“Priapus depicted with the attributes of Mercury in a fresco found at Pompeii, between 89 BC and 79 AD, Naples National Archaeological Museum.” Photo by Carole Raddato. Priapus was a minor rustic fertility god, as indicated by his huge, erect penis, which gave rise (no pun intended) to the medical term priapism.

I Got F*cked by Mercury in Retrograde

And I’m about to prove it

“Wow! I just published my most popular article to date! I think now would be the perfect time to take a month off from writing,” said no writer trying to build an audience on Medium ever. It’s not at all what I had planned. In fact, I was really feeling myself until we glided into the astrological cluster-fuck known as Mercury retrograde.

Those true believers out there know exactly what I am talking about. Those who know what I am talking about, but are wondering what kind of crazy person would give credence to this pseudo-scientific mumbo-jumbo are obviously not familiar with my work. The rest of you are innocent lambs about to be sent to slaughter.

You see, I am about to ruin your existence the same way Baz Luhrmann ruined the song “Roxanne” by The Police in his movie Moulin Rouge. I didn’t like this film at all, but I got sucked in by the hype. Now I can never listen to the original song without thinking about that god-awful, guttural tango rendition as well.That is to say, if you have never been aware of Mercury going retrograde before, after reading this article, you may never be able to ignore it again.

Ahhhh!! Make it stop! Make it stop!

For an in-depth explanation of Mercury retrograde periods, you should read the complete article at Susan Miller’s Astrologyzone. I’m only going to give you a few highlights from it below in quotation blocks and point out how they directly pertained to my experience. I’ll even play my own devil’s advocate in the headers. Then you can judge for yourself.

OK, you’ve got me intrigued. What is this Mercury retrograde thing?

About three or four times a year, Mercury speeds past Earth, and that is when we experience a Mercury retrograde period. . . Mercury rules all types of communication, including listening, speaking, learning, reading, editing, researching, negotiating, selling, and buying. Mercury also rules all formal contracts and agreements, as well as important documents such as book manuscripts or term papers, agreements, deeds, contracts, leases, wills, and so forth. . . When this planet retrogrades, these areas tend to get scrambled or spin out of control.-Susan Miller *author of all quotations hereafter

In other words, Mercury rules everything we depend on to keep our lives running smoothly. If you’re like me, most Mercury retrograde periods register as a mere hiccup amongst my usual state of organized chaos. I can only surmise why this one, in particular, had me so shook.

For the past four years, I’ve been managing the costume shop at a university in Philadelphia. I like this job a lot more than when I was an assistant professor in Virginia, but it pays significantly less. To fill in the gaps, I do some part-time teaching in the department. Then I began to do some freelance costume designing at local theaters in my spare time. In February, the Assistant Dean encouraged me to apply for the soon vacant full-time faculty job that would put me in charge of the entire theater design and technology program. During Mercury retrograde, all of these career ambitions came to a head.

OK, that sounds . . .problematic. So when did this shift occur?

The two- or three-week period prior to Mercury retrograde is called the “impending shadow period.” If you initiate anything important during that shadow period — that is, in the time before Mercury begins to retrograde — you still may encounter problems.

Mercury went retrograde on April 9th. During this “impending shadow period” I was already exhausted from the university’s production schedule. Here is a dead-ass picture of my empty refrigerator on March 31st. By this date, I had given up on grocery shopping because I was never home long enough to prepare or eat any meals. Apparently, I’d given up on cleanliness as well. You’re lucky I didn’t take a shot of the mound of laundry piling up in my bedroom.

BTW, that almond milk expired ten days ago.

Gross. OK, so what’s the big deal? You were really busy at work. That doesn’t sound unusual.

Computers, high tech items, appliances, automobiles, and other machines and electronics are highly susceptible to Mercury in a retrograde period. Mercury rules moving parts, so that can be one reason. Yet, other things happen.

On April 1st, I came home to find the side view mirror sitting on the hood of my car either as an apology or a trophy. At first, I was pissed that some slue-footed dimwit clipped it when they were parking behind me on the street. Then I realized it was the passenger side mirror that was missing. The side of my car that was facing the sidewalk.

Usually, I take the trolley to work, but my new freelance job is 25 miles away in the suburbs. For the rest of the month, I’ll be motoring down the death trap known as the I-76 Schuylkill Expressway and parallel parking all over the place. I really needed that mirror.

I got that duct tape on fleek tho.

That is a little weird, but basically a minor inconvenience. What else you got?

Your client may suddenly change direction on a project you have been working on and give you new instructions, which may require you to discard some of the work you did. Miscommunications abound, so during these periods keep summarizing what you think the other person has just told you. Go the extra mile — you will be glad you did!

I began the design process for this world-premier play well in advance. The first production meeting was in January, I shared an extensive amount of reference photos in February, and by mid-March, I had completed a set of full-color costume renderings. So after first rehearsal does the director start changing her mind about design concepts? Why do I order five options for a gold evening gown only to have the playwright change it to “iridescent blue” two days later?

Sure, that sounds pretty frustrating. Playwrights be play writing, though. Isn’t that just part of the job?

Venus will [also] go retrograde from March 4 to April 15 and will not return to full power until May 18.Venus also rules your face, so the period from March 4 to April 15 (and I would also include the ramp up to strength period, until May 18) would not be the time to ­do anything radical to your looks.

So maybe this wasn’t the best time for me to decide to replace the reading glasses I wore all the time with prescription glasses. The change in depth perception had me stumbling around the city like a dog in brand new snow boots.

I’m coming! I’m coming! Dang!

Venus also rules beauty, fashion, adornment, and art so a Venus retrograde period is not a good time for, you know, my whole entire job.

You’re digressing. Get back to Mercury retrograde.

Don’t make any important moves when Mercury is retrograde. Nothing will be settled successfully for the future during these periods anyway — you will find it nearly impossible to nail down a plan. During a retrograde period, it is hard to get decisions from others. Even if a decision is made, it will be subject to change, either just after Mercury turns to direct motion or much later.

On April 11th, the search committee for the design/tech position I’ve applied for wants to know if they can schedule my interview for April 13th. What the what?! Don’t we all work for the same department? I teach class Tuesday mornings and on Wednesdays until the afternoon. The rest of my time is spent working on costumes for the four shows these self-same maniacs decided to schedule in rep. Until these four shows open, I can’t even schedule a 10-minute nap.

Plus, at the end of the work day, I go shopping for my freelance show until I hear the “store closing” announcements. Then I go home and do some more shopping on-line. So I ask if the committee would be willing to wait until May 5th to hold my interview. They agree, which I take as a good sign.

That must have been stressful, but it seems like you had things under control.

Included under this planet’s domain are all types of code, including computer codes, as well as transportation, shipping, and travel. When this planet retrogrades, these areas tend to get scrambled or spin out of control.

(Remember that day when you started getting notifications about everything from everyone on your Medium app? I’m just sayin’. . .)

There’s just as much traffic on I-76 on a Tuesday at two o’clock in the afternoon as there is on a Friday at 5:00 pm. Public transit is even worse. I arrive late for my first fitting with my lead actor. It does not go well. My Amazon Prime order is missing. All the jeans I bought her are too short. The $60 non-returnable wig I chose is overwhelming her face. None of her shoes fit properly. Shoes will be an ongoing problem. By opening night, I will have purchased over a dozen pairs of shoes for this same actor trying to solve the same damn problem: size 11 feet with bunions.

I think you’re exaggerating. You must have had at least one good day. What did you do on Easter Sunday?

Often there is a comedy of errors surrounding Mercury retrograde!

Despite working 10–12 hour days non-stop, I decide to bake a coconut-lemon layer cake on Easter morning. Now I’m no cake boss, but normally I do a lot better than a box mix. It does not go well. First, I have to run to the store for a third cake pan. Then I find dead ants hidden in my cornstarch, so I have to go back. Now that I’m distracted, I don’t put enough egg yolks in my filling. My icing sits so long it won’t form peaks. This cake is a lopsided, gooey mess. WE EAT IT ANYWAY.

Let’s pretend for a moment Mercury Retrograde is a real thing. Are we powerless against it?

A key to the solution to any mercury retrograde problem lies in the element mercury is found in: fire, earth, air, or water. [This April, Mercury was retrograde in the earth sign of Taurus.] If Mercury retrogrades in an earth sign, be very practical about finding a solution, and strictly adhere to limits of time or budget. Money often plays a big part of both the problem and the answer when Mercury is retrograde.

Waaaay back in February, I agreed to give a brief presentation to some donors about my costume designs for the show in the suburbs. My presentation is scheduled during tech week, the time when we first add the set, costumes, lights, and sound to the rehearsal process. I was tired, cranky, and functioning on nothing but coffee, cheese, and LÄRABARs®. Every day I felt like a contestant on Beat the Clock. This was not the best time for anyone to question my decision-making. Given the “pick two” model of cheap, fast, or good, I was short on both time and money, but I was still determined to deliver a decent product.

Don’t even get me started about how most costume designers are sorely underpaid for their work at theaters with no support staff or designated work space, and yet are expected to perform miracles with a meager budget. The Artistic Associate of the theater turns slightly pallid when I get to the part about the braided wig I got on sale for $80. She also looked about eleven months pregnant, so I’m glad she didn’t go into labor.

Oh shit! What happens if you’re born while Mercury is retrograde?!

People born under this phase are said to have philosophical and reflective natures that help them think through complex concepts quite creatively. Never worry about having a baby during one of these retrograde periods — it is always a good time to have a child!

Whew! That’s a relief. But did your life really improve once Mercury retrograde ended?

Here is another vital point to keep in mind: Mercury is more powerful on the onset and finish dates of its retrograde. I call them the “bookend” dates of the retrograde, and static and dust seem to fill the air more noticeably than any other time.

Mercury went direct on May 3rd, and I was trying my best to feel optimistic. It was opening night of my freelance show, and I still had to find a way to make a tall, Erykah Badu-style head wrap stay put on my actor’s head. At school, I had to administer two finals and process my student work-study time cards. To top it all off, my meeting with the search committee was reschedule for that day at 3:00 pm because one of the members was unavailable on the 5th. I was completely fucked.

I’m inclined to agree. How did it go?

Forgetfulness can be a problem during these phases. You are more likely to leave your airline ticket or passport on your desk rather than put it in your pocket; leave your cell phone, sunglasses, or gloves in the back seat of a cab; or lock yourself out of your car or house.

Well, the first thing I did was leave my cell phone at home. I had already paid for a full day of parking, so I had to take the trolley back home on my lunch hour to retrieve it. By my three o’clock meeting, my brain was fried. I struggled to articulate my thoughts and recall important details from my past employment. My only saving grace was the friendly faces of my colleagues who were already familiar with my work and general ability to form complete sentences.

Me, at my meeting with the search committee

I’m willing to concede that your April was particularly heinous, but I still don’t believe in astrology. What’s your takeaway here?

Although these Mercury retrograde periods can be frustrating, they are often useful too, for they allow us to reassess, revisit, readdress, redo, and redesign our plans. Sometimes we rush along in life without fully considering our basic assumptions or actions. Mercury retrograde allows us to stop, look, listen, and redirect our energies more productively. Mercury also helps us find closure to certain situations.

At least all my hard work paid off. Opening night went great. The actors were amazing, the audience loved it, my head wrap stayed secure — and I never want to do this again. I got burnt out doing these kinds of jobs years ago when I was building my career in Washington, DC. When I reached a crossroads back then, I chose academia over my design ambitions. I don’t regret that decision, but as I’m approaching my late forties, I would really love to have just one job. Getting this promotion would close my financial gap and bestow me with a title that reflects what these people outchea need to understand: I’m a motherfuckin’ boss.

Mercury doesn’t retrograde again until August 12th. Fingers crossed I’ll be signing a new contract by the end of June. Whether you believe in astrology or not, at some point we all go through one of these inexplicable rough patches. They don’t have to be all bad. Take advantage of these times to slow down, reassess, revisit, and redo. If you believe you got fucked by Mercury retrograde like I did, you will be OK. After the next go-round, just make sure he brings you breakfast in the morning.

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