Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t hide your kids. Mercury is in retrograde at this very moment, which means there’s a bunch of people currently making ironic references to the thing, and maybe a slightly smaller contingent that is freaking out without entirely understanding why.
The popular perception of Mercury retrograde is that it’s chaos central. This is partly true, but it doesn’t account for all the big-picture stuff, like why losing your phone might be sort of good for you in the long run. There’s actually something kind of profound about the fact that you just hit “reply all” on a corporate happy hour email thread. How fucked up is that?
That’s not to say that cosmic mischief isn’t afoot. It just means that when life goes out of its way to thwart your progress, it’s really just the universe’s way of telling you to slow your roll. Mercury retrograde isn’t a time to forge ahead or make any splashy launches. It’s a time to wrap up all your unfinished business so you can move ahead without all that mental clutter. Mercury retrograde is all about those “re” words: review, refine, rethink, revisit, resolve.
If none of this is making sense to you, blame it on Mercury’s current tendency to turn everything into a giant misunderstanding. Let’s start with some astrology basics 101: Mercury is considered the “messenger of the gods,” much like it is in mythology. For our purposes, Mercury represents communication in a very broad sense, which means it affects everything ranging from iMessage to that important check you never received. Interpersonal communication, the media, the internet, travel, transportation, electronics, mail (both tangible and electronic) — those are all in Mercury’s wheelhouse.
A retrograde is when a planet appears to backtrack, or retrace its steps, in the sky. It’s an optical illusion that’s caused by the Earth’s rotation and its speed relative to other planets, but it also has a way of inverting everything that planet represents in astrology.
Of course, that’s not exactly why you wind up in a Murphy’s Law scenario with your travel plans, or why your hard drive dies an incomprehensible death, or why you accidentally liked that Instagram photo from 43 weeks back. But these events seem to pile up at an unusual rate when Mercury’s trippin’, particularly when the planet is stationing retrograde or direct (the very beginning and end of the cycle, when the planet is changing direction and appears to be stationary in the sky).
This time around, Mercury was stationing retrograde on August 30, so naturally, I was locked out of an important email account with no functioning password recovery system and no response from the only other person who might know the password — not to mention that important package that mysteriously wound up next door, or that misdirected email from a previous freelance agency that wound up in my inbox, or that little nudge from Facebook to remind me of that guy who got my number a few months ago but never called — and now he’s obviously friends with a totally unrelated friend from college.
Because retrogrades have a way of getting you to look behind you before you jump ahead, you might also notice elements of your past materializing out of the ether over these next three weeks. Not every ex who decides to haunt you now is worth reconnecting with, but maybe there’s overlooked potential that’s worth revisiting. If nothing else, maybe you’ll be served with a nice reminder of how far you’ve come since you split.
Now that you understand Mercury’s twisted logic, here are a few common-sense guidelines for weathering this vacation from trying to “make life happen” — written for people who don’t have the luxury of putting everything else on hold “because astrology.”
+Back up your files. No, seriously. You should be doing this anyway, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest that Mercury will expose the cracks in your technological foundation.
+Avoid major purchases (especially electronics) if you can, but do extra research if you must. There’s a heightened chance that you’ll be making good on that warranty before it’s up.
+In a perfect world, you could time all your travel around the cosmos. But you’re in reality, which means work is going to send you to all the conferences, and it’s going to happen during these three weeks in particular. Just give yourself extra time to get to the airport, and brace yourself for potential hiccups. That extra 30-minute cushion is your best friend right now.
+If possible, avoid launching your big project or signing any contracts around this time. All the facts are not yet in, and you’re more prone to neglecting the fine print. If you’re the only nerd on your team who follows astrology, the best you can do is proceed with caution, and know that anything you “set in stone” during this time could be up for revision at a later date.
+The same applies to your personal life. Engagements and marriages that occur under the auspices of Mercury retrograde might carry an added risk of “til a little while from now do we part,” but if this is something you’ve known you wanted to do for a long time, it’s safe to say you’re operating from a level-headed place.
+What about the fun stuff? It’s a great time to catch up with old friends and mine your past for useful contacts. You never know which former coworker will hook you up with a plum new gig.
+Miscommunication is the order of the day. Don’t worry about it too much, and err on the side of giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. All you can do for now is work harder to get your point across and hear other people.
Psst: personal horoscope subscriptions are now live! Check it out.