As many of you know, I practice a somewhat unusual form of Chinese medicine, informed by my Daoist teacher Liu Ming with whom I’ve studied for much of the last 15 years. Every year, Ming gives a great talk on the auspices of the upcoming Chinese year. While you may find many “placemat astrology,” three-sentence summaries in your local Chinese restaurant and online, Ming’s interpretation is not so much fortune-telling as detailing the true historical and astrological significance of the year. Rather than asserting that people born in another sign (say, Ox) are going to have a “bad” year, while people born in another will have more advantages, he prefers the metaphor of a meal, where a given set of food is served, and since each of us have different food preferences and tastes, we’ll each have a different gustatory experience. Same goes for the qi profile of the year. The year presents with a certain kind of energy that is neither good nor bad, it all depends on our individual tastes and preferences relative to our experience of that energy.
This year, which begins on February 19, is the Year of the Goat. Each year is also informed by one of five elements, and the element this year is Wood, a metaphor for youth and Spring among other things. So the flavor or “qi profile” of the upcoming year is the image of a baby or youthful goat.
Given the youthful, playful energy, one might say that it’s a relatively immature energy, not fully formed, but open to education (thus a good year for getting unhooked from stagnant situations, hitting the reset button, starting fresh, getting educated in something new, being an amateur and being ok with not being an expert). Think “fresh start” in all areas. Goats also thrive in family life, and create “family” in many ways, thus making the energy of this year a good one for deepening social connections with your literal, social, political, and religious “families.” Goats and their accompanying energy are also quite adaptable.
Success is generally found in groups, recruiting the help of others and working diligently together toward success. Sustainable, innovative, local businesses appeal to a Wood Goat year. The last time we had a Wood Goat year was 1955, so you may wish to check on the happenings of that time to get a sense of the qi of the year.
Given that we each have a year (animal) we were born into, an element (wood, fire, earth, metal, or water), and a yin or yang proclivity (as well as a specific time, month, and day), the interpretation of the year specific to your own astrology is a more complex calculation. This is precisely why placemat astrology is a joke (and why I won’t go into massive detail in this email). If you wish to learn more about the Wood Goat year and its auspices for your particular sign, the audio for Liu Ming’s talk will be available through his site at http://www.dayuancircle.org by the end of the month.
Okay, Sugar. It’s over.
Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? All this time, I’ve been wondering how I’d say it, when I’d say it, when I would finally get the nerve to throw in the towel. And now that I’ve done it, that’s it? Was it always that simple? All I had to do was say, “It’s over?” Weird. Now as I sit here, strange silence all around me, I’m wondering what happens next. Aren’t you gonna say anything? I feel the same as I did a moment ago, before I said it. Nothing feels any different. Nothing looks any different. Birds are still singing. Trees are still green. The sky hasn’t fallen. But why are you being so quiet? Did you expect this all along? Did you know this was going to happen? Were you just torturing me, getting your beautiful, deadly claws deeper and deeper into me in search of my breaking point? Well, you’ve found it. And it didn’t happen when I said It’s Over. It’s been happening little by little, day after day, and into the night. It’s been happening every time I taste your bitter after-effects on the back of my tongue; every time I look in the mirror or look down upon my form in the dim, misty morning light of the shower. This decision has been waiting there as the faintest background voice when we meet up at catered events and private dinners together. It’s the loudest voice in the morning when I wake; part of the roots of my self-deprecation. It’s my very fear of death, my aversion to it, and my hope that I don’t cause my own end.
It’s Over is the tiniest tendril, smallest, freshest, most fragile newborn sprig of redwood coming up from the earth. In the past I’ve allowed you to step all over it, uproot it in all of your creative ways, but not this time. I’m building a fence around my will. It really is over this time. It has to be, because I simply, literally, cannot go on living like this.
Now that I’ve said it, now that I’ve made official our break-up, as I stop and take in the silence, the world does indeed look different. I can really hear the birds outside; I can really see each leaf on every tree. I can feel my guts, churning over the final remains of our last encounter. And though my eyelids droop and my vision is blurry after another almost-sleepless night, having finally said it, finally put it out there, I can feel what little pre-you soul I have left slowly waking to the possibilities. The hope. Hope that it might live again, and see the light created by the heat of my will to resist you.
No, this won’t be easy. I’ve broken up with you before, and I’ve been too weak to last, to stay away from you at your finest, most beautiful and hypnotically persuasive moments. Like an alcoholic, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic: after years of sobriety, just one small drink places the physiological bookmark right back where it was before the break-up decision was made. So I understand your snickering, the ease with which you turn away when I tell you I can take no more. I was hoping you’d want to discuss it, like two adults with such a long history. We could make it amicable. But I can tell that you’re going to go back to the same old tired strategy you’ve used in the past. Ignore me, yet torture me by flaunting your relationship with others. Hey, it’s understandable. It’s worked every time before. All you have to do is wait it out. This is a phase, right? I’m addicted to you. Life isn’t the same without you. People are used to seeing us together. They wouldn’t know me without you. In fact, I’m sure that almost all of our friends will take your side and stick with you, even if they know and respect my side of the story. Over time, that may be one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with. But over time, as I begin to meet new people and find new ways to be without you, I’m confident that the same energy of resistance, that feeling of being alone, will turn into my source of power, what differentiates me and makes me special. I know it will, because sometimes, late at night or early in the morning, when the early bird is up, I can feel that strength and the pride it could engender. I put myself into a space of what it would feel like to have resisted you, to have weathered some without-you storm, and I relish the imagined strength and wisdom I have earned on the other side of the seas that toss inside of me.
Making a huge decision is always exciting just out the gate. I’ll feel a new kind of purpose, a self-made wind at my back from the sudden burning all of the fuel that was collected before launch. But after that fuel has burned off and the bonfire has become hot coals, I will need to continually find my own momentum to keep my will intact; continually recoat my gut with the teflon of the memories that brought me to this point. I know it won’t be easy. I’ll be so, so hungry for you. I can feel that I already am. You’re such an easy out. How will I deal with the massive hunger I have for you in so many ways? What will I do with all the space left where you once were inside of me? I’ll have so much time once I’m no longer anesthetizing my life with you. I need to know this, need to see it here, need to write it out and know that, to a large degree, the experience of being without you will be a very lonely experience. You’ve been what I’ve looked forward to, the feeling tugging inside of me between thoughts. You’ve created many of my most zen-like states. The temporary samadhi found indulging in your sweetness makes me only want more more more. At the very thought of being without you, every cell in my body screams out, “Why?”
I know that nearly every item on every shelf will remind me of you. Every restaurant was our hangout. So many supermarkets, minimarts, corner stores, bakeries, ice cream and frozen yogurt shops, gas stations, holes-in-many-walls. So many benches and secret hideaways where I’d sneak away to be with you. I know I’ll see you everywhere. And so will everyone else. You make friends so effortlessly. Even people who are close to me and love me and respect this decision will undoubtedly forget and will have you over when they invite me to go out for a bite or come in for a dinner party. New friends won’t know about our tumultuous past, and will try to set me up on blind dates with you. You’ve so successfully flooded so much of my past and present that my future will undoubtedly see you following me around as well. You’re nearly impossible to avoid. And I’m sure there will be times when you get your claws back into me, sometimes with my permission and sometimes without. Just a tiny taste, I’ll say. Just a wee little bit so I don’t feel so awkward in your presence. But that’s all. See, I’m already deal-making?
So this has to be it. I have to put my foot down. It’s time. Whenever I’m tempted by you, I need to read this. Because right now, as with so many right nows in the past, I need to move on. I’m 40 years old, and all evidence shows that I won’t make it much longer if I continue to allow myself to be your whore, to do your bidding. Sweet as you are so much of the time, the truth is that you are not a friend or even an alli. You’re a despot, an authoritarian parasite. You feed on people. And the way you do it is quite ingenious. You’ve become so necessary at such a basic level that all nourishment essentially breaks down into a unit of…you. Every meat, every cheese, every part of the food pyramid–my digestive system has been configured to take anything I consume and make it into…You. My every cell is a slave to you, crying out to imbibe your essence, running on your fuel, and continuously wanting more more more. Every digestive organ has been designed to break different kinds of nutrients into smaller parts to convert back into a form that can be put onto an altar…to you. And thus, nearly every need I have, every thought, every motivation, every joy and sorrow, essentially depends upon and leads back to you.
Save one. My will to survive.
Yes, this is a very long, drawn-out way of saying that I feel like our relationship has lost its balance. Much as I feel like I cannot live without you; much as I know I’ve basically been designed to serve you, some part of me (which, in essence, is part of you), knows that I literally cannot go on living like this. Though I’ve been designed to run on fuel made of you, the quality of the fuel I’ve been craving has been deteriorating over time. I no longer look for different kinds of experiences, different kinds of nourishment. Rather than searching out, creating, and enjoying many different forms of experience, I’m finding myself craving, seeking out, and absorbing the simplest forms of you. No more beautiful meals. Now it’s simply cake, ice cream, cookies, candy. I’ve cut to the chase, and the organs that were created and employed to eat a meal have been relegated to the bench. “Use it or lose it,” my mom’s favorite motto. And easy and fun as the simple road, the known, the predictable may be, we humans are designed to experience life. We are made for resilience. Not experiencing new things, new relationships, not utilizing our full potential, we wither and die.
Somewhere between my basic needs as a human animal and my will to live a long, productive life lies a balance. That balance is a sense of its own, holding within it my other senses. It’s even bigger than you. I call that balance my sentient soul, for lack of a better term. And this little life-saving note I’m writing is actually being ghost-written by that soul. My sense of balance. A balance that is beyond even you. My need for balance subsumes and holds my very structure, the structure that you prey on. And it wants you to return to your rightful place as its employee. Your coup has run its course, and it’s time for stability once again.
So even though I know how easy and delicious and fun and enjoyable it is to be with you; even though I’ve been satisfied to simplify and narrow my life to serve you and only you in nearly every way; the time has come to make a change. Even though my every cell has been built and formed in a unique way to serve you, something larger, something higher (call it a higher purpose) has emerged. It’s time I take the road less traveled. It’s time I try preparing meals rather than grabbing ice cream. It’s time I make my organs go back to work, exploring their every potential. Not because I don’t like you, but precisely because I do. So much so, in fact, that my relationship with you has literally become all-consuming. Sugar, it’s high time we break up. While you may live with or without me, my very life depends upon this decision. And I honor my better judgment, my survival instinct, by listening to it now, before it’s too late and I lose my self completely.