Wondering why your travel plans are hopelessly botched up and your cell phone is acting like it’s possessed? You might want to check your calendar, because it’s that time again –  Mercury is in retrograde!

You’ve probably heard people mention Mercury being in retrograde, but maybe you aren’t sure exactly what that means. Let me explain. The planet Mercury orbits the sun faster than Earth does. About three or four times a year, it passes us and, from our perspective, seems to be moving backwards. This planetary phenomenon lasts for a few weeks, and people often blame it when frustrating things happen in their lives – especially in the areas of communication and technology.

Mercury in retrograde can be a challenging time where things just don’t seem to be working right. Your internet is extra slow, and your phone keeps dropping calls. And it’s not just technology that’s affected. Relationships with other people can be affected too. During this time, I’m always careful about my communication to avoid misunderstandings and hurt feelings. I try not to sign contracts when Mercury is in retrograde, and if I have to, I make sure to read the fine print carefully!

But sometimes, the negatives can become positives!

While no one enjoys technology snafus, missed flights, or squabbles with loved ones – there is a silver lining. Good things can happen when Mercury is in retrograde, especially when you take this opportunity to reassess, revisit and reevaluate. You might have conflicts that don’t seem that big of a deal. You sweep them under the rug because they just aren’t that important. Then during a time like this, suddenly that pile of small conflicts becomes the giant elephant in the room. That can help you to take those conflicts seriously and finally resolve them.

A good friend of mine was having trouble with her sister-in-law. They lived far apart and never saw each other, so my friend was content just to ignore the problem and pretend everything was fine. Then my friend’s mom got sick, and the family had to come together to help her. Of course, Mercury was in retrograde at the time. That and the stress of worrying about their mom combined, and everything that my friend and her sister-in-law had been sweeping under the rug exploded into a huge argument.

My friend made a comment that her sister-in-law misunderstood, and years of resentment came to the surface. When the smoke cleared, the two women looked at each other and started laughing. They both realized that they had been fighting over nothing. “We got all the yuck out of the way,” my friend told me, “and really started talking. It didn’t take long to realize that we butt heads because we’re so much alike. We might never be best friends, but we definitely aren’t enemies anymore.”

If you’re conscious of the effect of the planets on your life, you can prepare for them. Allow a little extra time to get to appointments, and make doubly sure you really saved that file before you shut off your computer. Be extra patient when Mercury is in retrograde – remember that during this time, people are more likely to lose their tempers or get their feelings hurt.

You can look at the things that cause stress and conflict and take a serious look at whether there’s anything you can do about them. Maybe a job that’s causing a lot of stress gets more stressful, so you get motivated to put that resume together and find something better. Maybe a conflict with a family member comes to the surface so you can finally let go of years of hostility and connect with love.

Whoever you’re with and whatever you’re doing for the next couple of weeks, take a deep breath, remember to be patient with the phone, the internet, your friends, your family and especially yourself.

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