For months, famed free astrologist and amateur soothsayer Susan Miller had been warning in her horoscopes that October would bring Hard Times, because Mercury would enter retrograde.
I know. A free Internet astrologist? One with a website that appeared to have survived the fall of Netscape Navigator, the Dot Com bubble, Web 2.0 over-engineering, and the Great Recession fallout entirely unchanged? Pointing to AstrologyZone.com is analogous to the gang in Scooby Doo! entering a witchdoctor’s house looking for clues—you kind of already know what kind of nonsense you’re getting yourself into. But her mysticism—broad, careful wording, a firm grasp of generational vanity and provincial foibles—isn’t about specifics.
Really, Susan Miller (the human, the spirit, the brand), is what we call a killer app: for some, once introduced to the system, she becomes an invaluable part of you, a subconscious guiding presence that begets swerving behavior, self-denial, and confirmation bias. So yes, I Believe. Or rather, I’ve convinced myself I believe enough. But that’s mostly because I’ve only been a casual follower of the faith: I read my horoscope (Capricorn) at the beginning of the month, take a mental note of major themes (love, money, contracts), and see the month through, primed for moments that confirm Susan’s predictions. Sometimes, they’re uncanny in their exactness: Last November, she said I would be offered a job, and I was. (Though I also quit that job months later because it made me unhappy and anxious.) Other times, I feel like I’m grading her on a curve afforded the teacher’s pet: In one month, she told me I could run into The One. Nope! But I continued to read. I continued to Believe.
So I decided October, the month that could bring End Times, would be one where I did some serious self-reflection. I would do a deep read of my horoscope, noting the specific dates Susan told me to look out for, and keep a journal that tracked what unfolded. This is it.
The first difficult aspect arrives on October 1 when the Sun and Pluto in Capricorn will clash. As the month opens you appear to be dealing with a bureaucrat who is forcing his or her will on you and may also make you do a lot of paperwork.
Susan’s horoscopes for October were late. (Usually she had an excuse: My mother died! I’m having wrist surgery! All acceptable given the deviant, unspoken contract you enter into when you follow a star-reader touted by Rihanna’s stylist.) My fellow Believers commiserated in our collective nausea, a communion between the desire to know what fresh hell October would bring and an equal fear of that information, of the pain coded in her message. Like when you're drunk enough to know you should probably throw-up, but also sober enough to remember how much the act of vomiting—the heaving, the deeply unsatisfying lack of tactile fulfillment from gripping the cold toilet—actually sucks. The mounting dread of what October would bring was worse than anything she could have predicted. So for an entire day, we all lived unknowing, unbalanced. And an impossibly meta circumstance presented itself: Is Susan herself the "difficult aspect" whose cavalier attitude about my well-being the root of my early autumnal "frustration?"
Faith-O-Meter: 6 (out of 10)
A harder day will arrive October 3, when Uranus in Aries will oppose the Sun in Libra. This could bring difficulties with a housing matter, quite out of the blue, and make it very hard to concentrate at work. You seem to be discovering something on this day, and what you hear may rock you.
A serious test to my transient flashes of faith in the Church of Susan Miller. How much is coincidence? How often do I subconsciously swerve to underlie her gospel? October's horoscopes were uploaded Oct. 2, and by then it was too late. In a stroke of prescience, I had scheduled the week before to have the all-important cook-dinner-at-my-home date with the young doctor I had been seeing on this very day. The thought of this date did distract me from work. But do matters of the heart count as a “housing matter?” Certain novels and Natalie Portman films say that “home is where the heart is.” (We broke up.)
A bunch of shit was supposed to (or "could have") happened in relation to my career this day. They did not. Or at least, they did not make themselves known to me on this day:
...home seems to be the area of instability...you may hear your apartment building has been sold, and you will have to move very soon.
No job developments. My apartment building was not sold.
If your physical home does not represent the dilemma, then it may be that you are caring for an elderly parent, and leaving is not so easy, as your parent depends on you.
Both of my parents are 44. My mom just had a baby.
susan miller was not kidding about this month guys ive been on the computer less than 20 mins and already so much rage
— Aleksander Chan (@aleksnotalex) October 4, 2013
A new moon, Susan tells me, "sets up two weeks of energy" that will "affect [me] for the year to come," and as she has warned all year, it's going to revolve around my career. And it's going to be big. Life-altering. But so far...nothing.
If you are in sales, your quota may have been changed in a way that does not favor you, or if you expect certain benefits from your company, the package may have been changed not to your favor. You may get a large tax bill that you feel is unfairly calculated, as Pluto is often linked to the government.
I don’t work in sales, and an accountant does my taxes. But a certain part of that passage sticks out to me: “a large tax bill” that’s “linked to the government.” My mother, a nurse anesthetist in the military, has been sidelined from most surgeries because of the government shutdown. So she’s had plenty of time to call me in the middle of the day when I was working to complain about TV and tell me about her trips to Costco.
My mother just called me and said the following: "Toni Collette does NOT deserve to be on NETWORK TV with Dylan McDermott."
— Aleksander Chan (@aleksnotalex) October 2, 2013
Could you describe these phone calls as “taxing?” Sure. Were they “linked to the government?” Yes.
Cashier, noticing my Russian first name: How many languages do you speak? Me: Uh...one. Cashier: Here's a coupon for corndogs!
— Aleksander Chan (@aleksnotalex) October 8, 2013
I attribute this interaction to the larger October End Times narrative.
Kris and Bruce Jenner split up.
Mercury is set to enter retrograde the 21st, but Susan warns that we might “feel the characteristic slowdowns as soon as October 1.” Indeed, all seemed off today.
My alma mater defied odds and logic and defeated our football rivals, and my favorite dive bar in Austin was invaded by loud tourists visiting for Austin City Limits.
The eclipse! “Eclipses often mark big life events, so we always need to pay close attention,” Susan warns. “This one is a full moon lunar eclipse, and those end things so that you can move on to new possibilities.” But what? “A transformation” is due for me, resulting from Mars being “nicely angled to Pluto.”
If you are not ready to think about your living situation or a family matter, the eclipse will decide for you, never an ideal situation.
Again, no out-of-the-blue job offers. But I think I’m “transforming” into someone who worries about buying flood insurance?:
Mars will oppose Neptune, however, so if you are about to buy or lease a house, ask your appraiser or an engineer to study the water system, and find out if the location has ever had problems with hurricanes, floods, or tainted water.
Other revelations that did not unfold today:
You may get a chance to study abroad, get a grant to research overseas, or simply travel abroad for fun.
You know what I did tonight? I binge-watched everything on my DVR. The Crazy Ones is awful. Don’t watch it.
*ALERT: MERCURY IS IN RETROGRADE*
This retrograde is coming at a tough time, as you seem to have career and home-related matters to settle... It is never wise to make big plans or commitments or buy expensive things (most certainly not electronics items and autos) while Mercury is retrograde. Your judgment is off – you'll see it's best to wait!
My roommate, a rigid non-believer (such a Leo) and ignorant of this journal’s existence, told me that when she was taking her boyfriend’s dog for a walk in our neighborhood, she stumbled upon police officers standing over a dead dog. “It was a golden lab,” she said. Dead dogs always remind me of when my childhood dog (a golden retriever) passed, and specifically how: one morning, she summoned the last of her strength, walked upstairs to my room, laid down in front of my bed, and died. This dead dog is an omen.
“Uhhh, did you see those “LOST DOG” flyers?” my roommate asked. “I think it might be the dog I saw yesterday.”
All the fliers for the missing dog were taken down.
Katy Perry’s new album, Prism came out today. Its most salient lyric? From “It Takes Two”: “Is Mercury in retrograde, or is that the excuse that I’ve always made?”
I kept turning this lyric over and over in my head today when trying to pick up dinner, which played out like a Joey plot in an episode of Friends, but from one of the later seasons when everyone forgot why they even liked Joey in the first place.
Normally, it would take about 10 minutes for me to get to the restaurant. But it was rush hour on a Thursday in Austin, so it took about 30. When I finally arrived, I realized I'd forgotten my wallet. For some reason—clouded judgment thanks to Mercury, Susan might say—I drove home and then back to the restaurant to finally pick up the $12 dinner I'd driven 90 minutes for.
The cashier handed me my lukewarm bag of food and the credit card slip for me to sign. The pen at the register was out of ink. I asked for another pen; she looked in vain for a while and then disappeared into the back room. She returned about 10 minutes later. I took the new pen and started signing my signature, but it ran dry mid-stroke in the second leg of my “A." I scribbled harder to try and revive the ink. Nothing. The universe was subtweeting me. “This one doesn’t work, either,” I said, and silently cursed Susan's wisdom.
“Oh!” She forgot to check her apron before. She pulled out a black BIC which worked flawlessly. By the time I got home my food was cold and I was out a quarter-tank of gas.
Faith-O-Meter: The size of Mercury
I forgot to do Halloween. Scandal was pretty good, though. Noel Crane played basketball with the president. I already have a tab open to AstrologyZone.com so that the second I open my computer Friday morning I can read what November has in store. Yes, most of what Susan forecasted for October didn’t happen, though there was definitely gloomy moments that may or may not have been the result of Mercury being a dick. But aren’t there always gloomy moments? Isn’t Mercury always kind of a dick? I thought approaching my horoscope with a sense of hyper-awareness would allow me to see the stitching of the Susan Miller Faith Fabric and help me better understand why I and so many others have convinced themselves this woman knows anything. But as our wisest elders often do, they teach us how to teach ourselves.
So what did I learn from myself? That believing in Susan Miller is a lot like reading and subscribing to celebrity tabloids: They just have to be seem true enough most of the time, and you’ll keep reading.
Faith-O-Meter: Moldy jack-o’-lantern.
Photos via e-codices/flickr.
Aleksander Chan is a writer and editor in Austin.