What Is Mercury Retrograde And What Does It Have To Do With You?

Love+Medicine - Mercury Retrograde

I went to the librarian and asked for a book about stars… The scale of the universe suddenly opened up to me. There was a magnificence to it, a grandeur, a scale that has never left me. Never, ever left me.

Carl Sagan

Mercury in retrograde comes up in conversation too many times for me to ignore. It seems to be the default scapegoat when you’re having a bad day, your computer crashes or if you have to explain doing something really impulsive (like texting an ex). Before we start judging it as fact or folly, L+M wants to know what it actually means. It suits me as a once aspiring astronaut who always wondered about astrology.

Mercury Retrograde. Take a deep breath. And don't text your ex.

Mercury is a tiny planet that moves super fast. When Mercury zips around the sun, as it passes Earth it appears to be moving backwards, from Earth’s vantage point. This optical illusion is what is known as Mercury retrograde. This happens about 3-4 times a year and lasts three weeks each time.

Stargazers have always been fascinated by retrograde motion. “As above, so too below” is the cardinal astrologic rule. When Mercury speeds by, it creates a sort of disruption or turbulence that is thought to affect us on earth. In astrology, Mercury is associated with communication, relationships, travel, contracts, and computer codes. The 1st century poet Marus Manilius called it the “inconsistent, vivacious and curious planet.”

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The Magic of the Bird Feeder

I don’t feed the birds because they need me; I feed the birds because I need them.

Kathi Hutton

Watching birds has become part of my morning routine. For me It is a an exercise in being still. I’m not a bird watching nerd – the cardinal, robin, woodpecker and chickadee are the only ones I recognize by name – I just enjoy watching them move.

Birds add sound, color and movement to a stationary house. At my house, there is always action at the bird feeder. I can be in the middle of a conversation, cooking a meal or writing but my attention shifts to the birds outside my kitchen window.

Two of my feeders hang on the backyard deck. One is a cylinder feeder with hot pepper seed. This is a way to entice the birds and keep the squirrels at bay – squirrels dislike the spicy food and birds are quite indifferent to spiciness. They love the mixture of tree nuts, sunflower, peanuts and hot pepper.

These simple, inexpensive structures provide a microcosm of nature right outside the window. I moved recently from a palatial office with a view of Lake Mendota to a cubicle. My patients use the word “dreary” or a similar adjective when describing my new office – but there is one shining light. I have a window which faces a courtyard and I hung a bird feeder from one of the trees. There was reluctance by the birds to enter the dark enclosed courtyard. I had to coax them in by moving the feeder in increments to it’s present spot. The word is out now – I am starting to see more birds lately, dipping in and out. They provide the perfect antidote to the dull and depressing interior.

I have a definite love-hate relationship with birds. The swooping Magpies in Australia scare the crap out of me.


I’m the one with the bike helmet covered in cable ties, even in the off season in Hervey Bay. I won’t ride a bike in Australia without them. Hitchcock’s masterpiece The Birds had such an effect on me that I wrote Alfred Hitchcock a letter, asking about the special effects. He even wrote me back, signed with his iconic signature.

I know that watching the movement and activities of the birds is beneficial to all of us, if we take the time to actually do it. It can lift our spirits in a simple, subtle way. I consider it calming like meditation. Watching birds is proven to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from dementia. A bird feeder is the perfect gift idea for someone who is suffering. After stressing about what to buy for a memory impaired family member, I bought a small bird feeder. This gift has provided hours of multi-sensory joy for her.

I usually wake up to the call of the Mourning Dove, when the clock strikes seven o’clock on my Audubon birdsong clock but today is a rainy Sunday. I’ll wait for the nine o’clock Northern Chickadee.

If you don’t have a bird feeder, get one. Hang it high so it doesn’t attract coyotes. Most importantly, hang it in a spot where you can see it. Take notice. True zen can only be found in nature.

FAIRY TALE IRL

We woke up today to a fairy tale.

Bishop Curry was a preacher out of central casting – he stole the show. He did it by talking about the elephant in the room, love. The Royal Wedding, as cynical as I can be, was all about love. Not dresses, celebrity sightings and lemon elderflower cake. Pomp and circumstance aside, it was indeed about the power of love.

In that carriage Meghan Markle must have felt like it was a dream. As unlikely as those fairy tales read to us in childhood, she found a prince.

Embed from Getty Images

What does it all mean for the rest of us? On a superficial level not much. A future episode of The Crown maybe. To say we woke up at dawn and watched for the historical value is like saying you read Playboy for the articles.

Families are a mess, divorce is statistically likely and the monarchy is both is dated and ridiculous. We can easily choose to focus on that.

L+M takes a different approach.

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HAIR YOGA: Yes, It’s a Thing

Love+Medicine Hair Yoga

We all want to have better hair. Our hair reflects our health, genetics, age, hormone levels and priorities. I, unfortunately inherited my mom’s fine, wispy hair. I bring my stylist a picture of a killer hairstyle from a magazine – only to be told I need product. Lots of product. I have tossed hundreds of bottles of ‘product’ that I swore I would use after seeing how great my hair looked at the shop. In truth hair has never been a priority for me. I’ve heard it’s a Koplin trait but I hardly ever brush my hair. Or blow dry, or really do anything.

Some things get better with age, hair is not one of them.

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Ask Dr. Annie K: Sex and Aging

My husband, who is 78, can’t climax. He has the desire but loses the urge after a short time. He has had ed for several years but could still finish up to the last year or so. Is this age related? Any hope?
– Anonymous

Love+Medicine

 

Thank you for this great question. I assure you that many of my readers are interested.

This is a condition called Delayed Ejaculation (DE) or Anorgasmia. The erection is there but no climax. The answer to your first question, whether it is age related is yes. About 1/3 of men your husband’s age have problems reaching climax.

Let’s take a look at the science behind the male sexual response to understand what is going on. It is a cascade of events originating in the brain but involving the entire body. One system relaxes the body allowing for blood flow to the penis (erection), the other follows up with contractions necessary for ejaculation. These processes are sweetly choreographed to reach the big O.

What can cause DE?

Drugs – It is well known that antidepressants cause sexual dysfunction. Here are some others:
Alcohol
Diphenhydramine (Benedryl)
H2 blockers (Tagamet, Zantac, Pepcid)
Hydrochlorothiazide
Atenolol
Opiates
Furosemide (Lasix)
Triamterine (Maxzide)
Estrogen
NSAIDs (Ibuprofen)
Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed)
Finasteride (Propecia, Proscar)
Lipid-lowering agents
Digoxin
Levodopa (Sinemet)

Heart Disease – The arteries of the penis are often the first to show atherosclerosis.

Weak Pelvic Floor – These muscles weaken as we age.

Infection – Urinary tract infections, STDs and prostatitis.

Endocrine Conditions – Diabetes, hypothyroidism, low testosterone levels.

Psychological and Spiritual Factors – Anxiety, depression, relationship issues.

Consultation with a primary care physician AND a urologist are recommended to rule out these and other medical conditions. They may provide treatment options as well. Studies are limited but there are promising reports of acupuncture as a treatment for DE.

Sex is different as we age – biology we have to accept. I like to describe it as a quieter sex. Just as hot but more simmering than full boil. Pleasure comes equally from giving and receiving. Orgasm may not be the goal every time. Going through the natural changes and seeing them as normal may bring you closer as a couple.

 This is advice for all my sexually active seniors:

  1. Get in shape.
  2. Make love early in the day, when testosterone levels are highest.
  3. Eat healthy – What is good for your heart is good for your penis.
  4. Maximize oral stimulation.
  5. Fantasize about sex.
  6. Do Kegel exercises.
  7. Use your imagination.

Age is not a disease. Do everything you can to OPTIMIZE the functioning of your body and mind. In answer to your second question, there is definitely hope!

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