As Mars is slowing down to station in close proximity to Saturn, it's a good day to talk about commitments. Yesterday me and my colleague Jenn Zahrt worked out a cooperative piece she will be publishing later today. The piece focuses on the positive or constructive aspects of the Mars/Saturn dynamic currently forming in the sky. While she featured a personal story called "Pressure Cooker," I wrote a piece called "The Making of Our Vows." Both stories feature important lessons surrounding the difficult but ultimately instructive nature of Mars and Saturn. It's my strong opinion that every planetary dynamic presents an opportunity for learning and growth, regardless of how much control we do or do not have over the outcomes, or regardless of how much fortune or fate is woven into our lives with or without the consent of our "choices." As James Hillman loved to say, quoting Auden, "We are lived by powers we pretend to understand." On that note, here is my personal story about Mars/Saturn, called "The Making of Our Vows."
My wedding was less than two months away. It was August of 2014. Mars and Saturn were conjoining in the sign of the Scorpion, which happened to fall in my natal 7th house of marriage, and I was afraid and excited in equal measure. My soon to be wife had just left town for a week long spiritual retreat, leaving to study herbal medicine out in nature, and I was at home stewing in my anxiety about the future. Not only was planning our wedding stressful, but the reality of the vows themselves were weighing heavily on my mind.
Go backward in time now: It's the first week of August in 2010, four years earlier, and it's another Mars/Saturn Conjunction, this time in the sign of Libra. I’m in the process of breaking up with my then fiancé. We had been engaged for almost a year, but things began unraveling earlier that summer and it was becoming clear that we weren’t right for each other. As Mars and Saturn conjoin, I say it out loud for the first time.
It’s unbearably hot in our tiny West Village apartment in Manhattan. We have no air conditioning. The pressures of our jobs, money, and our unsolvable differences are so intense that I decide I have to get out of the apartment and go running. When I leave the apartment I run all the way to the Hudson river and then I follow the west side highway all the way down to the south end of Manhattan, where the ferries leave to take people to the Statue of Liberty. It occurs to me when I reach Battery Park that I'm trapped. I momentarily think about hopping on one of the ferries heading out to Liberty Island, as though touching the stones of the island will work some kind of magic.
We are dependent on each other financially, co-dependent emotionally, and telling the truth about the situation couldn’t have been more difficult. As I stood there in the park I bent over and struggled to breathe because the air was so heavy and I was out of shape and out of breath. How had it come to this? How had I lost myself so entirely? How had either of us lost ourselves? Because to be clear, we were both feeling trapped. I thought again about taking the ferry out to Liberty Island. Couldn’t some kind of prayer or mantra or magical incantation help us out? Then I heard a small voice. That simple, straight forward, no bullshit, “this is how it’s got to be,” kind of voice. And it said, “You just have to speak the truth and move forward.” I sighed in frustration, lifted my head up, and started walking back to my apartment. I started lamenting the idea: but how will it happen, but when will I do it, but where will I go? Then I heard the voice again: "You need to run all the way home, do not stop, and you need to simply walk right up those stairs and into your apartment and speak the truth. If you walk home thinking about it too much, you won't do it."
I looked up at the sky, and then I looked back at the ferries sailing across the water toward Liberty Island, kids wearing liberty spiked head bands made out of green foam, parents looking exhausted while carrying armfuls of popcorn and hot dogs, and break dancers performing freely in the park for a small crowd. Then I started running again, as hard as I could, all the way back to my apartment.
It took months after I first said the words, “I don’t think we should get married,” but we finally did break up. During that in-between period, in addition to suffering through the pressures of the break up, I started a rigorous daily workout routine. From the day I ran all the way home to tell the truth to my fiancé until the day we finally broke up and she moved out, I kept my focus by working my body as hard as I could. As a result, by the time we parted ways I was feeling better about myself and my body than ever before, and the thought of another co-dependent style relationship made me nauseous. I was confident, liberated, happy, and single. And then, of course, I met my wife.
When I first met her it was only days after my ex had moved out. I did a birth chart reading for her over the telephone. She was a yoga instructor and herbalist from Maryland, and she was referred to me by another client. I liked the sound of her voice on the telephone, and afterward we connected with each other through social media and I saw her picture. That’s when my heart skipped a beat. I was overwhelmingly attracted to her, but she was also exactly the kind of woman I never would have approached prior to getting in shape and prior to learning the lessons of my breakup. She was physically fit, confident, attractive, and incredibly independent. In fact I learned by reading her birth chart that she had three planets congregated in the sign of Aries, at the MC of her birth chart. Plus she was a Sun/Moon in Taurus. Confident, beautiful, spiritual, attractive, stable, accomplished, and most importantly, again, she was incredibly independent. It was the first time in my life I approached a woman feeling seriously terrified but wildly courageous all at once, an equal blend of fear and excitement.
Within weeks we had started exchanging emails semi-regularly and were also talking casually on skype late at night, though we lived more than five hours apart. She had also recently gotten out of a relationship, and although she said she liked me she wasn’t ready to commit to another relationship yet. She wasn’t going to dive into another serious commitment until she had taken more time for herself. I criticized her and told her she was being too proud and too principled about her independence when it was clear that we were both crazy about each other. Nonetheless, she rejected me and we went our separate ways. She went on a solo spiritual quest to Peru, and I went on a dating frenzy in Manhattan. Several weeks later she emailed me. While she was in Peru she read a book that I had written about my own spiritual experiences in Peru. She emailed me and invited me to guest teach astrology and give a reading from my book at a yoga retreat she was leading in the Spring of 2011. She said she learned a lot about herself in Peru, and she said she was glad we were still friends. I agreed, though I was still feeling bitter about getting rejected by her romantically. Truth be told, I was also bitter that she had acted more maturely than I had. Of course it didn't make sense for either of us to dive into another serious relationship right away. I resented the fact she had been stronger than me on that point.
When I finally met her in person at the yoga retreat, the attraction between us hadn’t gone anywhere. Mars and Saturn were in an opposition to one another, and I could tell that she liked me even though she was trying her hardest to remain focused on her leadership duties. I teased her any chance I could, trying to put chinks in the armor of her withholdings, but she was completely iron clad and impenetrable. Finally, as we were packing up to leave, she found me in the privacy of my cabin and said, “So, I think we should hang out sometime.” I could tell she wasn’t sure if she was betraying herself, or her principles, or her independence. I could tell she wasn't sure she was doing the right thing, and for some reason it annoyed me, and so I said, “I think I need to stay focused on myself for the moment. But thank you.”
In my head on the bus ride home that same night I thought to myself, “That’s right. You don’t need people who think you’re second best.” Then over the loud speaker on the bus, the driver suddenly announced that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by US forces in Pakistan. A wave of cheering and clapping swept across the bus, and a jocular man about twice my size stood up in the aisle and pumped his fists up and down and cried out “YEAHHH BABY YEAH!”He looked right at me, anticipating that I would respond to him somehow, and so I stood up and we chest bumped. He started chanting, "U. S. A. - U. S. A."
I sat down and within ten minutes I felt deeply ashamed of myself. “Why didn’t you just say yes to her? You fucking idiot. You should be happy that she’s so independent. You’re acting like a moron.”
And even though I told myself the truth, sitting there on the bus listening to people chant USA, USA, it would still take time for the truth to take hold of the situation. It literally took me several weeks to finally call her and apologize and then ask her out again. She obliged and said she was actually coming up to New York that very weekend. She said it would be nice to meet up for lunch or dinner.
Flash forward: We’re finally sitting down for dinner, and the first thing she says to me is, “I’m glad we’re finally sitting down as friends." She emphasizes the word "friends" like a grade school teacher telling an unruly child to return to his seat. I’m shocked to hear her say this because I’m thinking we’re on a date. “Wait a minute,” I say. “I mean. I should have said yes when you asked me out at the end of the retreat. I was just being stubborn. I want to see you.” “Oh,” she says. “I thought you were pretty clear about your feelings.” The look on her face says, "You lost your chance a-hole."
“I'm here to see someone else, anyway,” she adds, casually. “I assumed we were meeting up as friends." I can tell by the look on her face that she's pleased to be putting me in my place. "Right," I say. "Excuse me for a minute. I need to use the bathroom."
I'm standing in the bathroom, looking into the mirror. “Unfucking real. How many times are we going to go back and forth like this?"
The answer was once more. Later that summer she broke up with the guy she was seeing. I knew it hadn’t worked out because I got a text message from her that said, "Thinking of you." The text included a picture of her sticking her tongue out at me. And even though my heart skipped a beat and I was nothing but smiles seeing the picture, it took all my strength, far more strength than the kind of strength I had built lifting weights for more than a year, to resist the urge to say, “Sorry. I’m not going to be your second best.” But instead I told the truth. I replied, "Will you marry me?" She responded, "Haha. I knew you would say something like that."
When we kissed for the first time we were sitting in the backseat of a Taxi, driving up the west side highway, the same one I had sprinted up and down before saying, “I don’t think we should get married" to my ex. After we kissed, I said, “Well that took us long enough.” And she said, “Good things take a long time to get right.”
Flash Forward: In August of 2014, while my soon to be wife was away on her retreat and I was home alone, during another Mars/Saturn conjunction, I contemplated the nature of my upcoming wedding vows, and it was at this time that I realized (through studying past transits) that many of the significant stages of our relationship had come during Saturn/Mars periods. Not surprisingly, Saturn is the ruler of my wife’s 7th house and Mars is the ruler of my 7th house (for those who don't know, the 7th house is the house of marriage).
When she returned, we planned out our vows and the details of the ceremony, and during that process I shared with her the symbolism of what I had discovered about our love story and all the previous Mars/Saturn transits. Each one had represented a challenge between us but a simultaneous deepening of our honesty, love, and commitment to one another. She asked me, “Does that mean we’re just selfish and stubborn and competitive people?” And I said, “Maybe. But think it also means that when two people take themselves seriously, and take each other seriously, and take their work seriously, really deep and lasting things can be made.”
As Mars and Saturn are coming together again this year, and my wife and I have just become the parents of a beautiful little girl, my prayer is that our vows to each other will continue to deepen.
Prayer: Strengthen our commitments to the divine, to ourselves and our spiritual callings, and to each other. May every difficulty provide us with an opportunity for focusing on what really matters.
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Adam Elenbaas is a professional astrologer and the founder of the Nightlight Astrology School. Adam holds an MA and MFA in English and Creative Writing and is one of the founding writers at RealitySandwich. To learn more about Adam, click here.