WHO Are YOU?

“And WHO are YOU?” the older man in the black tux and argyle socks said as he shook my hand. I was being greeted by the father of the groom after the wedding ceremony.
“My name is….” I said, not feeling quite as ridiculous as I might’ve if he hadn’t been wearing the purple and pink socks.

He raised his eyebrows at me, Groucho Marx style, and I moved on. I figured he wanted to disconcert people with the socks because he was a psychiatrist, and liked to do unexpected things to see how people would react, but I was disconcerted because I had no ready answer to his unexpected question.

The thing was I was nobody. I’d been invited to the wedding through a friend of the bride, whom I didn’t even know. My friend had arranged the invitation for me, including my pre-school daughters, believing they should get their first look at a true-to-life fairy-tale bride. I’d set aside my discomfort to appease her but had felt completely foreign in such exalted company. My friend had been disappointed when Terry and Tammy, instead of being excited, watched the elaborate ceremony with a detached air.

So – who was I? Should I have said “I’m a friend of a friend of the bride?” or “I have an invitation but actually I’m a party crasher because I don’t even know your son or new daughter-in-law?” It’s bewildering to be asked “WHO are YOU?” and trying to think of an answer.

Perhaps, I thought later, I should make an appointment with him. Tell him he got me to thinking “WHO am I” as if I’d never thought to ask it before, and that I’d been searching for an answer ever since. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. Wasn’t that what psychiatrists were for, to help us discover who we are? But psychiatrists cost money, and besides I kept seeing those wild argyle socks with the expensive black tux. How could I trust him?

So I decided to find myself, myself. Still looking.

Women Who Stand by Their Men

My daughter said my list of the things I hate was too short. Since I find I’m still steaming, here’s another one that just boiled over.

I hate women who stand by their men. Who stoically pose on some public platform and share his shame. Pretending to believe his apology when everyone knows he’d still be doing what it often is, if he’d never been found out. He’s just sorry he got caught.

Maybe with some wives it’s self-preservation, so they can maintain the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. Now take Kobe Bryant’s wife (remember the nineteen-year-old maid eight years ago who claimed it wasn’t consensual, in other words that it was rape?—which he denied but later admitted to what he called a consensual act?).

Well, there you have it. Eight years later, hmmmm. I wonder what the eight years did to her self-esteem. Every time she walked down the street, somebody pointing and saying “There’s the woman who stood by her man…..” while laughing hysterically.

So, naturally, the next thing I hate is that song Tammy Wynette likes to sing “Stand by Your Man”. What drivel!

“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman” So? We knew that from the day Eve was tempted by the snake. And of course Adam told God it was all Eve’s fault. He was one of those kinds of men.

Eve was not only the first woman, she was also the first feminist. She passed down those good genes not only to any woman with self-respect but also to some good men who respect their wives.

BLACK SUITS AND RED TIES

I’m boiling over, so please excuse me while I vent.

I’ve been teetering off-kilter for awhile but am finally forced to face the truth; the positive crap I’ve projected onto my environment for most of my adult life is just that, pure unholy crap.

Blame it on all those self-help books I absorbed like nectar from the gods. Using them as bricks to build a stupid wall of right thinking Drowning out the negative! Ha! A word of warning. If you keep burying the negative, one day it will jump out and bite you, like it did me and every time you turn on your television you’ll start seeing men in black suits and red ties.

So, here’s a remedy. Find out what you hate, from that pile of crap I just mentioned. Grab a shovel and dig for your life. I mean literally, your life. No more pablum, nicey-nice bullshit. Jump up and down, scream, whatever you feel, just get it out. Make a list. Here’s mine:

I hate elitists, who think they know what’s best for the rest of us. They’re everywhere: in politics, in the media, in academia. Extolling their virtues and our ignorance (we who cling to our guns and religion).

I hate phonies (including elitists) who masquerade as authentic, caring human beings; my dog could teach them a few lessons on integrity.

Most of all I hate the mock gladiators, displaying their weapons of deception and lies, as they parade past me in their black suits and red ties.

Study Astrology: Become a Contender

In the final analysis, we count for something only because of the essential we embody, and if we do not embody that, life is wasted.   –C. G. Jung

Finding your place is not an easy thing to do.  First you’re born into a family, a place, a time.  You have to learn to walk, talk, and gradually learn the mores of your tribe.   If you wind up feeling like an odd duck in a family of geese you have to figure that out too.  

You know there is meaning – somewhere–but do not yet realize the meaning waits inside you to be discovered.   First you have to fit in and put on the proper clothes – you can’t wear sixteenth century clothes in the twenty-first century, although you may want to.  You can’t use the long words you’ve come to love in mere table-talk or folks will think you’re pretentious, or more likely, plain nutty.  You have to take up the proper slang.  Fit in.

And all the time you’re learning these things, what to do and not to do (and embarrassing yourself no end with all your goofs) you glimpse a light just over the hill in the far distance, beckoning to you.   You think if you can just reach it, you might understand what it’s all about, why you’re here instead of someplace else.  Why you’re even alive.

When you’re still a child, you may think adults know all the answers but they just aren’t telling.  That when you’re an adult you will magically know the answers too.  Later you may believe that since you’re an adult and still don’t know the answers, which everyone else seem to know, perhaps you’re mentally challenged.   You keep quiet while you look for clues in other people’s behavior, because when you verbalize a new discovery your friends seems to know it already.

Then one day, after many false turns and serendipities that appear and divert you from some dastardly path you were on, you discover Astrology.

Believe me when I tell you it does helps–a lot.  First you learn about the natal chart and realize—yes, that is so—and often you are surprised to learn certain aspects between the planets indicate talents that you’d had an inkling of but never trusted (trained to be modest, we often discount any positive trait we may think we possess like “who am I to think I might be able to do these things” – all the while blushing at our presumptuousness).

Some of the things you’ve learned you have to unlearn—truthfully, many of them.  I read somewhere that we spend the second half of our lives unlearning what we learned during the first half.   But the first half gives us a foundation to work with, so don’t discount it.  You don’t want to throw it out, merely modify what you’ve already learned by incorporating the new knowledge you’ve ingested.   Knowledge feeds the human soul.  Act on that knowledge and you are no longer a spectator of life, but a contender.

Andy Adams – Kentucky Coal


The above video of an interview with my brother Andy Adams of Hazard, Kentucky in Appalachia took place twenty-seven years ago when he was fifty years old, and had achieved the American Dream.

His photo on the cover of my family book Stories of a Kentucky Mountain Family was taken when he was just sixteen, with our youngest brother Hale, who was six. When our dad died, leaving eight children, Andy quit school and went to work in the coal mines of eastern Kentucky to support his mother and siblings.

Later, after being injured at the mines during a dynamite blast, he forged a birth certificate to prove he was eighteen and drove semi-trailers across the country. He also worked in the factories in Detroit, and when he came home he paid our debt at the general store.

Andy was my hero. Hale and I, the two youngest, often watched for him to come home. Memories still linger in my mind of him coming up the path on crutches after the blast at the mines, smiling at us through his pain as we waited on the front porch, and later, watching him swing down from the giant cab of a truck as he came home to check on us.

In the video he tells you himself that he achieved the American Dream, a man who only finished the eighth grade and was self-educated. He was also self-directed, with a can-do, positive attitude towards life and work that he passed along to all of us.

When he passed away on March 14 2001, I was with him. A few hours before, he had pointed over my shoulders and said “Your brothers.” I turned automatically towards the wall and said “Where?” He had a disappointed look on his face, realizing I hadn’t seen them. It was the only time I remember disappointing him. But I knew at that moment that the three brothers who had already passed on were waiting to greet him.

Andy was a hero for our times. A young man of sixteen who became a substitute father to his siblings. He set an example for all of us. I hope he knows how much he was loved.

For All the Women Who Feel Trodden On

If a woman makes herself a worm she must not complain when she is trodden on. — Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher 

Of course I changed the gender. Kant may have been one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlightenment but since he spoke during the Eighteenth Century I’m not sure he meant to include women.

As for myself, I gave up worm-hood a number of years ago. I started working on it when I realized one day that, in order to be walked on, I had to acquiesce by lying down. If you’re standing tall, they have to knock you down first (so you should also learn self-defense).

After lying prone for so many years (I exaggerate, of course) I found it took awhile to get back up. But I finally made it because I had to be a role model for my daughters and granddaughters, and even for my son and grandsons, because I wanted them to respect me and thus, to respect women.

So I was delighted recently by my granddaughter Emily’s reaction after her motorcycle accident (which of course I was not delighted about as she had a broken leg). After Emily’s surgery I asked Cathy how she was doing and her Mom replied “She’s really p-ssed!”  “That’s my girl!” I said. “When life hands you a lemon, don’t make lemonade, spit it out!”

Now that may not be the way a grandmother should respond but I had asked the question solicitously as I was concerned about Emily’s low spirits. So I was pleased to hear that, instead of moping, she was mad. Emily definitely does not embrace worm-hood. Although in this instance she may have come close. She had just gotten her motorcycle operating license and was feeling pressured, by the line of cars waiting behind her, to pull out into heavy traffic. Thus she hugged the curb too closely and hit it. (You’re learning, Emily, but next time let’em wait).

I agree with Kant that I can’t complain about my days of worm-hood, especially since it was my own self who let the trodders trod on me. But no more! So this is for all the women out there who feel trodden on. It’s time to stand upright! Shock the heck out of the trodders. They will really flip!

Midlife Crisis: Retrieving Your Soul

The midlife crisis is no joke, although it may look that way, to people my age who find it endearing that young people over forty are horrified when they find a gray hair. I try to remember the time when I thought forty was old, but I must’ve changed as I now consider myself to be young at sixty-nine.  And the loveliest thing about my gray hair is the ability of my beautician to make it any color I like.

I don’t mean to belittle the point here. The midlife crisis really is a once-in-a-lifetime deal and it really is serious. When I say you are on a journey to retrieve your soul, even though you didn’t know until now it had been misplaced, I’m not just speaking metaphorically. This is a crucial time in your life.

Have you been jogging along the right path lately? That’s the question that comes up when you reach your late thirties to early forties, a period of about four to six years. It’s been ten to fourteen years since you experienced your first Saturn Return and faced the first big milestone on your soul’s journey. But maturity is not an overnight process. Along with the new insights you gained back then you most likely had a job to maintain, a family to provide for, and all that goes along with being a responsible member of society.

Now transiting Saturn will enter the picture again when you’re about 42, but this time only as part of a complex series of transits that have already begun, to bring the new results to light.  By opposing its position in your chart, it’s asking “How are you doing so far on the halfway mark to your second Saturn Return?” And your cranky reply may well be “Would you quit being so serious for awhile? I’ve got all these other issues to deal with so you can just wait your turn!”

The other three transits just passing are Uranus opposing Uranus, called your “Uranus Opposition”, Neptune square Neptune, and Pluto square Pluto. All of these transits represent a complex of self-evaluations and choices you are making about your life. It is a process. Although I experienced my Uranus opposition first, many of you are experiencing your Pluto square first, as Pluto has been traveling faster recently.

Pluto is associated with psychology and some believe he even represents the soul. Since this is a one-time transit, it represents a life-changing crisis in action on a deep emotional and psychological level. It often begins with a growing awareness of our mortality. We become obsessed with the loss of youth and other signs of aging, and feel a deep sense of loss along with other intense feelings: of grief, depression, rage, jealousy, betrayal, isolation and disempowerment.

What’s really triggering these feelings is an internal process in which the unconscious is awakening, and something within us is crying out for greater depth of meaning in our lives. In Jungian terms, this phase represents the confrontation with our “shadow” and we are faced with the “demons” of the past. Through internal and external experiences we become more aware of those parts of ourselves we have repressed, buried, rejected, denied, projected and ignored.

It’s time to begin recognizing, owning and integrating these unlived parts of ourselves. In order to heal our wounded child it is also time for us to endure the pain and face the past, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. This phase is not just about death, it is about birth and renewal.

For most people, the Uranus opposition follows and occurs between the age of 40 and 42 (others nearer to 38 or 39) which is at the midpoint of its 84 year cycle, the amount of time it takes to travel around the zodiac. Since an opposition is much like a full moon this transit of Uranus reveals what we have become in the first half of our lives. As we begin to see ourselves more clearly we also begin to feel an urge to free ourselves of attachments to the past in order to build a new identity. We want to explore new possibilities, do things we’ve never done before.

We want to reconnect with the parts of ourselves we’ve repressed. According to Jung, if we successfully navigate this midlife transition “Above all we will have achieved a real independence and with it, to be sure, a certain isolation. In a sense we are alone, for our “inner freedom” means that a love relation can no longer fetter us, the other sex has lost its magic power over us, for we have come to know its essential traits in our own psyche.”

The time of the Uranus opposition is exciting because we now have the impetus to make changes necessary for our growth, and can find ourselves inspired to follow our dream. However, our dream is undergoing a revamping by our Neptune square during this midlife experience.

We are faced with a crisis of ideals. During the Neptune square we may feel terribly disillusioned and depressed as we begin to see a gulf between what we once idealized and the reality in our lives, also reflected through our interaction with society. Now is the time we  face whether what we have become matches our ideal self. And, even if it does, we need a new dream to guide us in the second half of our life. What shall it be? This is a time many of us begin to question our religion as well as our spiritual and philosophical beliefs and whether they are still valid. We may feel an absence of meaning, the lack of a sense of purpose, or find ourselves in a state of mourning for the lost dreams of youth. By studying Astrology during this time in my life I experienced an entirely new awareness of the Divine Order of the Universe, God’s creation.

The importance of this journey through uncertainty is that it gives us the ability to connect with a larger spiritual purpose. Formal religion has its place but how many of us drop our spirituality in the collection plate every Sunday and forget about it the rest of the week? Religion is no substitute for spirituality. That sounds suspiciously like something my eldest daughter says, that “school is no place for children”, which is why she home schools. But that’s a decision she made after she had two more children near the time of her midlife crisis.

At this time of our life we have the opportunity to connect with the core of our being more than ever before, to help us make decisions about what we really want to do with the rest of our lives. All these values are activated following closure of the transits, not during the transits themselves. At last we feel free to express our gifts, unhampered by the restrictions of the past. At last we can retrieve our souls from obscurity.