© August 2010 by Fabienne Lopez
Elizabeth Gilbert is doomed! After the “freaky” success of her book, as she stated at the TED conference last year, any work following Eat, Pray, Love would be compared to that standard. And I did compare the two books and found them to be good descriptions of the lessons of Saturn.
Saturn in Libra: making peace with marriage
As I started reading her sequel memoir on her love story with Felipe, the Brazilian gem broker she met in Bali at the end of the previous book, I am struck by how appropriate it is for this book to be published as Saturn enters Libra. The subtitle for Committed is “A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage.”
For the next two years (until October 2012), Saturn will put relationships at the forefront of people’s mind, testing our ability to make commitments and asking us to re-evaluate what we value in our relationships.
Saturn loves to be in Libra, the sign of balance and relationship, as it give us a chance to understand ourselves through our relationships. Through responsibility, patience, flexibility and endurance, we learn how to relate to others over extended periods of time. Saturn particularly dislikes an over-romanticized and impractical view of the world. In any area of life, Saturn is likely to shine his harsh light and reveal the flaws in the construction of our sandcastles.
Marriage as a prison
Eat, Pray, Love told the story of how the author spent a year travelling to Italy, India and Bali so she could search for “everything” about herself.” Her decision was fueled by the end of her first marriage right during her Saturn return. (A Saturn return is when the planet goes back to the original position it was when a person was born. This happens every 29.5, or 30 years.)
According to Elizabeth Gilbert’s biography, she was born in Waterbury, Connecticut on July 18, 1969 with Saturn in Taurus. Saturn is the planet of responsibility, restriction, inhibition. Taurus is a sign with a strong need for security and a stubborn streak in the pursuit of its goals. With Saturn in Taurus, Elizabeth Gilbert puts her “nose to the grindstone” in discovering her values during her sabbatical year. One of them was that marriage was a prison. Badly “gutted” by her divorce, she wows never to marry again. She’d rather roam free.
Sentenced to marry
But Saturn has a way to teach you that what you are afraid of will come back to bite you. Felipe is not an American citizen and after one too many trips to the United States to visit Gilbert, Felipe is detained by Homeland Security and told that he could not return to the U.S. unless he had an American wife. Gilbert, then, is “sentenced to marry.” While waiting for the necessary visa to be processed, Gilbert starts researching on the institution of marriage as a way to deal with her anxieties concerning this impending doom. She feels “caught,” as Saturn forces her to reevaluate her beliefs on marriage and test her ability to make an enduring commitment.
The institution of marriage
In her book, Gilbert puts her researching abilities to work to help her understand the institution of marriage throughout history. She consults scholars, historians, and ordinary people including her grandmother. Marriage is an anachronism, a throw back from when there was a need for security in numbers. Contemporarily, marriage is seen as a timeless and unchanging institution; actually, it has been enormously elastic throughout history and across cultures. One thing that remained unchanged was that it had nothing to do with love. Only recently has marriage been viewed as a romantic enterprise: we marry because we think it will make us happy.
The Marriage Imbalance
Like most people, Gilbert wants everything from the relationship: intimacy and autonomy, security and stimulation, reassurance and novelty. But as Saturn in Libra will be showing us that is maybe too much to ask from that institution. No relationship can fulfill us entirely and it should not. Not even the one we have with ourselves. We cannot ever be entirely autonomous, nor can we merge completely with another persona without losing ourselves in the process. Saturn in Libra requires us to balance our needs with somebody’s else, to balance our dreams and goals with those of another person. It’s a delicate, skillful “pas de deux.” We need to be constantly dancing around priorities, needs and wants while at the same time maintaining an attitude of openness and cooperation.
No easy solution
As with any matter involving Saturn, there is no easy solution to this dilemma. Just individual ones. Each solution must be earned through the Saturnian qualities of discipline, hard work and balance. Maybe a good starting point would be to ask less from marriage than what we have been asking, requiring it be less than what we think it should be. A phrase in Gilbert’s book is most illustrative: “Perhaps I was loading a far heavier cargo of expectation onto that creaky old boat of matrimony than that strange vessel had ever been built to accommodate.”
As I finish reading Gilbert’s book, I cannot avoid reflecting back on the last time, Saturn was in Libra. At that time, I pursued relationships at any cost as a way to validate myself. It ended badly. Full circle back to Saturn in Libra, I have decided to stop looking for a relationship after my most recent breakup, having concluded that relationships are not my thing. But deep down, I suspect that what this book is trying to tell me, is that I need to find my own balance between the two extremes I have experienced.
While I am still a skeptic in need of convincing, I am open to finding that balance and that peace that Saturn in Libra tells us is there.
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