Gratitude Attitude: Actual Gratitude in Astrology

This is pretty much where I am in my mind all the time now.

I daydream a lot now.

Like, a lot more than I used to during my very active Saturn transits of the past.

One of my favorite things to do is to have unstructured quiet time where I either listen to music quietly, or listen to the rain, or the birds, or the wind in the trees. Sometimes I just listen to the constant ringing in my ears that I recently found out isn’t normal but none the less gives me something to center on and forget the world for a bit.

I like television and films sometimes so long as they’re a departure from reality. I like horror films. I like sci fi. I like what I like, and I’m okay with that.

I like to write about the things that come to mind, and I’m not worried yet about who will read them and what they will say. I’m not worried about whether it’s wrong to be me, or to have my thoughts, or to enjoy the feeling of the keyboard clicking under my fingernails as I type, type, type away on a Sunday evening, alone, in my element, the sound of the football game playing in the background and the orange sun sticking its fingers through the blinds to remind me that yes, another day is gone.

I don’t “maximize” my days anymore. Not now anyway. I don’t go out much even though I barely know anything about this city I have lived in for nearly five years. I am so much more interested in what is going on within the geography of my mind and upon the landscapes of the minds of the people I talk to, and I just can’t hike these trails at every festival or bar or play every weekend.

And I get nostalgic for my childhood in the Finger Lakes, which is probably one of the most wonderful places you could be if you want to experience the Northeast’s mystical autumn season, because it’s just beautiful. And no, there is nothing transiting my fourth house (except the North Node) this time of year, but it is the time of year I come alive.

Not because I’m a basic bitch — and I don’t really even like pumpkin spice that much, and I have never owned a pair of Uggs because they’re ugly and have no practical use — but because most of my planets are in Virgo – Capricorn, and are in the 6th through 10th houses, and the Sun, Mercury, Venus and sometimes other planets transit my personal planets. This is the time of year I feel as if I am coming alive even though what I want most is to be in the forest drinking my coffee in solitude and silence, letting deer walk by, or people, who just happen to be hiking along. These are my magickal months, from September through December.

And I know why I am nostalgic, but now I know I can never have what I didn’t have, nor can I fix what was broken, and what can never be, and someone like me doesn’t really have a choice but to find a home away from where I’m born…but I still miss the leaves, the winding country roads, the wine and grape vines, the apple orchards, the farms, the rivers, the lakes, the gullies, the crispness, and the first signs of the snow that would bury us for months on end, but wait until after Halloween if we were lucky (we sometimes were), the old houses, the history, the fact that so many people don’t really even understand that there’s all this other geography to New York State where there is abundance if you can find it.

And I keep thinking I could actually say, retire up there if I can handle the harsh winters, and not in my hometown but somewhere prettier in the general geography, like Ithaca, if I can afford it. And, by that time, I will have been away so long that I will still be starting over again, and no one would ever really know I came back except for me and whomever ends up reading my obituary someday, if there is one.

But I also realize that I don’t miss the place exclusively, and intertwined in this fantasy is the time that I was there, and that this is time I cannot get back, because it’s gone forever.

I really miss 1990’s cynicism.

Because I’m choking on all the saccharine of the love-n-light quasi magic of our culture.

No one is grateful all the fucking time. As a survivor of abuse, this whole gratitude reich of insisting people both be thankful constantly and also consider that thankfulness to be the catalyst for getting more goodies really feels like low-key self-abuse that echoes emotional abuse from others.

X happened to you? You didn’t get X thing you need and are entitled to get? Well you should be grateful for Y! Never mind the little man behind the curtain. Why do you have to be so negative about the negative things I do to you?

After all I’ve done for you (ostensibly, for you) and this is the thanks I get?

I’m not grateful for the shit I’m entitled to or the things I earned myself. Did the universe “give” them to me? The truth is that the universe doesn’t actually give you anything. You incarnated into matter to fight the forces that would otherwise keep you from having the stuff you want. 

Oxygen doesn’t magically enter your lungs. You have to draw in breath. Food and water don’t magically enter your stomach. You have to procure food and water, kill the food, and then use the various forces in your body to process the food. 

And this means you’re taking something that some other creature might possibly have otherwise. 

If you didn’t breathe, something else would. If you didn’t eat bread, a bird would eat the wheat. If you didn’t drink the water, the wheat grasses would take it from the ground.

Are you then grateful that oxygen exists? Well, those atoms existed before you were here, any part of you, and they will be here when you are gone and all of your specific DNA has been bred out of humanity.

Gratitude is meant to be a fleeting emotion you celebrate – not a mantra, not a habit. Even the saints aren’t grateful all time because they were also doing shit, too.

There’s a reason why gratitude has specific rituals. The grace before meals. Thanksgiving. Offering thanks at church. Be grateful when someone does something nice for you simply because they were being nice. It’s something that’s supposed to come up naturally during a time and place where it is appropriate. For example, if someone hit you in the face, you wouldn’t think back on all the times they didn’t hit you in the face and be grateful for it, because that’s just fucking crazy and doesn’t address the immediate concern. This is because gratitude is not a spontaneous emotion, but one that develops through contemplation, and contemplation takes time and quiet.

You can’t make gratitude a habit, though you can make faking it a habit. 

Now, I understand the purpose of habitual gratitude in some instances, especially when it comes to things like sobriety. Alcoholics and junkies drink and do drugs because they feel bad, feel worse, then drink and do drugs more, and think the world is out to get them. Gratitude for the sober is an antidote to a lack of accountability and self-pity that comes with being an addict. It also reminds them that there are people who have done good things for them when their enablers and their abusers have not.

Yes, enablers, because rarely is a person able to be an addict all by themselves and remain an addict for a long time by themselves. They need help from other people, whether it’s a dealer, a drug buddy, a drinking buddy, an addict parent who normalized addiction, the people who support them financially knowing the money goes to the substance, all the people who make excuses for them, all the people who clean up their messes, all the people who engage in the folie-au-deux that it’s not addiction, but some other thing like bipolar, depression, anxiety or someone else making them act this way.

But for the rest of us who do not need a psychological antidote to spiraling self-pity, what does a gratitude habit do for us? What do I get from groping through mundane life to be grateful for? And what do I get from reminding the world that I’m grateful and therefore psychologically impenetrable to all the barbs and snags of being alive and dealing with other people who have the audacity to not make me and my feelings their priority all the time?

It’s really just a form of masturbation, a means of self-satisfaction. The animal body doesn’t know that the orgasm is coming from the hand and the imagination rather than interaction with another human being, right? But it kind of does, since contact with another person’s bare skin releases more oxytocin, and if you’re lonely and want to have actual sex, the psychological effect of a substitute is to feel that there’s even more missing. [Hint: stop thinking masturbation is sex, or a form of sex, because it’s really not, and you won’t feel guilty or lonely afterward.] Such is forcing gratitude: it’s not the same thing when you really feel gratitude and when you’re groping your parts looking for the right spot so you can say “I’m grateful for…”

The problem with gratitude-by-force is that it’s Christo/New Age.

And I’ve written about my fear of the Christianization of paganism, and this is one of those things I don’t like. Christianity says that the reason you’re here is because a god who loved you very much decided to make you even though he didn’t have to do so, because he loves you. This is just one belief system. Perhaps the other Abrahamic religions share this idea of a creator who specifically made you, but it’s not necessarily shared by everyone else. I don’t believe that Yahweh made me, or that everything I am, everything I was, and everything I will be, is all his doing and none of mine. I don’t believe that I have no say in how I incarnate, how I am shaped, and what I can become. I don’t even have to have other religious beliefs; this is just not believing in Yahweh the Creator.

But if I were to believe that I am loved unconditionally by a god I don’t even know, that said god created me out of this love, and has my best interests in mind even though he insists on doing some pretty fucked up shit to me and the people and the planet I love, then I am stuck in a perpetual state of owing him something, right? And that’s pretty much what Christianity is: a paradigm based on the axiom that you were given something you never asked for in the first place, that you’re obligated to use it in the way the gift-giver intended even though your natural instincts is to often use it in a way not intended (and also, those instincts are ironically part of the package, too), and you have to be grateful for both the gift and the very strict instruction for use that it comes with.

Oh, and it gets better: the god makes a son who is perfect because he is not just a god, but THE god, too, and he goes through the worst suffering imaginable so you don’t have to do it, because part of your life gift is to be hopelessly imperfect so you don’t even deserve the other part of the gift, which is eternal life in bliss with the god, because your primary gift sucks so much that you always fall short. And because the god went through this suffering for you because you suck too much, now you can get the other part of the gift you’re still not good enough for, so long as you continue to try to use the first part of the gift based on the instructions given and not the way the gift appears to be designed.

That’s kind of shitty to me. This is not something I can feel gratitude for. This is guilt-inducing, because you can never measure up, and you’re either in a state of constant gratitude for something you really can’t be grateful for, but you better be, or you’ll regret it for eternity.

Imagine being a gay Christian for a moment. You have all these conflicting ideas you have to reconcile now.

First, god intended to make you just as you are.

Second, he thus intended to make you gay.

Third, he said laying with another man is a sin.

Fourth, he knows you really want to have sex with another man because that’s how he made your brain (regardless of whether you think homosexuality is genetic, environmental, or a mix of both, because the god controls all of these things).

Fifth, you’ll offend him if you do the thing he designed you to want to do.

Sixth, actually, you know that you’re designed to actually do the thing you’re designed to want to do, because p-in-v sex isn’t the only way to have a good time.

Seventh, you will offend your god if you do the thing you were designed to do.

Eighth, if you offend your god by doing the thing he designed you to do and to want to do, you’re also not grateful for the instructions to not do the thing you want to do and are designed to do.

Ninth, if you don’t take up this cross to bear and be chaste for the rest of your life or figure out a way to pretend you’re not gay so as to never fully express the being you were gifted with, then you’re going to have to change your beliefs about God, like many Christians have, and decide that that particular part of the Old Testament doesn’t actually apply, since it contradicts the idea of a Jesus who isn’t giving you the side-eye for looking too long at that cute guy, even though the Bible is supposed to be the infallible word of God (which means no take-backsies).

Tenth, you now have the spiritual struggle and cognitive dissonance of rationalizing all your dogmatic beliefs with all your wishful beliefs, and why you were designed to deeply offend the god who also supposedly loves you and gives you every opportunity to do right by him.

And you have to do this if you are gay, if your loved ones are gay, if your friends are gay, and so on: you have these acrobatics of guilt-n-gratitude to perform, day in, day out, until you die and find out this wasn’t even real.

….

Of course, if your faith is strong, you may consider all of this to simply be the devil talking, and me to be a lost soul who needs Jesus. Maybe you’ll even pray for me (and if you intend to do so, please let me know. It’s been a long time since someone has derisively told me they’d pray for me or tried to change my mind.)

But have you noticed how the devil never seems to shut up about the obvious? That fruit tree would still be there in the middle of the Garden of Eden, and you wouldn’t be here had the devil not pointed out the obvious to Adam and Eve…

…a fruit tree that the god didn’t even have to make, but decided to make anyway, to tempt his weak-willed creatures into fucking up to make the story of humanity interesting.

And I think it’s perfectly okay, even beautiful, if you can believe that there is a god that created you and loves you. Sometimes I wonder what that would be like to feel a god’s presence, but I don’t think I would want to change who I am in order to have a sensory experience I’ve never experienced and to lose what I gained instead: my god-deafness is a characteristic, not a disability. So, I guess I could be grateful that I have this sensory experience and not the god-sensory experience so many others appear to have, even if you’re not grateful for it.

And how should I be grateful, and to whom should I be grateful, for everything, if the god that made this body chose not to make this body able to sense the god in the first place? Have I sinned by my mere existence? Where is my free will?

Why would I even have to have this conversation if no one cared about my professed gratitude to invisible things that work in invisible ways?

For those of us raised on Christian/Catholic guilt, it’s a never-ending equation that writes itself.

Where is gratitude in astrology, anyway?

So, looking at a natal chart, we look at houses, signs, and planets to discover where and how one may express a particular emotion. While emotions are Moon-ruled, specific emotions are harder to find.

But don’t rule out the Moon: that show how most, if not all the emotions will be expressed or felt immediately (even if they’re suppressed), and how a person may sense any emotion, including gratitude, and how it may come to the surface. It could be spontaneous and child-like or not expressed at all, like Aries Moon, unpredictable and over-the-top, like Sagittarius Moon, dry but in the spirit of friendship, like Aquarius Moon, in telling the entire world how great you are, like Leo Moon, in wanting to be with you all the time, like Libra Moon, like making you their new favorite, like Taurus Moon, like wanting to get to know you more and make you feel special, like Scorpio Moon, like returning the favor by doing some task you personally hate doing, like Virgo Moon, like taking care of you and protecting you, like Cancer Moon, like making sure you’re always in the loop, like Gemini Moon, like kneeling before you like you saved their life, like Pisces Moon, or by pretending nothing happened but secretly planning the perfect way to pay you back because you have no idea how much it meant to them, like Capricorn Moon.

However, the emotion of gratitude likely has a key planet. For example, anxiety has Mercury, anger has Mars, love has Venus, confusion has Neptune, jealousy has Pluto (or Venus, debilitated), joy has the Sun, sadness has the Moon, and what does gratitude have?

Jupiter. Jupiter is the planet of luck, expansion, good times, generosity and getting something for nothing. It’s the ultimate benefic. Jupiter is the planet that represents the good things you simply get because you’re existing here and now. That’s the kind of stuff you’re grateful for. When you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, and you have to go around the room and say what you’re thankful for, and if you’re actually being honest and not just saying what you want your family and their spouses to hear, you’re talking from Jupiter.

But it’s not necessarily all the things you’re grateful for, but rather, how you feel your gratitude in your grateful little soul before you express it.

It’s too hard to imagine all the things you would grateful for being represented by Jupiter by house and sign. For example, I have Jupiter in 6th house Virgo. I have been grateful over the years for more than someone giving me a lot of work, or food, or pets, or health advice. And some of those things I’ve not been grateful for, like unexpected pets and unwanted health advice, and I think that’s understandable.

But…I can say that I tend to feel gratitude in a Virgoan way, in that if I am grateful, I will actually incorporate the thing I’m grateful for into my routine, and then when I see it in my routine, or how it enhances my routine, I feel gratitude and then express it in my Aries Moon way that I’ve actually let you tell me what to do (Virgo) cause you’ll see me doing it or using it (Jupiter in an Earth sign), and I’ll probably want to show it to you (Mommy, watch me dive! — Aries Moon).

Okay, so which sign is grateful then? There is no “grateful” sign. There is no ungrateful sign either. Signs are the costumes of the planets. Sure, some signs are probably better at expressing gratitude than others – like Libra finds it easier to use words to impress and flatter others, whereas Taurus tends to prefer to earn what it has and distrusts a free lunch – but even the Jupiter ruled signs aren’t gratitude junkies. Pisces can be overly-ingratiating if it feels it needs to do so to maintain privacy, safety, and a place to hide it’s true feelings but also wallow in a sense of deprivation even if unfounded, whereas Sagittarius just kind of expects people to be as generous as it’s generous to others, and that’s the way of the world, and never looks a gift horse in the mouth.

Even the signs like Capricorn show gratitude. Capricorn’s expression is the deus ex machina of your life: they don’t just throw out their gratitude willy-nilly, but save it for when it’s perfect and needed most. A perfect example of this is in the recent movie (that I have yet to finish), El Camino, when Skinny Pete seems to wake up, become an adult just at the right time, and devise the first series of events that allows Jesse to evade the police. I’ll let you watch the film, but if that’s not the Capricorn archetype at its finest, tell me what is.

There is also no really house of gratitude either. Houses are aspects of life in which we perform, and there is no gratitude performance. I suppose that the house of debt, the eighth house, could be a contender, as could the house of ideals, the 11th house, or the house of undoing and mysteries, the 12th house. The house of unequal relationships and routines, the 6th house, perhaps? I suppose the 6th house if gratitude is your routine, but the 6th house is not a house of sincerely-held beliefs or emotional expression. Perhaps the house of philosophy, the 9th house?

The house of gratitude is whatever house Jupiter is in. That’s where and how one expresses their gratitude. It’s also the house where Venus is, because gratitude — real gratitude — is closely tied to love and harmony. Gratitude — real gratitude — is often the precursor to love (Venus) and friendship (Jupiter).

Real Gratitude and Synastry/Composite Astrology

Part of my karmic destiny is to talk and teach about relationships and relating to one another. I was told this something like ten years ago by an astrologer, but I didn’t actually know what that meant. I’m starting to get an idea though, and I’m starting to wonder if I should completely focus on relationships and love.

We tend to downplay the role of Jupiter in relationship charts. It magnifies things. In good aspects, it magnifies the good things, or brings the good times, lots of fun, lots of spending, lots of whatever. In bad aspects, it brings it to excess to the point where it’s bad. I’m not so sure I entirely agree that harsh aspects from Jupiter simply means “too much of a good thing” because that’s essentially saying that Jupiter’s dark side is too much sunshine. Extremes are one thing, but the reason for the extreme or the over-reliance on Jupiterian things is another. I think that bad Jupiter aspects are not too much so much as exaggeration, because the dark side of Jupiter isn’t overabundance but deficit masquerading as abundance.

Gratitude is important in relationships. I didn’t actually think about this until pretty recently when my black co-workers and supervisors would say to me “I appreciate you.”

No one ever said that to me at work before, that they appreciate me. I have a freelancing client who also said that to me, a really lovely woman who lives in the Deep South, who has said this. I now realize this is a cultural thing.

And what a beautiful thing to say to other people. I don’t merely appreciate your labor, or what you do for me, or how you entertain me or make me feel better about myself: I appreciate you, the person. If you look historically at American racism and how deeply rooted and pervasive it is, and how its power is in dismissing of the black person as a soul, then I think you can start to see the power in someone saying I appreciate you.

But even still, even for me, having my boss tell me she appreciates me is very meaningful, even if it’s now a commonplace compliment and way of assuring others, because it’s about the actual person.

It’s important to show gratitude and to actually feel gratitude for the person, though it’s really weird to be in a constant state of gratitude, because that’s not what you do in an equal relationship. Anyone who constantly demands gratitude deserves none and earns none. But gratitude is a precursor to love, platonic and romantic. It’s not the only precursor, but a very common one.

And because I’m a Xennial, Matthew Sweet songs come to mind:

When you said to me/”You are not so old”/Did I know it then?/Cause I had just been told

And of course, The Golden Girls:

I hope to be as witty as Dorothy, as kind as Rose, and as horny as Blanche when I’m that age.

But being compatible that way requires showing love and receiving it and letting the other person know that love is wanted. This requires genuine affection and tenderness and a willing recipient who can show that they’re a willing recipient, and ideally return the sentiment. And no one wants to keep throwing love into an empty pit.

Often, the answer is simple: that supposedly wounded person who hurts you and denies your love doesn’t actually love you deep down and doesn’t actually want your love, so stop wasting your time. Because truly, if someone is so wounded they can’t show love in an actual loving way, then they don’t recognize love and they don’t feel it, at least not for you.

I don’t know who needs to read that now, but someone does, and they need to know that the failure isn’t theirs, even if this is the terrible they were taught early in their lives.

So I don’t know why Jupiter doesn’t get more of a role in relationship astrology for this reason. When we write “expansiveness” we mean gratitude and generosity, the happiness of giving and receiving. When we discuss hard Jupiter aspects, we really mean exaggeration, hyperbole, the extreme description and teasing out of what is essentially nothing: baseless flattery, over accommodation, faking orgasms to get it over with, etc. (try to tell me you’ve never, ever done this). Jupiter square Venus in synastry is not so much mutual overindulgence but overindulgence of the other person with empty gestures or gifts or words to placate a person to induce toxic, unfounded gratitude. Jupiter square Pluto: guilt-induced because one gives the other all sorts of things it doesn’t want or need but insists they are needed, or should be needed. Jupiter square Jupiter: the inability to accept the other’s appreciation as they naturally show it. Etc, so on and so forth.

How to actually be grateful.

You probably have stuff to be grateful about every day that you’re actually grateful for. I do. I don’t always tell the people in my life how much I appreciate them, but I like to help them and give them advice (Jupiter in Virgo). I don’t always remember how lucky I am to have things like heat, running water, and clothes. I have the ability to cook anything I want to eat, and I enjoy that, and I enjoy feeding others. I can read, which is an incredible ability we all take for granted. I have a nice bed to sleep in. I have a job that lets me take off national holidays, like Indigenous People’s Day. I am grateful that I always have the opportunity to reinvent myself, somehow.

There’s more. There is always more.

But even these things can get on my nerves, and maybe I don’t want to make that bed or deal with my apartment’s various issues, or pay for heat, or read case files all day or cook someone else’s dinner.

And that’s okay. I don’t have to force myself to like these things all the time. But when I’m reminded of how great these things are, I try to remember that they’re great. A great big hug, a nice meal, a walk along a nice sidewalk in a nice neighborhood or along the shoreline, a monarch butterfly circling me and heading back to warmer climes.

I don’t think it would work if I had to convince myself these things were good, or they were good in spite of all evidence that they’re not, or if I had to hunt for the silver lining where there is none apparent instead of waiting for one to appear in its own time.

And I do this quietly, without trying to draw in an audience.

I think that’s how you truly become grateful, and how you draw in more things to be grateful for. As with love, if you’re vague, you get vague: put out love generically, get love generically. Put out vibes of erotic love, get erotic love. Be grateful for whatever for no reason, get whatever for no reason.

You need standards. And it’s perfectly okay to have a shadow. We all do. It’s as good a place as any to find love, to find god.

One thought on “Gratitude Attitude: Actual Gratitude in Astrology

  1. I was just thinking about Jupiter, and how it can signal in our charts what kind of a view we have in the grand stadium of the cosmos. Where were we placed, and what can we see based on this seating arrangement? I’m not sure if it’s a Sun in Sadge thing or my Jupiter placement ( 7th house, right on the DC, Cancer) but the greatest rip off of life is that I can’t see the world through every single possible set of eyes that exist on this planet. I am most grateful for the moments when my view becomes less obstructed by personal prejudice, and I see more of life as it appears to others.

    I love this blog.

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