Astrology Secrets Revealed by ERIC FRANCIS

Holiday Season


December 24, 2004


Dear Readers, Cousins, Friends:

For the next couple of weeks -- news permitting, that is -- I'm going to do shorter columns, both to take a breather and to free some bandwidth to do the extended 2005 forecasts for my subscribers. [Does everyone know that we accept Australian dollars at par?] On this page, I'll be selecting questions that lend themselves to more succinct answers, which will be a healthy change of pace for your faithful writer.


Today's column is, by the way, the 30th entry in this series, which has run between 5,000 and 7,000 words per week. That works out to about 180,000 words in just over six months, carefully typed one letter at a time. The fact that this is book (or rather, several-book) length is not an accident, so please keep those questions coming, and before you write in, take a look at the back issues. There's a lot of astrology information in there. Tips for getting your questions answered are below.


As for the moment we're in. The holiday season is now upon us at full bore, and I'd like to reach out to everyone who experiences some form of the 'holiday blues', which I know from personal experience can range from sadness to raging depression.


People who don't experience this can be clueless as to what others who do are going through. After all, it's such a cheerful and lovely time of the year, with eggnog and sleigh bells ringing and jing-a-ling-linging, except for the subtle urge to chuck a Cooper Mini through a department store holiday display window.


There are tons of reasons for holiday depression. Most of them involve family. 'Tis the season when many people get back together with their living ancestors, and these people can push our buttons big time and typically offer little in recompense; a few meatballs hardly make up for what indignities we must suffer.


We may love and value these people, and thank them from the murky bottom of our hearts for their extremely generous chromosome donations, but that's different than the way that we respond emotionally when they wind us up, or when their antics are too much to bear.


For many, the holidays trigger unhealed childhood traumas, and this is real stuff. Christmas was always an extremely stressful time in my childhood home, with negotiated arrangements per divorce and custody decrees, having to leave at midnight Christmas eve to switch parents, and people working so hard to have a good time and/or keep control that they stressed themselves into angina, high blood pressure and other medical phenomena. The whole thing seems in retrospect to have been a major cover-up for how little they liked one another -- to put it mildly.


I know this is not the case in many households that are truly loving. I am speaking to those who struggle, and feel alone in doing so.


I didn't break the spell of the holidays until one year when I left the country and spent Christmas with a friend who was at the time the last great contemporary Marxist scholar, and Christmas morning we sat at the kitchen table and did the charts of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. Keep the Revolution in Christmas. (Che has a Capricorn Moon, but we would expect no less from a combination medical doctor, highly competent military leader and brilliant political theorist.) Take that, K-Mart!


People in the United States don't necessarily know how insanely commercialized the whole holiday thing is, which often adds to the sense of alienation. I have noticed in recent years that 'Christmas season' now starts fifteen minutes after Halloween. It used to start the day after Thanksgiving; there was an unspoken rule that it was tacky to do it any earlier, but unfortunately there was nobody to enforce it. (Heck, the first night of Christmas isn't officially till the 25th!) One year, I was filled with the temptation to ram my shopping cart at full speed, loaded with eggs, into the supermarket manager's office when they were playing digital Christmas carols in early November. Fortunately I did not. This year I am in Paris where, despite this being a very Catholic country, Christmas is barely noticeable, and where it is, it's done low-key and tasteful. I live in the center of town and have not once felt clobbered by Good Cheer. I'm even tempted to go to mass at Notre Dame, my neighborhood church. To see what they're offering.


By the way, did you know that traditionally Santa Claus wears blue, but a marketing campaign by Coca-Cola early in the 20th century turned him red, the world over? Twisted. I learned that on the BBC.


Anyway, here are a few holiday depression tips. Most of them center around surviving family gatherings. I'll be blogging a little extra around Christmas, so you can also tune into Planet Waves.


1. It's your life. Remember that you're under no obligation to anyone, to be anyone, or to be anyplace. Show up and leave when you choose. Make 'cameo appearances' when necessary. Jingle your car keys in your pocket for reassurance.


2. Call old friends on the phone -- the people you really, truly love and miss and care for. Human contact with people who truly know you on the inside will be reassuring. Make good use of your cell phone.


3. Don't drink. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, and your CNS is working hard enough at the moment. Skip overdoing the heavy sugar items, too. While you're at it, drink a lot of water. Not drinking water is one of the main physical causes of depression. The brain dries up and freaks out. Maintaining good nutrition never hurt anyone. B vitamins are important when you're under any kind of stress. Don't eat what you're allergic to.


4. Treat family gatherings like a sociology project. Disappear to a back room and take notes on how the people treat one another, the things they say, and how they make you feel. (For example, "Uncle Louie acting like cro-magnum man again; still claims not to believe in evolution; no wonder.") If you apply mindfulness and a bit of creativity to these scenes, they will be much less likely to irritate you, and you might find yourself having a good time. It is healthy to be curious: what makes them tick? How did they get this way? You will actually be able to accomplish a good deal in terms of mapping out family patterns and making observations that will be quite useful in doing therapy, astrology or personal growth work, if such is important to you. Notice when you feel like you're feeling and/or acting like a 12-year-old.


4-A. Take pictures, and study them later. In fact, if you have a digital camera, you can spend hours taking pictures and reviewing them, and people will think you're participating and being helpful, when really you're spying on them. You can even email them copies of their reconnaissance photos.


5. At any gathering you will likely find one relative who really does love you, and by that I mean in a way that's not invasive or manipulative (which I don't define as love, personally). Make a point to sit near them and keep communication going. It's always nice to have someone into whose ear you can whisper, "These people are ridiculous."


6. If you're responsible for putting on one of these shindigs, remember, there is no such thing as perfection, and your mother will survive even if the potatoes are a little burnt. Recruit help in the kitchen, even if it's just company. Figure out a way to have fun. You'll feel better.


7. Focus on little kids. They are typically more real than the adults, they love and need attention, and you will get an opportunity to be fully present when you talk to them. Most kids are usually in a pretty good mood and will get you laughing. Kids are the perfect opportunity to sit on the floor and be silly. Help save them holiday trauma for decades to come.


8. Visit with dogs and cats (or and frogs, snakes, fish, etc.). Keep checking in with them; they are far removed from the level of human politics. Animals are an excellent and even medically sanctioned way to work with sadness and depression. They are calming and bring us back to our heart center. This, too, is a form of escape disguised as participation.


9. Bring some gifts that have a humorous basis. The custom of giving gifts allows you to bring anything (well, okay, within reason) into the setting. Books and CDs that are based on satire, kid's books which ridicule adults, or are just generally fun can shift the energy. Bring a funny DVD or two as a gift for a relative and insist that they put one on right now.


10. If people are expressing repugnant views, interview them instead of argue with them. Disappear later and take notes.


11. If you're a parent and you're stressing with the responsibility of that, create some support. Recruit other family members to assist you with your kids, or bring a friend to a family function for the exclusive purpose of support. Most of us don't know how to ask for help, or we forget. It's one of the most important life skills anyone can cultivate.


12. Love yourself. It's good practice no matter where you are and counts some times more than others.


13. Thank heavens you get to leave and go home.


14. If you lack family and want to get to a holiday celebration, I've found that charity dinners are amazing places. All churches, missions, shelters and such put on dinners at the holidays and often need volunteer help -- or just go and hang out. It's a fine opportunity to participate in the human experience from a whole new perspective. If you live in a rural area, set up a ride; people are traveling to cities all the time during the holidays.


Print this for reference. Keep it in your pocket.


PS, bring your tarot cards and do readings for people. Speaking of which, this week we begin with a question on the tarot.