Starting with a Bang 

For the week of December 28, 2011-January 3, 2012.

This week, complex transitions challenge focus and clarity. Don't be surprised if you feel on the verge. We're crossing the threshold from one difficult year into another, and as we leave 2011 behind (I heard that sigh of relief), the uncertainty of what lies ahead in 2012 could feel overwhelming. After all, 2012 is a year whose reputation precedes its reality. (Mayan calendar, anyone?) Most transitions tend to be awkward, but this week promises to be more than a little tricky, especially as end-of-the-year expectations collide with beginning-of-the-year actualities. As always, one of the best ways through a difficult time is to remember that we are all in this collective soup together, and just making an effort to be nice to our fellow travelers tends to neutralize a lot of unnecessary tension.

Meanwhile, 2011 ends on a peevish note, as a Mercury/Mars square pushes minds toward gossip and grumbling over what isn't "right." Do your best to avoid finding fault with every little thing, especially if you're only being critical out of boredom or dashed expectations. Unfortunately, a Sun/Pluto conjunction, in Capricorn, tilts interactions toward the need for control, which means even casual conversations could easily morph into arguments that insist on agreement.

The new year begins with a wide Moon/Uranus conjunction, in Aries, forming a square to the Sun/Pluto conjunction. Uranus is nearly out of range of this configuration, but the Moon pulls it close enough for us to feel its effect. This is a telling signature for 2012, a year in which we'll experience the first two of seven exact Uranus Pluto squares that will occur over the next three years. The entire bundle — Sun, Moon, Uranus, Pluto — indicates a strong need for independence, personal and collective, a need that's likely to manifest as a stubborn refusal to back down, no matter what the cost. Pay attention: While there is a compulsive quality to this fanaticism, extreme zeal often provides the necessary impetus to deconstruct an existing paradigm in order to create a new one.

But there is something else about 2012 that is less exciting (and quite annoying). Besides being the year that the world ends (just kidding), 2012 is a year of retrogrades. From January 23 to April 13, Mars will be retrograde in Virgo. The first Mercury Retrograde of 2012 begins on March 12 and lasts through April 4, and yes, it does overlap the Mars Retrograde. But that's not all. Venus goes retrograde from May 15 through June 27. And as if all that review wasn't enough, nearly three weeks later, on July 14, Mercury goes retrograde again. (Even the goys are moaning "oy.")

The first half of 2012 unfolds with a "one step forward, two steps back" shuffle, a rhythm that's certain to drive many of us to the brink. But it is also a pace that can teach great patience — something we're going to need plenty of in the coming years. So rather than anticipating nothing but hassles, think of the 2012 retrogrades as a necessary backward glance that will allow thoughtful choices about the future.

If you know your Ascendant and/or your Moon Sign, read that, too.

ARIES Your words could spark brouhaha that turns into a full-blown controversy. Try to think before you speak, and most importantly, be willing to make amends when necessary.

TAURUS You can write the entire script, but be aware that it's a version of reality that only exists in your mind. Staying open to the contribution of others will help to create a positive outlook.

GEMINI Make spontaneity your constant companion and you'll fend off the need to compensate for your boredom through additive behavior. Yes, reveling is fun, but moderation is still a good choice.

CANCER Try not to let a difference in desire lead to a conflict with significant others, personal or professional. Stay genuinely open to compromise and you'll find a workable solution.

LEO Rather than setting unrealistic intentions for the coming year, try to set goals that you will be able to keep, goals that will help to build your self-confidence and self-esteem.

VIRGO You don't actually have to hold it together — nothing will disappear if you give yourself permission to rest. Use this time to replenish your reserves and you'll regain your stamina.

LIBRA Insist on your way, and you won't gain the support you're craving. Find a way to modify your needs in a non-codependent manner to include what would make others happy and you'll be quite satisfied with the outcome.

SCORPIO Try not to let harsh words, yours or others, spoil your attitude and put you into a bad mood. Let any words spoken in the haste or heat of the moment dissolve before they can have a detrimental effect.

SAGITTARIUS Rather than give yourself permission to be creative, just create. Do whatever it is you do to express yourself and understand that in that process you are gathering the necessary pieces of yourself.

CAPRICORN There's no need to clash with friends or family over what matters most. Instead of grousing about what's wrong, spend your energy figuring out how to find a practical, compassionate solution.

AQUARIUS Take a deep breath, exhale, and as you do, see all of the anxiety of the last several months leaving your body. I know this sounds like a simplistic solution for your stress, but it's still a good place to start.

PISCES Wear your heart on your sleeve, and don't apologize for being sensitive. It takes far less energy to express what we're feeling than it does to suppress those emotions. Simply wear your heart loud and proud.

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