May always finds me restless. Unable to settle. Buoyed up by a surge of energy. Buffeted by conflicting emotions. One moment filled with a sense of anticipation, an odd longing. For something, I’m not sure what. Then plagued by a slight sense of dread, anxiety, a nagging feeling that something has been left undone.
When I was a kid, May meant playing outside after supper because the days were longer. It meant finally wearing spring dresses to school. Skipping at recess. Mum coming home with a pair of new white sneakers for me that I promptly ruined one year because I wore them one evening to help Frank, our neighbour, burn his grass. Each spring Frank would light the dry grass in his big field, and the neighbourhood kids would be stationed around the perimeter stamping out the fire if it spread too far. Gosh that was exciting. But not so good for my new white sneakers. May meant getting our bikes out and riding wildly about the neighbourhood. Then arguing with Mum that it was too early to go to bed when it wasn’t even dark yet.
When I was a teenager May meant the end of the school year was in sight. It meant that I chaffed at being home in the evenings. I longed to be out with my friends and not stuck in my room doing homework. I still remember vividly the year I got my driver’s licence. When you live in the country, and the only transportation to town is the school bus or your parents, a driver’s licence means freedom. That’s if one has a kindly step-father who lets you borrow the car. And I did, as you know.
I still remember the spring my friend and I “studied at the library” regularly on school nights. Oh, yes, we were dedicated library frequenters. Books tossed into the backseat, we sped off to the mall, windows down, volume on the car radio cranked up as high as it would go. I may have neglected my schoolwork, but those heady nights of freedom were a kind of education too. In what, I have no idea.
When I became a teacher, May still meant the end of the school year was in sight. But in order to take a long breath of relief in June, one first one had to survive May. For high school teachers, May survival was all about organization, counting the teaching days left until exams, making sure that the curriculum was covered, marking huge piles of final projects and essays. One soon learned that clearing the piles of term marking in May was essential, so that one had at least a week of breathing space before June exams. And I haven’t even mentioned coping with classes of restless teenagers who could not wait for summer.
May for department heads meant multiple drafts of department timetables for teachers, to be revised each time the staffing of our school changed due to board staffing changes, transfers, retirements, redundancies… whatever. May also meant the beginning of planning for the next year, submitting departmental budgets, and seemingly endless meetings. I loved the excitement of May, the feeling of impending change. But, wow, it was exhausting.
Being retired means that May has changed for me. It’s a lot less exhausting, for one thing. With fewer commitments and no deadlines. No marking. Or timetables. No more neglected assignments or essays left to the last minute because I have been swanning around with my friends in my step-father’s car when I should have been at the library. No more having to go to bed before dark. Ha.
For almost half of my life, the thirty years I was a teacher, I was ultra organized and focused in May. I was diligent in my marking. I created action plans and to-do lists for myself so that I would get everything done that needed to be done in the time I had to do it. Then once retirement hit, I reverted back to being seventeen years old. Or even nine. How is that possible?
Nowadays in May I still feel restless. Emotional. Longing for something nameless, anxious about something equally nameless. I chafe at commitment. And I can’t finish anything that does not hold my attention utterly. I want to hop on my bike and run wild around the neighbourhood. Metaphorically, of course.
In May I flit from one activity to another. I’m not reading much this month except with my morning tea and toast. I’m working my way through and enjoying Winter in Madrid by C.J. Sansom. Hubby really liked it, but I’ve been struggling. Because it’s May.
I’ve been watching a series from Vogue France on YouTube that I am enjoying. It’s called “Street Style.” Rarely do I see someone wearing an outfit that I’d wear myself. But the videos are energetic and quirky. And I love the Paris street scenes. My favourite was this one on the rise of “upcycling” in Paris.
And I’ve been listening to one book after another on Audible. Lots of old Agatha Christie books read by Hugh Fraser who plays Hastings in the Poirot television series starring David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. Hubby and I love that series. We have watched all of the episodes multiple times. I have also been listening to the Kate Ellis “Wesley Peterson” mystery series. I recently found all her early books on Audible so I am starting at the beginning. Listening to audio books is such a good May activity. I can listen and flit at the same time.
For the past few days I have been devouring the series Ten Percent on Amazon Prime. I binge watched it in the evenings when Hubby was watching Stanley Cup hockey. And I am verklempt now that I’ve finished the last episode.
I loved this show. Right from the opening theme song… which is so good. The show is a British version of the popular French series “Call My Agent.” And the writing and acting in each episode is superb, in my opinion. Clever, funny, endearing, understated. I laughed out loud. Or welled up. I loved the characters. The dialogue. The plot lines. The fast pace so suited to my May restlessness. The famous guest stars in each episode. Like Helena Bonham Carter…. I love her. The whole darned thing is just so, so, so good.
And now that I’ve watched the trailer, I want to watch the whole series again. Maybe I will. Have a look.
You know it’s funny, the May restlessness thing has persisted my whole life. Even when I was super conscientious about getting done what needed to be done for my job, I battled the restlessness. I remember tricking myself with treats to stay planted in my chair in order to finish my marking in the evenings.
And it was a May evening when, after a full day of teaching and a frustrating three-hour head’s meeting, I came home for supper and was back at my desk by 8:00 pm marking my Writer’s Craft final projects. At ten o’clock I yelled to Hubby who was in bed reading… “I can’t do this anymore. I need to know when I can retire. I need to make the decision now.” Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t quit then and there. In fact I didn’t retire for another year and a half. But I needed to make the decision that night. So I did.
All this is just to say that I have not read the book that I was supposed to read for my book club meeting tomorrow. I have no defence. I’m retired. I have the time. I have few other commitments. And no excuse, really. Except, it’s May. And in May I can no longer be counted on to do anything I do not want to do.
I hope my friends will forgive me when I show up for lunch tomorrow. I feel slightly guilty at not reading the book. At giving up after the first chapter.
But not that guilty. Ha.
How do longer days and warm spring evenings affect you, my friends? Do you feel like abandoning all pretence of doing what you should be doing?
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