I'm a double ox. Or rather, I was born with the sun sign of Taurus, in the Chinese year of the Ox. This might not seem like a big deal, but I was actually hired in Asia on the basis of being an Ox – us oxen have this crazy reputation for being good workers over there. Over there, where Chinese signs are taken a lot more seriously than just putting them on a placemat in a Chinese restaurant like they are here – "what are you, a rat?! ha ha."
What I like about Chinese astrology is that it gets complex. You have your year animal, then you have your element. There are 5 elements: water, metal, wood, earth and fire. Each element rotates in cycle with the animal. So while you may be an earth pig , for example, your particular combination of element and year only comes around every 60 years or so.
The element part of the Chinese zodiac is critical – it completely shades and tempers each year animal. Like a rottweiler to a chihuahua, a fire dog is different from a wood dog. I didn't understand how I could be an Ox, honestly, until my element (water) was applied. Ox, you see, detest change. I like to move furniture around for fun. Water gives flexibility, fluidity – so my sign, a water ox, is the only one out of all the 5 types of oxen that can like change. My furniture moving makes sense.
In any given year, you are supposed to be able to tell how your year will be be by your given animal's compatibility with that current year animal. You are a rooster? Well, roosters get a long with Ox so you'll likely have a nice time in the Year of the Ox. And if you are an Ox, don't think everything is going to go your way during your year. I learned this when I was 24, living in Taiwan – I was given a jade bracelet by my best friend for protection, and was admonished at every turn by everyone who knew how old I was to "be careful – it's your year!"
Your year, you see, was the year you were born.
It's a time of great change.
It's a time in which you are more likely to die. It's a time where large, life-shaking (or breaking) events can happen.
I was told to tread lightly, carefully during my years: 12, 24, 36, 48 and so on. Every 12 years: watch out!
I'm not going where you think I'm going with this.
Basically, after a decade of being "into" astrology, another decade of career counseling and I think that Chinese astrology is pretty much the same as career assessments like the Myers Briggs or a good feng shui reading. Most of us are fascinated with ourselves and love to learn about our respective potential. It's fun to be told who we are, fun to hear it said we can be something, do something, go somewhere, be someone.
I think that just as the prism reflects light wherever and whenever the light hits it, we all have jaw-dropping potential. There are no exceptions. The only thing that flavours our potential, I think, are aspects like our Chinese element – are we change-oriented or do we prefer something with more rhythm?
So the key to it all, I think, is figuring out the space in which we operate best. That's where the astrology and assessments have worth – they might clarify some aspects, provoke us to think a little about things we usually keep hidden inside ourselves.
I'm thinking about these things as I am up here in Humboldt County, staying with my brother as I crawl out of my post partum depression.
I think about the nature of change, about things being what we make them.
About the hocus-pocus through-the-fortune-tellers-globe aspect that both the Chinese zodiac and career counseling have to them. That they are both simultaneously true and false, truthfully false and falsely true with truth and falseness baked into their marrow.
Anything can be something. If you want it to be. It just depends on what you want.
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