Welcome to Zodiask, a monthly column in which an expert on a current astrological season figures out how their sign’s most notorious attributes can work in your favor, whatever time of year you were born.
This month's columnist is Sarah Nicole Prickett, a sublimely chill Libra who explains herein how to access equanimity in all areas of your life.
What we are in is Libra season. What we are not in is a season for Libras. The material world has lost its symmetry to an extent so wild that attempts to find beauty in it feel occasionally supererogatory, more often dumb. To seek harmony in a noisy society is to come across as tone-deaf. “Both sides” is the watchword of one-eyed kings. Gandhi was a Libra, as was John Lennon, but those men are dead; and today Vladimir Putin and Eminem are Libras. Ambivalence, that peculiar mental habit of laughing while mad, remains the only possible, the ideal form of sanity.
Ambivalence at its finest is exemplified by a recent photograph of Marion Cotillard, known inter alia for her uncertainty about whether the moon landing did or did not take place, wearing a trucker hat embroidered with NASA’s insignia. Commentators wondered if she was being ironic with the hat, or a hypocrite, or clueless. Yet it is reasonable to doubt that the United States won the space race and at the same time wish to support, or appear to support, the American need to believe that it did happen—especially since there is no chicer merchandise than the merchandise of space exploration. Indeed, I endeavour to live the whole of my life like a moon-landing skeptic in a NASA hat. Is astrology scientific? No. Is it a religion? Not really. Do I believe in it? Marion Cotillard is a Libra.
I am a Libra, and although there is something inescapably provincial about identifying too strongly with one’s sun sign, it relaxes me to say so. The place and time of your birth are, in that order, the most determining factors of your life, and the zodiac spins this unkind structural truth into a gossamer system, rhizomatic and non-hierarchical, allowing for the comforts of identity without the exigencies of actual politics, the embrace of fate without the requisite forgiving of your parents. I can, as it happens, thank my parents for having acted on the unoriginal notion of having unprotected sex on New Year’s Eve, since there is no sun sign I think I would prefer to be: I feel like a Libran less than I feel that the Libran gift of equanimity is as good as it gets.
And I share a birthday—September 24—with the dead novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote that only a first-rate mind can hold two contradictory ideas at once and still continue to function, and so lent a voguish justification for wanting perpetually, as I do, to have it both ways; the secret to bliss is having—and this is a double entendre—self-cancelling opinions.
And I share a birthday with the rapper and dilettante Kreayshawn, who once tweeted, accurately as far I know, that not being chill is a sin.
It’s hard to become chill—to become in essence opposed to being a trying sort of person—and easier to learn how to be calm. A misunderstanding exists, common among people who don’t have all day to look up etymologies online, that calm is the antithesis of heated when in fact the word derives from the Late Latin cauma, for “heat of the day” or “resting place in the heat of the day,” and conjures a high coastal sun that makes the wind lie down for a while. Calmness does not mean being passive, only not being rocked by every fresh passion, opinion, and whim. It means being angry when you should be, but not consenting to be reactive, or reactionary.
What helps is having everything low inside: blood pressure, resting body temperature, and—especially—resting heart rate. My own heart, seemingly impervious to how I live, almost never begins the day above a cool adagio, so that last part is easy for me to say. That’s why I am saying it: because it’s easy. Try finding something easy for you to say, and say that, and see if you are not then more relaxed.
Exercise is the best way to lower the heart rate, making the life of the heart longer and chiller. The difficulty is in finding a way to exercise that leaves the nerves undisturbed. I rarely do cardio, because it feels annoying to jump up and down. I have never done yoga, because I have never known how and because I dislike saying the word “yoga.” What I do lately, irregularly, is the workout produced circa 2000 by the New York City Ballet, demonstrated by real, working ballerinas in simple leotards. The music is Ravel and Stravinsky. The unseen narrator, male and perhaps a sadist, dignifies rather than encourages movement. No one does anything as vulgar as count steps, begin to sweat, or smile. It is the most elegant form of at-home exercise that I have encountered, and as it will improve your balance and posture, as well as your flexibility, it is also the most Libran.
Another way to slow the heart is to take benzos, but I have a story about that: I was, several years ago, taking them every day as prescribed, and because I did not really have anxiety—I just lived in Brooklyn—I was worried about developing a needless dependence on a drug I did not even consider sexy. One night when I was out of pills and drinking, I decided to get, in lieu of the next month’s refill, a motivational phrase as a tattoo, which would take less time than going to the shrink’s office and be significantly less expensive in the long term. I took the words—BE CALM—from a Louise Bourgeois drawing, of which I made a quick stencil. But my hands were insufficiently steady, and the tattoo artist my friends and I had chosen at 11:50 PM on St. Mark’s Place was insensitive to feminine aesthetics, so that the letters ended up too bold, the message irksome; and now, whenever I look at my hands, I make a mental note to write “tattoo removal” on my to-do list. Granted, I have not since then taken a benzo.
Meditating is said to be important, and I believe it. Naomi Watts (September 28) considers herself “fairly high-strung,” yet thanks to transcendental meditation, a practice she learned from preternaturally tranquil David Lynch, she remains “calm and steady.” A course in transcendental meditation, however, costs around one thousand dollars, an expenditure that could drive a reasonable person to the pharmacy for benzos.
Better than meditation, according to the minimalist composer Steve Reich (October 3), is weekly observance of the Sabbath. When Reich, an avowed workaholic, began ceasing his labours between Friday night and Saturday night every week, he found that it “made a huge impression for the better.” You do not have to be Jewish to do likewise, though of course being Jewish would make it easier to explain to your friends, and the conversion process only takes a few years. Also, there is no Hell for Jewish people, so that’s one less thing to think about on Saturday mornings.
Breathing is perhaps as important as not going to Hell. Breathe regularly, but not like a regular person—in and out or whatever. Breathe in a special way, which you can learn by downloading an app for $1.99.
When you are having a panic attack for a reason hard to ascertain, listen to rain sounds. Note that it may take several weeks for it to rain, depending where you live.
Do you live in New York? When you’re going to a meeting uptown and the train is delayed, be grateful that Lower Manhattan is not yet under water, because you lent your good swimsuit to your roommate and she hasn’t returned it.
Whenever you are alone at home on a Saturday night, avoid allowing yourself to become sad upon thinking aloud, “This would never happen to a Libra.” Most people who are alone on a Saturday night have, at some point, died, and at least that is one thing that hasn’t happened to you.
If you leave home wearing the wrong outfit, don’t do the obvious thing and kill yourself, because then you will almost certainly be photographed wearing it.
If your phone is for some reason not working, say to yourself, Good idea.
Are you struggling to complete a minor but non-optional task? Consider what the greatest living athlete, the tennis player Serena Williams (September 26), would do. According to the BBC, she wields what is called “the quiet eye.” She looks at the ball longer and more closely than other players do before hitting it with her racket, and thus eliminates distraction from the visual field, and from the atmosphere in the mind, at high-pressure moments. “I focus on one point at a time, just that sole point and then the next one and the next one,” says Williams. Practice with the blinking cursor on your screen. Look at it until everything else blurs, then type while keeping your eyes on the cursor. Time should begin to dilate, thoughts clear up. This technique has helped Williams win 23 Grand Slams, more than any tennis player in history except Roger Federer, and now it has enabled you to fill out an invoice for three and a half hours of freelance graphic design.
If a friend hurts your feelings and fails to acknowledge it, say nothing. Write in your diary, I hope something bad happens to her in the future. There is no need to be more specific. When she comes down with a cold, or is priced out of the neighbourhood she helped gentrify, or is forced to leave social media after being accused of plagiarizing her viral tweets about using the principles of Gardnerian witchcraft to boost creativity, text her and say, “I’m sorry.” That way you can experience the pleasure of revenge, while also demonstrating the value of an apology.
Heed, in general, the words of my favourite rapper, Lil Wayne (September 27), whose 2011 song “She Will” is the Libra anthem:
Devil on my shoulder, the lord as my witness
So on my Libra scale, I'm weighing sins and forgiveness
What goes around, comes around like a hula hoop
Karma is a bitch, well just make sure that bitch is beautiful
When awaiting a reply to an email you feel is important, you will understandably be anxious. Try not to send another email with the subject line “hey—just following up.” Rather, imagine that you are living in the early days of the United States as such, and that mail from the coast or from Europe takes weeks or even months to arrive. The reply you await—handwritten and sealed with wax—is being brought to you by an orphan on horseback. The orphan is named William. It’s snowing, and the horse is becoming weak. The horse is named Prospector. On the eighth day of the journey, Prospector stumbles and falls into a frozen creek, and William must shoot him dead with a rifle. William is bereft and low on provisions, but he survives in misery for five days before being found by a small band of Navajo who, having had their land and happiness stolen by the white man, choose not to show mercy. The Navajo resourcefully skin the dead horse, unaware that its flesh had been stricken by glanders, and one by one they become ill. Are you still thinking about that email?
There are so many more coping strategies than these, almost as many as there are things with which to cope. Try reading a book instead of your phone when you wake up. Try, at the end of a long day, reading all of the news at once so that then there is no more news and you can relax. Try taking a bath in lieu of taking a shower, or not showering at all. Try going for a long drive in someone else’s car without worrying about a silly thing like having your driver’s license. Try making a long to-do list, crossing out items when you realize you’re not going to do them.
Try to do less. A majority of the problems in human history can be traced back to someone, somewhere, having decided to do something and done it.
Remember to breathe.