-olds living in the same neighborhood, literally his childhood sweetheart, and he couldn’t wait to marry her.

I had a foreboding feeling in the pit of my stomach. “Wow, that’s not like him at all,” I shook my head. “Damn…I hope he’s okay…”

Mike agreed. “I know, right? He would never just not go home without letting her know what he was doing. That’s just not him. He’s never once said anything about going anywhere other than home; he doesn’t go hang out at buddys’ houses, he doesn’t go to bars. That just ain’t who he is. I hope nothing happened to him…” I could tell that my usually-rational Cancer cusp was somewhat unnerved by this.

Dismissing my own ominous feeling, rationalizing that surely Jimmy was fine and surely this must have been caused by something trivial, I chuckled, “I can’t wait to hear what happened tomorrow…she is gonna be pissed!” Mike laughed and agreed. “Oh yeah, me too.”

The next morning, Mike left for work before I woke up. I had an appointment with my eye doctor and was putting my shoes on, getting ready to leave. I had forgotten all about our conversation the night before when, at 8:15am, my cell phone rang. It was Mike.

“Hey, whassup?” I asked cheerfully.

“Hey, babe,” he responded solemnly. I then heard him take a deep breath. “Jimmy was killed last night.”

I felt the blood drain from my face. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. My hands began shaking. I sat down on the edge of the bed, in shock. “Oh my God…what happened?”

“Well, he was driving that 1933 Ford he was about to paint for his banker…it’s got a 900 horsepower motor…it’s a race car. He was heading south on highway 4 on his way home and I guess he just couldn’t stand it…he had to push it…the cops said they think he was doing at least a hundred and maybe even 130…you know, those old cars aren’t aerodynamic like the ones today…I guess he lost control and rolled it…the thing was practically made out of glass… it just disintegrated…he was ejected…he was gone before 7:00…” That meant more than three hours had passed since the accident when Jimmy’s fiancee came looking for him at the shop, and nearly four hours by the time Mike and I were talking about it at home, hoping he was okay. Witnesses put the time of the accident at 6:46pm. Mike had been the last person to see him alive, just eight minutes earlier. Another witness who had been driving behind him stated they had seen his taillights ahead of them when suddenly the tail lights disappeared and then all they saw was “headlights over taillights over headlights over taillights” as the car rolled repeatedly.

Such a senseless death. A terrible waste. So unnecessary. Dammit! If he just would’ve resisted the urge to test this car’s limits the way he did; after all, he knew better than that! If he’d just stayed at work instead of going home early to work on that side job…yet behind this tragic accident, there was a single intentional act: a guy who lived and breathed race cars who found the temptation to see what this hot rod could do on a rural Oklahoma highway simply too irresistible to ignore. And that single intentional act led to an unintentional and unthinkable outcome, leaving in its wake a shattered fiancee and nine year-old daughter, not to mention numerous devastated family and friends.

Jimmy Dale Richardson   09/16/1972 - 12/19/2012

Jimmy Dale Richardson 09/16/1972 – 12/19/2012

Though I went to high school with Jimmy for a semester in ninth grade, I didn’t know him. I remember him, and he “kind of” remembered me. I kind of felt like I knew him vicariously through all of Mike’s work stories, which is why I was immediately concerned when I heard he hadn’t made it home; I knew enough to know that just wasn’t like him. But even not actually having known him, his death still hit me like a punch in the face. Not only because of the tragedy itself and knowing how deeply Mike was grieving the loss of his friend and coworker, but because it was a massive jolt to everything I’d always believed to be true. Here’s what I mean. As I said earlier, even when we worry about people or events and picture horrible outcomes, it’s safe to say that everything (almost) always turns out okay, and we come to rely on that. Although we might still worry, in the back of our minds, we’re reassured that statistically, everything is probably just fine.

This time was different. It was the first time in my 40 years that I could recall ever having been worried that something awful had happened…and been right. Not only was I right, it was the absolute worst possible scenario. Jimmy hadn’t just had a fender bender and suffered a few minor injuries, or been hauled off to jail for doing 130 mph down that road. It’s like we just skipped all of those unpleasant yet lesser of the evil scenarios and went straight to the worst outcome imaginable. It seemed so unfair, like the Universe had somehow cheated him. He couldn’t have just been a little banged up and ended up in the hospital, or pulled over and taken to jail for driving like that; he’s just dead? Just like that?

worry2

As a consequence of these events, my anxiety level immediately skyrocketed. I was reminded of the harsh reality that we are all but mere mortals and when our time is up, life can be ripped away in an instant without warning. None of us are infallible. What happened to Jimmy could happen to anyone, including the people I love, and including me. We truly never know when an innocent intentional act of ours, which might be so trivial that we wouldn’t think twice about it, could lead to something completely unintentional happening.  Something totally life-altering…or life-ending. Additionally, when I find myself worrying now, the feeling is much more frightening…because of the one time I worried…and the outcome I feared had happened, had happened.

It certainly didn’t help when just 13 days later, my Cancer ex-husband was killed…also in a single vehicle accident…also due to a single innocent, yet intentional act.

That’s What Friends With Benefits Are For

“What exactly does that expression mean, ‘friends with benefits?’ Does he provide her with health insurance?”           ~ Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory

Well, it doesn’t work quite like that, Dr. Cooper. Although it’d be tremendously helpful if it did; I could use a good medical plan.
Though it’s come to the forefront of American culture in only the last decade or so, the concept of friends with benefits (FWB) isn’t new. The human creature is a pack animal and craves physical closeness. But what if you don’t have someone to be physically close with on a regular basis? What about single/divorced/widowed folks?

Use your phone-a-friend option. But before you dial, consider a few noteworthy points:

• Do you become emotionally attached easily?
• Are you particularly jealous by nature?
• Is there a possibility you have romantic feelings for your friend – or vice versa?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, put down the phone. Now. Remove the battery if you have to. Take a cold shower. A FWB arrangement is probably not the best idea for you.

If you’re a subscriber or you know me personally, you’re already painfully aware I’m a textbook Aries. As such, I have a jealous streak – but it’s not one of the usual flavor. My jealousy doesn’t originate from a place of insecurity, but rather from a desire to be Number One. I want to be at the center of your attention – not her, not him, not them – me, me, me! However, I also have a Pisces Ascendant, a wistful water sign which is prone to jealousy, and to top it off, my Moon is in Aquarius, which is a detached, ain’t-no-thang air sign, one of the least inclined to jealousy in the zodiac. So what effect does this astrological train wreck have on a person?

The Moon rules the emotions and how we see ourselves. An Aquarius Moon reveals a lighthearted, take-it-or-leave-it attitude in matters of the heart…or so I’d like to think (self-image). The Ascendant is our public persona; how we appear to others. A Pisces Ascendant appears to be a sentimental dreamer (the bastard water sign cousin to Cancer) whose head is in the clouds and is easily hurt. But as my witty Aquarius friend likes to remind me, the Sun always shines. It is the essence of our character. Put ‘em all together, what do you get? A stubborn person who needs to stand out above the rest (Aries Sun), comes across as an overly-sensitive airhead (Pisces Ascendant), all the while telling myself it’s all good, I don’t need all that mushy-gushy lovey crap (Aquarius Moon). Translation: I’m more jealous and become attached more easily/quickly than I tend to believe. Finally, just for fun, let’s go ahead and throw in a Venus in Gemini, which indicates I’m rather aloof, flirty, and (allegedly) unfaithful in love (a whole ‘nother topic; we’ll delve into that another time). It boils down to basically not knowing what I want…and just when I think I’ve figured it out, I change my mind (props to my Moon and Venus air signs for that one.)

After moving to Hot Springs, Arkansas in 2011, I began a FWB arrangement with my oft-referred-to hippie Aquarius tree friend who shares my passion for astrology. While I can’t speak for him, it worked out beautifully on my end (no pun intended). I never felt the spark of a “relationship connection” with my friend (which surprised me, because he has qualities that I find wildly attractive: extreme intelligence, sharp wit, and a wicked sense of humor). But I did have a physical attraction to him…and well, I do like sex. So, as roommates, we shared a home, but as FWB we shared a bed and our bodies. Outside the bedroom, we went to movies, went out to eat, laughed, watched TV, had long conversations, argued incessantly over what does/doesn’t constitute a curb and whether it’s a “cue-pon” or a “coo-pon” (debates which are still in progress today), smoked weed, shopped, cooked – but as friends. And it was a blast! I had the best time being in the company of my quirky Aquarian friend. And as “just friends,” there was no hand-holding, no kissing, no hugging, no terms of endearment (unless you count “hooker” or “dumbass”), no displays of affection like you might witness with two people in a relationship. The only difference between us and any other pair of friends was, about once every week or two, give or take, as needed, we would provide, ahem, benefits for the other. For me, the main benefit was human (sexual) contact.

Alas, there comes a time in the life of every Aquarian tree genius when he feels he is ready and needs to move on. My Aquarian amigo was no different. One of his reasons being, as roommates/FWB, although we weren’t a committed couple, we didn’t sleep with other people during the time we were roommates/FWB because it wouldn’t have been right. “Bad juju,” he called it. At the same time, we both had close friends of the opposite sex to whom we spoke regularly, and neither of us thought anything of it. But when my free-spirited Aquarian friend moved out, taking the benefits with him, my reaction surprised even me: I was jealous!  I felt like I was going through a breakup and it stung. Knowing he had developed an interest in another woman, I was crushed. I cried, I (over)analyzed the situation, trying anything to figure out what was going on inside me. Major depression set in. But why? I didn’t think of him That Way. Or wait, did I, and hadn’t realized it until now? Even worse, had I – gulp – fallen in love with my friend? The unanswered questions constantly gnawed at me.                                            

With the benefit of hindsight (and industrial-strength antidepressants), I was able to pinpoint it. I was jealous; there’s no denying that. But why, and over someone with whom I wasn’t even interested in having a relationship? A few reasons, I discovered. First, I wasn’t Number One anymore. There was actually someone else he wanted to be around more than he did me. Secondly, I realized I had developed an emotional attachment – and quite a significant one at that. I understood that it had nothing to do with falling in love with my FWB. This wonderful, witty Aquarian had breezed into my life at a time when I had never felt more alone. He was my metaphorical crutch. He was there for me physically and emotionally when I really needed someone. He genuinely cared about me and about what happened to me during a very painful period in my life when it felt like no one else did. While the FWB situation had served my urges for human contact quite nicely, thank you very much, what I failed to recognize was that our hookups  had provided me with a physical closeness which helped me feel more emotionally secure given the frame of mind I was in – post-breakup of an eight-year relationship, recent long-distance move, and other major life changes. My Water Bearer had also distracted me from the grief I was attempting to keep at bay. With him out of the picture – well, out of the house, anyway – I no longer had the distraction, nor did I have the – albeit false – sense of emotional security. I was now, more or less, alone with my own thoughts, and way too many painful ones. I had too much time on my hands to think after he was gone. I felt naked, alone, and abandoned. And terrified.

Even so, I still believe I’m capable of being involved in another FWB situation. If I were to enter into another arrangement like that, however, I would have to be certain I was in a less vulnerable place in my life. I would have to be absolutely positive I was doing it solely for the sexual pleasure and not as a distraction or to fill an emotional void. None of this is meant to imply I was only using my Aquarian FWB; while it’s now clear I used him sexually for emotional support on a subconscious level, rather than for sexual pleasure, he was, and still is, one of my closest, most treasured friends.

That said, I’d be a liar if I said his impressive physical endowment hadn’t been a huge bonus. Pun intended.