August 19, 2003
I'd like to tell you that I threw my back out skydiving. I'd like to tell you I threw my back out adventure kayaking. But, as I recently read that writers are meant to tell the truth, I have no choice but to admit to you that I hurt myself by trying to apply sunscreen to the hard to reach places on my back. I realize lame doesn't begin to describe it.
Salvation came in the form of a tie-dyed wearing, holistic masseuse named Renee. She and her daughter, Indigo, had been walking along just a block from the hostel when the desk clerk rang her mobile. You see, I was in Rainbow Beach, population 900, a town without a bank or a traffic light, much less a doctor or a chiropractor. In no position to be picky, I gladly accepted her services.
Minutes later I was lying on her massage table. "Melanie," she asked, starting to work on my back, "Have you been under a lot of stress lately?" I know it sounds like a joke - a traveler on a perpetual vacation being under stress - but really, it is possible. Except, I didn't think I was under a lot of stress, so I said no. "Hmmm," she said, kneading my back. "Are you the type of person who takes on other people's issues?" I admitted that I had a tendency to get wrapped up in other people's issues, mostly familial, but I didn't think that was the cause of my aching back. Then she asked me how old I was. When I told her 29 she got quiet for a while, then said, "You know, this might be due to your Saturn Return." My what? "Your Saturn Return - it usually hits around age 28/29." Oh, well sure, that totally explains it. HUH?
I should probably explain that while I tell people I'm from San Francisco, California, where words like "life force," "Saturn Return," and "cosmic energy" can be part of every day speech, my roots are Midwestern Indiana, where people eat red meat and potatoes, think vegetarians are a deviant subculture, and shake their heads when people from California say things like, "put it out to the universe and the universe will provide." After five years in California I was pretty hip to most of the spacey stuff, even subscribed to some of it - however, "Saturn Return" was not part of my vocabulary - yet.
Renee told me that a person's "Saturn Return" was a time of angst and frustration, and of working out of one's issues. She said it was a time to find what in your life made you happy and to grab it with both hands. It was also a time that tested you - and the choices made during this time in one's life would indicate what one could expect for the next 29 years of life. Great - so what she was saying was that everything I was dealing with now in my life had to be sorted out or I would face 29 more years of uncertainty and confusion - no pressure there. Thanks Renee. I could feel my back tighten just thinking about it!
When I got back to my hostel my back was still sore, but better. I decided to spend the next few days taking it easy and doing as little physical activity as possible. The relaxation, while good for my muscles, allowed my mind to spin wildly out of control. My head was a jumble of confusion - Was my back injury a sign for me to slow down and think about things instead of just pushing forward with what I had been doing? What did Saturn's Return have to do with it? What was it that made me happy? And, if I didn't find it before Saturn completed its cycle, would the next 29 years of my life be miserable? I needed more information.
An Internet search provided me with the necessary background on Saturn Return (thank you Google!). According to a variety of astrologically-themed Web sites "Saturn Return is the period in one's life between the ages of approximately 27 and 30 years of age when the planet Saturn completes its first cycle through your birth chart and returns to the spot it occupied when you were born." Great - but what did that have to do with my back and my life, other than being mildly interesting?
Apparently, one's Saturn Return coincides with (or causes - depending on your perspective) a time of reevaluation of your life - a time "when people turn inward and reflect on their individual destiny...examine true needs and desires and the role you want to play on the world's stage." In the Web sites I perused, I found a person's Saturn Return described as everything from "a time of self meeting self" to "one of the most important times in your life" to "a necessary period of consolidation when you must retreat from the distractions of the outer world and focus on yourself at your most fundamental level."
Interesting. On the one hand, I was intrigued. I would be lying if I said that the years from 27 to present were all sunshine and roses. In fact, I considered 27 and 28 to be among the hardest years in my life to date. Yet, I wasn't totally ready to believe that my frustration and confusion was due to the planet Saturn's tour through the birth signs and its return to the position it inhabited when I was born. Was this "astrological coming of age" really due to a far off planet, or just a coincidence?
A couple of years ago, when I was traveling in Cuba, a friend and I were discussing the meaning of life, as you do when traveling, and determined that every one of our friends, in their late 20s, were going through a "change" - a difficult period in their life when they were questioning what they were doing, where they were going, and who they were with. I can't remember what my friend called it, but we chalked it up to being a "quarter life crisis" - a buzz phrase at the time.
I had totally forgotten about that conversation, until Renee brought up Saturn's Return.
Now, lying on the beach, physically immobile but mentally running a marathon, I was thinking about it again. Looking at my life, and that of my friends, I realized that the late 20s are a time of great change for most of us. In my life specifically, I have seen friends get married, have children, go to grad school, move to new cities, change careers, or go on extended travels - all in their late 20's. They have all "chosen" paths - many times, paths that a few years earlier seemed unthinkable or totally contrary to their personalities. Was this all a big coincidence?
The Web sites all said that a person's Saturn Return was "the astrological equivalent of becoming an adult - marking the end of youth and the beginning of the productive adult years." And, funny thing, at least for me, this past year I've suddenly felt quite grown up. Everything I am doing is on my terms. I feel, for the first time, responsible for my own destiny. And, while incredibly exciting and freeing - it also scares the shit out of me.
I can't tell you if the thoughts and feelings I have been experiencing, the questions, the challenges and the confusion about my place in this crazy world - I can't tell you if its all part of my Saturn Return or just part of growing up. Truthfully, I just don't believe strongly enough in the concept - that the cycle of a planet has that much control over my life. But, I also can't tell you that learning about this astrological phenomenon hasn't made me look back over the past few years of my life and think - "hmmmm, I wonder?"
All I know is that the past few years have been challenging and wonderful and hard and lonely and crazy and beautiful - all at the same time. And, for some reason, a time when I've done more than ever before to make a conscious effort to take control and responsibility for my life - whatever the final outcome.
Interestingly enough, the last Web site I looked at with regards to Saturn Return said this:
"Saturn Return is one of the most crucial turning points you ever experience, when you assume the greatest responsibility of all: responsibility for your own life."
Though I still won't admit to being a full believer, at least I can feel confident that in terms of the cosmos, I've got my bases covered.