Dear Madame Zolonga: Lapis Blues Aren’t Just a Color

Posted by Planet Waves


An “Uncreative Crabby” looking to reclaim the artist within during this Venus retrograde is struggling with some other internal material: Daddy’s dismissive voice. Madame Zolonga paints a clear picture of the low-stakes 5th-house ‘risks’ that can open the door to living in the moment, and living outside the lines.

Dear Madame,

I’ve got a question for you about this Venus retrograde. I’m very attracted to the idea of reclaiming my inner artist; but to be honest, every time I pick up a pencil I hear my father telling me I need to get back to my trig or statistics homework. I’ve got fifty bucks worth of art supplies sitting here, and I can’t even open the first tube of watercolors.

The thing that really kills me about this problem is that my father is a Libra, and I constantly read about how artistic Libras are — which my father is NOT. So what’s the deal here? And how do I get Dad out of my head?
— Uncreative Crab

Dear Crabby,

First of all, you need to rename yourself. “Uncreative” is not a good start. The names we call ourselves have power, so it might be better for your inner artist to begin with a blank piece of paper (any kind, but cheaper is better) and try the following exercise.

Take your paper and fold it in thirds, vertically. Now unfold it and, beginning with the center third, firmly and boldly sign your name “Creative Crab” until you fill the column. And then move to another column. Doesn’t matter which. Fill them! Name yourself! Claim yourself!

Prediction: at some point the spark of rebellion will ignite your subconscious desire to make a radical choice — your name will slip across a column’s boundary.

See? Now, did that harm anyone? What boundaries did you actually violate? What rule did you break?

The fact is, my suggestion that you divide the page in thirds is arbitrary. I could have said to fold it in fifths or twelfths. Does it matter? Moreover, the folds in the paper aren’t real boundaries; they’re just suggestions, aren’t they? What impedes the progress of your pencil as it crosses that crease? Nothing but your internal agreement to declare it the limit of your letters.

And why did I suggest cheaper paper? Lower risk. You haven’t ‘ruined’ an expensive sheet from your 300 pound, cold press watercolor block, right?

Look, as an astrologer I could easily write about how Libras aren’t always creative or how the Daddy Issues complicate our internal risk vs. reward scripts. I could also write about how your respective cardinal Sun signs square one another, creating a potential conflict about who’s gonna be in charge. And I could write about how some Cancerian types are loathe to break ranks with family or how some Libras can’t abide disorder.

But I won’t. Not because I can’t, but because that would take the focus away from something at the heart of your immediate dilemma: living in the moment. At some point you’ve got to get out of your head and make that first physical mark on the page. And that’s a moment.


A lot is made of mindfulness these days, but it’s much more than a meme declaring yourself immune to future anxiety. For you right now ‘living in the moment’ sounds like ‘living in that moment from 1979’. Living in past anxiety is just as debilitating, as you rightly observe.

Living in the moment is equally about spontaneity and risk, both of which are distinctly 5th house acts. This is part of the reason we associate creativity and children with the 5th house.

Imagine the delight of the preschooler who has not yet been told what things ought to look like before they scribble out their earliest pictures of the family dog, a tree or Big Sis. They just do their thing. It’s pure impulse. Pure spontaneity. There’s not even the scintilla of thought that it could be ‘risky’.

Can you image the inner dialog if they did? “Rover!! Rover? What would Momma say if I drew Rover wrong? Hmmm… She looks grumpy. Maybe not today. She might hate my picture and that’d be embarrassing!”

It’s pure madness that we continue to assign this kind of thinking to ourselves while we sit in our own kitchens, in our own chairs, with our own tea mugs — and fifty dollars worth of unopened art supplies at our side! And yet, many of us do. We grown up people own so much, but not our creativity.

If you still can’t make the leap to a lump of Lapis Blue in your paint tray, it’s time to give it a go with low-stakes declarations first. Say your name, write it down. Write it a hundred times. See where it goes, and don’t judge. No one’s watching except you; no one’s rules but your own.


With pen in hand,

– Madame Z

12 thoughts on “Dear Madame Zolonga: Lapis Blues Aren’t Just a Color

  1. Amanda PainterAmanda Painter

    Raise your hand if you’ve been here in one form or another! (raises hand…)

    Although my father was always very supportive of my creativity, I’ve definitely had to recognize and navigate my mother’s voice within me, and the ways it has subverted my own desires, interest, sense of freedom, risk-taking, etc. Really nice to see the situation broken down with such simple, tangible exercises. Sometimes we all need to approach things with baby steps first, feel that we’re still “safe,” and then stretch into the new spaces that open up.

    1. Madame ZolongaMadame Zolonga

      Yes. I just watched a video this week of a little boy helping his younger sister over what looked like a one foot gap in their little path. He tried to talk the little one into making the step that would get her over, and he even demonstrated it to her. But she couldn’t do it. Finally he lay down and created a bridge with his body from one side to the other, and she scrambled over him to the other side.

      It was incredibly sweet.

      The peculiar thing about their situation is that neither of them were in peril: the ledge they were walking along was just a curb about a foot high from the road. It was their *perception* of trouble that supported the conflict.

      I think many of us find ourselves in this bind, as well. We have a perception of peril, that to others seems exaggerated, but to us feels very real. And no amount of talking through the problem will help us get past the gap. I’ve found that in times like this it’s helpful to begin with something physical or active and simple, like the little boy making his bridge. We all need a bridge sometimes.

      1. Amanda PainterAmanda Painter

        Beautiful video, and it illustrates such a great point! Physical or active and simple gets us out of our heads, which is where the perception of danger or stuck-ness lives. “We all need a bridge sometimes.”

  2. Michael MayesMichael Mayes

    I don’t know what makes it hard, but think about how much money, time, and effort goes into just “living in the moment”: countless books written on the subject, classes, seminars, retreats, and of course all the gurus, sadhus, etc. all trying to teaching people how to live in the moment.

  3. LizzyLizzy

    Beautiful piece, and pic. Thank you (and love your comment, Michael ). I suffered for many years over a ‘writer’s block’, and huge expectations of having to be something wonderful and, above all, successful, when I grew up. Am much more serene now – and feel that it’s often also a question of timing – that some people come into their own later on in life. I feel that this is what will happen to me – and in the meantime stay open and searching. What I am also learning more and more is how much creativity we live out in our daily lives – which gives me a feeling of completeness and serenity.

    1. Madame ZolongaMadame Zolonga

      “…that some people come into their own later on in life. ” Yes. Our culture is obsessed with early development and precocious success, and yet many artists really come into their own much later in life.

      I have confidence now that I never had in my early years. I wish you the same!

  4. LizzyLizzy

    “Physical or active and simple gets us out of our heads, which is where the perception of danger or stuck-ness lives. “We all need a bridge sometimes.””” Yes, something similar happened to me recently – though haven’t time to write about it now.

  5. Mary

    Yes Amanda, hand raised. The Madam has evoked a memory of my child self coloring on the basement cement block walls with an orange crayon (such permanence) . I took my mother down in the basement to see ( what for me ) was a beautiful mural, and she blew a gasket. I was crushed

    In retrospect, To my mom’s credit she bought me a very large chalk board, and from that point on gifted me with (appropriate) containers for my creative outlets instead of the typical 1960’s stereotypical fake kitchens and dolls. I still pushed the boundaries, but somewhere in my mid-twenties we struck a balanced understanding of each other. BTW, mom is a Libra.

    I long for that childlike self, who took risks without realizing they were risks.

  6. LizzyLizzy

    Mary – you remind me of the story when my little (then) 4 year old nephew painted himself all over in black, from head to toe with his mother’s paint (who’s an artist) – and presented himself proudly to her. She related the story with bemusement and horror to me. I just wish I’d been there….

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